Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, king in Jerusalem. Adam Clarke spoke of him as a “poor and unprincipled fool.” He came to the throne at a most critical time in the history of Israel. His father had reigned with great wisdom and power. Royalty from the far ends of the earth had paid tribute to the glory and grandeur of his reign. The queen of Sheba said,
It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard” (1 Kin. 10:6-7).
Solomon began his reign well; but the end of it was marked with apostasy and shame. He allowed his wives to turn away his heart after other gods. His exorbitant demands on the people in service and taxes were intolerable. Solomon did not leave the kingdom in good condition for his son and successor.
On becoming king, Rehoboam sought advice. This was a wise thing to do. There were men in Israel who could help him to be a better king. He first took counsel with the old men who had stood before Solomon, his father, while he was alive. They frankly advised him, “If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever” (1 Kin. 12:7). But, he forsook the advice of the old men and sought for the counsel of the young men.
And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions (1 Kin. 12:10-11).
Rehoboam gave heed to the young men, his “brain trust.” The young men “took over” in Israel. As a result, the kingdom was divided; ten tribes left Rehoboam and followed Jeroboam. A once united nation was divided and headed for captivity and ruin. But it might have been otherwise. If Rehoboam had listened to the advice of the old men and had tried to be the servant of his people rather than their dictator, how different the outcome would have been. Ah! but Rehoboam would not have any of his young advisors saying he had gone “soft”; he would begin where his father quit, in oppressing his people. His terms would be “hard.” Israel paid the price of his folly and stubbornness.
It is a fine thing when the young men can work with old men as Timothy labored with Paul. The world and the church need the best efforts of both. “Young men for action; old men for wisdom!” It is fine when the energy of the young can be seasoned with the wisdom of the old.