Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.B.—The prophecy of Ahijah against the house and kingdom of Jeroboam, and the death of the latter.
1 KINGS 14:1–20
11 AT that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said 2to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king2 over this people. 3And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels,3 and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child. 4And Jeroboam’s wife did so, and arose and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age. 5And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus4 shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman. 6And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I 7am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, 8and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; 9but hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: 10therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon5 the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left6 in Israel, and will take away the remnant7 of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. 11Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the Lord [Jehovah] hath spoken it. 12Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. 13And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord [Jehovah] 14God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. Moreover, the Lord [Jehovah] shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboamthat day: but what? even now. 15For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord [Jehovah] to anger. 16And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin. 17And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah; and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died: 18and they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the Lord [Jehovah], which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.
19And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel. 20And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 14:1–6. At that time, &c. As Jeroboam was not led to a change of heart by what is recorded in chap, 13., a visitation overtook him in the form of the illness of his promising son Abijah, who was doubtless to have been his successor. Then, when in distress, he thought of the prophet who once promised him the kingdom, and a “sure house” (1 Kings 11:38); he thought of Ahijah, whose prophecy respecting the kingdom had been fulfilled, and he hoped to receive from him a sure answer to a question which concerned the continuance of his dynasty. But, conscious that he had not fulfilled the prophet’s condition—unswerving loyalty to Jehovah—he did not venture to go himself, but tried to deceive him, and, as it were, to steal an answer from him. He sends the mother, the most natural intercessor for the son; she is disguised, so that no one can know her and tell the prophet who she is. The presents that it was customary to take (1 Sam. 9:8) were purposely very small, for she wished, no doubt, to appear to the prophet as a very poor woman; but נִקֻּדִּים does not mean “mouldy loaves” (Hess, Dereser, and others), for נָקֹד means punctured, spotted, but not therefore mouldy; the Sept. gives κολλυρίς, the Vulgate crustula. The expression קָמוּ עֵינָיו (1 Kings 14:4), i.e., his eyes stood (were set), “means the gray cataracts, amaurosis, that take place in old age, through paralysis of the optic nerves” (Keil) (1 Sam. 4:15). קָשָׁה, 1 Kings 14:6, is the same as in 1 Kings 12:13.
1 Kings 14:7–9. Go tell Jeroboam, &c. 1 Kings 14:7. The older commentators remark that the prophecy which begins here and ends in 1 Kings 14:16 takes a rhythmical form. It has ten verses (1 Kings 14:7–16), five of which make one section (1 Kings 14:7–11 and 12–16); the first section is in 3 + 2, and the second in 2 + 3 verses. Jeroboam had sinned above all that were before him (1 Kings 14:9); for none, whether king, judge, or leader, had made an unlawful worship a State institution, and forcibly maintained it to gratify lust of power and selfishness; Solomon had only permitted the idolatrous worship, and that first to his already idolatrous wives. מַסֵּכוֹת, the same as in Deut. 9:12; Jud. 17:3, 4, molten images. Worship of images is here placed on a level with worship of idols, because it involuntarily leads to it (see Hist. and Eth. on 1 Kings 12:28). “The expression, hast cast me (God) behind thy back, which occurs nowhere else but in Ezek. 23:35, is the strongest possible phraseology to denote intentional contempt of God—the opposite from having God before one’s eyes; and it is stronger than ‘cast Thy law behind their backs,’ Neh. 9:26” (Keil).
1 Kings 14:10–12. Therefore behold, I will bring evil, 1 Kings 14:10. The expression “that pisseth against the wall” in 1 Sam. 25:22 (1 Kings 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8), was, no doubt, originally used of dogs, and was not an honorable way of alluding to the male sex; for it is employed in all these passages only of those who are to be cast away and rooted out. The words עָצוּר וְעָזוּב, which are mostly connected with it, are epexegetical; literally, the detained, and those set free, which Seb. Schmidt rightly interprets puer, qui domi adhuc detinetur et qui emancipatus est; the male descendants not of age are under guardians (2 Kings 10:1, 5; 1 Chron. 27:32). This is the only explanation which suits the word בְּיִשְׁרָאֵל, which “refers to an intruded, or already assumed share in public life” (Thenius); all the male descendants of the king, even the minors, were threatened with destruction. Luther’s translation, “those shut up and forsaken in Israel,” is decidedly erroneous. “Behind the house of Jeroboam” means: as often as a new scion arises I shall take it away, &c. (cf.Isai. 14:23). The Vulgate which Luther followed is wrong: mundabo reliquias domus Jeroboam. The threat reaches its climax in 1 Kings 14:11, which foretells the frightful and disgraceful manner of the destruction. To remain unburied was an intolerable thought to the Hebrews; and in all the ancient world it was accounted the severest disgrace, because in such cases the corpse became the prey of the birds or of wild beasts, or of the voracious dogs in the East, that ran wild and were reckoned unclean. According to Deut. 28:26 this punishment was a divine curse. The same threat occurs elsewhere, especially in Jeremiah (1 Kings 16:4; 21:24; Ezek. 29:5; 39:17; Jer. 7:33; 8:2; 9:22; 12:9; 14:16). cf. Winer R.- W.-B. I. s. 148. The כִּי at the end is to heighten the effect, as elsewhere, and is = imo (Ewald, Lehrb. der hebr. Sprache § 330 b); yes, Jehovah will fulfil this as well as the former prophecy of Jeroboam’s elevation.
