REHOBOAM AND THE PROMISES
Rehoboam, the successor of Solomon had an impossible task. His father Solomon was a great spender and what he built required an enormous amount of income just to keep things working. Yet the people had already given to the limit. Government and its holdings had far exceeded the tax base. The new king left no room for negotiation. Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders and listened to his friends who counseled him to say, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” To this the Israelites replied, “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, o David!”
Meanwhile in Judah, Rehoboam multiplied his mistakes by allowing idol worship and male prostitution to continue. His son Abijah continued the abomination. He was succeeded by Asa who did right in the eyes of the Lord. He discontinued the male shrines and idol worship. He was friendly with Ahab and the two were killed in a war against Aram and Moab (I Kin. 22-II Kin.3). His son Jehoram married a daughter of Ahab and he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. Then, Jehoram’s son Ahaziah went to see his uncle Joram son of Ahab. His mother Athaliah and Joram were brother and sister. During this joined venture Joram and Ahaziah were both killed by Jehu. At this time, both kings did evil in the eyes of the Lord (II Kin. 8:16-9: 29).
Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, quickly grabbed the throne by destroying the entire royal family. Joash, baby-son of Ahaziah, was hidden and saved by his father’s sister. She hid him in the temple with the priests for six years. During this period, even the throne of Judah was in the hands of Ahab’s family. It took Jehoiada the priest almost seven years to surround himself and the legal heir to the throne with confidential military men who were willing to dispose of Athaliah. His plan succeeded and at the age of seven, Joash became king. With the help of Jehoiada the priests, Joash instituted the most thorough reform since David. The Covenant was renewed, Baal worship was destroyed, the Law was being obeyed and the Temple was being repaired. He did not discontinue sacrificing in high places, however. He also bought off with sacred objects Hazael of Aram from invading Jerusalem. Joash was also assassinated but by his own staff (II Kin. 11-12).
Amaziah avenged his father and followed in his footprints. He defeated the Edomites and was routed and looted by Jehoash of Israel. He too died at the hands of his people. His son Azariah was a leper and reigned for 52 years. Jotham was the last of the kings that did right except for the high places. Ahaz, son of Jotham, did evil by introducing Tiglath-Pileser’s religion and Israel’s idols. His son Hezekiah did what was right, had his life extended, was saved from the Assyrians and exposed his wealth to the Babylonians. These were the times in which Isaiah the prophet lived and ministered. Manasseh undid the good of his father and outdid the Israelite kings in their idolatry. He even sacrificed his own son to the fire and shed much innocent blood. His son Amon was murdered and so were his murderers. Josiah became king and turned the pendulum back toward God. During Josiah’s reign, the Law was found and the Covenant was renewed. Like Joash, he was eight years old and under supervision of the priest Hilkiah. Josiah removed all the altars and shrines even the ones at Bethel and Dan and he restored the celebration of the Passover. This good king also died, but at the hands of Pharaoh Neco at Meggido.
The people anointed Jehoahaz as their king; but Neco put him in chains and placed his brother Eliakim on the throne and renamed him Jehoiakim. Like his brother before him, he did evil in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, he turned to the ways of Manasseh. It was also the time that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon enlarged his holdings and Jehoiakim became his vassal. When he rebelled, the Babylonians and their allies returned. It was his son Jehoiachin who surrendered to the Babylonians. The king and all the nobles, along with the religious treasures were carried off to Babylon. The king’s uncle, Mattaniah was made king by the invaders and his name was changed to Zedekiah. He too rebelled and the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and dissolved the heritage of Solomon (II Kin.14-25).
This awesome lesson of history must not be overshadowed with God’s grace. There was a long delay and many chances for the people of God to mend their ways before the Lord allowed the destroyer to remove them from the Promised Land. God did not alter his Promise in the bargain; Israel and Judah did. They had forsaken the Lord and His Commands and followed pagan leaders and directions and these did them in. The kings, except David, proved themselves inadequate as keepers of the Promises. The historian summed it up in these words: “I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their fathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” But the people did not listen (II Kin. 21:8-9). Hence these final words: “I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their fore-fathers came out of Egypt until this day” (II Kin. 21:14-15).
The notion that Judaism began with Judah is erroneous. It began with the house of Jesse and specifically with Jesse’s son David and his grandson Rehoboam. David laid the foundation by being the first king of the tribe of Judah for seven years before he became king over all of Israel. Rehoboam destroyed that foundation of unity and weakened the people that were to represent God. Solomon, however, with his endeavor to be famous and rich was the cause of the fall of the house of David. He misapplied the wisdom God had given him. He had lost the humility a leader required and that same pride he passed on to his son Rehoboam who set in motion the decline and fall of all of Israel. He allowed bad things to continue until they were out of control. Perhaps this is one reason why leaders avoid reading the Bible for its one hundred percent prediction of what happens when pride get in the way. Pride does not admit mistakes; it blames others for its fall. “God resists the proud but give grace to the humble” (Ja. 4:6).