1 Kings 11 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

1 Kings 11
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

The historical order in this chapter is curiously broken. (a) In 1 Kings 11:1-13 we have a notice of the polygamy and idolatry of Solomon, and the prediction of the transference of the kingdom to his servant; (b) This reference to Jeroboam suggests a brief record of the rising up of “adversaries” to Solomon, Hadad and Rezon, as well as Jeroboam himself, which belongs to the earlier times of Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 11:14-40). (c) After this digression there is the formal notice of Solomon’s death and burial (1 Kings 11:41-43).

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;
(1-8) The defection of Solomon is distinctly traced to his polygamy, contracting numerous marriages with “strange women.” Polygamy is also attributed to David (see 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 15:16), marking perhaps the characteristic temperament of voluptuousness, which seduced him into his great sin; but it was carried out by Solomon on a scale corresponding to the magnificence of his kingdom, and probably had in his case the political object of alliance with neighbouring or tributary kings. We find it inherited by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:18-21), and it probably became in different degrees the practice of succeeding kings. Hitherto, while polygamy, as everywhere in the East, had to some degree existed in Israel from patriarchal times, yet it must have been checked by the marriage regulations of the Law. Nor had there yet been the royal magnificence and wealth, under which alone it attains to full development. We have some traces of it in the households of some of the Judges: Gideon (Judges 8:30), Jair (Judges 10:4), Ibzan and Abdon (Judges 12:9; Judges 12:14). Now, however, it became, in spite of the prohibition of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:17), a recognised element of royal self-indulgence—such as is described in Ecclesiastes 2:7-8, and is perhaps traceable even through the beauty of the Song of Solomon. In itself, even without any incidental consequences, it must necessarily be a demoralising power, as sinning against the primeval ordinance of God, and robbing natural relations of their true purity and sacredness. But in actual fact it sinned still more by involving forbidden marriages with idolatrous races, with the often-predicted effect of declension into idolatry.

(1) Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, Hittites.—The first three of these races were kindred to Israel and of the stock of Abraham, and were now among the subjects of Solomon; the last two were of the old Canaanitish stock, and were now inferior allies. To the last alone properly attached the prohibition of the Law (Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4); but the reason on which that prohibition was grounded was now equally applicable to the others; for they also had fallen into the worship of false gods. Hence the extension of it to them, recognised by the Jews after the captivity (Ezra 9:2; Ezra 9:11-12; Nehemiah 13:23-29).

It is to be noted that the marriage with the daughter of Pharaoh is apparently distinguished from these connections, which are so greatly censured, and that there is no mention of the introduction of any Egyptian idolatry.

Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
(3) Seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.—The harem of an Eastern king is simply an adjunct of his magnificence, and the relation of the wives to him little more than nominal. (Comp. Esther 2:14.) Nor does the statement here made necessarily imply that at any one time the whole number existed. Still, the numbers here given, though found also in the LXX. and in Josephus, are not only extraordinarily large, but excessive in comparison with the “three- score queens and fourscore concubines” of Song of Solomon 6:8, and disproportionate in the relative number of the superior and inferior wives. It is possible that, in relation to the former, at any rate, the text may be corrupt, though the corruption must be of ancient date.

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
(4) When Solomon was old.—It is clearly implied that the evil influence belonged to the time of senile feebleness, possibly the premature result of a life of indulgence; for he could not have been very old, if he was “but a child” at the time of his accession. But, as it is not at all likely that Solomon forsook the worship of God (see 1 Kings 11:5-6; 1 Kings 9:25), it would seem that his idolatry was rather the inclination to an eclectic adoption of various forms of faith and worship, as simply various phases of reverence to the One Supreme Power, each having its own peculiar significance and beauty. Such a spirit, holding itself superior to the old laws and principles of the faith of Israel, was the natural fruit of an overweening confidence in his own wisdom—the philosophic spirit, “holding no creed, but contemplating” and condescending to “all.” Whatever it may have owed to the baser female influence, so well known in the countries where woman is held a mere toy, it seems likely to have been, still more naturally, the demoralising effect of an absolutely despotic power, of a world-wide fame for wisdom, and of an over-luxurious magnificence. It may have even had a kind of harmony with the weary and hopeless conviction that “all things were vanity:” for there is something of kinship between the belief that all worships are true, and that all worships are false. It may also have been thought good policy to conciliate the subject races, by doing honour to their religions, much as the Roman Empire delighted to do, when faith in its own religion had died out. How absolutely incompatible such a spirit is with the faith in the One only God of Israel, and in itself even more monstrous than avowed devotion to false gods, is indignantly declared by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 20:39). How utter the practical incongruity, is obvious on the slightest consideration of the contrast between the impure and bloody worship of the false gods, and the lofty spiritual worship of the God of Israel.

