Taxes and Advice
1 Kings 12:1-11 :
Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. When Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it
(for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam lived in Egypt,
and they sent and called him), Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came, and spoke to Rehoboam, saying,
“Your father made our yoke difficult. Now therefore make the hard service of your father,
and his heavy yoke which he put on us, lighter, and we will serve you.”
He said to them, “Depart for three days, then come back to me.”
The people departed.
King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying,
“What counsel do you give me to answer these people?”
They replied, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them, and answer them with good words,
then they will be your servants forever.”
But he abandoned the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and took counsel with the young men
who had grown up with him, who stood before him. He said to them, “What counsel do you give,
that we may answer these people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Make the yoke that your father put on us lighter?’”
The young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Tell these people who spoke to you, saying,
‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but make it lighter to us;’ tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.
Now my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, but I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips,
but I will chastise you with scorpions.’”
Here we find out that Solomon was oppressive to the people of Israel, through the plea of Jeroboam. This makes
me seriously consider why Solomon was so rich. Even though his teaching of wisdom could have made him plenty of money,
he forced the people to do hard labor for him in order to build his projects. He may not have been charging them taxes
of money, but he was still requiring that they work for him. This adds even more corruption to the rule of Solomon. As
wealthy as Israel was, the people were actually being oppressed by Solomon. Wealth did not automatically translate to
freedom or meaning in life. Even Solomon realized this in his old age, as he recorded in Ecclesiastes. Here we see
that wealth actually brought oppression to some people.
Rehoboam's response demonstrates what man's wisdom produces. Solomon, even though he didn't always follow his own
wisdom, was still receiving his wisdom from God. Rehoboam decided to use his own wisdom. Instead of relying on the word
of God, he took advice and made his own decision. Rehoboam's methods are so common in my culture that it is probably
difficult for many who read this to see why he was wrong.
Rehoboam decided to make his own mind the judge. We are not told why he chose his friend's advice over the advice of
Solomon's elderly councilors, but let's look at it from a human perspective for the sake of argument. Solomon himself,
arguably the wisest man in the world, had decided to oppress these people. Might it make sense to continue this behavior?
Also, Rehoboam's friends were younger. Perhaps they were more educated than the old men had an opportunity to be. Perhaps
the younger men were at a higher state of evolution than the old guys. After all, isn't life survival of the fittest?
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it is wrong according to God's word. God's wisdom makes it clear
that older men are typically more wise, but there is a deeper problem here. Reheboam
was making his own judgment. There is no indication that he consulted a man of God or a scribe who knew the books of Moses
or Samuel. He was using his own intellect, just like Eve did when she sinned back in the garden. It is also quite
possible that some of these old men were prophets or scribes. When we choose to make our own mind a higher authority than
the Bible, we will fall because God opposes us when we are proud. Reheboam could have kept the nation together in peace,
but God had already predicted that he would not.