King or not

A bit like 'Game of Thrones' in the Bible... (1 Kings 12)

Worship , , automatically translated , Evangelical Free Church Leichlingen


Today I would like to share with you a text that reminded me a bit of "Game of Thrones", this series that started strong and ended so weak that there were even petitions to shoot the last season again. I would find other petitions more important, but I also found the last season stupid ;-)

So in the Bible text there are no dragons and no white walkers, but it's about who gets the throne, and: It's a true story.

The main character is a son of Solomon named Rehoboam.

Most people have certainly heard of Solomon; his wisdom has become proverbial when one speaks of Solomon's judgement. His son Rehoboam is probably rather unknown.

Solomon had just died and his son Rehoboam wanted to take over the throne, as is often the case. Sometimes on such occasions the siblings make a fuss because they also wanted the throne, but this time it was clear that Rehoboam was the successor.

A few words about the back story: His father Solomon had a quiet life for a long time and there was peace in Israel and the surrounding area. Then Solomon also turned to other religions. He married many women from other cultures and religions, unfortunately plural marriage was still common at that time, and built them various temples and places of worship and also prayed with them there.

So after an intense encounter with God and a consistent life in his youth, he became arbitrary in his old age.

Then God, through a prophet named Ahijah, promised a young man named Jeroboam the northern part of Israel as his own kingdom to take away from Solomon's descendants.

This somehow became known and Solomon wanted to have Jeroboam killed, but he left in time.

The prehistory ends with the following verses (1 Kings 11:42-43; NL):

42 Solomon ruled over all Israel from Jerusalem for 40 years. 43 When he died, he was buried in the city of his father David (Jerusalem). Afterwards his son Rehoboam became king.

Confirmation as king

It all seemed so simple. His son Rehoboam became king. But it was not quite there yet (1 Kings 12:1-5; NL):

1 Rehoboam set out for Shechem, for all Israel had gathered there to crown him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat received the news of Solomon's death, he returned from Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon. 3 The leading men of Israel sent for him; and Jeroboam stood before Rehoboam with all the congregation of Israel. They said: 4 "Your father was a very strict ruler. From you we hope that you will lighten our service and the heavy yoke your father has put on us. Then we will serve you faithfully." 5 Rehoboam replied, "Go away for three days. Then come back here to me." With that the people departed.

How now? Conditions are imposed? What is this now? He is the rightful king, isn't he?

And Jeroboam is now suddenly playing along again. The leading men of Israel have taken him. Alternatives are never bad, are they? And you might be able to get something out of it for yourself.

Spiritual questions, e.g. what does God want, are not asked here at all. The focus is solely on one's own benefit.

Rehabeam's first reaction here is the right one. He wants to have time to think and consult. That is not wrong in difficult situations.

The good advice

(1 Kings 12:6,7; NL):

6 King Rehoboam consulted with the experienced advisers who had assisted his father Solomon while he was still alive. "What do you advise me?" he asked. "What shall I answer the people?" 7 They said, "If you show kindness to the people today, serve them and give them what they ask, they will be loyal subjects to you."

That is certainly good advice. The situation is quite tense.

Now you could say, but I am the king. That is my right, how dare they. They should accept my authority!

Surely the Council is also being tactical here. They talk about "today". Be friendly today and meet them, then they will be loyal subjects to you.

We actually see here also a reference to Jesus who says of himself (Mark 10:45; NEÜ):

Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

But Jesus also came as a king, as is also made clear in the conversation with Pilate (Matthew 27:11, NL):

Now Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman governor. "Are you the King of the Jews?" he asked him. Jesus answered: "Yes, it is as you say.

So Jesus Christ is a servant king, he meant that and he lived and lives that.

Let us come back to Rehoboam. He could have made the right decision here, but (1 Kings 12:8-11; NL):

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the experienced advisers and instead sought the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and now served him. 9 "What do you advise me?" he asked them. "What shall I answer the people who have asked of me, `Lighten the yoke your father has put on us.'" 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, "You should answer the people who complained about your father's hard burdens, `My little finger is thicker than my father's waist.' 11 My father has laid heavy burdens on you, but I will ask much more of you. My father has punished you with a whip, I will use a whip with spikes!'"

Why do they talk like that? Apparently, these people have grown up well off and have never experienced how hard life is in simple circumstances. life is in simple circumstances. They have obviously never taken the perspective of poor people, I can't explain it any other way.

Only pressure helps, what kind of logic is that?

