1 Kings 12:4 MEANING

1 Kings 12:4
(4) We will serve thee.--It seems evident from the tone of the narrative, and especially from the absence of all resentment on the part of the king on the presentation of these conditions, that they were acting within their right; and whatever Jeroboam's designs may have been, there is no sign of any general predetermination of rebellion. The imposition of the burdens of heavy taxation and forced labour on the people was against old traditions, and even against the practice of Solomon's earlier years. (See 1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 9:20-22.) To demand a removal, or alleviation of these was perfectly compatible with a loyal willingness to "serve" the new king. The demand might naturally be suggested by Jeroboam, who, by his official position, knew well the severity of the burden.

Verse 4. - Thy father made our yoke [see for the literal sense of the word, Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3, etc.; for its tropical use, Leviticus 26:13; Deuteronomy 28:48, etc.] grievous [Heb. heavy. Was this complaint a just one? It is one which occasions us some surprise, as the reign of Solomon had not only been glorious, but the people had apparently enjoyed the greatest plenty and prosperity (1 Kings 4:20, 25; cf. 8:66). Bishop Hall, Bahr, and other writers, consequently, who see in the fact that the ten tribes had chosen Jeroboam for their mouthpiece a settled determination on their part to revolt, affirm that their grievances were purely factitious. But we must not forget that, despite the unbroken peace (see Hall, "Contempl." 2:136) and general prosperity and affluence, the people had had one burden at least to bear which is always galling and vexatious, the burden of a conscription. It is by no means certain, though it is constantly assumed, and is not in itself improbable, that the taxes and imposts had been heavy, the passages alleged in support of that view (1 Kings 10:15, 25; 1 Kings 12:4, LXX.) being quite inconclusive. But while we have no right to speak of the, enormous exactions of the late king" (Stanley), we may be perfectly sure that such an establishment as his (1 Kings 4:22, 26) and such undertakings (1 Kings 6:14, 22; 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 7; 1 Kings 9:26, 17, 18) would be extremely costly, and that their cost was not altogether defrayed by the presents of subject princes (1 Kings 4:21; cf. 10:10, 14), the profits of the king's merchants (1 Kings 10:28), or the imports of the fleet (1 Kings 5:21 [1 Kings 5:7]). But the people had certainly had to pay a more odious tribute, that of forced labour, of servile work (1 Kings 4:6, Hebr.; 5:14 [1 Kings 4:34]; cf. 1 Kings 9:21. מַס is almost always used of a tribute rendered by labour, Gesen.) It is quite true that Solomon was not the first to institute this; that David had exacted it before him (2 Samuel 20:24); that the burden was one with which all subjects of the old-world monarchies, especially in the East, were familiar; and that in this case it had been imposed with peculiar considerateness (1 Kings 5:14). But it is none the less certain, when we consider the magnitude of Solomon's undertakings, and the number of men necessarily employed in executing them, that it must have involved some hardships and created much dissatisfaction; such results are inevitable in all conscriptions. "Forced labour has been amongst the causes leading to insurrection in many ages and countries. It alienated the people of Rome from the last Tarquin; it helped to bring about the French Revolution; and it was for many years one of the principal grievances of the Russian serfs" (Rawlinson). But we may find instances of its working perhaps as more Eastern, more closely illustrative of the text amongst the Fellahin of Egypt. "According to Pliny, 360,000 men had to work 20 years long at one pyramid" (Bahr). In the construction of the great Mahmoudieh canal, by Mehemet All, over 300,000 labourers were employed. They worked under the lash, and such were the fatigues and hardships of their life that many thousands died in the space of a few months (cf., too, Exodus 1:11 sqq.; Exodus 2:23]: now therefore make thou the grievous [Heb. hard, heavy] service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter [lit., "lighten somewhat from," etc.], and we will serve thee. [Their stipulations seem reasonable enough. Bahr, who says, "We cannot admit the complaint of too hard tribute work to be well founded," and Keil, who maintains that "there cannot have been any well-grounded occasion for complaint," surely forget that both the aged counsellors (ver. 7) and also the writer of this book (vers. 13-15) manifest some degree of sympathy with the complainants.]

12:1-15 The tribes complained not to Rehoboam of his father's idolatry, and revolt from God. That which was the greatest grievance, was none to them; so careless were they in matters of religion, if they might live at case, and pay no taxes. Factious spirits will never want something to complain of. And when we see the Scripture account of Solomon's reign; the peace, wealth, and prosperity Israel then enjoyed; we cannot doubt but that their charges were false, or far beyond the truth. Rehoboam answered the people according to the counsel of the young men. Never was man more blinded by pride, and desire of arbitrary power, than which nothing is more fatal. God's counsels were hereby fulfilled. He left Rehoboam to his own folly, and hid from his eyes the things which belonged to his peace, that the kingdom might be rent from him. God serves his own wise and righteous purposes by the imprudences and sins of men. Those that lose the kingdom of heaven, throw it away, as Rehoboam, by wilfulness and folly.Thy father made our yoke grievous,.... Laid heavy taxes upon them, for the finishing of his buildings, for the maintenance of his household, for keeping such a large number of horses and chariots, and for the salaries of his officers, and for the support of his magnificent court; though they had very little reason to complain, since this was for the honour and grandeur of their nation, and they enjoyed their liberty, and lived in peace, plenty, and safety all his days; and such an abundance of riches was brought unto them by him that silver was as the stones of the street; though perhaps the taxes might be increased in the latter part of his life, for the support of his vast number of wives, and of their idolatrous worship, and for the defence of himself and kingdom against the attempts of Hadad and Rezon; but, as most interpreters observe, what they find most reason to complain of, they take no notice of, even the idolatry he had set up among them:

now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us lighter; that is, ease them of their taxes, or lessen them:

and we will serve thee; acknowledge him as their king, give him homage, and yield obedience to him.

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