Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labour, and the people of Israel stoned him to death with stones.
And King Rehoboam quickly mounted his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 
[2Ch 10:18,19]

What think ye? There is nothing new under the sun, and conflict within societies is grievously common. This event occurred in the period of Israel’s history when the single kingdom of Solomon became divided into two kingdoms after his death. Apparently, his son Rehoboam had refused to please the people. He chose to increase rather than decrease taxes (usually given in the form of many hours and days of manpower).

Wasn’t Rehoboam wrong to insult and oppress his subjects?

Since Israel was a monarchy, Rehoboam certainly had the authority to make demands, however unpopular. The result was that ten tribes refused to recognise him as their king. Though their own forefathers had asked for a king and a monarchy, they decided to turn away from Rehoboam.

Wasn’t it wrong for the Israelites to break loyalties with their ruler?

The Israelites were ready to revolt. But King Rehoboam was proud and did not listen to his people. Even after being rebuffed, he sent his labour chief to enlist the services of the people. So Hadoram went to perform his role of organising manpower from the countrymen.

Wasn’t it wrong to force labour from fellow Israelites?

Then we see how the people of Israel reacted – they rioted. Though we do not know if Hadoram tried to speak kindly or used threats, he was slain with stones by upset Israelites. The people were fiercely angry at Rehoboam and took the law into their own hands. Fearing the violence (yet showing no fear of God), Rehoboam fled.

Wasn’t it wrong for the Israelites to kill the official?

Friends, we know the answers; there was much evil committed by both King Rehoboam and the people of Israel. And God judged. For Rehoboam, he lost more than half his father’s kingdom (though this was prophesied as a punishment for his father’s sin, he fulfilled the prophecy by his own sin: actively refusing to be a peaceable and benevolent king). As for the ten tribes of Israel, they were proclaimed to be in rebellion to God’s appointed ruler – and they received their punishment in the form of a substitute king who was more idolatrous than Solomon ever was.

Whose sin was greater? Whose punishment was greater? I don’t think it is worth answering those questions of comparison. The shadow of iniquity grew and loomed over the land. If anything, a lament would not be less inappropriate for the people of those days.

I wrote this from Bangkok at a time when in Singapore, there was much unrest too. It is true that there are always uprisings happening around the world. But I think the situation is rarely as bad as what happened in Shechem, which led to a civil war. Yet let us not be surprised that conflict can escalate so quickly. Human nature is corrupt – prone to pride and violence.

In such conflicts, it is normal for people to take sides and blame the other side. But we must be aware that there is fault in everyone. It may come as a surprise to some, but “evil is intractable and powerful, with deep roots and sharp claws, and that no amount of education, activism, or democratic reform will ever eliminate it” (Iain Duguid). The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the only Saviour who can transform the world he has redeemed with his life. Let’s put our trust in him, and look forward to his return, while we wrestle daily with sins within and without.

I don’t have more to say for now, but I just want you all to seek a godly, Christian perspective even on protests and riots. In this post I have reflected on a passage from 2Chronicles 10 (also recorded in 2Kings 12). But I urge you to read the whole story for yourself, and prayerfully meditate on what the word of God teaches from history.

A version of this article was first posted on social media in 2013.

Protest at Shechem, 9th Century BC

TQ grew up in Singapore and now resides in Thailand.

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