Thursday, September 01, 2022

1 Kings 14:21-31

1 Kings 14:21–31 (NIV)✞: Rehoboam King of Judah


We’re now entering a section of 1&2 Kings whereby the narrative will occasionally switch back and forth between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, talking about the leaders of each. It’s not necessarily going to go back and forth leader-by-leader, there will be sections where the narrative tells about a few rulers in Israel then a few in Judah, and other times when a ruler will be significant enough that the narrative will spend a lot of time on that person. (I’m saying “leader” and “ruler” instead of “king,” even though the vast majority of rulers that will be talked about will be kings, because there are occasional mentions of queens, too.)

In this case, the passage talks about the reign of Rehoboam. We’ve already seen the beginning of his reign in 12:1–24, but now we round it out with the kind of summary that will become familiar as we progress through 1&2 Kings. (Not to mention 1&2 Chronicles.) This includes a very common formula that gets repeated often: “So-and-so was X years old when he became king, and he reigned for Y years.” Sometimes the formula changes a bit, however, and this is a case in point:

21 Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.

verse 21 (NIV)✞

We’ll see soon enough, but after this I’m pretty sure the author doesn’t bother to keep mentioning Jerusalem over and over for Judah’s leaders; I think this is mentioned here to emphasize just how quickly the nation of Israel—now the nations of Israel and Judah—has fallen from obedience to the LORD. (I don’t know if it’s significant that Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite; perhaps it is, and this is another opportunity for the author to point out how many non-Israelite wives Rehoboam’s father, Solomon, had.)

After the pattern of stating when the ruler took office and how long s/he served, another common thing the author points out, usually right away, is whether this was a good ruler or a bad one. Often in the form, “So-and-so did evil in the eyes of the LORD,” or “So-and-so did right in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the steps of his father David1.” In Rehoboam’s case, unfortunately, he was a bad king:

22 Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.

verses 22–24 (NIV)✞

This is a slightly different take on the formula, now that I think about it; I’d expect the passage to say “Rehoboam did evil in the eyes of the LORD,” but it says “Judah” instead.

The passage then gives a summary of the rest of Rehoboam’s rule:

  • Judah was attacked by Egypt in the fifth year of his reign, and the Egyptians carried off all of the treasures from both the temple and the palace.
    • Specific mention is made of the gold shields that Solomon had made. To replace them Rehoboam has shields of bronze made instead. In what feels like kind of a sad note, the passage mentions that the bronze shields weren’t even used that much; when the king would go to the temple the guards would get out the shields and bear them and then they’d immediately put them back into storage when they weren’t needed anymore, until the next time Rehoboam would go to the temple.
  • It is also mentioned that “continual warfare” continued between Rehoboam and Jeroboam in Judah

Finally, as is also part of the usual pattern, the passage mentions who succeeds Rehoboam as king; in this case, it’s his son Abijah. (Not to be confused with Jeroboam’s son of the same name!)


There’s a lot of mention in this post of this being the usual “pattern” followed in 1&2 Kings, and I’m hoping I won’t keep talking about it over and over again for future passages because it will create a mental block against me paying proper attention…

In some ways the reign of Rehoboam is similar to that of a lot of kings—both of Judah and of Israel—but one notable item is that he’s the first king of Judah. It’s unfortunate that he’s not a good one, since he sets Judah on a bad path right from the very beginning.

In fact, I think that comes out strongly in the passage itself; I mentioned above that the passage breaks the pattern a bit of “So-and-so did evil in the sight of the LORD,” saying that Judah did evil instead of saying that Rehoboam did evil. I’m thinking that’s because Rehoboam is the first king of Judah, and the author wants to emphasize how much damage a bad ruler can do: it’s not just that the ruler is doing evil, that ruler leads the entire nation into doing evil. For future rulers it will typically just say that the ruler did evil (if I recall correctly), not the entire nation, but it’s understood that the one drives the other.

Something for modern day leaders—from leaders of nations down to Bible Study leaders and everything in between—should keep in mind. Yes, everyone is responsible for their own sin, but, at the same time, if I’m a leader I’m also responsible for leading the people under me into their sin.

  1. The text can always say that good kings walked in the steps of their father David because there were never any good kings in Israel, only in Judah, so when there was a good king he was always a descendent of David. (The one example of a queen who [temporarily] reigned instead of a king was, I’m pretty sure, not a good queen, but I guess we’ll get there when we get there and maybe I’ll eat these words.)

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