Rehoboam: King Who Abandoned God
2 Chronicles 10-12
It is approximately 930 BC and Rehoboam has become King. Rehoboam had big shoes to fill. King David, his grandfather, was a man after God’s own heart. His father, Solomon, was the richest and wisest of kings in all the world. His father built an empire and knew great fame and power among the nations. However, his extensive building projects had over taxed his subjects and now all eyes were on Rehoboam.
Coronation of the New King
The coronation of the new king was to take place at Shechem (2 Chron. 10:1). This is where Abraham had built an altar (Gen. 12:6-7) and Joshua delivered his farewell address. It was situated in a valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. A good place for anointing a new king for it was not in Judah or Benjamin but in the land of Ephriam.
Conflict for the New King
During the coronation at Shechem, Rehoboam was faced with conflict. Solomon’s taxes and labor force policies had been too much of a burden upon the people. They appealed to Rehoboam for relief (2 Chron. 10:2-4). It sounds like they are giving the new king an ultimatum: “Listen to us or lose us.” However, they were not asking for the elimination of taxes, just that he would lower taxes.
Consultations by the New King
Wisely Rehoboam does not make an on-the-spot decision. He takes three days to consult with others about the situation (2 Chron. 10:5-11). Probably the best decision of his life.
First, the new King sought the counsel of the old men who had advised his father. They instructed Rehoboam to become a servant king to the people and listen to them. But no king wants to be a servant, rather to have many servants to serve him.
Wanting a second opinion, Rehoboam turns to his peer group. These are the young men who grew up with the prince. Rehoboam was already forty-one years old (2 Chronicles 12:13) and the Jews often counted anyone forty and under as young men. These young men had lived during a time of great peace, ease and prosperity. They were out of touch with the life and needs of the people.
Careless Choice of the New King
Instead of being a servant to the people, Rehoboam chose to treat them like his slaves (2 Chron. 10:12-15). Rehoboam liked the young men’s advice. He would show the people that his little finger (the weakest member of his body) was stronger that his father’s waist or loins (the seat of a man’s strength). If they thought Solomon’s whips stung just wait till they felt the sting of Rehoboam’s scourges. In other words, “brace yourself Israel you have not seen what I can do.”
Civil War between the Kingdoms
This is not the first time there had been a civil war between Judah and the rest of Israel. Ish-bosheth, the son of King Saul, had ruled over Israel for two years before his death (2 Sam. 2:8-10). Absalom revolted and turned most of Israel against his father. In addition, following Absalom’s revolt and David’s return to power, the northern tribes briefly supported a rebel named Sheba (2 Sam. 19:41-20;22).
When Rehoboam sends his chief tax collector to Israel as a show of force, the determined will of Israel starts the war by killing the King’s servant. Rehoboam escapes with his life to Jerusalem. He then gathers 180,000 chosen warriors to go fight against the northern tribes to restore Israel and unite the nation again. However, the word of God came to the prophet Shemaiah to tell Rehoboam not to go up or fight against the northern tribes. The reason is very clear. “Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me” (2 Chron. 11:4). However we find in 2 Chron. 12:15 “there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days.”
The rending of the kingdom of Solomon in the days of Rehoboam was a fulfillment of prophecy found in 1 Kings 11:11-13. God was merely using the king’s foolish stubborn pride to bring it about. Rehoboam acted foolishly, but God’s sovereign will was accomplished. Sometimes God uses our sins for His purposes. The Prophet Ahijah had already been sent to Jeroboam to dramatically prophecy that God would give him the ten tribes of Israel by tearing a new outer garment in twelve pieces and giving him ten (1 Kings 1:31-32).
Confirming the Kingdom
Wisely Rehoboam begins to fortify the cities of Judah and Benjamin. When the priests and Levites are rejected by Jeroboam, they move to Judah. The result of a mass influx of godly men “strengthened the kingdom of Judah…strong for three years, because they walked in the way of David and Solomon for three years” (2 Chron. 11:17).
Corruption of the Kingdom
Just as the kingdom of Solomon was brought down by the marrying of foreign, pagan women, so history repeats itself (2 Chron. 11:13-17; 12:14). Rehoboam was the son of a heathen woman, His mother was Naamah, a distinguished Ammonite woman. Rehoboam had multiple wives as well, although he limited himself to eighteen wives and sixty concubines. But he sought many wives for his sons.
Just as idolatry provoked the jealousy of God in Solomon’s day, in the days of Rehoboam Judah “built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. And there were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Kings 14:23-24). The word translated “perverted persons” comes from the Hebrew qadesh, meaning one practicing sodomy and prostitution in religious rituals. Practicing idolatry included the explicit sexual rituals of Canaanite religion (1 Kings 14:23-24).
The final nail in the coffin of Rehoboam’s reign came when he rejected God’s Word. “Now it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself, that he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel along with him” (2 Chron. 12:1).
Consequences for the Kingdom
Although Solomon’s kingdom enjoyed an alliance with Egypt through marriage, the Pharaoh who was Solomon’s father-in-law had been overthrown by Shishak. God sent this new Pharaoh to plundered Rehoboam’s palace and the Temple (2 Chron. 12:2-8).
God sent the prophet Shemaiah to warn them, “Thus says the Lord: ‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak’” (2 Chron. 12:5). The king and all his officials humbled themselves. They admitted that the Lord is just. God stayed the hand of the Pharaoh but Judah became subservient for Egypt for a time.
The King of Egypt took the five hundred gold covered shields of Solomon. Rehoboam had these replaced with bronze shields (2 Chron. 12:9-11). When these were used at a distance in ceremonies, the bronze would shine like gold if well polished. Thus in a short time they would go dull. The shields represented the spiritual state of the people and hypocrisy. There is a mere appearance of purity from a distance.
At his death Rehoboam receives the standard obituary (2 Chron. 12:13-16). After ruling for seventeen years his report card is on the negative side. “And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 12:14).
The first application from what is learned concerning Rehoboam’s reign is the need to seek out and follow wise advice. The first thing we should do is go to God in prayer. There is no mention of Rehoboam consulting God during the time he was seeking advice. Why do we need counsel from others? “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Prov 15:22). “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel — that will stand” (Prov 19:20-21; also see Proverbs 18:1-2; 11:14; 12:15). To whom should we go for counsel? “Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding” (Job 12:12). “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov 13:20).
The second lesson is the need to practice servant leadership. This type of leader does not answer the people harshly like Rehoboam. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). He had been advised to be a servant to them. “If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever” (2 Chron. 10:7). A ruler who is willing to serve the people will soon have subjects who are willing to serve him. (Matt. 20:25-28). Jesus illustrated servanthood dramatically when He stooped to wash His disciples’ feet. Rather than grasping a scepter and wielding a scourge, Rehoboam should have reached for a bowl of water and a towel.
– Daniel R. Vess