Introduction: God’s people frequently quarreled with one another. On two prior occasions, these conflicts erupted into full civil wars. During the time period of the Judges, Israel fought its first civil war (Jdgs. 20:20-48). After Saul’s death, Israel fought its second civil war as the people chose sides between David, God’s anointed king, and the last son of Saul, Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 2-4). After Solomon’s death, ten tribes rejected Rehoboam as their king over the nation. Under a rebel named Jeroboam, these tribes succeeded and formed the nation of Northern Israel. This left Rehoboam with only two tribes in the nation of Judah (2 Chr. 10:16-19). Here, Rehoboam responded by attempting to start the nation’s third civil war. But, through a prophet, God intervened and stopped him from starting a war. We can study these events as real historical events. In addition, the physical tensions between the Jews also provide insights into the spiritual challenges within both the Church and every believer’s body. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12).
The Church and every believer faces similar internal struggles. The flesh is at war with the Spirit. The Church and each person must decide daily whether the Spirit or the flesh will rule over them. If you fail to act, the flesh will take control. From Rehoboam and Jeroboam’s mistakes as kings, God reveals seven lessons on winning your spiritual battles. These include: (1) prayer, (2) obedience, (3) love, (4) purity, (5) sacrifice, (6) denial, and (7) integrity.
First, after Solomon’s death, Rehoboam failed to seek God’s guidance in uniting the people. Without seeking God’s advice or listening to Spirit-led counsel, Rehoboam made the sin of presumption by trying to start a war to unite the people. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare begins by letting the Holy Spirit guide you through prayer. Second, Rehoboam rejected God’s prior prophesies during Solomon’s reign that God would divide Israel. He tried to prevent God’s prophecy from coming true by trying to start a civil war. His efforts failed when God sent another prophet to warn the people. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare requires obedience. Third, instead of seeking to reconcile the divided peoples, Rehoboam fortified Judah’s defenses. He then ignored God’s warnings by engaging in constant military skirmishes with Northern Israel. From Rehoboam’s mistakes, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare requires that you show love and kindness to your enemies. Fourth, Rehoboam was not the only person to make mistakes. To consolidate his rule in Northern Israel, Jeroboam created a counterfeit priesthood that practiced idolatry. This in turn caused God’s appointed priests, the Levities, to flee to Judah. From Jeroboam’s mistake, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare requires purity and holiness. Fifth, Jeroboam’s actions also caused many God-fearing Jews to sacrifice their families and tribes to flee to Judah. From the examples of these individuals, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare requires being willing to make sacrifices by putting God before others. Sixth, Rehoboam ignored God’s law that he have only one wife. David and Solomon made the same mistakes, and both suffered as a result. From these mistakes, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare requires that you make no accommodation with the desires of the flesh. Finally, Rehoboam selected an heir out of favoritism toward one of his wives. He was then forced to disburse his heirs to avoid a succession fight. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God reveals that victory in spiritual warfare requires that believers act with integrity.
Rehoboam attempts to use force to reunify the people. Rehoboam’s cruelty and intimidation divided the nation. Rehoboam then sought to prevent the 10 tribes of Northern Israel from breaking apart by assembling an army to start a civil war: “1 Now when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled the house of Judah and Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men who were warriors, to fight against Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam.” (2 Chr. 11:1; 1 Kgs. 12:21). When the people complained to Rehoboam about Solomon’s heavy taxation and forced labor requirements, he threatened the people with even harsher taxation and labor requirements: “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.’” (2 Chr. 10:14; 1 Kgs. 12:14). Rehoboam’s actions divided Israel into two nations (2 Chr. 10:16-19). He was then left to rule just the southern kingdom of Judah from 931 to 913 B.C. Jeroboam, Solomon’s disgruntled former servant, ruled over the 10 tribes of Northern Israel from 931 to 910 B.C. Rehoboam felt entitled to reunite the kingdom his grandfather David created by any means necessary. Thus, without consulting God, he assembled an army in an attempt to reunify the nation by force. His actions only served to solidify the divisions between these two nations until they were deported.
Rehoboam committed the sin of presumption in seeking to start a war. Rehoboam likely sought to justify an invasion of Northern Israel based upon God’s eternal covenant with David: “16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.’ 17 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.” (2 Sam. 7:16-17). Yet, God warned Solomon that His covenant was in part conditional upon Solomon’s obedience: “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (1 Kgs. 9:6-7). Solomon ignored God’s warnings by building pagan temples and worshiping other gods (1 Kgs. 11:9-10). To give the Jews a chance to repent, God warned Solomon that the nation would be divided during his son’s reign: “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). Thus, Rehoboam knew that it was God’s will for the nation to be divided as a consequence of their sins. But he failed to lead the nation in repentance. Instead, he committed the sin of presumption. He presumed that he could reunify the nation by force without consulting God in any way.
