Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Thessalonians 2:7-10; 2 Peter 3:7). But this has its prelude in a season of judgments which overtakes the sinner in this life. Jeroboam, having sinned away his day of grace, had now entered into such a season. But of this he seems to have been doubtful. Hence learn -
I. THAT THE SINNER MAY BE SURPRISED IN HIS SEASON OF JUDGMENTS.
1. That there are such seasons is evident.
(1) Witness the great deluge (Genesis 6:11-13). Also the rain of fire on the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:13). The overthrow of nations. Signal visitations upon notorious sinners (Exodus 9:18-15; 1 Samuel 28:15-19).
2. But all afflictions are not such retributions.
(2) Some come to us through the wickedness and blundering of those around us. Many suffer, irrespective of their character, as when a ship is wrecked through the drunkenness of the master.
(3) Some are appointed or permitted for disciplinary and educational purposes. These are often amongst our greatest blessings.
3. These may be confounded.
(1) Had Jeroboam known that the mercy of God had reached its limit, and that the season of retribution had set in, he might have spared his queen her journey to Shiloh.
(2) But what else could he have expected? Was he not obstinately wedded to his sins? Had he not before him the history of Saul? (1 Samuel 28:15-19.)
(3) Men still, in our day, presume upon the mercy of God to their destruction. Eminently the ease with those who defer repentance. Learn further -
II. THAT A SINNER MAY SEEK THE LORD TO NO GOOD PURPOSE. This happens -
1. When the end sought is unprofitable.
(1) Such was the case with Jeroboam. His inquiry should have been, not, "What shall become of the child?" but, "How may the anger of God be averted?" (Compare 2 Samuel 12:16, 17.) But he was not prepared to repent of his sin.
(9) His inquiry was one of curiosity as to the future. Similar curiosity was manifested by Saul under similar circumstances. It is unseemly for a sinner to pry into Divine mysteries rather than seek the salvation of his soul
2. When the spirit of the seeker is improper.
(1) He did not, indeed, seek his calves (compare 2 Kings 1:2). He rather sought Ahijah, because the spirit of prophecy was with him (ver. 2). But he had no such faith in his calves.
(2) Why, then, did he not renounce them? He had reasons of worldly policy against this (see 1 Kings 12:20-28). He was therefore a deceiver of the people. Hence he would have his queen disguise herself. So several of the Popes were known to have been infidels.
3. When the manner of the search is unworthy.
(1) He paid a respect to the man of God. This was the meaning of his present (see 1 Samuel 9:7, 8). Hence such gifts are caned blessings (see Genesis 33:10, 11; Judges 1:15; 1 Samuel 25:17; 1 Samuel 30:26, marg.; 2 Kings 5:15).
(3) So are God's blessings and sacrifices offered to Him commonly associated (see Genesis 8:20-22; Genesis 9:1-17). All His blessings come to us through the sacrifice of Christ; and especially so when we, by faith, present Christ to Him.
(4) But here was no sacrifice; and the value of the gift was small What were a few loaves, a few cakes, and a cruse of honey as a gift from a king! (Compare 2 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 8:9.) The meanness of his present was another reason why he would have his queen disguised. What an argument for early piety is here! Surrender to Christ before you are overtaken by a season of judgments. How admonitory is this subject to the effect that prayer should be true; that we should seek the right thing, in the right spirit, and in the right manner! - J.A.M.
I. THE STRICKEN KING. Abijah seems to have been heir to the throne, and to have been alike the king's and the people's hope. The father's heart was touched: the king saw the dynasty threatened, to establish which he had ventured so much. The voice of God, against which the car was closed, will be heard again in the quietness of the sick chamber, in the silence of death. God follows us through deepening sorrows, if haply we may turn ere we are overwhelmed by the waters of destruction.
II. THE RESORT FOR HELP.
1. His trouble drives him towards God. It is meant to do this. It is the touching of God's hand that we may look up and live.
"Eyes which the preacher could not school 2. He is drawn by the remembrance of past mercy. "Behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, who told me that I should be king over this people." The remembrances of mercies are cords to draw back straying hearts to God. The thought of what God has done makes a holy place for faith, and rears an altar whence may rise the incense of accepted prayer. 3. His hope is defeated by his own deceit. "Disguise thyself, that thou be not known as the wife of Jeroboam." He thought he might find help without owning and yielding his sin. How many prayers are like Jeroboam's embassy! Men wish to find mercy and yet cling to their sinful life, and imagine that because their wicked practices are kept behind their back they are not there in God's sight! 4. Gifts (ver. 3) could not make up the lack of a true, penitent heart. III. THE LORD'S ANSWER. 1. Disguise is impossible before God (vers. 5, 6). We can conceal nothing from Him; and one word of His (Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam!") is enough to rend every veil of pretence from the soul and overwhelm it with shame. We may now close the ears to the voice of accusing conscience, but we go onward, as she went, to where the Judge will name us. 2. God's name. "The Lord God of Israel." Not only will the covering be torn from the sinner's heart and life; God will be revealed. He is the mighty avenger of those who have been seduced and sinned against. 3. Jeroboam's ingratitude (vers. 7-9). He was taken from among the people, and yet he had shown no anxiety to discharge aright the duties of the high office committed to him. (1) Human patterns were despised ("Thou hast not been as my servant David"). (2) God Himself was east behind his back. 4. The doom. (1) There was deepest dishonour for him. His house was overthrown and removed as the vilest refuse. (2) There was destruction for his people. For the impenitent and all who are led by them there is, and can be, only utter and eternal ruin. IV. THE SHADOW OF FALLING JUDGMENT (vers. 17-20). 1. Abijah's death. The light of the home, the hope of the land, is taken. 2. Jeroboam's death. "The Lord struck him and he died" (2 Chronicles 13:20). The clear intellect and the strong hand are smitten and removed. Slowly but surely the word advances to its accomplishment. are there no shadows of judgment on thy path? Have no words come true that make thy heart tremble because of those other words which God's lips have also spoken? - J.U.
