What is described in this chapter resembles what we have come across in the book of Judges again and again. We times and again find there how
1. the people leave the LORD first;
2. then He surrenders them into the hand of an enemy;
3. then Israel humbles itself when they hear from a prophet why it happened,
4. after which God provides a solution.
1 - 12 The LORD Hands Over Israel to Egypt
1 When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong, he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the LORD. 2 And it came about in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem 3 with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people who came with him from Egypt were without number: the Lubim, the Sukkiim and the Ethiopians. 4 He captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. 5 Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, ‘You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.’” 6 So the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The LORD is righteous.” 7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, “They have humbled themselves [so] I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some [measure] of deliverance, and My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by means of Shishak. 8 But they will become his slaves so that they may learn [the difference between] My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” 9 So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s palace. He took everything; he even took the golden shields which Solomon had made. 10 Then King Rehoboam made shields of bronze in their place and committed them to the care of the commanders of the guard who guarded the door of the king’s house. 11 As often as the king entered the house of the LORD, the guards came and carried them and [then] brought them back into the guards’ room. 12 And when he humbled himself, the anger of the LORD turned away from him, so as not to destroy [him] completely; and also conditions were good in Judah.
Rehoboam is not a wise son. “He who keeps the law is a discerning son” (Pro 28:7), but Rehoboam forsakes “the law of the LORD” (verse 1). Although he finds himself in the place where the LORD dwells and where true priestly service takes place, this does not appear to be a guarantee that he cannot deny that place. Knowing the place at the altar – for us that is the Lord’s Table – is no guarantee of faithfulness. “All Israel” – that is only Judah here, because that is true Israel for God – follows its leader on the wrong path. Spiritual leaders have an enormous responsibility.
It went well for three years (2Chr 11:17) because he listened to the LORD. When he has been in power for five years, things go wrong (verse 2). How briefly lessons from the past determine our actions. When three good years are over, the LORD must turn His hand against the people two years later.
The world enters the heart that has lost contact with the power of God. The enemy comes towards Rehoboam massively (verse 3). Deviation from God allows the enemy massively to attack the people of God. The world has gained massively access to the church through its unfaithfulness. All the fortified cities (verse 4) he built earlier (2Chr 11:5-12) avail him nothing. He who deviates from the LORD, loses all his earlier built-up spiritual strength.
To exclude any misunderstanding about the reason for this submission, God sends a prophet, a man of God (verse 5; 2Chr 11:2), who explains the cause of this discipline. The prophet comes when the entire government is considering the crisis, possibly to discuss how to dispose of their enemy with human resources. So, today too, there are many deliberations taking place, looking only at one’s own means, without going into God’s presence to ask Him why this happens. Shishak was able to invade Judah, not because the border control had failed, but because God had sent him. This is because they have forsaken Him and He must forsake them (Deu 31:16-17).
The word of the prophet and the discipline of God are humbling (verse 6). God is righteous in His actions. After this acknowledgement God makes Himself known as a God of mercy and grace. The prophet has spoken God’s word, and that has hit target. God acknowledges humility and promises salvation (verse 7). Yet conversion is only partial, not with the whole heart. This is why God does not completely take away the discipline, but limits it.
They will have to feel what it is like to abandon the LORD (verse 8). That is His love. He speaks of “My service”. His service is a pleasant service, for it is pleasant and a benefit for the believing soul to serve Him. The worship service to God, the presenting of the body “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1), is the greatest joy for the heart of the believer.
On the other hand there is “the service of the kingdoms of the countries”, which is the hard slave service under pagan monarchs. God makes them feel this service so that they may come to a true confession (cf. Hos 2:6). They will then experience that serving God makes free and rich, while serving the nations makes them prisoners and poor.
In His wisdom the LORD allows the enemy to take with him all the treasures that David by war and Solomon by trade have acquired (verse 9). The golden shields, which speak of Divine protection, are taken away. Rehoboam does not fully comply with the discipline of the LORD. He makes fake shields (verses 10-11). He wants to have his shields to go to the house of the LORD in glory, just like his father Solomon did in the past (2Chr 9:4b).
In this action we see in the picture what unfaithfulness can lead to. Unfaithfulness leads to a pitiful imitation of the glory that Rehoboam once possessed in reality, but is now lost, while he wants to hold on to it. A semblance of spirituality is held. It is the attitude of “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” while one is blind to the actual state “and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev 3:17).
Once again the Spirit of God mentions that because of the humiliation of Rehoboam the LORD turns His anger away from him and does not destroy him completely (verse 12; verse 7). This repetition shows how much value God attaches to humiliation and how He likes to turn His anger away.
“And also conditions were good in Judah.” This seems to contradict what is said in 1 Kings about the depraved spiritual state of Judah (1Kgs 14:22). However, there is no such contradiction. In the greatest terror of sin, the LORD sees the hearts that remain faithful to Him. We depreciate a church because of something bad and forget the good that is there. Paul does not depreciate the church in Corinth just like that. He admonishes them precisely because he recognizes them as the church of God.
13 - 16 Reign of Rehoboam and His Death
13 So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned. Now Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen from all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess. 14 He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD. 15 Now the acts of Rehoboam, from first to last, are they not written in the records of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer, according to genealogical enrollment? And [there were] wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. 16 And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David; and his son Abijah became king in his place.
Rehoboam can strengthen his position because Jerusalem is “the city which the LORD had chosen from all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there” (verse 13). However, Rehoboam does not take this into account, but follows his own heart (verse 14). The origin of any deviation lies in the choice on which heart is put. If this is not the LORD, every form of evil is possible.
One of those evil consequences is that there is constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam (verse 15). What remains of his earlier obedience to the LORD not to go up against Jeroboam (2Chr 11:4)? Perhaps we should not immediately think of large-scale warfare, but rather of constant border clashes.
When Rehoboam dies, he leaves behind no land where it is good to live. He has not brought the people back to the LORD. His son Abijah becomes king in his place. Will he do better than his father? A new ruler often gives hope for improvement, but time and again people are disappointed in their expectations. Only when the great Son of David comes to power there will be endless peace.