Rehoboam, Not LeBron James, in “The Decision”

For Old Testament, we students reflect weekly on “some topic, aspect or concept” from the volumes and volumes of assigned reading. I am limited to one single-spaced page each week, and in every case I’ve been forced to cut myself off from writing. So read knowing that my thoughts are manifold!

If you are interested in more selections from my School of Theology Coursework, follow the link to the category of SOT Coursework. I have also set up a new category for these Old Testament reflection papers called OT Weeklies. If all goes well, each new reflection paper will be posted automatically at 2:00 p.m. each Monday, when my Old Testament class convenes.

What follows is my reflection paper from the week of November 22. Enjoy!


Shortly after he ventured to Shechem to ceremoniously assume the kingship, the newly anointed Rehoboam was saddled with what might well be referred to as “The Decision.” Jeroboam and a massive throng representing the tribes of Israel approached Rehoboam with a plea: reverse your father’s oppressive policies against us, or we will permanently leave your service (1 Kgs 12:3-4). John Bright notes, “As their price for accepting him they demanded that the heavy burdens imposed by Solomon, particularly the corvée, be abated.”[1] Rehoboam’s response would impact the next several centuries of Israelite history, and in buying three days to determine the proper course of action, he must have uniquely understood this. This reflection paper will examine the follies associated with Rehoboam’s response to the assembly of Israel.

For such a momentous a decision, it is only natural that Rehoboam would consult the wisdom of those around him. But in his first—and most overlooked—folly, Rehoboam fails to call on Yahweh for guidance. Instead, the king immediately turns his ears toward “the elders who had served his father Solomon” (1 Kgs 12:6 NIV), who sensibly advise the freshly minted monarch that a down payment of goodwill would be rewarded throughout Rehoboam’s lifetime. At the same time, Rehoboam’s inner circle of friends “who had grown up with him” were also lending their two cents (1 Kgs 12:8 NIV). In an obvious affront to Yahweh and the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt, their ill-contrived response of increased ruthlessness and oppression even included a possible penis joke (1 Kgs 12:10-11).[2]

After three days had passed, Rehoboam reconvened with Jeroboam and a hopeful group of Israelites. Our only surviving account of the event is found in Bible, but had the news media also been present, I believe they would have covered the decision with scathing reviews like those that followed a more recent highly publicized and dramatized “Decision.” As it turns out, the parallels between high-profile choices of Rehoboam and LeBron James are numerous:

  • “His bumbling buddy . . . had walked him into the public execution of his legacy.”[3]
  • “‘The whole idea that he makes his own decisions, that [bleep] went out the window with this. . . . Someday, he’s going to look back at this and not believe that he let those kids . . . talk him into doing this.’”[4]
  • “He can never completely rebuild what he let his cast of buddies talk him into losing.”[5]
  • “‘He did this because he can. He’s the king, and he rubbed it in everyone’s face.’”[6]

Inherently, James may have wanted to remain dedicated to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted him first overall in 2003 and the town that witnessed his rise as a high school basketball star. He probably knew the correct decision to make—decency and loyalty over the foolish counsel of his buddies—but instead, James chose a heartbreaking and self-absorbed spectacle, increased earnings potential and a party lifestyle that only the Miami Heat and South Beach could provide. If only King James knew about the follies of King Rehoboam, perhaps he would not have allowed his inner circle of lifelong-friends-turned-business-managers to make a primetime television drama of his first foray into NBA free agency.

In all likelihood, Rehoboam was not stupid, but his decision leaves us with no contrary evidence. Like LeBron James three millennia later, Rehoboam’s reliance on his peers caused uproarious reactions and now serves as an astute warning against rejecting the wisdom of elders.

[1] John Bright, A History of Israel, 4th ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000), 230.

[2] Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 418.

[3] Adrian Wojnarowski, “Easy come, easy go for King James,” Yahoo! Sports, (accessed November 21, 2010).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Don Ohlmeyer, “The ‘Decision’ dilemma,” ESPN, (accessed November 21, 2010).

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