Who Is Rehoboam in the Bible?
- Stephen Baker Contributing Writer
- 2022 14 Feb
A country’s fate can turn on a dime because it only takes one unqualified leader to ruin it. During the reign of King David and King Solomon, the nation of Israel enjoyed unparalleled peace and prosperity. When King David rose to power, God promised him that He would establish an eternal kingdom through one of David’s descendants. God’s promise to King David shaped the trajectory of Israel’s future, and from that point on – in some way or another – God’s redemptive history through the Israelites conformed to His promise to King David. This redemptive history even includes the ruin brought by Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.
Who Is Rehoboam?
Rehoboam was Solomon’s son and David’s grandson. He was God’s chosen instrument to divide the nation of Israel due to the corruption brought about through Solomon’s idolatry (1 Kings 11:11-13). Rehoboam was the first king of Judah during the divided kingdom period.
What Is Rehoboam Known For?
Rehoboam is most known for dividing the rest of Israel against the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. When the people gathered in the city of Shechem for Rehoboam’s coronation, the Israelites requested that he lighten the heavy workload his father, Solomon, previously imposed on the people. King Solomon brought Israel to its most prosperous age, but it came through the heavy labor of the people. Solomon built the temple of God, and it became the established location of worship for all Israel. He also constructed a magnificent palace and developed Israel’s military; all achieved through the hard toil of the people.
When Rehoboam rose to the throne, all Solomon’s work had been accomplished. The people were ready to rest from their hard labor now that Israel had ascended to a glorious state. Rehoboam told the people to give him three days to consider their request. During those three days, Rehoboam consulted two distinct groups of people. The first group comprised wise and experienced elders who served King Solomon during his reign (1 Kings 12:6). They understood what it took for a king to rule his people successfully. They told Rehoboam to heed the request of the people and lighten their workload. The elders knew this would cause Rehoboam to win the people’s favor, and in turn, the people would welcome their new king’s rule over them.
However, Rehoboam rejected the elders’ counsel (2 Kings 12:8). The second group Rehoboam consulted were his peers, friends Rehoboam grew up with who were inexperienced in life and ill-equipped to offer any valuable counsel for what he should do as king. Rehoboam’s friends gave foolish advice, as opposed to the counsel given by the wise elders. They told Rehoboam to refuse the people’s request and assert his authority over them by threatening worse labor conditions than those they experienced under Solomon (1 Kings 12:10-11). Rehoboam foolishly heeded the advice of his friends. On the third day, when the people returned to hear the king’s verdict, Rehoboam told them, “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.” (1 Kings 12:14). In response to Rehoboam’s foolish answer, the people rejected his rule. Only Judah and the tribe of Benjamin subjected themselves to Rehoboam’s rule. The other ten tribes united under the reign of Jeroboam, whom God had promised to give rule over most of the nation (1 Kings 12:28-38).
What Lessons Can We Learn from Rehoboam?
God keeps His Word. Even though God raised up Rehoboam to divide the kingdom and gave the majority to Jeroboam as He promised, God still allowed Rehoboam to reign over a portion of the kingdom because of the covenant He made with David (2 Samuel 7: 8-16). God promised to establish an everlasting kingdom through David’s descendants, and for that reason, Rehoboam was not stripped of his crown, but God allowed him to carry the lineage of David. In our wavering faith, doubt often overtakes our minds too easily anytime we face trials. For this reason, we must remind ourselves regularly that God’s promises to us cannot be broken because they stem from His divine, immutable character.
Wise counsel is imperative for life. Irony surrounds Rehoboam because his father was the wisest man (apart from Jesus) ever to walk the earth, yet he heeded the foolish counsel of his friends and plunged his life into ruin. The author of 1 Kings wants us to learn from Rehoboam’s example when he writes, “The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him” (1 Kings 12:13). Any number of proverbs apply to Rehoboam’s foolish response. Proverbs 18:7 states, “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” No matter how confident we are, we all need wise counsel. Like most arrogant people, Rehoboam believed he possessed more control and power than he actually had. Any king (or leader) must prove their quality before the people subject themselves to their rule. It’s easy for us to scoff at Rehoboam, but the truth is we are not so different. How many times do we bring ruin to our own lives because we fail to seek good counsel? Christians should make it a habit to examine their lives according to the pure counsel God gives us in His Word.
God can use anyone for His divine purposes. When we think about the people God uses to accomplish His will, it’s easy to focus on those of faith. We typically think about God using people who submit themselves to His rule. Although God certainly uses people of faith, He also uses everyone else. The difference is that God’s children enjoy fellowship with Him while others are oblivious. Scripture is full of examples where God used an unbelieving person or nation to accomplish His work. Rehoboam is no exception. Whenever we see wicked people rising to power or doing horrendous things, God is still on His throne; He works through all things and all people.
Wisdom is a beautiful gift from God that everyone needs. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re at or what your career is, nobody can experience success in life if they don’t apply wisdom. At its core, true wisdom revolves around God. Proverbs 9:10 teaches us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” All truth and all reality conform to the purpose of God, our Creator. It only makes sense for us to subject our lives to the Word of the One Who created us. As such, we should put our complete trust in Him and nothing else. Rehoboam serves as a great reminder to embrace wisdom. But he also reveals how foolish it is to put our faith in a nation or culture. God can change our circumstances on any given day. However, this should not be troubling to Christians. Even though we may not know His divine plans, we know Him. We know we can find peace and comfort in knowing our magnificent Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, stands watching over our lives and will see us faithfully to our heavenly dwelling.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Tomertu
Stephen Baker is a graduate of Mount Union University. He is the writer of a special Scripture study/reflection addendum to Someplace to Be Somebody, authored by his wife, Lisa Loraine Baker (End Game Press Spring 2022).
He attends Faith Fellowship Church in East Rochester, OH where he has given multiple sermons and is discipled by pastor Chet Howes.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.
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