The Rehoboam Election

Yes, it actually happened. I haven’t the slightest clue how, but it happened. I will write many more thoughts about this week’s election in upcoming posts, but for now, I want to turn to another election from almost 3,000 years ago.

After Solomon’s death, Israel had an ‘election’ of sorts when two candidates stepped forward to be the new king. Two southern tribes supported Rehoboam, while ten northern tribes supported Jeroboam. The kingdom split into two, never to be reunited.

Every four years, like clockwork, we hear goofy claims that THIS presidential election is definitely the Most Important Election Of All Time. In fact, the post-Solomon election of king actually was the most important election ever.

Consider:

  • The northern kingdom had nothing but bad kings afterward, and it was constantly plagued by violent coups
  • The southern kingdom had a number of truly excellent kings, like Hezekiah or Josiah
  • The northern kingdom fell to foreigners about 200 years earlier than the southern kingdom
  • The southern kingdom eventually came back to the homeland, and thrived under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah
  • The people of the northern kingdom vanished into the mists of history – they are lost forever
  • The people of the southern kingdom endured, and in 1948, after two millennia of wandering, finally got their nation back
  • The promised Messiah, the redeemer of Israel, came from a tribe of the southern kingdom

As you can see, the split of Israel after Solomon’s death was absolutely momentous, and 3,000 years later its effects still shape the world we live in.

Surely, you might think, the choice must have been clear. On one side, there must have been an obviously wicked and ungodly candidate for king, with a noble, pure, and godly candidate on the other side. That’s how God has to work, right?

Not quite. In one corner is Rehoboam. He’s the ‘rightful’ heir of Solomon, and he is at least not openly hostile to God’s law and priestly establishment. On the other hand, his commitment to God sure looks like mere lipservice. What’s more, when a group of people led by a refugee asks him to lighten their load of work, he jokes about disciplining them with scorpions, and makes crude remarks about genitalia size (any of this sound familiar?)

In the other corner is Jeroboam. He makes a great show of caring about economic oppression of the poor. The disaffected, the minorities, and the impoverished are behind him. On the other hand, he openly promotes violent rebellion against the government. What’s more, he loathes the priestly establishment and God’s law, and wants the people to have other gods instead.

Imagine that you were a devout Jew those 3,000 years ago. What would you have thought during this ‘election’? Here’s a sampling of the sort of opinions that various devout Jews of the day probably held

  • “Rehoboam is not a man of God. He is a foul-mouthed, foul-minded megalomaniac. No Torah believing Jew can honestly think otherwise.”
  • “Jeroboam for sure – he cares about economic inequality, and the plight of the refugee. Those are the very things nearest to God’s heart!”
  • “We shouldn’t be single-issue kingmakers. Yes, Jeroboam is pro-choice on Moloch worship, but there are so many other important issues facing Israel.”
  • “I can’t in good conscience support either one. I’m going to back Enan Mishmulen for king. As a Jew, I can’t give my support to a ‘lesser evil.'”
  • “Just remember that no matter who wins, YHWH will always be the real King. We shouldn’t get too caught up in these temporal matters and forget that fact.”
  • “Rehoboam is clearly bigoted against refugees. To me, that just goes against what the scripture commands. Our faith is not about building walls.”
  • “We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get so divided. We’re still one nation, under God, and this petty bickering is contrary to our duty as Jews to love one another.”

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. These opinions run the range from dead wrong to technically-correct-but-hopelessly-myopic. In contrast, here’s one opinion that history would actually vindicate:

  • “The stakes could not be higher. If we go with Jeroboam, this nation will be destroyed. He is openly against God’s law, and he will persecute believers. And God’s judgment will come upon the nation because of his governance. I do not like Rehoboam. I find him little short of detestable. His personal failings are well known. But remember also that David had some even worse personal failings in his life too. Rehoboam may not save Israel from the destructive course it’s on, but with him, there’s at least a chance of pulling back from the abyss. There is no chance under Jeroboam. Under him, Israel will descend into a pit of destructive lawlessness and hate for God. Even the pathetic lipservice offered to God by Rehoboam is preferable to Jeroboam’s open hostility. As for Enan Mishmulen, supporting him may make you feel better, but in the end you’re merely taking the coward’s way out. One of the two main candidates is going to be king, and generations thousands of years in the future will have to live with that choice. In being so concerned over this choice of king, I’m not forgetting that God will always be our King and Redeemer. Nonetheless, we must remember that even temporal politics and kingdoms of this world are crucial aspects of God’s workings. Were the nation of Israel to be destroyed, I have no doubt that a book of bitter lamentations over the temporal political situation could be inspired by the very Spirit of God.”

Am I saying that Donald Trump is literally Rehoboam, and that Hillary Clinton is literally Jeroboam? Not quite. It may turn out that America is doomed either way. And it may turn out that America will recover either way. All I’m saying is that you absolutely should not dismiss the crank who insists that this election was a life-or-death choice for America, with Trump representing the only possible hope for the nation’s survival.