1 Kings Bible

Rehoboam – Tough Lessons from a Tough Situation

Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, and Solomon was the son of David. Rehoboam was raised in the ultimate luxury, the ultimate easy life. But when it came to the tough situations on life, he failed in his decisions, how he gave the news, and ultimately his faith. This story of Rehoboam is the beginning of what J. Vernon McGee calls, “a dark blot in the history of Israel” (First and Second Kings, p. 83). Let’s take a look at Rehoboam’s life and some of the lessons we can learn from him.

Rehoboam Touogh Lessons from a Tough Situation

Photo Credit: Hans Holbein (1498-1543)

Tough Lessons from a Tough Situation


A. Time to Think about Them

Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt, for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon. The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.” Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away. (1 Kings 12:1–5, NLT)

1. Rehoboam Takes Some Time to Think

There are some good things that Rehoboam does. This is one of the few!

Jeroboam comes with his proposition asking for Rehoboam to take it easy on the people in the north, Israel.

“Rehoboam replied, ‘Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.’ So the people went away.” (1 Kings 12:5, NLT)

2. Reflect on Your Life and the Things You’ve Done without Thinking

Think about your life. How many bad decisions have you made when you were angry or aggravated and didn’t take time to think before acting? Now, think about how the decisions you have made when you thought about it first. Which decisions do you regret? The ones you made immediately with emotion or the ones you took some time to think about?

B. Time to Get Good Advice

Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?” The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?” The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’ ” (1 Kings 12:6–11, NLT)

The older counselors understood the situation. They knew that Rehoboam was at a key turning point in the kingdom. The way that this new king would respond to the established leaders was very important, so he needed to be sensitive to that. That’s what the older counselors were trying to tell him to do.

Proverbs has some great insights on getting advice:

  • “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” (Proverbs 11:14, NLT)
  • “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” (Proverbs 15:22, NLT)
  • “So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:6, NLT)

C. Time to Evaluate the Best Advice

“We make our decisions, and then our decisions turn around and make us.” (Frank W. Boreham, British writer)

Think about these older men who said to make a change. They were loyal to Solomon and had served him faithfully. If they said to change Solomon’s practice, Solomon truly must have taxed the people heavily with work. 

When faced with tough decisions you need to take as much time as you need to consider the options and outcomes. Rehoboam didn’t. Instead, he “rejected” the older men’s advice and accepted the advice of the young men he grew up with.

Thus far we have talked about that tough decisions require time to think about them, time to get good advice, and time to evaluate the best advice. How long do you need to take to evaluate that advice? Take as long as you need!

Warren Wiersbe says, “Sometimes we forget our decisions, but our decision can never forget us, because we reap what we sow” (Wiersbe, Be Responsible, p. 113). This is why we should take as much time as we need!

D. Time to Find a Way to Serve

1. Rehoboam Ignores the People’s Request

The people return to hear Rehoboam’s decision. It is good to remember that earlier in the passage it says that “all Israel had gathered to make him king” (1 Kings 12:1). They were ready to accept him as their king and follow him. They just had one request.

Yet, the text says, “The king paid no attention to the people.” Literally, you can translate it, “The king did not listen to his people.”

“Both in his words and his manner, the new king made it clear to the people that he was important and powerful, and they were unimportant and weak, a dangerous message indeed” (Wiersbe, Be Responsible, p. 115).

The wisdom of the older counselors is seen here. In 1 Kings 12:7 they told Rehoboam that “if you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”

2. Rehoboam’s Missed Opportunity to Serve

In all honesty, Rehoboam could have made a decision that if nothing else, would have at least made him popular. Seeking to be a servant and having a hint of humility would have made the ten tribes in the north happy to have him as king and given them the relief they had wanted for such a long time. Think about it. Who wouldn’t want to work less and have less taxes? But Rehoboam refused!

One simple act of being a servant is all that it would have taken for Rehoboam to be accepted as king. Being a servant doesn’t take a lot of skill. “One of the beauties of servanthood is that it requires no special talent or spiritual gifts” (Jerry Bridges, True Community, p. 140).

3. Rehoboam Wasn’t a Servant, But Jesus Was

Being a servant is what Jesus did and taught.

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:24–27, NLT)

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8, NLT)


A. Giving it in Person

Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. (1 Kings 12:12, NLT)

This is what Rehoboam does well! He returns to them in person and talks to them about his decision. He doesn’t send them a telegram, messenger, email, tweet, or snapchat. He tells them his decision in person.  

Yet, there is something that he also does poorly. When the people reject him and return home, he sends someone to try to enforce his decision.

1. Rehoboam Tries to Enforce His Decision

King Rehoboam sent Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death. When this news reached King Rehoboam, he quickly jumped into his chariot and fled to Jerusalem. And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David. (1 Kings 12:18–19, NLT)

There are two sides to this. First is being the one to give bad news on behalf of another person. When you are that person, you know that it is not going to go well because people often shoot the messenger. Second is being the ones who receives the bad news from the wrong person. Who has ever had to receive news from someone that you know that person didn’t make the decision, but was told to tell you? This is where the CEO tells the Vice President that the Vice President has to tell the company that they are laying off people. Everyone knows that it was the CEO’s decision to layoff people, but the Vice President is the one who has to tell the people. How did that feel?

2. Rehoboam Fails to Go and Work It Out with the People

When things go bad and you have to give people tough news, face them and talk to them about it. Rehoboam got in his chariot and ran (1 Kings 12:18). Rehoboam sent his sidekick to try to enforce his decision and smooth things over when it should have been him.

3. How We Give News

So, let’s make the point: ALWAYS give bad news in person.

Methods of Delivering News
  • Baddest – Text Message
  • Bad – Email
  • Better – Phone
  • Best – In-Person

There are two pastors I often consult who tell me to talk to people in person when I have an issue. I always hope that they will tell me to send a text message or email, but they always tell me to buy the person lunch and talk out my differences with him in person. If you have to give bad news to someone and you decide to give it in person, you will never regret that decision.

B. Giving an Explanation of Your Reasoning

But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!” (1 Kings 12:13–14, NLT)

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT). Rehoboam knew this because his dad said it!

One commentary I read said that “This probably was the most foolish thing that young Rehoboam could have done” (William Barnes, “1-2 Kings” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, p. 164).

While people might not agree with you, hopefully they will accept what you say and appreciate the fact that you are trying to explain your reasoning.

C. Giving Time to Talk it Out

It does not appear that there was a Q & A time. And to be honest, Rehoboam didn’t have to give it to them. He was the soon to be king; he could do what he wanted. But that doesn’t mean that what he did was right or diplomatic. In fact, one commentator says, “His actions were provocative and immature” (William Barnes, “1-2 Kings” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, p. 117).

There is an important point here. When we take time to talk out our decision it doesn’t mean the decision is going to change. When you take time to talk it out it conveys two important messages to the people affected by the decision. First, it tells them that you care enough to make time to listen to them. Second, it provides healing and restoration for people who disagree and want to make sure that their opinions are shared.


Some people remark that we as Christians are too individualistic. That we are too personal in our faith and that we often neglect the “community” aspect of our faith. Yet, here I am focusing on the personal faith because it is all about one man. He was the king and the one responsible for the nation. And I think you will see that the personal faith of one person can positively or negatively effect an entire nation.

A. Personal Devotion to the Lord

But all the priests and Levites living among the northern tribes of Israel sided with Rehoboam. The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and moved to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons would not allow them to serve the Lord as priests. Jeroboam appointed his own priests to serve at the pagan shrines, where they worshiped the goat and calf idols he had made. From all the tribes of Israel, those who sincerely wanted to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. This strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they supported Rehoboam son of Solomon, for during those years they faithfully followed in the footsteps of David and Solomon. (2 Chronicles 11:13–17, NLT)

1. Rehoboam Starts Off Well

Here we see that Rehoboam started out well. For three years his personal devotion to God was seen and applied not just to himself but to the entire nation of Israel.

2. Rehoboam Moved Away from God

But when Rehoboam was firmly established and strong, he abandoned the Law of the Lord, and all Israel followed him in this sin.” (2 Chronicles 12:1, NLT)

During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. (1 Kings 14:22–24, NLT)

If you have read 1 & 2 Kings much you know that two themes in these two books are “evil kings” and all the wrong done during this period of Israel’s history. Rehoboam led his nation down a path away from God, and it was a path that God detested.

3. Devotion to God Is Important for Leaders and Parents

The leader is the spiritual leader. At home, at work, and at church. People take their spiritual cues and influence from the leader. Someone else might have a stronger faith, but the rest of the team is going to take their cue from the “leader” not the most spiritually mature person.

B. Personal Desire to Not Abuse God’s Promises

Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and the grandson of David. God had promised David that the family of David would be king over Israel forever. That was a promise that he knew of and that he likely took abuse of.

