(Re·ho·boʹam) [Widen (Make Spacious) the People].
Son of Solomon by his Ammonite wife Naamah. He succeeded his father to the throne in 997 B.C.E. at the age of 41 and reigned for 17 years. (1Ki 14:21; 1Ch 3:10; 2Ch 9:31) Rehoboam had the distinction of being, at least briefly, the last king of the united monarchy and then the first ruler of the southern two-tribe kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, for shortly after he was crowned king at Shechem by all Israel, the united kingdom of David and Solomon was divided. Ten tribes withdrew their support from Rehoboam and made Jeroboam their king, even as Jehovah by the prophet Ahijah had foretold.—1Ki 11:29-31; 12:1; 2Ch 10:1.
This separation took place after a delegation of the people, with Jeroboam as their spokesman, pleaded with Rehoboam to remove some of the oppressive measures laid upon them by Solomon. Rehoboam took the matter under advisement. First he consulted the older men, who counseled him to heed the cry of the people and reduce their burdens, thereby he would prove himself a wise king, one who would be loved by his people. But Rehoboam spurned this mature advice and sought the counsel of young men with whom he had grown up. They told the king he should in effect make his little finger thicker than his father’s hips, increasing their yoke burden and chastising them with scourges instead of whips.—1Ki 12:2-15; 2Ch 10:3-15; 13:6, 7.
This arrogant, high-handed attitude adopted by Rehoboam completely alienated the majority of the people. The only tribes continuing to support the house of David were Judah and Benjamin, while the priests and Levites of both kingdoms, as well as isolated individuals of the ten tribes, also gave support.—1Ki 12:16, 17; 2Ch 10:16, 17; 11:13, 14, 16.
Subsequently, when King Rehoboam and Adoram (Hadoram), who was over the conscripted forced laborers, entered the territory of the secessionists, Adoram was stoned to death but the king managed to escape with his life. (1Ki 12:18; 2Ch 10:18) Rehoboam then mustered an army of 180,000 from among Judah and Benjamin, determined that the ten tribes would be forcibly brought under his subjection. But Jehovah through the prophet Shemaiah forbade them to fight against their brothers, since God himself had decreed the division of the kingdom. Though open warfare on the battlefield was thus avoided, hostilities between the two factions continued all the days of Rehoboam.—1Ki 12:19-24; 15:6; 2Ch 10:19; 11:1-4.
For a time Rehoboam walked quite closely to the laws of Jehovah, and early in his reign he built and fortified a number of cities, some of which he stocked with food supplies. (2Ch 11:5-12, 17) However, when his kingship was firmly established he abandoned Jehovah’s worship and led Judah in the practice of detestable sex worship, perhaps because of Ammonite influence on his mother’s side of the family. (1Ki 14:22-24; 2Ch 12:1) This, in turn, provoked Jehovah’s anger, and in expression of it he raised up the king of Egypt, Shishak, who, together with his allies, overran the land and captured a number of cities in Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign. Had it not been that Rehoboam and his princes humbled themselves in repentance, not even Jerusalem would have escaped. As it was, the treasures of the temple and the king’s house, including the gold shields that Solomon had made, were taken by Shishak as his booty. Rehoboam then replaced these shields with copper ones.—1Ki 14:25-28; 2Ch 12:2-12.
During his lifetime Rehoboam married 18 wives, including Mahalath a granddaughter of David, and Maacah the granddaughter of David’s son Absalom. Maacah was his favorite wife and the mother of Abijah (Abijam), one of his 28 sons and the heir apparent to the throne. Other members of Rehoboam’s family included 60 concubines and 60 daughters.—2Ch 11:18-22.
Before his death at the age of 58, and the ascension of Abijah to the throne in 980 B.C.E., Rehoboam distributed many gifts among his other sons, presumably to prevent any revolt against Abijah after his death. (1Ki 14:31; 2Ch 11:23; 12:16) On the whole, Rehoboam’s life is best summed up in this commentary: “He did what was bad, for he had not firmly established his heart to search for Jehovah.”—2Ch 12:14.