He enlarges the people, the successor of Solomon on the throne, and apparently his only son. He was the son of Naamah "the Ammonitess," some well-known Ammonitish princess (1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13). He was forty-one years old when he ascended the throne, and he reigned seventeen years (B.C. 975-958). Although he was acknowledged at once as the rightful heir to the throne, yet there was a strongly-felt desire to modify the character of the government. The burden of taxation to which they had been subjected during Solomon's reign was very oppressive, and therefore the people assembled at Shechem and demanded from the king an alleviation of their burdens. He went to meet them at Shechem, and heard their demands for relief (1 Kings 12:4). After three days, having consulted with a younger generation of courtiers that had grown up around him, instead of following the advice of elders, he answered the people haughtily (6-15). "The king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord" (Comp. 11:31). This brought matters speedily to a crisis. The terrible cry was heard (Comp. 2 Samuel 20:1):
"What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: To your tents, O Israel: Now see to thine own house, David" (1 Kings 12:16).
And now at once the kingdom was rent in twain. Rehoboam was appalled, and tried concessions, but it was too late (18). The tribe of Judah, Rehoboam's own tribe, alone remained faithful to him. Benjamin was reckoned along with Judah, and these two tribes formed the southern kingdom, with Jerusalem as its capital; while the northern ten tribes formed themselves into a separate kingdom, choosing Jeroboam as their king. Rehoboam tried to win back the revolted ten tribes by making war against them, but he was prevented by the prophet Shemaiah (21-24; 2 Chronicles 11:1-4) from fulfilling his purpose. (see JEROBOAM.)
In the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign, Shishak (q.v.), one of the kings of Egypt of the Assyrian dynasty, stirred up, no doubt, by Jeroboam his son-in-law, made war against him. Jerusalem submitted to the invader, who plundered the temple and virtually reduced the kingdom to the position of a vassal of Egypt (1 Kings 14:25, 26; 2 Chronicles 12:5-9). A remarkable memorial of this invasion has been discovered at Karnac, in Upper Egypt, in certain sculptures on the walls of a small temple there. These sculptures represent the king, Shishak, holding in his hand a train of prisoners and other figures, with the names of the captured towns of Judah, the towns which Rehoboam had fortified (2 Chronicles 11:5-12).
The kingdom of Judah, under Rehoboam, sank more and more in moral and spiritual decay. "There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days." At length, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, Rehoboam "slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David" (1 Kings 14:31). He was succeeded by his son Abijah. (see EGYPT.)