FOOLISH INSISTENCE ON TYRANNICAL OPPRESSION CAUSES A DIVISION IN THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
Frederick Mabie: Chapters 10-36 of 2 Chronicles constitute the final major section of the Chronicler’s work: the account of the kingdom of Judah following the division of the kingdom in the 930s B.C. This division created two political states, with Jeroboam as king of a new dynasty consisting of the northern tribes and Rehoboam as king of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. In subsequent biblical literature, the northern kingdom is typically called “Israel” whereas the southern kingdom is typically called “Judah,” after the most prominent tribe. . .
The division of the Israelite kingdom also entailed a variety of social, religious, and economic repercussions. In the religious realm, Jeroboam established new religious shrines at Dan and Bethel (1Ki 12:26-33; 2Ch 11:15), while Jerusalem remained the religious capital of the southern kingdom. The golden calf shrines established by Jeroboam effectively nationalized covenantal unfaithfulness and pushed the northern tribes further from seeking God. Economically, both Israel and Judah were affected by a loss of tribute, trade revenue, and production in the aftermath of the division. These challenges were exacerbated by the frequent conflict between Israel and Judah, as noted at 12:15: “There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam” (cf. 1Ki 14:30; 15:6, 16).
Martin Selman: This chapter deals with the reasons for Israel’s division after Solomon’s death (cf. v. 19), setting the scene not only for the rest of Rehoboam’s reign but for the rest of 2 Chronicles. The key phrase “turn of events” (v. 15; “turn of affairs,” NRSV, RSV; “to bring about,” GNB) translates a rare word in Hebrew which is to be interpreted alongside the related verb “turn” in 1 Chronicles 10:14 (cf. 12:23). These two verses describe two great turning points, pivotal events which usher in new eras concerning the setting up and downfall of David’s dynasty. The first era opens with the transfer of Saul’s kingdom to David (1 Ch. 10:14) and results in the dynasty of David and Solomon (1 Ch. 10 – 2 Ch. 9). This incident introduces a much sadder story, beginning with the division of Solomon’s kingdom and culminating in the collapse of Israel and its monarchy (2 Ch. 10-36).
Andrew Hill: The story of Rehoboam’s foolish decision documents the shattering of the ideal of “all Israel” and concludes with the thought that the people of Israel now exist as a house divided. Sadly, this state of affairs will remain as such until both northern and southern kingdoms are swallowed up by the ancient superpowers of Assyria and Babylonia respectively. . .
The historical story tends to demonstrate considerable literary sophistication, including the development of a plot (the continuation of the Davidic monarchy), conflict (the threat to the unity of Israel), characterization or character development (as seen in Rehoboam’s interaction with the two groups of advisers), and even subplots (the intervention by prophets of God, e.g., Ahijah [10:15] and Shemaiah [11:1–4]).
At the risk of oversimplifying a complex sociopolitical situation, a combination of interrelated factors make taxation an issue. The loss of revenue from satellite states that regained their autonomy during the latter years of Solomon’s decline deplete the royal treasuries (1 Kings 11:14–25). The support of the multilayered bureaucracy of Solomon’s administration suck vast amounts of resources from the general populace (4:20–28). Finally, all this is compounded by the extravagance and waste characteristic of Solomon’s social and economic policies (10:14–22).
Warren Wiersbe: Rehoboam represented the third generation of the Davidic dynasty, and so often it’s the third generation that starts to tear down what the previous generations have built up. The people of Israel served the Lord during Joshua’s days and during the days of the elders he had trained, but when the third generation came along, they turned to idols, and the nation fell apart (Judg. 2:7-10). I’ve seen this same phenomenon in businesses and local churches.
Mark Boda: Second Chronicles 10 shatters the idyllic picture the Chronicler has created in his depiction of the united kingdom to this point (1 Chr 10 – 2 Chr 9). This negative information represents a significant shift in tone, which will continue for the remainder of the work (chs 10 – 36). While the Chronicler’s narrative has highlighted the glorious foundation of the dynasty by David and Solomon and the positive benefits of obedience to the Lord, the remaining account will supplement this by recounting both the positive benefits of obedience to Yahweh as well as the negative consequences of disobedience. The striking difference can be discerned in terms of both the narrative flow and the theological analysis of the accounts.