1 Kings 14:13–14. Some good thing toward the Lord God, 1 Kings 14:13. אֶל יְהוָֹה is not to be connected with נמצא, and then translated as the Vulgate has it, a domino (Thenius); but it means towards, or in relation to, Jehovah (cf.2 Kings 6:11). The whole context shows that it can scarcely mean anything else than that this son, from whom the king and people hoped so much, was inclined to the pure and lawful worship of Jehovah. The Rabbins have a fable that he disobeyed his father’s command to hinder people from travelling to Jerusalem to keep the feasts, and that he even removed obstructions in the road. The abrupt words in 1 Kings 14:14: וּמֶה גַּם־עָתָּה are obscure, and are very variously explained. Thenius adopts the view of the Chald.: He shall cut off the house of Jeroboam “that which now (lives), and that which shall be (born) to it.” But the athnach with הַיּוֹם as well as with מֶה contradicts this, which means not quod but quid. The meaning seems to be: Jehovah will raise up a king, who at a certain period shall cut off the house of Jeroboam; what now occurs (the death of the boy) is the sign and beginning of this complete destruction. The interrogatory form makes the words more impressive. The Hirsch-berger Bible says: “And what shall I say (on that coming day)? It is even now come;” Keil also; “but what (sc. say I)? even now (viz. he has raised him up).”
1 Kings 14:14–16. For the Lord shall smite Israel, 1 Kings 14:15. Smiting refers to the wasting of Israel by hostile nations, before the Assyrian captivity. A “reed” continually waves to and fro in water, as it cannot resist the force of the wind and waves. “The image is very striking, for Israel was brought so low, that every political influence bore it along” (Thenius). The “scattering” took place in the captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 17:23; 18:11). אֲשֵׁרִים does not mean groves (Luther), but the statues of the female deity, elsewhere called Astarte (see above on 1 Kings 11:5), who stands over against Baal, the Canaanitish (Phœnician) male deity. These statues were wooden (upright tree-stems); the worship was licentious (Judg. 3:7; 6:25 sq.;2 Kings 23:7; Ezek. 23:42 sq.). It is not expressly said that images of Astarte were erected under Jeroboam, but 1 Kings 14:23 remarks that this was done in Judah under Rehoboam, how much more then in Israel. The Astarte worship existed in the time of the Judges (cf. on the place). Jeroboam’s image-worship is here regarded as a continual evil and source of all ruin. Keil’s assertion that “אֲשֵׁרִים stands for any idols, among which the golden calves are to be numbered,” is not susceptible of proof.
1 Kings 14:17–18. And Jeroboam’s wife … to Tirzah, 1 Kings 14:17. According to Josh. 12:24, Tirzah was originally a Canaanitish royal city, situated in a beautiful district (Eccle. 6:4). We cannot ascertain its precise situation; it was probably near Shechem; Robinson thinks it was rather north of Mount Ebal; former travellers state that they found a Tersah on a high mountain, three hours’ distance east of Samaria (cf. Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 613). According to 1 Kings 12:25, Shechem was the residence of Jeroboam; and he must either have changed it afterwards to Tirzah, or the latter must have been only a summer residence. Penuel, mentioned above, was not a place of residence but a fortress; so that the present passage does not at all contradict that one, as Thenius thinks. The kings Baasha and Asa and Elah resided at Tirzah (1 Kings 15:21, 33; 16:8).
1 Kings 14:19–20. The rest of the acts of Jeroboam, &c., 1 Kings 14:19. For the book of the contemporaneous history of the kings of Israel see Introduction § 2. What is only alluded to by our author, in the words “how he warred,” is fully given by the Chronicler, from the book of the prophet Iddo; 2 Chron. 13:2–20. This is an account of a great defeat of Jeroboam by king Abijah, and it says at the end: “and the Lord struck him (וַיִּגְּפֵהוּ), and he died.” Bertheau’s supposition that this refers to the defeat itself, is scarcely right; neither can it mean a sudden death (Thenius), but, as in 2 Chron. 21:18, a severe and painful illness.
Historical and Ethical
1. From the long reign (twenty-two years ) of Jeroboam, whose history closes with the present section, our author only selects those deeds that bear on his apostasy from the fundamental law of Israel, i.e., on “the sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.” He passes over all the rest that Jeroboam did as a shrewd and powerful regent or warrior, because it was of far less importance to the history of the kingdom and of the entire theocracy than that sin which especially characterized his government, and the results of which were felt for hundreds of years. David was the king who faithfully kept the fundamental law, and was therefore the type of a theocratic king, but Jeroboam was the king who openly broke the fundamental law, made the bull-worship the religion of the State, and used it as a bulwark of his kingdom over against Judah. He was the real cause of the apostasy of all the after kings of the ten tribes, for they all regarded it as the support of their power, and as a firm wall of separation between both kingdoms. This is the reason why the account of his reign significantly closes with the divine sentence on him and the apostate kingdom. It was a divine dispensation that he himself, after all warnings and threatenings had been in vain, called forth this divine sentence by the deceitful means he took, and even from the very prophet who had announced to him his future elevation; so that he could judge from the fulfilment of that announcement that the sentence would also come to pass. As his sin was the type of the sin of all succeeding kings and of the whole kingdom, so Ahijah’s prediction is the type of all succeeding predictions regarding this kingdom; it forms the key-tone that rings through all of them (1 Kings 16:4; 21:23; 22:28; 2 Kings 9:36).
