2 Chronicles 10: Lessons from Rehoboam Regarding Foolish Leaders

Introduction: This chapter describes the evil actions of Solomon’s son Rehoboam and Solomon’s former servant Jeroboam. The two were responsible for leading Israel into a permanent division. As a result of their actions, Rehoboam was then left to rule just the southern kingdom of Judah from 931 to 913 B.C. Because of their evil actions, Israel would remain divided until and through its future captivity and exile at the hands of foreign powers. Through the mistakes of these leaders, God reveals seven signs and warnings regarding foolish leaders.

First, after Solomon’s death, the people complained to Rehoboam regarding the forced labor and taxes that Solomon imposed upon them to build up the nation. In response to their complaints, Rehoboam wisely sent the people away for three days instead of speaking from his flesh. Yet, he failed to use this time to pray for God’s guidance. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God warns that a foolish leader fails to pray for His guidance. Second, Rehoboam at first wisely consulted with his elders. Yet, when the elders encouraged him to address the people’s suffering, he then rejected their wise counsel and sought out people who agreed with him. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God warns that a foolish leader rejects the Spirit-led advice of elders. Third, Rehoboam then sought out the counsel of his young friends and servants, who appealed to his pride and urged him to show an iron fist towards the disgruntled people. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God warns that a foolish leader listens to those who promote pride or oppression. Fourth, in response to their complaints, Rehoboam then threatened the people with even greater hardships than they experienced under Solomon. This ignited the people with rage. From Rehoboam’s mistakes, God warns that a foolish leader acts with cruelty or without love towards others. Fifth, Solomon’s former servant incited the people’s anger to kill one of Rehoboam’s servants and then to divide the nation into two kingdoms. From his mistakes, God warns that a foolish leader is unforgiving and sows division or rebellion. Sixth, in response to Jews’ rebellion, Rehoboam imposed forced labor as a punishment. This caused the Jews from Northern Israel to kill Rehoboam’s minister of forced labor and drive Rehoboam back to Jerusalem. From Rehoboam’s mistakes, God warns that a foolish leader acts with unforgiveness towards others. Finally, because Rehoboam failed to lead the nation in repentance, Israel and Judah were permanently divided. Through his mistake, God warns that a foolish leader is unrepentant and can create lasting harm to God’s people.

1. A Foolish Leader Fails to Seek God’s Will and Instead Pursues His Own. 2 Chr. 10:1-5.

  • King Rehoboam fails to seek God’s guidance in response to the people’s complaints. Before the northern tribes would accept Rehoboam as their new king, the people asked him to change Solomon’s forced labor and taxation practices. Rehoboam wisely asked for time to consider their requests. But he failed to use this time to pray: “1 Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 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. So they sent and summoned him. When Jeroboam and all Israel came, they spoke to Rehoboam, saying, ‘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.’ He said to them, ‘Return to me again in three days.’ So the people departed.” (2 Chr. 10:1-5; 1 Kgs. 12:1-5). Even though Jerusalem was now the nation’s capital, the 12 tribes still met at Shechem. Abraham and Jacob both worshiped at this sacred place (Gen. 12:6; 33:18-20). Joseph was also buried there (Josh. 24:32). It was the place where the tribes met for periodic covenant renewal ceremonies (Gen. 12:6-7; 33:18-20; Josh. 24:1-27, 32). This was also a central place near Mount Ephraim where the Jews had gathered to select leaders since Abimelech (Jdgs. 9:6). But the fact that Rehoboam had to meet the elders in Northern Israel showed the tenuous nature of his claim to the throne: “It was also the geographical center of the northern tribes. All in all, it showed that Rehoboam was in a position of weakness, having to meet the ten northern tribes on their territory, instead of demanding that representatives come to Jerusalem.” (David Guzik on 2 Chr. 10) (italics in original).1

