THE KINGDOM OF GOD MUST ADDRESS ITS VULNERABILITIES BY TAKING APPROPRIATE MILITARY, RELIGIOUS, FAMILY AND ADMINISTRATIVE COUNTER MEASURES
Andrew Hill: The passage [vv. 5-17] divides neatly into two sections, a summary of Rehoboam’s defensive measures against foreign invasion (11:5–12) and the support Rehoboam received from the northern tribes after the split of the united monarchy (11:13–17). The unit continues the emphasis on God’s reward for faithfulness and introduces for the first time the religious apostasy of Jeroboam (perpetuated by all the rulers of the northern kingdom).
H. L. Ellison: As soon as Jeroboam could organize the north it was bound to be stronger than Judah both in its population and natural resources. Jeroboam was an ambitious man not likely to be content with what God had given him, and so Rehoboam did his best to strengthen his diminished kingdom.
I. (:5-12) MILITARY MEASURES
Frederick Mabie: Rehoboam’s fortified cities address the strategic threats to the southern kingdom from not only the northern kingdom but also foes to the east (e.g., Moab, Ammon), west (e.g., Philistines), and south (e.g. Egypt). The list of fifteen towns (vv. 6-10) focuses on three main lines of fortification that are for the most part grouped accordingly: along the east/southeastern edge of the Judean hill country (e.g., Bethlehem); along the western edge of the Shephelah (e.g., Lachish); and along the southwestern edge of the Judean hill country (e.g., Hebron). In addition, Aijalon would protect from threats to the north via the Beth Horon Ridge (northern kingdom Aram). All told, the focal point of Rehoboam’s fortifications is the defense of access points to the capital city of Jerusalem.
August Konkel: The blessing of the Lord on Rehoboam is demonstrated in his building activities. The fortified cities provided defense from east, south, and west. Valleys leading into the Judean hill country and important road junctions all appear to be covered. Fortifications to the north were not as necessary. Rehoboam’s first task was to fortify a minimal but more securely defensible position. The northern towns available to Rehoboam did not meet this criterion. The defensive lines make strategic sense for protection against an Egyptian attack and likely began before the invasion of Shishak. The boundaries are conformable to Rehoboam’s reign. Lachish formed the pivotal southwestern corner of Rehoboam’s fortifications. It was a junction for the road north to the other fortified cities. Lachish guarded the southern road to Egypt, connected with the coastal highway to the west, and the way eastward through Adoraim to Hebron. The watershed toward the east was protected by Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, and Ziph. North of Lachish the cities of Mareshah (Moresheth), Gath, Azekah, Zorah, and Aijalon provided security from the west. Socoh and Adoraim monitored internal movement. The Levitical cities and some key centers were previously fortified.
Mark Boda: The initial period of success is characterized by Rehoboam’s fortification of the structures, deploying defense personnel, and providing food reserves and weaponry.
A. (:5-10) Built Fortified Cities for Defense
“Rehoboam lived in Jerusalem and built cities for defense in Judah. 6 Thus he built Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, 7 Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, 8 Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, 9 Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, 10 Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron, which are fortified cities in Judah and in Benjamin.”
Raymond Dillard: At first glance it is striking how small a territory was embraced by Rehoboam’s defensive perimeter. The line of cities suggests that Rehoboam was confident of holding only the Shephelah and the Judean hills, and that he virtually conceded his inability to maintain sovereignty in the Negev and gulf regions as well as over the coastal plain and its important highway. Shishak’s own account of his invasion shows that he did move up along the coastal highway while protecting his flanks with raids through the Negev. Vassals commonly rebelled at times of dynastic crisis; Edom had already sought to escape Solomon’s yoke with the collusion of the Pharaoh (1 Kgs 11:14–22, 25) and may have been able to make incursions into Israel’s contiguous territory with the encouragement of Egypt in the crisis following Solomon’s death.
B. (:11) Strengthened, Staffed and Supplied the Fortresses
“He also strengthened the fortresses”
“and put officers in them”
“and stores of food, oil and wine.”
C. (:12a) Provided Weapons for Every City
“And he put shields and spears in every city and strengthened them greatly.”
D. (:12b) Summary: Success of Defensive Preparation
“So he held Judah and Benjamin.”