2. He is drawn by the remembrance of past mercy. "Behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, who told me that I should be king over this people." The remembrances of mercies are cords to draw back straying hearts to God. The thought of what God has done makes a holy place for faith, and rears an altar whence may rise the incense of accepted prayer.
3. His hope is defeated by his own deceit. "Disguise thyself, that thou be not known as the wife of Jeroboam." He thought he might find help without owning and yielding his sin. How many prayers are like Jeroboam's embassy! Men wish to find mercy and yet cling to their sinful life, and imagine that because their wicked practices are kept behind their back they are not there in God's sight!
4. Gifts (ver. 3) could not make up the lack of a true, penitent heart.
III. THE LORD'S ANSWER.
1. Disguise is impossible before God (vers. 5, 6). We can conceal nothing from Him; and one word of His (Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam!") is enough to rend every veil of pretence from the soul and overwhelm it with shame. We may now close the ears to the voice of accusing conscience, but we go onward, as she went, to where the Judge will name us.
2. God's name. "The Lord God of Israel." Not only will the covering be torn from the sinner's heart and life; God will be revealed. He is the mighty avenger of those who have been seduced and sinned against.
3. Jeroboam's ingratitude (vers. 7-9). He was taken from among the people, and yet he had shown no anxiety to discharge aright the duties of the high office committed to him.
(1) Human patterns were despised ("Thou hast not been as my servant David").
(2) God Himself was east behind his back.
4. The doom.
(1) There was deepest dishonour for him. His house was overthrown and removed as the vilest refuse.
(2) There was destruction for his people. For the impenitent and all who are led by them there is, and can be, only utter and eternal ruin.
IV. THE SHADOW OF FALLING JUDGMENT (vers. 17-20).
1. Abijah's death. The light of the home, the hope of the land, is taken.
2. Jeroboam's death. "The Lord struck him and he died" (2 Chronicles 13:20). The clear intellect and the strong hand are smitten and removed. Slowly but surely the word advances to its accomplishment. are there no shadows of judgment on thy path? Have no words come true that make thy heart tremble because of those other words which God's lips have also spoken? - J.U.
2 Kings 1:2). He accordingly entrusted this delicate business to his wife, and enjoined that she should disguise herself. The text evinces how futile were these expedients. Note -
I. SIN SEEKS DISGUISES.
1. Truth needs none.
(1) It is naturally open. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light."
(2) It has nothing to be ashamed of. It is self-consistent, harmonious, lovely.
(3) It ought to be displayed; its influence is elevating (Philippians 2:15, 16). The saint who hides his light wrongs his race.
(4) Churches are constituted that Christians should, to the best advantage, witness for Christ. They are the candlesticks (see Matthew 5:14-16; Revelation 1:20). Note: Christians should discourage the eccentricity that would lead them away from the Churches.
2. It is otherwise with sin.
(1) It is naturally close. The sinner has as instinctive an aversion to the light as the owl and the bat, his types.
(2) It has everything to be ashamed of. It is self-contradictory, discordant, frightfully and monstrously ugly.
(3) It ought, by the impenitent sinner, to be concealed. For he could only desire to disclose it in order to infect and demoralize others.
(4) But the true should drag it to the light, that its deformity might be seen, abhorred, and execrated.
II. GOD SEES THROUGH ALL DISGUISES.
1. Nature itself teaches this.
2. It is evinced in the visions of prophecy.
(1) How far-reaching are those visions! The end was seen from the beginning. The instalments fulfilled certify the remainder.
(2) How deep their insight into the secret workings of the heart! The secret ambition of Jeroboam, when he was yet the servant of Solomon, was read by Ahijah (1 Kings 11:37). Now he sees through the disguise of the queen and reads its motives.
3. This should be considered.
(1) How foolish are disguises where God is concerned! And where is God not concerned?
(2) Those who would deceive God only deceive themselves.
III. GOD CAN OPEN THE EYES OF THE BLIND.
(2) Many such were wrought by Christ.
(1) The prophets were gifted with spiritual vision. They were therefore called seers. Their prophecies were called visions.
(2) Such vision had Ahijah. His natural sight had now failed him (ver. 4), yet he saw Jeroboam's queen before she came into his presence, saw through her disguises, and discerned the purpose of her visit.
(3) Spiritual vision is not exclusively the privilege of prophets.
(a) God gives this to the sinner when He discovers to him the exceeding sinfulness of sin. God strips him of the disguises by which he would deceive himself, and exhibits his own life likeness to his conscience.