2. Ahijah’s prophecy, in form as well as in contents (cf. above on 1 Kings 14:7) is a perfectly connected whole. It refers back (1 Kings 14:7, 8) to the former prediction, 1 Kings 11:30, particularly to 1 Kings 14:37 sq. After, in 1 Kings 14:8, it is stated in a general way that Jeroboam did not follow David’s example, which was the condition imposed upon him. 1 Kings 14:9 declares how he sinned; then follows, in 1 Kings 14:10 and 11, the announcement of the punishment, which was to be a shameful destruction of his house; 1 Kings 14:12 and 13 apply this to the heir-apparent, to the sick and only son, who was, indeed, also to die, but he was not to perish so disgracefully, because some “good thing” was found in him. 1 Kings 14:10 and 11 are repeated in 1 Kings 14:14, and it is added who is to carry out this sentence; but as Jeroboam had drawn all Israel into his sin, and they had consented thereto, the prophecy finally proceeds in 1 Kings 14:15, 16 to deal with guilty Israel, pronouncing its disastrous future and final ruin. This alone shows how unfounded the assertion of the recent criticism is, that the form of the prediction, as it now is, is not the original. According to Ewald, 1 Kings 14:9 and 15 are “clearly an addition of the later (i.e., fifth Deuteronomical) author;” the style of 1 Kings 14:9 is peculiar to this author, and 1 Kings 14:15 interrupts the connection. But 1 Kings 14:9 is an essential part of the whole, and its omission would leave a serious gap; the following sentence of punishment is founded on what 1 Kings 14:9 states. Just as little does 1 Kings 14:15 break the connection; it rather forms the object and acme of the prediction, pronouncing the natural and necessary end of Jeroboam’s sin. To take away this conclusion is to break off the point of the whole. Thenius only objects to the second half of 1 Kings 14:15, on account of the expression; “beyond the river;” this he thinks is from an “elaborator.” But the Euphrates is generally given as the extreme limit of the land that was promised to the fathers (Gen. 15:18; Ex. 23:31; Deut. 1:7; 11:24; Josh. 1:3, 4; Ps. 80:12). The prophet, when he wished to say that Israel should lose the land given to their fathers, could scarcely use any other form of expression than that they should be sent away beyond the river; a case which Solomon foresaw as possible (see above). If criticism did not take it for granted that any genuine prediction is impossible, it would not think of doubting the authenticity of this. That the prophet predicted the cutting off of Jeroboam’s house, and the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, is as little to be doubted as the prediction connected with it, that of Abijah’s death, whom the blind prophet had not even seen.
3. Ahijah’s prophecy repeatedly describes the consequence and working of “Jeroboam’s sin” (1 Kings 14:9 and 15) in the words, provoked the Lord to anger. This expression occurs in other parts of the Old Testament also (1 Kings 14:22; 16:2, 7, 13; 21:22; 2 Kings 17:11, 17; 23:26; Deut. 4:25; 31:29; 32:16, 21; 2 Chron. 23:25; Ezek. 8:17; 16:26; Ps. 78:58); it by no means presupposes rude, anthropopathical ideas of the nature of God, but is founded on perfectly just views of the deity. The two expressions for Jehovah’s anger, כעם and קנא, which are cited in the above passages, sometimes interchanged and sometimes used synonymously, are employed only in reference to a particular sin, i.e., apostasy from Jehovah through idolatry or image-worship, and never of sin in general; and they have, therefore, direct reference to the fundamental law, the covenant, in which this sin is forbidden, with the addition, “for the Lord thy God is a אֵל קַנָּא,” i.e., a jealous God. Jehovah had from love chosen Israel out of all peoples to be His people, and had made a covenant with them (Ex. 19:4, 5; Deut. 4:36–40; 7:6–13; 10:14, 15; Ps. 47:5; Jer. 31:3), that they should be a holy people, even as He is holy (Lev. 19:2). The holy love of Jehovah to his people is so great and strong that each departure of Israel from the covenant excites His “jealousy;” Jehovah, “the holy God,” is, as such, also “a jealous God” (Josh. 24:19), and He would appear as faithless and unholy if He were indifferent to idolatry and image-worship, which are breaches of the covenant, and therefore called adultery and whoredom (Jer. 3:9, and many other places). Offence against the holy love of God awakens His jealousy, which manifests itself in retributive justice, i. e., it provokes Him to anger. “Just anger can only be conceived of as closely united with mercy. The Old Testament proclaims this high and blessed truth with a voice above that of man. This is its greatest excellence, and conspicuously with it is to be seen its peculiar sublimity, which consists in its preaching at one and the same time the all-consuming wrath of God and the ardor of His mercy, surpassing infinitely that of a mother. Both are closely and inseparably interwoven on every page, the thunder of God’s wrath and the quickening spring-breath of His mercy. Classical antiquity had no genuine, awe-inspiring knowledge of divine anger, neither had it any living consciousness of the divine mercy” (Rothe, Theologische Ethik II. s. 203).