But the pressure usually only goes downwards, and that is still the case today. Times are bad, we have to do without, etc., but that mostly hits the poorer. Why, for example, is there no excess profits tax on extra profits in the energy sector? The model capitalist Maggie Thatcher already did that in the 80s.

So then, as now, some people thought "applying pressure" was a good thing, mostly those applying the pressure. Rehoboam's advisors, I believe, were not punished with the whip.

In addition, young people often have less understanding for the problems of others. They are often more absolute and often more black and white.

We also do not read of Rehoboam asking about God's will. He could have prayed like his grandfather David, he could have consulted a prophet, but God does not seem to play a role in this question. Was his father a bad example? Perhaps this arbitrariness of religions, which Solomon exemplified to him in his last years, made him believe that it is not so important to ask God. But we can only assume that.

Now disaster takes its course.

You need pressure

(1 Kings 12:12-15; NL)

12 Three days later Jeroboam returned with all the people to hear Rehoboam's decision, as the king had announced. 13 But Rehoboam drove them hard because he had closed his mind to the recommendation of the older advisers 14 and instead followed that of his younger advisers. He said to the people, "My father has laid heavy burdens on you, but I will ask much more of you! My father has punished you with a whip, I will use a whip with spikes!" 15 And so the king refused to comply with the people's request. In this way the Lord's message to Jeroboam son of Nebat, which had been delivered to him by the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh, was fulfilled.

What do you think Rehoboam was thinking? The people have no choice, I am in the right, I can do what I want. I am the king!

The boss decides. One has to bang on the table now and say how it is done. We all have to make sacrifices. Times are tough.

In business, depending on the sector, that is often no longer the case. People who are really wanted make demands, and if you don't meet them, they're gone. And you need these people, because in some sectors there really is a shortage of skilled workers.

And the authoritarian way no longer works in the church sector either. In the past, we sometimes had an authoritarian world view in the Christian sphere, in the sense that someone had to tell us where to go. I don't think that works, at least not today. It only works together and in partnership.

In all this, one must not forget that kingship itself, as it was described here, i.e. one determined, was not actually God's will. The people demanded a king against God's will because the other nations also had kings.

A king is actually a dictator who is accountable to no one. Such power must corrupt in the long run. In 1 Samuel 8 it is described how the people want a king and how evil that is. And in 1 Samuel 8, 7; NL God says to Samuel the judge who was to introduce kingship:

Listen to the voice of the people, to all they say," the Lord answered, "for it is not you they reject, but me. They no longer want me as king.

God as King is much more difficult for the individual. You have to read the Bible yourself to put it into your own life, pray yourself, wrestle with decisions yourself and also do this together with others in the church.

Of course, it is much easier if someone tells us where to go, but that is not what God originally wanted.

The north is gone

Let us return to Rehoboam.

What happens now? How does Israel react

16 When the Israelites realised that the king was refusing their request, they cried out, "What have we to do with David? This son of Jesse is none of our business! Let us go home, Israel! Take care of your own house, David!" And they returned home. 17 However, Rehoboam continued to rule over the Israelites who lived in the cities of Judah.

The north is gone.

One could sum up the Israelites' response with the expression "Fuck you", but that is not permissible for a worship service ;-)

Apparently Rehoboam did not really believe that, because he tried something else (1 Kings 12:18, NL):

18 The king sent Adoram, the overseer of the labourers, but he was stoned to death by the Israelites. And King Rehoboam jumped on his chariot and fled to Jerusalem.

Well, what are we to make of that? Israel didn't ask God either. They rather let themselves be guided by what they could get out of it.

Let's take a look at the end:

19 To this day, the northern tribes of Israel refuse to recognise a descendant of David as king. 20 When the Israelites learned that Jeroboam had returned, they sent for him, called a meeting and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the royal house of David.

21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he gathered the armies of Judah and Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men. They were to fight against Israel and regain the kingship for him. 22 But God said to Shemaiah, the man of God, 23 "Tell Rehoboam son of Solomon and king of Judah, and all the people of Judah and Benjamin and the rest of the people, 24 `Thus says the Lord: Do not go up and fight against your kinsmen the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened was my will!'" And they obeyed the Lord's message and went home as he had commanded them.

In the end, God implemented his will without the people involved having asked for it.

This happens often enough, but we should not presume to interpret events in this way. Every now and then, God lifts the curtain so that we are allowed to see why something happened. But most of the time we don't know.


I come to the end and would like to list once again what has become important to me from the text.