Has Uhuru forsaken the counsel of wise men to kill our freedom?

By Barack Muluka

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s first eight months in power will go down in history as the age in which freedom was for the third time officially killed in Kenya. Ironically, it will also go down in history as the time that the country celebrated fifty years of freedom. Future generations will ask, what freedom?

Such scenarios are truly confounding. Allow me today, therefore, to leave politics aside for a change. Let me, instead, share with you a story I once read in the Bible. In the emerging age of draconian rule, it is comforting to find comfort in holy writing. They say we are abusing them in the press and in NGOs. However, to say what is written in the Bible cannot be to abuse them.

You have probably read in the Good Book the amazing story of Rehoboam the King of Israel? It is recorded in the twelfth to the fourteenth chapters of the First Book of Kings. Let me tell you about him.

Now this Rehoboam was the son of the wise man called King Solomon. They say that this man, Rehoboam, ascended to the throne following the death of his father, Solomon. For all his wisdom, King Solomon could sometimes be highhanded with the people. It was something of a relief to the people, therefore, when Solomon slept with his forefathers. They prayed that the new king would unburden them of the yoke the departed king had made them to carry.

We read in the Authorised King James Version, “And Rehoboam went to Sechem, for Israel were to come to Sechem to make him king. And all the congregation of Israel came, and spake to Rehoboam, saying, “Thy father made our yoke grievous; now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, lighter and we will serve thee.’”

The good king asked the people to give him three days to reflect on the matter. “And he said to them, ‘Depart yet for three days, then come again to me.’ And the people departed.”

In this period, he took the counsel of the elders and, afterwards, that of the youth who had grown up with him. “And King Rehoboam consulted with the old men that stood with Solomon, his father while he yet lived, and said, “How do ye advise that I may answer this people?”

And they spake unto him, saying, “If thou wilt be a servant unto these people, this day, and wilt serve them and answer them and speak good words to them they will be thy servants forever.”

“But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given unto him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him. And he said unto them, “What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?”

“And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, “Thus shalt thou speak to this people, who spake unto thee saying, “Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be fatter than my father’s loins. And thus while my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your heavy yoke. My father hath chastised you with whips. But I will chastise you with scorpions.”

“So Jeroboam (the supervisor of labourers and later the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel) and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king has appointed saying, “Come to me again the third day.”

“And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave unto him. And he spake to them after the counsel of the young men saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke. My father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

“Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” The Shilonite was a prophet sent of God. He foresaw the rending of 10 tribes of Israel from the House of King David under Rehoboam. He also foresaw the captivity of Israel “beyond the river.”

However, do I digress? What did the people do when the king ignored their pleas? We are told, “So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king saying, “What portion have we in David (the king’s grandfather), neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse (King David). To your tents oh, Israel. Now see to thine own house, David.’ So the Israel departed unto their tents.”

You need to read for yourself the climax of this tragic narrative in the rest of the twelfth Chapter of the First Book of Kings in the Bible. I cannot write about it. If I were to write like those inspired people to who we owe these narratives, however, I would conclude thus, “Now the rest of the acts of “Rehoboam” and all that he did are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?” (1 Kings 14: 29).

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible has some insightful reflections on the story of Rehoboam, “Solomon had a thousand wives and concubines, yet we read but of one son to bear up his name, and him unwise. