Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE UNSEEMLINESS OF DOMESTIC STRIFE. It is not only such murderous violence as darkened the history of the first human family, and such bitter strife as that which too often divides brothers and sisters into plaintiffs and defendants; it is also the unforgiven offence, or the interminable dispute, which keeps their lives apart, or makes cold the hearts that should be warm with love; and it is also the daily bickerings, accusations, contentions, which come beneath the Divine displeasure. It is not only the presence of strife, it is the absence of love; it is the want of kindness, considerateness, charity, sweetness of look and of tone, which gives dissatisfaction to him who is ever saying, "As I have loved you, love one another."
II. THE PAINFUL INCONGRUITY OF CHURCH DISSENSIONS. Apart from all ecclesiastical controversy, in regard to which there may be honest difference of opinion and of action without any real bitterness of heart, there is often found within the borders of the same Christian community a difference which hardens into a dissension. It is here that the strong, decisive command, against which is no appeal, should be heard, "Ye shall not fight against your brethren." We may not be able to define in language the exact difference between allowable and honourable and even commendable defence of the true and wise in Christian thought and method on the one hand, and a reprehensible and unchristian dissension on the other hand. But if" our eye be single," and our Master's cause be dearer to our heart than our own preferences, we shall know where the difference lies, and we shall heed the prohibition of the text, and the injunction of the apostle, "Be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
III. THE PECULIAR INIQUITY OF FRATRICIDAL WAR. How pitiful the sight of the armies of Judah arrayed against the armies of Israel; the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob seeking one another's life, shedding one another's blood! The people of God turning their weapons against each other, weakening the forces of righteousness, helping to extinguish the light that was in the world. Well might the prophetic word be uttered, "Ye shall not fight," etc. The Divine Father of the human family has, since then, looked down on many a sad and shameful fratricidal war - wars in which father and son, brother and brother, have met in deadly contest on the battlefield; wars in which the hearts of those united by the strongest bonds have been inflamed against one another by the fiercest passions. Surely negotiation and concession should be carried to the very last conceivable point before men "go up and fight against their brethren." But it may be said that the words point to -
IV. THE WRONGNESS OF ALL WAR THAT IS ANYWISE AVOIDABLE. And so, indeed, they do. For are we not all brethren? are we not all "members one of another"? Are we not, whatever our nationality may he, children of the same heavenly Father, possessors of the same spiritual nature, fellow-sufferers from the same great spiritual malady, fellow-strugglers against the same spiritual foes, fellow-travellers to the same solemn future? May we not all be the redeemed of the same Divine Saviour, workers in the same holy fields of usefulness, occupants of the same heavenly home? Is it well that we who are brethren, that we who, beneath our superficial distinctions, are so closely and deeply united to one another, that we should be planning one another's destruction, be rejoicing in one another's discomfiture, be exercising our utmost art and putting forth our utmost skill to shed one another's blood? To all those who would enter lightly or needlessly into war, comes the strong and solemn prohibition, "Ye shall not fight against your brethren." - C.
I. THE KING'S ARMY.
1. Whence collected. From Judah and Benjamin, or that portion of the latter which adhered to Judah.
2. Its place of rendezvous. Jerusalem, the metropolis of the southern kingdom. It was intended that the king's forces should proceed from the capital.
3. The number of its force. A hundred and eighty thousand men - a contingent of the army of Judah.
4. The character of its soldiers. "Chosen men, which were warriors;" picked veterans, because of the importance and difficulty of the expedition upon which they were about to be despatched.
5. The work for which it was designed. "To fight against Israel " - against the ten or nine and a half northern tribes who had lately belonged to the same empire with them, and were still of the same race.
6. The ultimate aim of the expedition. To reduce Israel to subjection. Politically viewed, it was not wrong to aim at the conquest of Israel; only Rehoboam would have done well had he sat down calmly and considered whether he was able, with the help of one or two tribes at most, to overcome ten, with a population vastly larger and equally inured to war with those acknowledging his sway (Luke 14:32). Religiously examined, it is not so certain Rehoboam was pursuing a legitimate aim, seeing that under him, no less than under his father, the unbroken empire had forsaken Jehovah and declined into idolatries, which declension, besides, was the primal cause of the disruption that had taken place.
