Therefore 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 your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
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Augustine of Hippo
For all that, King Jeroboam of Israel, who had proof that God was true, when he got the kingdom God had promised, was so warped in mind as not to believe in him. Actually, he feared that if he came to God’s temple in Jerusalem (as all Jews without exception were bound by divine ordinance to do for the offering of sacrifices), his subjects might be alienated from his allegiance and reattached to David’s blood successors as the royal dynasty. With this in mind, he established idolatry in his own kingdom and, with shocking impiety, tricked God’s people into joining him in the worship of idols. Even so, God did not entirely give up sending prophets to reprimand the king, and his successors who continued his idolatry and the people themselves. For it was in Israel that there appeared Elijah and his disciple, Elisha, both magnificent prophets and wonder workers as well. - "City of God 17.22"
While he prepared to establish the reign which was reserved to him by God according to the predictions of the prophets Shemaiah and Ahijah, Jeroboam thought that nothing could be more useful for his purpose than kindling the hatred of the two opposite parties to the highest possible degree, so that he might preclude any chance of reconciliation and peace. Therefore, in order that those who already distrusted each other might be removed from each other even further, he introduced a new reason for dissension concerning the worship of God. He persuaded his party to leave behind their Jewish rites and to take up the religion of the Egyptians which was superior to all other religions, just as Egyptian wisdom and power were greater that those of the Canaanites and the Jews. Since the majority of the tribes agreed, he proposed to worship the ancient idols of the Hebrews, namely, two calves of gold, and dedicated them by using, according to the old custom, the formula “These are your gods, O I...
Device. Wicked policy, to make religion subservient to the state. (Worthington)
Jeroboam was right in judging, (Haydock) that it is one of the strongest foundations of government, (Calmet) and therefore he would have a peculiar religion for his subjects. (Haydock)
Strange blindness, caused by ambition! As if God could not have maintained him on the throne. The sequel evinces how delusive were his wicked projects. (Calmet)
Calves. It is likely, by making his gods in this form, he mimicked the Egyptians, among whom he had sojourned, who worshipped their Apis and their Osiris under the form of a bullock. (Challoner) (St. Jerome in Osee iv. 15., and v.)
The Greeks commonly style these idols, heifers, as more contemptible than bulls: (Tirinus) and some Fathers style them, "calf-heads. "(Lactantius iv. 10.) Monceau pretends that they resembled the cherubim, and were intended to represent the true God; thus endeavouring to excuse the Israelites from idolatry, on this occasion, as well as ...