For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
(5) Ashtoreth (or, Astarte).—The goddess of the Zidonians, and possibly the Hittites, corresponding to Baal, the great Tyrian god, and representing the receptive and productive, as Baal the active and originative, power in Nature. As usual in all phases of Natureworship, Ashtoreth is variously represented, sometimes by the moon, sometimes by the planet Venus (like the Assyrian Ishtar, which seems a form of the same name)—in either case regarded as “the queen of heaven.” (See Jeremiah 44:17; Jeremiah 44:25). There seems, indeed, some reason to believe that the name itself is derived from a root which is found both in Syriac and Persian, and which became aster in the Greek and astrum in Latin, and has thence passed into modern European languages, signifying a “star,” or luminary of heaven. With this agrees the ancient name, Ashterôth-Karnaîm (or, “the horned Ashteroth”)of a city in Bashan (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 1:4; Joshua 13:12). This place is the first in which the name Ashtoreth is used in the singular number, and expressly limited to the “goddess of the Ziaonians.” In the earlier history we hear not unfrequently of the worship of the “Ashtaroth,” that is, of the “Ashtoreths,” found with the like plural Baalim, as prevalent in Canaan, and adopted by Israel in evil times (see Judges 2:13; Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Samuel 12:10; 1 Samuel 31:10); and the worship of the Asherah (rendered “groves” in the Authorised version), may perhaps refer to emblems of Astarte. In these cases, however, it seems not unlikely that the phrase, “Baalim and Ashtaroth,” may be used generally of the gods and goddesses of various kinds of idolatry. The worship of the Tyrian Ashtoreth, as might be supposed from the idea which she was supposed to represent, was one of chartered license and impurity.

Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites.—The name Milcom (like the Malcham of Jeremiah 49:1; Jeremiah 49:3) is probably only a variety of the well-known Molech, which is actually used for it in 1 Kings 11:7. The name “Molech” (though here connected expressly with the Ammonite idolatry) is a general title, signifying only “king” (as Baal signifies “lord”), and might be applied to the supreme god of any idolatrous system. Thus the worship of “Molech,” with its horrible sacrifice of children “passing through the fire,” is forbidden in Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2, evidently as prevailing among the Canaanite races (comp. Psalm 106:37-38). Again, we know historically that similar sacrifice of children, by the same horrible rite, was practised by the Carthaginians in times of great national calamity—the god being in that case identified with Saturn, the star of malign influence. By comparison of Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5-6, it is very evident that this human sacrifice to Molech is also called “a burnt-offering to Baal;” and if Molech was the “fire-god,” and Baal the “sun-god,” the two deities might easily be regarded as cognate, if not identical. It is notable that, in this place, while Ashtoreth is mentioned, there is no reference to any worship of the Phœnician Baal as such; possibly the Ammonite Molech-worship may have occupied its place. In any case, as the worship of Ashtoreth was stained with impurity, so the Molech-worship was marked by the other foul pollution of the sacrifice of human blood.

Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites.—The name Chemosh probably means “the Conqueror,” or “Subjugator,” and indicates a god of battles. He is again and again described as the god of the Moabites who are called “the people of Chemosh” (see Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:7; Jeremiah 48:13; Jeremiah 48:46); and the Moabite Stone speaks of the slain in war as an offering to Chemosh, and even refers to a deity, “Ashtar-Chemosh,” which looks like a conjunction of Chemosh, like Baal, with Ashtoreth. In Judges 11:24, Jephthah refers to Chemosh as the god of the Ammonite king, an expression which may indicate a temporary supremacy of Moab over Ammon at that time, through which the name “Chemosh” superseded the name “Milcom” as descriptive of the Supreme Power. In the history, moreover, of the Moabite war against Jehoram (2 Kings 3:26-27) it seems that to Chemosh, as to Molech, human sacrifice was offered.

