With his ancestors.
He left behind him
One of his sons.
Broad in folly.
Lacking in understanding.
His policy drove
The people to revolt.”
Now Sirach turns to the Book of Kings that was also later divided into 2 sections. In the first book, in chapters 11-12, he clearly blamed the son of Solomon, Rehoboam, for the breakup of the kingdom of Israel. Sirach did not think much of Rehoboam, since he says that he was foolish and lacked understanding. He claims that it was Rehoboam’s policies that led to the northern revolt.
“Then King Abijah stood on the slope of Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim. He said.
‘Listen to me, King Jeroboam and all Israel!
Do you know
That Yahweh God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to King David and his sons
By a covenant of salt?
Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat,
A servant of King Solomon the son of King David,
Rose up and rebelled against his lord.
Certain worthless scoundrels gathered about him
They defied King Rehoboam son of King Solomon,
When King Rehoboam was young and irresolute
And could not withstand them.’”
There is no other source for this speech since there was no indication of this speech in 1 Kings. In one sense it is odd. They are about to go to war and King Abijah tried to persuade his opponent to surrender when he has twice as many troops. King Abijah said that Yahweh had given the kingship to David and his sons with a covenant of salt. A salt treaty was common in the Middle East since salt was a sign of friendship and a preservative. King Ahijah seemed to indicate that King Jeroboam had a bunch of worthless scoundrels around him. He also seemed to indicate that King Rehoboam was too young and too weak to withstand this rebellion of Jeroboam. However, in chapter 11 of this book, clearly the prophet of Yahweh told him not to attack Jeroboam. Actually King Rehoboam was 41 years old when he began to rule, not that young. What had changed to make this attack come about? There is no indication other than that they were irritated with each other.
“King Shishak of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. He took away the treasures of the house of the Yahweh and the treasures of the king’s house. He took everything. He also took away the shields of gold that King Solomon had made. King Rehoboam made in place of them shields of bronze. He committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. Whenever the king went into the house of Yahweh, the guard would come along bearing them. Then they would then bring them back to the guardroom.”
Once again, we are back at almost word for word from 1 Kings, chapter 14. King Shishak of Egypt took all the treasures of the king’s palace and the Temple. He took everything, even those wonderful gold shields. This would indicate that the wonderful Temple of Yahweh had deteriorated within one generation, especially since King Shishak took everything of value. However, King Rehoboam’s guards at the temple now had bronze shields instead of gold shields. Thus this invasion may have had a dual purpose, to help King Jeroboam and take a lot of gold back to Egypt. It also was a reminder of Yahweh’s power and the lack of faithfulness on the part of the men of Judah.
“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the Yahweh, King Shishak of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand cavalry. A countless army came with him from Egypt. There were Libyans, Sukkiim, and Ethiopians. He took the fortified cities of Judah. He came as far as Jerusalem. Then the prophet Shemaiah came to King Rehoboam and to the officers of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of King Shishak. He said to them. ‘Thus says Yahweh. ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of King Shishak.’ Then the officers of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said. ‘Yahweh is in the right.’ When Yahweh saw that they humbled themselves, the word of Yahweh came to Shemaiah, saying. ‘They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of King Shishak. Nevertheless they shall be his servants, so that they may know the difference between serving me and serving the kingdoms of the other lands.’”
Next this biblical author talked about the invasion of King Shishak of Egypt, based on 1 Kings, chapter 14. However, here there is a direct correlation between their evil ways and the invasion. As far as we can tell, there really was a King Shishak of Egypt who began to rule Egypt in the 10th century BCE. Prior to this there was only a general reference to the Pharaoh of Egypt. Synchronizing him with Hebrew history puts the reign of Solomon around 1000 BCE. Thus there is a possibility to begin dating things with some degree of accuracy. King Shiskak’s sister may have been married to Solomon. King Jeroboam had stayed with him in Egypt until the death of Solomon as indicated in 1 Kings, chapter 11, but not mentioned here. Thus the Egyptian King Shishak was good friends with the northern King Jeroboam. Here King Shishak is well prepared as he had troops from Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, and Sukkiim, about 1,200 chariots and 60,000 cavalry. This was the only mention of Sukkiim so it is hard to figure out where they were from. He made quick work as he easily defeated either some or all the fortified cities. Everyone gathered in Jerusalem. Shemaiah, the prophet who told King Rehoboam not to invade the north told them that Yahweh said that they would lose this battle because they were unfaithful to him. They then repented and Shemaiah said that Jerusalem would be spared but they would be subservient to Egypt. There does not seem to be any other source for this intercession of Shemaiah via Yahweh.
“When all Israel saw that the king would not listen to them, the people answered the king.
‘What share do we have in King David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
Each of you to your tents, O Israel!
Look now to your own house, King David.’
So all Israel departed to their tents. King Rehoboam ruled over the Israelites who were living in the cities of Judah. When King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was his taskmaster over the forced labor, the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam hurriedly mounted his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. Thus Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.”
Once again, this is based almost word for word on 1 Kings, chapter 12. When the people of Israel heard King Rehoboam, they responded that he was not listening to them. They would have nothing to do with King David, the son of Jesse. Israel would go to its tents and not with the house of David. However, King Rehoboam was still in charge of the Israelites who lived in Judah. However, when he sent his taskmaster in charge of forced labor, Hadoram here and not Adoram as in 1 Kings, to Israel, they stoned him to death. Then King Rehoboam took off for Jerusalem. This split was so complete that it lasted until the writing of this biblical work as well as the book of 1 Kings. This split was never resolved.
“But King Rehoboam rejected the advice that the older men gave him. He consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and now attended him. He said to them. ‘What do you advise that we answer these people who have said to me? ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put upon us.’ The young men who had grown up with him said to him. ‘Thus should you speak to the people, who said to you, ‘your father made our yoke heavy, but you must lighten it for us,’ tell them. ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. Now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
Once again, this is based almost word for word on 1 Kings, chapter 12. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of his older advisors. Instead he went to his younger friends whom he grew up with. They thought that he should make a strong stance. They told him to say that things were going to get worse, not better. He was going to lay a heavier yoke on them than his father King Solomon. He would not use just whips, but the scorpion whips that had many knots in them like scorpions. That is why they always ask older wiser people. King Solomon was the wise old man, but King Rehoboam was the young impatient ruler who wanted things straight from the beginning. This is not how you win friends and influence people. This is not going to go well and will split Israel. He should have listened to his older advisors.
“Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the older men, who had attended his father King Solomon while he was yet alive, saying. ‘How do you advise me to answer these people?’ They answered him. ‘If you will be kind to these people today, please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.’”
Once again, this is based almost word for word on 1 Kings, chapter 12. Instead of being a servant to the Israelites, here they say that he should be kind to them and please them. Like in 1 Kings, a kind word would make them your servants. The old men gave King Rehoboam the advice to go easy on the Israelites.