Rehoboam’s Reign of Folly
10 Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was in Egypt where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon), Jeroboam returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent and summoned him. When Jeroboam and all Israel came, they spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 5 He said to them, “Return to me again in three days.” So the people departed.
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had [a]served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” 7 They spoke to him, saying, “If you will be kind to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him [b]and served him. 9 So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to the people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter for us.’ Thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! 11 Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had [c]directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” 13 The king answered them harshly, and King Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the elders. 14 He spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “[d]My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the Lord might establish His word, which He spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
16 When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them the people answered the king, saying,
“What portion do we have in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
Every man to your tents, O Israel;
Now look after your own house, David.”
So all Israel departed to their tents. 17 But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was over the forced labor, and the sons of Israel stoned him [e]to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
There’s a pretty obvious lesson here, which is not to listen to idiots… But another lesson is that taking something to the extreme can have serious consequences. Finding a middle ground in compromise is an art form almost lost in our society today. As we struggle not to lose our faith in a quagmire of (im)morality, knowing when and how to give to someone on the other side of an issue can be difficult.
However, it is essential to find middle ground, or put another way, to find common ground. Because there is always something we have in common, and when all we focus on is our differences, we become divided. Nothing good comes from being divided, as we’ve seen in our nation of late.
Then there’s another lesson which is somewhat connected. That is to avoid being trapped in the echo chamber of agreeable voices. I don’t think Rehoboam wanted to “speak nicely” to the people, so he went to his friends who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. It’s easy to seek out people who agree with our opinions. But it is far more difficult to find, and listen to, the folks who disagree with us. It is even harder to know what to do with their opinions, and so often we ignore them.
Sometimes, they might be wrong, but other times we need to have more compassion and understanding. We need to find God’s heart in the middle of contrasting views, for that is the only true guide for our lives.