Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Three Years.
From The Death Of David To The Death Of Ahab.
How, Upon The Death of Solomon The People Forssk His Son Rehoboam, And Ordained Jeroboam King Over The Ten Tribes.
1. NOW when Solomon was dead, and his son Rehoboam (who was born of an Amntonite wife; whose name was Naamah) had succeeded him in the kingdom, the rulers of the multitude sent immediately into Egypt, and called back Jeroboam; and when he was come to them, to the city Shethem, Rehoboam came to it also, for he had resolved to declare himself king to the Israelites while they were there gathered together. So the rulers of the people, as well as Jeroboam, came to him, and besought him, and said that he ought to relax, and to be gentler than his father, in the servitude he had imposed on them, because they had borne a heavy yoke, and that then they should be better affected to him, and be well contented to serve him under his moderate government, and should do it more out of love than fear. But Rehoboam told them they should come to him again in three days' time, when he would give an answer to their request. This delay gave occasion to a present suspicion, since he had not given them a favorable answer to their mind immediately; for they thought that he should have given them a humane answer off-hand, especially since he was but young. However, they thought that this consultation about it, and that he did not presently give them a denial, afforded them some good hope of success.
2. Rehoboam now called his father's friends, and advised with them what sort of answer he ought to give to the multitude; upon which they gave him the advice which became friends, and those that knew the temper of such a multitude. They advised him to speak in a way more popular than suited the grandeur of a king, because he would thereby oblige them to submit to him with goodwill, it being most agreeable to subjects that their kings should be almost upon the level with them. But Rehoboam rejected this so good, and in general so profitable, advice, (it was such, at least, at that time when he was to be made king,) God himself, I suppose, causing what was most advantageous to be condemned by him. So he called for the young men who were brought up with him, and told them what advice the elders had given him, and bade them speak what they thought he ought to do.
They advised him to give the following answer to the people (for neither their youth nor God himself suffered them to discern what was best): That his little finger should be thicker than his father's loins; and if they had met with hard usage from his father, they should experience much rougher treatment from him; and if his father had chastised them with whips, they must expect that he would do it with scorpions. (24) The king was pleased with this advice, and thought it agreeable to the dignity of his government to give them such an answer. Accordingly, when the multitude was come together to hear his answer on the third day, all the people were in great expectation, and very intent to hear what the king would say to them, and supposed they should hear somewhat of a kind nature; but he passed by his friends, and answered as the young men had given him counsel. Now this was done according to the will of God, that what Ahijah had foretold might come to pass.
3. By these words the people were struck as it were by all iron hammer, and were so grieved at the words, as if they had already felt the effects of them; and they had great indignation at the king; and all cried out aloud, and said,
"We will have no longer any relation to David or his posterity after this day." And they said further, "We only leave to Rehoboam the temple which his father built;"
and they threatened to forsake him. Nay, they were so bitter, and retained their wrath so long, that when he sent Adoram, which was over the tribute, that he might pacify them, and render them milder, and persuade them to forgive him, if he had said any thing that was rash or grievous to them in his youth, they would not hear it, but threw stones at him, and killed him. When Rehoboam saw this, he thought himself aimed at by those stones with which they had killed his servant, and feared lest he should undergo the last of punishments in earnest; so he got immediately into his chariot, and fled to Jerusalem, where the tribe of Judah and that of Benjamin ordained him king; but the rest of the multitude forsook the sons of David from that day, and appointed Jeroboam to be the ruler of their public affairs.
Upon this Rehoboam, Solomon's son, assembled a great congregation of those two tribes that submitted to him, and was ready to take a hundred and eighty thousand chosen men out of the army, to make an expedition against Jeroboam and his people, that he might force them by war to be his servants; but he was forbidden of God by the prophet [Shemaiah] to go to war, for that it was not just that brethren of the same country should fight one against another. He also said that this defection of the multitude was according to the purpose of God. So he did not proceed in this expedition. And now I will relate first the actions of Jeroboam the king of Israel, after which we will relate what are therewith connected, the actions of Rehoboam, the king of the two tribes; by this means we shall preserve the good order of the history entire.