  • Solomon’s practices of forced labor and heavy taxation strained the nation’s unity. Jeroboam, the Ephraimite, previously rebelled against Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:26). He was a populist whose name means “he who enlarges the people”. According to Jewish tradition, he opposed Solomon’s forced labor practices that he used to build up Jerusalem’s infrastructure. After learning that God intended to give part of the kingdom to Jeroboam to punish Solomon for his idolatry, Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam. Yet, Jeroboam then fled to Egypt (1 Kgs. 11:40). Solomon previously used forced labor for his many building projects: “Now King Solomon levied forced laborers from all Israel; and the forced laborers numbered 30,000 men.” (1 Kgs. 5:13). Now that Solomon was dead, Jeroboam returned to lead the northern tribes in their complaints against Solomon’s labor and taxation requirements (1Kgs. 4:7; 5:13; 9:22; 11:28). Solomon’s use of forced labor was one of the many consequences that Samuel warned would happen if the people rejected God’s will and demanded to be governed by a king: “He said, ‘This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.”’ (1 Sam. 8:11). Rehoboam did not have a building plan to justify a continuation of Solomon’s practices. But he feared that if he were to lessen the forced labor or reduce the amount of taxation, his wealth, power, and influence would be reduced.

  • King Rehoboam failed to follow Solomon’s example by praying for God’s wisdom. After his brother Adonijah’s failed coup d'etat, a young Solomon also faced a doubtful nation when he assumed power (1 Kgs. 1:5-53). After leading the nation in repentance, he then humbly asked God for the wisdom to lead the people: “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kgs. 3:9). Despite countless other brothers through Solomon’s 1,000 wives who would have coveted his power, Rehoboam did not even think to consult God in prayer. Nor did he accept that his true power and right to be king came from God. Like many people, he also denied the power of prayer for answering problems. God promises His wisdom for any who ask in faith (Jam. 1:5). Do you petition God in prayer for answers to the dilemmas that you face each day?

  • Rehoboam did what seemed right in his own eyes, which led to the death of the nation. Rehoboam’s father Solomon warned: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Rehoboam was never interested in searching out God’s will. He only wanted to preserve his power. Yet, his decision to only pursue his own interests led to the destruction of the country he sought to lead.

2. A Foolish Leader Rejects the Spirit-Led Advice of Elders. 2 Chr. 10:6-8.

  • King Rehoboam rejects the wise counsel of his elders to show kindness to his people. In response to the people’s complaints, Rehoboam at first wisely sought the advice of Israel’s elders. Yet, he rejected their counsel when they wisely urged him to show compassion: “Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, ‘How do you counsel me to answer this people?’ 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.’ But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him.” (2 Chr. 10:6-8; 1 Kgs. 12:6-8). Rehoboam was not serious about looking for the right decision. Instead, he sought out people who shared his views. You should never limit the advice you seek to people who agree with you in advance. Instead, seek out advice from many sources “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thess. 5:21). The Holy Spirit can then guide your path.

  • King Rehoboam also rejected Solomon’s and Job’s pleas that he listen to wise counsel. Rehoboam also rejected his own father’s Proverbs on God’s wisdom: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction . . . ;” (Prov. 1:8). “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding,” (Prov. 4:1). In his proverbs, Solomon warned Rehoboam to listen to Spirit-led counsel of his elders and not rely upon his own understanding: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” (Prov. 19:20). “Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” (Prov. 8:33). Job also gave this same advice in his writings: “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” (Job 12:12). “I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom.” (Job. 32:37). “Please inquire of past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow.” (Job 8:8-9). In addition to reading the Word and praying, do you seek advice from wise Spirit-led elders?

  • Like the wise counselors, Jesus is compassionate to those who suffer from oppression. The elders gave Spirit-led advice because they urged Rehoboam to show compassion toward the people. As our example, Jesus showed us that a leader should always have compassion when people are suffering: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34). “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat.” (Matt. 8:2). When you see people suffering or when people complain to you, do you show compassion or indifference towards them?

