The time was approximately 930 BC. The rule of King Solomon had come to an end in shame. Called the wisest man on earth at one time, Solomon married many foreign wives who enticed him to give allegiance to their pagan gods.
Solomon had been warned in advance not to intermarry with daughters of Israel’s enemies, but to no avail.
“For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.” 1 Kings 11:4
Enter Jeroboam and Rehoboam.
Upon Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam was considered to be the natural successor; however, it was not widely known that God had previously promised Solomon’s servant Jeroboam rule over 10 of Israel’s tribes.
Solomon knew of that promise and had sought to kill Jeroboam while he was still living.
Upon Solomon’s death the elders of Israel, who had served Solomon, suggested to Rehoboam that his leadership style be different from that of his father.
“Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 1 Kings 12:4
Rehoboam was advised to soften his leadership style. The Hebrew word ‘yoke’ has several illustrative synonyms including ‘mock’ and ‘abuse.’
The ‘yoke’ included excessive taxes to support Solomon’s administration and also alluded to the forced labor sent to Lebanon to gather timber for construction in Israel.
The elders’ advice to Rehoboam:
“If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 1 Kings 12:7
Rehoboam was advised to give more attention to the needs of the people and ‘answer’ (consider) their needs more than seek to satisfy his own desires and agenda. He was not to lead with an iron fist as did his father Solomon.
The people would respond initially by serving their king gladly instead of serving by dictate.
Rehoboam responded to the elders’ suggestion by seeking the advice of his contemporaries who he had grown up with. Their advice was directly opposite to that of the elders.
“Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, ‘Thus you should speak to this people… “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!”’” 1 Kings 12:10-11
Which advice did Rehoboam follow?
“Then the king answered the people roughly (harshly), and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men…” 1 Kings 12:13
The advice of the elders was rejected while the advice of the new generation was accepted and followed. Sound familiar?
As history unfolded Judah, under the reign of Rehoboam, slid into total apostasy; more so than any of their ancestors.
Rehoboam had been granted kingship over Judah (and subsequently Benjamin) in order to fulfill God’s immutable promise to David that the future Messiah would come from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah…and David.
Jeroboam’s reign was even more disastrous. He set up places of idol worship throughout the land of the northern tribes so the people would not journey to Jerusalem to worship.
Why did the division of the nation happen? Why did Solomon’s son Rehoboam reject the advice of the elders?
“So the king (Rehoboam) did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the LORD, that He might fulfill His word… spoken by Ahijah…to Jeroboam…” 1 Kings 12:15
Recall God had told Jeroboam via the prophet Ahijah years earlier that he would rule 10 of Israel’s tribes.
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11
As Rehoboam’s father once said, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’
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