Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
REHOBOAM: The Reckless Phony
1 Kings 11-14

 1. The Scripture often warns about hypocrisy (Job 8:13-15; 15:31-34; Ps 5:9; 50:16,17; 55:12-23; Is 9:17; 29:13; 48:1-2; 58:2-5; Mt 15:7-9; 1 Jn 1:6; 2:4, 19; Jude 12; etc). The word has its roots in the Greek theatrical scene where one would “play” different persons in a play. All the audience saw was the mask; the pretense. This term came to refer to those who were “playing” a part in daily life. However their intention was not to amuse but to deceive, to gain popular acceptance by playing a part when in reality they were insincere. Such play-acting brings tragic consequences in earthly life and eternal consequences after this life. The condemnation is summed up by recognizing the hypocrite as untruthful and self-centered.

 The problem of hypocrisy has long plagued mankind. It began with Adam and Eve continued with Cain and survives very well in our modern day. The fourth King of Israel illustrates this tragedy all too well.

 Rehoboam became King of Israel upon the death of his father Solomon.  With Rehoboam’s reign the second period of the Israeli monarch begins – the Divided Kingdom. There is some discussion about Rehoboam’s age at the time he became King. 1 Ki 14:21; 2 Chron 12:13 indicate that he was 41 years old. But there is good evidence to suggest that he was 21 years old and the older number is an error of transcription easily made because of the practice of using Hebrew letters of the alphabet as numerals. Here are five reasons supporting the earlier age (cf Pulpit Commentary, 1 Kings, 249):

  a. He is described in 2 Chron 13:7 as being “young and tender-hearted.”

  b. The LXX margin reference in 1 Ki 12:24 says that Rehoboam was 16 years old.

  c. There is not enough time for Rehoboam to have been 41 at the time of his ascension as King. Rehoboam would have had to have been one year old at the time of David’s death, but Solomon was described as being “young and tender” at that time.

  d. Rehoboam’s counselors, the young men, are said to have “grown up with him.” They were of the same age as Rehoboam. The LXX calls those in this group “lads.” (Cf 12:8).

  e. It is highly unlikely that David would have allowed Solomon to marry an Ammonitess. But he would have had to agree to this if Rehoboam was born within David’s lifetime.

 2. Notice four events in Rehoboam’s reign that reveal his hypocrisy. He had seen Solomon’s later years. Solomon had lived a dual standard: confessing the one God, yet tolerating the influential presence of many foreign gods! Outwardly it appeared the King was devoted to God, but it was only a mask being worn. The son’s subsequent life illustrates how critical sincerity is in training children. As he accepted the throne, Rehoboam’s two-sided character becomes visible. These four incidents reveal Rehoboam as a King who appeared to be something that he was not. He was a King playing a rehearsed role, wearing a pretend mask, for the public eye but behind the scenes he nurtured a life of self-indulgence.

 a. The request at the beginning (12:1-20).
  This is the most memorable event in Rehoboam’s career and it is also the most revealing about his true character. A group petitions Rehoboam for a change in taxation. Although we are not directly informed about the motivation of this group, later we see it was because of tribal jealousy (Ephraim 12:16). Rehoboam appeared to be concerned. He talked with Solomon’s advisers and then with those of his peer group. The result was action that split and splintered God’s people!

  Rehoboam never intended to change the policies of Solomon. But he went through the motions of pretending he was. The King’s resolve is seen in the following:

   1) The “elders” pled for Rehoboam to become a servant to the people (12:7). The “elders” were not necessarily “old men” but the term refers to those judged capable of governing and offering counsel (similar to our “aldermen” who are to represent those capable to deciding issues for the public.). They were the recognized assistants of Solomon. Rehoboam “forsook” this counsel.

   2) Rehoboam then gathered together those of his own peer group. Notice the change in pronouns used for this group (v. 9) compared with the elders (v. 6). The choice had already been made. All Rehoboam needed was support for his choice.

   3) All appeared that Rehoboam was trying to gain a reasoned judgment but it was all pretense! Rehoboam consulted with everyone EXCEPT God! The reason is obvious – the King’s mind was made up, he was following Self! This pretense led to the next event.

 b. The civil war with Israel (2 Chron 11).
  The harsh response ignited the smoldering jealousies of Ephraim and war was called! Rehoboam was determined to take an army and compel Jeroboam’s followers to submit. Suddenly a prophet (Shemaiah) appeared and told Rehoboam to cease the war (v. 4). It appears that Rehoboam did what the prophet commanded, but “off stage” the real scene was that of continued escalation toward war (v. 5-12). To the outward observer it appeared Rehoboam was relaxing and trusting God. Behind the scenes he was aggressively preparing for war.