  • A wise leader serves God’s people and not him or herself. If Rehoboam were interested in being a Spirit-led leader, he would have looked for ways to serve his people. Again as our example, Jesus revealed that He came to serve others, not Himself: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28). Do you seek to serve God’s people? Or, do you live to serve yourself?

3. A Foolish Leader Listens to Those Who Promote Pride or Oppression. 2 Chr. 10:9-11.

  • King Rehoboam listened to the foolish advice of his servants. After rejecting the wise advice of Israel’s elders, Rehoboam sought out the advice of his young servants. His young servants knew Rehoboam and appealed to his vanity and pride by urging him to use oppression in response to the people’s complaints: “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.’’” (2 Chr. 10:9-11; 1 Kgs. 12:9-11). Rehoboam was about 40 years old (1 Kgs. 14:21). His contemporaries had grown rich under Solomon’s taxation system. Thus, out of their own self-interest, they appealed to Solomon’s pride to reject the people’s demands. They further urged him to tax the people even more.

Hans Holbein (1497/8-1543) “Rehoboam’s Arrogance” (1530)2

  • King Rehoboam also rejected Solomon’s plea that he reject evil counsel. Rehoboam’s servants offered wicked advice because they lacked humility or compassion for the people. They further led Rehoboam astray by building up his pride and oppressive instincts. Rehoboam should have heeded Solomon’s advice to reject the counsel of sinners: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” (Prov. 1:10). “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man,” (Prov. 22:24). “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;” (Eph. 5:11). Are you surrounding yourself with people who give godly advice?

  • King Rehoboam also rejected David’s example of humility. If he were wise, Rehoboam would have rejected pride and vanity as his grandfather David did: “A Song of Ascents, of David. O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.” (Ps. 131:1) David also warned: “And You save an afflicted people; but Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase.” (2 Sam. 22:28). “So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased, the eyes of the proud also will be abased.” (Is. 5:15). Are you looking to glorify yourself or God through your actions? What advice are you giving others in this area?

4. A Foolish Leader Acts With Cruelty and Without Love Towards Others. 2 Chr. 10:12-15.

  • King Rehoboam rejects the cries of his people and threatens greater oppression. Rehoboam responded to the people’s complaints by threatening to punish them with labor and tax requirements far worse than any sacrifice that they had to make under Solomon: “12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had 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, ‘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.” (2 Chr. 10:12-15; 1 Kgs. 12:12-15). Solomon convinced the people to accept his taxation and service requirements by wisely creating a shared vision for the Temple and other national projects. Rehoboam presented no justification for the continued heavy taxation and service requirements. Because he had no love for the people, Rehoboam lashed out at them for their requests. As king, he saw it as his role to make demands of them. Out of cruelty, he further thought that he needed to teach the people a lesson by imposing even more severe requirements on them. God used Rehoboam’s foolishness to fulfill Ahijah’s prophecy regarding Israel’s future division (1 Kgs. 11:29-39).

Rehoboam rejects the cries of his people3

  • King Rehoboam rejects Solomon’s counsel against stirring up people with harsh words. Among his many mistakes, Rehoboam also ignored his father’s advice not to stir the people up in anger with harsh words: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Prov. 15:18). “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.” (Prov. 26:21). “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.” (Prov. 29:21). “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” (Prov. 18:23). Believers are also warned about the evil that can be done through harsh words: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (Jam. 3:8). Church leaders must also be gentle and not quarrelsome in dealing with others (1 Tim. 3:3). When others disappoint you, do you show love and control your tongue from hurting them?

  • King Rehoboam violated God’s law by treating the Jews like Egyptian slaves. Rehoboam also treated the people like an Egyptian pharaoh by threatening forced labor to punish the people: “The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.” (Ex. 1:13-14). God warned His leaders not to place His people under the same bondage that He had freed them from by delivering them from Egypt: “For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.” (Lev. 25:42-43). If you have others that serve you or look up to you, are you kind and helpful in lessening their loads?

