And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for to Shechem were all Israel come to make him king.
Verse 1. - This verse would have been far better placed last in the previous chapter, but now, left without note of time, it purports to tell us that (whereas by the last clause of the previous chapter "Rehoboam reigned in his" father Solomon's "stead," and had been presumably accepted as his heir and successor in Jerusalem and all Judaea) Rehoboam, now somewhat later on, repairs to Shechem (the ancient capital, and the prized position of the high-spirited tribe of Ephraim) to receive some final recognition as king from "all Israel." Rehoboam. Solomon's son by Naaraah; an Ammonite princess (1 Kings 14:21, 31). Eurydemus may be considered as a close reproduction in Greek of the Hebrew name Rehoboam. To his son Abijah, by his favourite wife Maachah, who was the third of the wives that belonged to the house of Jesse, he bequeathed the kingdom. Wanting any positive Scripture statement of the matter of Rehoboam going to Shechem, we believe the explanation given above is the most probable, and that it was not any designed stroke of policy, with the view of conciliating or flattering Ephraim. Though no formal statement of it be made here, yet it is quite intelligible that the opinions, feelings, and readiness to express them on the part of Ephraim and "Israel" were well enough known, and had to be reckoned for. Shechem. For many reasons one of the most interesting geographical names in all the Old Testament. It was the ancient capital, as Shiloh, near to it, was the ancient seat of the national worship. It was situate in Ephraim, with Ebal to the immediate north, and Gerizim to the immediate south. Its upper slopelands (its position on which is possibly the origin of the name, שֶׁכֶם, "a shoulder" commanded a view of the Mediterranean. It was the half-way resting-place, at the end of the second day's journey, for travellers from Galilee to Jerusalem, and hence bore the name in later times, it is thought, of Mabertha, or Mabartha (מַעֲבַרְתָּא), Pliny's Mamortha. Vespasian subsequently named it Neapolis, the modern Nablous. The Authorized Version synonyms of Shechem appear as Sichem, Sychem, Sychar (John 4:5, 20). In post-Captivity times, a new temple on Gerizim was the cathedral of Samaritan worship, which was levelled by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 129. Jacob's well is a hall: mile south-east, and Joseph's tomb two miles east (Joshua 24:32). Almost every one of the references to Shechem are of great interest on one account or another, and to turn to each of them in order is to read the Scripture narrative of the place. The leading references are subjoined (Genesis 12:6; Genesis 33:18, 19; Genesis 34; Genesis 35:1-4; Genesis 37:12, 28; Genesis 43:22; Genesis 49:5-7; Deuteronomy 27:11; Joshua 9:33-35; Joshua 20:7; 21:20, 21; 24:1, 25, 32; Judges 9:7, 22, 34-45; Judges 21:1; 2 Kings 17:5, 6, 24; 2 Kings 18:9; 1 Chronicles 6:67; 1 Chronicles 7:28; Ezra 4:2; Jeremiah 41:5; John 4:5; Acts 7:16; Acts 8:5). The article "Shechem," by Dr. Hackett, in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' vol. 3. pp. 1234-1240, is of exceptional interest. All Israel. No doubt this expression may mean even here the assemblage of the federated twelve tribes. Considering the immediate recurrence of the expression in ver. 3, it must be, however, that the Jeroboam party of the ten tribes (headed by the strong and self-conscious Ephraimites) are especially in view; in point of fact, of course, all the twelve tribes were represented in the gathering of ver. 1. There can be no division of opinion about this, though the meeting be represented as one demanded or occasioned by the attitude of Israel, in the lesser comprehension of the name.
And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was in Egypt, whither he had fled from the presence of Solomon the king, heard it, that Jeroboam returned out of Egypt.
