Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he gathered of the house of Judah and Benjamin an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against Israel, that he might bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam.XI.
(1) And when Rehoboam.—And Rehoboam came . . . and he gathered. The chronicler omits 1Kings 12:20, which relates the call of Jeroboam to the throne of Israel. The present verse is a slightly abridged form of 1Kings 12:21.
The kingdom.—Mamlākāh. Kings, m’lûkāh.
But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying,(2) The Lord.—Kings has “God” twice. The chronicler does not always avoid the name Jehovah.
Shemaiah.—So Kings. The chronicler writes the longer form, Shemayāhu; and so Ahiyāhu in 2Chronicles 10:15.
Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying,(3) King of Judah.—By this significant expression accomplished facts receive at the outset the seal of Divine assent.
All Israel in Judah and Benjamin.—Kings, “all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and the remnant of the people;” where the second phrase seems to define the first, for the house of Judah and Benjamin was the remnant of Israel that continued loyal to David. In that case, the chronicler’s phrase is a mere abbreviation, denoting whatever of Israel was comprised in the two faithful tribes. (Comp. 2Chronicles 10:17.) But there may be a hint that Judah and Benjamin were the true Israel, and that the apostate North had forfeited its right to that honourable name. Others suppose a reference to members of Northern tribes dwelling in the territory of Judah and Benjamin. Syriac, “to Rehoboam . . . and to the house of Benjamin, and to all Israel, and to the remnant of the people.” LXX., “to all Judah and Benjamin” simply.
Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of me. And they obeyed the words of the LORD, and returned from going against Jeroboam.(4) Thus saith the Lord.—The words of the prophecy are reported as in 1Kings 12:24, omitting “the sons of Israel” after “your brethren.”
This thing is done of me.—Literally, from me became (arose) this matter; viz., of the revolt of the ten tribes. (Comp. 2Chronicles 10:15 : “For the cause was of God.”)
Words.—“Word,” Kings and the versions here, no doubt rightly, as this is the usual phrase. But comp. 1Samuel 15:1.
From going against Jeroboam.—Kings, “To go away, according to the word of the Lord “—a tautology which the chronicler has avoided. The rest of the chapter is wanting in the Syriac and Arabic Versions, which have instead 1Kings 12:25-30; 1Kings 13:34; 1Kings 14:1-9, where they break off abruptly, without finishing Ahijah’s prophecy.
And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah.(b) REHOBOAM STRENGTHENS THE DEFENCES OF HIS KINGDOM (2Chronicles 11:5-12).
This section is peculiar to the chronicler.
(5) Dwelt in Jerusalem.—As the capital.
Cities for defence.—(‘Arîm l’māçôr = ‘arê māçōr; 2Chronicles 8:5), “embattled cities; “LXX., πόλεις τειχήρεις.
In Judah.—Not the territory of the tribe, but the kingdom is intended, for some of the fortresses were in Benjamin (2Chronicles 11:10).
He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa,(6) He built even.—And he built—i.e., fortified.
Tekoa.—Teku’a; ruins on a hill two hours south of Bethlehem. (See Joshua 15:59, Note.)
And Bethzur, and Shoco, and Adullam,(7) Beth-zur.—Beit-sûr; a ruin midway between Urtâs and Hebron (Joshua 15:58).
Adullam.—Joshua 15:35. Perhaps Aid-el-Mieh.
And Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph,(8) Gath.—Uncertain. Perhaps in the Wady-el-Gat north of Ascalon. (See 1Kings 2:39 and 1Chronicles 18:1, from a comparison of which it appears that, under Solomon, Gath was ruled by a vassal king.)
And Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah,(9) Adoraim.—Dûra; a village about seven and a-half miles south west of Hebron. Called Αδωρα 1 Maccabees 13:20, and often mentioned by Josephus in connection with Marissa (Mareshah). The name is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament.
And Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and in Benjamin fenced cities.(10) Zorah.—Sur’ah; a ruin on the ridge north of the Wady-es-Surar. The birthplace of Samson.
