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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 26–40
Verses 26–40

We have here the first mention of that infamous name Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that made Israel to sin; he is here brought upon the stage as an adversary to Solomon, whom God had expressly told (1 Kgs. 11:11) that he would give the greatest part of his kingdom to his servant, and Jeroboam was the man. We have here an account,

I. Of his extraction, 1 Kgs. 11:26. He was of the tribe of Ephraim, he next in honour to Judah. His mother was a widow, to whom Providence had made up the loss of a husband in a son that was active and ingenious, and (we may suppose) a great support and comfort to her.

II. Of his elevation. It was Solomon’s wisdom, when he had work to do, to employ proper persons in it. He observed Jeroboam to be a very industrious young man, one that minded his business, took a pleasure in it, and did it with all his might, and therefore he gradually advanced him, till at length he made him receiver-general for the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, or perhaps put him into an office equivalent to that of lord-lieutenant of those two counties, for he was ruler of the burden, or tribute, that is, either of the taxes or of the militia of the house of Joseph. Note, Industry is the way to preferment. Seest thou a man diligent in his business, that will take care and pains, and go through with it? he shall stand before kings, and not always be on the level with mean men. Observe a difference between David, and both his predecessor and his successor: when Saul saw a valiant man he took him to himself (1 Sam. 14:52); when Solomon saw an industrious man he preferred him; but David’s eyes were upon the faithful in the land, that they might dwell with him: if he saw a godly man, he preferred him, for he was a man after God’s own heart, whose countenance beholds the upright.

III. Of his designation to the government of the ten tribes after the death of Solomon. Some think he was himself plotting against Solomon, and contriving to rise to the throne, that he was turbulent and aspiring. The Jews say that when he was employed by Solomon in building Millo he took opportunities of reflecting upon Solomon as oppressive to his people, and suggesting that which would alienate them from his government. It is not indeed probable that he should say much to that purport, for Solomon would have got notice of it, and it would have hindered his preferment; but it is plainly intimated that he had it in his thoughts, for the prophet tells him (1 Kgs. 11:37), Thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth. But this was the cause, or rather this was the story, of the lifting up of his hand against the king: Solomon made him ruler over the tribes of Joseph, and, as he was going to take possession of his government, he was told by a prophet in God’s name that he should be king, which emboldened him to aim high, and in some instances to oppose the king and give him vexation. 1. The prophet by whom this message was sent was Ahijah of Shiloh; we shall read of him again, 1 Kgs. 14:2. It seems, Shiloh was not so perfectly forsaken and forgotten of God but that, in remembrance of the former days, it was blessed with a prophet. He delivered his message to Jeroboam in the way, his servants being probably ordered to retire, as in a like case (1 Sam. 9:27), when Samuel delivered his message to Saul. God’s word was not the less sacred and sure for being delivered to him thus obscurely, under a hedge it may be. 2. The sign by which it was represented to him was the rending of a garment into twelve pieces, and giving him ten, 1 Kgs. 11:30, 31. It is not certain whether the garment was Jeroboam’s, as is commonly taken for granted, or Ahijah’s, which is more probable: He (that is, the prophet) had clad himself with a new garment, on purpose that he might with it give him a sign. The rending of the kingdom from Saul was signified by the rending of Samuel’s mantle, not Saul’s, 1 Sam. 15:27, 28. And it was more significant to give Jeroboam ten pieces of that which was not his own before than of that which was. The prophets, both true and false, used such signs, even in the New Testament, as Agabus, Acts 21:10, 11. 3. The message itself, which is very particular, (1.) He assures him that he shall be king over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, 1 Kgs. 11:31. The meanness of his extraction and employment shall be no hindrance to his advancement, when the God of Israel says (by whom kings reign), I will give ten tribes unto thee. (2.) He tells him the reason; not for his good character or deserts, but for the chastising of Solomon’s apostasy: “Because he, and his family, and many of his people with him,have forsaken me, and worshipped other gods,” 1 Kgs. 11:33. It was because they had done ill, not because he was likely to do much better. Thus Israel must know that it is not for their righteousness that they are made masters of Canaan, but for the wickedness of the Canaanites, Deut. 9:4. Jeroboam did not deserve so good a post, but Israel deserved so bad a prince. In telling him that the reason why he rent the kingdom from the house of Solomon was because they had forsaken God, he warns him to take heed of sinning away his preferment in like manner. (3.) He limits his expectations to the ten tribes only, and to them in reversion after the death of Solomon, lest he should aim at the whole and give immediate disturbance to Solomon’s government. He is here told, [1.] That two tribes (called here one tribe, because little Benjamin was in a manner lost in the thousands of Judah) should remain sure to the house of David, and he must never make any attempt upon them: He shall have one tribe (1 Kgs. 11:32), and again (1 Kgs. 11:36), That David may have a lamp, that is, a shining name and memory (Ps. 132:17), and his family, as a royal family, may not be extinct. He must not think that David was rejected, as Saul was. No, God would not take his loving-kindness from him, as he did from Saul. The house of David must be supported and kept in reputation, for all this, because out of it the Messiah must arise. Destroy it not, for that blessing is in it. [2.] That Solomon must keep possession during his life, 1 Kgs. 11:34, 35. Jeroboam therefore must not offer to dethrone him, but wait with patience till his day shall come to fall. Solomon shall be prince, all the days of his life, not for his own sake (he had forfeited his crown to the justice of God), but for David my servant’s sake, because he kept my commandments. Children that do not tread in their parents’ steps yet often fare the better in this world for their good parents’ piety. (4.) He gives him to understand that he will be upon his good behaviour. The grant of the crown must run quamdiu se bene gesserit—during good behaviour. “If thou wilt do what is right in my sight, I will build thee a sure house, and not otherwise” (1 Kgs. 11:38), intimating that, if he forsook God, even his advancement to the throne would in time lay his family in the dust; whereas the seed of David, though afflicted, should not be afflicted for ever (1 Kgs. 11:39), but should flourish again, as it did in many of the illustrious kings of Judah, who reigned in glory when Jeroboam’s family was extirpated.

IV. Jeroboam’s flight into Egypt, 1 Kgs. 11:40. In some way or other Solomon came to know of all this, probably from Jeroboam’s own talk of it; he could not conceal it as Saul did, nor keep his own counsel; if he had, he might have staid in his country, and been preparing there for his future advancement; but letting it be known, 1. Solomon foolishly sought to kill his successor. Had not he taught others that, whatever devices are in men’s hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand? And yet does he himself think to defeat that counsel? 2. Jeroboam prudently withdrew into Egypt. Though God’s promise would have secured him any where, yet he would use means for his own preservation, and was content to live in exile and obscurity for a while, being sure of a kingdom at last. And shall not we be so, who have a better kingdom in reserve?