The Rehoboam Syndrome (IV)
My two oldest sons are thirty-four and thirty-two, respectively. They tell me that I’m starting to get smarter again. The Martians sucked my brains out when they turned eighteen and things appeared totally hopeless for me for a long time. Just recently, however, I’m starting to sound a lot wiser to them again. (The aliens didn’t get all my brains. I still have one functioning brain cell left, and it’s making a comeback!) Look, I know that this scenario plays itself out frequently and I can sit around and laugh about it with my two oldest children, but a lot of heartache—on all sides—could be avoided.
I know I have regrets about a number of boneheaded decisions I made in life, and I know so many people who want, more than anything else, to prevent their children and others from having similar “regrets.” Generation after generation, however, seems—like lemmings—to rush headlong, irrationally over the cliffs of lire to harm and sometimes destruction. In that sense, this effort on my part seems futile. Are we not doomed to repeat the same boneheaded moves and decisions? No, not necessarily. People being boneheaded sinners, however, seems to insure that there will be a sufficient number to keep the hallowed halls of “Regret” occupied.
Nevertheless, I also have a firm trust in God’s sovereignty—even over boneheads like you and me. I’ve wrestled with and discussed with many people why it is that young people seem to want to disregard the older generation. Five times I’ve experienced going through that phase where my kids thought I was a fairly intelligent human being as well as the phase where they thought I was from the planet Zork. As I said, with my two oldest sons, I escaped the aliens that beamed me up and took me away and returned as a saner and wiser man. What happened to Dad? I guess he escaped from the aliens. With my second daughter I’m about halfway between Zork and the real world. What happened to Dad? Sometimes I think there’s hope for him and at other times he’s completely hopeless.
To my youngest, I have both feet cemented in Zork. What happened to Dad? He used to be kind of smart, but now he’s lost it completely. One of our sons died at the age of four months so he never had to experience a dad from Zork. He’s with our heavenly Father so I don’t have to worry about him. Our first daughter is mentally handicapped and has never heard of Zork. To her, I’m the guy who reads her children’s stories at night and takes her shopping and on train rides. So parents take courage, there is plenty of room on Zork for all of us. Sometimes the stay is longer than at other times, but you’d better be prepared knowing that one day your children will look into your glazed-over eyes and know that the Zorkeans have zapped you with their laser-guns and then abducted you to their planet where they extracted about three-quarters of your brains and all of your “cool.” The good news is that as parents we’ll never suffer from Mad Cow Disease because it only affects the brain.
The Rehoboam Texts
Although Rehoboam’s name appears more than fifty times in the Bible (it only occurs once in the New Testament in the genealogy in Matthew 1:7) our main concern focuses on 1 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 10. Both of these texts are practically identical, so for convenience sake, we’re going to concentrate on the 1 Kings 12 account.
In both cases, a brief record of the death of King Solomon, his father, precedes the account of Rehoboam’s foolish actions. As I pointed out above, he was forty-one when he began to reign.
There’s one other text that is also very pertinent to our discussion. In 2 Chronicles 13:7 there is an interesting Hebrew idiom. Rehoboam is described in this text as “irresolute” (ESV). (The NASB says that he was “timid” and the NIV translates that he was “indecisive.”) The semitic idiom is “soft of heart.” The LXX translates the phrase as “cowardly” or “afraid” (deilós). When we investigate the Old Testament, there are a number of texts that describe Rehoboam as a warrior and that speak of his military exploits, so the crux of the matter seems to be in the correct translation of the idiom.
In one sense, each of the translations seem to touch on the heart of the matter—no pun intended. There are few things more devastating that an “indecisive” leader. He freezes and people die. His “timidity” could have sprung from the fact that he was not well prepared for leadership. His youth played a key role and even though he did not admit it, he did not possess the requisite life experience to make important decisions.There may be yet another possibility that includes all of the above and yet goes a step farther. When we pause and recall that in the Hebrew mind, the “heart” was a summary word used to describe the very core of a person’s being we get an inkling as to what the idiom means. Because of his age and other factors, the center of his life—his heart, mind, soul, will—was not what it should have been.