Rehoboam: A Case Study in Dividing God’s People

When Rehoboam succeeded his father Solomon as king of all Israel, a delegation came to him asking him to reduce the burdens that Solomon had imposed on the people. Before replying he asked advice from the older counselors. They advised him to respond positively to the request and to speak kindly to the people.

Tragically Rehoboam rejected their advice and went with what his close friends told him, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!” 2 Chronicles 10:14 NLT.

Rehoboam was determined to come across as a strict disciplinarian who demanded absolute obedience. He thought he would impress with a show of power and authority. He would demand absolute obedience to the decrees of state. There would be no non-compliance.

Ellen White comments on Rehoboam that he was “flattered by the prospect of exercising supreme authority,” and that “in this unwise and unfeeling attempt to exercise power, the king and his chosen counselors revealed the pride of position and authority.” (Patriarch and Prophets, p. 90).

The result? An irreversible division. The ten northern tribes left, and formed the kingdom of Israel, while the two southern tribes made up the kingdom of Judah. Very soon they were attacking and killing each other, brother against brother. Ellen White again:

“Rehoboam made a mistake at Shechem that was irreparable. Unwise and unfeeling in the exercise of power, he and his chosen counselors revealed the pride of position and authority. Had they understood God’s purpose concerning Israel, they would have listened to the request of the people for decided reforms in the administration of government. But instead of following a plan in harmony with God’s purpose, they announced their intention of perpetuating and adding to the evils introduced in Solomon’s reign.”  (Review and Herald,  July 10, 1913 par. 1)

So whose fault was it, this division? No doubt there were issues on the side of the ten tribes, and a general dissatisfaction with the heavy taxation and other issues under Solomon. But had Rehoboam not listened to his inner circle of friends and chosen to go the route of imposing power and wielding authority, the people of God would not have been divided. The responsibility must rest with Rehoboam who decided to impose his royal will without any regard to the consequences. He chose to be “unwise and unfeeling the exercise of power;” he “revealed the pride of position and authority.”

Right now today’s people of God face a similar crisis. We are in great danger of being divided. The desire to impose authority through power continues to be a threat that cannot be ignored.

May we have the wisdom not to allow the people of God to be divided! May there be no Rehoboam’s among us!

“The breach created by the rash speech of Rehoboam proved irreparable. Thenceforth the twelve tribes of Israel were divided… With the rending of the kingdom early in Rehoboam’s reign the glory of Israel began to depart, never again to be regained in its fullness.” (Patriarch and Prophets, p. 91, 96).

May this never be true for us as God’s people!