II. JEHOVAH'S INTERDICT.
1. Through whom conveyed. "Shemaiah the man of God." This prophet appears to have belonged to Judah (2 Chronicles 12:15), and resided in Jerusalem; unlike Ahijah, whose home was in Ephraim (1 Kings 11:29).
2. To whom delivered. "Rehoboam... King of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin." The Divine message was no doubt spoken in the palace to the king and his pnnces, and through them published to the assembled warriors.
3. In what terms issued.
(1) A prohibition: "Ye shall not go up" upon this expedition, "nor fight against your brethren;
(2) a command: "Return every man to his house;" and
(3) a reason: "For this thing is done of me," saith the Lord. Thus to Rehoboam by Shemaiah, as to Jeroboam through Ahijah, was the intimation given that the disruption of the kingdom exactly accorded with the Divine purpose.
4. How received. In sub-minion and with obedience. Whether this prompt compliance with Heaven's will was due, on the part of Rehoboam, his princes, and his army, to religion, humanity, or worldly policy, is not said by the Chronicler. They may have felt it would be dangerous to fight against God; or been touched by the consideration that the Israelites were, after all, their brethren; or calculated that prudence would be the better part of valour, seeing it was not self-evident they would succeed in their enterprise.
1. The sinfulness of war, especially of civil war.
2. The paramount authority of God in civil and political, no less than in private and religious, affairs.
3. The presence of God's finger in all social and national movements, in the establishment and overthrow of kings, in the permitting or hindering (as his wisdom determines) of civil strife, etc.
4. The wisdom of obeying God. - W.
say - Much; and so much that we are altogether wrong and foolish if we do not take it into account. The words of the text, together with the context, suggest -
I. THAT GOD DOES MANY THINGS WHICH, ANTECEDENTLY, WE SHOULD NOT EXPECT HE WOULD DO. Who would have expected, apart from his own warnings, that he would bring about the rupture in the kingdom of Israel? How very preferable, in many ways, does it seem to us that that little kingdom should remain united and strong instead of becoming divided and weak! We should have thought that the Divine wisdom would devise some other punishment for Solomon's vain-gloriousness and defection, for Rehoboam's childish folly, than that which the text tells us was wrought of him; there might have been, we should say, some personal humiliation or some temporary national calamity from which it would soon have revived. But so it was not to be. And though it may yet remain inexplicable, it is certain that this rending of the kingdom in twain was "of God." In the history of our race, in the course of Christianity, we have witnessed or have read of the same thing. Sometimes it has been in the fate of institutions. God has let some prosper that we should have expected him to bring to ruin, and others he has allowed to perish that we should have expected his interposition to save. And many times it has been the lives of men How often have we wondered that the bad and baneful life has not been shortened, that the noble and valuable life has not been spared! How difficult it has been to believe that this thing and that thing were "done of him"! Yet we know that the guilty do not live one day longer than he permits, and we know that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." We believe, though we cannot see, that God's hand is on all the springs of human life, that he is directing everything, and that those issues which at the time, or long after the time, seemed strange and deplorable, will prove to have been kind and wise and just.
II. THAT THE GUILTY SHOULD ASCRIBE TO HIM THE ISSUES OF THEIR FOLLY. Rehoboam's senseless behaviour at Shechem had obviously much to do with the political disaster that followed. Yet Divine righteousness had so much to do with it that God said," This thing is done of me." Crime, vice, folly, sin, work out their issues in poverty, shame, sorrow, death. The moralist stands over the fallen culprit and says, not untruly, "You have brought this upon yourself; it is your own guilty hand that has brought you to the ground." Yet, with equal truth, and perhaps with greater wisdom and kindness, the prophet of the Lord comes to him and says, "This end of evil is of God; he has brought it about; it is the mark of his Divine displeasure; it is a summons to another and a better course." Conversely, we may add -
III. THAT THE GOOD SHOULD, AND DO, ATTRIBUTE TO HIM THE RESULTS OF THEIR ENDEAVOURS. If it is the action of God's righteous laws, and in that way the working of his hand, that sin ends in misery and ruin, so is it on the other side. It is the outworking of Divine beneficence, it is the result of his wisdom and goodness, it is the consequence of his action, direct and indirect, that the fields are white unto the harvest, that the trees in the Master's vineyard are bringing forth fruit, that the young people are growing up into wisdom and spiritual comeliness, that character is ripening for the heavenly garner, that life is opening out into immortality. "This thing," also, "is of him." - C.
