2 Chronicles 10 – The Reign of Rehoboam
A. Rehoboam and the nation at Shechem.
1. (1-5) The elders of Israel offer Rehoboam the throne of Israel.
And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. So it happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it (he was in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon), that Jeroboam returned from Egypt. Then they sent for him and called him. And Jeroboam and all Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, “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.” So he said to them, “Come back to me after three days.” And the people departed.
a. Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king: This was a logical continuation of the Davidic dynasty. David was succeeded by his son Solomon, and now Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, was assumed to be the next king.
i. Rehoboam was the only son of Solomon that we know by name. Solomon had 1000 wives and concubines, yet we read of one son he had to bear up his name, and he was a fool. This demonstrates that sin is a bad way of building up a family.
ii. “It is difficult to believe that he had no other sons; yet it is a fact that Rehoboam is the only one mentioned (1 Chronicles 3:10).” (Knapp)
iii. Shechem was a city with a rich history. Abraham worshipped there (Genesis 12:6). Jacob built an altar and purchased land there (Genesis 33:18-20). Joseph was buried there (Joshua 24:32). It was also the geographical center of the northern tribes. All in all, it showed that Rehoboam was in a position of weakness, having to meet the ten northern tribes on their territory, instead of demanding that representatives come to Jerusalem.
b. When Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it: Jeroboam was mentioned previously in 1 Kings 11:26-40. God told him through a prophet that he would rule over a portion of a divided Israel. Naturally, Jeroboam was interested in Solomon’s successor. He was specifically part of the group of elders that addressed Rehoboam.
c. Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father: Solomon was a great king, but he took a lot from the people. The people of Israel wanted relief from the heavy taxation and forced service of Solomon’s reign, and they offered allegiance to Rehoboam if he agreed to this.
i. God warned Israel about this in 1 Samuel 8:10-19, when through Samuel, the LORD spoke of what a king would take from Israel. After the warning, the people still wanted a king, and now they knew what it was like to be ruled by a taking king.
ii. Sadly, the elders of Israel made no spiritual demand or request on Rehoboam. Seemingly, the gross idolatry and apostasy of Solomon didn’t bother them at all.
2. (6-7) The counsel from Rehoboam’s older advisors.
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, saying, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” And they spoke to him, saying, “If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever.”
a. Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived: Wisely, Rehoboam asked for the counsel of these older, experienced men. They seemed to advise Solomon well, so it was fitting that Rehoboam asked for their advice.
b. If you are kind to these people…they will be your servants forever: The elders knew that Rehoboam was not Solomon, and could not expect the same from the people that Solomon did. Rehoboam had to relate to the people based on who he was, not on who his father was. If he showed kindness and a servant’s heart to the people, they would love and serve him forever. This was good advice.
3. (8-11) The counsel from Rehoboam’s younger advisors.
But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to the people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’; thus you shall say to them: ‘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!’”
a. But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men: Before Rehoboam ever consulted with the younger men he rejected the advice of the elders.
i. This is a common phenomenon today – what some call “advice shopping.” The idea is that you keep asking different people for advice until you find someone who will tell you what you want to hear. This is an unwise and ungodly way to get counsel. It is better to have a few trusted counselors you will listen to – even when they tell you what you don’t want to hear.
b. And consulted the young men who had grown up with him: These men were much more likely to tell Rehoboam what he already thought. By turning to those likely to think just as he did, it shows that Rehoboam only asked for advice for the sake of appearances.
i. Their unwise advice shows the wisdom of seeking counsel from those outside our immediate situation and context. Sometimes an outsider can see things more clearly than those who share our same experiences.
ii. “The ‘young men’ to who Rehoboam preferred to turn were probably some of Solomon’s many sons, rendered callous by upbringing in the luxurious harem and court at Jerusalem.” (Payne)
c. And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke: The younger men offered the opposite advice to the elders. They suggested an adversarial approach, one that would make Rehoboam more feared than Solomon was.
