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LESSON II. — JULY 12.
KINGDOM OF ISRAEL.
PARALLEL ACCOUNT. — 2 Chron., chaps. 11 and 12.
CONTEMPORARY EVENTS. – During Jeroboam's reign in Israel, Rehoboam and his son Abijam reigned in Judah, and Asa began his reign. For three years Rehoboam busied himself with fortifying his kingdom, and left off his wild and wicked ways (2 Chron. II:17). Many of the most religious of the Israelites, and the Levites all through the kingdom of Jeroboam, left his kingdom on account of his idolatries, and went to Judah (2 Chron. 11:13-16). Thus Rehoboam and his kingdom were strengthened, and he had another opportunity to be a good and prosperous king. But after three years he returned to his old habits, and his heathen blood prevailed. It is again mentioned that his mother was an Ammonitess, as if to account for his career. In his fifth year, for his punishment, Shishak, king of Egypt, and friend of Jeroboam, invaded Judah, and took away the temple treasures and the thousand shields of gold which Solomon had made. The expeditions of this king are sculptured on the wall of the great temple of El Karnak, in Egypt, Shishak being depicted as leading to the god a train of captives, with shields on their breasts containing the names of their respective nations. Amongst these the student can readily recognize certain well-known Scripture names, including the kingdom of Judah. The figure of the king, as large as life, surrounded by inscriptions as legible as if they were done but yesterday (their real age being nearly 3000 years), presents a sight of no ordinary interest to the Biblical student. — Green. The rest of Rehoboam's reign appears to have been uneventful.
PRONUNCIATIONS. – Abi jăm; Bethel; Din; Ephraim; Jerõbo?ăm; Levi; Na’dăb; Pềnuel; Rehöbooăm; She chẽm (= she'kẽm); Shi'shăk.
INTRODUCTION. In our last lesson we saw the kingdom of Israel divided. Ten tribes left Rehoboam, and chose Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, for their king. Rehoboam first tested the sincerity of those who forsook him by sending the chief tribute gatherer to collect their taxes, but the Israelites stoned him to death. Then the king knew that they did not intend to return to their allegiance. Immediately he assembled his army of 180,000 soldiers to compel them to return. But God, through his prophet, forbade him to war against his brethren.' Thus the new kingdom was established, whose beginnings we are to study to-day.
25. Then Jeroboam 1 built Shechem in Mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built 2 Penuel.
1 Judges 9. ? Judges 8:17.
EXPLANATORY. I. Bright Prospects for the New Kingdom. (1) Jeroboam was elected king of the ten tribes. He was the choice of the people. (2) He was a man of ability, accustomed to manage affairs, familiar with the plans pursued by Solomon. (3) God had made him special promises that he would bless him and strengthen his kingdom, on condition that he would serve and obey him. (4) He had a large, prosperous, wealthy people. He had all he needed for great success.
II. Worldly Policy, — Doing Evil that Good may Come. — Vers, 25-27. The new king took measures to secure his position. These were both external and internal. The external means were the erection of fortresses; the internal, the provision of new sanctuaries, priests, and ordinances. -- Pulpit Com.
25. Then Jeroboam built. Enlarged, built up into a capital, with the palaces and public buildings needful. Shechem. See last lesson. This place was specially adapted
26. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David :
27. If this people I 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.
28. Whereupon the king took counsel, and 2 made two calves of gold, and said unto tņem, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem : 3 behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
1 Deut. 12: 5, 6. 2 Kings 10:29; 17:16. Ex. 32: 4, 8. for the capital. (1) It was centrally located, and (2) in the midst of his own tribe, which (3) was also the most powerful of the ten tribes. (4) It was not only the chief town of Ephraim, but the most ancient sanctuary of Israel in Palestine. Mount Ephraim. A name applied to the hill country of Ephraim, extending from Bethel to the plains of Jezreel. It is nearly equidistant from the northern and southern boundary of the whole country, and is the richest and most beautiful part of the land. - Stanley. And dwelt therein. As his capital. And went out from thence. That is, when he had secured one fortified city, he extended his fortifications, and sent his workmen to build another. Penuel (face of God), so called from the incident of Gen. 32: 24-32, was about 20 miles east of the Jordan, on the stream Jabbok. It was on the great caravan road, which led through Gilead to Damascus, and thence past Palmyra, and along the Euphrates to Mesopotamia. It was probably on account of its situation that Jeroboam fortified it, to defend his sovereignty over Gilead against hostile attacks from the north-east and east. — Keil. And also to secure the territory beyond Jordan against any attacks from Judah. -- Lange.
26. Jeroboam said in his heart. The expression implies deep thought, and profound, far-sighted consideration. — Pulpit Com.
