Israel In Rebellion

Israel In Rebellion October 3, 2017

2 Chronicles 10 is a fall story.

The Chronicler’s long account of the reigns of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 11-2 Chronicles 9) has portrayed an ideal. David and Solomon form a joint new-Adam, overseeing the Levites who stand to serve in the garden-temple, guarding Yahweh’s bride, Israel.

William Johnstone describes it this way: “The status of the king of the house of David has been expounded in sacramental terms. He sits on no merely human throne, but on the throne of the LORD: he is the visible expression in physical terms of the cosmic sovereignty of God (e.g. 1 Chron. 28.5). Likewise, the people of Israel are the LORD’S host on earth, the counterpart in the physical sphere of the hosts of the LORD in the cosmic (e.g. 1 Chron. 11.9). The ark is the physical representation of the dynamic intervention of God on the field of battle; its resting in the Temple in Jerusalem is the symbol of victory attained (2 Chron. 6.41). Through David and Solomon, the ideal has been achieved: the kings of the earth pay their homage (1 Chron. 29.30; 2 Chron. 9.22-24)” (1 & 2 Chronicles, 2.9).

In sum: All Israel, the chosen people (1 Chronicles 16:13) under the rule of Yahweh’s chosen king (1 Chronicles 28:4-6), who lives in Yahweh’s chosen city (2 Chronicles 6:6, 34, 38) and reigns from Yahweh’s throne near the place Yahweh has chosen (2 Chronicles 7:11, 16), all as a sign of Yahweh’s kingdom to the nations.

Rehoboam spoils all that, and does so from the get-go. He heads down from Jerusalem to Shechem so all Israel can make him king (2 Chronicles 10:1). Shechem is a venerable place, where Yahweh appeared to Abraham and first promised him the land (Genesis 12:6-7) and an Ephraimite city of refuge belonging to the Kohathites (1 Chronicles 6:67).

But it’s not the city Yahweh has chosen, not the city of Yahweh’s ark-throne, not the city where Solomon built Yahweh’s house of sacrifice. To hold a coronation at Shechem, Israel has to decide to make Rehoboam king without a sacrificial feast in Yahweh’s presence. To make Rehoboam king at Shechem is to detach Rehoboam’s throne from Yahweh’s own. By moving the coronation ceremony to Shechem, Israel “secularizes” the Davidic kingship.

As Richard Pratt notes (1 & 2 Chronicles, 269), the Chronicler subtly hints that something is off-kilter by not including a formulaic introduction. Rehoboam doesn’t get introduced until near the end of his reign (2 Chronicles 12:13). His kingdom is “established” (12:1) and the king himself is “strengthened” (12:13) only after he settles in to a reign in Jerusalem. Only then does his reign really begin.

By the Chronicler’s lights, Rehoboam’s fall is a decisive turning point in the history of Israel.Solomon “sat on Yahweh’s throne” (2 Chronicles 9:8, as David had, 1 Chronicles 29:23). Reohoboam sits on his own. No king after Solomon is said to sit on Yahweh’s throne. The Davidic ideal is shattered.

It’s not a third-day resurrection (cf. 2 Chronicles 10:5, 12). It’s a third-day crucifixion. All Israel will remain on that cross until they are thrown into the grave of exile, from which they will be recalled to life by Cyrus the Persian.

2 Chronicles 10 is a fall scene, but it isn’t exactly an Adamic fall scene. Rehoboam doesn’t seize forbidden fruit. He’s a Cain who assaults his brothers (cf. 2 Chronicles 11:4). Jeroboam leads a delegation to request relief from the heavy burdens of Solomon’s reign.

Whatever the merits of the request, the fact that it’s brought up at Rehoboam’s coronation indicates that it’s part of a negotiation: If you give us what we want, Jeroboam implies, we’ll be your subjects. This is already a strike at the roots of Davidic kingship. Israel isn’t support to bargain with Yahweh’s choices.

Jeroboam must have scented some vulnerability. If Rehoboam were secure, he would never have come down from the heights of Jerusalem in the first place. The elders who stood before Solomon may well recognize the stakes, but also see that the best option is to return good for evil, not to return insult for insult.

Rehoboam chooses instead to follow the advice of the lads, those who had risen with him (gadal may be “grow up” or “become great,” 2 Chronicles 10:8). The elders became wise by “standing before” Solomon. The lads remained in their macho adolescence because they “stood before” Rehoboam (vv. 6, 8). We take on the qualities of those before whom we stand and serve. We become like those whom we serve as priests. Companions of the wise become wise. Companions of fools become fools.

In rejecting the wisdom of the elders, Rehoboam rejects his father’s wisdom, and so rejects his father’s kingdom. It’s another strike at the Davidic theology of kingship. David and Solomon are surrounded by elders (1 Chronicles 11:3; 15:25; 21:16; 2 Chronicles 5:2, 4). After Rehoboam turns away from them, elders disappear from the Chronicler’s narrative until the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:29).

Rehoboam’s response to the people’s request is a display of weakness disguised as strength. Like Hanun of Ammon (1 Chronicles 19), Rehoboam and his lads think that bravado is the best policy. The best way to prove his strength is to humiliate others.

The result is a divorce.

When Benjamites join David at Ziklag, Amasai speaks in the Spirit: “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse.” Peace, peace peace. Peace to the one who helps (1 Chronicles 12:18).Amasai expresses the depth of the union of Israel with her king. It isn’t merely a political arrangement. It’s a wedding vow, a declaration that the tribes are one-flesh with David; there is a covenant of mutual possession between the son of Jesse and the sons of Israel.

When Rehoboam returns his harsh answer, all Israel answers with a poem that echoes Amasai’s vow (2 Chronicles 10:16; Pratt, 272, notes the connection). Like Amasai’s declaration, the people speak of “David” and “the son of Jesse.” In place of a compact of mutual possession, though, they declare a dispossession. “What portion in David, what portion in the son of Jesse?” None, and so Israel goes to their tents and leave David to return to his own house.

David’s house is supposed to be Israel’s house. David and Israel now live in separate houses. One can only ask, in Pauline horror, Is David divided?

All this shows why we have to read the Chronicler’s final judgment about Rehoboam as a double entendre. “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of Israel to this day” (2 Chronicles 10:19), he writes. But who is “Israel”? One is tempted to think the term now applies only to the northern tribes, but a few verses later the prophet Shemaiah speaks of “all Israel in Judah and Benjamin” (2 Chronicles 11:3).

All Israel is in rebellion against the house of David. Rehoboam rejects the Davidic theology and institutions of kingship almost as thoroughly as Jeroboam and the northern tribes. (The one redeeming outcome for Rehoboam is that he retains, and gains, Levites, 2 Chronicles 11:13-14).

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