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Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. Despite being the son of one of the wisest men who ever lived, Rehoboam’s bluster proved greater than his competence to govern.
Rehoboam ascended to the throne immediately upon Solomon’s death, but he did not have to wait long to encounter his first test. Jeroboam, who had fled to Egypt after an unsuccessful rebellion against Solomon, returned to present himself to Israel’s new king. Together with the leaders from the northern part of the country, Jeroboam made just one request in return for their loyalty to Rehoboam: They asked him to lighten the oppressive load that had been placed upon them by Solomon.
In order to consolidate power and make Israel a regional power, Solomon had levied burdensome taxes—he had even used forced labor to build God’s temple. The people had had enough and were hoping for a more benevolent ruler in Rehoboam. How wrong they were.
Instead of listening to seasoned advisers from Solomon’s court, Rehoboam turned to his friends, who seemed to think the best way for Rehoboam to assert his authority was to be even more brutish and cruel than his father. So instead of granting the people’s request, Rehoboam promised the opposite.
All but the tribe of Judah abandoned Rehoboam and rallied around Jeroboam. While one of God’s prophets managed to dissuade Rehoboam from all-out civil war with the northern tribes, there was conflict between the two kingdoms for the rest of Rehoboam’s days.
During his seventeen-year reign, Rehoboam lost territory, wealth, and respect. Worst of all, he set a new low in terms of idolatry—a disheartening standard that would become the benchmark against which Judah’s future kings were measured.
In addition to erecting pagan places of worship, Rehoboam allowed religious prostitution and actively engaged in the pagan practices of the surrounding nations. Solomon’s failure was made complete in his disaster of a son.
Rehoboam’s ironic name borders on the comical. In Hebrew, it means “enlarger of the people.” Sadly, Rehoboam did the opposite, reducing David and Solomon’s kingdom to a fraction of its former glory.