The Expository Files

 Rehoboam - “So the King Did Not Listen to the People”

[ From The Editors: This article is the second in a series we will publish this year, calling attention to twelve people who though being dead, instruct us (Heb. 11:4). They speak to us through the testimony of their lives as written in Scripture. Over the next few months, we will develop a theme title. And, near the end of the year we are planning to publish these twelve articles in book form (Kindle, Nook and old fashioned print and ink). These passages and people can equip us and motivate us toward greater service to our Lord.]

After the death of Solomon in 930 B.C., the kingdom divided. The northern tribes rebelled against the house of David and established a new nation which continued to be called “Israel”. The southern kingdom continued to acknowledge the authority of the house of David; they were called “Judah”. It all happened during the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. The split of the nation into two smaller nations left both much weaker. We often refer to Rehoboam's bad decision to follow the counsel of his young friends rather than that of the wiser counselors of his father as the reason for the division of the nation. And it is true that Rehoboam is responsible for his decision and the consequences of it, but it was not there that the division had begun. The wheels had been set in motion during the reign of his father, Solomon. Ironically, the name “Rehoboam” means "he who enlarges the people" – a misnomer if there ever was one.

Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began his rule and reigned for seventeen years in Jerusalem. His time as king is described in 1 Kings 12; 14:21-31 and in 2 Chronicles 10-12. In the 5th year of Rehoboam's reign Shishaq king of Egypt, brought a huge army and took many cities of Judah. When they laid siege to Jerusalem, Rehoboam gave Shishaq all of the treasures out of the temple as a tribute. Judah became a vassal state of Egypt for a time. An account of this invasion from the Egyptian perspective can be found in the Shishaq Relief near the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Egypt today.

Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines. They bore him 28 sons and 60 daughters. When he died he was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son Abijahn.

The Division of the Kingdom Had Been Prophesied
God had spoken to Rehoboam's father, Solomon, and told him of consequences that would result if he became an unfaithful king. The Lord said, "As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, "You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.' But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other
gods and worship them, then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (2 Chronicles 7:17-20).

Also, the prophet Ahijah had prophesied to Jeroboam “He said to Jeroboam, 'Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, "Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes (but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have
not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did. Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes; but I will take the kingdom from his son's hand and give it to you, even ten tribes. (1 Kings 11:31-35).

The Ultimate Cause of the Division Was Solomon's Apostasy
Two independent kingdoms were formed. Jeroboam was king over Israel (10 tribes) in the North (1 Kings 12:20) and Rehoboam was king over Judah and Benjamin in the South (1 Kings 12:21). While we understand that Rehoboam was not simply an innocent bystander, we see that his reign is adversely effected by his father's spiritual failures. This did not relieve Rehoboam of the responsibilty for his own decisions (1 Kings 11:9-13). But the actions and attitudes of his father adversely effected Rehoboam.

Solomon was a very wise man. He was a good governor and the nation prospered under him. But during the middle of his reign, he began to compromise his faith and convictions. His many political marriages undertaken to cement alliances with other nations brought great influence upon him from his pagan wives, and they influenced him to turn to idolatry. It was in that failure that the seeds of division had been sown.

After Solomon's death, the people, led by Jeroboam, were concerned that Rehoboam would continue to tax them heavily - as had his father Solomon. Jeroboam and the people promised their loyalty to Rehoboam if he would reduce this load. The older men who had been Solomon's advisors counseled Rehoboam, "If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever." (1 Kings 12:7). However, the new king sought the advice from the people he had grown up
with as well, who advised the king to show no weakness to the people, and to tax them even more, which Rehoboam did. He proclaimed to the people, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions." The Scriptures explain “So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the LORD, that He might establish His word, which the LORD spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (1 Kings 12:14-15).

Will We Effect Our Children As Badly as Solomon Effected His?
Parents will effect their children's futures, sometimes in ways completely unforseen. Rehoboam, though responsible for his own errors, needed faithful parents to look up to. Rehoboam did not get that from his father Solomon. I do not know how to make the message any plainer than that.I doubt that Solomon planned on having such an adverse effect on his son. His moral and spiritual failures slipped up on him. That happens when proper attention is not given to the Lord and his will in our lives. Solomon had given such matters their proper place at one time, but somewhere along the he had lost his way (1 Kings 11:9-13).

Why did Rehoboam listen to the unwise counsel of his friends to increase the tax burdens of the people instead of the wise counsel of his father's counselors and decrease the tax burden Was it pride? Was it greed? Was it a lack of respect of his father, perhaps due to his father's own spiritual failures? Whatever it was, the end result was the same. National disaster and civil war.

So that was then, and now is now. We fill the roles of parents and children. We are now the ones living our lives before God. It is our children who are being influenced by us. They are seeing in us examples of strong faith and commitment, or spiritual weakness and failure. The Bible says, “For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” (Psalm 78:5-7).

In the New Testament we read, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). We also read of the good effect godly parents (and grandparents) can have on their offspring. Paul wrote to Timothy, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ
Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14,15; cf. 2 Timothy 1:5).

Parents! Will we live for the Lord as the examples of faith we ought to be before our children and all, or will we conceal the wonderful things God's grace has provided us in compromise and neglect? “We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” (Psalm 78:4). Let us prepare our hearts and be faithful to our God! “And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:8). It does not take a “Solomon” to clearly see what our choice ought to be.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 19.2; February 2012