Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Three Years.
From The Death Of David To The Death Of Ahab.
Concerning Rehoboam, And How God Inflicted Punishment Upon Him For His Impiety By Shishak [King Of Egypt].
1. Now Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, who, as we said before, was king of the two tribes, built strong and large cities, Bethlehem, and Etare, and Tekoa, and Bethzur, and Shoco, and Adullam, and Ipan, and Maresha, and Ziph, and Adorlam, and Lachlsh, and Azekah, and Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron; these he built first of all in the tribe of Judah. He also built other large cities in the tribe of Benjamin, and walled them about, and put garrisons in them all, and captains, and a great deal of corn, and wine, and oil, and he furnished every one of them plentifully with other provisions that were necessary for sustenance; moreover, he put therein shields and spears for many ten thousand men. The priests also that were in all Israel, and the Levites, and if there were any of the multitude that were good and righteous men, they gathered themselves together to him, having left their own cities, that they might worship God in Jerusalem; for they were not willing to be forced to worship the heifers which Jeroboam had made; and they augmented the kingdom of Rehoboam for three years.
And after he had married a woman of his own kindred, and had by her three children born to him, he married also another of his own kindred, who was daughter of Absalom by Tamar, whose name was Maachah, and by her he had a son, whom he named Abijah. He had moreover many other children by other wives, but he loved Maachah above them all. Now he had eighteen legitimate wives, and thirty concubines; and he had born to him twenty-eight sons and threescore daughters; but he appointed Abijah, whom he had by Maachah, to be his successor in the kingdom, and intrusted him already with the treasures and the strongest cities.
2. Now I cannot but think that the greatness of a kingdom, and its change into prosperity, often become the occasion of mischief and of transgression to men; for when Rehoboam saw that his kingdom was so much increased, he went out of the right way unto unrighteous and irreligious practices, and he despised the worship of God, till the people themselves imitated his wicked actions: for so it usually happens, that the manners of subjects are corrupted at the same time with those of their governors, which subjects then lay aside their own sober way of living, as a reproof of their governors' intemperate courses, and follow their wickedness as if it were virtue; for it is not possible to show that men approve of the actions of their kings, unless they do the same actions with them.
Agreeable whereto it now happened to the subjects of Rehoboam; for when he was grown impious, and a transgressor himself, they endeavored not to offend him by resolving still to be righteous. But God sent Shishak, king of Egypt, to punish them for their unjust behavior towards him, concerning whom Herodotus was mistaken, and applied his actions to Sesostris; for this Shishak, (27) in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, made an expedition [into Judea] with many ten thousand men; for he had one thousand two hundred chariots in number that followed him, and threescore thousand horsemen, and four hundred thousand footmen. These he brought with him, and they were the greatest part of them Libyans and Ethiopians. Now therefore when he fell upon the country of the Hebrews, he took the strongest cities of Rehoboam's kingdom without fighting; and when he had put garrisons in them, he came last of all to Jerusalem.
3. Now when Rehoboam, and the multitude with him, were shut up in Jerusalem by the means of the army of Shishak, and when they besought God to give them victory and deliverance, they could not persuade God to be on their side. But Shemaiah the prophet told them, that God threatened to forsake them, as they had themselves forsaken his worship. When they heard this, they were immediately in a consternation of mind; and seeing no way of deliverance, they all earnestly set themselves to confess that God might justly overlook them, since they had been guilty of impiety towards him, and had let his laws lie in confusion. So when God saw them in that disposition, and that they acknowledge their sins, he told the prophet that he would not destroy them, but that he would, however, make them servants to the Egyptians, that they may learn whether they will suffer less by serving men or God.
So when Shishak had taken the city without fighting, because Rehoboam was afraid, and received him into it, yet did not Shishak stand to the covenants he had made, but he spoiled the temple, and emptied the treasures of God, and those of the king, and carried off innumerable ten thousands of gold and silver, and left nothing at all behind him. He also took away the bucklers of gold, and the shields, which Solomon the king had made; nay, he did not leave the golden quivers which David had taken from the king of Zobah, and had dedicated to God; and when he had thus done, he returned to his own kingdom. Now Herodotus of Halicarnassus mentions this expedition, having only mistaken the king's name; and [in saying that] he made war upon many other nations also, and brought Syria of Palestine into subjection, and took the men that were therein prisoners without fighting.
Now it is manifest that he intended to declare that our nation was subdued by him; for he saith that he left behind him pillars in the land of those that delivered themselves up to him without fighting, and engraved upon them the secret parts of women. Now our king Rehoboam delivered up our city without fighting. He says withal (28) that the Ethiopians learned to circumcise their privy parts from the Egyptians, with this addition, that the Phoenicians and Syrians that live in Palestine confess that they learned it of the Egyptians. Yet it is evident that no other of the Syrians that live in Palestine, besides us alone, are circumcised. But as to such matters, let every one speak what is agreeable to his own opinion.
4. When Shishak was gone away, king Rehoboam made bucklers and shields of brass, instead of those of gold, and delivered the same number of them to the keepers of the king's palace. So, instead of warlike expeditions, and that glory which results from those public actions, he reigned in great quietness, though not without fear, as being always an enemy to Jeroboam, and he died when he had lived fifty-seven years, and reigned seventeen. He was in his disposition a proud and a foolish man, and lost [part of his] dominions by not hearkening to his father's friends. He was buried in Jerusalem, in the sepulchers of the kings; and his son Abijah succeeded him in the kingdom, and this in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam's reign over the ten tribes; and this was the conclusion of these affairs. It must be now our business to relate the affairs of Jeroboam, and how he ended his life; for he ceased not nor rested to be injurious to God, but every day raised up altars upon high mountains, and went on making priests out of the multitude.
(27) That this Shishak was not the same person with the famous Sesostris, as some have very lately, in contradiction to all antiquity, supposed, and that our Josephus did not take him to be the same, as they pretend, but that Sesostris was many centuries earlier than Shishak, see Authent. Records, part II page 1024.
(28) Herodotus, as here quoted by Josephus, and as this passage still stands in his present copies, B. II. Ch. 14, affirms, that
"the Phoenicians and Syrians in Palestine [which last are generally supposed to denote the Jews] owned their receiving circumcision from the Egyptians;"
whereas it is abundantly evident that the Jews received their circumcision from the patriarch Abraham, Genesis 17:9-14; John 7:22, 23, as I conclude the Egyptian priests themselves did also. It is not therefore very unlikely that Herodotus, because the Jews had lived long in Egypt, and came out of it circumcised, did thereupon think they had learned that circumcision in Egypt, and had it not broke. Manetho, the famous Egyptian chronologer and historian, who knew the history of his own country much better than Herodotus, complains frequently of his mistakes about their affairs, as does Josephus more than once in this chapter. Nor indeed does Herodotus seem at all acquainted with the affairs of the Jews; for as he never names them, so little or nothing of what he says about them, their country, or maritime cities, two of which he alone mentions, Cadytus and Jenysus, proves true; nor indeed do there appear to have ever been any such cities on their coast.