4. The divine judgments announced in Ahijah’s prediction, namely, cutting off Jeroboam’s house, and dispersion of Israel out of the good land given to their fathers, correspond with the nature of the old covenant, which has its form in the bodily and in the temporal. As natural descent and derivation was the condition of belonging to the chosen covenant people, so the curse and blessing, good and evil bound up with the covenant relation, were of a material, temporal nature. As natural descent determined a right to partake of the covenant with Jehovah, so also natural posterity was blessing and peace, while the dying out or cutting off of a race was a curse and misfortune. This is the reason why David, who was faithful to the covenant, was promised that he should always have a light, i.e., a house forever (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Sam. 21:17), while the speedy and shameful extinction of his house was announced to the unfaithful Jeroboam. So also the “good land,” flowing with milk and honey, was promised to the whole of the chosen people; but when they broke the covenant and partook of Jeroboam’s sin they were deprived of the good land, were scattered in strange lands, and ceased to be a nation, which was to them the greatest punishment.
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 14:1–20. The last divine warning to Jeroboam, (a) through the illness of his son, (b) through the prediction of the prophet. Jeroboam in need and in distress, (a) He is only concerned about the taking away of the need and the lifting off of the punishment, not in the renunciation of his sin and the conversion of the heart, which should have been the result of his need, as it is the case now with so many, (b) He seeks consolation and help, not at the hands of his false priests and spiritual hirelings, whom he himself did not trust, but from the prophet, about whom he did not long trouble himself after he had nothing to ask. Thus it is always. In need and necessity unbelievers and the children of this world seek for consolation and comfort from a spiritual preacher, and despise the finery of the hirelings who care only for the wool and not for the sheep, (c) He does not himself apply to the prophet, because he has an evil conscience, and he sends his wife in a disguise, for before the world he does not wish to be viewed as one who cares much for prophets. This is the folly of the wise of this world, that they suppose they can deceive God as they deceive men. But the Lord sees what is concealed in the darkness, and gives to every one what he has deserved.
1 Kings 14:1. When the threatening, warning word of God bears no fruit, God at last sends the cross, especially the cross in the household, to humble us, to bring us to a knowledge of our sins, and to lead us to the cross of Christ.—STARKE: God generally lays hold upon men in those respects where it is most grievous to them (2 Sam. 12:14; John 4:47).
1 Kings 14:2. CALW. B.: Jeroboam did not wish to be seen having anything to do with the prophet, by any one. Worldly people are ashamed to make it known that they believe in anything, even if it be a superstitious faith. If God send thee necessity and distress, take no by-ways, but go to Him and pour out thine heart before Him; He hears all who call upon Him, all who earnestly cry unto Him. Disguise thyself, that no one mark who and what thou art! This is the bad advice which the world gives for the conduct of life, and which passes current with it as the true wisdom thereof. How social life is vitiated by this sin, by the endeavor to seem before people rather than to be—often it is like a masquerade! It is even more deceived by actions, by mien and manner, than by words. The art of disguise corrupts man in the profoundest ground of his being, and transforms him into an incarnate lie.
1 Kings 14:3, 4. CALW. B.: The little bit of faith which worldly people often exhibit is but part of their selfishness.…The foreknowledge of the future in the affairs of daily life man would gladly possess, because he will not yield himself, in faith, to the will of God. Hence flow often superstition, fortune-telling, dream-interpretation, astrology, both among the heathens as well as among Christians.—CRAMER: The gift of God neither should nor can be sold or bought for money. As a rule, unbelief is bound with superstition. Jeroboam did not believe when God spoke to him by word and deed (chap. 13), and yet he believed that by means of a few loaves and cakes he could persuade God to reveal the future to him. [The history of religion in modern times confirms and illustrates this.]
1 Kings 14:4–6. The wife of Jeroboam before the prophet, (a) She means to deceive the aged blind prophet by a disguise, but the Lord gives him sight (Ps. 156:8). He gives strength to the weary and power to the feeble. The Lord ever gives sight to His true servants, so that the world cannot deceive and blind them. (b) She hopes, by her present, to secure the desired answer, but, at the hour, the Lord gives him the word he shall speak; it is the Spirit of God who speaks through him (Matt. 10:19 sq.). A true servant of God proclaims the word of truth to every one, without respect of persons, no matter how hard it be for him. This often is his hard yet sacred duty.
1 Kings 14:7–16. Ahijah’s sermon of repentance and retribution, (a) Against Jeroboam, who corrupted Israel. (b) Against Israel, allowing themselves to be corrupted.
