Rehoboam, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 20, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As I introduced last week, I’m beginning a blog post series to dig into the kings of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. The united nation had 4 kings before the split in 928 BC – Saul, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. It was early in Rehoboam’s reign that the kingdom split, so we’ll begin our study with him.

Rehoboam was the first king of the new nation of Judah, which was comprised of the two southernmost tribes of Benjamin and Judah. But Rehoboam became king of the entire nation of Israel (all twelve tribes) when his father Solomon died (1 Kings 11:43). Rehoboam went to the town of Shechem to officially become king, but while they were there, all the people came to King Rehoboam and said, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (1 Kings 12:4).

Newly kinged Rehoboam needed to figure out what to do to lighten the labor of the people so that they would serve him as their king. First, he consulted with the elders who has served his father, King Solomon. They told him to grant the people’s demands so they would be loyal to him. But Rehoboam didn’t like that answer, so he then asked his buddies what they thought he should do. They told him to make the people’s labor even harsher and their burden heavier. You think King Solomon was hard on you? I’ll be even harder!

When the people came back to hear King Rehoboam’s response, he followed the advice of his buddies. The King did not listen to the people he was beginning to govern, so they got mad at him and rebelled. “When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!’ So the Israelites went home” (1 Kings 12:16). This all happened in order to fulfill the prophecy that had been made that God would divide the kingdom because of Solomon’s disobedience in 1 Kings 11:9-13.

But were the northern tribes really mad, or were they just playing? Rehoboam had to find out, so he sent Adoniram, his chief tax collector, to those tribes to collect the taxes. The people stoned Adoniram to death. So, Rehoboam fled and managed to escape and fled back to safety in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:18).

Rehoboam wanted to keep the nation united, so he gathered all the troops he could from the two southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah and desired to go to war against the northern tribes and regain the rest of his kingdom. But, Shemaiah the prophet stepped in and intervened before Rehoboam could go to war. Shemaiah told Rehoboam that it was God’s will for the kingdom to be divided, so they obeyed and the troops went home (1 Kings 12:21-24).

After that tumultuous start to his reign, we learn more about King Rehoboam ruling over the nation of Judah in 1 Kings 14:21-31. Remember how God was mad at King Solomon for his disobedience? Well, things only got worse in Judah under King Rehoboam. “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done” (1 Kings 14:22). There were many “detestable practices” including Asherah worship and the worship of other pagan gods.

The division of the kingdom did not happen smoothly and then the nation was at peace. No, there was continual warfare between Rehoboam in the southern kingdom and Jeroboam in the northern kingdom during all of Rehoboam’s reign. Rehoboam fortified Jerusalem and other key cities as best as he could in order to defend his new nation of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah (2 Chronicles 11:5-12).

Many of the Levites from the entire nation of Israel desired to follow Rehoboam rather than the rebellion of Jeroboam in the northern tribes. They saw that Jeroboam was rejecting God, so they left their lands in the north and came south to Judah. Some Israelites fled to the south as well. They supported Rehoboam as they believed he was the rightful king (2 Chronicles 11:13-17).

But then, things only got worse for Judah. In Rehoboam’s 5th year as king, Shishak king of Egypt ransacked the temple and took everything that was valuable from the royal palace and the temple, including the gold shields that King Solomon had made. Rehoboam replaced them with bronze shields so they would have them for ceremonial use, but the quality was not the same. The destruction by Egypt would have been much worse, except Rehoboam did humble himself before the Lord (2 Chronicles 12:1-12).

Rehoboam served as king for 17 years in Judah, until he died and his son Abijah succeeded him (2 Chronicles 12:16).

What can we learn today from Rehoboam’s reign? The first thing is that what God says will happen is going to happen. God proclaimed judgment on King Solomon, and it came to pass exactly as God said it would, and even in the timing that God indicated.

The second thing we can learn is that division only leads to more destruction. Dividng the kingdom of Israel did not solve any problems, and perhaps it even created more. Judah did not continue following God during Rehoboam’s reign but instead turned to worshiping pagan gods. Many from the northern kingdom fled to Judah in the south, only to find out that Rehoboam allowed Judah to be just as corrupt as Israel was under Jeroboam. The grass may have been greener in the south at first, but it didn’t stay that way for long.

We need to trust that God will do what He says He will do. God clearly gave the nation of Israel a prophecy that it would become divided because of disobedience to Him, and it happened. God gives us the Bible to clearly warn us of consequences that can happen when nations become divided and stop following Him. Are we paying attention to its warnings?

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.