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that we might not sin ; he recovered, that we might not sink under our sin.
But oh the justice of God, inseparable from his mercy! Solomon's sin shall not escape the rod of men: rather than so wise an offender shall want enemies, God shall raise up three adversaries unto Solomon; Hadad the Edomite, Rezon the king of Aran, Jeroboam the son of Nebat; whereof two were foreign, one domestical. Nothing but love and peace sounded in the name of Solomon, nothing else was found in his reign, while he held in good terms with his God; but, when once he fell foul with his Maker, all things began to be troubled. There are whips laid up against the time of Solomon's foreseen offence, which are now brought forth for his correction. On purpose was Hadad, the son of the king of Edom, hid in a corner of Egypt, from the sword of David and Joab, that he might be reserved for a scourge to the exorbitant son of David. God would have us make account that our peace ends with our innocence. The same sin that sets debate betwixt God and us, arms the creatures against us; it were pity we should be at any quiet, while we are fallen out with the God
REHOBOAM. Who would not but have looked that seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines, should have furnished Solomon's palace with choice of heirs, and have peopled Israel with royal issue ? and now, behold, Solomon hath by all these but one son, and him by an Ammonitess. Many a poor man hath a houseful of children by one wife, while this great king hath but one son by many houseful of wives. Fertility is not from the means, but from the author : it was for Solomon that David sung of old, “Lo! children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward !” How oft doth God deny this heritage of heirs, where he gives the largest heritage of lands, and gives most of these living possessions where he gives least of the dead, that his blessings may be acknowledged free unto both, entailed upon neither!
As the greatest persons cannot give themselves children, so the wisest cannot give their children wisdom. Was it not of Rehoboam that Solomon said, “I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I should leave it to the man that should be after me; and who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool ? yet shall he rule over all my labour, wherein I have laboured, and showed myself wise under the sun!” All Israel found that Solomon's wit was not propagated; many a fool hath had a wiser son than this wisest father; amongst many sons it is no news to find some one defective ; Solomon hath but one son, and he no miracle of wisdom. God gives purposely so eminent an instance, to teach men to look up to heaven, both for heirs and graces.
Solomon was both the king of Israel, and the father of Rehoboam, when he was scarce out of his childhood : Rehoboam enters into the kingdom at a ripe age; yet Solomon was the man, and Rehoboam the child. Age is no just measure of wisdom; there are beardless sages, and grey-headed children ; not the ancient are wise, but the wise is ancient. Israel wanted not for thousands that were wiser than Rehoboam ; yet because they knew him to be the son of Solomon, no man makes questions of his government; in the case of succession into kingdoms we may not look into the qualities of the person, but into the right. So secure is Solomon of the people's fidelity to David's seed, that he follows not his father's example, in setting his son by him in his own throne; here was no danger of a rivality to enforce it, no eminency in the son to merit it: it sufficeth him to know that no bond can be surer than the natural allegiance of subjects. I do not find that the following kings stood upon the confirmation of their people; but, as those that knew the way to their throne, ascended their steps without aid. As yet the sovereignty of David's house was green, and unsettled ; Israel therefore doth not now come to attend Rehoboam, but Rehoboam goes up to meet Israel : they come not to his Jerusalem, but he goes to their Shechem: “ To Shechem were all Israel come to make him king.” If loyalty drew them together, why not rather to Jerusalem ? There the majesty of his father's temple, the magnificence of his palace, the very stones in those walls, besides the strength of his guard, had pleaded strongly for their subjection. Shechem had been many ways fatal, was every way incommodious. It is an infinite help or disadvantage that arises from circumstances : the very place puts Israel in mind of a rebellion; there Abimelech had raised up his treacherous usurpation over, and against his brethren; there Gaal against Abimelech; there was Joseph sold by his brethren ; as if the very soil had been stained with perfidiousness. The time is no less ill chosen ; Rehoboam had ill counsel ere he bewrayed it ; for had he speedily called up Israel, before Jeroboam could have been sent for out of Egypt, he had found the way clear; a little delay may lose a great deal of opportunity ; what shall we say of both, but that misery is led in by infatuation.
Had not Israel been somewhat predisposed to a mutiny, they had never sent into Egypt for such a spokesman as Jeroboam, a fugitive, a traitor to Solomon : long had that crafty conspirator lurked in a foreign court
. The alliances of princes are not ever necessary bonds of friendship: the brother-in-law of Solomon harbours this snake in his bosom, and gives that heat, which is repaid with a sting to the posterity of so near an ally ; and now Solomon's death calls him back to his native soil. That Israel would entertain a rebel, it was an ill sign: worse yet, that they would countenance him ; worst of all, that they would employ him. Nothing doth more bewray evil intentions, than the choice of vicious agents. Those that mean well, will not hazard either the success or credit of their actions upon offensive instruments; none but the sluttish will wipe their faces with foul cloths. Upright hearts would have said, as David did to God, so to his anointed: “Do not I hate them that hate thee ? yea, I hate them with a perfect hatred.” Jeroboam's head had been a fit present to have been tendered unto their new king: and now, instead thereof, they tender themselves to Jeroboam, as the head of their faction.
Had not Rehoboam wanted spirits, he had first, after Solomon's example, done justice to his father's traitor, and then have treated of mercy towards his subjects; the people soon found the weakness of their new sovereign, else they durst not have spoken to him by so obnoxious a tongue; “ Thy father made our yoke grievous, make thou it lighter, and we will serve thee." Doubtless the crafty head of Jeroboam was in this suit which his mouth uttered in the name of Israel: nothing could have been more subtle: it seemed a promise, it was a threat ; that which seemed a supplication was a complaint: humility was but a veil of discontentment: one hand held a paper, the other a sword. Had they said, “Free us from tributes," the capitulation had been gross, and strongly savouring of sedition ; now they say, "Ease us,” they profess his power to impose, and their willingness to yield; only craving favour in the height of the imposition. If Rehoboam yield, he blemishes his father : if he deny, he endangers his kingdom; his wilfulness shall seem worthily to abandon his sceptre, if he stick at so unreasonable a suit: surely Israel came with a purpose to cavil; Jeroboam had secretly troubled these waters, that he might fish more gainfully. One malcontent is enough to embroil a whole kingdom.
How harshly must it needs sound in the ears of Rehoboam, that the first word he hears from his people, is a querulous challenge of his father's government; “Thy father made our yoke grievous." For aught I see, the suggestion was not more spiteful than unjust. Where was the weight of this yoke, the toil of these services? Here were none of the turmoils of war; no trainings, marchings, encampings, entrenchings, watchings, minings, sieges, fortifications; none of that tedious world of work that attends hostility: Solomon had not his name for nought; all was calm during that long reign : and if they had paid dear for their peace, they had no cause to complain of a hard match; the warlike times of Saul and David had exhausted their blood, together with their substance. What ingratitude was this to cry out of ease! Yea, but that peace brought forth costly and laborious buildings: God's house, and the king's, the walls of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, the cities of store, the cities of defence, could not rise without many a shoulder ; true, but not of any Israelites ; the remainders of Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, were put to all the drudgery of these great works; the tasks of Israel were easy and ingenuous, free from servility, free from painfulness. But the charge was theirs, whosesoever was the labour. The diet of so endless a retinue, the attendance of his seraglio, the purveyance for his forty thousand stables, the cost of his sacrifices, must needs weigh heavy, certainly, if it had lain on none but his own. But wherefore went Solomon's navy every three years to Ophir ? To what use served the six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, that came in one year to his exchequer ?