Aijalon.—Yalo, north of Sur’ah, four leagues west of Gibeon. Zorah and Aijalon, or Ajalon, may have become Benjamite cities at the epoch of the migration of Dan (Judges 18). (See Joshua 19:41-42; also Joshua 15:33; Joshua 10:12.) Of the fifteen fortified cities here enumerated these two lay farthest north.
Hebron.—El Khalil (Genesis 23:2).
Which are in Judah and in Benjamin.—This refers to the entire list.
Fenced cities.—‘Arê metsûrôth (“cities of ramparts,” or “strongholds”); a phrase peculiar to the chronicler. (Comp. 2Chronicles 12:4.) “The fifteen cities [excluding Zorah and Ajalon] were on the south and west of Jerusalem. Hence Rehoboam appears to have been more afraid of an attack from the south and west—that is, from the Egyptians—than of a war with the northern kingdom.” (Bertheau.)
And he fortified the strong holds, and put captains in them, and store of victual, and of oil and wine.(11) And he fortified.—Literally, strengthened, i.e., put them in an efficient condition for defence, by providing commandants and stores of arms and food.
The strong holds.—Metsûrôth; the word in last verse.
Captains.—Negîdîm; leaders, princes (1Chronicles 9:11). Here it means commandants.
And in every several city he put shields and spears, and made them exceeding strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side.(12) Shields.—The “targets” of 2Chronicles 9:15.
Made them exceeding strong.—Strengthened them (the same word as “fortified” in 2Chronicles 11:11) very abundantly (l’harbēh meôd). A form of words only used by the chronicler. (See 2Chronicles 16:8; and comp. Nehemiah 6:18.)
Having Judah and Benjamin on his side.—Literally, and he had (or, there fell to him) Judah and Benjamin. A definition of Rehoboam’s territory. (Comp. 2Chronicles 10:17.)
And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts.(c) THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES, AND ALL WHO ARE FAITHFUL TO THE LEGITIMATE WORSHIP, DESERT THE NORTHERN KINGDOM (2Chronicles 11:13-17).
Coasts.—Border, domain. The term “Lévites” is here used in the general sense as including the priests.
For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD:(14) Their suburbs.—Pasture-grounds (Numbers 35:1-8).
And their possession—i.e., the cities assigned to them among the ten tribes.
Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the Lord.—See 1Kings 12:26-31. There we are told that, as a matter of policy, Jeroboam established two centres of worship within his own dominions, so that his subjects might cease to visit the Temple of Jerusalem. In appointing priests chosen promiscuously from all classes of the people to minister in the new sanctuaries, Jeroboam struck a direct blow at the Levitical order, and “thrust them out from acting as priests to Jehovah,” as our verse declares.
And his sons.—Usually explained to mean his successors on the throne. (Comp. 1Chronicles 3:16.) “For in this matter all the kings of Israel walked in the footsteps of Jeroboam” (Keil). Of Jeroboam’s own sons Nadab was the only one who reigned (1Kings 15:25 sqq.); and the narrative of Kings (1 Kings 14, 15) mentions but one other son of this king. It does not, however, exclude the possibility of there having been more than these two, and if there were, they may have co-operated with their father in his religious policy.
And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.(15) And he ordained.—And had appointed (1Chronicles 15:16-17; 1Chronicles 22:2).
And for the calves.—See Note on 1Kings 12:28. The “calves” represented the God of Israel. It appears therefore that Jeroboam encouraged a system of syncretism, or mixture of worships.
And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.(16) And after them—i.e., following their lead.
Such as set their hearts.—The same phrase (nāthan lebab) as in 1Chronicles 22:19, and nowhere else.
Came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice.—And to settle there, as appears from next verse. A similar migration of the faithful worshippers of Jehovah is recorded in the reigns of Asa and Hezekiah. (See 2Chronicles 15:9; 2Chronicles 30:11.)
So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.(17) So they strengthened . . . three years—i.e., during the first three years of the reign. “There is no ground for suspecting the antiquity of this record. On the contrary, it is antecedently probable that the pressure from the north occasioned a proportionally greater earnestness in the religious life of the southern kingdom, and that the former was weakened and the latter strengthened by the migration” (Bertheau). This will explain also Jeroboam’s abstention from molesting his rival’s territory. (See Note on 2Chronicles 11:10.)