– The people apply to Rehoboam to ease them of their burdens, 1-4.
– Rejecting the advice of the aged counsellors, and following that of the young men, he gives them an ungracious answer, 5-14.
– The people are discouraged, and ten tribes revolt, 15-17.
– They stone Hadoram, who went to collect the tribute; and Rehoboam but barely escapes, 18, 19.
– Rehoboam raises an army, purposing to reduce the ten tribes; but is prevented by Shemaiah the prophet, 1-4.
I. (10:1-5) REASONABLE RELIEF FROM HARSH SERVICE SOUGHT –
NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN JEROBOAM AND REHOBOAM
A. (:1) Coronation of Rehoboam at Shechem Amidst Underlying Tensions
“Then Rehoboam went to Shechem,
for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king.”
David Guzik: Rehoboam was the only son of Solomon that we know by name. Solomon had 1000 wives and concubines, yet we read of one son he had to bear up his name, and he was a fool. This demonstrates that sin is a bad way of building up a family. . .
Shechem 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.
Raymond Dillard: Strategically located at the eastern mouth of the pass between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, with an ample water supply and fertile plain, Shechem was a military, political, and religious center for ancient Israel from the time of the patriarchs. Abraham and Jacob both worshiped there (Gen 12:6–7; 33:18–20). Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi attacked the city after the rape of their sister Dinah (Gen 34). Joseph searched there for his brothers (Gen 37:12–14), and his bones were eventually interred there (Josh 24:26; Acts 7:16). Shechem was a site of covenant renewal under Joshua (Josh 24), and it was one of the designated cities of refuge (Josh 21:21). The abortive kingdom of Abimelech failed there (Judg 9). The fate of the city during the invasions of the Assyrians and Babylonians is not mentioned; during the intertestamental period it became the religious center of the Samaritans (John 4). Rehoboam journeys to this ancient site of politics, worship, and covenanting; though no covenant is specifically mentioned, the procedure appears quite analogous to that followed with David (2 Sam 3:6–21; 5:1–3; cf. 2 Chr 23:3).
Iain Duguid: Rehoboam’s going to “Shechem” is a hint of tensions. David had been made king at Hebron (1 Chron. 11:3) and Solomon at Jerusalem (1 Chron. 29:22), but Shechem was an ancient center, associated with the ancestor Jacob/Israel (Gen. 33:18–20; 35:10) and the covenant renewal ceremony under Joshua (Joshua 24). Identity as “Israel” was deeper than allegiance to a Davidic king in Jerusalem.
B. (:2-5) Critical Demand Jeroboam Makes of Rehoboam to Resolve Tensions
1. (:2) Return of Jeroboam
“And it came about when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it
(for he was in Egypt where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon), that Jeroboam returned from Egypt.”
2. (:3-4) Role of Jeroboam in Negotiating with Rehoboam
“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.’”
John Mayer: Because Jeroboam was a man of great note among the people—having been made a prince over them by Solomon in the past—the people sent for him as the most capable man to speak on their behalf to Rehoboam concerning their grievance. For he made it clear that he and the people would revolt if no redress of errors was promised, and that he would be set up as the king of the people. And it is to be assumed that the people had heard of the prophecy given to Jeroboam by Ahijah, who was of the same tribe. That is, the people were aware of God’s purpose in advancing Jeroboam, which is why the people sought his help above others. And that’s how Jeroboam came to be the spokesman for the people.
Raymond Dillard: The issues were heavy taxation and forced labor, and the delegates from the Northern tribes were negotiating reductions as a condition of recognizing Rehoboam’s sovereignty. . . Both Kings and Chronicles avow that forced labor was not imposed on the Israelites by Solomon (2:17–18; 8:7–10; 1 Kgs 9:15, 20–22), yet both record what appear to be instances of the practice. The hatred of the corvée (10:4) and the dispatch of Hadoram (10:18) both presume its application to Israelites. The practice continued under subsequent kings and was denounced (1 Kgs 15:22 // 2 Chr 16:6; Jer 22:13–14).
