Explore the Bible: Divided

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When you are making a decision, from who do you seek advice? What motivates you to seek their advice: age, experience, success or something else? Most of the time we have a predetermined set of values that determines the kind of person from whom we might seek advice. This was the case for Rehoboam, King Solomon's son, as you will discover in LifeWay's Explore the Bible Study: Divided.

1 Kings 12 brings us to a major decision that Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, had to make, and the way he went about seeking advice and making his decision. After Solomon’s death, his son, Rehoboam became king over all Israel (1 Kings 12:1). Jeroboam, who earlier had fled from King Solomon (1 Kings 11:40) because of the prophecy regarding the divided kingdom (1 Kings 11:11-40), returned and led a delegation that brought a request to Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:2-3). They asked Rehoboam to, “lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (1 Kings 12:3-4). Rehoboam told them to return in three days for his answer (1 Kings 12:4-5).

This sets up an opportunity for Rehoboam to seek advice that would demonstrate his ability to lead wisely. As you examine who Rehoboam seeks out for advice and the decision he makes, you can learn the importance of seeking the right advice in the right manner and from the right places so that you can avoid making bad decisions. Sadly, for Rehoboam, he did not choose wisely.

Rehoboam asks for advice from older leaders outside of his inner circle – 1 Kings 12:6-7

Solomon’s reign had featured much economic prosperity for the nation, so these elders represented a vast amount of successful experience. The elders were well-seasoned and proven advisors to King Solomon. They would have been well-respected among the royal court and had probably gained a reputation for giving good advice to the king. It would be natural to seek their advice when faced with such an important decision. 

But what if their wisdom was not as respected as it should have been? 

What if they were complicit with Solomon on the decisions that led the king to place the harsh service and the heavy yoke (v.3) upon the people? Since they were part of the culture that Solomon had created during his final years as king, perhaps they were making decisions based upon spiritual compromise. Or perhaps they felt the advice they gave would keep them in power with all the comforts they had come to enjoy. These leaders, while being older, well-seasoned, and certainly capable, might have been influenced in the final years by a culture of idolatry and compromise that Solomon propagated. One must also wonder, why they didn’t talk about returning to the Lord, or turning the hearts of the people toward God? 

Their advice seems to focus on keeping the people loyal to Rehoboam and not to God or His mission.

Seeking advice from older and successful individuals is important. We should respect them and their experience, and we should seek to learn from them. This can bring some great insight, but age and success doesn’t guarantee that someone can give godly advice. 

While the Scriptures don’t indicate whether the advice was good or bad, on the surface, it seemed to be advice that was worthy for Rehoboam to consider. But that wouldn’t be the case.

Rehoboam looks for a different solution from his inner circle of peers and younger leaders – 1 Kings 12:8-11

Don’t ignore the contrast made in verses 6 and 8. 

  • Verse 6 emphasizes that the elders served his father; they were outside of Rehoboams inner circle. Rehoboam appears to have not given much consideration to this counsel of experienced officials.
  • Verse 8 points out that the young men had grown up with him and attended him; they were Rehoboam's inner circle. These young men represented Rehoboam’s new team of advisers; they had much less experience leading a nation and did not have the experience the elders did.

The words translated had grown up with him could be translated “had become great with him” and suggest they now carried power and authority but had little experience using it. They had little sympathy for the people’s plea. Rehoboam’s younger leaders suggested he tell the people my little finger is thicker than my father’s waist

This demonstrated a lack of respect for God’s covenant, God’s blessings, the history of Israel, the accomplishments of the past and much more. They didn’t care. They were arrogant and thought they knew what was best. 

How does this play out today in our culture, the church, or the work environment? What are the results when a believer only listens to others who give them answers they want to hear?

This passage does not teach that younger or less experienced people never have good counsel to offer. When Timothy served the church at Ephesus, he was a relatively young man. Paul told him he should live in such a way that no one would look down on his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul recognized Timothy had much to offer the church. God can use leaders with servant attitudes regardless of their age or experience. 

Interpreters generally point out the apparently self-serving attitudes the young men expressed. They were happy to serve with Rehoboam but planned to use their new positions for their own gain and did not understand what the people truly needed. 

What if these younger leaders or the elder leaders encouraged Rehoboam to demonstrate godly leadership before the people? Do you feel Rehoboam would have listened to any of them?

Rehoboam goes with what fulfills his own desires – 1 Kings 12:12-15

Rehoboam was determined to have his way. If Israel was going to be all Rehoboam wanted the nation to be, everyone would need to work harder, and if they didn’t, they would be punished severely with barbed whips. Those present that day saw that the king desired to exalt himself at their expense, and perhaps they perceived similar motives in the young men who stood by him when he uttered his reply. The king’s harsh approach was about to cost him dearly.

