1 Kings 12:13, 14
And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;…
Such madness is scarcely credible in the son of Solomon. These two kings present a remarkable contrast. Solomon at twenty years of age is the wisest man of his times, Rehoboam his son, at forty, is unfit to rule himself or his people. Wisdom is not by descent, but is the gift of God. Describe the scene in the chapter: the visit of Rehoboam to Shechem, probably with a view to conciliate the ten tribes; the complaint of the people; the two councils of the king; the maddening effect of his reply. The study of small and foolish men is advantageous, as well as the study of the great and wise, that by their follies we may be warned. Rehoboam's faults he on the surface, as would be natural in so shallow a character as his, A careful study of the chapter reveals to us the following.
I. REHOBOAM'S FEEBLENESS OF CHARACTER. We should expect of one who succeeded to the throne in the prime of his life some clear notions of the policy he would pursue. Brought up in a court to which the rulers of other peoples came (1 Kings 10:24), over which the wisest king of that age ruled, he was rich in natural advantages. He could also have discovered for himself the condition of the people, their causes of complaint, etc. Had he given himself to such thought he would have been prepared for prompt and resolute action on his accession. Instead of this he seems helpless; turns now to these and now to those for counsel, and has not even enough wisdom to weigh the value of advice when it is given. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel," is a law of far-reaching application. Amongst the virtues we should inculcate in our children is that of sober self-reliance. It may be fostered in the home with safety and advantage. Trust a child with something which he is free to use or abuse, in order to test him, and develop in him this grace. Probably Rehoboam had been brought up in the harem, and so had the heart of a child, with the years of a man. All gifts must be exercised to increase their value. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," and an example of this lies before us.
II. REHOBOAM'S CONTEMPT OF EXPERIENCE. He consulted the old advisers of Solomon, it is true, but clearly for the look of the thing only. Directly after speaking with "the responsible ministers of the crown," he turned to the courtiers, who were far less able to advise in such a crisis. Job says, "With the ancients is wisdom; and in length of days understanding." This is not always true. A man may be old without being wise, he may go through many experiences without being experienced. Still, other things being equal, a long study of affairs gives knowledge and discretion. It would clearly be so, with men chosen by the wise Solomon. Besides, those who have already won their honours are more disinterested than those who are ambitiously seeking to win them; and those whose reputations are high are more careful to guard themselves against folly than those who have no reputation to lose. [Found on such principles the duties of submission to authority, of reverence to age, etc., which are the essentials of a happy home and of a peaceful society.]
III. REHOBOAM'S RESORT TO THE FOOLISH. The answer of the young men showed their folly. That such a spirit should exist is a proof that in the later years of Solomon the people about him had sadly deteriorated.
(1) These were the boon companions of Rehoboam, and knowing his haughty temper they flattered him to the top of his bent.
(2) They were courtiers brought up amid the luxuries of the splendid reign just ended, and knew little or nothing of the condition of the people. For these and other reasons they were of all others the most unfit to give counsel in this crisis. [Give examples from history of kings ruined by their favourites.] We should always suspect those who gratify our vanity, or seek to further our lower pleasures. Show the evils which arise, especially to weak characters, from foolish associates. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." "Forsake the foolish, and live." "Blessed is he that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
IV. REHOBOAM'S BOASTFULNESS OF HIS POWER. "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins." A proverbial expression to denote that his power was greater than his father's. Such bragging is no sign of courage. At the first outbreak of rebellion, this boaster "made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem." A strong character expresses itself not in great words, but in great deeds. The boastful Peter fails, the silent John stands firm. The Pharisee is rejected, the publican justified. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he that exalteth himself shall be abased."
V. REHOBOAM'S ABUSE OF HIS AUTHORITY. "My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke," etc. This was not the speech of one who felt himself to be a shepherd of God's flock, but of one who assumed despotic authority. This was never permitted to a king of Israel, nor is it intended by God that any man should thus rule. It would be an evil to the ruler himself as well as to his people. Least of all is it to be tolerated in the Christian Church. The highest in ecclesiastical office are forbidden to be "lords over God's heritage," but are to be "examples to the flock." Christ said, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them... but ye shall not be so" (Luke 22:24-29).
VI. REHOBOAM'S NEGLECT OF PRAYER. How differently he began his reign from his father! Solomon went first to God; Rehoboam went hither and thither for counsel, but never turned to God at all. How often we act thus in our temporal perplexities, in our theological difficulties, etc. How sadly we forget the words, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God," etc. (James 1:5-8). Throw the lurid light of this story on Proverbs 1., and make personal application of the warning given there. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;