Rehoboam failed to learn from David’s and Solomon’s examples in seeking guidance. David committed many terrible sins. But he frequently sought out God’s guidance. For example, after finding refuge from Saul in the forests of Hereth with his 400 men, God tested David’s faith by calling him to go to an unprotected place to deliver the people of Keilah from Philistine oppression. Before setting out to deliver God’s people at great risk to himself and his men, David twice confirmed God’s guidance through prayer (1 Sam. 23:2-4). Later, after hearing of Saul’s plans to attack David’s forces, David turned to a priest to help guide his steps (1 Sam. 23:9-15). For a year and four months, David lived as a fugitive from Saul (1 Sam. 27:7; 30:26). After Saul’s death, David then again sought out and received God’s guidance regarding whether he could return to his people (2 Sam. 2:1). After becoming king, David continued to seek God’s guidance before he fought the Philistines (e.g., 2 Sam. 5:19). When he first became king, Solomon also humbly prayed for God’s wisdom to correctly guide the people: “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in . . . 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. 3:7, 9). Rehoboam failed to learn from the examples of his grandfather and father. He instead did what seemed right in his own eyes. His father warned that doing so could lead to death. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). In this case, his sin of presumption by doing what seemed right in his own eyes led to the death of the nation.
Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the Word and prayer. During the Old Testament times, priests used an ephod and the two stones called Urim and Thummim to discern God’s will (1 Sam. 23:6, 9; 30:7, 8; Nu. 27:21). Today, you can inquire of God’s will simply by reading the Word and by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you. David later recorded in a psalm that he would turn to God’s Word to guide his path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit will help you to remember the Word and apply it in your life. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26; 14:16; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit will also give you wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). Are you reading the Word and praying for the Spirit to guide you? Or, are you doing what seems right in your own eyes?
God stopped Rehoboam from starting a war. Because Rehoboam’s actions were contrary to God’s prior prophecy, God sent another prophet to stop Rehoboam from starting a war: “2 But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 3 ‘Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, 4 ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not go up or fight against your relatives; return every man to his house, for this thing is from Me.’’’ So they listened to the words of the Lord and returned from going against Jeroboam.” (2 Chr. 11:2-4; 1 Kgs. 12:22-23) God’s prophet Ahijah then prophesied about the Jews’ division if they did not repent: “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. 10:15). Rehoboam could not use force to prevent God’s Word from coming true. His actions only solidified God’s judgment.
Shemaiah gives God’s warning to Rehoboam1
Rehoboam failed to use God’s warnings of judgment as an opportunity to repent. God had previously told Solomon that he would tear his kingdom from him and give it to one of his servants (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 (1 Kgs. 11:35). Yet, to keep God’s promise to David, God promised that this would not happen until after Solomon’s death (1 Kgs. 11:12). 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 thought that he could prevent God’s Word from coming true through force. In the end, Shemaiah convinced Rehoboam and his troops to back down.
Saul and Solomon also foolishly tried to use force to keep God’s Word from coming true. King Rehoboam was not the first to think he could use force to prevent God’s Word from coming true. Saul tried to kill David to prevent the prophecy of David becoming king from coming true (e.g., 1 Sam. 19:1, 9). Having been told of the prophecy that Jeroboam would divide his great kingdom, Solomon also tried to prevent God’s prophecy from coming true by trying to kill him (1 Kgs. 11:40). 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 church and civil leaders who preach repentance.
The Jews fight a civil war and become divided between Rehoboam and Jeroboam2
Rehoboam failed to learn to obey God’s Word. Rehoboam failed to learn from his disobedience. Thus, God later sent His prophet to confront Rehoboam again: “Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.’’” (2 Chr. 12:5). Rehoboam’s refusal to accept God’s Word would lead to ongoing conflicts between God’s people: “And there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually.” (2 Chr. 12:15).
Be obedient to God’s Word. God wants you to show your love to Him through your obedience. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10; Matt. 19:17). “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). Are you obedient to God’s Word? Or, are rebelling against God?