Andrew Hill: God had built the release of debt and servitude into the calendar through his law (the sabbatical and Jubilee years, cf. Lev. 25). Curiously, however, the number of years decreed for the “Sabbath rest” of the land suggests that neither of these were ever practiced by the kings of Israel or Judah (cf. 2 Chron. 36:21; i.e., the seventy years of Hebrew exile from the land of covenant promise implies that sabbatical year had not been kept for nearly five centuries—coinciding roughly with the beginning of the monarchy in Israel).
Peter Wallace: Notice that Jeroboam is placed at the head of the petitioners in verse 3 and again in verse 12. This is a very defiant move on the part of the people. They have called the one person whom Rehoboam most hates as their spokesman. And they are saying to the crown prince, “Lighten our yoke or else we will not serve you.” This is plainly not a group of people who believe in the Divine Right of Kings. You may be the son of David, but remember that we didn’t always follow David! What makes you think that we will follow you! Give us the wrong answer – and we’ll follow Jeroboam!
3. (:5) Cooling Off Period to Allow for Deliberation
“And he said to them, ‘Return to me again in three days.’
So the people departed.”
Andrew Hill: The northern tribes demand some modification of the king’s forced labor requirements and a reduction in taxes as a condition for fealty to the Davidic monarchy. The conditional nature of the proposal from the tribal representatives indicates they are looking for more than words—they seek a diplomatic solution resulting in a pact. The three-day delay (10:5) buys time for Rehoboam to consider his options and provides a “cooling off” period for the party bringing the grievance.
II. (10:6-11) CONTRASTING COUNSEL – WISE ELDERS VS. FOOLISH CONTEMPORARIES
A. (:6-7) Wise Counsel of the Elders
1. (:6) The Value of Experience
“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?’”
J.A. Thompson: The elders were important in Israel’s earlier patriarchal and tribal society (2 Sam 3:17; 5:3; 17:4, 15; 1 Kgs 20:7–8; 1 Chr 11:3). It would have been a wise and gracious decision by Rehoboam to follow the elders’ advice.
John Schultz: The first thing that strikes us in this section is the existence of a generational gap that resembles a modern day mentality in which younger people hold the older generation as unreliable and blame them for all the evils in the world. The famous expression “Don’t trust anyone over thirty!” is, evidently, an age-old phenomenon.
2. (:7) The Virtue of Kindness
“And 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.’”
John Mayer: A Gentle Response Turns Away Wrath.
The book of Proverbs says: “A fool gives vent to his spirit.” Yet in this case the people had already become exasperated with the new king. But it certainly would have aided Rehoboam to have been lenient and to have replied gently at this time. For this is a general principle among kings: By no means should they show rigor in the beginning of their reign. Rather they should seek to win the hearts of the subjects of their kingdom.
Peter Wallace: The old men understood the situation. They knew that if Rehoboam humbles himself, the people will follow him. But the young men think that humility is a sign of weakness. They confuse servant leadership with wimpiness. Humility is not wimpiness! It takes courage and strength to be humble.
B. (:8-11) Foolish Counsel of Rehoboam’s Contemporaries
1. (:8) Danger of Advice-Shopping
“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.”
Raymond Dillard: Rehoboam was forty-one at the time of his accession (12:13; 1 Kgs 14:21); neither he nor those who had grown up with him were “striplings,” though they were short of the status and wisdom of the elders.
J.A. Thompson: They may have been royal princes, half-brothers of Rehoboam, or civil servants. They had grown up with him and were contemporaries.
David Guzik: This is a common phenomenon today – what some call “advice shopping.” The idea is that you keep asking different people for advice until you find someone who will tell you what you want to hear. This is an unwise and ungodly way to get counsel. It is better to have a few trusted counselors you will listen to – even when they tell you what you don’t want to hear.
2. (:9) Deceitfulness of Reinforcing Your Own Foolish Preferences
“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’?”
3. (:10-11) Despotism of Abuse of Power
“And 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.’”
Raymond Dillard: It is at least possible that “my little thing,” is euphemistic for the penis, a sense which would add rash vulgarity to the charge of foolishness against the young men.
III. (10:12-15) DIVINE DISCIPLINE IN DIVIDING THE KINGDOM
A. (:12) Regathering the People
“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.’”
