Although we largely remember Solomon as a wise king, when we read about the impression his people had of him, we see that it was not all favorable. After he died, his son Rehoboam became the next king.
“Rehoboam traveled to Shechem, for all Israel had gathered in Shechem to make Rehoboam king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard the news, he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon. Jeroboam returned from Egypt. They sent for him, and Jeroboam and all Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, ‘Your father made us work too hard! Now if you lighten the demands he made and don’t make us work as hard, we will serve you.’ He said to them, ‘Go away for three days, then return to me.’ So the people went away.” (2 Chronicles 10:1-5 NET)
We quickly get the impression that Solomon, although a wise king, had been a harsh ruler. He had spent twenty years in building his palace and the temple following which he continued with further building projects. These had taken their toll on the people, both through taxation as well as forced labor (see 2 Chronicles 8). As a result, Israel was now a powder keg, waiting to be ignited.
The people wanted to know what type of king Rehoboam would be – they had had enough of forced labor and building projects. So their question: will you lighten the load that Solomon had put on them?
Being a king, Rehoboam had advisers to help him in making decisions, especially as a new king. He first turned to those who had been Solomon’s advisers, the older and wiser men.
“King Rehoboam consulted with the older advisers who had served his father Solomon when he had been alive. He asked them, ‘How do you advise me to answer these people?’ They said to him, ‘If you are fair to these people, grant their request, and are cordial to them, they will be your servants from this time forward.’” (2 Chronicles 10:6-7)
“Grant the people’s request,” Rehoboam was told. Lighten the load and the people would serve him throughout his reign. This was good advice from men of long standing who had the wisdom of knowing the people. Rehoboam, as a new king and wanting to establish his rule, rejected this advice. It would seem that he thought this would make him look weak.
“But Rehoboam rejected their advice and consulted the young advisers who served him, with whom he had grown up…The young advisers with whom Rehoboam had grown up said to him, ‘Say this to these people who have said to you, “Your father made us work hard, but now lighten our burden”—say this to them: “I am a lot harsher than my father! My father imposed heavy demands on you; I will make them even heavier. My father punished you with ordinary whips; I will punish you with whips that really sting your flesh.”’” (2 Chronicles 10:8-11)
Tell them who is really boss, is the advice that his contemporaries, his friends, gave him. Don’t lighten the load, make it heavier! Don’t let up, but be even harsher!
The result was that the majority of the people rejected Rehoboam as king and set up a rival kingdom in the north under the rule of Jeroboam, while Judah remained faithful to the Davidic dynasty (2 Chronicles 10:12-18).
How often do the young prefer the advice of their contemporaries? Times haven’t changed, although thousands of years have passed. It seems that every generation thinks those who are older are out of touch, forgetting that they have the wisdom of living many more years. Although the young can give good advice, too often it is misplaced.
We need to learn from Rehoboam’s bad decision. We need to cherish those who are older for the wisdom they have gained and that they can impart to us.
Readings for next week: 2 Chronicles 10-12; 1 Kings 12-14; Psalms 73-74