 c. The idolatry of Jerusalem (1 Ki 14:21-24).
  During Rehoboam’s tenure it seemed that Jerusalem was the city of the Lord. In reality it had become a city dedicated to idolatry (v. 21-24). “On the surface, Jerusalem bore the Lord’s name. It was His city. However, the city, like Rehoboam, was really a whitewashed tomb, full of death and decay” (Swindoll, Old Testament Characters, 31).

 d. The pillage by Shishak (2 Chron 12:1-12).
  Because of Rehoboam’s hypocrisy, God brought the King of Egypt against Jerusalem. Consequently the Temple and Palace were plundered of Solomon’s treasures (v. 9-11). This situation cast an alarming shadow upon Rehoboam’s tenure. What would the population think of their King who surrendered the national treasures? 1 Ki 10:16-17 describes the shields of gold that were taken by Egypt. To help conceal his betrayal Rehoboam cleverly arranged for shields to be made out of bronze that replaced the golden shields.  “He worked surreptitiously behind the scenes to cover up the loss, and through his special effects department, managed to make the phony bronze substitutes seem like the real thing. To strengthen the illusion, he kept the shields from close public view” (Swindoll, 32).

 3. What were the “elements” of Rehoboam’s hypocrisy? How are these seen in our modern day as hypocrisy brings tragedy?

 a. He was willing to listen to every one EXCEPT God! 
  He had neither time nor desire to consult and follow God’s directions. He was wholly devoted to Self and refused to consider anything else! How tragic that many today seek validation and support for beliefs and practices from every one except God! How disheartening it is to see those who leave God’s Truth and are encouraged by others to continue practicing hypocritical religious actions and remain in rebellion to the Almighty’s will (cf 2 Ti 4:3-5).

  b. He succeeded by keeping his hypocrisy hid from the public!
  Had his motives, thoughts, intentions been exposed to the public eye, he would have never succeeded. He was subtle and crafty in his work. Many today are encouraging error because they see only the facade and not the real situation. Words are re-defined to conceal the Truth. Biblical terms are used but in meanings that are foreign to the Scripture’s real meaning. Many will accept these re-defined words without realizing the corrupt doctrines they mask! (Cf 1 Ti 4:1-2).

  c. He cared not for the established wisdom but chose new wisdom!
  The Elders had been designated by God and used by Moses, Saul, David and Solomon to govern Israel. Their counsel would have avoided the division. But their counsel was unattractive to someone devoted to SELF. The Elders were never given serious consideration by Rehoboam. The King never saw their wisdom; he never identified as being “with” them (cf 2 Ths 2:4).

  d. He worked from emotions and appearances not from facts!
  The facts would have required him to become a “servant.” This would mean his devotion to Self could never be nurtured. So he contrived facts, manipulated the situations, and played the part – but all was phoney! He could not survive if he followed the facts! (Cf 2 Ths 2:11,12).

 e. He rested in his “perspectives” instead of God’s Truth!
  God’s Truth exposed his self-centeredness; his hypocrisy; his phoniness. It was more comforting to him to look through distorted perspectives which gave Rehoboam the support for his hypocrisy. How tragic that many do this today – they reject God’s Truth because it is too demanding. They find a greater comfort in their own “perspectives” for doctrine! (2 Ths 2:15).

  f. He willingly split and splintered God’s people and offered unity to the god of SELF! The “United Kingdom” ceased to exist because Rehoboam was more concerned about himself than about God! How tragic is this attitude today as hypocrites split and splinter God’s Kingdom because they are more devoted to selfish indulgences than to God’s divine Truths! These modern-day “Rehoboams” continue the legacy of their phoney forefather and create open and irreparable breaches in the Lord’s people (cf 1 Co 3:1-17).

 4. The greatest tragedy of Rehoboam’s reign is that it can be summarized by the word “folly.” What a remarkable contrast is found between Solomon who at 20 years is known as the wisest man of all times and Rehoboam who at 21 years is known as the greatest fool of all times. What traits united to make Rehoboam such a great “Fool”?

  a. His feebleness of character – instead of wholehearted devotion to God, he was consumed with Self!

  b. His contempt for experience – instead of seizing the rich wisdom offered by the Elders, he despised the counsel because it was unpleasant.

  c. His resort to the foolish – instead of recognizing the counsel of the younger as unwise, he accepted it because it agreed with him.

  d. His trust in personal power – instead of recognizing his insecurity and weakness, he thought he, and his immature counselors, were invincible.

5. What are specific lessons we learn from Rehoboam?

  •  How tempting it is to trust Self!
  •  How tragic division is when prompted by Selfishness!
  •  When Self is willing to negotiate anything, you lose everything!
  •  Self always persuades that “our” perspective is the highest authority!

  Self never fools God – He looks behind our masks and into our hearts!

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

Top of Page