  • God will punish rulers who use force and violence against their people. Through Ezekiel, God later promised to punish the leaders like Rehoboam who mistreat the people with threats of force instead of helping the people: “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.” (Ezek. 34:4).

5. A Foolish Leader Fails to Unite the Body or Reconcile Divided Believers. 2 Chr. 10:16.

  • In response to King Rehoboam’s cruelty, the nation of Israel was divided into two. Rehoboam’s threats allowed Jeroboam to incite the northern tribes into breaking away to form a separate kingdom: “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.” (2 Chr. 10:16-17; 1 Kgs. 12:16-17). Satan knows that: “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mk. 3:25). Thus, Satan used two ungodly men, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, to divide God’s people. Eventually, both nations went into exile.

  • Those who incite division and rebellion are worthless and act under Satan’s control. While inciting the people into rebellion, Jeroboam quoted from a man named Sheba, who previously tried to divide Israel against David. God called this man “worthless”: “Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; and he blew the trumpet and said, ‘We have no portion in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!’” (2 Sam. 20:1). He was also acting under Satan’s control in inciting rebellion. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Satan also becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Solomon later said that rebellion was the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). According to Paul, rebellion is also part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said that: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). After leaving Egypt, the Jews’ lack of faith caused them to repeatedly rebel against God and His appointed leader Moses (Nu. 14:22). As a result of the Jews’ repeated refusal to obey and have faith, God eventually banished them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). For everything good and holy, Satan has created a counterfeit to deceive people. If God’s perfect government leads to peace and harmony (1 Tim. 2:1-2), rebellion only brings strife, death, and misery.

  • Jeroboam exploited pre-existing divisions within the tribes to divide the nation. Tensions between the tribes dated back to Jacob’s dysfunctional family of 12 boys through four different mothers. Jacob created jealousy and competition within the tribes when he favored Joseph and Benjamin over his 10 other sons. These tensions most likely laid dormant during the tribes’ 400 years of oppression in Egypt. Yet, these tensions came to the surface when the 12 tribes competed for influence after they settled in the Promised Land. Pride and coveting drove the three tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah to fight to gain supremacy. During the time period of the judges, the tribe of Ephraim tried to assert its dominance over Israel. Jeroboam, as an Ephraimite, was prideful and felt entitled to power over the tribes for at least three reasons. First, Joseph, the patriarch of his tribe, had saved the 12 tribes from death by bringing them to Egypt. Jacob then switched the birth order of Joseph’s two oldest children, Manasseh and Ephraim, to make the second born Ephraim the firstborn in terms of power and prestige (Gen. 48:13, 17-20; 41:50-51; Nu. 13:8, 16). Second, Joshua, the Jews’ leader in their conquest of the Promised Land, was a member of the Ephraim tribe (Nu. 13:8; 14:6-9). Third, during the time period of the judges, the tribe of Ephraim guarded the ark in its territory and hosted all sacrifices and the three yearly festivals for the nation (Josh. 18:1). In other words, it was the de facto capital of the 12 tribes. Thus, elders from the tribe of Ephraim argued with Gideon from the tribe of Manasseh out of jealousy after his soldiers defeated the Midianites without involving Ephraim in the battle (Jdgs. 8:1). The elders from Ephraim later confronted a judge named Jephthah after he also failed to consult with them before fighting the Ammonites (Jdgs. 12:1-3). When Saul became Israel’s first king, he also used his power to place cronies from his tribe of Benjamin in all the positions of power. When David became a threat, he used the threat of their loss of power to try to turn the tribe of Benjamin against David (1 Sam. 22:7) After Saul’s death, Judah was the only tribe to back David because others wanted to reign supreme (2 Sam. 2:10-11). The tribes then fought a civil war for seven years to determine who should lead (2 Sam. 2:12-4:12). David’s victory gave the tribe of Judah control of Israel for 80 years. David reigned for 40 years (1 Kgs. 2:11), and Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Kgs. 11:42). As an Ephraimite, Jeroboam believed that Judah’s 80-year claim to leading Israel was nothing next to the hundreds of years in which his tribe had led the 12 tribes. Yet, his mistake was ignoring that it was God’s right to pick who would lead next.

