If thou wilt be a servant unto this people - This is a constitutional idea of a king: he is the servant, but not the slave of his people; every regal act of a just king is an act of service to the state. The king is not only the fountain of law and justice; but as he has the appointment of all officers and judges, consequently he is the executor of the laws; and all justice is administered in his name. Properly speaking, a good and constitutional king is the servant of his people; and in being such he is their father and their king.
They will be thy servants for ever - The way to insure the obedience of the people is to hold the reins of empire with a steady and impartial hand; let the people see that the king lives for them, and not for himself; and they will obey, love, and defend him. The state is maintained on the part of the ruler and the ruled by mutual acts of service and benevolence. A good king has no self-interest; and such a king will ever have obedient and loving subjects. The haughty, proud tyrant will have a suspicious and jealous people, hourly ripening for revolt. The king is made for the people, not the people for the king. Let every potentate wisely consider this; and let every subject know that the heaviest cares rest on the heart, and the heaviest responsibility rests on the head, of the king. Let them therefore, under his government, fashion themselves as obedient children; acknowledge him their head; and duly consider whose authority he has; that they may love, honor and obey him. Happy are the people who have such a king; safe is the king who has such a people.
The advice was not that the king should permanently resign the office of ruler, but that he should “for once” be ruled by his people.
Jeroboam had been further instructed that the kingdom was not to be divided before the close of Solomon's reign. “I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand,” the Lord had declared; “but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David My servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept My commandments and My statutes: but I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.” Verses 34, 35. PK 88.1
Although Solomon had longed to prepare the mind of Rehoboam, his chosen successor, to meet with wisdom the crisis foretold by the prophet of God, he had never been able to exert a strong molding influence for good over the mind of his son, whose early training had been so grossly neglected. Rehoboam had received from his mother, an Ammonitess, the stamp of a vacillating character. At times he endeavored to serve God and was granted a measure of prosperity; but he was not steadfast, and at last he yielded to the influences for evil that had surrounded him from infancy. In the mistakes of Rehoboam's life and in his final apostasy is revealed the fearful result of Solomon's union with idolatrous women. PK 88.2
The tribes had long suffered grievous wrongs under the oppressive measures of their former ruler. The extravagance of Solomon's reign during his apostasy had led him to tax the people heavily and to require of them much menial service. Before going forward with the coronation of a new ruler, the leading men from among the tribes determined to ascertain whether or not it was the purpose of Solomon's son to lessen these burdens. “So Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore ease thou somewhat the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us, and we will serve thee.” PK 88.3Read in context »