the Fifth Week of Lent
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Rechabdmn, רְחִבְעָם, enlarger of the people [see Exodus 34:24, and comp. the name Εὐρύδημος ]; Sept. ῾Ροβοάμ; Josephus, ῾Ροβόαμος , Ant. 8:8,1), the only son of Solomon, by the Ammonitish princess Naamah (1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 14:31), and his successor (1 Kings 11:43). — Rehoboam's mother is distinguished by the title "the (not ‘ an,' as in the A.V.) Ammonite." She was therefore one of the foreign women whom Solomon took into his establishment (11:1). In the Sept. (1 Kings 12:24, answering to 1 Kings 14:31 of the Hebrew text) she is stated to have been the "daughter of Ana (i.e. Hanun) the son of Nahash." If this is a translation of a statement which once formed part of the Hebrew text, and may be taken as authentic history, it follows that the Ammonitish war into which Hanun's insults had provoked David was terminated by a realliance. Rehoboam was born B.C. 1014, when Solomon was but twenty years old, and as yet unanointed to the throne. His reign was noted for the great political schism which he occasioned, and which continuled to the end of both lines of monarchy. From the earliest period of Jewish history we perceive symptoms that the confederation of thettribes was but imperfectly cemented. The powerful Ephraim could never brook a position of inferiority. Throughout the book of Judges (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1) the Ephraimites show a spirit of resentful jealousy when any enterprise. is undertaken without their concurrence and active participation. From them had sprung Joshua, and afterwards (by his place of birth) Samuel might be considered theirs; and though the tribe of Benjamin gave to Israel its first king, yet it was allied by hereditary ties to the house of Joseph, and by geographical position to the territory of Ephraim, so that up to David's accession the leadership was practically in the hands of the latter tribe. (See EPHRAIM, TRIBE OF).
But Judah always threatened to be a formidable rival. During the earlier history, partly from the physical structure and situation of its territory (Stanley, Syr. and Palest. p. 162), which secluded it from Palestine just as Palestine by its geographical character was secluded from the world, it had stood very much aloof from the nation (See JUDAH, TRIBE OF), and even after Saul's death, apparently without waiting to consult their brethren, "the men of Judah came and anointed David king over the house of Judah" (2 Samuel 2:4), while the other tribes adhered to Saul's family, thereby anticipating the final disruption which was afterwards to rend the nation permanently into two kingdoms. But after seven years of disaster a reconciliation was forced upon the contending parties; David was acknowledged as king of Israel, and soon after, by fixing his court at Jerusalem and bringing the tabernacle there, he transferred from Ephraim the greatness which had attached to Shechem as the ancient capital and to Shiloh as the seat of the national worship. In spite of this he seems to have enjoyed great personal popularity among the Ephraimites, and to have treated many of them with special favor (1 Chronicles 12:30; 1 Chronicles 27:10; 1 Chronicles 27:14), yet this roused the jealousy of Judah, and probably led to the revolt of Absalom (q.v.). Even after that perilous crisis was passed, the old rivalry broke out afresh and almost led to another insurrection (2 Samuel 20:1, etc. [comp. Psalms 78:60; Psalms 78:67, etc., in illustration of these remarks]). Solomon's reign, from its severe taxes and other oppressions, aggravated the disecntent, and latterly, from its irreligious character, alienated the prophets and provoked the displeasure of God. When Solomon's strong hand was withdrawn, the crisis came (B.C. 973). Rehoboam selected Shechem as the place of his coronation, probably as an act of concession to the Ephraimites, and perhaps in deference to the suggestions of those old and wise counsellors of his father whose advice he afterwards unhappily rejected. From the present Hebrew text of 1 Kings 12 the exact details of the transactions at Shechem are involved in a little uncertainty. The general facts, indeed, are clear. The people demanded a remission of the severe burdens imposed by Solomon, and Rehoboam promised them an answer in three days, during which time he consulted first his father's counsellors, and then the young men "that were grown up with him and which stood before him," whose answer shows how greatly during Solomon's later years the character of the Jewish court had degenerated. Rejecting the advice of the elders to conciliate the people at the beginning of his reign, and so make them "his servants forever," he returned as his reply, in the true spirit of an Eastern despot, the frantic bravado of his contemporaries, "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. . . I will add to your yoke; my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions" (i.e. scourges furnished with sharp points; so in Latin, scorpio, according to Isidore Origg. v, 27], is "virga nodosa et aculeata, quia arcuato vulnere in corpus infligitur?' [Facciolati, s.v.]). Thereupon arose the formidable song of insurrection, heard once before when the tribes quarrelled after David's return from the war with Absalom:
"What portion have we in David?
What inheritance in Jesse's son?
To your tents, O Israel?
Now see to thy own house, O David!"
Rehoboam sent Adoram or Adoniram, who had been chief receiver of the tribute during the reigns of his father and his grandfather (1 Kings 4:6; 2 Samuel 20:24), to reduce the rebels to reason, but he was stoned to death by them, whereupon the king and his attendants fled in hot haste to Jerusalem. So far all is plain, but there is a doubt as to the part which Jeroboam took in these transactions. According to 1 Kings 12:3 he was summoned by the Ephraimites from Egypt (to which country he had fled from the anger of Solomon) to be their spokesman at Rehoboam's coronation, and actually made the speech in which a remission of burdens was requested. There is no real contradiction to this when we read in 1 Kings 12:20 of the same chapter that after the success of the insurrection and Rehoboam's flight, "when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, they sent and called him unto the congregation and made him king." We find in the Sept. a long supplement to this, 12th chapter, possibly ancient, containing-fuller details of Jeroboam's biography than the Hebrew. (See JEROBOAM). In this we read that after Solomon's death he returned to his native place, Sarira in Ephraim, which he fortified, and lived there quietly, watching the turn of events until the long-expected rebellion broke out, when the Ephraimites heard (doubtless through his own agency) that he had returned, and invited him to Shechem to assume the crown. From the same supplementary narrative of the Sept. we might infer that more than a year must have elapsed between Solomon's death and Rehoboam's visit to Shechem, for, on receiving the news of the former event, Jeroboam requested from the king of Egypt leave to return to his native country. This the king tried to prevent by giving him his sisterin-law in marriage; but on the birth of his child Abijah, Jeroboam renewed his request, which was then granted. It is probable that during this year the discontent of the northern tribes was making itself more and more manifest, and that this led to Rehoboam's visit and intended inauguration. The comparative chronology of the reigns determines them both as beginning in this year.
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