Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 12
Rehoboam did not need the people to work as hard for him as they had worked for Solomon. However, without their hard work, Rehoboam could never be as rich or as powerful as Solomon had been.
Rehoboam did not want to show any weakness. So he asked Solomon’s chief advisers what he should do. They explained to him that it is necessary for any ruler first to gain the support of the people. So, they told him to be humble and to accept the people’s demands. Then, the people would accept him as their king and he would start to have authority over them. When they had agreed to be loyal to him, he would then be able to direct their work. In other words, in time he could become a powerful king, but he would have to gain authority over the people slowly.
Rehoboam strongly disliked that advice. He considered the people to be his servants, and that he had the right to direct their work. It is the master and not the servants who decides about their tasks. If Rehoboam agreed to the people’s demands, he would seem to himself to be a very weak leader.
So Rehoboam decided to ask his friends what he should do. These were the younger men whom he was appointing to the important jobs in his government. They were eager to please Rehoboam, because their jobs depended on him. So, they were not like the older men, Solomon’s advisers, who were simply trying to give the best advice.
The way that a master controls his slaves is, typically, by acts of cruelty. He wants the slaves to be too afraid not to obey him. If a slave is unwilling to work, then the cruelty against that slave increases.
Israel’s people were not slaves. However, they had complained about the work that they had to do on behalf of their king. They had urged Rehoboam to make that work easier.
The men who had authority in Solomon’s government had advised Rehoboam to agree to the people’s demands. Then the people would accept Rehoboam as their king and he would gain authority over them.
However, Rehoboam’s friends, who had authority in Rehoboam’s government, disagreed. They told him to deal with the people cruelly, as if the people were his slaves. Those friends thought that Rehoboam could make the people afraid by his strong words.
Rehoboam’s friends even told Rehoboam what he should say to the people. Rehoboam should say that he considered his father, Solomon, to be a weak king. They would now discover what it meant for their country to have a strong king. If they formerly considered their work to be hard, it would now become much harder.
If they still refused to obey, Rehoboam would not hesitate to punish them severely. Perhaps Solomon’s men used a whip to punish an unwilling worker. Rehoboam reminded them that there was much worse pain than from a small whip. He compared his punishments to the sting of a scorpion, a small animal that causes very terrible pain.
Next part: Rehoboam's reply to the people's demands (1 Kings 12:12-15)
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