The Chronicler developed a theological vision for the returned exiles and their descendants. He thus called his audience to remember the faithfulness and might of their God from Adam to the Golden Age of Israel under David and Solomon, faithfulness that was displayed by the grandeur of the temple. But inevitably the Chronicler had to take up the matter of Israel’s demise. He did this by focusing on the southern kingdom of Judah and mentioning the north only as necessary. Since Judah had been more faithful to the covenant, outlasting Israel in the land by roughly 150 years, the Chronicler gave his attention to the house of David.
The author of 1 Kings gave little attention to the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kgs 12:1-24; 14:21-31). But the Chronicler recorded additional information—scenes that would call his readers to faithfulness even though they, like those under the leadership of Rehoboam, felt disadvantaged. In 2 Chronicles 10, the author described Rehoboam’s rejection of the elders’ advice for how he should reign as king. When Jeroboam heard Rehoboam’s response, he and many others headed north. Rehoboam reigned only over those Israelites yet living in Judah. But God’s sovereignty and Rehoboam’s early irresponsibility were not at odds. Because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, the Lord had promised his servant, Jeroboam, ten tribes of Israel, with the injunction, “After that, if you obey all I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight in order to keep My statutes and My commandments as My servant David did, I will be with you. I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I built for David, and I will give you Israel” (1 Kgs 11:38).
Yet, Jeroboam rejected the word of the Lord. Jeroboam set a pattern of idolatry and syncretism, which would eventually lead to the exile. In this way, Rehoboam was part of the sub-plot of the divided kingdom and, on the whole, more faithful than Jeroboam. When Rehoboam submitted to the word of the Lord, the Lord blessed him and the nation (2 Chronicles 11-12). After Rehoboam was rejected by the people, he faithfully responded to the word of the Lord through Shemaiah, “You are not to march up and fight against your brothers. Each of you must return home, for this incident has come from Me” (2 Chron 11:4). The Chronicler recorded that Rehoboam fortified the cities of Judah and made cultic activity a priority—allowing the Levites of Israel to return to Judah and serve in the temple (2 Chron 11:17). Here again is the emphasis of the Chronicler: even for those with a troubled past, devotion to temple practices pleases God. Even after Rehoboam’s season of unfaithfulness, and subsequent subjection to Shishak, Rehoboam was devoted to the temple, making bronze shields to replace those which had been plundered (2 Chron 12:10-12)
In 2 Chronicles 13, the author called his readers’ attention to the temple even when he was explaining the reign of Rehoboam’s son, Abijah. Abijah confronted Jeroboam for making a mockery of Israel’s cult. Jeroboam had enticed the people to worship golden calves, and—after driving out the Levites—allowed the priesthood to be purchased (2 Chron 13:8-9). Israel’s worship was no different than the pagan nations around them, but in Judah things were different. When King Abijah was ready to attack the north, he declared, “Look, God and His priests are with us at our head. The trumpets are ready to sound the charge against you. Israelites do not fight against the LORD God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed” (2 Chron 13:10, 12).
While the Chronicler gave Rehoboam a more favorable evaluation than he received from the author of 1 Kings, Rehoboam’s reign was far from fulfilling God’s desires of covenant faithfulness. Rehoboam carried the family line of David, but the Lord’s promise to David— “When your time comes to be with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who is one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My name, and I will establish his throne forever” (1 Chron 17:11-12; 2 Chron 7:18)—would have to wait for another. Scripture’s storyline traces to Jesus God’s promise of one sitting on David’s throne. Matthew wrote, “Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah…and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matt 1:7, 16).