Verses 2, 3. - In these verses the compiler brings up lost time. He has not mentioned before the name of Jeroboam, just as he has not mentioned the lustful sins of Solomon that led to idolatry, and these sequel idolatries of his, that heralded the shattering of his kingdom immediately on his decease. So we are now told all in one how Jeroboam, in his refuge-retreat in Egypt (1 Kings 11:26-40), "heard" of Solomon's demise, and apparently (see first clause of our third verse) heard of it in this wise, that "they," i.e. the "all Israel" (of our first verse) "had sent and called him" Probably the growing sense of discontent and the rankling in those tribes that were not closely breathing the atmosphere of Jerusalem and the one home county, because of their burdens and taxation, and possibly also Ephraim's ancient and famed rivalry, knew instinctively that this hour of Solomon's death was the hour, if any, of their redemption. The lacunae in the history speak for themselves; for though the tribes, after the long seething of their com-plainings and sufferings, needed but short time for deliberation, Solomon's death must have been an accomplished fact before they (whoever the "they" were) sent to Egypt to Jeroboam; and that sending and his returning or otherwise, at any rate his hearing and consequent returning, must have taken time. Considering all this, it is remarkable that no note of time is found. But had only our first verse been placed as the last of the foregoing chapter, the ambiguity would have been less. For the strange variations on the history of Jeroboam (a name, together with that of Rehoboam, new to Solomon's time, meaning "many-peopled," while Rehoboam signifies "increaser of people"), as found in the Hebrew texts, and additions to it, see the Septuagint Version, 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 12:24; and A. P. Stanley's article, "Jeroboam," in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1. 979, 980; and comp. again 1 Kings 11:26-40; 1 Kings 12:25; 1 Kings 14:13, 17, 18. Stanley's faith in the Septuagint notwithstanding, its variations and additions are not reconcileable enough with either the Hebrew text or themselves to command anything like unfeigned acceptance. One thing may be considered to come out without much obscurity or uncertainty - that Jeroboam was the acknowledged rather than tacit leader of an opposition that was tacit at present rather than acknowledged; nor is it at all improbable, under all the circumstances, that the Rehoboam party in, knowing well how the ground really lay, were as content to let the coronation, so to call it, at Shechem linger awhile for Jeroboam's return, as Jeroboam's opposition party out desired and perhaps compelled the delay. Of course, Jeroboam knew well, none better than he, as of old the overseer of the forced labour and taxation of Ephraim (1 Kings 11:28; 1 Kings 9:15), how grievous the service and how heavy the yoke to his people, even when he had acquitted himself as the most "industrious" of taskmasters.
And they sent and called him. So Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying,
Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore ease thou somewhat the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us, and we will serve thee.
Verse 4. - The grievous servitude... heavy yoke. These may, for conciseness' sake, be supposed to correspond with the naturally enough hated "forced labour" (1 Kings 4:6, 7; 1 Kings 5:13-16; 1 Kings 11:27, 28) and the burdensome "taxes" (1 Kings 4:19-28) which had not failed to become more odious to the people as familiarity with them grew. The refreshing New Testament contrast to all this (Matthew 11:28-30) will occur to every memory.
And he said unto them, Come again unto me after three days. And the people departed.
Verse 5. - This first reply of Rehoboam was not necessarily inauspicious. Yet sometimes, as it proved now, the caution that takes time to consider heralds fatal mistake. This is when either a generous, instinctive impulse, asking an instantaneous obedience, is chilled by some self-regard; or yet worse, when the offended Spirit is restrained, and no inner guiding voice is heard, as Saul found, to his ruin.
And king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men that had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, What counsel give ye me to return answer to this people?
Verse 6. - The old men who had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived. The first practical step now taken by Rehoboam, if he delay at all, is the right and far from inauspicious step. O si sic omnia that followed after! The "old men" here spoken of, and not before distinctly spoken of, need not necessarily be regarded as professional advisers of Solomon, nor as a privy council of slate; they may designate those of like age with him, or but little his juniors, and with whom he had chiefly associated for his own society.
And they spake unto him, saying, If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever.
Verses 7, 8. - Rehoboam was now (1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13; but cf. 13:7) forty-one years of age; he was just too old to find any excuse for inability to gauge either the experience, and value of it, of the "old," or the inexperience, and foolishness of it, of the immature human heart. According to the modern phrase, he was just ripe to have known and bethought himself of this. But all rashly Rehoboam casts the die. The sound judgment, real knowledge, opportune and practical advice of the "old men," uttered evidently off so kind a tongue, should have been indeed now "as good as an inheritance; yea, better too" (Ecclesiastes 7:11, margin). The reading of the parallel is well worthy to be noted (1 Kings 11:7), with its manifestly pleasantly and skilfully worded antithesis, "If thou this day will be a servant to this people... then they will be thy servants for ever." Our words, however, have their own exquisite beauty about them, If thou wilt be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them. One might fancy that Saul, and David, and Solomon, and angels themselves bended over the scene, and looked and listened and longed for wisdom and love and right to prevail. The young men that had grown up with him. While this expression throws light as above on that which speaks of Rehoboam's old men counsellors, it wakens the question how men of forty-one years of age can be called "young," as Rehoboam was not living in patriarchal aged times. And the question is emphasized by the language applied to Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 13:7, where he is described as "young and tenderhearted," and unable, for want of strength of character and of knowledge, to "withstand vain men" (as he surely shows too clearly now). It has been suggested ('Speaker's Commentary,' 2:562, Note C) that כא (21) should be read for מא (41) in the two passages quoted above (1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13). The suggestion seems good, and it is certainly reasonable for the requirements of both matter and manner.