(b) God gives it to believers, when He witnesses His pardon and their adoption, to their spirits. (See Acts 26:17, 18; Ephesians 1:18.) Have your eyes been opened? Pray God that Satan may never succeed in throwing his dust into them. - J.A.M.
hard. The uses of the word (קשה) in several places suggest that it should be here taken as indicating retributive judgments merited by one who had hardened his heart in sin. Observe -
I. PRIVILEGES INVOLVE RESPONSIBILITIES. Thus -
1. Special favour calls for special gratitude.
(1) Jeroboam was "exalted from among the people." He was "an Ephrathite of Zereda," an obscure place, mentioned once, and that only in connection with his birth (ch1 Kings. 11:26). The names of his parents also had remained in obscurity but for the figure he cut in history.
(2) He was made "prince" over the "people of God." This was a splendid distinction. A people is great, not through its number or the extent of its territories, but from its virtues (see Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18, 19). What an influence has that people exerted upon human destinies!
(3) The kingdom rent from the house of David was given to him. Jeroboam, then, was placed in succession to that David who had led the armies of Israel to victory! Also to that Solomon who had built the temple, and who, in the earlier part of his career, fined the world with the fame of surpassing wisdom!
2. The favored are compared with their peers.
(1) Jeroboam was a compeer to David. Both were need from humble station - David from the sheep, Jeroboam from the army (1 Kings 11:28). Both ascended the throne of Israel - founded dynasties.
(2) But how do they compare? "David kept the commandments of God" - followed Him "with all his heart." This did not Jeroboam. Melancholy record, he did nothing for God!
3. They are contrasted with their peers.
(1) Jeroboam "had done evil above all that were before him." More than Saul, who never worshipped idols. More than Solomon, who did not make Israel to sin.
(2) Jeroboam made "other gods; and" (or even) "molten images." Note: He intended his calves to represent the God of Israel; but the God of Israel Himself calls them "other gods." So are the images of Antichrist other gods though baptized with Christian names. This was worse than the idolatry of Solomon. The caricaturing of the true God is more offensive to Him than the worshipping of His creatures. Let the worshippers of barbarous pictures of the Holy Trinity, in which the Almighty is pourtrayed as a decrepit old man, and such like, seriously consider this.
(3) Jeroboam is described as having "cast" the God of Israel "behind his back." What a startling figure! How descriptive of the sin of those who now neglect God!
II. RESPONSIBILITIES ABUSED PROVOKE JUDGMENTS. Amongst these may he mentioned -
1. The bitter sense of wasted opportunity.
(1) Jeroboam is reminded that he once had the grand chance of making for himself a "sure house like David" (see 1 Kings 11:38). What golden opportunities may we not have wasted!
(2) That though the more glorious chance was missed and lost, he had then a gracious season of warnings, which also he let slip. (See events recorded ch. 13.) This respite improved might have averted, and would have mitigated, the severity of the judgments impending (compare 1 Kings 21:29).
2. The knowledge that the day of vengeance has set in.
(1) An admonition of such a day was implied in the earlier prophecy of Ahijah, in the judgments then denounced against the house of David for the sin of Solomon (1 Kings 11:30-38).
(2) This admonition was declared explicitly in the message of the man of God from Judah, and solemnly impressed by the signs attending and following (ch. 13.)
(3) Now Ahijah announces that these judgments are taking effect. But even now, had Jeroboam come to God in the spirit of repentance, though his sin is "unto death," yet might he save his soul. It is hard now to break a chain so riveted as that is by which he has bound himself. No repentante being evinced, the knell of doom sounds forth like the echoes of the closing door of Noah's ark, which announced mercy fled and wrath begun.
3. The severity of the sentence.
(1) The honour of the house of Jeroboam is to be brought down to ignominy.
(2) The carcases of members of this family are to be consumed by carrion feeders. Such are the swords of the wicked (compare Genesis 15:11; Jeremiah 34:18-20). Whether by the sword of Baasha, or literally, after that sword had done its part, the words of Ahijah came true (see 1 Kings 15:29). "The doom of the house of Jeroboam was a figure of that of the house of this man of sin (see Revelation 19:17, 18). God knows the proud afar off. But He gives grace to the humble. - J.A.M.
I. HEAVY TIDINGS RESPECTING ABIJAH.
1. As to the issue of his illness.
(1) "The child shall die." This is a direct answer to the question with which the royal messenger was charged (ver. 3). Here was the withering of a limb of Jeroboam's family answering to the sign of the withering of his arm (see 1 Kings 13:4).
(2) The king does not now ask for the restoration of the child as he had done for the restoration of his arm (1 Kings 13:6). He did not even ask, in time, that the judgment might be averted. How could he, without repenting of his sin? Note: The descents of depravity, like those of natural gravitation, are in accelerating degrees.
(3) This judgment is the signal that the season of retributions has now fairly set in. What a horror to wake up to such a conviction! "Be sure your sin will find you out."
2. As to the near approach of his death.
(1) "When thy feet enter into the city." Every step of the queen's advance over that twelve miles from Shiloh to Tirzah measured a stride of death towards his victim. Do we sufficiently realize the fact that this is the case with us in passing through the journey of life?
(2) What must have been the conflict in the heart of the queen? Maternal affection would urge her steps with speed that she might see her son alive. Yet was it a race with death; and death was first at the palace. That monster overtakes the swiftest. If he passes one it is to strike another, and so that the recoil of his sting may wound the trembling heart.
3. As to the circumstances attending. "All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him;" but for him only of the royal family, "because in him there is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel." Hence learns
(1) God's punishments are discriminative. He does not overlook the good in the evil.
