Sects — Pre-Samaritans

Sects During Biblical Times — Pre-Samaritans

A Background Summary of some Commentators:

Rashi (1040 – 1105) — Shlomo Yitzchaki, today generally known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רש״י, RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Tanakh. Acclaimed for his ability to present the basic meaning of the text in a concise and lucid fashion.

Adam Clarke (1761– 1832) — was a British Methodist theologian and biblical scholar. He was born in the townland of Moybeg Kirley near Tobermore in Northern Ireland. He is chiefly remembered for writing a commentary on the Bible which took him 40 years to complete and which was a primary Methodist theological resource for two centuries.

John Gill (1697 – 1771) — was an English Baptist pastor, biblical scholar, and theologian who held to a firm Calvinistic soteriology. Born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, he attended Kettering Grammar School where he mastered the Latin classics and learned Greek by age 11. He continued self-study in everything from logic to Hebrew, his love for the latter remaining throughout his life. 

Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) — was a nonconformist minister and author, born in Wales but spending much of his life in England. He is best known for the six-volume biblical commentary Exposition of the Old and New Testaments

The Background

After Solomon, the nation of Israel was divided into two nations in the days of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). Israel was composed of the ten tribes to the north, and Judah was made up of Judah and Benjamin. The animosity between the Jews (inhabitants of Judah, the southern kingdom) and Israelites began immediately after the division, as Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom (with Jeroboam as her first king). Rehoboam assembled an army to make war against Israel to reunite the kingdom, but God intervened through His prophet Shemiah. Later, in speaking of the reign of Abijam, Jeroboam’s son, says “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life.”

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“Why should you men of Ephraim be dependent for your worship in Jerusalem, control by Judah? Why should your tribute go to support their temple? It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Let us have a place of our own.”

Envy, fear and jealousy crept in. Immediately after the division, Jeroboam changed the worship of the Israelites. No longer did the inhabitants of the north travel to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and worship. Instead, Jeroboam set up idols in Dan and Bethel.

1 Kings 12

1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king.

Adam Clarke: Rehoboam went to Shechem – Rehoboam was probably the only son of Solomon; for although he had a thousand wives, he had not the blessing of a numerous offspring; and although he was the wisest of men himself, his son was a poor, unprincipled fool. Had Solomon kept himself within reasonable bounds in matrimonial affairs, he would probably have had more children; and such as would have had common sense enough to discern the delicacy of their situation, and rule according to reason and religion.

2 And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it (for he had fled from the presence of King Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt),

3 that they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came and spoke unto Rehoboam, saying,

4 “Thy father made our yoke grievous. Now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father and his heavy yoke which he put upon us lighter, and we will serve thee.”

Clarke: The grievous serviceandheavy yoke – They seem here to complain of two things – excessively laborious service, and a heavy taxation. At first it is supposed Solomon employed no Israelite in drudgery: afterwards, when he forsook the God of compassion, he seems to have used them as slaves, and to have revived the Egyptian bondage.

5 And he said unto them, “Depart yet for three days, then come again to me.” And the people departed.

6 And King Rehoboam consulted with the old men who stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, “How do ye advise that I may answer this people?”

7 And they spoke unto him, saying, “If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them and answer them and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.”

Clarke: If thou wilt be a servant unto this people – This is a constitutional idea of a king: he is the servant, but not the slave of his people; every regal act of a just king is an act of service to the state. The king is not only the fountain of law and justice; but as he has the appointment of all officers and judges, consequently he is the executor of the laws; and all justice is administered in his name. Properly speaking, a good and constitutional king is the servant of his people; and in being such he is their father and their king.

8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him, and who stood before him.

John Gill: and consulted with the men, that were grown up with him, and which stood before him; the sons of nobles, with whom he had his education, and who were his companions from his youth upwards, and who were now officers in his court, and of his privy council, being his favourites, and those he consulted on this occasion; and though they are called young men, as they were in comparison of the old men, yet since they were contemporary with Rehoboam, who was now forty one years of age, they must be about forty, or not much under, and at an age to be wiser than they appeared to be.

9 And he said unto them, “What counsel give ye that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Make the yoke which thy father put upon us lighter’?”

10 And the young men who had grown up with him spoke unto him, saying, “Thus shalt thou speak unto this people who spoke unto thee, saying, ‘Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us’ — thus shalt thou say unto them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins!

Clarke: My little finger shall be thicker – A proverbial mode of expression: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s thigh.” As much as the thigh surpasses the little finger in thickness, so much does my power exceed that of my father; and the use that I shall make of it, to employ and tax you, shall be in proportion.

11 And now whereas my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions!’”

Clarke: Chastise you with scorpions – Should you rebel, or become disaffected, my father’s whip shall be a scorpion in my hand. His was chastisement, mine shall be punishment. St. Isidore, and after him Calmet and others, assert that the scorpion was a sort of severe whip, the lashes of which were armed with iron points, that sunk into and tore the flesh. We know that the scorpion was a military engine among the Romans for shooting arrows, which, being poisoned, were likened to the scorpion’s sting, and the wound it inflicted.

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, “Come to me again the third day.”

13 And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him,

14 and spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke. My father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions!”

15 Therefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that He might perform His saying which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Clarke: The cause was from the Lord – God left him to himself, and did not incline his heart to follow the counsel of the wise men. This is making the best of our present version; but if we come to inquire into the meaning of the Cause of all this confusion and anarchy, we shall find it was Rehoboam’s folly, cruelty, and despotic tyranny: and was this from the Lord? But does the text speak this bad doctrine? No: it says סבה sibbah, the Revolution, was from the Lord. This is consistent with all the declarations which went before. God stirred up the people to revolt from a man who had neither skill nor humanity to govern them. We had such a סבה revolution in these nations in 1688; and, thank God, we have never since needed another. None of our ancient translations understood the word as our present version does: they have it either the Turning Away was from the Lord, or it was the Lord’s Ordinance; viz., that they should turn away from this foolish king.

16 So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, “What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now see to thine own house, David!” So Israel departed unto their tents.

17 But as for the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.

18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones so that he died. Therefore King Rehoboam made haste to get up to his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.

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Clarke: King Rehoboam sent Adoram – As this was the person who was superintendent over the tribute, he was probably sent to collect the ordinary taxes; but the people, indignant at the master who had given them such a brutish answer, stoned the servant to death. The sending of Adoram to collect the taxes, when the public mind was in such a state of fermentation, was another proof of Rehoboam’s folly and incapacity to govern.

19 So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

20 And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

Clarke: Made him king over all Israel – What is called Israel here, was ten-twelfths of the whole nation; and had they a right to call another person to the throne? They had not, – they had neither legal nor constitutional right. Jeroboam was not of the blood royal; he had no affinity to the kingdom. Nothing could justify this act, but the just judgment of God. God thus punished a disobedient and gainsaying people; and especially Solomon’s family, whose sins against the Lord were of no ordinary magnitude.

21 And when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah with the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.

And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, From Shechem, which was forty miles from Jerusalem: Sydney Central to Penrith is 34 miles. Sydney Central to Springwood is 45 miles.

22 But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,

Gill: But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God,…. A prophet in those days, see 2 Chronicles 12:15 and the word that came to him, as in the Targum, is called the word of prophecy: 

23 “Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying,

Gill: and to the remnant of the people; of the other tribes that might dwell among them at Jerusalem, and especially Simeon, whose inheritance was within the tribe of Judah,( Joshua 19:1,19 And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families; and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah).

24 ‘Thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel. Return every man to his house, for this thing is from Me.’” They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord and returned to depart, according to the word of the Lord.

Gill: Thus saith the Lord,…. A common preface the prophets used when they spoke in the name of the Lord: 

they hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord, and returned to depart according to the word of the Lord; they knew Shemaiah was a prophet of the Lord, and they believed the message he brought came from him, and therefore hearkened and were obedient to it; and with the consent of Rehoboam were disbanded, and returned to their habitations, being satisfied with, and submissive to the will of God, both king and people. 

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in Mount Ephraim and dwelt therein, and went out from thence and built Penuel.

26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David.

Comments: Envy, fear and jealousy crept in.

27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

Rabbi Rashi: When this people goes: Sitting in the Temple court is not permitted except for the kings of the house of David only. Therefore, he [Rehoboam] will be seated and I will be standing. Moreover, in the year following the Sabbatical Year, at the time of the Assembly, he will read the portion relating to the king, for he is the king of his province, whereas I will be like the rest of the people, and will, therefore, find myself degraded.

Gill: and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah; his fears ran so high, that he should not only lose his kingdom, but his life, unless some step was taken to make an alteration in religious worship.

28 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!”

Clarke: Made two calves of gold – He invented a political religion, instituted feasts in his own times different from those appointed by the Lord, gave the people certain objects of devotion, and pretended to think it would be both inconvenient and oppressive to them to have to go up to Jerusalem to worship. This was not the last time that religion was made a state engine to serve political purposes. It is strange that in pointing out his calves to the people, he should use the same words that Aaron used when he made the golden calf in the wilderness, when they must have heard what terrible judgments fell upon their forefathers for this idolatry.

29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

Clarke: One in Beth-el, and the otherin Dan – One at the southern and the other at the northern extremity of the land. Solomon’s idolatry had prepared the people for Jeroboam’s abominations!

