Dave Burnette's Commentary

1 Kings Chapter 12

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Jeremiah
Date Penned: (586 BC)
Overview: A History of the Kings of Israel and Judah (c 1-22)
Theme: The Divided Kingdom (c 12-22)
Message: Rebellion Against Rehoboam (v 1-33)

1 Kings 12 Commentary 

(12:1) Rehoboam Travels to Shechem - Rehoboam traveled to Shechem, about 35 miles north of Jerusalem, expecting to be crowned as king. It would have been customary to anoint the new king in Jerusalem, the capital city, but Rehoboam saw trouble brewing with Jeroboam, so he went north to try to maintain good relations with the northern tribes. He probably chose Shechem because it was an ancient location for making covenants (Joshua 24:1). When the kingdom divided, Shechem became the capital of the northern kingdom for a short time (1 Kings 12:25).

(12:6-14) Rehoboam Fails to Follow Advice - Rehoboam asked for advice, but he didn't carefully evaluate what he was told. If he had, he would have realized that the advice offered by the elders was wiser than that of his peers. To evaluate advice, consider whether it is realistic, workable, and consistent with biblical principles. Determine if the results of following the advice will be fair, make improvements, and give a positive solution or direction. Seek counsel from those who are more experienced and wiser. Advice is helpful only if it is consistent with God's standards.

(12:15-19) A Failure to Serve the People - Jeroboam and Rehoboam did what was good for themselves, not what was good for their people. Rehoboam was harsh and did not listen to the people's demands; Jeroboam established new places of worship to keep his people from traveling to Jerusalem, Rehoboam's capital (12:26-28). Both actions backfired. Rehoboam's move divided the nation, and Jeroboam's turned the people from God. Good leaders put the best interests of their followers above their own. Making decisions only to suit your own interests will backfire and cause you to lose more than if you had kept the welfare of others in mind.

(12:20) A Division of the Kingdom - This marks the beginning of the division of the kingdom that lasted for centuries. Ten of Israel's 12 tribes followed Jeroboam and called their new nation Israel (the northern kingdom. The other two tribes remained loyal to Rehoboam and called their nation Judah (the southern kingdom). The kingdom did not split overnight. It was already dividing as early as the days of the judges because of tribal jealousies, especially between Ephraim, the most influential tribe of the north, and Judah, the chief tribe of the south.

Before the days of Saul and David, the religious center of Israel was located, for the most part, in the territory of Ephraim. When Solomon built the temple, Jerusalem became the religious center of Israel. This eventually brought tribal rivalries to the breaking point. (For more information on tribal jealousies and how they affected Israel, see Judges 12:1-6; 2 Samuel 2:4-32; 19:41-43.)

(12:28-29) A Failure to Follow the Lord - Calves were used as idols to symbolize fertility and strength. The pagan gods of the Canaanites were often depicted as standing on calves or bulls. Jeroboam shrewdly placed the gold calves in Bethel and Dan, strategic locations. Bethel was just ten miles north of Jerusalem on the main road, enticing the citizens from the north to stop there for worship instead of traveling the rest of the way to Jerusalem. Dan was the northernmost city in Israel, so people living in the north, far from Jerusalem, were attracted to its convenient location. As leader of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam wanted to establish his own worship centers; otherwise his people would make regular trips to Jerusalem, and his authority would be undermined. Soon this substitute religion had little in common with true faith in God.

(12:28) Jeroboam Leads The People Astray - All Hebrew men were required to travel to the temple three times each year (Deuteronomy 16:16), but Jeroboam set up his own worship centers and told his people it was too much trouble to travel all the way to Jerusalem. Those who obeyed Jeroboam were disobeying God. Some ideas, though practical, may include suggestions that lead you away from God. Don't let anyone talk you out of doing what is right by telling you that doing good isn't worth the effort. Do what God wants, no matter what the cost in time, energy, reputation, or resources.

(12:30) A Failure to Learn from the Past - Jeroboam and his advisers did not learn from Israel's previous disaster with a gold calf (Exodus 32). Perhaps they were ignorant of Scripture, or maybe they knew about the event and decided to ignore it. One reason we study the Bible is to learn how God has acted in history and then apply what we learn to our lives. If we learn from the past, we will avoid disaster by not repeating the mistakes of others (Isaiah 42:23; 1 Corinthians 10:11).

(12:32-33) A Falling Away - Early in Israel's history, the city of Bethel was a symbol of commitment to God because Jacob had dedicated himself to God there (Genesis 28:16-22). But Jeroboam turned the city into Israel's chief religious center, intending it to compete with Jerusalem. Bethel's religion, however, centered on an idol, and this led to Israel's eventual downfall. Bethel developed a reputation as a wicked and idolatrous city. The prophets Hosea and Amos recognized the sins of Bethel and condemned the city for its people's godless ways (Hosea 4:15-17; 10:8; Amos 5:4-6).


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Make Decisions Based on God's Word

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Today we continue in the book of 1 Kings with Chapter 12.  In our text, we see a divided kingdom as the northern tribes rebel against Rehoboam. We see in a divided Israel that the leaders, Jeroboam and Rehoboam, did what was good for themselves and not what was good for their people. As a result, the Lord's Presence was not with them, and both of their plans backfired. In making an application, we see that when we are in a place of spiritual leadership, we are responsible for making decisions based on God's instruction. Just because we have power, we cannot ignore the Word of God. Recently an example of this principle was in a court case where the Pastor of a Church ignored the Word of God and made decisions for his selfish motives. The result was a situation that backfired on him, and he lost everything. How about you? Do you make decisions based on God's Word, or do you make decisions based on your position or power? Let us learn from our text today and this division of Israel to remember to make decisions based upon the Word of God.


1 Kings 12

1 Kings 12

 1And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.

 2And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;)

 3That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

 4Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

 5And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.

 6And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

 7And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.

 8But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

 9And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

 10And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.

 11And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

 12So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.

 13And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;

 14And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

 15Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

 16So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.

 17But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.

 18Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.

 19So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

 20And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

 21And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.

 22But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,

 23Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying,

 24Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.

 25Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.

 26And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

 27If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.

 28Whereupon 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.

 29And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

 30And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

 31And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.

 32And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

 33So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.