1 Kings 14:7 sq. How often it happens that the very ones whom God raises from the dust, and to whom He gives the largest favors, turn their back upon and forget Him. So Jeroboam, so Israel. Deut. 32:6.
1 Kings 14:10, 15. Not a blessing but a curse rests upon a house which turns its back upon the Lord and His commandments. And so also a people who forget the faith of their fathers lose all territory, are given up to all convulsions from within and from without, and go to destruction. Sin is the destruction of the people. (Heb. 10:28–30.)
1 Kings 14:12, 13. The death of a beloved child, for whom God has prepared good, is often the only and the supreme means of turning away the heart of the parents from sin and the world, and of winning them to the life in God to which they are strangers. For many a child it is a divine blessing when it is early taken out of this vain world and called away from surroundings in which there is danger of the corruption both of soul and body.
1 Kings 14:15. Israel, it is thine own sin that thou hast destroyed thyself.
1 Kings 14:16. If the Lord say,—he who offends one of the least of these, &c., &c. (Matt. 18:6), what will He say to those who give offence to an entire people, at the head of which they stand, through unbelief and immorality, and beguile them into an apostasy from the living God?
1 Kings 14:18. What the Saviour said to those who bewailed Him on His way to death, Weep not for me, but, &c. (Luke 23:28), might have been said to the whole people Israel, and is true to-day of so many who are weeping over a grave. We should carry the dead in whom good before God is found with honor to their rest in the grave.
1 Kings 14:19, 20. The Scripture says (Prov. 10:7), The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the godless will perish (rot). The first is true of David, the last of Jeroboam, whose name is not like an ointment poured out (i.e., diffusing sweet perfume, Eccle. 1:3), but is a savor of death unto death; for with his name, for all the future, this word is connected: who sinned and made Israel to sin. Of what use is it to have worn a worldly crown two and twenty years, to have striven and fought for it, when the crown of life does not succeed it, which they alone obtain who are faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10)?
And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess.THIRD SECTION
THE KINGDOM IN JUDAH UNDER REHOBOAM, ABIJAM, AND ASA
(1 KINGS 14:21–15:24)
A.—The Rule of Rehoboam
1 KINGS 14:21–31
21And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one8 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord [Jehovah] did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess. 22And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their 23fathers had done. For they9 also built them high places, and images [pillars]10, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. 24And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord [Jehovah] cast out before the children of Israel. 25And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: 26and he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord [Jehovah], and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which11 Solomon had made. 27And king Rehoboam made in their stead brazen shields, and committed them unto the hands of the chief12 of the guard, which kept the door of the king’s house. 28And it was so, when the king went into the house of the Lord [Jehovah], that the guard bare them, and brought them back into the guard-chamber. 29Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? 30And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days. 31And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess.13 And Abijam his son reigned in his stead.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 14:21. Twenty and one years old was Rehoboam. [Rehoboam was forty and one years old.—Eng. Ver.] The usual reading is “forty and one.” Although the Chronicler (2 12:13) and all translations give the latter, and only some MSS. give twenty and one, yet this is indisputably the right reading. For (a) in 1 Kings 12:8, 10 (2 Chron. 10:8, 10), Rehoboam’s companions at the time of his accession are called יְלָדִים, which generally mean infants, or at most youths, but never men of forty. The older commentators resorted to the very strange and far-fetched supposition that the young men mentioned in chap. 12 were not young in years but in understanding. Thenius thinks that their youth was relative as compared with the age of the “old men;” but men in ripe manhood of one and forty years cannot be called ילדים in any case. (b) Regarding the son of Rehoboam, Abijah, 2 Chron. 13:7, says, the insurrection of Jeroboam and the separation of the ten tribes took place because his (Abijah’s) father was still a boy, גַעַר, and רַךְ־לֵבָב (of a weak, tender heart, cf.Gen. 33:13). The son wishes to explain the conduct of his father by his youthful age; but he could not possibly speak thus of a man forty-one years old. Besides, 1 Kings 12:6 sq. agrees perfectly with the description of Rehoboam’s conduct. (c) If Rehoboam were forty-one years old at the death of Solomon, who reigned forty years (1 Kings 11:42), Solomon must have married during David’s life-time, and have married an Ammonitess, which was contrary to the law; and, as he calls himself only a נַעַר (1 Kings 3:7) when he had become king, he must have had a son in about his 18th year. There is nothing, however, of all this in the history; on the contrary, it says expressly that he married a daughter of Pharaoh after he became king, and she was the real queen (1 Kings 3:1; 9:24); he did not take Canaanitish wives till later (1 Kings 11:1 sq.). All these positive historical evidences for the youth of Rehoboam at his accession cannot be disproved and rejected on account of a mere numerical figure, though it were originally in the text. We must, therefore, believe, like Capellus and Le Clerc, that the numeral signs were changed, as so often happens, viz., that of מ with כ; this obviates all difficulties, and there is no passage that in the least contradicts it. The name and descent of the mother are expressly given, because the queen-mother was very much esteemed and very influential, as the גְּבִירָה, just as the sultana Walida is now in the Turkish empire. The text also subsequently gives the name of the queen-mothers, but only of those belonging to the Judah-kings (1 Kings 15:2, 13; 22:42, &c.). The reason of the words, in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord did choose, &c., is found in the following 1 Kings 14:22 and 24, in connection with which they mean: the residence of Jeroboam was indeed the city where Jehovah’s dwelling stood, which was the centre of the whole theocracy, but even here the people fell into idolatry. For the expression: put His name there, see above on chap. 6
