1 Kings 12:28
Whereupon the king (Jeroboam I) 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.
From other translations:
So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, It is too much for you to go [all the way] up to Jerusalem. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. [AMP]
Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” [ESV]
So the king came up with a plan: He made two golden calves. Then he announced, “It’s too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship. Look at these–the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” [MSB]
Whereupon 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. [KJV]
After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” [NIV]
So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” [NLT]
Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” [NKJV]
Now let us see what this verse is telling us.
After that the king took counsel, and after he received advice from his counselors, he made two calves of gold, and announced to the people, It is too much trouble for you to go all the way up to Jerusalem to worship there: see, here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
King Jeroboam I
King Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat (1 Kings 11:26–39) “an Ephrathite,” the first king of the ten tribes, over whom he reigned twenty two years (976–945 B.C.)
He was the son of a widow of Zereda, and while still young was promoted by Solomon to be chief superintendent of the “burnden,” i.e., of the bands of forced labourers.
Influenced by the words of the prophet Ahijah, he began to form conspiracies with the view of becoming king of the ten tribes; but these having been discovered, he fled to Egypt (1 Kings 11:29–40) where he remained for a length of time under the protection of Shishak I.
On the death of Solomon, the ten tribes, having revolted, sent to invite him to become their king.
The conduct of Rehoboam favoured the designs of Jeroboam, and he was accordingly proclaimed “king of Israel” (1 Kings 12:1–20).
He rebuilt and fortified Shechem as the capital of his kingdom.
He at once adopted means to perpetuate the division thus made between the two parts of the kingdom, and erected at Dan and Bethel, the two extremities of his kingdom, “golden calves,” which he set up as symbols of Yahweh, enjoining the people not any more to go up to worship at Jerusalem, but to bring their offerings to the shrines he had erected.
Thus he became distinguished as the man “who made Israel to sin.”
This policy was followed by all the succeeding kings of Israel.
While he was engaged in offering incense at Bethel, a prophet from Judah appeared before him with a warning message from the Lord. Attempting to arrest the prophet for his bold words of defiance, his hand was “dried up,” and the altar before which he stood was rent asunder. At his urgent entreaty his “hand was restored to him again” (1 Kings 13:1–6, compare 2 Kings 23:15) but the miracle made no abiding impression on him. His reign was one of constant war with the house of Judah. He died soon after his son Abijah (1 Kings 14:1–20)
Made two calves of gold
He would not have been able to build a golden temple, as Solomon had done; two golden calves are the most that he can afford.
So he erected two golden calves. Young bulls, Apis and Mnevis, as symbols (in the Egyptian fashion) of the true God, and the nearest, according to his fancy, to the figures of the cherubim.
The one was placed at Dan, in the northern part of his kingdom, and the other at Beth-el, the southern extremity, in sight of Jerusalem, and in which place he probably thought God was as likely to manifest Himself as at Jerusalem ( Genesis 32:1-32 , 2 Kings 2:2 ).
The latter place was the most frequented, for the words ( 1 Kings 12:30 ) should be rendered, “the people even to Dan went to worship before the one” ( Jeremiah 48:13 , Amos 4:4, 5, Amos 5:5 , Hosea 5:8 , 10:8 ).
He set up two, by degrees to break people off from the belief of the unity of the godhead, which would pave the way to the polytheism of the Pagans.
He set up these two at Dan and Bethel (one the utmost border of his country northward), the other southward, as if they were the guardians and protectors of the kingdom.
Beth-el lay close to Judah. He set up one there, to tempt those of Rehoboam’s subjects over to him who were inclined to image-worship, in lieu of those of his subjects that would continue to go to Jerusalem.
He set up the other at Dan, for the convenience of those that lay most remote, and because Micah’s images had been set up there, and great veneration paid to them for many ages, Judges 18:30-31 .
Beth-el signifies ‘house of God’, which gave some colour to the superstition; but the prophet called it Beth-aven, ‘house of vanity’, or iniquity.
The people complied with him herein, and were fond enough of the novelty: They went to worship before the one, even unto Dan (1 Kings 12:30), to that at Dan first because it was first set up, or even to that at Dan, though it lay such a great way off.
Those that thought it too much to go to Jerusalem, to worship God according to his institution, made no difficulty of going twice as far, to Dan, to worship him according to their own inventions.
It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem
This is how crafty carnal persuasions of princes are, when they will make a religion serve their appetite.
Having received the kingdom from God, he should have relied on the divine protection. But he did not. With a view to withdraw the people from the temple and destroy the sacred associations connected with Jerusalem, he made serious and unwarranted innovations on the religious observances of the country, on pretext of saving the people the trouble and expense of a distant journey.
Pretending to consult their ease:
● “It is too much for you to go so far to worship God” (1 Kings 12:28). It is a heavy yoke, and it is time to shake it off; “You have gone long enough to Jerusalem’’ (so some read it);
● “The temple, now that you are used to it, does not appear so glorious and sacred as it did at first’’ (sensible glories wither by degrees in men’s estimation);
● “You have freed yourselves from other burdens, free yourselves from this one too: why should we now be tied to one place any more than in Samuel’s time?’’
He provided for the assistance of their devotion closer at home.
Upon consultation with some of his politicians, he came to this resolve, to set up two golden calves, as tokens or signs of the divine presence, and persuade the people that they might as well stay at home and offer sacrifice to those as go to Jerusalem to worship before the ark.
Some are so charitable as to think they were made to represent the mercy-seat and the cherubim over the ark; but more probably he adopted the idolatry of the Egyptians, in whose land he had sojourned for some time and who worshipped their god Apis under the similitude of a bull or calf.
Behold thy gods, O Israel
He intended, no doubt, by these to represent, or rather make present, not any false god, as Moloch or Chemosh, but the true God only, the God of Israel, the God that brought them up out of the land of Egypt, as he declares (1 Kings 12:28)
So that it was no violation of the first commandment, but the second. And he chose thus to engage the people’s devotion because he knew there were many among them so in love with images that for the sake of the calves they would willingly quit God’s temple, where all images were forbidden.
The innovation was a sin because it was setting up the worship of God by symbols and images and departing from the place where He had chosen to put His name.
Secondly, he changed the feast of tabernacles from the fifteenth of the seventh to the fifteenth of the eighth month.
The reason might have been, that the ingathering or harvest was later in the northern parts of the kingdom; but the real reason was to eradicate the old association with this, the most welcome and joyous festival of the year.
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