1 Ki 12:1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king.
The previous chapter has already noted that that Jeroboam, a northerner, ‘was already a likely candidate to take Solomon;s place. His position as supervisor over a forced labor project (11:27-28) underscores why northern Israelites were tired of Solomon;s policies. They were drafted to work in the south, their tax burden was heavier than Judah’s, and their love for the Davidic dynasty was always tenuous at best. As H. Tadmor observes, the very fact that Rehoboam felt compelled to go to Shechem to speak to the northern tribes “is evidence of deep unrest and ferment among the people.” Only spiritual commitments could keep the nation united, and those commitments had already been weakened by Solomon.’ (NAC)
1 Ki 12:2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt.
1 Ki 12:3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him:
1 Ki 12:4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
“Your father put a heavy yoke on us” – This was the view of Jeroboam and the nothern tribes. However, it would seem from 11:40 that Jeroboam had already been plotting revolt, and this complaint may have an element of political propaganda as well as historical plausibility.
‘Conscripted labor is the major complaint. Northerners have been forced to build southern projects, a fact Jeroboam, the former taskmaster (1 Kgs 11:28), knows quite well.’ (NAC)
1 Ki 12:5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.
1 Ki 12:6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
1 Ki 12:7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
1 Ki 12:8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
1 Ki 12:9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”
1 Ki 12:10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’—tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.
“My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist” – Lit. ‘my little one’. ‘Finger’ is a reasonable guess, but the reference may be somewhat coarser.
‘Like Rehoboam, they are young, ambitious, proud, and insecure. They tell him to intimidate the crowd by declaring that he is tougher than Solomon. Their theory is that servant leadership will not work. Only a bully can handle a diverse kingdom. As Nelson observes, ?Rehoboam chooses slogans over wisdom, machismo over servanthood.’ (NAC)
1 Ki 12:11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”
1 Ki 12:12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.”
1 Ki 12:13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders,
1 Ki 12:14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”
1 Ki 12:15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
This turn of events was from the Lord – We should hesitate, therefore, to moralise about the perils of peer pressure and the need to listen to those older and wiser than ourselves. ‘The focus is on divine sovereignty not human stupidity. Don’t read this story, says the writer, and bemoan how headstrong youth seem to be or how older folks tend to be ignored.’ (Davis)
‘The term suggests the subtlety by which Yahweh’s sovereign design goes into effect. Nothing mechanical here. Yahweh’s sovereignty did not violate Rehoboam’s free decision; rather it came about through that freedom. Sovereignty seems so…natural. Here is Rehoboam, unsatisfied with the moderating, conciliatory stance of his father’s advisors, but his blood gets up when his peers do their wordsmithing. He likes the concepts they throw around, the new terminology they float: assertive leadership; power-rule; ultimatum. No doubts about it. That’s the way they should go. That’s what Rehoboam wants to do. Yet it was a twist from Yahweh.’ (Davis)
‘Is kingdom division a sad affair? Yes, but Yahweh had already predicted it and is here bringing his word to pass. Are Rohoboam and his favourites arrogant, cocky, and stupid? Probably. But v15 testifies that human hubris never catches Yahweh by surprise. He uses it. Big men (especially royal, arrogant ones) are simply little servants of Yahweh’s word. Contrary to our fears, human stupidity is not running loose but is on the leash of God’s sovereignty. I think that bears a relation to my sanity.’ (Davis)
‘The author explains why “the king did not listen to the people.” This lack of judgment and its results, this “turn of events,” was “from the Lord” so that God’s word through Ahijah could come true. Nothing occurs here because of “chance.” There is no “chance.” God is sovereign. Still, Rehoboam’s decision is his own. The text maintains the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility that pervades all of Scripture.’ (NAC)
1 Ki 12:16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!” So the Israelites went home.
1 Ki 12:17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
1 Ki 12:18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem.
1 Ki 12:19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
‘One incredibly poor decision tears down in a few days what David and Solomon labored eighty years to build. DeVries notes, “Possibly this passage’s most important lesson is how much easier it is to break up what belongs together than it is to restore what is broken.”’ (NAC)
And so we see the kingdom divided into two parts. ‘This fracture marks the beginning of the eventual loss of the land promised to Abraham (Gen 12:1-9), sought by Moses (Exod-Deut), conquered by Joshua (Josh 1-12), secured by David (2 Sam 5-24), and given peace by Solomon (1 Kings 1-10). Isaiah (10:20-23), Jeremiah (3:18; 31:9), Ezekiel (37:15-17), and Amos (9:11-15) looked forward to the time when a reunited Israel would once again serve the Lord after exile. Just as the division pointed to a time of disintegration and deserved punishment, so the nation’s restoration will signal God’s renewed promise of a holy land for a holy people. Certainly Ezra, Nehemiah, and the psalmists (e.g., 107; 126) read Israel’s return to the land in this way.’ (NAC)
1 Ki 12:20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.
1 Ki 12:21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered the whole house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand fighting men—to make war against the house of Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.
1 Ki 12:22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God:
1 Ki 12:23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people,
1 Ki 12:24 ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the word of the LORD and went home again, as the LORD had ordered.
1 Ki 12:25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.
1 Ki 12:26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David.
1 Ki 12:27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”
1 Ki 12:28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
1 Ki 12:29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.
1 Ki 12:30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.
1 Ki 12:31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.
1 Ki 12:32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made.
1 Ki 12:33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.