“King Rehoboam grew strong in Jerusalem and reigned. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem. . . . And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the LORD (12:13–14).- 2 Chronicles 11:5–12:16
Rehoboam’s failure to heed the wise counsel of his father Solomon’s advisers resulted in the division of the formerly united nation of Israel into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 12:1–24). Such foolishness was also not a good omen for the rest of Rehoboam’s reign. As we see in today’s passage, Rehoboam did not reach the same level of faithfulness to God as David or even Solomon.
Initially, Rehoboam’s reign went well despite the sins that divided Israel from Judah. The king of Judah wisely built up defensive cities in his country (2 Chron. 11:5–12). In Rehoboam’s day, Judah became a refuge for many in the northern kingdom of Israel who could not abide by King Jeroboam I of Israel’s decision to introduce more idolatrous worship into the land. The defectors included Levites, who left the Levitical cities in the north to serve God at Jerusalem, the only place appointed for sacrifice. Families from other Israelite tribes in the north came as well, and the dedication of all these refugees encouraged the Judahites to walk in the ways of David and Solomon (vv. 13–17). This was an important lesson for the postexilic audience of 2 Chronicles, as it revealed that their duty was to serve Judah’s king and worship in God’s appointed place in order to enjoy blessing after the exile. We need to learn the same lesson today. Blessing will come to God’s church only insofar as we serve and worship God in and through the Judahite King, Jesus Christ.
Obedience did not endure in Judah during the entirety of Rehoboam’s kingship. When Rehoboam and the Judahites sinned, God allowed Shishak, the king of Egypt, to invade Judah and capture many of its cities. Rehoboam “abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (2 Chron. 12:1). (Here, “Israel” refers to Judah, for the Chronicler frequently applies the term to both the northern and the southern kingdoms.) The invasion did not occur because of minor sins, for to abandon the law of God in the Old Testament was to engage in flagrant, persistent, impenitent covenant violation. Such sin would bring about one of the covenant curses—defeat at the hands of the gentiles (vv. 2–4; see Deut. 28:25).
Judah humbled itself before God, turning from its sins, so the Lord kept Shishak from destroying the nation. Yet, Rehoboam did not return fully to God. The Chronicler’s last word on his reign was that “he did not set his heart to seek the LORD” (2 Chron. 12:5–16).
God relented because Judah listened to His word through the prophet Shemaiah and turned to Him in repentance. When we hear from the Word of God about our sin, the proper response is repentance. If we do not repent when our sins are revealed, we may face harsh discipline from the Lord.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 14:21–31
2 Chronicles 6:24–25