What you need to know:
- The ascent of Rehoboam was a mistake that Israel was made to pay for eternally; life was never the same again. The kingdom that had been built by wisdom, discretion and valour, was quickly broken into two by the foolishness and recklessness of Rehoboam.
Greatly celebrated and recently departed Namilyango College head teacher Peregrine Kibuuka used to tell us “giraffes don’t breed monkeys”. I believed him then; but now, with the benefit of hindsight, I have my doubts. To that later.
Let’s begin by saying that King Solomon didn’t think a man should marry a woman just because she is beautiful.
The twenty second verse of the 11th chapter of Proverbs in the Bible seems to raise the bar really high. “Beauty without discretion,” warns Solomon, “is like a ring of gold in the snout of a pig”.
Many women in ancient Israel used to wear nose rings as jewellery, so it was a common phenomenon. Solomon thought that such precious jewellery, made of gold, would be completely misplaced and altogether unsuitable when worn in a swine’s nose. As far as he was concerned, a beautiful ornament and a pig are as incompatible and incongruous as a beautiful woman who has no taste or ethical judgment.
It is why Solomon warned – 20 chapters later, in the 30th verse – “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”. A man who marries a woman simply because she is beautiful but lacks discretion will end up with a frivolous, insensible companion who will make him look like a fool.
That makes marriage very frightening! The great responsibility that marriage entails, to make a family, to provide conditions that make it a perfect incubator and crucible for tender minds and hearts to be shaped in the right direction and into responsible, productive, God-fearing adults, is immense!
Solomon’s admonition becomes even more frightening when applied to a nation choosing its leaders; when a nation’s finest commodity – power, and lots of it at that – is placed in the hands of a person who lacks the requisite discretion, gravitas, competence and responsibility. As matter of fact that is exactly what went wrong for Israel after Solomon died in 922 BC: when his son Rehoboam succeeded him, everything simply fell apart in a very literal sense!
It was probably assumed that Solomon – the wisest man that ever lived – would automatically yield an equally wise son. There was a way Solomon, in his wisdom, played his cards to keep Israel strong, prosperous and united. At that time there was still a bit of dividing line between the 10 “Northern Tribes” and Judah – which consisted of Judah and Benjamin.
But before long, Israel began to see that sometimes giraffes do breed monkeys! The wisdom and discretion of Solomon were nowhere to be seen in his son. He was young, impressed by mundane stuff and a happy-go-lucky chap whose idea of statecraft was chilling out with the boys, as they made the ordinary people toil to support their expenses.
They began to see the problem with handing power to a person who lacks the maturity and wisdom to talk right, act sensibly and show restraint, compassion and magnanimity in dealing with those who defy or disagree with them. A person who, when they get to crossroads, they inevitably gravitate towards the manifestly wrong option, preferring a show-offish or ostentatious stance over a reconciliatory one. If they had checked out the boy earlier with interest, they’d have perceived him as a person who, even before ascending the throne, was manifestly wasteful, irresponsible and harsh; and they should have shuddered to imagine what would happen if he eventually acceded power. They didn’t…and they paid!
The ascent of Rehoboam was a mistake that Israel was made to pay for eternally; life was never the same again. The kingdom that had been built by wisdom, discretion and valour, was quickly broken into two by the foolishness and recklessness of Rehoboam.
Israel learnt, the harsh way that there is always a high and hefty price to pay, when you get something as precious as gold and you place it in the snout…of a pig.
Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda