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First King of the Ten Tribes

by Jerold Aust

Jeroboam, an effective administrator under King Solomon, pleaded Israel's cause before Solomon's son and successor, Rehoboam: "Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you" (1Kings 12:4).
Jeroboam, chosen spokesman for most of the tribes of Israel, addressed Rehoboam at Shechem, not Jerusalem. That their meeting was in this northern city added to Rehoboam's troubles, for he knew the northern tribes were chafing at the heavy-handed tax and labor policies administered from Jerusalem.
Under Solomon's long and peaceful rule, Israel had lived in the lap of luxury, attributable at least in part to a heavy tax burden that allowed Israel to militarily and economically dominate the area and control its profitable trade routes. But this tax burden eventually generated considerable resentment among the people.
Rehoboam wanted to keep his father's affluent kingdom intact. But Jeroboam had different ideas: He planned to rule over a new kingdom to be formed from 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel, and Rehoboam unwittingly played right into his hands.
King Rehoboam needed a little time to consider his position and determine his response: "Depart for three days, then come back to me" (verse 5).
In the privacy of his court, Rehoboam turned to the elders who had counseled his father and asked: "How do you advise me to answer these people?"
The elders answered wisely: "If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever" (verses 6-7).

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