Rehoboam is the first king of Judah in the situation of a realm torn in two parts, of which he is the direct cause. As the chronicler intended, the history of Rehoboam as the descendant of David is described from the point of view of God’s grace. The emphasis is therefore on what is commendable with Rehoboam. We see that he
1. obeys the word of God which comes to him through the prophet (2Chr 11:1-4),
2. strengthens his kingdom by strengthening cities (2Chr 11:5-12),
3. becomes a refuge for priests and Levites of the ten tribes realm (2Chr 11:13-17) and
4. humbles himself before the LORD (2Chr 12:5-12).
1 - 4 Prohibition to Fight Against Israel
1 Now when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled the house of Judah and Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men who were warriors, to fight against Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam. 2 But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 3 “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, 4 ‘Thus says the LORD, “You shall not go up or fight against your relatives; return every man to his house, for this thing is from Me.”‘“ So they listened to the words of the LORD and returned from going against Jeroboam.
Rehoboam is not going to let the tearing exist (verse 1). He wants to subject Israel again to himself. For this he assembles a large and experienced army. However, the LORD addresses the word to “Shemaiah the man of God”, to speak His words against Rehoboam and all Israel that is in Judah and Benjamin (verses 2-3).
A man of God is one who goes in God’s ways when the mass deviates. A man of God is the man or woman who acknowledges, maintains and displays God’s rights and features in a situation where these are not taken into account. Timothy in the New Testament is the only one so called (1Tim 6:11) and to whom Paul describes the general features of a man of God (2Tim 3:16-17).
The word of the LORD forbids Rehoboam to go up against his brethren or to fight against them (verse 4). The reason for this does not seem to be so much that he should not start a civil war, but rather that he himself is the cause, the direct cause of the tearing. He cannot undo evil by force of arms. You cannot be used by the Lord to give exhortations to others if you need them yourself.
Another reason is that this matter is from the LORD. He has allowed it, so that His word about it to Jeroboam has been fulfilled (1Kgs 11:31). It shows that God is not overtaken by sin. This does not mean that God incites to sin. God cannot sin and does not incite anyone to sin (Jam 1:13b).
We can apply the situation that has arisen in Israel to the present situation in the church. We see that there are factions. That God allows there to be factions is “that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1Cor 11:19). In the church we are not called to undo the factions and divisions. We are called “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). We cannot make the unity of the Spirit, because it is an existing unity. We must preserve it and do so “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2Tim 2:22).
Rehoboam and his men are so wise to listen to “the words of the LORD” from the mouth of the man of God. They don’t go against Jeroboam, but return home.
5 - 12 Rehoboam Strengthens Cities
5 Rehoboam lived in Jerusalem and built cities for defense in Judah. 6 Thus he built Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, 7 Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, 8 Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, 9 Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, 10 Zorah, Aijalon and Hebron, which are fortified cities in Judah and in Benjamin. 11 He also strengthened the fortresses and put officers in them and stores of food, oil and wine. 12 [He put] shields and spears in every city and strengthened them greatly. So he held Judah and Benjamin.
The fact that Rehoboam cannot and does not go to war is an opportunity for other activities. He focuses on strengthening his own cities in order to be able to defend himself better against possible attacks. Most of the fortifications are more on the southwest border. This seems to have been motivated by fear of the king of Egypt. It is not inconceivable that Jeroboam will receive help from that side, for he found refuge there when he had fled from Solomon (2Chr 10:2; 1Kgs 11:40). For him, the threat of Egypt is greater than that of the northern ten tribes empire.
He appoints officials in the fortified cities to monitor the situation. He also builds up stocks in these cities by storing “food, oil and wine”. He also provides these cities with “shields and spears”. In this way he ensures the continuation of life in the city in the event of a siege, at least for a longer period of time.
In a spiritual sense, “stores of food” represent what food can be found in the Word of God, in the Lord Jesus. It is important that we build up these food supplies, because also in our lives there can be times that the enemy is attacking us so much that we have to rely on what we have stored.
“Oil” represents the Holy Spirit Who gives us the power to resist the enemy (Gal 5:16-17; 1Jn 2:20,27).
“Wine” indicates that there is joy, no matter how the enemy attacks us and does his best to harm us. This joy is found in our fellowship with the Father and the Son (1Jn 1:3-4).
The “shields” remind us of “the shield of faith” (Eph 6:16).
In the “spears” we can see a picture of the Word of God with which we can defeat the enemy.
13 - 17 Rehoboam Is Strengthened
13 Moreover, the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel stood with him from all their districts. 14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the LORD. 15 He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made. 16 Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers. 17 They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam the son of Solomon for three years, for they walked in the way of David and Solomon for three years.
Just like Rehoboam, Jeroboam is also working on the strengthening of his kingdom, but his strengthening consists of founding his own religion. He excludes the true priests and Levites and thereby drives them out from all the tribes of Israel to Rehoboam (verses 13-14). They go to Rehoboam because the temple is in Jerusalem. That attracts them.
In Christianity we see this happening when the true priests and servants of the Word go to the place where the church meets around the Lord Jesus. Those believers leave a (sectarian) church bond because the Word of God is not listened to. They answer the call: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4b).
The priests and the Levites are encouraged or forced in their hearts to leave Jeroboam because he has established an alternative religion (verse 15). He established this surrogate religion to prevent the inhabitants of the ten tribes from crossing the border into the two tribes. For those who take it easy, there is no need to go all the way to Jerusalem. Jeroboam has his own chosen and appointed priests. In such a situation, it is impossible for real priests to remain. How could they participate in the self-willed religion of Jeroboam and sanction it in this way?
We see the actions of Jeroboam and the reaction of God’s people to them in church history. During the Reformation many stayed in the roman catholic church, at the idol service, the service of and to demons. Others have said goodbye to it and asked for the service of God. After the degeneration in protestantism, members of God’s people left again to see where they can perform priestly service in the way God wants.
Not only priests and Levites from Israel come to Rehoboam, but also common Israelites (verse 16). However, they have a wonderful characteristic: they have devoted themselves with all their heart to seeking the LORD. Such a heart can’t be stopped by anything and goes looking to come where He is. These Israelites are a powerful support for Rehoboam. Unfortunately, the effect of this reinforcement only lasts three years (verse 17).
The reinforcement is not only numerical, but also substantive. These people have paid a price to come where the LORD dwells. Their dedication to Him has been proved and also has its constructive effect on those who are already there. Believers who have paid a price, for example in the form of denial by family members, are often more convinced of the special thing about coming together to the Name of the Lord Jesus than those who have been familiar with it since childhood.
18 - 23 Family and Reign of Rehoboam
18 Then Rehoboam took as a wife Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David [and of] Abihail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse, 19 and she bore him sons: Jeush, Shemariah and Zaham. 20 After her he took Maacah the daughter of Absalom, and she bore him Abijah, Attai, Ziza and Shelomith. 21 Rehoboam loved Maacah the daughter of Absalom more than all his [other] wives and concubines. For he had taken eighteen wives and sixty concubines and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters. 22 Rehoboam appointed Abijah the son of Maacah as head and leader among his brothers, for he [intended] to make him king. 23 He acted wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the territories of Judah and Benjamin to all the fortified cities, and he gave them food in abundance. And he sought many wives [for them].
Rehoboam falls into the same error as his father by taking many wives (verses 18-21). The son of his favorite wife Maacah, Abijah, is appointed by him as his successor to the throne (verse 22). In preparation for this he appoints him as head and leader among his brothers.
In spite of his sins, the Holy Spirit mentions of him that he also deals wisely with his sons (verse 23). It is wise of him to spread his many sons over the whole people. This prevents them from arguing with each other. He gives each one his own task with his own responsibilities. If everyone fills it up and is working on it, they also don’t have time, for example, to present themselves as rivals of Abijah whom he has destined to be his successor.