“The mis-leader [seducer] … makes an idol of himself and his office and … thus mocks God.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1933)
I’m guessing you don’t know who Rehoboam is. Someone like Thoreau would’ve known. Because Thoreau read the Bible as literature. Many persons a hundred years ago would’ve known—to be educated one had to know the Bible. Today—much the opposite.
I’ll tell you.
Rehoboam was the son and successor of Solomon. Maybe you’ve heard of Solomon: the man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Or maybe you’ve heard of King Solomon’s Mines (1885), a popular novel by Sir H Rider Haggard.
Solomon was the son and successor of David, “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1), the one who killed the giant Goliath. David’s strength was that he pleased God and had a heart for God. Like his dad, Solomon was also a writer. He wrote the biblical books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. But his strength was earthly power. He presided over Israel’s Golden Age and was the grandest king in Israel’s history (2 Chronicles 9:22). He was so rich, all he used was gold (9:20). Silver was nothing during his reign (9:27). His territory reached the farthest limits Israel had known.
Imagine leaving such a vast and wealthy empire to an insensitive bully like Rehoboam.
After Solomon’s death, Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned king. Who should show up at the coronation but Jeroboam, his father’s nemesis, who had been hiding out in Egypt. Jeroboam complained, “Your dad made our yoke heavy. Let up on the grievous servitude, and we will serve you” (2 Chronicles 10:4).
Rehoboam said he’d think about it.
So Rehoboam asked his father’s friends, the old men, what they thought he should do.
The old men counseled kindness and diplomacy. “If you will be kind to the people, and make them happy, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever” (10:7).
Then Rehoboam asked his own friends, the young men, what they thought he should do.
The young men counseled harshness. “Tell the people: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. My father put a heavy yoke on you: I will put more. My father chastised you with whips: I will chastise you with scorpions'” (10:10, 11).
Obviously, the younger men had never studied political science.
When he next saw Jeroboam and his group, Rehoboam answered them roughly. He abandoned the counsel of the elders in favor of the counsel of his cabinet. “My dad made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it. My dad chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (10:14).
When the people saw that Rehoboam would not listen, they asked themselves, “What portion have we in David? … Every man to your tents, O Israel. And now, David, see to your own house” (10:16).
So, Solomon’s vast empire was broken up. Ten tribes seceded from the Union, leaving Rehoboam with only his own tribe (Judah), the priestly tribe (Levi), and anyone still living in Judah.
When Rehoboam returned to Jerusalem, he assembled an army of 180,000 troops and headed out to make civil war. He was going, he thought, to whip the recalcitrant tribes of the republic back into submission.
But God stopped him. “You shall not go up, nor fight against your brothers. Return every man to his house, for this thing is done of Me” (11:4).
For a few years Rehoboam was chastened. On the domestic front, he built up a harem of eighteen wives and sixty concubines and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters—one of the few times in Scripture where we’re told how many girls were in the family.
But Rehoboam couldn’t be good long. Inevitably God had to chasten him again. This time God let him fall into the hands of Shishak, king of Egypt, who “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house. He took all. He carried away also the shields of gold that Solomon had made” (12:9)—in their place Rehoboam substituted brass.
Saul, Israel’s first king, had reigned forty years. David had reigned forty years. Solomon had reigned forty years. Rehoboam, Israel’s fourth king, reigned only seventeen years (12:13). God cut him off.
How is Obama like Rehoboam? He’s an insensitive bully. And evidently following bad advice. Choosing to treat people harshly and speaking to them roughly never pays. In the long run such a “mis-leader” is doomed to defeat and, sometimes, as in the case of Rehoboam (and Hitler), an abbreviated reign.
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.” ~Dwight D Eisenhower
Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee