These chapters follow very much along the lines of the Book of Kings, but with some different emphases. In chapter 9, the Queen of Sheba visits Solomon and is astonished at his wealth and wisdom. However, the chapter ends with the death of Solomon without saying anything bad about him. This is very unlike the Book of Kings that tells how Solomon went astray by worshipping the gods of all his foreign wives. The Chronicler seems intent on showing how wonderful, wealthy, and wise Solomon was, even saying that: “King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.” While the latter claim is believable, considering the small size of Israel the former claim is rather incredible. However, the Chronicler is set upon playing the game “my monarch is better than your monarch”.
Chapters 10-12 focus on Solomon’s son Rehoboam who succeeds his father as king. As in the Book of Kings, Rehoboam makes the mistake of failing to heed the wisdom of his elders and so he treats his subjects harshly as his young friends urge him to do. This leads to the rebellion of the northern tribes under the leadership of Jeroboam. However, the Chronicler seems intent on placing the blame for this at the feet of the northern tribes and not so much on Rehoboam.
There is another slight difference in the Chronicler’s record of Rehoboam’s reign from that of Kings. While he admits that Rehoboam was not wise and that he did not end well (“He did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.”), the Chronicler tells of a sort of mid-reign revival under Rehoboam. This revival is led by the priests and Levites who come from all over Israel to present themselves before Rehoboam. They come to Rehoboam because Jeroboam (the really bad guy from the Chronicler’s viewpoint) has prevented the Levites “from serving as priests of the Lord, and had appointed his own priests for the high places, and for the goat-demons, and for the calves that he had made." The priests and Levites are not the only ones involved in this mini-revival. “Those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah [the better kingdom in the Chronicler’s mind], and for three years they made Rehoboam son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon.” (2 Chronicles 11:16-17)
However, when Rehoboam “grew strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, he and all Israel with him.” (2 Chronicles 12:1) This seems to be a repeated theme throughout Scripture: that God works better through our human weaknesses than he does through our human strengths. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9) When we begin to succeed in life we tend to think we can handle life on our own power. However, when we are weak, we more often remember our dependence upon the Lord.
Somewhat surprisingly, Rehoboam humbles himself when the Lord abandons him to King Shishak of Egypt. In response, the Lord says that he will not destroy Rehoboam and Israel. “Nevertheless they shall be his [Shishak’s] servants, so that they may know the difference between serving me and serving the kingdoms of other lands.” (2 Chronicles 12:8)
Here too we have repeated themes in Israel’s history. Whenever Israel, or one of her kings, repents, the Lord shows mercy. Yet, on the human side of the story, Israel and Judah were tiny kingdoms squashed in between much more powerful empires whose monarchs often pushed Israel and Judah around however they wised to do so. Some things never change, even over the millennia.