1 Kings Chapter 12
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Go to Bible: 1 Kings 12
“Rehoboam went to Shechem.” That Rehoboam felt he should go all the way north to Shechem to be crowned king likely shows that he thought there was already trouble brewing between the north and south, and he was going to solidify his support in the north. But because of his harsh policies, any effort like this failed.(top)
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“a servant to this people.” This is the real role of the king, to serve the people by leading them in a godly way. This is good advice from the elders. Jesus certainly felt that way (Matt. 20:28).
“always.” The Hebrew is literally, “all the days,” referring to all the days of your life.(top)
“the young men.” The Hebrew is more literally “children”; (Fox, The Schocken Bible) has “youngsters.” These men and Rehoboam grew up together as children, but now they were older. Rehoboam was 41 when he became king (1 Kings 14:21), and so the men who grew up with them would have been about the same age. Given that, the fact that the Bible refers to them as “children” is clearly sarcasm, and is pointing out their mental immaturity.(top)
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“My little thing.” The Hebrew is more literally, “my little,” and what it refers to is unstated. Tradition is that it refers to the little finger, but many scholars see this as a sexual euphemism for the penis. This seems likely for several reasons. These men are ungodly and arrogant, and it can be seen that they would talk that way; also, whatever this “little” was, it is associated with the waist, and also, when Rehoboam went back to the people he did not repeat this part of the conversation.(top)
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“except the tribe of Judah only.” In this case, the tribe of Judah is mentioned likely because it was so dominant. But Benjamin is noted too (cp. 1 Kings 12:21).(top)
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“and to the rest of the people.” These are the Israelites who have moved into the tribal areas of Judah and Benjamin (cp. 2 Chron. 11:3).(top)
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“built up Shechem.” That is, he fortified it.
“Penuel.” Near the Jabbok River in the Transjordan. Jeroboam wanted an administrative center east of the Jordan River.(top)
“Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.” Jeroboam begins his reign by showing that he did not believe the prophecy of Ahijah the prophet (1 Kings 11:29-40).(top)
“turn again to their lord.” The word “lord” is a grammatical plural, “lords,” but meaning “lord,” i.e., Rehoboam.
“and they will kill me.” If the people did return to Rehoboam, then Jeroboam would be considered an enemy and would be killed.(top)
“two calves of gold.” We do not know the size of these calves, or if they were solid gold or gold covering wood or something else.
“Here are your gods, O Israel.” The Hebrew is very close to what people said when Aaron made a golden calf (Exod. 32:4). Jeroboam may have been trying to anchor his reign in the priesthood of the Exodus. He made calves of gold and named his sons the names of Aaron’s sons.
“the land of Egypt.” The Exodus was over 500 years earlier than Jeroboam. Things such as the Passover celebration kept the idea of the Exodus clearly in the minds of the people.(top)
“Bethel.” Originally a town in Benjamin (Josh. 18:22), but it was a border town and changed the tribal area it was originally assigned to. It apparently was taken over by Ephraim when the tribe of Benjamin was reduced to 600 fighting men (Judg. 20:47; cp. 1 Chron. 7:28). The fact it was on the border between the country of Judah and the new country of Israel made it a strategic place to put a worship center, and the fact that it had been a worship center since at least the time of Abraham (Gen. 12:8) gave it credence as a worship center. It is interesting that Jeroboam did not make three calves and put one in Shechem, which was his capital.(top)
“This thing.” This matter of idolatry, the sin of idolatry.(top)
“temple shrines.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “houses of bamot,” “bamot” being the plural of bamah, a cultic word for a raised platform on which a god or gods would be placed, and also likely an altar. The reference, therefore, is to temple areas. The Septuagint has “houses over the high,” where the “high” is the platform for the god. Jeroboam spread idolatry all over Israel. Sometimes some of the versions translate bamot as “shrine,” cp. 1 Kings 12:32, (CEB); “illegal worship sites” (GWN); “pagan shrines,” (NLT).
[For more on the shrines, see commentary on Num. 33:52.]
“the people.” The people of Israel were called “the people,” and that is what this verse is referring to.(top)
“in the eighth month.” The Feast of Tabernacles instituted by Moses was in the seventh month (Lev. 23:34), so Jeroboam reordered the calendar.
“and he went up to the altar.” Jeroboam is acting as a priest and the king.
“shrines.” The Hebrew is bamot (see commentary on Num. 33:52).(top)
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