God picked Israel’s kings to serve the King of Kings. At all times, God directed the events in selecting David’s line to rule over first Israel and then Judah. When Moses prophesied of the day when the Jews would demand a king, he warned that God, the true King of Kings, would select their kings “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” (Dt. 17:17). Moses gave this counsel so that no king would boast that he became king based upon his own merit. The people previously wanted a king “like all the nations.” (1 Sam. 8:5). David showed that he was a man after God’s heart by giving God all the credit for selecting him to be the next king (1 Chr. 28:4). Rehoboam never gave God any credit or praise for being selected king. When you are successful in your endeavors and people praise you, do you turn that praise to God? Or, do you take all the credit?
God is sovereign over all creation and every government. These events also show that God is sovereign and in control over kings, nations, and even time. Daniel explained: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Da. 2:21). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” (Jer. 10:10). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). Have you placed your trust in powerful people or in God alone for your deliverance?
Rehoboam fortified Judah and incited ongoing conflicts. Instead of seeking to reconcile God’s divided peoples, Rehoboam solidified the Jews’ divisions with fortified cities: “5 Rehoboam lived in Jerusalem and built cities for defense in Judah. 6 Thus he built Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, 7 Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, 8 Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, 9 Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, 10 Zorah, Aijalon and Hebron, which are fortified cities in Judah and in Benjamin. 11 He also strengthened the fortresses and put officers in them and stores of food, oil and wine. 12 He put shields and spears in every city and strengthened them greatly. So he held Judah and Benjamin.” (2 Chr. 11:2-4). Rehoboam’s actions might have seemed wise to his commanders. But he again failed to consult God. Moreover, his actions led to Rehoboam’s feeling of self-confidence and independence from God. This in turn would cause God to remove His protection when Egypt attacked and stole all the gold that David and Solomon accumulated over 80 years (2 Chr. 12:1-9). His actions further led to ongoing conflicts between Judah and Northern Israel (2 Chr. 12:15).
God will protect you when you trust Him and do His will. If Rehoboam had any trust in God, he did not need to fear being defeated in battle. You also never need to fear your enemies when you are doing God’s will. When the Jews walked with Him, He promised to cause their enemies to fear them: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). ‘“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” (Dt. 2:25). If you are serving God, do you trust Him to protect you? Or, are you trying to fight your own battles without Him?
Love your enemies. Instead of building up barriers between the Jews, Rehoboam should have shown love and reconciliation toward his estranged neighbors. Unlike Rehoboam, God calls upon you to show love to those who might seem like your natural enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” (Lk. 6:27). “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;” (Prov. 25:21; Ro. 12:20). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Ro. 12:21). Are you showing love to your enemies?
Jeroboam squandered God’s grace through idolatry and a counterfeit priesthood. While Rehoboam squandered his chance to lead Judah, Jeroboam squandered his chance to lead Northern Israel. By openly embracing idolatry and by creating a counterfeit priesthood, he caused the Levite priests within the 10 northern tribes to flee to Judah for protection: “13 Moreover, the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel stood with him from all their districts. 14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. 15 He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made.” (2 Chr. 11:13-15). Jeroboam led his nation into idolatry 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). He also took steps to prevent people from being able to travel to Judah. He further fortified Shechem, the northern capital (1 Kgs. 12:25). He also built up Penuel east of the Jordan River to assert his control over those additional Jewish territories. God sent a prophet to warn Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 13:1-10). But Jeroboam would not listen. Thus, God sent the prophet Ahijah to judge Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 14:10-11). But Jeroboam refused to repent. This began a process of spiritual decline. Initially, the priests fled. Without the priests to guide them, the Jews fell further into sin. Their apostasy eventually culminated in Northern Israel’s exile to Assyria (2 Kgs. 17:20-23).
Jeroboam instituted idol worship in his kingdom3
King Jeroboam ignored God’s warnings against idols and worshiping golden calves. God’s Second Commandment expressly prohibited the Jews from using idols to worship Him or any other alleged deity (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Jeroboam not only violated the Second Commandment, he did so in the exact same way that God condemned when Aaron built the golden calf and said that it represented God (Ex. 32:8, 4; Dt. 9:12). 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. But God expressly prohibited this form of worship. At the southern end of his kingdom, he also 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 Jeroboam 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). Thus, for many reasons, Jeroboam’s actions were offensive to God.
Jeroboam drove out the Levites with a counterfeit priesthood. 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 sacrificing calves in association with the Canaanite gods El and Baal (1 Kgs. 12:32-33). These actions drove the Levites to Judah. This in turn deprived the Jews of Northern Israel of the mediators they needed to atone for their sins. Although Jeroboam was an evil man, 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 and every future leader of Northern Israel was evil and rejected God’s laws. Thus, God revealed that Northern Israel would not last forever (1 Kgs. 11:39).