i. Solomon asked a lot of Israel, in both taxes and service. Yet we don’t have the impression that Israel followed Solomon out of fear, but out of a sense of shared vision and purpose. They believed in what Solomon wanted to do, and were willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. Rehoboam did not appeal to any sense of shared vision and purpose – he simply wanted the people to follow his orders out of the fear of a tyrant.
ii. “He attempted to continue the despotism of his father, though he lacked his father’s refinement and ability to fascinate.” (Morgan)
iii. “With a dozen rash words, Rehoboam, the bungling dictator, opened the door for four hundred years of strife, weakness, and, eventually, the destruction of the entire nation.” (Dilday)
iv. My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! A targum translates this, “My weakness shall be stronger than the might of my father.” (Clarke)
4. (12-15) Rehoboam answers Jeroboam and the elders of Israel harshly.
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” Then the king answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from God, that the LORD might fulfill His word, which He had spoken by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
a. So the king did not listen to the people: In this case, Rehoboam clearly should have listened to the people. This is not to say that a leader should always lead by popular vote, but a leader needs the wisdom to know when what the people want is best for them.
i. Rehoboam was a fool. Ironically, his father Solomon worried about losing all he worked for under a foolish successor: Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19)
ii. “Rehoboam was a fool; and through his folly he lost his kingdom. He is not the only example on record: the Stuarts lost the realm of England much in the same way.” (Clarke)
iii. “Livy saith, when a state is ripe for ruin, all wholesome counsels are fatally but foolishly slighted.” (Trapp)
b. For the turn of events was from God: God managed this whole series of events, but He did not make Rehoboam take this unwise and sinful action. God simply left Rehoboam alone and allowed him to make the critical errors his sinful heart wanted to make.
i. “It seemed to be altogether a piece of human folly and passion; but now we are suddenly brought into the presence of God, and told that beneath the plottings and plannings of man He was carrying out His eternal purpose…. He makes the wrath of man to praise Him, and weaves the malignant work of Satan into his plans.” (Meyer)
ii. “Notice also, dear friends, that God is in events which are produced by the sin and the stupidity of men. This breaking up of the kingdom of Solomon into two parts was the result of Solomon’s sin and Rehoboam’s folly; yet God was in it: “This thing is from me, saith the Lord.” God had nothing to do with the sin or the folly, but in some way which we can never explain, in a mysterious way in which we are to believe without hesitation, God was in it all.” (Spurgeon)
B. The revolt against Rehoboam.
1. (16-17) Jeroboam leads those leaving Rehoboam’s rule.
Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying:
“What share have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
Every man to your tents, O Israel!
Now see to your own house, O David!”
So all Israel departed to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah.
a. What share have we in David? Rehoboam’s foolishness made Israel reject not only Rehoboam, but also the entire dynasty of David. They rejected the descendants of Israel’s greatest king.
b. Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah: This signals the division of the twelve tribes into two kingdoms; a northern kingdom made up of ten tribes and a southern kingdom made up of Judah and Benjamin.
2. (18-19) Israel rebels against the house of David.
Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was in charge of revenue; but the children of Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
a. King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was in charge of the revenue; but the children of Israel stoned him with stones: Apparently, Rehoboam did not take the rebellions seriously until this happened. When his chief tax collector was murdered, he knew that the ten tribes were serious about their rebellion.
i. Hadoram was the wrong man for Rehoboam to send. He was famous for his harsh policy of forced labor (1 Kings 4:6 and 5:14). “He was probably one of the most hated figures in the land, an embodiment of oppression.” (Payne). Rehoboam probably sent Hadoram because he wanted to make good on his promise to punish those who opposed him. His tough-guy policy didn’t work.
ii. “Rehoboam makes one pathetic effort to restore unity, perfectly illustrating the poverty of his policy.” (Selman)
b. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day: From this point on in the history of Israel, the name “Israel” referred to the ten northern tribes and the name “Judah” referred to the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah.
i. There was a long-standing tension between the ten northern tribes and the combined group of Judah and Benjamin. There were two earlier rebellions along this line of potential division, in the days after Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 19:40-43), which developed into the rebellion of Sheba (2 Samuel 20:1-2).
ii. “Rehoboam ought to have been thankful that God’s love to David had left him even two tribes.” (Knapp)