But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him.
And he said unto them, What advice give ye that we may return answer to this people, which have spoken to me, saying, Ease somewhat the yoke that thy father did put upon us?
And the young men that were brought up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou answer the people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it somewhat lighter for us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.
Verses 10, 11. - Language perhaps never spoke more clearly what was in man. And it spoke in this case the mad infatuation of insolent temerity itself.
For whereas my father put a heavy yoke upon you, I will put more to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king bade, saying, Come again to me on the third day.
Verse 12. - It may be worth observing that the history is silent of what of hope and fear or other thought and feeling transpired with Jeroboam and his party these three critical days of suspense, as also it was so silent as to what transpired with them during the three days, three weeks, three months, before the first interview with Rehoboam at Shechem.
And the king answered them roughly; and king Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the old men,
Verse 13. - Roughly; i.e. Rehoboam had not "heard the instruction of a father," and had been an ill pupil indeed of him who wrote and taught, "A soft answer tumeth away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1).
And answered them after the advice of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add thereto: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God, that the LORD might perform his word, which he spake by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
Verse 15. - So the king hearkened not... for the cause was of God... his word, which he spake by... Ahijah (see, as before, 1 Kings 11:29-31, also 9-39). Rehoboam hearkened not, as Pharaoh hearkened not, but hardened his heart. The Divine word foretold, as the Divine mind foreknew, the inevitable course of the stream, that took its source in and from Solomon's faithless heart and life. Solomon "being dead yet" bears his full share of the responsibility of what Rehoboam was, and shortly came to show he was. Everything must fall out as God foretells it shall fall out, not because "the cause is from him" in this sense that he has made it, but in the sense that he has pronounced it, through knowing it with an absolute knowledge. It were but a thing to be expected also, that just in the measure that the Bible is the Word of God, it shall exhibit and pronounce plainly the phenomena of his own ultimate fiats, rather than linger to track or describe the uncertainties of human morality or conduct. Let but that result appear, which God has with his sure and abiding Word declared, and the practical attitude and language of Scripture are that it is vain to fight against it; for the thing is of God. It was known of him and said of him. And it carries its punishment or its recompense in it, as of him. It will be noticed, again, how our compiler refers to the incident of Ahijah, as though he had recorded it, which he had not done.
And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.
Verse 16. - What portion have we in David? (see 2 Samuel 20:1). To your tents, O Israel; i.e. there is nothing more to be done here; all may as well go home. The use, and especially repeated use, of the names, David, Jesse, David, plainly speaks tribe rivalry, if not jealousy.
But as for the children of Israel that dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.
Verse 17. - To the tribe of Judah the family of David belonged. There was less inclination on this ground, to begin with, among them to go to the length of revolting. Though they too are pressed with burden and taxation, yet royal expenditure, residence, magnificence, are all near them, and are some solarium doubtless to them. God said that this tribe and (as is abundantly evident from Ahijah's forcibly dramatic parable of the rent garment) Benjamin also should be saved to Rehoboam and for ever to David's line, and again it is evident that he works in the midst of human event, and moral cause and effect. Israel would not have revolted but that Jeroboam was of Ephraim, and Judah would not have remained steadfast but that, with other determining influences also, to Judah belonged Rehoboam and Solomon and David.
Then king Rehoboam sent Hadoram that was over the tribute; and the children of Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. But king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.
Verse 18. - Hadoram that was over the tribute ... stoned him... Rehoboam made speed... to flee. Hadoram was perhaps the same as Adoniram, son of Abda (1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:14), but on the arbitrament of age this is less likely, and certainly it is very unlikely that he was one with Hadoram of 2 Samuel 20:24. Rehoboam must be supposed to have sent Hadoram either to make some "tribute" summons, or try some arrangement respecting it, or respecting conciliatory steps. The reception he met warns Rehoboam to make the quickest escape possible, and no doubt opens his eyes fully to what he has done. It was the remanet of his delusive self-confidence to send this collector of taxes to those who had begged some remission of taxation.
And Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.
Verse 19. - Unto this day. So our compiler of Captivity and post-Captivity date transcribes the literal words of his copy.