4. When therefore Jeroboam had built him a palace in the city Shechem, he dwelt there. He also built him another at Penuel, a city so called. And now the feast of tabernacles was approaching in a little time, Jeroboam considered, that if he should permit the multitude to go to worship God at Jerusalem, and there to celebrate the festival, they would probably repent of what they had done, and be enticed by the temple, and by the worship of God there performed, and would leave him, and return to their first kings; and if so, he should run the risk of losing his own life; so he invented this contrivance; He made two golden heifers, and built two little temples for them, the one in the city Bethel, and the other in Dan, which last was at the fountains of the Lesser Jordan (25) and he put the heifers into both the little temples, in the forementioned cities. And when he had called those ten tribes together over whom he ruled, he made a speech to the people in these words:
"I suppose, my countrymen, that you know this, that every place hath God in it; nor is there any one determinate place in which he is, but he every where hears and sees those that worship him; on which account I do not think it right for you to go so long a journey to Jerusalem, which is an enemy's city, to worship him. It was a man that built the temple: I have also made two golden heifers, dedicated to the same God; and the one of them I have consecrated in the city Bethel, and the other in Dan, to the end that those of you that dwell nearest those cities may go to them, and worship God there; and I will ordain for you certain priests and Levites from among yourselves, that you may have no want of the tribe of Levi, or of the sons of Aaron; but let him that is desirous among you of being a priest, bring to God a bullock and a ram, which they say Aaron the first priest brought also."
When Jeroboam had said this, he deluded the people, and made them to revolt from the worship of their forefathers, and to transgress their laws. This was the beginning of miseries to the Hebrews, and the cause why they were overcome in war by foreigners, and so fell into captivity. But we shall relate those things in their proper places hereafter.
5. When the feast [of tabernacles] was just approaching, Jeroboam was desirous to celebrate it himself in Bethel, as did the two tribes celebrate it in Jerusalem. Accordingly he built an altar before the heifer, and undertook to be high priest himself. So he went up to the altar, with his own priests about him; but when he was going to offer the sacrifices and the burnt-offerings, in the sight of all the people, a prophet, whose name was Jadon, was sent by God, and came to him from Jerusalem, who stood in the midst of the multitude, and in the 'hearing of' the king, and directing his discourse to the altar, said thus:
"God foretells that there shall be a certain man of the family of David, Josiah by name, who shall slay upon thee those false priests that shall live at that time, and upon thee shall burn the bones of those deceivers of the people, those impostors' and wicked wretches. However, that this people may believe that these things shall so come to pass, I foretell a sign to them that shall also come to pass. This altar shall be broken to pieces immediately, and all the fat of the sacrifices that is upon it shall be poured upon the ground."
When the prophet had said this, Jeroboam fell into a passion, and stretched out his hand, and bid them lay hold of him; but that hand which he stretched out was enfeebled, and he was not able to pull it in again to him, for it was become withered, and hung down, as if it were a dead hand. The altar also was broken to pieces, and all that was upon it was poured out, as the prophet had foretold should come to pass. So the king understood that he was a man of veracity, and had a Divine foreknowledge; and entreated him to pray to God that he would restore his right hand. Accordingly the prophet did pray to God to grant him that request. So the king, having his hand recovered to its natural state, rejoiced at it, and invited the prophet to sup with him; but Jadon said that he could not endure to come into his house, nor to taste of bread or water in this city, for that was a thing God had forbidden him to do; as also to go back by the same way which he came, but he said he was to return by another way. So the king wondered at the abstinence of the man, but was himself in fear, as suspecting a change of his affairs for the worse, from what had been said to him.
(24) That by scorpions is not here meant that small animal so called, which was never used in corrections, but either a shrub, furze bush, or else some terrible sort of whip of the like nature see Hudson's and Spanheim's notes here.
(25) Whether these "fountains of the Lesser Jordan" were near a place called Dan, and the fountains of the Greater near a place called Jor, before their conjunction; or whether there was only one fountain, arising at the lake Phiala, at first sinking under ground, and then arising near the mountain Paneum, and thence running through the lake Scmochonitis to the Sea of Galilee, and so far called the Lesser Jordan; is hardly certain, even in Josephus himself, though the latter account be the most probable. However, the northern idolatrous calf, set up by Jeroboam, was where Little Jordan fell into Great Jordan, near a place called Daphnae, as Josephus elsewhere informs us, Of the War, B. IV. Ch. 1. Sect. 1: see the note there.