And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he gathered of the house of Judah and Benjamin an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against Israel, that he might bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam.
Verse 1. - He gathered of the house of Judah and Benjamin. The parallel (1 Kings 12:21) says more distinctly, "The house of Judah with the tribe of Benjamin." They of Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:16) had flung it at Judah: "Now, David, see to thine own house." Rehoboam, of course, does this very thing. For the first time,formally, Benjamin is now introduced as throwing in its lot with Judah, and the acted prophecy of Ahijah is seen fulfilled; the chiefest of the tribes, and the tribe that came of the youngest and most petted of old Jacob's sons, are now wedded to the end. The tribe of Benjamin lay hemmed in between Ephraim, to which it had once much leaned, and to which (as Benjamin was the blood-uncle of Ephraim) it was more closely related, and Judah, with which it had once been at variance (2 Samuel 2:12-32; 2 Samuel 3:1-27; 2 Samuel 20:1). But exactly on the border-line of Judah and Benjamin rose the city Jerusalem and the temple (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Jeremiah 20:2); and, beyond doubt, this fact had helped to bring about the much more friendly feeling, if not absolutely close union, that now for some time had existed between these two tribes in their contiguous allotments. A hundred and four-score thousand chosen men, which were warriors. According to Joab, in David's time the men able to bear arms of Judah alone were five hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9). Compare the numbers in the next reign (2 Chronicles 13:3), and, later on still, in Jehoshaphat's (2 Chronicles 17:14-18). Both of these show that Abijah and Jehoshaphat respectively had improved the time given to training much larger armies, whereas now Rehoboam was taken by surprise.
But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying,
Verse 2. - Shemaiah the man of God. This is the first historical mention (1 Kings 12:22) of Shemaiah. The second is found in 2 Chronicles 12:5, 7, on occasion of the invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by Shishak King of Egypt; and the third, in the same chapter, ver. 15, that he wrote a book respecting the acts of Rehoboam. The expression, "man of God," owns to a somewhat unexplained history. It is first found in the added part of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 33:1), where it is applied to Moses. It occurs once in Joshua (Joshua 14:6); twice in Judges (Judges 13:6, 8); four times in Samuel (1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Samuel 9:6-8); twenty-nine times in Kings; six times in Chronicles; once each in Ezra, Nehemiah and Jeremiah.
Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying,
Verse 3. - To all Israel in Judah and Benjamin. There is difference of opinion as to who are intended in the expression, "all Israel," already confessedly ambiguous in two other passages. When we consider the mention of Rehoboam personally in the former clause of the verse, it would seem most probable that the meaning is all the people of the nation, resident in the Judah and Benjamin allotments, i.e. the nation called collectively Israel. This will include "the remnant" spoken of in the parallel (1 Kings 12:23, compared with 17).
Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of me. And they obeyed the words of the LORD, and returned from going against Jeroboam.
Verse 4. - This thing is from me; i.e. the punishing disruption; not the precedent causes with the entirety of historical events; this punishing and witnessing disruption is not to be "lightly healed" The man who did what caused it, the men who did what caused it, cannot thus each undo what they have done - least of all undo it by the appeal of war. They and theirs will have, long as life lasts, as lives last, to go through the baptism of bitter suffering, and leave a heritage of the same for others.
And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah.
Verses 5-12. - These eight verses tell how Rehoboam, relieved of the responsibility of attempting to reconquer the revolted, wisely betakes himself to strengthening and defending what was left to him. He builds fifteen "fenced cities," or "cities for defence," twelve of them south and west of Jerusalem, for lear of Egypt; he fortifies certain strongholds, officering them, provisioning them, and supplying to them and "every several city" the necessary weapons of warfare and shields.
He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa,
Verse 6. - Bethlehem. This was a case not of actual new building of a city, but of restoring and strengthening it. Bethlehem, originally Ephrath (Genesis 35:16; Genesis 48:7), was one of the very oldest towns existent in Jacob's time. It was not called Bethlehem till long after the settlement of the tribes. It was six miles from Jerusalem, on the east of the road to Hebron. Etam. A place near Bethlehem (1 Chronicles 4:3, 4, not 32; Septuagint of Joshua 15:60); possibly the resort of Samson after his revenge on the Philistines (Judges 15:8, 11). It was not the Etam mentioned as belonging to Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:32). Tekoa. According to Jerome, as also Eusebius, six Roman miles from Bethlehem, and nine from Jerusalem, or else, possibly by another road, twelve (Jerome's 'Pro-oemium in Amos,' and his 'Onomasticon'). It is absent from the Hebrew catalogue of Judah towns (Joshua 15:49), but is in the Septuagint Version of it. It was the place of the "wise woman" of 2 Samuel 14:2.
