By Adah Maurer, Ph.D., 1993

"The rod and reproof bring wisdom." (Proverbs 29: 15) Now King Solomon, we are told, had seven hundred wives and thus must have had a goodly number of children. Presumably he practiced what he preached and all were raised by the rod. How did his own children turn out? Did they honor their father and grow in wisdom? Perhaps the story of Solomon's sons carries the real message of what happens to families when children are beaten with rods.

When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam succeeded him as king. At the coronation, the people petitioned for a redress of grievances. Led by Jeroboam, once Solomon's chief executive officer but later an exile in Egypt, they came before the new king and said, "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us and we will serve you."(II Chronicles 10:4)

Rehoboam was unsure of how to answer. He told them to come back in three days and sought counsel, first from the elder statesmen among his father Solomon's wisemen. They advised that he agree to lighten the load.

Their counsel was: "If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be loyal subjects."

But Rehoboam rejected the advice from the elder statesmen and turned instead to the young men who had grown up with him -- the horde of half brothers who were also Solomon's sons. From them he heard the ultimate insult to the memory of their father. They said to tell the people: "My little finger is thicker than my father's loins." (II Chronicles 10:10).

What Solomon's son said of their father remains in the private and vulgar language of junior high age boys to this day. To say that a man has a thin, small organ is to say that he lacks what it takes to be a man, that he is a wimp with no real guts at all. To growing boys, this is the ultimate insult.

Solomon's sons advised their elder brother to tell the people -- as some might express it today, "You ain't seen nothing yet!" They told him to say: "My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions."(I Kings 12:14)

What were scorpions? It sounds like they may have been whips with multiple strips with stingers at the tips, perhaps something like a cat-o-nine-tails used to flog sailors in the days of sail. Whatever scorpions were, they were dreaded by the people.

King Rehoboam followed the advice of the young men who had been raised with him under the rod of correction. The people who had come to him in good faith listened to his insulting threats and went home to their tents. But they were so angry that the next time the King and his foreman in charge of forced labor came to conscript laborers, they stoned the foreman to death and Rehoboam himself barely escaped in his chariot back to town. (II Chronicles 10:18)

Ten of the tribes, led by Jeroboam revolted. Many years of devastating civil war followed. "There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life" (I Kings 15:6). Rehoboam forsook the Lord and turned to idol worship. Jerusalem was raided by the Egyptians who carried off much of Solomon's treasure. Rehoboam "did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord" (II Chronicles 12:9,14).

The civil war continued after Rehoboam's death and after Jeroboam's death. At length the divided and weakened Jewish kingdom, first Israel in the north, then Judah in the south, was overrun and conquered."

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