II. (:13-17) RELIGIOUS MEASURES
Raymond Dillard: As an additional sign of divine blessing, the faithful priests and Levites of the Northern tribes abandon their common lands and private property (1 Chr 6:54–60; Num 35:1–5; Lev 25:32–34), prompting a similar defection following their example on the part of citizenry whose loyalty to Yahweh and his temple transcended their identification with tribal homelands. Jeroboam’s fear that loyalty to the temple would reunite the kingdom (1 Kgs 12:26–27) apparently had some basis in fact; allegiance to Jerusalem for many, according to the Chronicler, was at great personal expense.
The Chronicler’s own hand in shaping this pericope is seen in the use of the theme of “seeking God,” a theme basic to retribution theology, and in his concern with the Levites.
A. (:13-14) Displaced Priests and Levites from the North Migrated to Jerusalem
“Moreover, the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel
stood with him from all their districts.
For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the LORD.”
Frederick Mabie: In the aftermath of the division, priests and Levites found themselves separated from the Jerusalem temple and rejected by the new northern dynasty. Some even opted to sacrifice personal security of land and possessions in order to gain proximity to the place where God caused his Name to dwell and show their allegiance to the Davidic dynasty that God had established.
J.A. Thompson: Evidently the faithful priests and Levites of the northern tribes abandoned their pasturelands and property and came to Judah and Jerusalem. Jeroboam had rejected them as priests of the Lord (1 Kgs 12:25–33). His sons probably held positions of authority like other royal sons (2 Sam 15:1–6; 1 Kgs 1:9). The verb translated “sided with” (from yāṣab) means to “take a stand” (cf. Ps 94:16). It is not clear that these northerners took up permanent residence with Rehoboam though this is not excluded (cf. v. 16). But it is clear that there was a good deal of sympathy in the north with Rehoboam.
Matthew Henry: Where should God’s priests and Levites be, but where his altar was? Thither they came because it was their business to attend at the times appointed.
(1.) It was a mercy to them that they had a place of refuge to flee to, and that when Jeroboam cast them off there were those so near that would entertain them, and bid them welcome, and they were not forced into the lands of the heathen.
(2.) It was an evidence that they loved their work better than their maintenance, in that they left their suburbs and possessions in the country (where they might have lived at ease upon their own), because they were restrained from serving God there, and cast themselves upon God’s providence and the charity of their brethren in coming to a place where they might have the free enjoyment of God’s ordinances, according to his institution. Poverty in the way of duty is to be chosen rather than plenty in the way of sin. Better live upon alms, or die in a prison, with a good conscience, than roll in wealth and pleasure with a prostituted one.
(3.) It was the wisdom and praise of Rehoboam and his people that they bade them welcome, though they crowded themselves perhaps to make room for them. Conscientious refugees will bring a blessing along with them to the countries that entertain them, as they leave a curse behind them with those that expel them. Open the gates, that the righteous nation, which keepeth truth, may enter in; it will be good policy. See Isa. 26:1, 2.
B. (:15) Replacement False Priests Set Up by Jeroboam in Support of Idolatrous Practices
“And he set up priests of his own
for the high places, for the satyrs, and for the calves which he had made.”
Frederick Mabie: In the northern kingdom, the division of the kingdom necessitated the development of political centers for the north (Shechem and Penuel) and alternative religious centers. Jeroboam’s concern for the fidelity of his new subjects leads to his establishment of the infamous golden calf shrines in the northern region of the northern kingdom (the city of Dan) and at the southern region of the northern kingdom (the city of Bethel) . . .
Jeroboam’s choice of calf (bull) idols reflects the fact that bovines were commonly associated with divinity across the ancient Near East, given the bull’s association with strength, power, and fertility. Thus Jeroboam’s calves (like those of Aaron in Ex 32) may reflect syncretism with prevailing notions of expressing deity (namely, via bovines) in neighboring cultures. In any case, Jeroboam’s idols may be primarily a violation of the second commandment (attempting to make an image of God).
J.A. Thompson: There were several indications of the apostasy of Jeroboam. He appointed his own priests for the high places, which were not acceptable to official Yahweh worshipers. At these places there were goat and calf idols in violation of Lev 17:7. These “goats,” or “hairy ones,” were demons or satyrs, idols of some kind. The calf idols are reminiscent of the golden calf of the exodus period (Exod 32:1–10; Deut 9:11; cf. Hos 8:5–6).
