"He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord." (NIV)
2 Chronicles 12:14
ESV - 14 And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.
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In my view Rehoboam did not sin in his response to the Israelite leaders because this conflict was God’s will. His decision to ignore the Israelites’ plea for mercy but instead punish them with higher taxes and harsher forced labour, was CAUSED BY GOD to fulfill the prophecy given to Jeroboam. God had decided to punish the nation for their unfaithfulness in worshipping false gods (which was led by Solomon), so God had decided to use Jeroboam to break the country apart into the Northern (10 tribes) and Southern (2 tribes) kingdoms. We can read this entire prophecy and plan of God in 1 Kings chapter 11. Here is a summary. 1. Jeroboam was a wealthy man of standing 2. Solomon had put him in charge of the kings affairs in Ephraim and Manasseh 3. Abijah the prophet met Jeroboam and told him the prophecy 4. God had decided to tear the kingdom away from Solomon’s family 5. Solomon had led the people to worship all the false gods of the neighbouring peoples 6. God had decided to give the 10 northern tribes to Jeroboam, and his descendants, if he would be faithful to God 7. Solomon had tried to kill Jeroboam so he fled to Egypt 8. When Solomon died Jeroboam returned to lead the rebellion in fulfillment of God’s prophecy The breakup of the nation of Israel was not the result of one man’s sin, it was the unfaithfulness of the whole nation because they worshipped all these false gods. God caused the breakup to punish [discipline] his people so they would repent and turn back to him. The following verse describes what the people were doing. I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to me, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my decrees and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did. (1 Kings 11:33)
As described in 1 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 10, when Rehoboam became king of Israel upon the death of his father Solomon, the people came to him, and asked him to lighten the figurative yoke that Solomon had placed on them by the manner in which he had oppressed them through measures such as high taxes and conscripted labor for the enrichment of himself and his many foreign wives, and also for the purposes of building the temple, as well as of his own palace. In my opinion, the evil that Rehoboam did was disregarding the counsel of the elders of Israel when he became king that he be kind to the people and please them. Instead, he took the advice of the young men with whom he had grown up that he be even more oppressive than Solomon had been. The Bible gives no indication that he sought to follow God and seek His wisdom, as Solomon had in the early part of his reign. When Rehoboam informed the people of this intention, they largely rebelled against him, dividing the nation between the two southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin) and the other ten northern tribes, and starting it toward its eventual downfall.
Wikipedia has "During Rehoboam's 17-year reign, he retained Jerusalem as Judah's capital but Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars, and Ashe′rim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. — 1 Kings 14:22-24" I.e. Rehoboam's reign saw the spread of Canaanite idolatry in Judah. (1 Kings 14:22-24). His pride (revealed by his initial response to Jeroboam in 2 Chronicles 10:14 see Tim's answer) may also have led to the sin of self-sufficiency--so that he failed to turn to God for help. --Quest Study Bible And according to the NIVSB, 1 Kings 14:24's "male shrine prostitutes" had to do with ritual prostitution, an important part of Canaanite fertility religion. The Israelites had been warned by God not to engage in such an abominable practice (Dt 23:17-18, but here they are doing it anyway! When Christians are warned by God not to do something, we should not do it! Period. For example, when God says, "Flee anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts." (2 Timothy 2:22, NLT).
Rehoboam’s evil was that “he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord,” II Chronicles 12:14. This verse summarizes his reign. And it was true as he began and made the decision to rule with more harshness than his father Solomon, II Chronicles 10. As a result, the great kingdom was split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. After the great division, Rehoboam went to establish the kingdom that was left for him, which was the Kingdom of Judah, but “he forsook the law of the Lord, and Israel went along with him,” II Chronicles 12:1. Because they had “transgressed against the Lord” and “forsaken” the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, II Chronicles 12:2, 5. Shishak is the first pharaoh to be identified by a personal name in the Bible. He has been misidentified as Sheshonq. Shishak is considered by David Down and John Ashton, co-authors of “Unwrapping the Pharaohs” and others, to be Thutmosis III, the stepson or nephew of Hatshepsut the great Queen of Sheba, I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. Down and Ashton wrote, “He was a born genius and soon learned to read and write the complicated hieroglyphic script of Egypt.” Small in stature, about 5’8’’ according to his mummy, he could have been the “Napoleon of Egypt.” Thutmosis III began military aggression to expand the frontiers of Egypt and he transformed Egypt into one of the world’s most powerful empires. Some historians believe he was the greatest of all the pharaohs. In the fifth year of Rehoboam, Shishak with an army including “the Lubim and the Sukkiim and the Ethiopians” which reveals the extent of his rule south of Egypt, took fortified cities such as Gaza and probably Joppa. One goal, in his words as recorded in the temple of Karnak, was to “overthrow the wretched enemy of Kadesh.” Kadesh means ‘holy city’ as also in Nehemiah 11:1, Isaiah 48:2, and Daniel 9:24. However, because of the message of Shemaiah, the leaders humbled themselves and the Lord granted that He would not pour out His wrath on Jerusalem, II Chronicles 12:5-7. According to Egyptian records, Rehoboam met Shishak in battle at Megiddo which Shishak captured. Shishak did not take Jerusalem, but he did take treasures and the 300 gold shields Solomon had made, I Kings 14:26. The inscriptions on Thutmosis’ temple walls at Karnak depict gold overlaid doors, I Kings 6:32, much loot and 300 gold shields. With the gold shields gone, Rehoboam made bronze shields to take the place of those taken, II Chronicles 12:9-10. The replacement of gold with bronze pictures the diminishing of the glory of the kingdom. II Chronicles 12:12-13 reveals that Rehoboam humbled himself and then “he strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned.” Some wonder what a great king he would have been if he, from the start, had totally surrendered to seek the Lord and not forsake the law of the Lord.
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