(2) Yet the good suffer with the evil. Abijah dies for the sin of his father. Christ dies for the sin of the world. But in His death is life to the believer.
(3) Still the good suffer for their good. They are taken away from evil to come. Had Abijah lived he might have been drawn into his father's sin. God often takes them soonest whom He loves best.
(4) The evil suffer in the good, Jeroboam had reason to mourn the loss of the best of his family. So had Israel, since the succession would now open to a wicked prince. Note: We should pray for the preservation of virtuous and useful lives. Especially so when such are found in seats of power and influence.
II. HEAVY TIDINGS RESPECTING HIS SURVIVORS.
1. They are devoted to extermination.
(1) This as a general fact was already known.
(2) It is now published with additional circumstance. The agent that shall effect it is one who shall himself mount the throne of Israel.
(3) This was fulfilled to the letter (see 1 Kings 15:27-30).
2. Judgment will come speedily.
(1) Some think this exclamation of the prophet, "But what? Even now" arose from his having seen that this would be the case.
(2) So it proved. Within two years Jeroboam died. He was succeeded by Nadab, who two years later was slain by Baasha. In that time also, and by the same hand, the predicted extermination was completed.
(3) "The wicked do not live out half their days." This is true of dynasties as of individuals. The dynasty of Jeroboam lasted only four and twenty years. - J.A.M.
1 Kings 11:29-31), and foretold that he should rule over the ten tribes of Israel. Accordingly, Queen Ano secretly set out for Shiloh (the ancient sanctuary), where, in a humble home, the prophet lived. She disguised herself as a poor woman, and took a present such as a peasant would offer - ten loaves, two rolls for the children of the prophet, a bunch of raisins, and a jar of honey. Jeroboam hoped he might, by this deceit, get a word of hope about the dying boy, for he knew that he could not expect comfort from Ahijah, because he had grievously disobeyed his command. He feared, therefore, that if the man of God recognized And he would rebuke this sin. The attempt was vain. The prophet, nearly blind though he was, knew by revelation who was coming. Terrible were the words of doom he uttered about the house of Jeroboam; and the only gleam of comfort for the parents was that in Abijah "there was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel," so that he should not have the curse of living to see and share the woe and shame which were coming. Abijah gives us an example of piety which is worthy of consideration, especially by the young.
I. ABIJAH'S PIETY WAS EARLY.
1. Define piety. It is right disposition toward God, resulting from the secret influence of God's Holy Spirit. It reveals itself in desires after what is good, and pure, and true; in resolutions to seek these; in prayers, through which the heart pours out its love and longing towards God. This should be more natural to us than to Abijah. He knew of God's power, we know of His love. He had heard of the Shekinah; we have heard of Jesus Christ, who says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Children ran to Jesus once, and found rest and gladness in His love; why not now?
2. Describe early piety. Show how it is cultivated, hindered, and revealed. Urge upon parents and teachers the importance of expecting it. We overlook the "blade," and then wonder we do not see later "the full corn in the ear." If we accept the teaching of Jesus Christ, it is evident that a child is naturally more likely than an adult to enter His kingdom. To be a child is a necessity; to "become a child" is an arduous struggle, and sometimes a sore humiliation. The door of mercy is so low that children can most easily pass through it. Happy is the home which is adorned by the presence of a child disciple. There are those now estranged from God who may have a fulfilment of the words, "a little child shall lead them."
II. ABIJAH'S PIETY WAS SINCERE.
1. Some good thing was IN him - that is, in his heart. It was not something put on and off, like a garment; but an abiding principle, influencing the thoughts as well as the life. Nothing is more offensive to God than pretended piety. The long-faced visage which never smiles, the cant phrases which express what cannot really be honestly felt by a child, are hideous to man and God.
2. This good thing was "toward the Lord God of Israel." It reminds us of the phrase, "repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." We may turn from sin to respectability, but that is not repentance towards God. We may love to do right things because they please men, but this is not piety towards God. "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
III. ABIJAH'S PIETY WAS DISCERNIBLE. "It was found in him."
1. God saw it. He spoke of it to His servant Ahijah, as of something He rejoiced to find. God is ever looking for what is good, in the world and in your heart. Though the world is corrupt, and men have done abominable works, the Lord looks down from heaven to see if there are any that understand and seek God. See Psalm 14:1,
2. Compare this with the Lord's parables of the woman seeking the lost piece of silver and of the father going out to look for and meet the returning prodigal. Not only your faults and sins, but your good wishes and holy thoughts and silent prayers are recognized by God.
2. Man saw it. Ahijah did not proclaim his piety - that would have been offensive, especially in a child - but it was "found" in him. He was so young that he could take no active part in the service of God, and was unable publicly to oppose his father's idolatry; but his parents, and the courtiers, and the servants must have been sometimes shamed by his earnest eyes. A noiseless violet makes the hedgerow fragrant. It bewrays itself by its sweetness.
IV. ABIJAH'S PIETY WAS UNEXPECTED. He belonged to the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. His mother was probably still a heathen; his father was ambitious, cruel, and irreligious, and, so far as we know, this little boy alone, in all the court, loved the "God of Israel." His piety was the more conspicuous on this account, just as the stars are brightest when the sky is dark, and the cedars are most beautiful when surrounding trees are leafless. Describe the position of children in a godless home, with irreligious companions, etc. Even there it is not impossible to love and serve the Lord.