1. The Promise to David

David had settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies. David summoned Nathan the prophet and told him that he wanted to build a palace for God (2 Sam 7:1-2). Nathan says, do what you want (2 Sam 7:3). But God spoke to Nathan about King David,

starting from the time I appointed judges to rule my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. “ ‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11–16, NLT, emphasis added)

King Rehoboam knew of this promise to David. He likely thought that he could do whatever he wanted and treat people however he wanted because God promised that David’s descendants would be kings forever!

2. Abuse of God’s Promises in the New Testament

We see this same type of abuse of God’s promises in the New Testament in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

“But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned. (Romans 3:5–8, NLT)

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?” (Romans 6:1, NLT)

God has given us the promise of forgiveness, but that doesn’t meant that we can take advantage of it and abuse it by sinning more.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “God does not allow His people to sin successfully.” In the case of Rehoboam he was faithful to God for just three years. Then he wavered in his faith, and the sad part was that wavering faith allowed the rest of the nation to waiver in their faith too.

C. Personal Devotion to God Which Others Can See

Rehoboam’s lack of devotion to God is seen in how he led the nation of Judah away from God.

During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. (1 Kings 14:22–24, NLT)

1. The Placement of These Items

Do you notice the strategic placement of these shrines, pillars, and poles? On “every high hill” meant that they could be seen by everyone everywhere. Under “every green tree” meant that people could worship them while in the cool shade, which people sought out in Israel’s hot climate. 

2. The Sin of These Items

The Israelites were specifically told to drive out the Canaanite nations because of their idolatry and false religions. In Deuteronomy it says,

“These are the decrees and regulations you must be careful to obey when you live in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must obey them as long as you live. “When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods—high on the mountains, up on the hills, and under every green tree. Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Completely erase the names of their gods! “Do not worship the Lord your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods. Rather, you must seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose from among all the tribes—the place where his name will be honored. (Deuteronomy 12:1–5, NLT)

No Israelite was ever supposed to be a temple prostitute. They were specially forbidden.

“No Israelite, whether man or woman, may become a temple prostitute. When you are bringing an offering to fulfill a vow, you must not bring to the house of the Lord your God any offering from the earnings of a prostitute, whether a man or a woman, for both are detestable to the Lord your God. “Do not charge interest on the loans you make to a fellow Israelite, whether you loan money, or food, or anything else. You may charge interest to foreigners, but you may not charge interest to Israelites, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you do in the land you are about to enter and occupy. “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, be prompt in fulfilling whatever you promised him. For the Lord your God demands that you promptly fulfill all your vows, or you will be guilty of sin. However, it is not a sin to refrain from making a vow. But once you have voluntarily made a vow, be careful to fulfill your promise to the Lord your God. “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, but you must not carry any away in a basket. And when you enter your neighbor’s field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle.” (Deuteronomy 23:17–25, NLT)

Why was this so important to go together? It was because idolatry and immortality go together (Rom 1:21-27).

3. The Effect of These Items

Rehoboam’s reputation is verified when his son is said to have followed the sins of his father (1 Kings 15:3). “his sins and the sins of the people who followed him left the nation weaker, poorer, and in bondage” (Wiersbe, Be Responsible, p. 123).

D. Personal Dedication to Follow God’s Direction when He Speaks

We are going to backtrack a little bit in the story. Again a positive thing.

When Rehoboam arrived at Jerusalem, he mobilized the men of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—180,000 select troops—to fight against the men of Israel and to restore the kingdom to himself. But God said to Shemaiah, the man of God, “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the people of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!’ ” So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded. (1 Kings 12:21–24, NLT, emphasis added)

Think of how much pride Rehoboam must have had to swallow to do this. It look a lot of desire to follow God’s will to not do what he was going to do. God spoke and Rehoboam listened.

God can speak to us in many ways. He can talk to us audibly, through the Bible, or through a conversation.


I don’t know about you, but when I think about some of the principles in this message, what comes to mind are all the times that I have not handled situations in a good way. I often think about my failure to handle tough situations and the harm that I caused others. But, let’s press on! As Dr. Miller shared, “I can hardly remember my failures, not because I haven’t had any, but because I am focused on moving forward. “Forgetting the past and looking forward to lies ahead, I press on” (Phil 3:13-14). Let’s take these tough lessons from a tough situation and apply them to our lives.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at