And Bethzur, and Shoco, and Adullam,
Verse 7. - Beth-zur. About five miles north of Hebron (see Joshua 15:58; 1 Chronicles 2:45; Nehemiah 3:16). Shoco; properly, Socoh, in the Shefelah (Joshua 15:35). According to Jerome and Eusebius, it was about nine miles from Eleutheropolis, on the road to Jerusalem (see also 1 Samuel 17:1). Adullam. In the Shefelah (Joshua 15:35). It was an ancient place (Genesis 38:1, 12, 20; Joshua 12:15; Nehemiah 11:30). See also the familiar passages (1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15).
And Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph,
Verse 8. - Gath. Site still unknown. Some think it may be the Gath-rimmon of Dan (Joshua 19:45). Otherwise it is Gath of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17), and of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4, 23). I.L.P., in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1:656, wishes to find it on a hill now called Tel-es-Safleh, on one side of the Plain of Philistia, about ten miles east of Ashdod and south - east of Ekron. See also "Topographical Index," p. 411, in Conder's ' andbook to the Bible,' 2nd edit. Other interesting references are 1 Samuel 17:1, 52; 1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Chronicles 18:1; ch. 26:6; 1 Kings 2:39; 2 Kings 12:17; Amos 6:2. Mareshah. In the Shefelah (Joshua 15:44), now Marash, a short distance south of Eleutheropolis. Zerah the Cushite came here when he was invading Judaea (ch. 14:9. See also ch. 20:37; Micah 1:15). It was taken by John Hyreanus, B.C. 110, and was demolished by the Parthians, B.C. 39. Ziph. Probably the present Tel-Lif, a little south-east of Hebron (Joshua 15:55; see also 24. See also 1 Samuel 23:14-24; 1 Samuel 26:2).
And Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah,
Verse 9. - Adoraim. This name is not found anywhere else. The meaning of the word is "two heaps," and very probably describes the physical features of the site. It is probably the modern Dura. Its site is otherwise unknown. Lachish (see Joshua 15:39; also Joshua 10:3; 12:11); probably the modern Um Lakis, that lies on the road to Gaza. Other interesting references are 2 Kings 14:19; 2 Kings 18:14-17; 2 Kings 19:8; Nehemiah 11:30; Micah 1:13. Azekha (see Joshua 15:35; also Joshua 10:10); it was in the Shefelah (see also 1 Samuel 17:1; Nehemiah 11:30; Jeremiah 34:7). The site of it is not identified.
And Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and in Benjamin fenced cities.
Verse 10. - Zorah. The people of Zorah, or Zoreah, were the Zareathites of 1 Chronicles 2:53; it was the home of Manoah, and the native place of Samson (see Joshua 15:33; Joshua 19:41. Other interesting references are Judges 13:25; Judges 16:31; Judges 18:2-11; Nehemiah 11:29). It belonged to the original allotment of Dan, and is constantly named in company with Eshtaol. Aijalon. The modern Jalo; also originally belonged to allotment of Dan (Joshua 10:12; Joshua 19:42; Joshua 21:24. Other interesting references are Judges 1:35; 1 Samuel 14:31; 1 Kings 14:30; 1 Chronicles 6:66, 69, 2 Chronicles 28:18). Hebron. One of the most ancient of cities still lasting, rivalling in this respect Damascus. It belonged to Judah and to its hill country (Joshua 15:54; Joshua 20:7); it was about twenty Roman miles south of Jerusalem. Its original name was Kirjath Arba. In Numbers 13:22 it is said that it was built "seven years before Zoan in Egypt," but it is not said when Zoan was built. It now contains about five thousand population, but scarcely a tithe of them Jews. Its long stretch of history is full of incidents of interest, and is partially illustrated by the references that follow: Genesis 13:18; Genesis 23:2-19, 20; Genesis 35:27; Genesis 37:14; Numbers 13:22, 23; Joshua 10:36; Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:13, 14; Joshua 21:11-13; 2 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 5:5; Nehemiah 11:25.
And he fortified the strong holds, and put captains in them, and store of victual, and of oil and wine.
And in every several city he put shields and spears, and made them exceeding strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side.
Verse 12. - Having Judah and Benjamin on his side. The mention of both tribes just serves to point for us the fact that Benjamin's existence and value were not absolutely ignored, but were for a short while quoted before the kingdom of Rehoboam became called by the name of Judah simply.
