JUDAH SINKS INTO PAGAN IDOLATRY UNDER REHOBOAM AND SURRENDERS HER WEALTH TO SHISHAK FROM EGYPT
The narrator is now alternating between examining the reign of each king of the Northern Kingdom (having just covered Jeroboam) and each king of the Southern Kingdom (here summarizing Rehoboam). It is amazing to witness how quickly Judah spirals down into such a pitiful condition. Despite maintaining the focal point of the prescribed worship system revolving around Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the people adopt the pagan practices of their surrounding neighbors. God’s blessing of material prosperity as symbolized in the plentitude of gold is now plundered by the enemy to the south that represents the ungodly world system that is opposed to the God of Israel.
Iain Provan: Rehoboam’s story, begun in chapter 12, has been delayed until Jeroboam’s is over. We now return to find out what has happened in Judah in the meantime, and we shall, in fact, hear of three kings of Judah (1 Kgs. 14:21–15:24) before we are told again of Jeroboam’s son Nadab (1 Kgs. 15:25–32). The way in which their story is told before we read of his will make quite apparent the different ways the kings of Israel and Judah are being treated by God. . .
Yet what is noticeable in this brief account of Rehoboam’s reign is that there is no prophetic oracle about the end of David’s house to match the oracle of 14:7–16 about the end of Jeroboam’s. . . Judah will, in fact, have a stable dynasty throughout the period when Israel is “like a reed swaying in the water”; and Asa, the descendant of two wicked Judean kings, will be sitting comfortably on the Judean throne at the very point when Nadab, the descendant of one wicked Israelite king, loses the Israelite throne.
I. (:21-24) PAGAN PRACTICES OF JUDAH UNDER REIGN OF REHOBOAM
A. (:21) Selected Touchpoints of Rehoboam’s Reign
1. Who was His Father?
“Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon”
2. Which Kingdom?
“reigned in Judah.”
3. How Old Was He?
“Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king,”
4. How Long Did He Reign?
“and he reigned seventeen years”
5. What was the Significance of His Capital City?
“in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen
from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there.”
6. Who Was His Mother?
“And his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess.”
Constable: quoting Rice — The narrator introduces a new format and style at this point that enables him to state the essence of a king’s reign with an economy of words. The introduction and conclusion of the account of each reign conform to a fixed pattern with only slight variations. The following information is regularly given in the introduction to the reigns of the kings of Judah:
(1) date of beginning of reign,
(2) age at beginning of reign (not noted consistently at first),
(3) length and place of reign,
(4) name of the queen mother, and
(5) a theological evaluation.
The pattern for the Israelite kings is the same except that their ages and the names of their mothers are not given. The reign of each king, both Judahite and Israelite, is normally concluded in this manner:
(1) summary of reign and referral to the royal annals for additional information,
(2) notice of death and place of burial, and
(3) name of successor.
William Barnes: Synchronistic History of the Early Divided Monarchy (1 Kgs 14:21–16:34) — We now move into several chapters featuring the “leapfrog” treatment of the northern and southern kings, with their order of presentation apparently based solely on chronological factors. . . Two main observations are made about Rehoboam’s time as king: The people sadly grew even more heterodox in their worship (14:22–25); and King Shishak attacked Jerusalem early in Rehoboam’s reign, ransacking the treasuries of palace and Temple, and, in particular, removing Solomon’s ceremonial gold shields from the palace (14:25–28; cf. 10:16–17).
Peter Pett: And his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess. With rare exceptions the introductory formulae for the kings of Judah regularly refer to the name of the king’s mother, thus confirming that the king’s blood line was genuine. It emphasised that he was born of a known wife of the previous Davidic king. Naamah may well have been one of the wives who led Solomon astray. She was no doubt a treaty wife. Rehoboam was thus half Ammonite.
B. (:22a) Summary Evaluation of Rehoboam’s Reign
“And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD,”
You have to check the record over in Chronicles to see that there was some good performed by Rehoboam before he fell away from the Lord.
Donald Wiseman: He began well under the influence of priests loyal to the Lord (Yahweh) who had been driven out of the north, but he later turned away from them by allowing local cult centres to develop (12:24; 2 Chr. 11:17; 12:1). The historian is not afraid to castigate the favoured house of David.
C. (:22b-24) Specific Examples of Evil in the Empire
1. (:22b) Impact of Evil = Provoking the Lord to Jealousy
“and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all
that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed.”
2. (:23) Idolatrous Practices = High Places, Sacred Pillar and Aherim
“For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars
and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree.”
August Konkel: Most notable about Rehoboam is the way he leads Judah in the sins of Canaanite worship, no less than what Jeroboam does in the north. This includes the erection of sacred stones along with the sacred poles representing Asherah, the goddess of fertility. It was legitimate to set up stones as a memorial (Gen. 28:18; 35:14), or as a witness (31:45), but it was not permissible to follow the practice of the Canaanites to use such stones for worship (Ex. 23:24). Worship “on every high hill and under every spreading tree” may be a way of referring to the domain of the deity and the associated fertility. Worst of all are the “shrine prostitutes,” a collective term that perhaps refers to both males and females. Sexual relations were part of sacrificial rites as a means of achieving fertility and prosperity (Hos. 4:14). Cult practices and prostitution were explicitly forbidden by the covenant (Deut. 23:18).
John Schultz: The idolatry, which had been introduced by Solomon’s foreign wives, began to shoot its roots deeper in the ground during Rehoboam’s reign. We do not read that Rehoboam practiced it himself, but he must not have taken any measures against it either.
3. (:24a) Immoral Religious Rites
“And there were also male cult prostitutes in the land.”
