The Folly of YouthBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Rechavam inherited the throne from Solomon and he went to be crowned at Shechem. (Shechem is a place where bad things historically happened. For example, Jacob’s daughter Dina was raped in Shechem and Joseph was sold there – see Talmud Sanhedrin 102a). Things did not go well. Yeravam, a prominent person, had criticized Solomon regarding a particular matter and fled to Egypt. When he heard about the impending coronation, he returned from his exile to confront Rechavam.
The people complained to Rechavam that their tax burden under Solomon was oppressive. They asked whether Rechavam would lower taxes. If he agreed, they said they would serve him as king. Rechavam, in a display of weakness, asked for three days to consider the matter.
Rechavam asked his father’s advisors what they thought. These wise, older advisors told him to do as the people asked so that they would be faithful to him forever. But then Rechavam asked his advisors with whom he had grown up. These younger, impetuous advisors told Rechavam to show the people who’s boss. If anything, they advised him to increase the nation’s burden! Foolishly, Rechavam took this advice.
Three days later, when the people regrouped, Rechavam told them his decision. Not surprisingly, it did not go over well. This was the catalyst to fulfill G-d’s prophecy to Achiya that the country would be divided. (The whole story is told in the parallel account in Kings.) Ten Tribes seceded and made Yeravam their king. Only the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin (plus the Levites) remained faithful to Rechavam.
Rechavam didn’t take the rebellion seriously. He sent Hadoram to collect the taxes as usual, but the people stoned him to death. From this, Rechavam realized that he had a real problem, so he boarded his chariot and fled back to Jerusalem.