I. THE ERECTION OF FORTRESSES. (Vers. 5-12.)
1. Their object. To defend the frontiers of the kingdom, against both Israel on the north and Egypt on the south, for which last special need existed, considering the friendly relations which had subsisted between Jeroboam and Shishak. Shishak's invasion, which soon followed, showed Rehoboam's apprehensions not to have been baseless. Though wars are seldom justifiable, it is never wrong or unwise on the part of a prudent monarch to consult for the protection of his country and people.
2. Their names.
(1) In the land of Judah.
(a) On the southern frontier: Bethlehem, mentioned in Jacob's time (Genesis 35:19), two hours south of Jerusalem, the birthplace of David and of Christ (1 Samuel 16:1; Micah 5:1; Matthew 2:5, 11), now Beit-Lahm. Etam, a town probably between Bethlehem and Tekoa, the present village Urtas, south of Bethlehem, near which is the spring called 'Ain Atan. Tekoa, now Tekua, "on the summit of a hill covered with ancient ruins, two hours south of Bethlehem" (Keil). Beth-zur (Joshua 15:58), a town on the watershed, identified with the modern Beth-sur, a ruin midway between Urtas and Hebron.
(b) On the western boundary towards the Philistines: Soco (Joshua 15:35), the present Shuweike in Wady Sumt, three hours and a half south-west from Jerusalem. Adullam (Joshua 15:35), a very old Canaanitish town, that lay in the so-called Shephelah, or lowland, of Judah, probably to be identified with the present Deir Dubban, two hours north of Eleutheropolis. Gath one of the five chief towns of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3), first subjected to the Israelites by David (1 Chronicles 18:1), and under Solomon ruled by its own king, who paid tribute to the Israelitish throne (1 Kings 2:39); according to the 'Onomasticon,' situated five Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, on the road to Dios-polis; otherwise not yet identified, though Conder looks for it in the direction of Tell-es-Safi. Mareshah (Joshua 15:44), near to which Asa defeated the Ethiopian king Zemh (2 Chronicles 14:9), according to Eusebius, lay two Roman miles from, and in all probability is to be sought for in, the ruin Merash, twenty-four minutes south of Beit Jibrin (Eleu-theropolis). Adoram, shortened into Dora (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:5. 3), is the present-day Dura, a village seven miles and a half west of Hebron, surrounded by olive-groves and corn-fields (Robinson). Lachish, in the lowland of Judah (Joshua 15:39), is probably the present ruin Lakis, three miles west-south-west from Beit Jibrin, situated "on a circular height covered with ancient walls and marble fragments, and overgrown with thistles and bushes" (Robinson, Ritter, Keil; Pressel in Herzog, 8:157; Reihm, 1:876), though Conder prefers to find it in Tell-el-hesy, near Egion. Azekah (Joshua 15:35), east of Ephes-dammim (1 Samuel 17:1), has not been discovered.
(c) On the border of the Edomites: Hebron, originally Kirjath-arba, i.e. the city of Arba, "a great man among the Anakims" (Joshua 14:15; Joshua 15:13; Joshua 21:11), afterwards a settlement of the patriarchs (Genesis 23:2; Genesis 35:27), now called El-Khalil, "the friend of God," in the hill country of Judah, seven hours from Jerusalem, one of the oldest towns of which we possess knowledge, having been "built seven years before Zoan in Egypt" (Numbers 13:22). Ziph, probably in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:55), to be looked for in the present ruin Tall Ziph, an hour and a quarter south-east of Hebron.
