But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God:
I. THE MESSAGE.
1. It was the word of Jehovah.
(1) So it is worthy of all respect. It is the word of Infinite Wisdom and Knowledge. It is the word of the Supreme Arbiter.
(2) God does not speak immediately to men upon ordinary occasions. Indirectly He speaks to us evermore and in a million voices.
(3) Happy is that people among whom the voice of God is heard. This was eminently the happiness of Israel. It was a sad day in Israel when there was "no open vision" (1 Samuel 3:1).
2. It came by the hand of Shemaiah.
(1) God spake "in divers manners." By audible voice, as from Sinai; by urim, as in the temple; by dream; and by prophet, as in the present case.
(2) Ahijah was a man of God. Such in general were the prophets. But sometimes it pleased God to use persons of equivocal character; - Balaam, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Caiaphas (John 11:49-52).
3. It came to the whole community.
(1) To Rehoboam. He was first mentioned as the head. Also because he was the principal cause of the mischief which he now sought to repair.
(2) To Judah and Benjamin. These tribes were so united as to be viewed as "one tribe," and are unitedly called "Judah." The temple was actually within Benjamin's boundary.
(3) To the remnant of the people. These consisted of priests and Levites, and godly people out of all the tribes who were unwilling to separate themselves from the house of David (2 Chronicles 11:18-16).
4. It commanded peace.
(1) They were not to fight with their brethren. The case must be extreme that can justify a civil war. What miseries must have ensued if 180,000 warriors of Judah had encountered a corresponding army of Israel!
(2) They were to submit to a revolution which was from the Lord. Not that God was the author of it, but permitted to be brought about by the king and his people for the punishment of their wickedness. "What is brought about in the course of God's providence is considered and spoken of as done by Him as a general would say that he drew the enemy into a snare, which he had only laid in his way" (Julius Bate).
II. ITS RECEPTION.
1. They hearkened to the word.
(1) They recognized it as the word of God. Shemaiah was known to be a "man of God." His message also agreed to that of Ahijah, the fulfilment of a part of which pledged the fulfilment of the remainder.
(2) To resist now would be to fight against God. This would be a hopeless business. But is not this the attitude of every sinner?
2. They returned to their houses.
(1) The remnant of Israel were naturally glad to be spared the horrors of a war with their brethren.
(2) So were the people of Judah and Benjamin. People are generally averse to war unless stirred up to it by their rulers. What a responsibility rests with war makers!
(3) Rehoboam is powerless without the people. He is now thoroughly cowed. The discipline was good for him. This was seen in the next three years of his reign. It were well if all men recognised God's word when it comes to them. We have God's word written in the Scriptures of truth. Do we take it homo to guide and control our conduct?
When Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who was in Egypt heard of it... they sent and called him.1. This chapter reveals one of the turning-points in Israel's history, for it is as true in the history of Israel as in that of any other people that there are periods comparatively insignificant, and hours as well, that are full of great events.
2. It had seemed to be one of the chief purposes of God to make Israel a great nation. That is the promise made to Abram. The nation seems to have been essential to the carrying out of God's purpose in giving a revelation and establishing His kingdom in the world. Truth does not gather momentum while it is propagated by an occasional teacher or prophet. Great institutions, educational, civil, and religious, such as can be developed only in a great nation, are necessary to make truth mighty, to give it power among the masses, and that volume which sets it moving over wide areas. The revelation, which had been sporadic in Israel throughout patriarchal times, now by means of the great civil and religious institutions of Israel as a nation — prophecy and the school of the prophets, the priesthood and the great religious festivals — gathers momentum and moves grandly on toward the fulfilment of the promise made to Abram.
3. But by this Scripture we are introduced to a condition of things that is startling. The very chosen instrument essential to the carrying out of God's purpose to bless and save the world — the Israelitish nation — is threatened with destruction. There is something violent in the very tones of the cry, "To your tents, O Israel." Where now is the nation through which God is to bless the world? Can His purpose be accomplished by these fragments?
4. A study of the actual course of history among these tribes would show that there were many natural causes leading to this division of the kingdom. Rehoboam was weak and wicked. He who will rule others must first learn to rule himself. The young men, probably sons of Solomon's chief officers, who had been trained at the royal court and were designed to be the officers of the succeeding king, had inherited the bitter hostility that had long existed, especially between the tribes of Judah and Ephraim; thinking themselves strong under the new king, they were ready to advise and help to carry out rash measures. There was no lack of occasion for dissension on the side of Rehoboam. On the other hand there can be little doubt that the taxes exacted of Israel were oppressive. Ephraim had always been jealous of and restive under Judah's rule. "To the house of Joseph — that is to Ephraim, with its adjacent tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh — had belonged all the chief rulers of Israel, down to the time of David: Joshua, the conqueror; Deborah, the prophetess; Gideon, the one regal spirit of the judges; Abimelech and Saul, the first kings; Samuel, the restorer of the people after the fall of Shiloh. It was natural with such an inheritance of glory that Ephraim always chafed under any rival supremacy." And when "the Lord refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah," the old jealousy was intensified and ready to burst forth on any pretext. Jeroboam had once lifted up his hand against King Solomon, and Solomon had attempted to kill him, and had driven him into Egypt. Weakness, wilfulness, and impetuosity on the part of the king and his advisers, all of which served to intensify an inherited jealousy of prerogative, were the influences at work on the one side. On the other a powerful people fired with a sense of injustice, with a powerful, ambitious, and unscrupulous leader — these certainly afforded causes for a disruption deep and irremediable.
