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And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the gold shields which Solomon had made. Then King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place, and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard, who guarded the doorway of the king’s house. (1 Kings 14:26-27)
Solomon’s temple was one of the great achievements of ancient Israel – this beautiful building was filled with treasures that reflected the blessing and glory of Solomon’s kingdom. Understanding that makes it all the more sad to read of what happened to Solomon’s son Rehoboam: He took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house. Solomon left great wealth to his son Rehoboam, both in the temple and in the palace. After only five years, that wealth was mostly gone.
1 Kings 10:16-17 tells us more about this, mentioning these 500 shields, 200 large and 300 small. These shields made beautiful displays in the House of the Forest of Lebanon, but they were of no use in battle. Gold was too heavy and too soft to be used as a metal for effective shields. This was an example of the emphasis of image over substance that began in the days of Solomon and worsened in the days of Rehoboam. Because all they were interested in was image, the substance wasted away. These gold shields were given over to the Egyptians. By some estimates, Rehoboam gave over $33 million that was invested in gold ceremonial shields – and was now in the hands of the Egyptians.
We read, King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place. The replacement of gold with bronze is a perfect picture of the decline under the days of Rehoboam. We also read that he committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard. In the days of Solomon, the gold shields hung on display in the House of the House of the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 10:16-17). Under Rehoboam, the replacement bronze shields were kept in a protected guardroom until they were specifically needed for state occasions.
We can almost picture King Rehoboam walking through the hall of these shields in his palace, assuring himself that there really wasn’t much of a difference between gold shields and bronze shields. Despite his attempts at self-assurance, this was really a sad attempt to simply keep up former appearances.
This may describe our spiritual condition. We are robbed of spiritual strength and honor by our sin, compromise, and all they open the door to. Yet we work hard to keep up an outward appearance of spiritual interest and busyness. Ritual replaces relationship. We serve God on autopilot instead of a real love. Bronze replaces gold.
Think of how far Rehoboam fell in just a few years. He inherited an empire, and five years later he could only protect his small kingdom by bribing his enemies with the treasures inherited from his father. It was said of Solomon’s court that they despised silver (1 Kings 10:21); now his son had to settle for bronze. The dynasty of David went from gold to bronze in five years.
2 Chronicles summarized Rehoboam like this: “And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 12:14) This speaks to the lack of his of personal relationship with the Lord. It’s a sure way to go from gold to bronze.