Israel's Magna Charta
1 Kings 12:6-11
And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said…

The question submitted to Rehoboam at Shechem concerned the constitution of the monarchy. Hitherto there had been no constitution defining the rights of the people and limiting the power of the crown. Rehoboam took three days to deliberate upon the people's Bill of Rights, and in that interval took counsel. The old men who stood before Solomon advised concession, while the young ones, who had grown up with him, recommended resistance. Wisdom was with the ancients.


1. Because it recognises their rights.

(1) The people do not exist for the king. They may be governed as republic without a king.

(2) But the king exists for the people. Where no people are there can be no king.

(3) For a king, therefore, to use the people simply for his own aggrandisement and ignore their rights is preposterous (Jeremiah 2:14).

2. respects their happiness.

(1) Since the people collectively are of more importance than an individual monarch, the haughty bearing of a monarch is out of place. So the sages counselled Rehoboam to "serve" the people and "speak good words to them."

(2) The interests of a good king will be bound up with the happiness of his subjects, and he cannot reasonably object to a constitution that will recognise this community of interests.


1. It encourages his virtues.

(1) It does this by limiting his extravagance. Solomon would have been far happier had his people been saved the charge of building palaces for, and sustaining in state, seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines.

(2) For what would be necessary to sustain his rank a constitutional king might trust the good sense of his people. At Shechem they did not seek exemption from taxation, but relief from its excesses. They knew that it would not be to the credit of a great people to pauperise their prince.

2. It gives stability to his throne.

(1) "They will be thy servants forever." Such was the manner in which this was expressed by the sages. It will be their interest to be so. Gratitude also will bind them. The loyalty of love is stronger and more enduring than that of fear. This is the loyalty which the gospel claims, and the constancy of the subjects of the kingdom of Christ is witnessed in's million martyrdoms.

(2) Who rules over a loving people may be tranquil. He need not fear the poniard of the assassin. (This is the paradise of tyrants!) He will have the joy of ruling over a happy nation. The typical constitutional monarch is the father of his people.


1. The young counsellors give no reasons.

(1) This method they leave to the ancients. For reasons they substitute smart speech. "Thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins." Pertness too often has displaced reason.

(2) Why should reasons be given by one who claims a Divine right to act as he pleases?

2. But may there not be a benevolant autocracy?

(1) Certainly. And if this can be guaranteed, together with competent wisdom, then there is no better government. For is not this the very idea of the government of God?

(2) But who can guarantee this in human kingdoms? The people certainly are as likely to know what is for their welfare as the majority of their kings.

(3) What if the autocrat should prove a fool? What if he should prove a devil? Would not a kingdom in this case be a hell upon earth?

(4) Rehoboam seems to have combined the satanic and the foolish. Lost the greater part of his kingdom; reigned over the remnant wickedly. Christians should pray for their rulers. They should bless God for their liberties. - M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

WEB: King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, "What counsel do you give me to return answer to this people?"

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