For three years.—Literally, for they walked . . . for three years. The reason of the strengthening.
They (i.e., the people of Judah) walked in the way of David and Solomon—i.e., served Jehovah according to the system of worship enacted by those monarchs. The countenance which Solomon in his old age gave to foreign religions is here again ignored by the chronicler.
What happened after the three years of faithfulness is told in 2 Chronicles 12. Here follow
And Rehoboam took him Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David to wife, and Abihail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse;PARTICULAES CONCERNING REHOBOAM’S FAMILY
This record also is wanting in the Book of Kings. It appears to have been derived from the sources designated in 2Chronicles 12:15.
(18) The daughter.—So rightly, LXX., Vulg., and many Hebrew MSS. for the ordinary reading son.
Of Jerimoth the son of David—Jerimoth does not occur in the list of David’s sons (1Chronicles 3:1-8), unless we suppose the name to be a corruption of “Ithream.” Probably he was one of “the sons of the concubines” (1Chronicles 3:9).
And Abihail.—The and is not in the present Hebrew text, but is supplied by the LXX. “And of Abihail” is probably the meaning, so that both of Mahalath’s parents are named. The LXX. and Vulg. make Abihail a second wife of Rehoboam; but 2Chronicles 11:19-20, as well as the construction of the sentence, make it evident that only one wife is mentioned here. A daughter of David’s eldest brother could hardly become the wife of David’s grandson.
Which bare him children; Jeush, and Shamariah, and Zaham.(19) Which bare.—And she (i.e., Mahalath) bare.
Shamariah.—Shemariah. These sons of Rehoboam occur here only.
And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.(20) Maachah the daughter of Absalom—i.e., granddaughter, as appears from 2Samuel 14:27, where Tamar is named as the “one daughter” of Absalom Josephus says Maachah was daughter of Tamar (Ant 8:10, 1). (Comp. 2Samuel 18:18; 2Chronicles 13:2; 1Kings 15:10.)
Which bare him Abijah.—Rehoboam’s successor, called “Abijam” in Kings. The other three are unknown.
And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and threescore concubines; and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore daughters.)(21) Loved Maachah.—She probably inherited her mother’s and grandfather’s beauty.
For he took—Nāsā’, as in 2Chronicles 13:21; a later usage instead of lāqah.
And threescore concubines.—Josephus (l.c.) says, “thirty,” and the difference in Hebrew is only of one letter. The recurrence of the same number immediately (“threescore daughters”) is also suspicious.
And Rehoboam made Abijah the son of Maachah the chief, to be ruler among his brethren: for he thought to make him king.(22) And Rehoboam made Abijah the son of Maachah . . . brethren.—Rather, And Rehoboam appointed Abijah the son of Maachah for head—to wit, for prince (nagîd)—among his brethren. The expression “head” is explained by the following clause.
For he thought to make him king.—This gives the sense of the brief Hebrew phrase, “for—for making him king.” In making Abijah heir to the throne, it does not appear that Rehoboam infringed the law of Deuteronomy 21:15-17, as the Speaker’s Commentary suggests. The right of the firstborn was only a double share of a man’s property. (Comp. 1Kings 1:35 for a precedent.)
And he dealt wisely, and dispersed of all his children throughout all the countries of Judah and Benjamin, unto every fenced city: and he gave them victual in abundance. And he desired many wives.(23) And he dealt wisely.—Rehoboam showed his sagacity by providing each of his sons with an independent position and royal establishment in accordance with the notions of the time. In this way he secured their contentment and obviated quarrels for precedence, and intrigues against his destined successor. (Comp. Genesis 25:6; and 2Chronicles 21:2-3.) As resident prefects of the fortresses of the kingdom the princes were usefully employed. Ewald compares Ps. 14:16.
The countries.—Districts, or territories.
He gave them victual in abundance.—No doubt by assigning to each a district which was bound to supply his wants, as was the manner of the later kings of Persia.
And he desired many wives.—And asked (for them) a multitude of wives. This is mentioned, along with the abundant maintenance, as proof of the princely state which he conferred on his sons, a numerous harem being one of the marks of royalty.