The Word Made Fresh
1Then Rehoboam went to Shechem where all Israel had gathered to make him their king. 2Jeroboam son of Nebat had been in Egypt where he had fled from king Solomon, but when he heard of it, he returned 3because they had sent for him. So, he with the Israelites said to Rehoboam, 4“Your father put us to hard labor. If you lighten the load on us, we will serve you.” 5Rehoboam told them to return in three days, and they left.
6King Rehoboam discussed it with the older men who had served his father Solomon. He asked them, “How should I answer these people?”
7They said, “If you will treat the people with kindness and speak to them gently, they will serve you forever.”
8But he rejected their advice and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were now in his service. 9He asked them, “How do you think I should answer these people who want me to lighten the work load my father put on them?”
10They answered, “You should tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11My father gave you a heavy load, but I will make it heavier. My father used whips on you, but I will use scorpions!’”
12Jeroboam returned with the people three days later as the king had said, 13and the king answered them roughly. He rejected the older men’s advice 14and responded to them as the younger men had advised. He said, “My father made your work hard; I will make it even harder. My father used whips on you; I will use scorpions!” 15He didn’t listen to his father’s people because the LORD God had told Ahijah the Shilonite to tell Jeroboam son of Nebat this is what would happen.
16When the people of Israel realized the king would not listen to them, they answered him, “Why should we have anything to do with David? We inherited nothing from the son of Jesse. To your tents, Israel! As for you, look after your own family, David!” And they went home.
17So, Rehoboam ruled just the Israelites who lived in the cities of Judah. 18He sent Hadoram, who was in charge of forced labor, to the Israelites, but they stoned him to death. King Rehoboam had to jump into his chariot and flee in haste to Jerusalem.
19That is why Israel has been in rebellion against the family of David to this day.
(See 1 Kings 12:1-19)
1-5: Rehoboam goes to Shechem to be crowned by the northern tribes, and there, of all people, we find Jeroboam. Jeroboam, a leader of the tribe of Ephraim who attempted a coup during Solomon’s reign, has been cooling his heels in Egypt all this time, but obviously has maintained contact with folks back home and has been waiting for this opportunity to return. The northern tribes challenge Rehoboam to relax the policies of his father Solomon. Solomon, you recall, had levied heavy taxes and labor requirements on the northern tribes, but not on Judah (1 Kings 4:7-19). Rehoboam asks for 3 days to consider the request.
6-11: Rehoboam hears the advice of his father Solomon’s advisors that he should accede to the request of the northern tribes. However, his own cadre of young ambitious courtiers thinks he should drop the hammer on them.
12-15: So, Rehoboam summons Jeroboam and the representatives from the northern tribes and lays down the law. This rather near-sighted decision on his part plays right into God’s plans, however. Interesting, isn’t it, how God can use our folly and stupidity to bring about his will?
16-19: The northern tribes understandably see this as evidence that they will never be accorded an equal status with the tribe of Judah as long as they are ruled by a descendant of David, and they refuse to accept Rehoboam as their king. Rehoboam is unbelievably dense; he actually sends somebody to order them to get back to work, and they stone the poor fellow to death.
Solomon had married an Egyptian princess, the Pharaoh’s daughter, and had built a palace for her (1 Kings 9:24), and he had also married seven hundred other foreign women and had three hundred concubines (slave women) as well. Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite woman named Naamah (see chapter 12, verse 13), a foreigner, which means Rehoboam was only a half-blood prince. That, along with his intention of continuing his father’s practice of putting the other tribes of Israel to forced labor are the reasons for the uprising led by Jeroboam. “Always treat those well who serve under your authority,” is a lesson Rehoboam did not learn until later in his reign.