CONCLUSION. It seems at first sight, especially to children, a strange reward that was given to Abijah - to die young. But there were peculiar reasons for this. He was delivered from a sinful world, a distracted country, and evil influences; nor did he ever see those dear to him murdered and dishonoured. He was "taken away from the evil to come," If the veil were rent, and we could see the heavenly home in its beauty and sinlessness, we should understand what Paul meant when he said, "To depart and to be with Christ is far better." Every parent whose child dies in the Lord may hear amidst his sobs the words of Jesus, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Little one, precious one, Gone from thy mother's arms,
Gone from thy mother's arms,
I. HE WAS HENCEFORTH TO BE TROUBLED IN HIS OWN LAND. He is there to stagger and tremble under the stroke of God -
1. "As a reed is shaken in the water."
(1) The reed is a figure of frailty. Rabshakeh, in describing the inability of the Egyptians to support Hezekiah against the Assyrians, compares them to a bruised reed (2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6; see also Ezekiel 39:6). Contrariwise, our Lord, asserting the stability and vigour of John Baptist, said that he was no "reed shaken with the wind" (Matthew 11:7). In derision of the royalty of Jesus the soldiers put a reed in His hand for a sceptre (Matthew 27:29). Subsequent history bore emphatic testimony to the instability and feebleness of Ephraim.
(2) The reed is "shaken in the water." This element is at once a symbol of trouble and of people (see Psalm 69:17; Revelation 17:15). So disquiet, arising from popular tumults and civil war, is suggested. And did not this become fact? The frequent changes of dynasty kept the nation in perpetual broils. These evils were aggravated by wars with their brethren of Judah.
2. As a reed shaken by the wind.
(1) This is not asserted, but implied, since reeds shake in water when moved by winds. And foreign influences had much to do with the troubles of Israel.
(2) Foreign idolatries introduced by Solomon's wives were at the root of the troubles.
(3) The wars between Israel and Judah brought foreign armies upon the scene Egyptians, Syrians, and Assyrians. By these rough winds the troubles were aggravated.
II. THEN TO BE SCATTERED IN THE LANDS OF STRANGERS.
1. A captivity of Israel is foretold.
(2) This is now to be reversed. "He shall root up Israel out of this good land which he gave to their fathers." Suppose the vine had feeling; what a painful process!
2. Also the region of their dispersion.
(1) "I will scatter them beyond the river i.e., the Euphrates, for thus, by emphasis, this river is ever distinguished in Scripture (see Genesis 15:18; compare Deuteronomy 11:24 with 1 Kings 4:21 and Psalm 72:8).
(2) This river also stands for the Assyrians, through whose territory it flowed. Their armies invading Israel are likened to the Euphrates rising and overflowing its western bank (see Isaiah 8:7).
III. THESE VISITATIONS WERE TO EXPRESS THE ANGER OF GOD.
1. First provoked by their Canaanitish idolatries.
(1) These are represented here by their groves." The word Asherah (אשירה אשרת) occurs thirty-nine times, and is everywhere translated groves, yet it may well be doubted whether this is its meaning. For take the next occurrence after that in our text, viz., ver. 28 of this chapter: How could a grove be built under a green tree? How could a grove be made in the house of the Lord? (See 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:6, 18)
(2) These Asheroth, or Asherim, appear to have been images made of wood, cased in metal, perhaps fashioned like goats, which were worshipped with abominable rites. They were popular Canaanitish divinities, and for this reason to be execrated by Israelites (see Exodus 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:21).
2. Then by their complicity in the sin of Jeroboam.
(1) This addition to their earlier idolatries filled up the measure of their iniquity. For it completely alienated them from the worship of Jehovah in His temple.
(2) They forsook the Lord, so He threatens to "give up Israel for the sin of Jeroboam," as He had also given up the house of Jeroboam to judgment. - J.A.M.
I. SORROW TARNISHES HUMAN SPLENDOUR.
1. Survey this palace of Tirzah.
(1) This is not the only palace of Jeroboam. Soon alter his promotion to the crown of Israel we find him building a palace at Shechem. That commemorated the event of his elevation; for there those circumstances occurred which gave rise to it (see ch. 12.)
(2) But this palace did not long satisfy the royal ambition. We find the king presently engaged in building a second at Penuel, in the tribe of Gad, eastward of Jordan (1 Kings 12:25). Those who come suddenly to fortune commonly affect great splendour.
(3) Now we find him occupying a third. This probably was the most magnificent. It is situated in a place famous for its beauty in the days of Solomon (see Song of Solomon 6:4). From this it had its name (תרצה), which signifies pleasantness. Doubtless the palace was in keeping with the place, for it was preferred as the royal residence until its destruction by fire (1 Kings 16:18).
2. Behold in this paradise a corpse!
(1) Death has smitten Abijah, the best and most promising of the royal family. What a scene of grief when the mother, arrived from Shiloh, entered that chamber! What a dense gloom would rest on the household! In that solemn moment how vain must earthly splendour have appeared!
(2) And does not sorrow still mingle with all earthly scenes! Why, then, should we not rather set our affections upon things above?
(3) Wealth cannot bribe death. The King of Terrors enters the palace of royalty as certainly as he enters the cottage of poverty. To the great this enemy is even more formidable than to the humble, for they have more to leave. The acquisitions of the worldling, therefore, are only giving point and venom to the sting of death.