Do not be unequally yoked. God’s laws are not a burden. Instead, they protect you from harm. In this case, God’s law existed in part to keep the king from being unequally yoked: “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” (Dt. 22:10; 2 Cor. 6:14; Ezra 9:2). The Levities knew that they could not be unequally yoked with Jeroboam’s idolatry. Have you guarded your heart from being unequally yoked with worldly things?
Be holy and be consecrated for God’s use. The Levities also fled to keep themselves holy. Today, you are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood: “you . . . are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood . . .” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As part of God’s nation of priests, you are meant to be a light to the lost: “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14(a)). To be a light to the lost, you must also be holy: “‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Ex. 22:31). “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1). “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (Jam. 4:17). Like the Levities who fled from Northern Israel, are you living a holy lifestyle and fleeing from evil influences?
God-fearing Jews from the 10 tribes also fled from Northern Israel. Jeroboam’s idolatry also caused other God-fearing Jews to flee from Northern Israel: “16 Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers. 17 They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam the son of Solomon for three years, for they walked in the way of David and Solomon for three years.” (2 Chr. 11:16-17). Like the Levites, these God-fearing Jews did not want to be unequally yoked with idolaters. Their holiness “strengthened” Judah as a light in times of darkness (2 Chr. 11:17). But these individuals had to have the courage to leave behind their families and tribes.
Have the courage of the Spirit to make sacrifices for Jesus. These Jews heard God’s calling to cling to His Word, even when they had to sacrifice their family and tribal relationships: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25). “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.” (Lk. 12:51-52). “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”’ (Matt. 16:26) Are you willing to put your walk with Jesus ahead of family members who might pull you away?
Don’t expect the world to love you when you serve God. The Jews who fled Northern Israel would have been viewed by their own families and tribes as traitors. These Jews would have also been viewed with suspicion in Judah. Jesus also warns that the world will frequently hate you when you try to openly serve Him: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (Jo. 15:18-19). “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22; Prov. 29:10, 27). “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” (1 Jo. 4:5). Is your faith dependent upon being praised for your actions?
Rehoboam’s sin in taking 18 wives and 60 concubines. In addition to failing to consult God in how to lead the country, Rehoboam also ignored God’s law by taking 78 wives or concubines: “18 Then Rehoboam took as a wife Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David and of Abigail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse, 19 and she bore him sons: Jeush, Shemariah and Zaham. 20 After her he took Maacah the daughter of Absalom, and she bore him Abijah, Attai, Ziza and Shelomith. 21 Rehoboam loved Maacah the daughter of Absalom more than all his other wives and concubines. For he had taken eighteen wives and sixty concubines and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.” (2 Chr. 11:18-21). Rehoboam allowed his flesh to control all aspects of his life. He repeated the sins of his father and grandfather by giving into covetousness. His 88 children through multiple different wives sowed the seeds of ongoing family conflict.
Rehoboam violated God’s law against having multiple spouses. There were few laws that Rehoboam had to follow to serve God. Limiting himself to only one wife was one of them: “17 He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; . . ..” (Dt. 17:17(a)). From the beginning, God intended for marriage to be limited to one man and one women (Matt. 19:4-6; Gen. 2:23-24; 1 Tim. 3:2). In addition to violating God’s law, he defamed God’s holy name. To this day, nonbelievers frequently cite to the existence of polygamy in the Old Testament to assume that God condoned polygamy.
Rehoboam modeled the behavior of his father Solomon and his grandfather David. As the ruler of Israel, there were no more important role models for Rehoboam than Solomon and David. David also disregarded God’s law in this area. Before arriving in Hebron, David had two wives (1 Sam. 25:43). During his seven-year reign in Hebron, he took four additional wives (2 Sam. 3:2-5). David then forced Abner to kidnap his former wife Michal and make her his seventh wife (2 Sam. 3:12-16). After becoming king, David took more wives and concubines (2 Sam. 5:13-14). He then again showed his disregard for the laws of sexual purity when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:2-4). Solomon also repeatedly violated God’s law against having one wife by taking 1,000 wives or concubines: “3 He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. 4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kgs. 11:3-4). Thus, Rehoboam modeled what he saw growing up and followed after his father and grandfather’s misconduct. What kind of example are you setting for your kids?
Don’t cause others to stumble with your sins. David and Solomon’s mistakes should provide a warning to every believer. “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;” (1 Cor. 10:32). Are you causing others to stumble from your sins?