  • The people ignored Solomon’s advice to be calm when they disagree with a ruler. Instead of listening to Jeroboam’s calls for rebellion, the people should have listened to Solomon’s advice to be patient when faced with a ruler who offends: “If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses. There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler--” (Ecc. 10:4-5). “By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.” (Prov. 25:15). Are you patient with leaders you disagree with?

  • Unite others in the Body of Christ. Unlike Jeroboam, believers are called upon to act with one accord as the Spirit leads the body. “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12). “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Cor. 12:20-21). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). You must also be motivated by love when you act with others: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). Jeroboam acted with neither one accord nor with love. Do your actions divide others?

6. A Foolish Leader is Unforgiving and Sows Division or Rebellion. 2 Chr. 10:18.

  • In response to the Jews rebellion, Rehoboam retaliates with forced labor. Instead of seeking reconciliation, Rehoboam imposed forced labor as a punishment. This caused the Jews from Northern Israel to kill Rehoboam’s minister of forced labor and drive Rehoboam back to Jerusalem: “18 Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was over the forced labor, and the sons of Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.” (2 Chr. 10:18; 1 Kgs. 12:18). By listening to foolish advice, Rehoboam surrounded himself with wicked men. “If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, all his ministers become wicked.” (Prov. 29:12). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Prov. 13:20). Rehoboam sent Adoram, the head of forced labor, to negotiate (1 Kgs. 4:6; 5:14). He apparently shared Rehoboam’s harsh tactics. The people responded by killing him and revolting against Rehoboam’s rule. But the people also sinned by failing to pray and showing unforgiveness in their actions.

7. A Foolish Leader is Unrepentant and Causes Permanent Divisions. 2 Chr. 10:19.

  • King Rehoboam failed to repent, and the nation remained permanently divided. Despite knowing that the division of Israel was God’s punishment for Solomon’s idolatry, Rehoboam failed to lead the nation into repentance. “19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.” (2 Chr. 10:19; 1 Kgs. 12:19). In response to his pride, God reduced Rehoboam’s nation from 12 mighty tribes to just two. His kingdom would be limited to the territories of Judah and Benjamin, the two southern tribes (2 Chron. 11:3; 14:8). Simeon was previously given land in the southern section of Judah’s territory (Josh. 19:1-9). And the tribe of Benjamin was split between the two kingdoms. Elsewhere, we are told that Simeon also rejected Rehoboam and went north to join with the northern tribes (1 Chron. 12:23-25; 2 Chron. 15:9; 34:6). Thus, through his arrogance, Rehoboam lost 10 tribes. In birth order, these included: (1) Reuben, (2) Simeon, (3) Zebulun, (4) Issachar, (5) Dan, (6) Gad, (7) Asher, (8) Naphtali, (9) Manasseh, and (10) Ephraim. The tribe of Levi was originally scattered throughout all the lands to serve everyone (Josh. 21:1-42). But Jeroboam refused to use them as priests. Thus, they soon migrated to Judah after Israel was divided (2 Chron. 11:13-16).

  • Because Rehoboam failed to repent, God’s judgment upon the Jews came to pass. God had previously warned Solomon that He would tear his kingdom from him and give it to one of his servants: “So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.” (1 Kgs. 11:11.) Solomon did not repent. Thus, through the prophet Ahijah, God then told Solomon’s servant Jeroboam that He would give him control over 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel: “but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand and give it to you, even ten tribes.” (1 Kgs. 11:35). But, to keep God’s promise to David, God promised that this would not happen until after Solomon’s death: “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.” (1 Kgs. 11:12). Even if Rehoboam did not know God’s Word, his High Priest likely warned him about God’s prophecy. God might have delayed His judgment if Rehoboam had led the nation in repentance and removed all of the idolatrous temples that Solomon built for his foreign wives. Rehoboam instead foolishly ignored God’s Word. Thus, God fulfilled His promised judgment, and the nation of Israel was permanently divided into two nations.