II. IT HAS RELIEFS AND AGGRAVATIONS.
1. The reliefs are the fruits of virtue.
(1) The public mourning would be a solace to the royal family. A king might provide a pompous funeral for his son, but he could not command the heart of the nation to mourn
(2) This public mourning was a tribute to the virtues of the prince (see ver. 13).
(3) There was pure comfort in the reflection that the spirit of the pious youth is away from a world of sin, in the companionship of saints and holy angels.
2. The aggravations are the fruits of sin.
(1) How the grief of Jeroboam must have been embittered by the fact that this bereavement came not as a messenger of mercy to him, but as a visitation of judgment!
(2) How it must have alarmed him to know that it was but the first of a series of judgments destined to issue in the extermination of his house!
(3) The very virtues of the prince first taken, in this view, became an aggravation, for he is removed as too good a prince for so wicked a people, and to make way for the succession of a wicked prince to punish them. - J.A.M.
1 Kings 15:29), as the penalty of his transgression in violating the religious unity of the nation. So soon was he made to feel that he was in the grasp of a Power that could not be mocked or trifled with, and against which it was vain for him to rebel The narrative is full of touching interest, and has many points of moral teaching. It illustrates -
I. THE TENDERNESS OF NATURAL AFFECTION EVEN IN A BAD MAN. We have no reason to doubt that genuine parental feeling prompted both Jeroboam and his wife in their appeal to the prophet. One cannot but sympathize with them in their distress at the fatal sickness of their child. Human nature in its deepest degradation is not altogether lost to the touches of tender emotion. The thrill of parental love may be found in hearts so debased and hardened that nothing else can move them. The most ferocious savage will defend his own, and "barbarous people" are capable of "showing no little kindness" even to strangers (Acts 28.) But in many cases there is no real moral worth in these affections and amenities. They can scarcely be called "redeeming qualities." Parental feeling is often little else than an animal instinct. It may exist side by side with the most grovelling passions and the most complete moral obliquity. Jeroboam loved his child, and yet, in proud self-will and impious defiance of the Divine authority, he could secure his own carnal ends at the cost of the utter spiritual degradation of the people.
II. THE BLINDNESS OF A SINFUL INFATUATION. The king flies in his distress to the prophet whom he has long slighted and ignored. He sought no counsel from him in the setting up of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. But now, as if he had himself fulfilled all the conditions of the Divine promise, he thinks to get from the prophet a word to confirm his hope of a "sure house" (1 Kings 11:38). Such is the folly of human nature. When the shadow of adversity falls on men they try, with something like a superstitious impulse, to get consolation from religious sources which, in the time of their prosperity, they neglected and despised. But what could Jeroboam expect from the oracle of a God whom he sinned against so grievously but "heavy tidings" respecting his child? He bids his wife "feign herself to be another woman;" but how could he dream that a prophet, who had power to read the future, would not be able to penetrate the false disguise? Thus, when men's hearts are "set in them to do evil" do they resort to vain subterfuges, and flatter themselves with a delusive hope. Thus do they often rush blindly on their own condemnation and ruin; provoking, and even antedating, the very calamities they have so much cause to dread.
III. THE CURSE OF SIN ON THE SACRED RELATIONSHIPS OF LIFE. It is terribly expressive of the hatefulness, in God's sight, of Jeroboam's impiety that the very flower and crown of his house should be thus stricken - the fairest and the best, the one who seemed likely to justify his name Abijah ("Jehovah is my Father") - because already in his young heart there was found "some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel." So is it often in the course of human history. The evil men do comes back to them, not only in divers forms of retribution, but often in the form of penalties that pierce them in the tenderest part. The dearest ties of life are broken. Or they see their own moral deformity reflected in those whom they would fain shield from its bitter consequences. Or their brightest hopes are withered at the root, and that which might have been, and was intended to be, the source of the purest earthly joy becomes the occasion of keenest sorrow.
IV. THE BLENDING OF AN ELEMENT OF MERCY WITH GOD'S SEVEREST JUDGMENTS. We see here how the innocent suffer with the guilty. The iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children (Exodus 20:5). Yet to the child himself, in this instance, it was a gracious visitation.
(1) He was emphatically "taken from the evil to come."
(2) His incipient piety was recognized and crowned by this translation to happier sphere.
(3) It was his special privilege to die a natural and not a violent death - the only one of the house of Jeroboam who should "go to the grave in peace." Thus in the darkest Divine judgment there is a gleam, of mercy. There is "light in the cloud." It has a "silver lining." The sufferings of innocent children, and the fact that so large a proportion of the human race die in infancy, are dark mysteries to us. But even here we see the dispensation of an all-wise Love, remembering Him who said, "It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18:14). "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14). - W.
I. THAT THE SEASON OF DEATH IS A TIME FOR REFLECTION.
1. In presence of a corpse the giddiest pause.
(1) This is seen when an ordinary funeral passes along the streets, in the sombre countenances of the bystanders, if not in more special tokens of respect. It is more evident still when the deceased may have been an acquaintance or a relative. But most so in the very house of mourning, where the relies are seen shrouded in their pallor and immobility.
(2) What trains of thought are started!
(a) What a mystery is death!
(b) What a mystery is life!
(c) What a mystery is futurity! - the spirit world - the resurrection - the judgment - heaven - hell.
(d) Are we prepared to encounter the inevitable? Who can forecast the moment?
(e) Why should we defer the needful preparation?