27. If this people go up (to Jerusalem) to do sacrifice. His keen eye saw at once that the religious element in man's nature is a great power to be taken into account in politics. – Cowles. Humanly speaking, Jeroboam's fear was, it must be confessed, well-founded. If Jerusalem continued to be the centre of religious unity, if the Levites from all parts of Palestine went up in their turns to conduct the temple service, and if the people continued to flock to the Holy Place three times a year, as the law commanded them, there could not but have been great danger of a reaction setting in, and a desire for reunion manifesting itself. His measures for counteracting the tendency to reunion with Judah were cleverly devised, and proved him “ wise in his generation." The later history shows that they were effectual. Like all measures which involve a dereliction of principle, they brought certain evils in their train, and they drew down a Divine judgment on himself which he had not faith enough to anticipate. But they fully secured the object at which he aimed. They prevented all healing of the breach between the two kingdoms. They made the separation final. - Cook. With one religion, one sanctuary, one priesthood, there could not long be two kingdoms. — Pulpit Com. They shall kill me. Jeroboam supposes that his own subjects would put him to death in case they desired a reconciliation with Rehoboam, at once to facilitate the re-establishment of a single kingdom, and to obtain favor with the legitimate monarch. — Cook. He who obtains rulership by the path of rebellion must always be in fear and anxiety lest he lose it again in the same way, for the populace which to-day cries Hosanna, will, on the morrow, shout crucify, crucify! — Lange.
THE POLICY WAS FALSE. (1) By it he forfeited the favor and promise of God (1 Kings II: 38). (2) He cultivated irreligion among his people, and thus led to their moral deterioration. (3) While his policy was temporarily successful, it brought many evils in its train. (4) God could have secured the end Jeroboam desired in many different ways, — by intermarriage, or by securing the harmony of two friendly kingdoms, or in ways we cannot now conceive. Worldly policy that forsakes morality and God is always false, no matter how successful it may seem at first. - P.
III. Idolatry Established, — the Result of the False Policy. – Vers. 28-33.
(1) By New SYMBOLS OF WORSHIP. 28. Whereupon the king took counsel. With his counsellors, or the heads of the nation who had helped him to the throne. – Keil. He then made them partakers with him. And made two calves of gold. Not calves like Aaron's (Ex. 32: 2). For Jeroboam could hardly be so short-sighted and unwise as delib
29. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in ? Dan.
1 Gen. 28: 19. Hos. 4:15. Judges 18:29.
erately to re-introduce a worship which had provoked the "fierce wrath” of God, and had nearly resulted in the extermination of the Jewish race. And it is as little likely that the worship of the calves was derived from the worship of Apis, as practised at Memphis, or of “ Mnevis, the sacred calf of Heliopolis" (Stanley), though with both of these Jeroboam had recently been in contact. It would have been but a sorry recommendation in the eyes of Israel that the first act of the new king should be to introduce the hateful idolatry of Egypt into the land. There can be little doubt, consequently, that the “calves” were imitations of the colossal cherubim of Solomon's temple, in which the ox or calf was probably the principal form (1 Kings 6:23). — Pulpit Com. The cherubim also guarded the mercy. seat over the ark of the covenant. In the description of the cherubim in Ezek, 1:10 (comp. 10:1, 20), we find that one of the faces had the form of the ox. That this is the true view appears (a) from the fact that the Israelites would most easily be led to adopt as their own, objects of worship like those they were accustomed to in Jerusalem. (6) The whole history of Israel shows that Jeroboam did not intend to introduce idolatry or polytheism. — Lange. It appears from Ex. 32: 4, 5 and 1 Kings 22: 5, 6 that, in worshipping the calf, the Israelites did not regard themselves as worshipping the image or the Egyptian god, but professed to be worshipping Jehovah by means of the symbol. The calf-worship was not, therefore, wholly repugnant to devout worshippers of the true God. - Todd. But this visible representation was in direct opposition to the fundamental Mosaic law, which just as expressly forbids the making an image of Jehovah as the worshipping of other gods beside liim (Ex. 20:3, 4). – Lange. Such worship almost certainly leads to idolatry. Of gold. Hardly of solid gold. Possibly of wood covered with gold plates, i.e., similar to the cherubim (1 Kings 6: 23-28); probably of molten brass (see i Kings 14:9, and cf. Psa. 106: 19) overlaid with gold; such images, in fact, as are described in Isa. 40:19. It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. The exact meaning of the original here is a little doubtful, but the bearing of the passage is clear. Jeroboam appeals to the people's love of ease, recalling to their thoughts the toil and trouble of constant journeys to Jerusalem, which they would now be spared. - Cook. It must be rendered here, “ It is enough," i.e., “you have gone long enough to a city which only owes its present position to the ambition of the tribe of Judah, and which is a standing testimony to your own inferiority; henceforth desist." Pulpit Com. Behold thy gods, etc. This is no new religion. But these are the symbols of the God who has been your God from the first. Jeroboam would have spelled the word with a capital G.