Probably, in actual practice the various worships of the Tyrians and Canaanites, the Ammonites and the Moabites might run into each other. Unlike the awful and exclusive reverence to the Lord Jehovah, the devotion of polytheistic systems readily welcomes strange gods into its Pantheon. Polytheism is also apt to pass into what has been called “Henotheism,” in which, of many gods each is for the moment worshipped, as if he stood alone, and concentrated in himself the whole attributes of deity. The generality and similarity of meaning in the names, Baal (“lord”), Molech (“king”), and Chemosh (“conqueror”), seem to point in this direction. Still, these worships are described as taking, in Jerusalem, distinct forms and habitations, which continued till the days of Josiah (2 Kings 23:13), no doubt disused and condemned in days of religious faithfulness, such as those of Jehoshapliat and Hezekiah, but revived, and associated with newer idolatries, in days of apostasy.

And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
(7) On the hill that is before Jerusalem.—evidently on the Mount of Olives (part of which still traditionally bears the name of the “Mount of Offence”), facing and rivalling the Temple on Mount Moriah. Tophet, the place of actual sacrifice to Molech, was “in the valley of the son of Hinnom” (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31), which (see Jeremiah 19:2) was east or south-east. of the city, and would lie not far from the foot of the mountain.

And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
(8) Which had appeared unto him twice.—See 1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 9:2.) Stress is laid on these direct visions of the Lord to Solomon, as contrasted with the usual indirect revelation through the prophets, and so carrying with them peculiar privilege and responsibility.

And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,
And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.
Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.
Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.
(12, 13) For David my servant’s sake—that is, evidently, in order to fulfil the promise to David. By the postponement of the chastisement, the blessing promised to his son personally would be still preserved; by the retaining of the kingdom, though shorn of its splendour, and limited to Judah, the larger and more important promise, the continuance of the family of David till the coming of the Messiah, would be fulfilled. The “one tribe” is, of course, Judah, with which Benjamin was indissolubly united by the very position of the capital on its frontier. This is curiously indicated in 1 Kings 11:31-32, where “ten tribes” are given to Jeroboam, and the remainder out of the twelve is still called “one tribe.”

Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.
And the LORD stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom.
(14-25) The events recorded in this section belong, at least in part, to the early years of the reign of Solomon. when the deaths of the warlike David and Joab, and the accession of a mere youth of avowedly peaceful character, may have naturally encouraged insurrection against the dominion of Israel. They are, no doubt, referred to in this place in connection with the prophecy just recorded, and the notice of Jeroboam’s earlier career which it suggests. But it is implied in the case of Hadad, as it is expressly declared in the case of Rezon, that their resistance continued through all Solomon’s reign. They were not, therefore, crushed, even in the days of his greatness, although then probably reduced to practical insignificance; they seem to have become formidable again during his declining years.

(14) Hadad the Edomite.—The name (or rather, title) Hadad (with the kindred names Hadar, Hadadezer or Hadarezer, and Benhadad) is most frequently found as a designation of the kings of Syria. Here, however, as also in Genesis 36:35, 1 Chronicles 1:46; 1 Chronicles 1:50, it is given to members of the royal family of Edom. According to ancient authorities, it is a Syriac title of the sun—in this respect like the more celebrated title Pharaoh—assumed by the king, either as indicating descent from the sun-god, or simply as an appellation of splendour and majesty. The Hadad here mentioned seems to have been the last scion of the royal house, escaping alone, as a child, from the slaughter of his kindred and people.

For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom;
(15) The war here described is briefly noted, with some differences of detail, in 2 Samuel 8:12-14, 1 Chronicles 18:11-13, and Psalms 60 (title and 1 Kings 11:8). It is there closely connected with the great struggle with the Syrians, and the victory is ascribed in one record to Joab, in the other to Abishai. Here David himself is described as taking part in the war—perhaps completing the conquest, as in the war with Ammon, after it had been successfully begun by Joab (2 Samuel 12:26-31). (Instead of “David was in Edom,” the LXX. and other versions read “David destroyed Edom,” by a slight variation of the Hebrew text.) The war was evidently one of ruthless extermination of “every male,” except those who fled the country, or found refuge in its rocky fastnesses, and was carried on by systematic ravage under the command of Joab. How it was provoked we do not know; for we have no previous notice of Edom since the time of the Exodus, except a reference to war against it in the days of Saul (1 Samuel 14:47).