1 Kings 14:23–24. And Judah did evil, &c. Even in the times of the judges the apostasy was never so great in Judah as it was now under Rehoboam. For the expression: provoke to jealousy, see above. For בָּמוֹת see on 1 Kings 3:2, and for אֲשֵׁרִים see on 1 Kings 14:15. The מַצֵּבוֹת are also mentioned in Ex. 34:13; Deut. 7:5; 12:3; 16:21 sq., in connection with the Astarte-images; from which passages it appears that the former were made of stone, and the latter of wood. מַצְֹּבָה from נָצַב means something that is made fast or placed firmly, and refers to monuments (Ex. 28:18, 22; 31:13; 35:14, 20; Ex. 24:4; 2 Sam. 18:18). As they were only used to commemorate a divine appearance and revelation (Gen. 28:18), men easily came to pay them divine honor, and in the heathen world they passed into regular idols (Lev. 26:1). Whilst the wooden monuments (Astarte) represented the female nature-divinity, the stone pillars represented the male deity, i.e., Baal; hence הַבַּעַל מַצֵּבַת (2 Kings 3:2; cf.10:26; 18:4; 23:14). The בָּמות were erected on hills and mountains, the idols of the male and female divinities were placed under thick shady trees, as appears from Hos. 4:13, cf.Deut. 12:2; Jer. 2:20; 3:6; 17:2. That קָדֵשׁ (1 Kings 14:24), used collectively, does not mean female (Ewald, Thenius), but only male prostitutes, is quite evident from 1 Kings 15:12 (חַקְּדֵשִׁים) and Deut. 23:18; the author mentions as the greatest excess of idolatry, that men or boys allowed themselves to be prostituted in honor of the gods. There is no reason to suppose, as Keil does, that they were such “as had castrated themselves in a fit of religious frenzy.” The words “in the land” (cf. with 1 Kings 15:12) shows that they were not natives (Israelites or Judeans), but strangers, Canaanites or Phœnicians who had settled in the land for unlawful gain.
1 Kings 14:25–26. Shishak came up, 1 Kings 14:25. For this king see on 1 Kings 11:40. 2 Chron. 12:2–8 gives a further account of his invasion of Judah. We do not know the cause; the Rabbins think it was only a robber expedition. As Jeroboam had sojourned as a refugee with Shishak (according to an addition of the Sept. to 1 Kings 12:24, he had even married the daughter of the latter), it has been supposed that he was induced to undertake the war by Jeroboam. “It can scarcely be doubted that the king with a Jewish countenance on one of the monuments at Carnac (see Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 311, 474) was Rehoboam, if Champollion was correct in reading Sheshonk (Précis du syst. hieroglyph, p. 204),” Thenius. וְאֶת־הַכֹּל, i. e., all that he found; took the shields, &c. (1 Kings 10:16). These were of peculiarly high value. According to the connection, the author means, “That Judah was given over into the power of the heathen was the punishment that speedily followed their fall into heathen abominations” (Keil).
1 Kings 14:27–28. King Rehoboam made, &c., 1 Kings 14:27. The רָצִים are the royal guards (see above on 1 Kings 1:38), who were also named celeres with Romulus (Liv. 1:14). They kept watch at the palace gate (see on 2 Kings 11:6) and accompanied the king in solemn procession, as often as he went to the temple; it was only then that they bore these shields, and not on ordinary occasions. תָּא does not mean exactly the “guard-room,” but any place where the runners where staying. The costly golden shields which Solomon had made were in the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 10:17), but it is doubtful whether the brazen shields of Rehoboam were only kept in the תָּא, being considered as “of no value” (Thenius).
1 Kings 14:29–31. The rest of the acts, &c. What 2 Chron. 11 relates of the cities fortified by Rehoboam, of the emigration of priests and those faithful to Jehovah to the Judah-territory, and of the family relations of Rehoboam, is certainly derived from ancient historical sources, probably from those mentioned in 2 Chron. 12:15 (Thenius). As also the account of the Chronicles gives no details of a regular war of Rehoboam with Jeroboam, מִלְחָמָה here 1 Kings 14:30, and מִלְחֲמוֹת2 Chron. 12:15 only refer “to the hostile position of both kingdoms as manifested in single acts” (Winer), therefore not to a warlike disposition simply.—Thenius thinks that the repetition of the concluding words of 1 Kings 14:21 (the name of his mother, &c.) “was caused by a fault in the copyist that cannot be accounted for.” This, however, is very improbable, for why should just these words have been taken by a copyist from 1 Kings 14:21, have been repeated here, and then always have remained? The repetition appears rather to have been intentional, in order to show once more at the end of the account of Rehoboam that the mother of this king was descended from that rough heathenish people, the Ammonites, who were always hostile to Israel, and that under Solomon the worship of Moloch, the “abomination of the Ammonites,” was brought by her to Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7) and suffered to remain for her by his son Rehoboam. This appears also to be meant by 2 Chron. 12:14, in connection with 1 Kings 14:13.