(2) In the land of Benjamin, as a protection against the north. Zorah (Joshua 15:33), not Samson's birthplace (Judges 13:2), represented by the ruin Sura, ten Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, on the road to Nicopolis, but a place lying on a high peak of the northern slope of the Wadi-Serar. Aijalon, the present village of Jalo, on the verge of the plain Merj-ibn-Omeir, four leagues west of Gibeon. These last-named towns belonged originally to Dan, but after the disruption of the kingdom they appear to have fallen to the tribe of Benjamin.
3. The equipment of these strongholds. Captains were appointed, provisions laid up, and shields and spears stored up in every city (ver. 11).
II. THE REFORMATION OF RELIGION. (Vers. 13-17.)
1. The priests and Levites out of all Israel returned to the temple. The occasion of this falling away from Jeroboam was that he and his sons had practically renounced the religion of Jehovah, had set up "high places" of his own in Dan and Bethel, where Jehovah was worshipped in the form of two ox-images, or golden calves, in imitation, most likely, of the images of Apis and Mnevis in Egypt, or of the "calf" made by Aaron in the wilderness, the notion of which doubtless was also borrowed from Egypt (1 Kings 12:28). These calves and other images of animals the Chronicler calls she'erim (Hebrew), "devils" (Authorized Version), "he-goats" or "satyrs" (Revised Version), after which the Israelites had gone a-whoring in Egypt (Joshua 24:14), and even in the wilderness (Leviticus 17:7; Amos 5:25, 26). "In later times they appear to have connected with it [this worship] notions of goblins, in the form of goats, who haunted the wilderness and laid in wait for women" (Gerlach). Jeroboam, then, having set up this rival form of worship, had no further use for the regularly ordained priests and Levites, unless they would conform to the new cultus; and because they would not, he cast them out from their offices and would no more allow them "to sacrifice unto the Lord." It says a good deal for their conscientiousness and courage that, rather than renounce what they believed to be the true religion, or worship God otherwise than according to their consciences, they cheerfully abandoned "their suburbs and possession" - in modern phraseology, their residences and emoluments; Scottice, their manses and glebes. They were the first nonconformists in the northern kingdom.
2. The pious worshippers of Jehovah out o/ all Israel returned to Jerusalem. These are described:
(1) By their characters. "Such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel." The essence of all religion is "to seek the Lord God of Israel," in whose favour is life, and whose "loving-kindness is better than life" (Psalm 30:5; Psalm 63:3), the knowledge of whom is also life eternal (John 17:2). Nor can God be sought unless with the heart as distinguished from the mind, and with the whole as contrasted with a divided heart (2 Chronicles 15:12; Psalm 119:2, 10; Jeremiah 29:13). And even this is impossible without determination, energy, and perseverance on the part of him who desires to be religious (Psalm 9:1; 2 Kings 10:31; Acts 11:33).
(2) By their worship. They "came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers." True religion cannot subsist alongside of false worship. A serious mistake it is to suppose that any form of expression will suffice as an outlet for pious feeling. God must be approached and served in the way and through the forms he has himself prescribed.
3. Rehoboam and his princes returned to the service of Jehovah.
(1) Their reformation was probably sincere so far as it went. But
(2) it did not go far enough. They did not abandon entirely the idol-worship of Solomon, but conjoined with it the service of Jehovah. And
(3) it was of short duration, lasting only three years (ver. 17), i.e. so long as the fright of invasion was on them, but disappearing when all fear on that score was at an end (2 Chronicles 12:1). Learn:
1. The worthlessness to a kingdom of fortresses without religion.
2. The worthlessness to a person of religion without sincerity and truth.
3. The worthlessness to a state of a king without a God.
4. The worthlessness to either state or individual of goodness that is not permanent. - W.
I. THE SEVERITY OF THE STRUGGLE. These servants of Jehovah, priests and people, had to triumph over great obstacles in order to take the step on which they decided. They had:
1. To set at nought the commandments of the king. This was a more serious thing then than it would be now; it meant more rebelliousness in action, and it involved more danger to the person.