The northern tribes break away from Judah, and David’s Kingdom becomes divided4

  • Leaders should not ignore God’s warnings of judgment. God’s Word always comes true: “The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,”’ (Is. 14:24). But He may delay His judgment or forgive when the people repent (Ezek. 12:25). The Church knows what will happen in the end times. Thus, it should promote leaders who preach repentance.

  • Solomon lamented that he labored in vain for a kingdom his son would soon destroy. Knowing God’s prophecy, Solomon lamented that he labored to build up a mighty kingdom in vain. God would soon wash it away like a sand castle when his son took power: “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.” (Ecc. 2:18-19).

  • By embracing idolatry, King Jeroboam also led Northern Israel into exile. God gave the 10 northern tribes the same conditional promise to succeed that He gave to Solomon. If they kept His Commandments and statutes, they would succeed as a nation (1 Kgs. 2:3-4; 3:14; 11:38). Sadly, Jeroboam squandered this opportunity. Jeroboam had just returned to Israel after years of exile in Egypt. Pharaoh had even given him a sister-in-law as a pagan wife (1 Kgs 11:19-20). Like Solomon, Jeroboam’s pagan wife led his heart astray. He incorporated the Egyptian belief that a person must see a god to worship it. Yet, God expressly prohibited this form of worship (Ex. 20:4-6; 32:8, Dt. 5:8-10; 9:12). At the southern end of his kingdom, Jeroboam put one false center of worship in Beth-el, 11 miles north of Jerusalem in the divided territory of Benjamin (1 Kgs. 12:29; Josh. 18:11-13, 22). He was most likely able to manipulate the Jews into believing that this was a proper worship location because Jacob worshiped there (Gen. 28:10-22; 35:1-15). At the northern end of his kingdom, he put a worship center in the city of Dan, located today in southern Lebanon (1 Kgs. 1:29). He most likely picked this as a second location because the rebellious Jews previously created a pagan worship center there during the time period of the Judges (Jdgs. 18:30-31). Although Jerusalem thought that his actions were politically astute, God warned the Jews through Moses that they could only worship in the appointed place that He selected (Dt. 12:5, 11). The Jews could not do this in any cultic place that they found. Offerings could only be made in the place that God selected (Dt. 12:13-14). Jeroboam further created an unauthorized priesthood that was not from the tribe of Levi (1 Kgs. 12:31). He also created his own festivals with his counterfeit priests sacrificed calves in association with the Canaanite gods El and Baal (1 Kgs. 12:32-33). Jeroboam also performed the sacrifices himself (1 Kgs. 12:33). This also violated God’s law, which separated the roles of the priests and civil leaders to prevent the consolidation of power (2 Chr. 26:18). Thus, Jeroboam is infamous in the Bible because he led an entire nation into idolatry all out of a misplaced belief that he needed to do this to preserve his power: “When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin.” (2 Kgs. 17:21). Sadly, every future leader of Northern Israel was also evil and rejected God’s laws. Thus, God revealed that Northern Israel would not last forever (1 Kgs. 11:39). Because leaders who followed Jeroboam never repented, Assyria conquered Northern Israel and sent its people into exile and captivity as slaves (2 Kgs. 17:20-23). The house of David would ultimately rule over all 12 tribes (Ezek. 37:15-28). Yet, the Jews would have to wait a long time for God’s blessings to be restored. Sin will not cause you to lose your salvation. But sin may rob you of many of the blessings that God meant for you to enjoy.