Rehoboam, Roboam [Rēhōbō'am,Rōbō'am]—freer of the people or the people is enlarged. The son of Solomon by Naamah, an Ammonitess (1 Kings 11:43; 14:21).
At the revolt he was left with only two tribes.
Although Rehoboam was the son of a wise father, he himself had a small mind. From the fifty references to this man, who scorned wise counsel, we can learn a great many facts. Although named as an ancestor of Christ (Matt. 1:7), he was unworthy of such an honor for three reasons.
I. He was dominated by a false principle. Rehoboam entertained an erroneous idea of the relation between a sovereign and his subjects. He was obsessed with the false premise that the subjects existed for the sovereign and not the sovereign for the subjects. Daily surrounded by unscrupulous flatterers who fed his self-importance, Rehoboam came to accept the nonsensical fiction of “the divine right of kings,” that led him to treat his subjects as mere puppets to be manipulated for the benefit of his reigning house.
Whether this outlook was the result of a perverse disposition or wrong training may be hard to decide. Rehoboam had been brought up under the autocratic rule of his father, Solomon, to whom subjects were synonymous to slaves. When the people appealed, it was more against Solomon than Rehoboam, who had not had the opportunity of proving his quality as a king. So the first appeal to Rehoboam was, “Thy father made our yoke grievous,” and the son sought to copy the defect of his father. Lamentable failure, however, overtook this feeble son of an illustrious father.
II. He followed the wrong advice. Alexander Whyte introduces his homily on Rehoboam with the sentence: “Just by one insolent and swaggering word, King Rehoboam lost for ever the ten tribes of Israel. And all Rehoboam’s insane and suicidal history is written in our Bible for the admonition and instruction of all hot-blooded, ill-natured, and insolent-spoken men among ourselves.”
What a different history of the Jews would have been written had Rehoboam not followed the advice of reckless counselors. When he went to Shechem, the rallying center of the northern tribes, to be formally crowned as king in succession to Solomon, the people were willing to accept Rehoboam on one condition, namely that he should lighten the burdens imposed upon them by Solomon. This reasonable request, which should have been acceded to without any hesitation, was met with the cautious reply: “Come again to me after three days.” But Rehoboam lost a golden opportunity of healing the sores of fears and of preserving the unity of God’s ancient people.
First of all, the king sought the advice of the old men who had been counselors of his father and whose ripe experience qualified them to guide Rehoboam. They urged the king to be kind and considerate. “Speak good words unto them, and they will be thy servants forever.” But with his mind already made up, he rejected the counsel of the old men, and consulting the opinion of his young, rash companions who had always fed his vanity, he followed their advice and, assuming a haughty attitude, announced that he would add to the yoke of the people. “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”
The effect was instantaneous, and a long-suffering people, smarting for so long under a sense of wrong, refused to be cowed, like the brave Hungarian people, by empty boastings. Thus the slumbering embers of revolt burst into a flame, and the kingdom was rent in twain and Israel’s greatness destroyed.
III. He failed to give God the first place. If Rehoboam had consulted the Supreme King of Nations before seeking the advice of old and young men, how beneficial the monarchy would have been. While at the first he posed as the defender of the faith of his fathers and maintained the Temple services with signal fidelity, he failed to render God an undivided homage. The last years of Solomon’s brilliant reign were darkened by the recognition of heathen gods and their degrading cults which, along with the fact that Rehoboam was the son of a heathen woman, helped to explain his apostasy. So attempting the impossible, he sought to please God and worship idols at the same time. But said Rehoboam’s perfect Descendant: “No man can serve two masters.”
At first pious (2 Chron. 12:1) Rehoboam fell into such iniquity that an Egyptian scourge came upon the king and the two tribes he ruled. Brief penitence stayed vengeance, but the rot had set in (2 Chron. 12:5, 8). So we leave Rehoboam, who went astray in a threefold direction, ruining himself and the people he sought to govern. He lost the best part of his kingdom and reduced Israel as a whole to a subordinate rank among nations.