2. To cut themselves adrift from old and sacred associations. They had to forsake their neighbours and (many of them, no doubt) their relatives; many had to leave their vocation or, at any rate, its exercise in familiar spots and among old and early acquaintances; they had to make little of those sentiments of which it is in our human heart to make much.
3. To sacrifice material advantages. Of the Levites we read that they "left their suburbs and their possession" (ver. 14); and we may be sure that those who were not Levites, and who, consequently, would have a much greater interest in the occupancy and holding of the land (Deuteronomy 10:9), made still greater sacrifices than they. The families must have gone forth "not knowing the things that would befall them," but knowing that they would encounter serious loss and discomfort, and would miss much which they had been accustomed to possess and to enjoy.
II. THE WISDOM OF THEIR CHOICE.
1. They pleased God. God would accept and honour their fidelity, which was an act of faithfulness and obedience to himself.
2. They retained their self-respect. This they would not have done if they had conformed to the false rites which Jeroboam had instituted and on which he was insisting; in that case they would have sunk far and fast spiritually, and would soon have lost all hold upon the truth. For we cannot dishonour the truth in the eyes of men and retain our own appreciation of it.
3. They took a course which ennobled them - a course by which they not only became entitled to the honour of their countrymen, but by which they committed themselves definitely to the service of God and confirmed their own faith in him. They did that for which their children and their children's children would "call them blessed" and noble.
4. They added materially to the strength of the kingdom which bore witness to the truth (ver. 17), and helped to make durable its godly institutions.
5. They became located where they could take part in the worship of God according to the requirements of their own conscience. Setting their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, they came where they could "sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers" (ver. 16). They lost much temporal, but they gained much spiritual advantage. They sowed "not to the flesh, but to the Spirit." They left houses of brick behind them, but they came where they could build up the house of a holy character, of a noble and useful life. There are those in Christian lands who do not likewise, but otherwise. For some temporal considerations they leave the home where there is everything to illumine the mind and enlarge the spirit and enrich the soul, and go where all this is absent. Doubtless the removal from one town to another is an action in which many motives may and should have their force, but let spiritual considerations have a great weight in the balance. - C.
I. THE SINGULAR SPIRITUAL ADMIXTURE WE FIND IN HIM. The account we have of him is not a long one; it is contained in two or three short chapters, but in these we count seven wise and four foolish actions. We find him (see above)very wise in taking time and in consulting others before giving an important decision on a critical occasion; most foolish in heeding the counsel of the young men; foolish in sending his minister that "was over the tribute" amongst those who were complaining bitterly of their taxation (2 Chronicles 10:18); wise in hearkening to and heeding the Divine prohibition of war (ver. 4); wise in fortifying and storing the strongholds on the frontier (vers. 5-12); wise in welcoming to Judah the priests and people whom Jeroboam had driven away; very foolish indeed in "desiring many wives" (ver. 23) and in establishing so large a harem (ver. 21); wise in choosing so many from the stock of David and in dispersing his sons about his small kingdom, where they could not quarrel among themselves, but be of some service to him; wise in "walking in the way of David" (ver. 17); foolish in departing therefrom after three years of obedience.
II. THE SPIRITUAL ADMIXTURE THERE IS IN US. We find that good men have:
1. Those virtues and failings which seem to go together. They have, as we say, "the faults of their virtues." With much strength and earnestness goes severity in the judgment of other people; with much meekness goes inactivity; with much vivacity and picturesqueness of style goes laxity, if not unveraciousness; with much good-naturedness goes carelessness, etc.
2. Failings which do not naturally accompany virtues. Of some good man whose general integrity we cordially acknowledge, whose excellency and usefulness (perhaps) we even admire, we have to admit reluctantly that he is very vain, or very proud, or very blunt, or very careless; or we have to confess that there is some other defect in his character, perhaps more than one shortcoming. In truth, we have to confront the truths, viz.:
1. That Christian character is an admixture. It is good not unmarked with evil; it is rectitude not without some occasional swerving to the right hand or to the left; it is rather an earnest aspiration or an honest and devout endeavour than a complete attainment; it is a battle that will end in victory, but it is not (yet) the victory; it is a race, and not the runner clasping the goal and receiving the prize.