These words do not suggest the Lord made Rehoboam speak harshly to the people. 1 Kings 11 helps us fully understand this statement. It describes how the Lord had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat (1 Kings 11:29-39). In that prophetic word, Ahijah told Jeroboam God had chosen Jeroboam to rule Israel after God tore much of the kingdom away from Solomon’s son. The Lord also promised to make Jeroboam’s reign a great one and promised him a lasting dynasty like He promised the house of David if Jeroboam would remain faithful to God (1 Kings 11:38). The Lord had seen Solomon’s spiritual compromise (1 Kings 11:1-13) and knew disaster awaited Israel.

Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king (1 Kings 14:21); he had seen the luxury that characterized his father’s reign and was determined to make his own life even better than his father’s had been. Thus, the Lord worked through Rehoboam’s arrogance and selfishness to fulfill the word He had spoken through Ahijah.

What dangers can come from seeking counsel from people who are self-serving or who only desire to give you the answer you want to hear? 

How can you discern people’s motives as you seek their counsel? 

How can you protect yourself from only seeking advice from those who give you the answers you desire to hear?

The Results of Acting on Bad Advice—1 Kings 12:16-19

Those who followed Jeroboam realized they no longer had a real place in the Israelite community. They felt they no longer had a voice or were joining a godly king to live as God’s people. The accompanying comment, so Israel went to their tents, implies they went home to look after their own interests and welfare—to form their own nation. They were done with David’s house—the tribe of Judah. Thus, the split between the kingdoms was fulfilled.

Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites living in the cities of Judah – the Southern Kingdom. 

God earlier had said He would give Solomon’s son one tribe to rule for David’s sake (1 Kings 11:13,36). Thus, God had fulfilled His word, although later, the tribe of Benjamin also joined Judah for a time (1 Kings 12:21).

Next King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of forced labor, to the northern tribes. Adoram had served Solomon and perhaps Rehoboam thought sending one of his father’s officials would help ease the tension with the northern tribes. However, the people remembered the days when Adoram was in charge of forced labor, and many of them had served four months per year to accomplish Solomon’s building projects (1 Kings 5:13-14). They wanted no more of this, and they saw in Adoram’s coming more of the same, so all Israel stoned him to death. Their angry reaction reiterated that they wanted no part in the house of David any longer. 

The writer of Kings stated the sad conclusion: Israel (The Northern Kingdom) is still in rebellion against the house of David (The Southern Kingdom) today. 

The kingdom that witnessed unity under Saul, David, and Solomon, now experienced division under Rehoboam. From 930 BC onward, the two kingdoms would exist as separate nations—the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Ultimately, Israel fell to Assyria in 722/721 BC, and Judah fell to Babylon in 586 BC.

Sadly, Jeroboam, the Northern Kingdom’s first king, did not follow the Lord. Rather, he led the people astray spiritually and did all he could to ensure Israel and Judah remained distinct nations (1 Kings 12:26-33).

Making Wise Decisions

This is a biblical record of two sources of advice:

  • The advice of the experienced—Speak kind words and they will be your servants forever.  Being nice is something we should all strive to do, but it can lead to compromise if the only motive is to gain followers (servants).
  • The advice of the inexperienced—Treat them harshly and work them harder and you will gain even more power and riches. This leads to rebellion.
  • We must not forget there is a third channel of advice that isn’t mentioned at all in this passage. No one asked God for advice. Rehoboam didn’t, the elders didn’t, and the young leaders didn’t.

Who is your primary source for advice? 

  • Do you only seek advice from the successful and experienced leader? 
  • Do you only seek advice from your own peers or younger leaders because you want to them to give you the advice you desire to hear?
  • Do you seek the Lord for advice and even seek the Lord’s direction on who else you should pursue for advice?

Seeking advice from others, especially those who are wise in the Lord, is not something to be ignored. God gives us individuals who can speak into our lives. Yet, we must be careful not to only listen to what we desire to hear. We must always filter the advice of others through what we know to be Scripturally true. Otherwise, we will respond as Rehoboam did. We will discard the advice of seasoned leaders or embrace the advice of the inexperienced young leader without ever considering what God has to say. 

If only Rehoboam had just considered the many times his grandfather, King David, sought the Lord for solid advice. Or if he had just read and embraced David’s words penned in the book of Psalms, Lord, I appeal to you. 2 My God, I trust in you. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. 3 No one who waits for you will be disgraced; those who act treacherously without cause will be disgraced. Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; I wait for you all day long. (Psalm 25:1-5) 

Wise individuals know how to listen to the right people and to God for advice when making decisions.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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