(For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom:)
That Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt; Hadad being yet a little child.
And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran: and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, unto Pharaoh king of Egypt; which gave him an house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land.
(18) They arose out of Midian.—The expression is a curious one; for we should have expected the starting-point of the flight to have been described in Edom itself. If the reading of the text is correct, the reference must be either to some branch of the Midianitish tribes settled between Edom and the desert of Paran, or to a city Midian, not far from the Gulf of Elath, of which some ancient authorities speak, and to which the LXX. expressly refers here.

Paran (see Genesis 21:21; Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16; Numbers 13:3; Numbers 13:26 : 1 Samuel 25:1) is part of the Sinaitic region, adjacent to the wilderness of Zin, and north of the range now called the El-Tîh mountains. It lies to the west of the Edomite territory, and was then evidently inhabited by an independent race, from which the fugitive companions of Hadad enlisted support.

Pharaoh king of Egypt.—The dynasty then reigning in Lower Egypt is that called the twenty-first, or Tanite, dynasty. Chronological considerations, and perhaps internal probabilities, suggest that this Pharaoh was not the same as the king who became father-in-law to Solomon. But the same policy of alliance with the occupants of Palestine and the neighbourhood is equally exemplified in both cases, though by different methods; and accords well with the apparent decadence of Egyptian power at this time, of which very little record is preserved in the monuments. Jealousy of the growing power of Israel under David and Solomon might prompt this favourable reception of Hadad, as afterwards of Jeroboam. The marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh, and the active co-operation of Pharaoh against Gezer (1 Kings 9:16), indicate an intervening variation of policy, without, however, any change in the general design of securing Egypt by alliances on the north-east. In this case the intermarriage of Hadad with the royal house, and the inclusion of his son Genubath among the children of Pharaoh, argue an unusual distinction, which could only have been due to a high estimate of the importance of influence over the strong country of Edom, and of the future chances of Hadad’s recovery of the throne.

And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen.
(19) Tahpenes the queen—a name unknown, either in history or in the Egyptian monuments.

And the sister of Tahpenes bare him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh's house: and Genubath was in Pharaoh's household among the sons of Pharaoh.
(20) Genubath is similarly unknown. The weaning in the house of Pharaoh, no doubt with the customary festival (comp. Genesis 20:18), indicated the admittance of the child into the royal family of Egypt.

And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country.
(21, 22) When Hadad heard.—If (as the text seems to suggest) this took place on the news of the death of David and of Joab, the scourge of Edom, it belongs, of course, to the early part of the reign of Solomon, before his power was established. The courteous evasion by the Pharaoh of that time of Hadad’s request for permission to return, may probably indicate the beginning of the change of attitude towards the powerful monarchy of Israel, which took effect in the subsequent close alliance of the kingdoms. As the text stands, the record here stops abruptly, and then recurs to Hadad by a curious allusion in 1 Kings 11:25. It can hardly be doubted that there is some omission or dislocation of the text. The LXX. (in the Vatican MS.) introduces after the words “Hadad the Edomite” in 1 Kings 11:14, the words “and Rezon the son of Eliadah . . . all the days of Solomon” from 1 Kings 11:23-25; and then, resuming the story of Hadad, adds, after the record of his request to Pharaoh, “and Hadad returned to his land. This is the mischief which Hadad did, and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Edom.” Josephus, on the other hand, says that at the time of the original request, Pharaoh refused permission; but that in the declining years of Solomon it was granted, and that Hadad, finding it impossible to excite rebellion in Edom, which was strongly garrisoned, joined Rezon in Syria, and with him established an independent power, and did mischief to Israel. (Ant. viii. 6, 6.) This account is itself probable enough; it accounts, moreover, for the close connection in the history (especially in the LXX. reading) between Hadad and Rezon, and for the insertion of the whole matter in this place; and accords also with the fact that, while Syria seems at once to become independent after the death of Solomon, we hear of no revolt of Edom till the time of Jelioshaphat (2 Chronicles 20).

Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country? And he answered, Nothing: howbeit let me go in any wise.
And God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah:
(23) Rezon the son of Eliadah.—The name Rezon, which is not unlike the “Rezin” of 2 Kings 16, appears to signify “prince,” and might naturally mark the founder of a new power. In 1 Kings 20:18 we read of a Hezion, king of Damascus, who would belong to this generation, and may be identical with Rezon. The tradition quoted by Josephus (Ant. vii. 5, 2) from Nicolaus of Damascus, that for ten generations from the days of David, all the kings of Syria bore the name of Hadad, probably means only that the title Hadad was the official title of the monarchy.

And he gathered men unto him, and became captain over a band, when David slew them of Zobah: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus.
(24) When David slew them of Zobah.—The account of this war is found in 2 Samuel 8:1-13. The kingdom of Zobah was evidently a powerful state at that time, at war with the Syrian kingdom of Hamath, but holding supremacy over the Syrians of Damascus, and the “Syrians beyond the river” Euphrates; and (as the record shows) accumulating vast treasures of gold, silver, and brass. The establishment of Rezon (and Hadad?) at Damascus must have taken place later; for at the time we find that David “put governors in Damascus,” and reduced its inhabitants to a tributary condition. Possibly there may have been some rising early in the reign of Solomon; for in 2 Chronicles 8:3, we find that Solomon had to “go up against Hamath-zobah,” with which expedition the foundation of Tadmor seems to be connected. But it is probable that the establishment of an independent power in Damaseus dated only from the later days of Solomon.

And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.
(25) Beside the mischief that Hadad did.—The expression, as it stands, is curiously abrupt in its recurrence to Hadad. But the text is doubtful. (See Note on 1 Kings 11:21-22.) If the general reading of the LXX. be taken, the substitution of Edom for Syria (Aram) (it involves but slight change in the Hebrew) must be accepted; if the explanation of Josephus is correct, then the reading of the text must stand.

And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon's servant, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king.
(26) Jeroboam the son of Nebat.—The life and character of Jeroboam are given in considerable detail in the history; and it is also remarkable that in some of the MSS. of the LXX. we find inserted after 1 Kings 12:24 an independent account of his early history (see Note at the end of the chapter), generally of inferior authority, and having several suspicious features, but perhaps preserving some genuine details. As the great rebel against the House of David, the leader of the revolution which divided Israel and destroyed its greatness, the introducer of the idolatry of the temples of Dan and Bethel, and the corrupter of the worship of Jehovah in deference to an astute worldly policy, he stands out in a vividness of portraiture unapproached, till we come to the history of Ahab at the close of the book.

An Ephrathite of Zereda.—The word “Ephrathite,” which mostly means an inhabitant of Ephrata or Bethlehem, is here (as in 1 Samuel 1:1) simply another form of the name Ephraimite. Zereda is mostly supposed to be Zarthan (see 7:46 and 2 Chronicles 4:17), a town of Ephraim in the Jordan valley. The Vatican MS. of the LXX., by a slight change in the Hebrew, reads Sarira, which is probably a rendering of Zererah or Zererath (Judges 7:22), and, in the additional record noticed above, makes it a strong fortified place in Mount Ephraim.

The son of a widow woman.—This phrase, added to the phrase “Solomon’s servant,” is evidently designed to mark the utterly dependent condition from which Solomon’s favour raised the future rebel.

And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breaches of the city of David his father.
(27) Solomon built Millo.—See 1 Kings 9:15; 1 Kings 9:24. This was apparently after he had built the Temple and the palace, some twenty years after his accession, when the delight in magnificence of building apparently grew upon him, and with it the burdens of the people.

And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.
(28) A mighty man of valour.—The phrase, like the “mighty valiant man,” applied to the young David (1 Samuel 16:18), has nothing to do with war, but simply signifies “strong and capable.”

The charge (or in margin “the burden”), is, of course, the taskwork assigned to the levy from the tribe of Ephraim (and possibly Manasseh with it). It is clear from this that the levy for the Temple—perhaps originally exceptional—had served as a precedent for future burdens, not on the subject races only, as at first (1 Kings 9:21-22), but on the Israelites also. The LXX. addition makes Jeroboam build for Solomon “Sarira in Mount Ephraim” also.