Andrew Hill: The goat idols are probably demons or satyrs in the form of male goats; such worship was expressly forbidden in the law of Moses (Lev. 17:7; cf. Deut. 32:16–17).
H. L. Ellison: Satyrs are the demons or jinn believed to inhabit desert and waste places; they were looked on as hairy, or of animal shape; hence RV “he-goats” (cf. Lv. 17:7). The return to nature worship meant a return to old superstitions.
Matthew Henry: Jeroboam cast them off, that is, he set up such a way of worship as he knew they could not in conscience comply with, which obliged them to withdraw from his altar, and at the same time he would not allow them to go up to Jerusalem to worship at the altar there; so that he totally cast them off from executing the priest’s office, 2 Chron. 11:14. And very willing he was that they should turn themselves out of their places, that room might be made for those mean and scandalous persons whom he ordained priests for the high places, 2 Chron. 11:15. Compare 1 Kgs. 12:31. No marvel if he that cast off God cast off his ministers; they were not for his purpose, would not do whatever he might bid them do, would not serve his gods, nor worship the golden image which he had set up.
C. (:16) Popular Pilgrimages of the Faithful to Jerusalem for the Purpose of Sacrifice
“And those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel, followed them to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers.”
Geoffrey Kirkland: In Chronicles, to seek God marries 3 elements together:
1. Earnestness (with your passion/desiring/hungry/passionate)
2. Constancy (at all times)
3. Genuinely (from the heart)
Andrew Hill: The phrase “the God of their fathers” (11:16) is suggestive, almost an implicit censure of Jeroboam’s gods because they have no standing in Israel’s history. The influx of loyal priests and Levites and faithful Israelites from the northern tribal districts strengthens Rehoboam’s rule and bolsters morale in Judah (11:17a).
D. (:17) Popular Support for Rehoboam Shown by Temporary Covenant Loyalty
“And they strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam the son of Solomon for three years, for they walked in the way of David and Solomon for three years.”
Frederick Mabie: In comparison with the apostasy and syncretism of Jeroboam in the northern kingdom (see 11:13-15 above), the influx of the God-seeking people, priests, and Levites seems to stimulate a time of political strength and spiritual fervor in the southern kingdom. Unfortunately, this time of righteousness lasts only three years. . . the political strength attained in the southern kingdom facilitated the perilous step away from complete dependency on God and obedience to his ways (cf. 1Co 10:12).
J.A. Thompson: For three years after his accession Rehoboam remained true to the faith of Israel, walking in the ways of David and Solomon. In his fourth year he abandoned the law of God (cf. 12:1–2). The invasion of Pharaoh Shishak followed. The period when divine blessing accompanied obedience gave way to a period of sin and consequent punishment, thus illustrating the Chronicler’s doctrine of divine retribution.
Iain Duguid: Previously Rehoboam had “made the fortresses strong” (11:11, 12), but now it is “they,” faithful people, who “strengthened the kingdom of Judah” (v. 17). Security was to be based not on military preparedness but on walking “in the way of David and Solomon” concerning the worship of “the Lord, the God of their fathers.” Sadly this lasted for only three years.
Raymond Dillard: “Ways of David and Solomon.” This phrase is symptomatic of the Chronicler’s idealization of Solomon; considering the portrait of Solomon in Kings, one would not expect that author to make such a statement. Contrast his evaluation that Solomon’s “heart was not fully devoted to Yahweh his God as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kgs 11:4) with the Chronicler’s favorable assessment of Rehoboam’s “walking in the ways of David and Solomon.”
III. (:18-23) FAMILY AND ADMINISTRATIVE MEASURES
August Konkel: A large family was the third sign of divine blessing. The number of wives and children of Rehoboam are probably the total of his reign rather than those accumulated by his fifth year. The genealogy may explain why the eldest son did not receive the kingdom. It was a violation to transfer the privilege of firstborn because of a greater love for one wife (Deut 21:15–17), but rights of primogeniture were not always followed. The appointment of Abijah may have been as coregent to provide for orderly succession. Rehoboam’s dispersal of the royal princes extended control of the royal family into the outlying districts and provided for a smooth transition of power. It made the chance of a revolt or attempted coup less likely.
