Melachim 1/Kings 1-Chapter 12: Yeravam becomes king and leads the Jewish people astray

1.      Rechavam is coronated as king in Shem:

  • Rechavam traveled to Shechem, as all the Jewish people had gone to Shechem to crown him there as king.
  1. Yeravam leads the people in asking Rechavam to lessen the taxes, who in return responds harshly:
  • The return of Yeravam from Egypt: When Yeravam the son of Nevat, who was still in Egypt having fled from the presence of King Solomon, heard [that his enemy king Solomon passed away, he nevertheless remained in Egypt until[1]], the Jewish people sent messengers [who were the elderly and respected members of the congregation[2]] to call Yeravam to come back and join them [to be their leader to approach Rechavam to lessen the burden on the Jewish people [3]]. So, Yeravam arrived and was joined by all of the congregation of the Jewish people, [in Shechem where they intended on coronating Rechavam] and they went to greet Rechavam to speak to him.
  • Yeravam asks Rechavam to lessen the burden on the Jewish people: They spoke the following words to Rechavam: Your father made life difficult for us [with all of the taxes that we were required to pay in order to support his palace and family and horses and all of his luxuries[4]]. Now if you lighten your father’s hard demands of us [and lessen the taxes] then we shall serve you [and accept you as our King].
  • Rechavam asks for three days to take counsel and decide: Rechavam replied to the people that they should leave him be for three days and then return and he will tell them his decision, so all the people left. King Rechavam then went and sought the advice of the elders who had attended Shlomo his father [and advised him] while he was yet alive.
  • Rechavam takes the counsel of his young and childish advisors versus the elderly advisors of Shlomo: He asked the elders as to what they advise him to answer to the people. The elders told him that he should follow their demands and act kindly to them and act like a servant to them today in order so they will be servants to him for all days to come. However, unfortunately Rechavam disregarded their advice and rather took the advice of the young childish men who he grew up with and who he was attended by. When he asked them as to what they think he should answer the Jewish people, they replied to him that he should respond to them with force and tell them that he is going to be much stricter than his father, and that his small finger is as thick as his father’s two thighs, and that he will even add more to the taxes and torture them not with whips, as did his father, but rather with scorpions.
  • Rechavam responds harshly to the Jewish people on the third day: Yeravam and all the Jewish people came to Rechavam on the third day, as the king had requested, and the king responded to them very harshly disregarding the counsel that he had received from his elderly advisors. He said to them the words of his young childish counselors, and conveyed to them that he will rule over them even more strictly and he will torture them not with whips as did his father, but with scorpions. The king did not pay attention to the nations request being that Hashem had wanted this to occur in order to fulfill the prophecy of Achiyah Hashiloni who promised the kingdom to Yeravam Ben Nevat.
  1. The Jewish people rebel against Rechavam and coronate Yeravam as king:
  • When the Jewish people saw how Rechavam responded to them they replied to the king that there is no reason for them to choose a share and heritage in the house of David, and the house of David [i.e. the Beis Hamikdash[5]] shall be for him alone. And so it was the Jewish people all returned to their homes [having chosen Yeravam as their leader and king]. And only the Jewish people who dwelled in the cities of Judah remain loyal to Rechavam, and under his reign.
  • The Jewish people stone to death the tax collector of Rechavam: King Rechavam sent Adoram to collect the taxes from the Jewish people, and he was stoned by the Jewish people to the point that he died.
  • Rechavam flees: When king Rechavam saw what happened he [filled with fright for his own soul and[6]] quickly entered his chariot and fled to Jerusalem.
  • The coronation of Yeravam: The Jewish people revolted against the House of David [on that day and continue to rebel against them] until this very day. When the Jewish people heard that Yeravam had returned, they made him king over all Israel. The only tribe that was left to follow the house of David and his monarchy was the tribe of Judah [and the tribe of Benjamin[7]].
  1. Rechavam attempts to wage war against the tribes of Israel and is stopped by the prophet of God:
  • Rechavam assembles an army: When Rechavam came back to Jerusalem he assembled all the House of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin to wage war against the tribes of Israel, to return the kingdom to Rechavam, the son of Shlomo. He assembled one hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors.
  • The prophet Shemia warns Rechavam not to wage war: Hashem spoke to Shemia, who was a prophet of God, the following words: “Go tell Rechavam, the son of Shlomo, King of Judah, and to all of the house of Judah and Benjamin, and the rest of the people, saying: Thus said the Lord: ‘You shall not go up and wage war with your brothers, the children of Israel. Every man should return to his home, as I am the one who arranged [for the split of the kingdom to occur].”
  • The soldiers return home: They heeded the word of Hashem, and they returned to their homes as Hashem had instructed them.
  1. Yeravam builds golden calves for worship:
  • Building up the city of Shechem: Yeravam built Shechem in the mountain of Ephraim [into a fortified city[8]] and lived there, and he went from there and built the city of Penuel.
  • Yeravam builds two golden calves as an alternative place of worship to Jerusalem: Yeravam said to himself, “If I allow the people to go up and bring sacrifices to the house of God in Jerusalem then they may return to becoming loyal to Rechavam the king of Judah and return the kingdom to the House of David. They will then kill me and return to Rechavam, the king of Judah.” So, the king took counsel [with his advisers to see what to do to prevent this situation] and he decided to make two golden calves, and he proclaimed to the Jewish people, saying, “There is no need for you anymore to go all the way up to Jerusalem; here are your gods, O Israel, that have brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
  • The location of the calves: He placed one in Beth El and the other he placed in Dan.
  • The Jewish people sin and worshiping the idol: This matter became a sin for the people and they went all the way until [the end of the land by] Dan to serve the idol.
  • The priests that were appointed to serve by his altars: Yeravam made altars on high mountains, and he appointed priests from amongst the people who were not from the tribe of Levi.
  • The initiation of a new Festival: Yeravam made a festival in the eighth month [i.e. Cheshvan] on the fifteenth day of the month like the festival [of Sukkos] which was in Judah, and he brought offerings on the altar. He also offered sacrifices in Beth El to the calves that he made. The priests of the altars were positioned in Beth El. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, Yeravam would bring offerings and burn incense on the altar which he made in Beth El, for the festival that he had fabricated from his heart.

[1] Metzudos Dovid 12:2

[2] Metzudos Dovid 12:3

[3] Metzudos Dovid 12:3

[4] Radak and Metzudos Dovid 12:4

[5] Rashi 12:16

[6] Metzudos Dovid 12:18

[7] Rashi and Mefarshim 12:21

[8] Metzudos Dovid 12:25

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