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30 And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

Gill: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan; which was the furthest off, such was their great zeal for idolatrous worship; or they went thither before that at Bethel was set up; and even they at Bethel would go as far as Dan to worship, such was their veneration for both the calves — that he chose the calf or ox as emblems of his family, the family of Joseph, Deuteronomy 33:17 two to represent Ephraim and Manasseh; golden ones, to denote the majesty and perpetuity of his kingdom.

Comments: The appeal of his changes was convenience and rebellion. The law says that three times a year all the males were to appear before the Lord, and that meant traveling to Jerusalem. So, to the Israelites, Jeroboam’s reasoning sounded good. Jerusalem was too far. In addition, being a bit further north than the Jews, their harvest season was a little bit later than in Judea, and thus the Feast of Tabernacles represented more of a financial risk for them. They decided, then, “Why not have it a month later?” Can we not see the carnal mind working?

31 And he made a house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi.

Clarke: A house of high places – A temple of temples; he had many high places in the land, and to imitate the temple at Jerusalem, he made one chief over all the rest, where he established a priesthood of his own ordination. Probably a place of separate appointment, where different idols were set up and worshipped; so it was a sort of pantheon.

Gill: and made priests of the lowest of the people; this clause seems not so well rendered; for this would have been very unpopular, and brought his new form of worship into contempt, to make the dregs of the people priests, which was not only a very sacred office, but of great honour.

Comments: Made priests of the lowest of the people – He took the people indifferently as they came, and made them priests, till he had enough, without troubling himself whether they were of the family of Aaron or the house of Levi, or not. Any priests would do well enough for such gods. But those whom he took seem to have been worthless, good-for-nothing fellows, who had neither piety nor good sense. Probably the sons of Levi had grace enough to refuse to sanction this new priesthood and idolatrous worship.

Josephus: Antiquities, 8.8.4 “but let him that is desirous among you of being a priest, bring to God a bullock and a ram which they say Aaron the first priest also.”

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32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made; and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

Rashi: in the eighth month: He expounded to them that this was the month of ingathering, and was, therefore, the proper time for the festival to be [celebrated].

Gill: And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that was in Judah,…. The feast of tabernacles, which was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month; this was done chiefly for the sake of an alteration; though Abarbinel thinks, because the fruits of the land were not so soon ripe nor so soon gathered, in the northern parts of the land, as nearer Jerusalem, he judged this month the fittest for the feast of ingathering the fruits; and he might hope to get more people to come to his feast, when all were gathered in: 

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown: The ostensible reason might be, 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.

Matthew Henry: He set up these two at Dan and Beth-el (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, . . . (Ex. 32:34), so that it was as great a contempt of God’s wrath as it was of his law; and thus they added sin to sin. [H]e adjourned to the fifteenth day of the eighth month (v. 32), the month which he devised of his own heart, to show his power in ecclesiastical matters, v. 33. The passover and pentecost he observed in their proper season, or did not observe them at all, or with little solemnity in comparison with this. He himself assuming a power to make priests, no marvel if he undertook to do the priests’ work with his own hands: He offered upon the altar. This is twice mentioned (v. 32, 33), as also that he burnt incense.

Huan: It’s most likely that Jeroboam changed the calendar, too, a scheme “which he had devised of his own heart,” as he would want to avoid taking any lead from Jerusalem of when to start the new year. And since Samaria was north of Jerusalem, it could be a bit colder hence an excuse to delay a month to start a new year. From God’s point of view, (since the Bible is written from God’s point of view,) it is the eighth month, so he saw himself as still keeping the Sacred Text intact without any alteration. To justify himself, Jeroboam could say the barley green ear wasn’t fully ripe and blame the Jews for starting the calendar too early.

Wade Cox: The Samaritans: their Pentecost was on a Sunday but differed only in the fact that they had introduced a post-equinox commencement for the New Year, always following the New Moon after the Equinox and not nearest to it, as was the case with the Temple system. In this way at least half the time they were a month late with the Passover, often keeping the second Passover as the first. Thus their intercalation was out of sequence with the Jewish system. They thus kept the feast in the eighth month which was the mistake made by Jeroboam for which he was condemned by God through the prophets (see the paper Jeroboam and the Hillel Calendar (No. 191)).

33 So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart, and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel; and he offered upon the altar and burned incense.

Clarke: He offered upon the altar – Jeroboam probably performed the functions of high priest himself, that he might in his own person condense the civil and ecclesiastical power.

Comments: The Priests and Levites fled to the Kingdom of Judah. In II Chronicles 11: 13 And the priests and Levites in all Israel came before him from all their territories. 14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and properties, and they traveled to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. 15 And he set for himself priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols that he made. 16 And those who set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel followed after them from all the tribes of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers.

~~~~~

~ by Joel Huan on November 4, 2020.

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