Coveting cannot be satisfied by giving into it. No matter how hard they tried, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam could not satisfy their licentiousness by feeding it. They most likely did not have deep meaningful relationships with their spouses. Their wives were mere objects, and they were prisoners to their cravings of the flesh. The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). Thus, Solomon later lamented from his own mistakes: “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” (Prov. 27:20; 30:16). “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11; Hab. 2:5). Giving into your temptations only leads to misery as you are unable to find peace and contentment. Are you giving into your temptations?
Make no provision for the flesh in your life. Choosing the Spirit is just the first step in the spiritual warfare between the flesh and the Spirit. As happened to David, Solomon, and Rehoboam, the flesh will look for every opportunity to wage war against your Spirit. You must be prepared to fight the desires of the unholy passions of the flesh: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11). “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.” (Ro. 7:23). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). You must take each thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). You must also renew your mind daily in this conflict (Ro. 12:1-2). Have you made any accommodation with unholy desires of the flesh?
Rehoboam selects an heir based upon his favorite wife. While kings normally picked their oldest son to succeed them, Rehoboam selected an heir based upon which wife he loved the most. This forced Rehoboam to spread out his children to prevent a future rebellion: “22 Rehoboam appointed Abijah the son of Maacah as head and leader among his brothers, for he intended to make him king. 23 He acted wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the territories of Judah and Benjamin to all the fortified cities, and he gave them food in abundance. And he sought many wives for them.” (2 Chr. 11:22-23). Not counting his 60 concubines, Maacah was apparently Rehoboam’s favorite of his 18 wives. Thus, he “appointed” their son Abijah to be the next king, even though he was not the oldest and first in line for the throne. Out of his 88 children, Rehoboam moved his 28 sons throughout the territories of Judah to prevent them from staging a coup against Abijah. As one commentator observes: “This was wise because it kept his many sons apart and less likely to form an alliance against Abijah, who might be considered an illegitimate successor to the throne.” (David Guzik on 2 Chr. 11).4
Rehoboam adopted polygamy even after seeing how it had divided Israel. Rehoboam was not “wise” because he was doing God’s will by having multiple children with different wives. He was instead wise in mitigating the evil that he created. Rehoboam would have known how David’s polygamy nearly destroyed the kingdom through jealousy, pride, and rebellions. Amnon was David’s first-born and the original heir to the throne (2 Sam. 3:2). But Absalom murdered Amnon as an act of revenge after Amnon raped Absalom’s sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13:28-29). The second oldest son Chileab would have been the next heir (2 Sam. 3:3). But his name is never recorded again following his birth. This suggests that he died at an early age or became disqualified. Absalom was David’s third son and heir to the throne after Amnon (2 Sam. 3:3). But Joab killed Absalom after he led a rebellion against David (2 Sam. 18:14-15). By the world’s standards of male succession to the throne, Adonijah was next in line as David’s fourth son. His mother was Haggith (2 Sam. 3:4). Like his older brothers, he was filled with vanity and pride. He had heard that David planned to name Solomon as king (1 Chron. 22:6-13). He even knew that God had decreed this (2 Kgs. 2:15). But Solomon was the youngest son and David’s son through Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:24). Adonijah conspired to take power from David in his weakened state because his pride would not allow his youngest half-brother Solomon to become king. He felt that he was better than Solomon, and he felt the kingdom should not go to what he viewed as a bastard son. Thus, he followed Absalom’s example by seizing power. He even copied Absalom by creating the image of power with 50 men running before him (2 Sam. 15:1). Unlike David, Rehoboam did not select Abijah because God anointed him. Instead, he selected Abijah out of favoritism toward the wife that he loved the most, Maacah. He knew from David’s actions that this would lead to bitterness, conflict, and possibly rebellion. Yet, instead of having the integrity to do what was right, he disbursed Abijah’s potential rivals.
As Jesus’ ambassador, walk with righteousness and integrity. You are Jesus’ ambassador (2 Cor. 5:22). You further represent His light (Matt. 5:14). Thus, He calls upon you to be blameless and to always act with integrity: “so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:11). “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). He further desires that you be the instrument for His justice: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). This means that you should not show favoritism by manipulating circumstances for your own benefit. Instead, having integrity means caring about addressing wrongs and the plight of those in need (Prov. 31:9; Ps. 82:3; Dt. 10:18). Do you seek to promote your own self interests at the expense of others? Or, do you put your own interests aside to help?