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Rehoboam Of Israel And Judah
Rehoboam, from the Hebrew name pronounced reck-awb-awm, meaning an enlarged people, or he enlarges the people, was the son and successor of King Solomon of Israel. While Rehoboam was of the tribe of Judah, he, like his father Solomon and grandfather David, was king over all of the tribes of Israel. Of those three kings however, only Solomon ruled over a united kingdom through his entire reign (see The United Kingdom). David had reigned over Judah before all of Israel made him their king, while Rehoboam reigned over all of Israel before being left with only Judah.
"2:4 And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah." (2 Samuel 2:4 KJV; see The Civil War)
"I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions"
Unlike the struggle for the throne that both David and Solomon experienced, Rehoboam seems to have been relatively uncontested - despite the many other children that Solomon must have had from his 1,000 wives and concubines: "11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart" (1 Kings 11:3 KJV). It was from that apostasy of Solomon ("his wives turned away his heart") that the LORD declared that the kingdom would be divided - in the time of Solomon's successor ("Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son," see below in context). Much has been made of Rehoboam's foolish arrogance that caused the northern tribes of Israel to break away, but it would have happened, according to the Word of the LORD, regardless of how Rehoboam behaved.
"11:9 And the LORD [see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM'] was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, 11:10 And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. 11:11 Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. 11:12 Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. 11:13 Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen." (1 Kings 11:9-13 KJV)
And so it was that when Solomon died, Rehoboam made the political mistake (see Royal Democracy) that accomplished the Word of the LORD. It wasn't a matter of Rehoboam being innocent of circumstances; the people of the northern tribes at first accepted him as their king. It was Rehoboam's own free choice to behave like an arrogant tyrant that fulfilled the prophecy.
"12:1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. 12:2 And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt; 12:3 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, 12:4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
Rehoboam then mustered his remaining army of Judah to go to war against the armies of Israel, thereby beginning another civil war of succession, as happened during the time of King David, but the LORD told Rehoboam that the division of the kingdom was His Will. Rehoboam had enough wisdom to heed the command, at least for the day.
"12:21 And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.
Rehoboam's forty-one year rule over Judah was, overall, grossly corrupt. He "built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree" and "there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel." Rehoboam was also militarily weak; Shishak king of Egypt invaded the capital city of Jerusalem, whereby he looted the Temple and the royal palace. Despite the attacks from Egypt, Rehoboam ignored the command of the LORD and fought with Israel, under Jeroboam: "And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days."
"14:21 And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess.