1 Kings 12:28-33
Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said to them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem…
The king of Israel, moved by personal ambition instead of zeal for God, fearing lest his people, in going to Jerusalem to worship, should see reason to regret having rent the kingdom, took counsel to prevent this. The result was the development of the policy described in the text. It was cunning -
I. IN THE KIND OF WORSHIP IMPOSED.
1. As to its objects.
(1) It purported to be the worship of the God of Israel Essentially the same with the worship at Jerusalem. Thus it conciliated favour. Had it been the worship of any god of the nations, opposition would have been provoked.
(2) Yet was it idolatry. So in like manner is much of the worship of modern times which passes under the name of Christianity. Satan does not lose his identity by transforming himself into an angel of light.
2. As to its modes.
(2) Its images were imitations of the cherubim. Such also were the teraphim. And as God was said to dwell in, not "between" (ישב is to inhabit), the cherubim, so Jeroboam directed his dupes to seek the God of Israel in his calves.
(2) With these were associated altars, for sacrifice and incense, like those in the temple; and the victims would be clean animals proper for sacrifice; the incense also would be similar to that burnt in Jerusalem.
(3) He had a Feast of Tabernacles, which is described in the text as "like unto the feast that is in Judah." Only that he altered the date as well as the place from the fifteenth day of the seventh month to the corresponding day of the month following. It is significantly noted, "which he had devised of his own heart" (see Numbers 15:89). He was a forerunner of another character who has not hesitated to "change times and laws" (Daniel 7:25).
3. As to its ministers.
(1) His priests were Levites, where he could get them. In this he seems to have succeeded at Daniel For the descendants of Jonathan, who was of the family of Aaron, appear to have fallen in with his designs (see Judges 18:30).
(2) But it was different at Bethel. Here the Levites, it is to be hoped, had too much principle to serve his calves. So "he made priests of the lowest of the people."
(3) Amongst these he officiated himself. Morally he was indeed amongst the lowest of the people, notwithstanding his position as king. This, unhappily, was not sufficiently discerned. The wicked do not understand (Daniel 12:10).
II. IN THE PLACES CHOSEN FOR THAT WORSHIP.
1. Dan was chosen with sagacity.
(1) This was a city in the north, whose Canaanitish name was Laish, but which, when conquered by the Danites, received the name of their father (Judges 18:29-31). This would be convenient to the people living so distant from Jerusalem.
(2) Besides, from its founding, this city was sacred to the worship of God through the medium of teraphim. This was about the time of Joshua's death when Phinehas ministered at the tabernacle at Shiloh (compare Judges 20:27, 28). From these very teraphim, when they were in the house of Micah, God gave responses to Jonathan the priest.
(3) For the teraphim of Micah, which were carved blocks covered with silver Jeroboam substituted one of his calves, which was covered with gold; otherwise there does not appear to have been any material change in the worship there. So the prejudices of the people would not be shocked.
2. Bethel also was chosen with sagacity.
(1) This was in the southern part of the kingdom, to accommodate those who might otherwise go to Jerusalem through convenience of distance. How adroitly do the wicked place their snares!
(2) This place, too, had a memorable history. It was the scene of the vision of the ladder and renewal of the covenant with Jacob, in token of which the patriarch vowed to the Lord, anointed a pillar, and built an altar (Genesis 28:19, 20; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:1, 7). It was one of the stations of Samuel, and a place to which, in his days, the people were accustomed to go up to worship (1 Samuel 7:16; 1 Samuel 10:3).
(3) Here, accordingly, Jeroboam fixed his headquarters, and built a pretentious temple, or "house of high places" (ver. 31). Thus practically did Jeroboam say, with another purpose in his heart, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem." Beware of religion made easy; it may laud you in perdition. Beware of imitations of Divine things. Keep rigidly to the Word of God. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
WEB: Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and see your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"