5. But the prophet expressly tells us that this division is of God.
6. What was the real cause? The record makes it plain, and reveals at the same time God, the long suffering and the holy One. It was not that the king had fleeced them, as Samuel a century earlier had told them he would (1 Samuel 8:11-17). It was that they had rejected God, as God told Samuel they had, when they asked a king (1 Samuel 8:6-8).What are the lessons to be learned?
1. God gives opportunities to individuals and to nations even though He knows that they will not improve them. Jeroboam was justified in taking possession of the Ten Tribes. It was part of the Divine plan. He had been so instructed. But Jeroboam departed from God, and he has gone down in the sacred history as the man that made Israel to sin. Rehoboam had his opportunity also both before and after the division of the kingdom. He wasted it wickedly. Whether we use or abuse our opportunities they come to us, and God with and in them all, to work out His righteous will through us if we will, and, if not, to abandon us and to find a way for His will and purposes through others.
2. We may learn also that, however essential an institution may seem to be for carrying forward the purposes of God, if it fail it is doomed. The Israelitish nation, in order to express the Divine will and be a revelation of Jehovah, must be conscious of its dependence on Him. But this Israel had lost. There is no trace of the confidence or of the sense of dependence that appears in the song of .Moses at the Red Sea. The spiritual hold on Jehovah has relaxed.
3. God works in the actual condition of things. It is a mistake to suppose that God must wait for either the ideal man or the ideal nation. The ambitious Jeroboam and the weak Rehoboam are alike His agents. The revelation which shapes the conditions under which the kingdom of God cannot flourish may be as important as that which shows the conditions of its prosperity. "To your tents, O Israel: see to thine own house, David," is violent language. Jehovah will find other means for propagating and perpetuating His truth. "The Arabian traditions relate that in the staff on which Solomon leaned, and which supported him long after his death, there was a worm which was secretly gnawing it asunder." The worm — idolatry — has done its work.
(B. P. Raymond.)
1. Israel's secession "was from the Lord." From terrible, relentless, persistent tyranny, after due but vain remonstrance, subjects have a Divine right to free themselves by revolution. "The powers that be are ordained of God," but no particular form of polity is so. Rulers exist for subjects, not subjects for rulers. The government of a nation at any time presumably deserves respect and support; but it may forfeit all claim to both by ceasing to fulfil its function as a blessing to the people.
2. Observe the pusillanimity of pride. Pride seems a source of strength: it is rather a source of weakness; it prevents one from acting according to his best light. Rehoboam must in his first calm moment have felt convinced of the superior wisdom of the course urged by the older counsellors. But the words of the younger men appealed to his pride and momentarily blinded him to their folly.
3. Consider how expensive such senseless pride may become. It cost Rehoboam far the best part of his dominions. Israel rather than Judah fills the chief place in the history of the next few centuries. Henceforth until the fall of Samaria Israel is ever upon the historian's page. Judah occupying a subordinate place. The history of Israel is that of a nation — Judah consisted of but a single great and splendid city. Rehoboam's pride was an expensive luxury — it cost him the richest jewels in his crown.
4. Mark the peril of disregarding the wisdom of age. Had Rehoboam consulted only his seniors, he would have taken the right course. This his pride forbade. Was he not king? Old men, fogies, the Bismarcks and the Gladstones, had carried on the State long enough. Like William of Germany, he would show what wonders fresh blood and brain could do. Besides, was he not getting all the light he could inquiring of all rather than of few? Many a youth has thus cheated himself into the belief that he was proceeding with great prudence, when in fact he merely wished an excuse for some darling folly.
5. Notice, that serving is the only way to win true fortunes. How numerous are the applications of this principle in the household in the workshop, in society, in government! If employers only treated their employees in this spirit, how it would assuage the friction between the two, to the advantage of both! If labourers always acted in this temper of love, what added strength it would assure to labouring men's organisations! How perfectly did the course of our Divine Lord and Saviour illustrate this! He came to win the world. How was it to be done? Had He been a mere man, He would never have sought to attain His end in the way He did. Instead of appearing as a grand monarch, ministered unto, courted, and flattered, He came as a servant, ministering ever unto others. Instead of being rich, He had not where to lay His head. Instead of courting the great and wise, He sought the poor and lowly. And He has in this world a Name which is above every name, at whose mention millions of hearts rise and millions of heads bow in loving adoration.
(J. B. G. Pidge, D. D.)