Historical and Ethical
1. We learn only a few facts from these books regarding king Rehoboam and his reign, and from those few no certain conclusion can be drawn regarding his relation to the fundamental law of Israel; the general phrase also which expresses the relation to Jehovah, and which always immediately follows the account of the personal circumstances of all the later kings (cf. 1 Kings 15:3, 11, 25, 34, &c.) is omitted here. But Chron. concludes its rather more explicit account with the words: “he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord (הֵכִין),” 2 Chron. 12:14; and the remark is made before (1 Kings 14:1), that “he forsook the law of the Lord.” We are not to conclude from this, however, that he himself served idols; on the contrary, it is emphatically said that, in solemn procession, accompanied by his whole body-guard, he continually visited the temple, and thus showed himself publicly to all the people as a worshipper of Jehovah. As such he showed himself also when Shishak made war against him (2 Chron. 12:6, 12) But he forsook the law in so far that he did not obey its injunctions; he suffered idolatrous worship in Jerusalem and did nothing towards exterminating it. This was “the evil” he was accused of; he continued Jehovah’s servant, but he wanted firmness and decision. Sometimes fiery and arrogant, sometimes yielding and weak, he was unstable, as he had shown himself in Shechem at the commencement of his reign (1 Kings 12:5–9, 18, 21); he seems also to have been under the influence of his idolatrous mother (see on 1 Kings 14:31) and wife (1 Kings 15:13), and of his many wives (2 Chron. 11:21). Menzel (Staats- und Rel.-Gesch., s. 236) is wholly wrong in referring, in his superficial way, the expression לִדְרוֹשׁ אֶת־יְהוָֹה (2 Chron. 12:14) which he translates “to ask the Lord,” to “the relation of the king to the priesthood, and in that he is blamed for not inquiring of the Lord, we can perceive that Rehoboam had not been led, by the misfortune which had befallen him, to accord greater consideration to the priesthood than they had enjoyed under his predecessors.” That expression denotes rather, as Dietrich very justly remarks (Zu Gesenius W.-B. s. v.), “the striving of the spirit after God, the inward seeking, especially in prayer, and calling upon Him; cf. Isai. 55:6; 58:2; Jer. 29:13; 2 Chron. 15:2, 14, 6; Hos. 10:12; Ps. 14:2.” That the priesthood under Rehoboam strove for greater consideration than they had under David (for instance) is a pure invention; but we see from 1 Kings 12:22–24 and 2 Chron. 12:5, 6, 12, that Rehoboam did not resist or act in opposition to the prophetical word.
2. The idolatrous worship that commenced in Judah under Rehoboam was not begun by the latter but by the people; for 1 Kings 14:22 does not say, he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as is said of other kings, but: Judah did, &c. This seems remarkable, because Judah had the central sanctuary in their midst, and the priests and levites; indeed all the true worshippers of Jehovah had left the apostate ten tribes and had gone to Judah, by which the kingdom of Jeroboam was weakened, but that of Rehoboam strengthened (2 Chron. 11:13–17). That Judah, nevertheless, fell so deeply was owing to an after-influence of the condition of things under Solomon’s reign, and particularly the latter part of the same. Commerce and intercourse with foreign nations, acquaintance with their customs and mode of life, great riches and uninterrupted peace, had exercised an enervating and demoralizing influence. Ease, superfluity, and luxury gradually undermined serious thought, and brought forth lukewarmness, indifference, and even aversion to the strict covenant-law: what was written in Deut. 32:15 (Hos. 13:6) came to pass. Added to this, Solomon at last removed every obstacle to the strange heathen-worship of his wives, so that although Jerusalem was the centre of the Jehovah-worship, it was at the same time the spot where the most various national gods were adored, and where their unchaste worship found a ready soil (see on 1 Kings 11:1–8). Immediately after Solomon’s death this “religious liberty” could only have been abolished by force and iron severity; but the times were not adapted for this task, and still less was his successor, Rehoboam, the son of the Ammonitess, the נַעַר וְרַךְ־לֵבַב (2 Chron. 13:7); so that idolatry and immorality rather increased than decreased, and the fall of Judah seems to have been even deeper than that of Israel. However, the condition of Judah was not so bad as the condition of Israel in this respect; as in the latter, the breach of the fundamental law had become the State religion and institution of the kingdom, the separate existence of which depended on the new worship; whilst in Judah the apostasy was only permitted, and the lawful worship of Jehovah had always a firm footing at the central sanctuary. Many good elements also still existed in Judah (2 Chron. 20:12). Judah always repented as often as they fell into idolatry, and they continued to be the guardian of the law, whilst Israel, on the contrary, never completely returned to the right way.
