New Defender's Study Bible Notes
12:1 Shechem. Rehoboam apparently selected Shechem as the site of his intended coronation because of its historic significance (as the place where the Lord had first appeared to Abraham in the promised land—Genesis 12:6,7) and its centralized location, about midway between Dan and Beersheba. Representatives of all the tribes came there to meet Rehoboam (I Kings 12:3), with Jeroboam, newly returned from Egypt, quickly assuming the role of spokesman.
12:11 heavy yoke. Despite his wisdom, Solomon yielded to political expediency, with his many pagan wives and their idolatrous nature-religions, and to his pride in opulence and grandeur, which required levying forced labor and heavy taxes on his people (note I Kings 11:1-8; 5:13-16).
12:11 scorpions. The “scorpions” probably referred to particularly painful multi-tailed lashes with barbed hooks, although it may be possible that the threatened punishment involved actual scorpion stings.
12:15 that he might perform. Note also I Kings 11:14,23; 12:24. Men may choose particular courses of action, but God is nevertheless working through their own choices. Compare Acts 2:23.
12:20 made him king. In spite of the fact that God providentially allowed Jeroboam to become king, there was no divine anointing, and neither priest nor prophet took part in the coronation.
12:28 behold thy gods. Earlier in his career, Jeroboam had been a man of great promise (I Kings 11:28), and God had chosen him to lead the ten northern tribes. He became overly ambitious and presumptuous, however, thinking he could best retain the loyalty of his subjects by establishing for them a more convenient religion. Jeroboam led the people to still profess to worship the God of their fathers, but not worship at Jerusalem. This led to the blurring of the true religion’s distinctiveness in relation to the pagan religions. He even established a new priesthood and new religious festivals (I Kings 12:31-33), with new altars and new sacrifices. Already conditioned to such changes by the apostasies of Solomon, the people largely went along with this accommodationist religion, but God rebuked and repudiated Jeroboam because of it (I Kings 13).
12:29 put he in Dan. This “high place” (I Kings 12:31) has actually been excavated and identified archaeologically. Dan’s name is even mentioned in an inscription referring to this worship center. What is believed to be the large stone platform on which the golden calf was set has been discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel, along with various cult objects associated with this pagan worship.
12:32 sacrificing unto the calves. There had been a precedent in Israel for using golden calves to represent Jehovah, for their first high priest, Aaron, had long before done the same (Exodus 32:4), persuading the people that this Egyptian cult with which they had been familiar was just an alternate way of worshipping God. Jeroboam had recently spent time in Egypt (I Kings 11:40), and was again impressed with this cult as a means of luring the already doubting Israelites (doubting because of the many pagan religions promoted by Solomon for his wives) away from having to go to Jerusalem to worship. This device would appeal also to their pagan neighbors.