2. When a monarch dies a nation thinks.
(1) This is so under ordinary conditions. The social position occupied is so elevated that the event is conspicuous to all. What a leveller is death! In this article all claim kindred, the prince and the beggar (Proverbs 22:2).
(2) But Jeroboam's death was by the stroke of God (2 Chronicles 13:20). Such a conspicuous judgment was fitting to the man of sin (see Isaiah 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:15). How alarmingly would such a death speak to workers of iniquity!
(3) The demise of Jeroboam opened the succession to Nadab, who, without the genius of his father, followed in his iniquities.
3. But the virtuous only are lamented.
(1) Jeroboam was buried. He did come to the sepulchre "with his fathers." And he may have had the formality of a family mourning. His household may have gone barefoot, wept, torn their clothes, smote on their breasts, lay on the ground and fasted, as the custom was.
(2) But there was no national mourning. The public mourning for Moses and Aaron lasted thirty days, that for Saul seven (Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8; 1 Samuel 31:13). For Abijah, a pious prince of the house of Jeroboam, there was a national mourning, though he never came to the throne; but for Jeroboam, after a reign of twenty-two years, no mourning! (Ver. 13.)
(3) What a contrast - the apathy of the nation, now at the close of their experiment at king making, to the enthusiasm at its commencement (1 Kings 12:20)! How seldom do revolutionists adequately consider the end! They often anticipate a paradise and find a hell.
II. THAT WE SHOULD, THEREFORE, SO LIVE THAT SUCH REFLECTIONS MAY PROVE GRATEFUL. To this end our policy should be -
(1) Such was not the policy of Jeroboam. When his people became restive under his rule, and he feared they would return to Rehoboam, instead of looking to God, he forsook Him and made Israel to sin.
(2) The policy of purity is the policy of faith. Faith in God - in Christ - in truth.
(2) Wars are born of evil lusts (James 4:1). When Jeroboam forsook the Lord, then commenced an embroilment in hostilities from which he was never free. First with Rehoboam (ver. 30), then with Abijah (2 Chronicles 13).
3. So shall we avoid disaster.
(1) By pursuing an opposite policy Jeroboam brought disaster upon himself. His body was smitten by God. There is no evidence of any repentance to the saving of his soul.
(2) He brought disaster upon his family. The best of his sons died prematurely for his sin. Two years later he perished himself. Still two years later and his race became exterminated with violence.
(3) He brought disaster upon his people. Impatient of taxation under Rehoboam, they made him king, but got no relief, having to build palaces and sustain wars. And by their complicity in his idolatry they filled up the measure of their iniquity and incurred the anger of God, which involved them in the miseries of foreign invasion and captivity. What profit is there in a crown that is retained by the policy of sin? The whole world is dearly purchased with the loss of the soul. - J.A.M.
I. JUDAH HAD FALLEN INTO THE GROSSEST IDOLATRY.
1. He had multiplied high places.
(1) High places were not necessarily for idolatry. They were proper to the worship of the true God in patriarchal times.
(2) Even after God had chosen Jerusalem to put His name there, the patriarchal use of high places was upon special occasions sanctioned by Him (see 1 Kings 18:38).
(3) In Judah there was little need for these, since the extremity of the kingdom was not very remote from Jerusalem. The distance to Beersheba would be about forty British statute miles.
(4) But the high places of Judah were mainly designed for idolatry. Hence their association in the text with" images-and groves" and rites of Sodomites and other Canaanitish abominations.
2. He had built many temples.
(1) The term (מצבות) here translated "images" is elsewhere commonly rendered pillars (see Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:51; Genesis 35:20; Exodus 24:4; Isaiah 19:19). It is far from evident that this word is ever used for any image or figured thing. In places where it is construed "images," pillars would give as good sense (see Exodus 23:24; 2 Kings 10:26, 27). Marginal readings bear this out (see Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 16:22).
(2) It is probable these pillars were distributed in ranks, as those of the Druids at Stonehenge and Abiry, to serve as temples in which the powers of the material heavens were worshipped.
3. He had enshrined idols in these.
(1) The Asherim (אשׁרים) are here evidently misrendered "groves;" for how could groves be planted under every green tree? (See Homily on vers. 15, 16, supra.)
(2) They were idols apparently in figure like goats. For Jeroboam "ordained him priests for the high places and for the devils (שעדים goats), and for the calves which he had made" (2 Chronicles 11:15). Here we have no mention of Ashorim; of goats, however, we have mention. But when Josiah destroyed these things, there is mention of the Ashorah, but no mention of the goat (compare 2 Kings 23:15). The Asherah destroyed by Josiah appears, then, to be the goat which Jeroboam had set up.
(3) These Asherim, or Asheroth - for they appear to have been male and female idols - were supposed to convey blessings to their worshippers, and hence their name (from אשר to proceed, to bless).
4. His idolatry was attended with shocking cites.
(2) Conspicuous amongst these were the Sodomites, whose orgies were intimately connected with the Asherim, and to encourage which the women wove hangings (see 2 Kings 23:7). How fruitful in inventions is the wickedness of the heart! (Ecclesiastes 7:29.)
II. FOR HIS DEGENERACY HE WAS WITHOUT EXCUSE.
1. He had Jerusalem for his capital.
(1) This was the city chosen of God out of all the tribes of Israel to put His name there. The temple of Jehovah was there, and the Shekinah of Jehovah was in it.