(2) BY NEW SANCTUARIES. 29. And he set the one in Beth-el, etc. Bethel was on the southern, and Dan on the northern, boundary of the kingdom. There were two reasons for selecting these places. (a) Their situation explains why Jeroboam chose them. He wished to make things casy for the people; the northern tribes could readily reach one place of worship, and the southern tribes the other, and they would so much the sooner become habituated to the new regulation. Bethel, being near to Jerusalem, would intercept any who might be on their way there, and none of the people would live as near to Jerusalem as to Bethel. — Lange. (6) The other reason for the choice was that they were historic, familiar, accustomed places of worship. Beth-el. 12 miles north of Jerusalem; = “ house of God." Here Abraham built an altar (Gen. 12:8); here Jacob saw his vision, and named the place Beth-el (Gen. 28: 11-19); here Samuel judged Israel (1 Sam. 7:16). And the other put he in Dan. This was the most northern point in the kingdom; hence the proverbial phrase, “ from Dan to Beersheba.” The place referred to, however, is not the city of that name, which was of late date, but a natural and very remarkable cavern, about four miles from the city of Dan, in one of the ridges at the base of Mt. Hermon. It is from the mouth of this cavern at the foot of a precipice that the Jordan issues, a goodsized river at its birth. The mouth of the cavern is now choked up with rubbish, but the cave is described by ancient writers as very wonderful, vast in extent, having immense precipices within, and a body of motionless and fathomless water. This place was well known, even in the days of Abraham (Gen. 14:14). It had, in fact, long been a heathen sanctuary. A colony of Phænicians settled near, in the city afterward called Dan (Judg. 18:28, 29). had set up in this cave the worship of the Phænician god Adonis, who was supposed to be a kind of monster, half man and half goat, who delighted in woods and caves." "He was the same as the Greek god Pan. When the children of Dan destroyed this Phænician colony and settled there (Judg. 18), it became their place of worship. It was therefore sacred
Lev. 23:33, 34
30. And this thing became la sin; for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
31.' And he made a 2 house of high places, 3 and made priests of the lowest of the people which were not of the sons of Levi.
32. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto 4 the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made : 5 and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made.
33. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth ? Kings 13:34. 2 Kings 17:2?;non Nikings 13:34. & Amose
3 Num. 3: 10. Ezek. 44:7, 8. from ancient associations, both heathen and Israelitish, as well as convenient geographically for all the northern tribes. — Todd.
30. And this thing became a sin. (1) It was sinful in itself, breaking the second commandment. (2) It led to other sins, even to idolatry, breaking also the first commandment. (3) It led to the obscene rites often practised at idol shrines. (4) It cherished and strengthened the division of the kingdoms. (5) It degraded the service of God. For the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. It is better to connect the phrase "even unto Dan” with the word "people.” The people even unto Dan — that is, the whole people — went to worship before the one; that is, before the one or the other. – Todd.
31. He made an house of high places. That is to say, "he built a temple or sanctuary at each of the two cities where the calves were set up." - Cook. “A house of high places” means a place of worship, which were originally built on high places, and in groves upon hill-tops, and then came to mean any idolatrous shrine. Is it not more probable that a chapel or sanctuary already existed at Dan, where an irregular priesthood had ministered for more than four hundred years? This verse would then refer exclusively to Jeroboam's procedure at Bethel (see next verse). There he built a temple and ordained a number of priests, but Dan had both already (Jud. 18:30, 31). — Pulpit Com.
(3) BY A NEW PRIESTHOOD. And made priests of the lowest of the people. This rendering (which our translators adopted from Luther) is now regarded by most critics as incorrect. Literally, the Hebrew is, " from the ends of the people," which appears to mean “ from all ranks of the people.” Jeroboam could have no motive for specially selecting persons of low condition, since such a choice would only have brought contempt upon his system. - Cook. Which were not of the sons of Levi. The priestly tribe. Jeroboam would, doubtless, have been only too glad to have retained the services of the Levitical priests, but they went over in a body to Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11:13). The statement of ver. 14, that “ Jeroboam and his sons” had “ cast them out," suggests that they had refused to take part in his new cult, and that thereupon he banished them, and no doubt confiscated their possessions. — Pulpit Com.