B. (:13-14) Rendering the Verdict
“And the king answered them harshly, and King Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the elders. 14 And 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.’”
Andrew Hill: Nothing in chapter 10 suggests that he is especially malicious or cruel—only foolish. Whether out of fear that he may appear weak or for the sake of pragmatism, given the need to keep the machinery of the bureaucracy humming, he rejects the good advice of the elders and follows the bad advice (10:14). Thus, he answers his northern kinsmen harshly (10:13). The yoke, a symbol of servitude, will be made heavier (10:14a); the scourge or whip, a goad for lazy animals and a symbol of punishment for stubbornness and rebellion, will inflict even greater pain (10:14b). The representatives of the northern tribes need to hear no more.
C. (:15) Recognizing God’s Sovereign Control over Prophetic Discipline
“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.”
Andrew Hill: A key theological interpretation of developments resulting in the “meltdown” of the united monarchy is found in the Kings’ parallel and is repeated by the Chronicler. The biblical historians note that this “turn of events was from God” (10:15a; cf. 1 Kings 12:15). The Chronicler connects his commentary to Ahijah’s prophecy predicting the split of Solomon’s kingdom as punishment for his sin of idolatry—thus assuming his audience’s knowledge of the story (2 Chron. 10:15b; cf. 1 Kings 11:29–40). This approach fits a pattern in Chronicles that associates crucial moments in Israel’s history with what God has said through his prophets in an effort to demonstrate his absolute sovereignty as the Lord of history (cf. 1 Chron. 11:2; 17:13–15; 2 Chron. 36:22–23).
In light of theological review provided by the biblical historian, we can rightly conclude that the northern tribes are not reprehensible in their role in splitting the united monarchy. Rather, they become odious to God and the biblical historians because of their subsequent sin—idol worship. In view of Ahijah’s prophecy to Jeroboam, the division of Solomon’s kingdom may be inevitable, but it is certainly not irreversible—the rival kingdom is designed to punish the house of David only temporarily (cf. 1 Kings 11:39).
Spurgeon: Notice also, dear friends, that God is in events which are produced by the sin and the stupidity of men. This breaking up of the kingdom of Solomon into two parts was the result of Solomon’s sin and Rehoboam’s folly; yet God was in it: “This thing is from me, saith the Lord.” God had nothing to do with the sin or the folly, but in some way which we can never explain, in a mysterious way in which we are to believe without hesitation, God was in it all.
IV. (10:16-19) REBELLIOUS REJECTION OF REHOBOAM’S LEADERSHIP
Iain Duguid: The people’s response expressed rejection of the whole house of David: each was to worry about his own family (cf. 1 Sam. 20:1; contrast 1 Chron. 12:18). Rehoboam made an attempt to show his strength in sending the “taskmaster” but had to escape himself to Jerusalem in fear. The lasting effect of the whole interaction was that the northern kingdom continued “in rebellion against the house of David.”
A. (:16) Fracturing of the Unified Kingdom
“And 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.”
Andrew Hill: The clause “so all the Israelites went home” signifies both the rejection of Rehoboam in the act of dismissal and also the finality of the decision—the negotiations are over (10:16d). The identification of both the northern and the southern tribes as “Israelites” is significant (10:16–17). They are all still the “one people” of God despite the rift between the “house of David” and the “house of Israel” (i.e., the northern tribes). This fact is important to the Chronicler’s message of hope for God’s restoration of postexilic Judah because it is dependent on the unity of all the Israelites living in the land.
J.A. Thompson: The rejection formula is a poetic statement, the antithesis of the acceptance formula declared by “all Israel” when they accepted David as king. Israel’s response to David in 1 Chr 12:19 was:
We are yours, O David!
We are with you, O son of Jesse!
The rejection formula used by the northern tribes in this verse is:
What share do we have in David,
What part in Jesse’s Son?
B. (:17) Followers of Rehoboam Limited to Southern Tribes (Judah)
“But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah,
Rehoboam reigned over them.”
C. (:18) Futile Last Ditch Effort to Maintain Control
“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.”