Ahijah the Shilonite.—In the person of Ahijah, prophecy emerges from the abeyance, which seems to overshadow it during the greatness of the monarchy. Even in David’s old age, the prophet Nathan himself appears chiefly as a mere counsellor and servant of the king (see 1 Kings 1), and from the day of his coronation of Solomon we hear nothing of any prophetic action. Solomon himself receives the visions of the Lord (1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 3:2); upon him, as the Wise Man, rests the special inspiration of God; at the consecration of the Temple he alone is prominent, as the representative and the teacher of the people. Now, however, we find in Ahijah the first of the line of prophets, who resumed a paramount influence like that of Samuel or Nathan, protecting the spirituality of the land and the worship of God, and demanding both from king and people submission to the authority of the Lord Jehovah.

And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field:
And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces:
(30) Rent it in twelve pieces.—The use of symbolical acts is frequent in subsequent prophecy (especially see Jeremiah 13:1; Jeremiah 19:1; Jeremiah 27:2; Ezekiel 4, 5, Ezekiel 12:1-7; Ezekiel 24:3; Ezekiel 24:15), often alternating with symbolical visions and symbolical parables or allegories. The object is, of course, to arrest attention, and call out the inquiry (Ezekiel 24:19): “Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us?” Ahijah’s rending of his own new garment is used, like Saul’s rending of Samuel’s mantle (1 Samuel 15:27-28), to symbolise the rending away of the kingdom. (See 1 Kings 11:11-13.)

And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee:
(31, 39) Take thee ten pieces.—The message delivered by Ahijah first repeats exactly the former warning to Solomon (1 Kings 11:9-13), marking, by the two reserved pieces of the garment, the duality of the “one tribe” reserved for the house of David; next, it conveys to Jeroboam a promise like that given to David (so far as it was a temporal promise), “to build thee a sure house, as I built for David,” on condition of the obedience which David, with all his weakness and sin, had shown, and from which Solomon, in spite of all his wisdom, had fallen away; and lastly, declares, in accordance with the famous declaration of 2 Samuel 7:14-16, that sin in the house of David should bring with it severe chastisement, but not final rejection. In estimating the “sin of Jeroboam,” the existence of this promise of security and blessing to his kingdom must be always taken into consideration.

(But he shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:)
Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.
Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes:
But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.
And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.
And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel.
And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.
And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever.
Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
(40) Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam.—The knowledge of the promise in itself would be sufficient to excite the jealousy of the old king, and incite him to endeavour to falsify it by the death of Jeroboam. But from 1 Kings 11:26 it may be inferred that Jeroboam, characteristically enough, had not patience to wait for its fulfilment, and that he sought in some way by overt act to clutch, or prepare to clutch, at royalty. The addition to the LXX. describes him, before his flight into Egypt, as collecting three hundred chariots, and assuming royal pretensions, taking advantage of his presidency over “the house of Joseph.”

Shishak king of Egypt.—The Shishak of the Old Testament is certainly to be identified with the Sheshenk of the Egyptian monuments, the Sesonchis or Sesonchosis of the Greek historians; and the identification is an important point in the Biblical chronology, for the accession of Sheshenk is fixed by the Egyptian traditions at about B.C. 980. It is a curious proof of historical accuracy that the generic name Pharaoh is not given to Shishak here. For it appears that he was not of the old royal line, but the founder of a new dynasty (the 23rd), called the Bubastite dynasty, in which several names are believed to have a Semitic origin, arguing foreign extraction; and in one genealogical table his ancestors appear not to have been of royal rank. It seems that he united (perhaps by marriage) the lines of the two dynasties which previously ruled feebly in Upper and Lower Egypt, and so inaugurated a new era of prosperity and conquest. His invasion of Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (see 1 Kings 14:25) is chronicled in the monuments as belonging to the twentieth year of his own reign. He was, therefore, king for the last fifteen years of Solomon’s reign; and his favourable reception of the rebel Jeroboam indicates a natural change of attitude towards the Israelite power. The LXX. addition describes Jeroboam (in a passage clearly suggested by what is recorded in 1 Kings 11:19-20 about Hadad) as receiving from Shishak “Ano, the elder sister of Thekemina (Tahpenes), his queen,” which involves an anachronism, for Tahpenes belonged to an earlier Pharaoh. But the whole history implies a close political alliance of Shishak with Jeroboam, both as an exile and as a king.

