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II. The Reign of Jeroboam[a]

Chapter 12

Political Disunity.[b] Rehoboam went to Shechem,[c] where all Israel had come to make him king. When Jeroboam, son of Nebat, heard about it, he was still in Egypt. He had fled from King Solomon and remained in Egypt, and they sent for him.

Then Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and they said to Rehoboam, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us. If you now lighten the harsh servitude and the heavy yoke your father imposed on us, we will be your servants.” He answered them, “Come back to me in three days,” and the people went away.

King Rehoboam asked advice of the elders who had been in his father Solomon’s service while he was alive, and asked, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” They replied, “If today you become the servant of this people and serve them, and give them a favorable answer, they will be your servants forever.” But he ignored the advice the elders had given him, and asked advice of the young men who had grown up with him and were in his service. He said to them, “What answer do you advise that we should give this people, who have told me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father imposed on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “This is what you must say to this people who have told you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy; you lighten it for us.’ You must say, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. 11 My father put a heavy yoke on you, but I will make it heavier. My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions.’” 12 Jeroboam and the whole people came back to King Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had instructed them: “Come back to me in three days.” 13 Ignoring the advice the elders had given him, the king gave the people a harsh answer. 14 He spoke to them as the young men had advised: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will make it heavier. My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions.” 15 (A)The king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord: he fulfilled the word the Lord had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam, son of Nebat. 16 (B)When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king:

“What share have we in David?[d]
    We have no heritage in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, Israel!
    Now look to your own house, David.”

So Israel went off to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam continued to reign over the Israelites who lived in the cities of Judah.

18 King Rehoboam then sent out Adoram,[e] who was in charge of the forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam then managed to mount his chariot and flee to Jerusalem. 19 And so Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they summoned him to an assembly and made him king over all Israel. None remained loyal to the house of David except the tribe of Judah alone.

Divine Approval.[f] 21 On his arrival in Jerusalem, Rehoboam assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—one hundred and eighty thousand elite warriors—to wage war against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam, son of Solomon. 22 However, the word of God came to Shemaiah, a man of God: 23 Say to Rehoboam, son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and to Benjamin, and to the rest of the people: 24 Thus says the Lord: You must not go out to war against your fellow Israelites. Return home, each of you, for it is I who have brought this about. They obeyed the word of the Lord and turned back, according to the word of the Lord.

25 Jeroboam built up Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. Then he left it and built up Penuel.

Jeroboam’s Cultic Innovations.[g] 26 Jeroboam thought to himself: “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, the hearts of this people will return to their master, Rehoboam, king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam, king of Judah.” 28 (C)The king took counsel, made two calves of gold, and said to the people: “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 29 (D)And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan.[h] 30 This led to sin, because the people frequented these calves in Bethel and in Dan. 31 He also built temples on the high places and made priests from among the common people who were not Levites.

Divine Disapproval.[i] 32 Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month like the pilgrimage feast in Judah, and he went up to the altar. He did this in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. He stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places he had built. 33 Jeroboam went up to the altar he built in Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, the month he arbitrarily chose. He established a feast for the Israelites, and he went up to the altar to burn incense.