And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts.
Verse 13. - The priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. The emphasis thrown into the contents of this verse is evident and agreeable; the ecclesiastical party acted worthily of itself. The priests and Levites could not bring themselves to offer sacrifice and service to the calves, or to forsake Jerusalem and the temple and the true altar. No doubt a stirring, throbbing history underlay the few but suggestive words which point here the conduct of the priests and Levites. These would not content to stand shoulder to shoulder with priests made not from the tribe of Levi (1 Kings 12:31).
For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD:
Verse 14. - Left their suburbs (so Leviticus 25:34; Numbers 35:1, 3, 7; Joshua 14:4; Joshua 21:12). Jeroboam... had east them off. This glimpse reveals to us, with exceeding probability, that there had been some struggle on the solemn matter; we may readily imagine that Jeroboam had either tried it on in vain with the true priests and Levites, or had learned very conclusively beforehand that it would be vain to try it on (2 Chronicles 13:9).
And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.
Verse 15. - The high places; i.e. Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-33). For the devils; i.e. for the "hairy ones" (שְׂעִירִים). Reference is intended to the idolatrous wore ship of the "he-goats" by the Hebrews, after the example of Egypt, and the reference here is either literal or derived (Leviticus 17:7). For the calves (see 1 Kings 12:28).
And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.
Verse 16 shows a good example on the part of the clergy, effectual, and followed by the people.
So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.
Verse 17. - Strengthened... three years. "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but," etc. (Proverbs 14:34; Isaiah 33:6). The sad knell is sounded all too soon; see first verso of next chapter. Three years' strength will soon become weakness, and three years' goodness will save no soul.
And Rehoboam took him Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David to wife, and Abihail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse;
Verse 18. - The 'Speaker's Commentary' opportunely suggests the probability that we may be indebted here to Iddo's "genealogies" (2 Chronicles 12:15). The word daughter here is a correction of the Keri, the Chethiv having been "son," This Jerimoth is the seventh out of a list of eight men of the same name mentioned in the two books of Chronicles. He is not given as one of the children of David's proper wives in either 1 Chronicles 3:1-8 or 1 Chronicles 14:4-7; Jerome says it was the Jewish tradition that he was the son of a concubine of David. It is just possible that Jerimoth and Ithream were two names of the same person. Abihail was second cousin of Mahalath. It is not quite clear whether Abihail were wife of Jerimoth and mother of Mahalath, or a second wife now mentioned of Rehoboam. The contents of the next verse not differencing the children there mentioned, and assigning her own to each wife of Rehoboam, if these were two wives of his, favours the former supposition (our Hebrew text being "and she bare," not "which bare"). When it is said that Abthail was the daughter of Eliab, the meaning probably is, as again in ver. 20, granddaughter. (For Eliab, see 1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 17:13; 1 Chronicles 2:13.)
Which bare him children; Jeush, and Shamariah, and Zaham.
Verse 19. - (See last note.) If previous verse speaks of two wives of Rehoboam, of which wife (our Hebrew text being not "which bare," but "and she bare") were Jeush, Shamariah, and Zaham the children? or of which respectively, if they express the children of both? As the words now stand, it can only be supposed, with all lexicons, that Abihail is mother of the three children on the two-wife supposition.
And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.
Verse 20. - Maachah was the granddaughter of Absalom by his daughter Tamar, wife of Uriel (2 Chronicles 13:2; 2 Kings 15:2).
And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and threescore concubines; and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore daughters.)
And Rehoboam made Abijah the son of Maachah the chief, to be ruler among his brethren: for he thought to make him king.
Verse 22. - Cancel in this verse the italics "to be." Rehoboam again offends against the "Law" (see Deuteronomy 21:15-17). He cannot justly plead as a precedent the instance of David and Solomon, as in 1 Chronicles 23:1; for this was only justified by the express Divine ordinance, as in 1 Chronicles 23:9; 1 Chronicles 29:1.
And he dealt wisely, and dispersed of all his children throughout all the countries of Judah and Benjamin, unto every fenced city: and he gave them victual in abundance. And he desired many wives.
Verse 23. - The wise dealing of Rehoboam, fourfold (weakening his children by division, giving them each employment, giving them also abundance of victual, and - as is probably the meaning, though not said so either here or in the Septuagint - finding for them many wives), will not, though it were forty-fold, avail to cover his "despising" of the "Law." Rather his wise dealing is an indication that his conscience was not quite at ease, and that he knew he was wrong. Nothing is so liable to blind judgment as personal affection.