Martin Selman: Rehoboam makes one pathetic effort to restore unity, perfectly illustrating the poverty of his policy. Knowing that the people’s tolerance had been exhausted by their experience of the forced labor system, it seems inconceivable that the sending of “Hadoram” (also known as Adoram,. 1 Ki. 12:18; cf. JB; Adoniram, 1 Ki. 4:6; 5:14; cf. NIV, GNB) one of Jeroboam successors, could end in anything but disaster. In the end, Rehoboam himself only just managed to escape, inn ironic contrast to Jeroboam’s flight from Solomon (v. 2).
D. (:19) Final Summary of Ongoing Division
“So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.”
V. (11:1-4) CIVIL WAR AVERTED BY REHOBOAM’S SUBMISSION TO THE WORD OF THE LORD
Pulpit Commentary: The first four verses of this chapter would have been better placed as the conclusion of the previous chapter. They correspond with . . . 1 Kings 12:21-24; and they tell how Rehoboam was restrained from making bad worse, in a hopeless attempt to recover the seceding ten tribes, by war that would have been as bloody as foredoomed to failure.
A. (:1) Revengeful Reaction of Rehoboam
“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.”
B. (:2-4a) Prophetic Restraint Based on Divine Discipline
“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.’”
Andrew Hill: This time Rehoboam heeds the advice offered, without asking for a “second opinion.” It is unclear what motivates his receptivity to the prophetic message—whether the ominous threat of Egyptian invasion prompting his fortification of strategic cities in Judah (11:5), the pang of conscience in the admonition not to wage war against “brothers” (11:4; cf. 28:11), or, most likely, the realization that the split of the united monarchy is the Lord’s “doing” (11:4; cf. 10:15). The kingdom is God’s to grant to whom he wills, not Rehoboam’s to regain by force. Clearly God’s will for the divided kingdom is peace because the northern tribes are as capable of repentance as the southern tribes are of apostasy.
Rehoboam’s impetuous response to muster troops and wage war to counter Jeroboam’s coup calls to mind nuggets of Solomonic wisdom. Earlier Rehoboam sought advice but listened to foolish counsel (10:5–11). Here Rehoboam seeks no advice but plans his own course—only to have the Lord “determine his steps” (Prov. 16:9). But in heeding Shemaiah’s word, Rehoboam begins to act wisely by listening to advice and accepting instruction (Prov. 12:15; 19:20).
C. (:4b) Peaceful Submission to the Word of the Lord
“So they listened to the words of the LORD
and returned from going against Jeroboam.”
Spurgeon: Here is one Shemaiah, – some of you never heard of him before, perhaps you will never hear of him again; he appears once in this history, and then he vanishes; he comes, and he goes, – only fancy this one man constraining to peace a hundred and eighty thousand chosen men, warriors ready to fight against the house of Israel, by giving to them in very plain, unpolished words, the simple command of God…. Why have we not such power? Peradventure, brethren, we do not always speak in the name of the Lord, or speak God’s Word as God’s Word. If we are simply tellers out of our own thoughts, why should men mind us?
Iain Duguid: Rulers commonly seek to exercise control through military might, and this was the path adopted by Rehoboam, seeking to put into action his boastful words (10:14). The people may have stoned his taskmaster to death (10:18), but a show of armed force would surely end the rebellion, or so Rehoboam thought. This was not, however, to be God’s way: they were not to fight against “your relatives” (“brothers” and wider family members; common in Deuteronomy for fellow Israelites). Such kinship is important for the Chronicler and his major concern for “all Israel”; it appears again as the northern kingdom is nearing its end, then reminding the people of the north that the people of Judah are “their/your relatives” (28:8, 11). The political division may be “from [God],” but this does not mean family division; there is opportunity for any to come willingly to Jerusalem (as in 11:13–14, 15). Unexpectedly, given Rehoboam’s behavior thus far, king and people “listened to the word of the Lord.” Was this because the word was spoken by Shemaiah, recognized and respected as a “man of God”? He appears again in 12:5–8, and his “chronicles” are included in the official records (12:15).
The disastrous confrontation led to division, but the tension ended in hope as there was willingness to “listen” to God, accept the new situation as “of God,” and move ahead. The people, whether in the north or in Judah and Benjamin, remained “all Israel.”