(2) Every appliance for acceptable worship was there at hand. The altars were there; the priesthood was there; the appointed assemblies, festival and ferial, were there.
(3) They sinned, therefore, "before the face of the Lord," as in His very presence. Even more so than Israel, who could not now claim Jerusalem for his capital, though he was still bound to go there to worship. Let us remember that God is ever near us; this thought will restrain our truancy.
2. He had a son of David for his king.
(1) The mother of Rehoboam, indeed, was an Ammonitess. This is emphatically (twice) mentioned. She was one of those strange women who had turned the heart of Solomon from the right way. The abomination of her country was Milcom or Molech, whose rites were most ferocious and demoralizing.
(2) But against these influences were noble traditions on the other side. His father, in the beginning of his reign, was illustrious in wisdom and zeal for the God of Israel. The memories of his grandfather were glorious. To this must be added the most material circumstance that the Covenant was with his house; for Messiah Himself was to be the Son of David.
(3) These things were not without their influence. For three years after the revolution under Jeroboam, Rehoboam governed Judah in the fear of God, and so established his throne (see 2 Chronicles 11:17).
(4) When, after this, Rehoboam "forsook the law of the Lord," his subjects should have dissuaded him and, if necessary, resisted him. But they went "with him" (2 Chronicles 12:2).
(5) To such excesses,did they go that they "sinned above their fathers in provoking the Lord to jealousy." - J.A.M.
I. JUDAH'S SIN.
1. The nature of the transgression. The grossest idolatry was set side by side with the pure worship of God. The temple and its services were still HIS (ver. 28), but on every high hill and under every green tree were the images and altars of the false gods. The preservation of the pure worship of God is no proof that all is yielded which God demands. The heart may be full of the world's idolatries, of its covetousness and lust and manifold sin.
2. Its enormity.
(1) It was wrought in Jerusalem, "the city which the Lord did choose," etc., and this, too, in the face of the defection of the ten tribes. It is high treason against Jehovah when those whom He has called and honoured are faithless to the trust committed to them. It is the darkest crime against God and man to betray the last earthly refuge of the truth.
(3) Their idolatry was more unrestrained and daring than any that Israel had ever known (ver. 22).
3. Its fruits (ver. 24). Errors in worship become vices in life. The soul that is cut off from the fountain of life must needs break out into corruption.
II. JUDAH'S CHASTISEMENT. It inflicted deep humiliation and loudly proclaimed God's indignation.
1. It was inflicted by an old and beaten foe. Their temple songs, celebrating the ancient triumph over "Rahab," must have deepened their shame.
2. The holy city and the temple itself were spoiled. God loathed their holy things. We need not marvel that rationalism and infidelity are rampant in a faithless, worldly Church. It is God's way. Israel's idolatry is punished by Egypt's triumph.
3. It left its mark in enduring poverty (vers. 26-28). The splendour passed away from the royal pomp, and doubtless also from the temple service. The nation and Church which Egypt has spoiled, whose faith has been shaken by doubt, or swallowed up in unbelief, have lost their strength and glory. They are but the shadows of what a true and pure faith once made them. - J.U.
1. There was continual war between the kingdoms.
(1) While they remained faithful to God they had peace. God interposed to preserve peace by the hand of Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:21-24).
(2) But when they forsook the Lord, they soon got to strife, which continued as long as the kings lived (ver. 80). This strife was also handed down to their successors,
(3) Thus sinners become God's instruments to punish one another. So it is seen to this day in the contentions and litigations of individuals. Men are slow to see the hand of God.
2. Shishak aggravated the mischief.
(1) The influences which brought him upon the scene may be discerned. Hadad, who occasioned so much trouble to Solomon, was Shishak's brother-in-law. Shishak was thus disposed to give asylum to Jeroboam when he fled for his life from Solomon. Shishak now conspires with Jeroboam to ruin Rehoboam.
(2) The array brought against Judah by Shishak was formidable (see 2 Chronicles 12:3). It would have been crushing had not Rehoboam and his people, in their extremity, humbled themselves before God (2 Chronicles 12:7).
(3) But they still had to feel the smart of their sins.
1. In war there is always loss.
(1) Necessarily there is the forfeiture of peace. Who can estimate the value of peace? Perfect peace is the resultant of perfect harmony as the white light is composed of all the colours in the iris.
(2) There is the loss of property. Labour is the source of wealth: the labour withdrawn from industry to wage war is so much loss of wealth. The soldier also is a consumer. When he does not provide for his own sustenance, the labour of others must be taxed to feed him.
(3) There is the loss of life. War is seldom bloodless. Often the slaughter is fearful. Wellington is reported to have said that the calamity next in severity to a defeat is a victory.
2. Shishak despoiled the temple of its treasure.
(1) The booty here was enormous. The spoils of David's victories were there; also the accumulations of Solomon's peaceful commerce.
(2) The shields of gold that Solomon had made are particularly mentioned. It is added that Rehoboam had brazen shields made to replace them. How sin reduces the fine gold to brass!
3. Shishak also rifled the palace.
(1) The treasures here also were immense. Perhaps there never was such plunder as this in human annals.
(2) Rehoboam handed down a diminished inheritance to his son. By his folly he alienated ten tribes of his nation from his kingdom. Abijam likewise succeeded to a kingdom greatly impoverished. He became heir also to embroilments. The entailments of sin pursue the spirit into the invisible world. Forfeiture. Trouble: - J.A.M.