Rehoboam had an opportunity to continue the peace held in the time of his father Solomon; however, he was the offspring of Satan. He could have turned the heart of Jeroboam and the rest of Israel in refining the kingdom under Solomon’s headship by considering their petition seriously – and on the third day (v.5) he could have given them hope. His failure to heed the counsel of the old men (v.6) and instead to side with the young men (v.8) (who, although were childhood friends, were not walking in the way nor experience of the LORD) has caused the opposite effect of what Jesus would have done under Luke 11:10-13. V.15 – “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the LORD might fulfill his word“…
Is this not strange, that the LORD’s “steadfast love” is challenged by his own discretion to turn the affairs of Israel into the eventual division of Israel into two – Judah, and the rest? The rejection of Judah, the rejection of David’s house (v.16), the rejection of Jerusalem (v.18) – the centre of all attention, the Temple, is no longer accessible. The centre of all attention, the work of the gospel (as prayed by Solomon in 2 Chronicles 6) is ignored by those under Jeroboam (chapter 11:13-17). Yet, it is this very turn of events that we see a foreshadowing of the rejection of Christ even by his own kind; however, Rehoboam is an anti-type – where Christ walked in the Father’s bosom, Rehoboam did not. Rehoboam divided the kingdom in his disobedience, but Christ divided the kingdom by his obedience.
The steadfast love of the LORD is apparent in v.1-4: He does not want Israel to be divided; yet, Rehoboam’s decision to heed Satan and not Jesus has led to this division, an unsurprising outcome given Jesus’ response to Solomon in chapter 7:12-22. Rehoboam’s leadership is that of secular might, of secular toughness, of Christless manhood – his intention is pure, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam. However, the LORD would rather win people over with love rather than with might; with weakness and vulnerability as the defining elements of kingship than oppression.
It is in v.13-17 that we know Israel will survive until the day of the Messiah’s return, and that Jeroboam will be a name despised for generations to come. For Jeroboam to cast them out from serving as priests of the LORD (v.14), knowing these were the same people appointed by the LORD through David in 1 Chronicles, is nothing short of foolish. In God’s foresight, the lack of geographical restriction for the tribe of Levites, for this tribe of priests, also means that they are free to move around Israel knowing that the LORD is their portion. They are living like Abraham, looking forward to the true home in new creation (Hebrews 11) – and it is these very Levites who made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon (v.17). If only Rehoboam, too, walked in his forefathers’ way.
Yet, Rehoboam did not walk in his forefathers’ way, despite the Levites’ efforts to maintain Israel’s status as priesthood to all the neighbouring nations, just as the Levites were the priesthood to the widespread heretical leadership of both Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Hence, in Rehoboam’s fifth year (it is not explained why the Levites did not stay faithful to the LORD from the fourth year onwards), when all of Israel was unfaithful under his rule, the Egyptian king Shishak invaded Israel. In fulfilment of Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6, the invasion was stayed when the Israelites finally decided to humble themselves, knowing that any righteousness they have could have only been inherited from the LORD Himself (v.6-8). What is interesting, however, is that the LORD chooses to discipline His children by providing them with works which allow them to see what it is like for the LORD to serve – a reminder once again of the LORD’s steadfast love and His servant-leadership which no other God can provide. This also hammers another nail into the coffin of Marcionism, should anyone doubt that the gospel of the gracious Lamb of God is a truth inherent in the Old Testament.
And in v.9-12 we see and end to the “Golden Age” of Israel – now degraded to copper; a willing sacrifice the LORD has made in allowing Shishak to enslave Israel. This house of the LORD has lost its glory for several reasons – yet the primary reason is that of Rehoboam’s sinful life (v.14); secondarily, that the house of the LORD is but a shadow of the LORD’s heavenly dwelling; and thirdly, that we begin to see a foreshadowing of Christ’s incarnation, that he will put on a flesh which is more bronze than gold, more servant than king – the same as Israel’s current predicament. V.13 ends the chronicling of Rehoboam’s life with his background as a son of Naamah the Ammonite – a Gentile, though called “beautiful”, was likely a cause of Solomon’s own idolatry for beautiful distractions (1 Kings 11:8).