(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
Monday Club Sermons.The fault of the prince lay not in consulting younger men — for they are often most favourable to progress — the error was in allowing his action, as a ruler, to be governed by private considerations. The young man's failing was a kingly one, but also a very common one. The great landowner cannot see the advantage of yielding his game-preserve to the uses of hard-worked tenants. The manufacturer does not frequently pay the sowing-women he employs more than the market price for their labour. Power and wealth men are as slow to give up as Pharaoh was the Israelite slaves.
I. AN EARLY ILLUSTRATION OF AN ATTEMPT TO ADJUST DIFFICULTIES BY CONFERENCE. Though the people might not have remained for a long period loyal to the house of David, they made an attempt to adjust the difficulties between them and their hereditary prince. They did not go into open rebellion. They asked that their rights and their complaints might be considered Kings who exercise despotic power, and their defenders, are wont to base their claims on the authority of the Bible. As Englishmen, we point with pride to the Barons at Runnymede as they demand the Great Charter from King John. This right of petition, exercised by Israelites and Englishmen, is not one that has always been conceded. Charles II. endeavoured to secure the passage of a bill limiting this right of his subjects so late as 1680. In early Bible times we find free speech, free petition, and methods of arbitration. This right of petition must be conceded before any adjustments can he made between sovereigns and their subjects, or between men and their fellows. We must be willing to hear men's causes and defence, before any result can be obtained that will be satisfactory. Before conference can begin, there must be this openness of discussion. There is one phase of this matter that is very practical. Do we not often condemn persons before giving them any opportunity to explain their action? We nurse fancied wrongs and bear ill-will toward those who ought to be dear to us. Have we ever told them of our grievances? Are we sure they are aware of fault or sin? We say too often, "Let them find out for themselves." Thus friends are alienated and homes made unhappy. Christ emphasised the adjustments of wrongs between men as individuals. In the Old Testament, we have the same duty enforced by example and precept. We have, also, an illustration of a proper method of righting public wrongs. This lesson is for labourers and capitalists, for servants and masters, as well as for kinsfolk and friends.
II. THE INEVITABLE TRANSFER OF POWER FROM HIM WHO SERVETH NOT, TO HIM WHO WILL, SERVE THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS. The power of the house of the beloved David must be diminished when his descendants no longer served the people. Jeroboam, the rival claimant for the throne, was a man of few good qualities, but he professed to be willing to serve the people. He certainly attempted to please them, though he finally degraded them, as is seen in the subsequent chapter. Even into the hands of demagogues, power will often pass, with God's permission, from selfish and despotic princes. God calls the world to witness the humiliation of greatness that is supported by injustice. There is continually a redistribution of power and wealth that goes on in the world with the Divine sanction. Where men may gamble and become suddenly rich, they may as suddenly lose their wealth. A house or family founded on unrighteousness has in it the elements of its own destruction. Drink may ruin the son of the millionaire. His wealth goes to strangers. Often the transfer of power is sudden, and proud men in their own lifetime behold their sceptre "wrenched by an unlineal hand, no son of theirs succeeding." Power that has not lifted the world's burdens will pass.
III. GREAT REVOLUTIONS MAY TAKE PLACE UNDER GOD'S GUIDANCE WITHOUT VIOLENCE. We are told that this revolt was of the Lord. The people failed in their conference, but they succeeded in accomplishing a great change quietly. They had begun right to end well. Thenceforth the cause was in God's hands. Prayer is one of the means by which great changes are accomplished silently. God is always on the side of the earnest prayer, and any good that results is from Him. The history of the revolutions wrought by prayer must remain unwritten till the great day of revelation.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
PeopleAdoniram, Adoram, Ahijah, Benjamin, Dan, David, Israelites, Jeroboam, Jesse, Levi, Levites, Nebat, Penuel, Rehoboam, Shemaiah, Solomon
PlacesBethel, Dan, Egypt, Jerusalem, Penuel, Shechem
TopicsSaying, Shemaiah, Shemai'ah
Outline1. The Israelites, assembled at Shechem to crown Rehoboam,
4. by Jeroboam make a suit of relaxation unto him
6. Rehoboam, refusing the old men's counsel, answers them roughly
16. Ten tribes revolting, kill Adoram, and make Rehoboam flee
21. Rehoboam, raising an army, is forbidden by Shemaiah
25. Jeroboam strengthens himself by cities
26. and by idolatry of the two calves
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 12:1-24
LibraryHow to Split a Kingdom
And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. 2. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt); 3. That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, 4. Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
"This Thing is from Me"
The Hebrews and the Philistines --Damascus
How God Works in the Hearts of Men.
Use to be Made of the Doctrine of Providence.
The Upbringing of Jewish Children
The Instrumentality of the Wicked Employed by God, While He Continues Free from Every Taint.
The Twelve Minor Prophets.
Of Civil Government.
Travelling in Palestine --Roads, Inns, Hospitality, Custom-House Officers, Taxation, Publicans
The Figurative Language of Scripture.
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