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1 Kings 12:38, 1618,2224comment (0)

December 30, 2010

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: 1 Kings 12:38, 1618,2224

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

1 Kings 12:3–8, 16–18,22–24

When Possible, Take Time (3–5)
After King Solomon’s death, Rehoboam, one of his sons, was set to assume power. His right to govern the northern tribes was far from automatic, however, so he went to Shechem to consolidate his control over the whole nation. The northern tribes’ grievances had to be heard, although they came to the assembly with the expectation that they were gathering to make Rehoboam king.

Events took an ominous turn against Rehoboam with Jereboam’s arrival. Jereboam had served Solomon as the superintendent of the forced labor of the house of Joseph. He oversaw the construction projects in Jerusalem. He had been approached by the prophet Ahijah with a prophecy concerning the kingship. Ahijah told him that the Lord had chosen him to reign over the 10 northern tribes. Upon hearing this, Solomon sought to kill Jereboam. He fled to Egypt until it would be safe to return to Israel. Although Jereboam knew the prophecy that he would be king over Israel, he did not appear to be the mover of the events. He remained in Egypt until he was summoned by his fellow Israelites, who obviously valued him as a leader. 

Jereboam then joined, and perhaps led, the delegation appointed to declare the northern tribes’ grievances to the king. They wanted relief from Solomon’s policies that had become increasingly oppressive. Those policies had favored Solomon’s own tribe of Judah. There was resentment over the heavy yoke with which he had bound them. Although this was not the slave labor imposed on the Canaanites (1 Kings 9:20–23), it was compulsory and oppressive. They also had a deep-seated resentment for the oppressive tax burden forced on them to sustain the extravagance of the royal court.        

Their request was not unreasonable. They did not demand the removal of all those burdens but only asked that the king would make them lighter. They were prepared to serve him, but Rehoboam needed to show that he had their interests at heart, not just his own. The request called for a downsizing of his government and lifestyle. This crisis also provided an opportunity for Rehoboam to act in a way that would ensure the loyalty of disgruntled subjects. He recognized that there was a lot at stake in their request, so he asked for three days to think about his response.

By All Means, Seek Advice (6–8)
Rehoboam turned first to the veterans who had advised his father. They recognized the explosiveness of the situation. In order to win the people’s trust, the new king needed to convince them that he was sensitive to their plight and committed to serving their needs. People will follow leaders whom they trust and who will not take advantage of them for selfish reasons. If Rehoboam chose to serve them, then he would not lose authority; he would gain credibility and earn their loyalty. 

But Rehoboam rejected the counsel of his fathers’ seasoned political veterans and consulted his peers. Like Rehoboam, they were young, ambitious, proud and insecure. They advised him to intimidate the people by declaring that he was tougher than Solomon had ever hoped to be. They did not believe servant leadership would work. Only a bully could handle a diverse kingdom. Rehoboam chose slogans over wisdom, machismo over servanthood.

With Great Care, Weigh Effects (16–18)
When the three days were over, Rehoboam delivered the harsh message. He chose to follow the destructive path of his own sinful desires rather than the constructive path of wisdom. The king did not listen to the people, fulfilling God’s word through Ahijah. Here we see God’s sovereignty and human responsibility both in full bloom.

Without delay, the people rejected Rehoboam’s authority over them. They denied any responsibility to David’s dynasty and left Rehoboam to rule Judah. One incredibly poor decision tore down in a few days what David and Solomon labored 80 years to build. This passage teaches it is much easier to break up what belongs together than to restore what is broken. Rehoboam sent Adoniram, his taskmaster over forced labor, to the people. They stoned him to death and Rehoboam fled to Jerusalem.

Above All, Listen to God (22–24)
Rehoboam gathered a large army to attack the 10 renegade tribes. At this point, another prophetic voice surfaced. Shemaiah, the man of God, warned Rehoboam to stay home. Why? Because God said, “This thing is from me.” The division of the kingdom was not just the result of foolish human leaders. God was working out His sovereign purposes in fulfillment of His prophetic word. Rehoboam obeyed God in this matter. Israel has been irreparably split into 10 northern tribes and two southern tribes from this time (930 B.C.).

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