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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Kings 14



Verse 12


‘The child shall die.’

1 Kings 14:12

Jeroboam has filled up the measure of his iniquity, and among the things that he has to suffer this is one of the greatest—that his child is to die. And this announcement is made to the one who can least bear it—to the mother; the one who is ready to do anything and play any false part so that she may save her son.

What was to happen? Ahijah is explicit. After repeating the story of Jeroboam’s iniquity he adds: ‘Arise thou, therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave’—every one else will be slaughtered—‘because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.’

I. Here we have a striking instance of a child daring to be an exception.—There are children that are brought up in pious homes whose subsequent career is exceedingly sad. There are others who have been brought up in ungodly homes who have been marvellously preserved and sustained. They have breathed impure atmospheres, morally and spiritually, from their earliest days, and yet from their very childhood it seems that they have been pure, noble, and self-denying. We have such an instance here: ‘There is found some good thing in him toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.’ So much grander an attainment to have any good thing left in him with such a father as Jeroboam. Thank God, a child’s possibilities, though his surroundings may be infinitely sad and infinitely depressing, in God’s wise Providence are not always conditioned by the circumstances of home. Oh! the house of Jeroboam is not a veritable hell yet. There is an element of heaven there. It is not a house of total darkness yet. There is a gleam of light in that little child’s face that marks him out as an exception.

II. But observe, the house of Jeroboam in this case is not permitted to keep that lad.—That is one of the penalties of inquity when it has filled up its measure that the talent that is left is taken away; that the good that remains is put out. The house of Jeroboam was not good enough for that child to remain in it, though he had been born in it. He shall die. How often it is that the best die out of a family in life as well as in stories. It is one of the mysteries of Providence that the best should be taken away. The child of Jeroboam died while Jeroboam lived on. But by death that child was saved from evil days. Death was a great reward to him. To have remained in the house of Jeroboam, and to have shared the calamities which were to befall the nation as the result of Jeroboam’s sin, would have been a terrible experience for that child; therefore God took him out of the way. ‘The child shall die.’ He took him aside so that he should witness none of these things. Oh! there is mercy sometimes in taking a child away from evil surroundings. Death is far sweeter than some lives, and in such a case the child is taken away from temptation which might have been overpowering. Thus this is a striking instance of a home which has forfeited the privilege of keeping a choice and pure spirit. The family of Jeroboam must cease. It shall not be honoured by such a life as this. It shall not find a respite in godly descendants. It is a sad thing for any community or nation when, as the result of its sinfulness or its iniquity, it is deprived of its most promising youth.

Thank God, one of the hopes of England is in the rising race! One shudders when we are untrue to our privileges lest the penalty of Jeroboam befall us—that we shall not be privileged to rear up a far grander race than we have been.


(1) ‘She looked at the lovely Tirzah, she saw the city-gate. She looked again: the city was the New Jerusalem, the gate was a Gate of Pearl. Thus far, and thus far only, may the mother accompany the child on the journey on which he too had set out. The tones of her husband’s voice recall her to consciousness.’

(2) ‘He told me, sad at heart, my lord, the king,

How when I reached the city’s gates again,

There came a breath and blew in on his cheeks—

For it had thundered, as I dreamt, and rained,

And all the lattice was refreshed with rain—

And he had turned toward it … smiled … and slept—

And as I entered still he slept … and smiled.’

(3) ‘Jeroboam in sending to Ahijah, though he has faith in his knowledge of Ahijah, that he would predict the right thing, yet played the fool. He thought that Ahijah, who could see the future, would not know who it is that goes to him. There is always a weak point in the armour of the godless man. The criminal plays the fool somewhere; a murderer is sure to be out with it, however clever he has been in the plan of the murder; and sin persisted in is sure to betray a man sooner or later. Just think of it; a man of Jeroboam’s keen insight, and masterly mind, was such a poor fool as to think that Ahijah, who could tell him all about his boy, whether he would live or die, would be imposed upon by a poor woman’s dress and head-gear, even though “his eyes were set by reason of his age.” Thus Jeroboam betrays the trickster even when better memories come back to him. It is the old diplomatist that we have here; and that is one of the dangers of State, that a man may become a diplomatist, and only a diplomatist. There is a diplomatic reserve, or a hiding of personality, here inconsistent with honesty.’

(4) ‘The Angel of the Lord stood by,—

Watching, methought, to see what I would think

Of this his blessed Home. He took my hand

And pointed to the city,—“Beautiful

For situation, joy of all the earth,

Is God’s fair Zion! Thou shalt rise and come

(Even with joy) within this dreaded gate

Of Tirzah; for what time thy weary feet

Do pass across this city-gate, the child

Shall cross that threshold, and behold the face

Of God in peace.”’

Verse 13


‘In him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.’

1 Kings 14:13

I. Look first at the description of Abijah’s piety.—The ‘good thing’ in him was not any material endowment, neither was it any moral excellence. The good thing was a ‘good thing toward the Lord God of Israel,’ a gracious, a spiritual, a Divine, a holy thing. There are two things which, when found in a man, are good and acceptable to God. (1) The first is true repentance, or what the Bible calls the ‘broken and contrite heart.’ (2) The second is ‘faith in that one sacrifice which doth for sin atone.’ Amongst all the princes of the royal house, Abijah alone refused to worship the golden calves which his father had made. In the Mosaic ritual he doubtless saw, though it might be with dim and imperfect vision, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Who should one day die for the sins of the world.

II. There are one or two special lessons to be drawn from the case of Abijah.—(1) Do we not learn how real piety may exist under most adverse and unfavourable circumstances? The brightest diamonds have been found in the darkest mines, and the richest pearls in the deepest seas. (2) Even a young and brief life may be fruitful in blessing. Young as Abijah was, the whole nation mourned for him. The length of life is not to be judged by the number of its years. That life is the longest in which God has been best served and the world most benefited. (3) Piety in life is the only guarantee of peace in death. An early departure from this world is not a thing to be dreaded, provided our heart is right with God. If you would come to your grave in peace, be it sooner or be it later, there must be found in you ‘some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel.’


Note the three R’s in this child-prince’s life.

I. The Record of piety:

(a) A good thing.

(b) A good thing in him.

(c) A good thing in him towards the Lord God of Israel.

II. The Recommendation of his piety:

(a) It is found in his tender age.

(b) It is found in his princely rank.

(c) It is found in his ungodly parentage.

III. The Reward of his piety:

His early death, his honourable burial, and his enduring memorial. He is placed in this Book among the true worthies.


‘The death of a beloved child, for whom God has prepared good, is often the only and the supreme means of turning away the heart of the parents from sin and the world, and of winning them to the life in God to which they are strangers. For many a child it is a Divine blessing when it is early taken out of this vain world, and called away from surroundings in which there is danger of the corruption both of soul and body.’


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 14:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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