After his death, his son Rehoboam (Re-run) was crowned King, and a man named Jeroboam came out of hiding in Egypt (for he had been a political refugee under King Solomon's rule and sought asylum out of the country.) He came to the coronation convention in Israel and led a labor party to lobby King Rehoboam for lower taxes. When he spoke before the new King, he asked simply that Re-run loose the burden on his people and promised party loyalty to the King in return, forever. Re-run gave the answer that he would adjourn for three days recess to think about it.
Meanwhile, he consulted with his father's aged advisors, some of the top political minds in the country, who advised him to honor this request and draw the country into unity with a policy of gentler rule. Apparantly, he didn't like this advice. He brought in his own people, young men who he had grown up with, and set up a new cabinet. They not only gave him advice, but they put words into his mouth, which seemed to him good. They told him to give the reply that: "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. And now whereas my father did lay upon you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father has chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." 1 Kings 12:10-11
Now, we have morern analogies for this statement. The meaning is obvious. It is a braggadocious claim and brass. It was motivated not only by greed for more taxes and empire building labor, but pride. What's more, much can be implied about his relationship with his Father here, as well as his relationship with the God of Israel. Notice that he didn't consult with God, as David before him and his Father Solomon had done. None of this was apparantly a surprise, because there had already been a prophecy given by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam, not much earlier. The prophecy of the Rent Garment is recorded in 1 Kings 11:30 and can be read in more detail. But, in essence, it had been prophesied that God would rent or tear the Kingdom in twelve pieces, or in other words that God would bring a division between the 12 tribes, who had until then been united.
When Re-run took this bad advice, Jeroboam led a labor strike which developed into a full civil war. All the men of ten tribes in the North walked off the job, and afterwards chose Jeroboam as their King. Two tribes in the South, Judah and Benjamin, stayed with the King Rehoboam. God had promised in the Davidic Covenant that he would leave someone on the throne of David, so for David's sake God left Rehoboam a small piece of the country.
I have written about what happens at the end of this chapter in another blog titled: Who Moved the Cheese When the Big Cheese Moves? You can follow the link if you want that story. But, things go downhill from there for the nation of Israel and later Judah falls into captivity, just as Israel does. But, the whole story of political intrigue and oppression points out the result of turning to others for advice instead of Godly leaders, and God Himself. It is sad to see that the nation of Israel as a whole did just as King Rehoboam had promised: they went from whips to scorpions. Scorpions are supposed to mean thongs thickly set with sharp iron points, used in slavery, whereas whips are thin set. They went from the hard rule of their own King to domination by foreign countries in just a short time. It is a sad road we take when we fall from the path God sets us on today. Hold on to the words of Psalm one. Walk in Godly counsel or lay down in sorrow, weeping.