(4) BY NEW FESTIVALS. 32. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah. That is, the Feast of Tabernacles, which was held on the fifteenth of the seventh month (cf. chap. 8:2). This was the great feast of the year, and, as the feast of harvest or ingathering, it was the most joyous. Had Jeroboam provided no counter attraction to this great festive gathering in Judah, he might have found it a formidable temptation to his subjects. — Pulpit Com. It may also have been a feast of dedication, held at the same time with Tabernacles, after the example of Solomon (1 Kings 8:2). – Cook. In the eighth month. The object of Jeroboam in changing the month, and yet keeping the day of the month, is not clear. It has been suggested that the change was made on account of the later vintage of the more northern regions. — Ewald, Stanley. He offered upon the altar. Literally," he went up upon the altar"; ascended it; altars requiring to be ascended either by steps or by an inclined plane (see Ex. 20: 26). The expression shows that Jeroboam himself officiated as priest. — Cook. The king himself inaugurated the new worship, and honored his new pricsthood by his own presence. So did he in Beth-el. Not "as he had done in Dan, so did he in Bethel” (Patrick), but rather, “he did this — held this feast and offered this sacrifice — at Bethel, not at Dan.” — Cook. And he placed in Beth-el. Dan being already provided with its priesthood.
33. So he offered, etc. This verse is a recapitulation of what has gone before. day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had 1 devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel : and he offered upon the altar, 2 and burnt incense.
1 Num. 15:39. ? 1 Kings 13:1. Which he had devised of his own heart. The entire system of Jeroboam receives its condemnation in these words. His main fault was that he left a ritual and a worship where all was divinely authorized, for ceremonies and services which were wholly of his own devising. Not being a prophet, he had no authority to introduce religious innovations. He was placed in difficult circumstances, but he met them with the arts of a politician, not with the single-mindedness of a saint. His arrangements had a certain cleverness, but they were not really wise measures. - Cook.
IV. The Bright Prospects of the Kingdom Blasted by the Worldly Wise Policy. (1) To him personally. In the very midst of the ceremony a man of God, sent by the word of Jehovah out of Judah, confronted Jeroboam at his altar. The enraged king called on his guards to seize the prophet, and put out his own hand to lay hold of him; but the hand was withered and fell helpless, and an earthquake rent the altar. On the prophet's prayer, entreated by the king, his hand was restored. — Smith. (2) It left a blot upon his name. He is ever after branded as the man who made Israel to sin. (3) His kingly line was short, ending with his son. (4) The best and most religious people left his kingdom. The preserving salt was taken away. The departure of so large a body of learned and religious persons and teachers, and of the numerous right-minded and conscientious persons who followed them, added materially to the fixed population, and more to the moral strength and character of the southern kingdom, while it in the same degree weakened that of Jeroboam. — Kitto. (5) Irreligion and idolatry and immorality prevailed in the kingdom. (6) The final result was the destruction of the nation one hundred years before the captivity of Judah.
PRACTICAL. 1. God gives us many bright prospects and blessed hopes for this life and for that to come.
2. We can receive the fulfilment of them only on condition of obedience to God. 3. Worldly policy, that disobeys God, always proves folly in the end.
4. How often we forget, when God has granted to us the desire of our hearts, to walk in his ways.
5. Religion, with its accompanying education and morality, is the surest safeguard of any people.
6. One of our great dangers is that of seeking good ends in bad ways, — seeking to fulfil to ourselves God's promises, without waiting for his way of bringing them to pass.
7. The very plans wicked men rely on for prosperity and wealth doom them to disappointment and ruin.
8. Wrong-doing puts an everlasting blot upon our name.
9. It has been remarked that the two tribes in whose inheritance the calves stood are not found among the number of the sealed in Revelation. The names of Ephraim and Dan are missing from that list. — Waller.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. Have a BRIEF REVIEW of the last lesson, so as to enter upon this with a clear understanding of the circumstances.
By questioning the class, present a vivid picture of Jeroboam and his kingdom as they stood upon the threshold of their career. What bright prospects were before them! A bold, free, energetic, prosperous people; a talented and experienced king; promises of success from God; every reason to hope for a noble career.
SUBJECT, — BRIGHT HOPES BLASTED BY DISOBEDIENCE.
I. THEY WERE DESTROYED BY A WORLDIY POLICY which distrusted God. Jeroboam went to work to bring about the things promised by a course which forfeited the promise itself.
Illustration. Jacob's course in obtaining the birthright blessing by fraud. It had been promised him, and instead of trusting God to fulfil this promise in his own way, he robbed Esau of it, fearing that in no other way could he obtain it. He obtained it, but a curse with it was the fruit of his method of obtaining it, instead of the unalloyed blessing God had for him.