John Schultz: Since Asherah was connected to the concept of fertility, her worship involved ritual sexual practices, such as homosexual ones, that were strictly forbidden in the Mosaic Law.
4. (:24b) Identification with Pagan Practices
“They did according to all the abominations of the nations
which the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.”
Dale Ralph Davis: I think the focus on Judah collectively rather than on Rehoboam individually is deliberate. Verses 22–24 are not meant only for Rehoboam’s reign. The writer wants to give a summary of the whole trend of Judah’s kingdom, which began with Rehoboam, and of the dark end that kingdom will meet. Verses 22–24 constitute a programmatic text. As 14:15–16 depicts the tragic end of the northern kingdom, beginning with Jeroboam, its first king, so 14:22–24 relates the fatal errors of the southern kingdom, beginning with its initial king, Rehoboam. In both cases, the seeds of demise are there at the beginning. This then is not going to be a happy history that we read. The divided kingdom is a depressing story from the very first.
II. (:25-28) PLUNDERING OF JUDAH’S WEALTH BY SHISHAK FROM EGYPT
A. (:25) Power Vacuum Exploited – Invasion by Shishak as Divine Judgment
“Now it came about in the fifth year of King Rehoboam,
that Shishak the king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.”
August Konkel: One of the main events of the reign of Rehoboam is the invasion of Shoshenq I of Egypt, known to the Hebrews as Shishak (14:25–28). The division of Israel, along with internal union and peace in Egypt, provide opportunity for political and commercial exploitation. A fragmentary victory stela from Thebes (Karnak) provides a description of a border skirmish that may have been the immediate occasion for the invasion.
Peter Pett: Shishak must have chuckled with delight when he saw his protégé Jeroboam made king of Israel, and then the two countries battling with each other. He had bided his time, waiting for them to weaken each other, and now he was ready to strike. He came with massive forces and his aim was twofold, firstly to secure the trade routes for Egypt, and secondly in order to obtain booty. He would die a year later.
B. (:26) Plundering of Judah’s Treasures
“And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD
and the treasures of the king’s house,
and he took everything,
even taking all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.”
C. (:27-28) Poor Substitute for the Gold Shields
“So King Rehoboam made shields of bronze in their place, and committed them to the care of the commanders of the guard who guarded the doorway of the king’s house. 28 Then it happened as often as the king entered the house of the LORD, that the guards would carry them and would bring them back into the guards’ room.”
Dale Ralph Davis: Our passage also contains a symbolic representation of Judah’s demise. After Shishak hauled off, among other spoil, the ceremonial gold shields Solomon had made (v. 26b), we read that ‘King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them’ (v. 27a). These shields were carried by the royal guard whenever they escorted the king to the temple. Gold shields replaced by bronze. The splendor is fading. But the pomp and ceremony must continue. And if we cannot have shields of department store quality, we shall have ones of discount store variety. The show must go on. We may willingly sacrifice the pure worship of God (vv. 22–24), but we must not give up our sorry attempts to imitate the old glory with our trinkets and tinsel.
Peter Pett: The ‘glory’ of Judah had been lost because of the behaviour of the people at the high places, and the consequence was that YHWH took away its shields of gold, replacing them with shields of bronze. Its glory was thus twice adulterated. And the result was that the shields no longer needed the security of the House of the Forest of Lebanon, but were kept in the guard house.
John Schultz: Rehoboam’s substitution of gold with bronze may have been more than an indication of economic decline; it also shows a tendency to maintain a front of affluence where no substance exists to back it up. It seems that Rehoboam continued the tendency, began by his father Solomon, to keep up the outer appearance, even when there was no longer any spiritual content.
(:29-31) EPILOGUE – OVERALL SUMMARY OF REHOBOAM’S REIGN
A. (:29) Recorded Deeds of Rehoboam
“Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did,
are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?”
B. (:30) Characterization of Rehoboam’s Reign
“And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually.”
Leon Wood: It is stated that Rehoboam had continual conflict with Jeroboam (I Kings 14:30). There is no indication that this was in violent open warfare, however; in fact, this manner of conflict had been directly forbidden by God (II Chron. 11:1-4). The strife likely centered in repeated border disputes, especially involving the Benjamite area. Rehoboam felt that he needed Benjamin as a buffer zone, and Jeroboam naturally would have wanted it too. In that Benjamin does come to be listed with Judah, it follows that Rehoboam won in these disputes more often than Jeroboam.
C. (:31a) Death and Burial of Rehoboam
“And Rehoboam slept with his fathers,
and was buried with his fathers in the city of David;”
D. (:31b) Mother of Rehoboam
“and his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess.”
William Barnes: This is a curious repetition with the accession formula in 14:21b. Cogan (2001:388) takes this as an erroneous duplication, but I wonder if there is more to this notice than that. I have argued that the curious duplications of regnal formulas found in 2 Chr 21:5, 20 for Jehoram; 2 Chr 27:1, 8 for Jotham; and the familiar dual notice concerning Josiah’s 18th year (2 Kgs 22:3; 23:23, paralleled in 2 Chr 34:8; 35:19) signify in Chronicles every fifth monarch after Solomon in the Davidic king-list (see Barnes 1991:142–144). In short, repetitions are often intentional, and that may be the case here.
Peter Pett: The repetition of his mother’s name, which is unusual in Kings, was probably an indication of the author’s unhappiness with the fact that Solomon had married an Ammonitess. The Ammonites were one of the peoples excluded from becoming true worshipping Israelites (Deuteronomy 23:3), and his Ammonite wives had led him astray.
E. (:31c) Succession
“And Abijam his son became king in his place.”