Footnotes

  1. 12:1–14:20 Like the story of the reign of Solomon, the story of the reign of Jeroboam is concentrically organized. Ahijah’s oracle of promise to Jeroboam (11:26–43) belongs to both stories, ending that of Solomon (see note on 1:1–11:43) and beginning that of Jeroboam; it corresponds to Ahijah’s oracle of condemnation in 14:1–20. Within those literary boundaries are accounts of political (12:1–20) and religious (13:11–34) disunity between Israel and Judah. The center of the story is the account of Jeroboam’s heterodox cultic innovations (12:26–31).
  2. 12:1–20 The first major unit of the Jeroboam story was Ahijah’s oracle (11:26–40), followed by the notice of Solomon’s death (11:41–43). This is the second major unit. It tells how Jeroboam came to the throne of Israel after the intransigence of Solomon’s son Rehoboam provoked the northern tribes to secede from Jerusalem. The political disunity of the two kingdoms fulfills the word spoken by Ahijah. Compare 13:11–32, where Jeroboam’s improper cultic innovations produce religious disunity as well. The scene is concentrically arranged: narrative introduction, first interview, first consultation, second consultation, second interview, narrative conclusion. Chronicles has a parallel version of this story in 2 Chr 10:1–19.
  3. 12:1 Shechem: chief city of the northern tribes, where a covenant had previously been made between the Lord and his people and a stone of witness had been erected in memory of the event (Jos 24:25–27). All Israel: see note on 4:7–19.
  4. 12:16 What share have we in David?: even in David’s time the northern tribes seemed ready to withdraw from the union with Judah (2 Sm 20:1). The unreasonable attitude of Rehoboam toward them intensified the discontent caused by the oppression of Solomon (v. 4) and thus precipitated the political separation of the two kingdoms. In the view of the Deuteronomistic historian (1 Kgs 11:35–36; 12:24), this was by the Lord’s decree.
  5. 12:18 Adoram: the name is a shortened form of “Adoniram” (see 4:6; 5:28). If this is the same Adoram who held the position in David’s day (2 Sm 20:24), he would have been a very old man.
  6. 12:21–25 The center of this unit is a divine oracle delivered by a man of God of the Southern Kingdom in which the Lord affirms his approval of the secession of the northern tribes. Compare 13:1–10, where another man of God from Judah proclaims the Lord’s condemnation of Jeroboam’s religious separatism. Chronicles has a very similar version of Shemaiah’s oracle in 2 Chr 11:1–4.
  7. 12:26–31 At the center of the story of Jeroboam the narrator describes how the king went beyond the political separation of Israel from Judah to create a separatist religious system as well. Jeroboam feared that continued worship in the single Temple in Jerusalem would threaten the political independence of his kingdom. To prevent this he established sanctuaries with non-levitical clergy in his own territory. At two of the sanctuaries he set up golden calves, which the narrator depicts as idols. Thus begins what will later be called “the sin of Jeroboam” (13:34), a theme that will be echoed throughout 1–2 Kings in the condemnations of almost every king of the Northern Kingdom. Historically, Jeroboam’s innovations were not as heterodox as our narrative portrays them. Bethel was an ancient and traditional site for worship of the Lord; and the calves were probably intended to be a dais for the deity invisibly enthroned upon them, rather like the cherubim atop the ark of the covenant.
  8. 12:29 Bethel…Dan: at the southern and northern boundaries of the separate kingdom of Israel, where sanctuaries had existed in the past (Gn 12:8; 13:3–4; 28:10–22; 35:1–15; Jgs 18:1–31).
  9. 12:32–13:10 This unit of the Jeroboam story corresponds to 12:21–25. Before Jeroboam’s cultic innovations, a man of God from Judah proclaimed the Lord’s approval of the political separation of the kingdoms. After Jeroboam’s cultic innovations, a man of God from Judah proclaims the Lord’s disapproval of Israel’s religious separatism. The unit begins with a long, detailed introduction about the dedication festival Jeroboam holds at Bethel (12:32–33); then follows the scene of the ceremony disrupted by the oracle of the man of God (13:1–10).

Israel Rebels Against Rehoboam(A)

12 Rehoboam went to Shechem,(B) for all Israel had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled(C) from King Solomon), he returned from[a] Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “Your father put a heavy yoke(D) on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders(E) who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer,(F) they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected(G) the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 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’?”

10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 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.’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” 13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 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(H) you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord,(I) to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah(J) the Shilonite.

16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:

“What share(K) do we have in David,
    what part in Jesse’s son?
To your tents, Israel!(L)
    Look after your own house, David!”

So the Israelites went home.(M) 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah,(N) Rehoboam still ruled over them.

18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram,[b](O) who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death.(P) King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David(Q) to this day.

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.(R)

21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war(S) against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.

22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah(T) the man of God:(U) 23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 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.

Golden Calves at Bethel and Dan

25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem(V) in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.[c](W)

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem,(X) they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves.(Y) He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”(Z) 29 One he set up in Bethel,(AA) and the other in Dan.(AB) 30 And this thing became a sin;(AC) the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.[d]

31 Jeroboam built shrines(AD) on high places and appointed priests(AE) from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth(AF) month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel,(AG) sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 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.(AH) So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Kings 12:2 Or he remained in
  2. 1 Kings 12:18 Some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac (see also 4:6 and 5:14); Hebrew Adoram
  3. 1 Kings 12:25 Hebrew Penuel, a variant of Peniel
  4. 1 Kings 12:30 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text people went to the one as far as Dan

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