And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?
(41) The book of the acts of Solomon.—In 2 Chronicles 9:29 the acts of Solomon are said to be “written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” The prophets appear here in the character of annalists. The book of Nathan presumably contained only the history of the early years; that of Ahijah may have well covered most of the later reign; and the visions of Iddo “could but have dealt incidentally with the closing acts of Solomon. The narrative as given in the Book of Kings is evidently a compilation drawn from various sources, differing in various parts, both in style and in degree of detail. Thus the account of the Temple building and dedication evidently comes from some temple record; and the references to Solomon’s territory, and the arrangements of his kingdom, look like notes drawn from official archives.

And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years.
(42) Forty years.—The reign of Solomon was thus of the same length as that of his father. (See 1 Kings 2:11.) The coincidence is curious; but the accurate historical character of the whole narrative forbids the idea that the numbers given are merely round numbers, signifying long duration. Josephus gives eighty years—either by error in his Hebrew text, or perhaps by confusing together the duration of the two reigns.

NOTE.—The insertion in the LXX. version, found in the Vatican MS. after 1 Kings 12:24, runs as follows :—

“And there was a man of Mount Ephraim, a servant of Solomon, and his name was Jeroboam; and his mother’s name was Sarira, a woman who was a harlot. And Solomon made him taskmaster [literally, “master of the staff,” or “scourge”] over the burdens [forced labours] of the house of Joseph; and he built for Solomon Sarira, which is in Mount Ephraim; and he had three hundred chariots. He it was who built the citadel [the “Millo”], by the labours of the house of Ephraim, and completed the fortification of the city of David. And he was exalting himself to seek the kingdom. And Solomon sought to put him to death; so he feared, and stole away to Sousakim [Shishak], king of Egypt, and was with him till the death of Solomon. And Jeroboam heard in Egypt that Solomon was dead, and he spake in the ears of Sousakim, king of Egypt, saying, Send me away, and I will go back to my own land. And Sousakim said to him, Ask of me a request, and I will give it thee. And he gave to Jeroboam Ano, the elder sister of his own wife Thekemina [Tahpenes] to be his wife. She was great among the daughters of the king, and bare to Jeroboam Abias [Abijah] his son. And Jeroboam said to Sousakim, Send me really away, and I will go back. And Jeroboam went forth from Egypt, and came to the land of Sarira, in Mount Ephraim, and there gathered together to him the whole strength of Ephraim. And Jeroboam built there a fortress.”

Then follows, with variations of detail, the story of the sickness of Abijah, the visit of Jeroboam’s wife to Ahijah, and the message of judgment; corresponding to 1 Kings 14:1-18. The narrative then continues thus:—

“ And Jeroboam went his way to Shechem, in Mount Ephraim, and gathered together there the tribes of Israel; and Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, went up there. And the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, the Enlamite, saying. Take to thyself a new garment, which has never been in water, and tear it in ten pieces; and thou shalt give them to Jeroboam, and shalt say to him, Take thee ten pieces, to clothe thyself therewith. And Jeroboam took them; and Shemaiah said, These things saith the Lord, signifying the ten tribes of Israel.”

The whole concludes with an account, given with some characteristic variations, of the remonstrance with Rehoboam, the rebellion, and the prohibition by Shemaiah of the intended attack of Rehoboam, corresponding to 1 Kings 12:1-24.

This half-independent version of the history is interesting, but obviously far inferior in authority to the Hebrew text. The incidents fit less naturally into each other; the warning of Ahijah as to the destruction of the house of Jeroboam is obviously out of place; and by the ascription to Shemaiah of the prophecy of Jeroboam’s royalty, the striking coincidence of the authorship of the two predictions of prosperity and disaster is lost. The record of Shishak’s intercourse with Jeroboam is apparently imitated from the history of Hadad at the court of the earlier Pharaoh; and the circumstances of Jeroboam’s assumption of royal pretensions are improbable. Josephus, moreover, ignores this version of the story altogether; nor is it found in any other version. Its origin is unknown, and its growth curious enough. But it does not seem to throw much fresh light on the history.

And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.
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