2. That it behoves us to take heed how we judge. One failing does not unchristianize a character; it is what is in the depth, and not what is on the surface, that decides our position; the "spirit we are of," and not the proprieties of behaviour.
3. That we do well to consider how much alloy is mixed with the pure gold of our own character. - C.
I. REHOBOAM'S WIVES.
1. The number of them. In all eighteen wives and sixty concubines. Solomon had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). David even had more wives and concubines than was good for him (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:13; 2 Samuel 12:8). Oriental monarchs generally had well-filled harems. Rameses II. had a hundred and nineteen children (sixty sons and fifty-nine daughters), "which gives ground for supposing a great number of concubines, besides his lawful wives" (Brugsch, vol. 2. p. 115). Poly- gamy was also permitted to, and practised by, the monarchs of Assyria, whose palaces accordingly were guarded by a whole army of eunuchs Sayce, 'Assyria, its Princes, Priests, and People,' p. 129).
2. The chief of them.
(1) "Mahalath, the daughter of David's son Jerimoth," who was probably a son of one of David's concubines, as Jerimoth is wanting in the list of David's sons (1 Chronicles 3:1-8); "Abihail, the daughter of Eliab, the son of Jesse" (1 Chronicles 2:13), is not a second wife of Rehoboam's (LXX.) as the words "which bare" (ver. 19) and "after her" (ver. 20) show, but Mahalath's mother, who was thus David's niece, as Mahalath's father was David's grandson. Mahalath was probably the first wedded of Rehoboam's spouses.
(2) "Maachah, the daughter of Absalom." Called also "Micaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah" (ch. 13:2), or of Abishalom (1 Kings 15:2), Maachah was probably the daughter of Tamar, whose husband was the above Uriel or Abishalom, and whose father was Absalom (2 Samuel 14:27). If Mahalath was the first of Rehoboam's wives, Maachah was the favourite, probably on account of beauty and fascinating manners inherited from her grandfather (2 Samuel 14:25; 2 Samuel 15:6).
II. REHOBOAM'S CHILDREN.
1. The number of his sons. Twenty-eight, among whom were
(1) the sons of Mahalath, nowhere else mentioned, "Jeush, Shamariah, and Zaham," men not distinguished for their own sakes, and hardly worthy of further notice for their father's sake; and
(2) the sons of Maachah, "Abijah, or Abijam (1 Kings 15:1), and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith," of whom only the first emerged from obscurity. Rehoboam's daughters are not named, but only numbered. In those days woman had not attained the place which was her due, and which has since been assigned her by Christianity.
2. The favourite amongst his sons. Abijah. Though not the firstborn, Rehoboam designated him as successor to the throne, no doubt to the injury and displeasure of the firstborn; but in doing so, if he obeyed not the Law (Deuteronomy 21:16), he at least followed the example of David, who preferred Bathsheba's son Solomon to the throne, instead of his firstborn, Amnon the son of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. He also made Abijah ruler among his brethren, set him at their head, appointed him as governor over them in the various state offices they held, and entrusted to him the crown treasures and the strongest cities (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:10. 1).
3. The treatment of his other sons. He "dealt wisely" with them.
(1) He dispersed them abroad among the different garrison cities, giving them commands in these, so that by their separation from one another and their occupation with military duties they might have neither time nor opportunity to conspire with Jeroboam, or any other monarch, against Abijah or himself.
(2) He provided for them abundant maintenance, i.e. a living suitable to their princely rank, so that no temptation to discontent might assail them. Rehoboam probably knew that if his sons had their bellies well filled their souls would be at ease.
(3) He sought for them many wives. Whether these were chosen out of the different districts where the sons held commands, in order to bring his sons into closer connection with the inhabitants of the same (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 47), the certainty is that the practice of polygamy in which he encouraged them would not tend to increase their warlike energy.
1. The misery as well as sin of polygamy, leading as it does to divided affections and unjustifiable partialities.
2. The duty of dealing wisely with children, but not after the fashion of Rehoboam. - W.