A. (:18-21) Family Measures
1. (:18-19) Children from Marriage to Mahalath
“Then Rehoboam took as a wife Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David and of Abihail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse, 19 and she bore him sons: Jeush, Shemariah, and Zaham.”
J. Barton Payne: Abihail was the wife of Jerimoth and mother of Mahalath, not a second wife of Rehoboam (cf. ASV). Manchah (Michaiah, 13:2) must have been Absalom’s grand-daughter, through his daughter Tamar, the wife of Uriel (13:2; cf. II Sam 14:27; 18:18).
2. (:20) Children from Marriage to Maacah
“And after her he took Maacah the daughter of Absalom, and she bore him Abijah, Attai, Ziza, and Shelomith.”
3. (:21a) Preference for Maacah among All His Wives and Concubines
“And Rehoboam loved Maacah the daughter of Absalom more than all his other wives and concubines.”
4. (:21b) Children from His Many Wives and Concubines
“For he had taken eighteen wives and sixty concubines and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.”
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler reports the practice of polygamy in the Davidic dynasty as a matter of fact—apparently accepting the cultural convention (despite the Mosaic prohibition against kings taking many wives, Deut. 17:17). Thompson appropriately reminds us of the tragic aspect of polygamy in the inevitable favoritism shown to a particular wife in the harem. Typically in such marriages in the Old Testament, favoritism bred jealousy, jealousy hatred, and hatred too often resulted in destructive behavior patterns.
It should be noted, in addition to his own eighteen wives and sixty concubines (11:21), Rehoboam is responsible for supporting his father Solomon’s harem (since royal women were “property” of the state in perpetuity). This obligation may have had something to do with his decision to levy a tax hike on his subjects.
B. (:22-23) Administrative Measures
1. (:22) Elevation of Abijah
“And Rehoboam appointed Abijah the son of Maacah as head and leader among his brothers, for he intended to make him king.”
Iain Duguid: Again a striking contrast with Jeroboam is seen: while Rehoboam is able to appoint his son “Abijah” as his successor (cf. 2 Chron. 12:16), Jeroboam’s favorite son, also “Abijah,” dies as evidence that God is bringing Jeroboam’s line to an end (1 Kings 14:1–17).The Chronicler’s addition of this chapter has pointedly illustrated what can happen when king and people follow God faithfully. The mention, however, of “three years” (2 Chron. 11:17) is ominous; present behavior is no guarantee of the future.
Martin Selman: Rehoboam’s growing family is the final symbol of blessing (cf. 1 Ch. 26:5; cf. 25:5) and of strength (2 Ch. 13:21). Again, however, there are signs that this was not an unmixed blessing. While Rehoboam’s father’s wives had led him astray (1 Ki. 11:3), his own preference for a later wife, Maacah (vv. 20-21); note “After her,” v. 20, NRSV, RSV, JB; then, NIV), and the promotion of her son Abijah as his successor (vv. 22), directly contravened the Deuteronomic law (Dt. 21:15-17).
2. (:23) Establishment of His Sons as Leaders in Various Fortified Cities
“And he acted wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the territories of Judah and Benjamin to all the fortified cities, and he gave them food in abundance. And he sought many wives for them.”
Andrew Hill: The concluding verse of the regnal résumé lauds Rehoboam’s wisdom in “dispersing some of his sons throughout the districts of Judah” (11:23). Rehoboam apparently imitates his father’s practice of delegation of royal authority by means of district governors (cf. 1 Kings 4:7–19), but he makes those appointments from princes within the royal household rather than from tribal leaders. The policy yields practical benefits: preventing the infighting experienced in David’s royal household by prospective successors to the throne, solidifying the king’s position, guarding against disloyalty in the form of an Absalom-like coup, ensuring an heir for the continuation of the dynasty (since housing the royal family in one location makes it easier for a usurper to execute all rivals), and extending the influence of the royal family to outlying districts.
J. Barton Payne: He dealt wisely by delegating to his sons authority in the national defense, and be providing them with substance and with wives (ASV); but also by dispersing them, to insure the undisputed succession of Abijah, the designated heir (v. 22).