Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 12:1-24 and Related

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1 Kings 12:1-24 and Related

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Rehoboam Loses the Kingdom

Now the terrible consequences of Solomon's idolatry will begin to unfold for the entire people of Israel. Rehoboam goes to Shechem for his coronation. Prior to the coronation, however, the people of Israel had called Jeroboam back from Egypt, intending to make him their spokesman. Solomon's great building plans had required heavy taxes and forced labor, though some of the people were becoming wealthy through the trading empire Solomon had built (1 Samuel 8:11-18 1 Samuel 8:11-18 [11] And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. [12] And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. [13] And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. [14] And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive groves, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. [15] And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. [16] And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your best young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. [17] He will take the tenth of your sheep: and you shall be his servants. [18] And you shall cry out in that day because of your king which you shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 4:7 1 Kings 4:7And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision.
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 9:15 1 Kings 9:15And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the LORD, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.
American King James Version×
). With the accession of a new king, the people sought relief from the taxation.

That this was a well-orchestrated effort at taxation reform is indicated by the people's united activity and their selection of Jeroboam as spokesman. It also indicates that the house of Ephraim was likely the main force behind the united effort. Israel's kings were limited, constitutional monarchs, Samuel having set down in a written document the rights and responsibilities of the king according to God's law (1 Samuel 10:25 1 Samuel 10:25Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
American King James Version×
; compare Deuteronomy 17:14-20 Deuteronomy 17:14-20 [14] When you are come to the land which the LORD your God gives you, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; [15] You shall in any wise set him king over you, whom the LORD your God shall choose: one from among your brothers shall you set king over you: you may not set a stranger over you, which is not your brother. [16] But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: for as much as the LORD has said to you, You shall from now on return no more that way. [17] Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. [18] And it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: [19] And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: [20] That his heart be not lifted up above his brothers, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the middle of Israel.
American King James Version×
). Absolute monarchs, by contrast, have no such limits.

Rehoboam proved himself to be a stubborn and foolish young man, which his father had worried over (see Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 [18] Yes, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it to the man that shall be after me. [19] And who knows whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.
American King James Version×
). His insensitivity to the request of his own people, and his apparent unawareness of the well-ordered petition brought by an Ephraimite in the land of Ephraim, showed him to be of dull discernment and unfeeling heart. That Shechem was the place where Israel had formerly bound themselves to God as their sole Sovereign (Joshua 24:23-25 Joshua 24:23-25 [23] Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel. [24] And the people said to Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. [25] So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
American King James Version×
) also seems to have eluded the young heir to the throne. Rehoboam also seemed oblivious to the fact that all of Solomon's counselors, who were older and more mature than his less-experienced friends, advised him to reduce the heavy taxation—an indication that they too recognized the excesses of Solomon. Rehoboam was unable to recognize sound counsel when he heard it.

Indeed, the young man's judgment fell far short of the wisdom his father counseled in the book of Proverbs—and this despite the book's many appeals to "My son," i.e., to Rehoboam primarily. Yet really that should come as no surprise—since Solomon set such a bad example of not following it all himself. It may even be that Solomon was too distracted with his thousand wives and the administration of his kingdom to properly train Rehoboam for his future responsibility—so that the young man lacked a sound foundation for rulership. Furthermore, "the turn of events was from the Lord"—to bring about the divine punishment of Solomon that his heirs were to suffer (1 Kings 12:15 1 Kings 12:15Why the king listened not to the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
American King James Version×

The rebellion at Shechem was quickly followed by the anointing of Jeroboam as king of Israel. Rehoboam marshaled his troops, from Judah and Benjamin, to crush the rebellion, but a message from God forbade the contemplated assault, and Rehoboam relented.

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