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 14:21–30. The deep fall of Judah: (a) Whence it came (Deut. 32:15; Hosea 13:6; Prov. 30:9—see Hist. and Ethic. 2); whither it led (Rom. 1:25–28). Amongst individual men as in entire communities, cities, and nations, revolt against the living God results from haughtiness, over-prosperity, and carnal security, bringing as inevitable consequences, poverty, ruin, and misfortune in war. High as stood Judah under David and Solomon, so deep in proportion did it sink under Rehoboam.
1 Kings 14:21, 22. Wherever God has a house, the devil always builds a chapel close at hand. How often does it happen that cities and countries, whence it has been ordained by God that the light of His knowledge should shine forth, have become the seat alike of superstition and of scepticism, and thus infinitely sink below the level of those lands which have never heard His blessed word. When an individual man, or a whole community and people, who have received and acknowledged the truth, again depart from it, then is their last state worse than their first (Isa. 11:26).
1 Kings 14:23, 24. Wherever profligacy and fornication are in the ascendant, there is true heathendom, how many soever may be the churches. King Rehoboam, too, sinned grievously in this wise—he, although not himself an idol-worshipper, yet failed as a servant of God, in that he did not oppose idol-worship with all his might, and even regarded it as having equal rights with the service of the true God—even, alas, as we find Christian sovereigns who permit unbelief and revolt from the truth to rank upon a level with faith and confession of God in Christ.
1 Kings 14:25 sq. Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together (Matt. 24:28). The chastisements of God are never delayed where immorality and godlessness prevail, but they do not always lead, as with Judah, to the humble confession: The Lord is righteous! (2 Chron. 12:6).—CALW. B.: Sovereigns are often only the instruments of God in their undertakings, although they do not or will not recognize the fact.
1 Kings 14:26. The true treasures of the temple are the worship of God in spirit and in truth, prayer, faith, love, and obedience; these no thieves nor robbers can steal, and without them all the gold and silver in temples and churches is vain and empty show. Golden or copper shields are alike in value if only we can say: The Lord is our shield, and the Holy One of Israel our King.
1 Kings 14:27, 28. It is better to pray to our heavenly Father in our closet, rather than to worship with pomp in church to be seen by men. Yet now there are many who ceremoniously frequent the churches, but neglect to maintain the fear of God, discipline, and good morals in their own houses and neighborhoods.
1 Kings 14:30, 31. It is not to a man’s honor when, at his grave, these words are said: There was life-long enmity between him and his neighbor.
1 Kings 14:1.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the first twenty verses of this chapter, i.e., the whole of this section.
1 Kings 14:2.—[דִבֶּר עָלַי לְמֶלֶךְ lit. “spake of me for king.”
1 Kings 14:3.—[נִקֻּדִּים occurs only here and in Josh. 9:5,12, where it is rendered in the A. V. by the adjective mouldy. The sense of the word seems to be “that which is easily crumbled.” The Alex. Sept. translates by κολλυρίδα, adding τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτοῦ, supposing them to be a sort of cakes for the children, and adds to these σταθίδας, raisins.
1 Kings 14:5.—[The peculiar form כָּזֹה וְכָזֶה occurs elsewhere only in Judg. 18:4 and Sam. 11:25.
1 Kings 14:10.—[The reading עַל בֵּית, found in many MSS. instead of אֶל־בֵּית, scarcely modifies the sense.
1 Kings 14:10.—[The difficult words עָצוּר וְעָזוּב are so literally translated in the A. V. as to give a scarcely intelligible sense. There is no uniformity in the ancient VV. although it seems to have been understood as an expression to designate all classes. Our author translates “those under age and those of age.” Keil makes the sense to be “the married and the single.” The phrase occurs also 21:21, and 2 Kings 9:8; 14:26, and is taken from Deut. 32:37.
1 Kings 14:10.—[The proposition אַֽחֲרֵי is taken in the A. V. as if it were the noun אַֽחֲרִית. So also the Vulg. There is really nothing in the Heb. answering to the word remnant. On the construction of the verb with this prep. see Gesenius lex. s. v. בָּעַר, Piel. 3.—F. G.]
1 Kings 14:21.—[Our author substitutes the number twenty-one in his translation, the reasons for which see in the Exeg. Com. On the other hand, the entire agreement of the VV. and MSS. is a strong argument for the text as it stands. Keil decides against the proposed alteration.
1 Kings 14:23.—[וַיִּבְנוּ גַס־הֵמָּה “and they, even they built,” i. e., the Jews as well as the Israelites.
1 Kings 14:23.—[מַצֵּבוֹת = monumental pillars for religious purposes. Sept., στήλας. See the Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 14:26.—[The Vat. Sept. thus enlarges the close of 1 Kings 14:26: shields of gold which David received of the hand of the children of Adrazaar, king of Souba, and brought them into Jerusalem, all the things which he received, the arms of gold which Solomon made, and carried them into Egypt.
1 Kings 14:27.—[The Heb., followed by all the VV., has the plural. The A. V. must have used “chief” collectively.
1 Kings 14:31.—[The Vat. Sept., as also the Syr., omits the foregoing clause, which is repeated from 1 Kings 14:21.—F. G.]