REHOBOAM: A SHADOW OF EMPTY GREATNESS
Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, became king over a people that were exploited by his father; yet, he knew nothing about it. Rehoboam behaved as if he sat on a pot of gold. He inherited a shadow of empty greatness. He became an example for every leader who sets out to lead without analyzing his own inability. For people to lead, one has to have the ability and the means by which one can decide between right and wrong. It is a question Jesus asked and so should every leader, or king, or president. We read in the Gospel of Luke, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace” (Luke 14:28-31). Unfortunately, far too many political promises are built on sand and not on a rock. To conclude His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us an alternative in Matthew, “Every one then who hears (reads) these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears (reads) these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Now, with the above in mind, let us look at Rehoboam and keep an eye on our own achievements. King Rehoboam had the advantage of wise and of foolish counseling; nevertheless, and he sided with the fools who built on sand. Jeroboam spoke for ten tribes:
“Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Depart for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away. Then king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advice me to answer this people?” And they said unto him, “If you will be a servants to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servant for ever.” But he forsook the council which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advice that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put upon us’?” And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you lighten it for us’; thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.’” So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaken the counsel which the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” So the king did not hearken to the people; for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfil his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. And when all the Israel saw that the king did not hearken to them, the people answered the king, “What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel departed to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah (I Kings 12:4-17).
Rehoboam did not take Jeroboam’s warning to heart, that ten tribes had separated from his kingdom. He did not accept reality and sent his finance minister or task master and the people stoned him to death. Rehoboam barely escaped with his chariot:
Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David until this day. And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to assembly and made him king over all of Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. When Jeroboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom of Rehoboam the son of Solomon. But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah the man of God, “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, “Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kinsmen the people of Israel. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they hearkened to the word of the Lord, and went home again, according to the word of the Lord (I Kings 12:18-24).
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and of Naamah an Ammonite princess, and he continued serving his father’s foreign gods and idols. During his seventeen years of reign, “And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their with their sins which they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places, and pillars, and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree; and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord drove out before the people of Israel” (I Kings 14:22-24). In addition to maintaining many costly religious practices, that sapped the energy out of the country, Pharaoh Shishak arrived with his army and plunder Judah of what was left:
In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; 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 shields of gold which Solomon had made; and King Rehoboam made in their stead shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. And as often as the king went into the house of the Lord, the guard bore them and brought them back to the guardroom (I Kings 14:25-28).
Rehoboam’s dream that his little finger could surpass his father’s or Solomon’s waistline in material success and wealth was and is unrealistic. He did not listen to the older counselors, who had lived through Solomon’s madness to become famous and rich at the expense of the people. Their advice was to be a servant to the people and not a plunderer, as his father was. Rehoboam, instead, followed the advice of his friends who urged him to use his royal power or executive order to enhance his position and force his policy on the already plundered people. When Solomon stripped the people of their basic necessities, he cut his own breadline, or the very foundation upon which his kingdom rested. Jeroboam had warned Solomon and so did the people who left the house of David to form a new nation. Rehoboam had the evidence in front of him; but, he still persisted in making his little finger larger than the waistline of his father. On top of it, Rehoboam had convinced his son Abijam to continue to build his house on sand:
And he walked in all the sins which his father did before him; and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem; because David did what was right what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. The rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (I Kings 15:3-8)?
Abijam lasted only three years, and Judah was ready to relight the lamp of David with Asa, Abijam’s son.
The belief that God tolerated evil for the sake of David is not the way God set up the world. The creator installed an automatic device called “cause and effect.” Evil self-destructs and good reproduces. When evil outgrows goodness, the system collapses. Evil cannot live without goodness, because it does not have the power to reproduce as goodness does. Goodness is anchored in God and His Laws, and to abandon them results in chaos and demise of the evil that is in power.
And thanks to the wisdom of the Creator, the “lifespan of Evil” is limited to one generation, or to seventy years. This was how long Solomon’s great glory became “the vanity of vanities” with his grandson Abijim. For the man of the twenty-first century, the Soviet Union lasted seventy years. I am a victim of that system of equalization. And “the lifespan of Evil” is also dethroning the USA from its presumptuous pedestal of self-made glory. Evil is not content with goodness turning the other cheek, of walking the second mile, or of giving up our coats. Evil took everything we had, including our loved ones. God was not punishing us. It was “Evil” experiencing the pain of dying.
Asa, son of Abijam, picked up what was left of a dead system and patterned his life after David, his great grandfather. Asa returned to Yahwehism and the Law of Moses. “And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done. He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land, and removed all the idols that his father had made. He also removed Maccah his mother from being queen mother because she had an abominable image made for Asherath; and Asa cut down he image and burned it in the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days” (I Kings 15:11-24). To end the war with the kings of Israel, he used whatever silver and gold was left after the Egyptian raid, to buy the assistance of Ben-Hadad, king of Aram. His son Jehoshaphat, who broke his alliance with Ben-Hadad and sided with Ahab of Israel, succeeded Asa. Ahab was the emissary of another “Evil” raised its ugly head against goodness. Evil, in itself, is a master in disguise, that only a person with the Spirit of God can discern. Evil has a form of godliness, which misleads both saints and sinners (II Timothy 3:5).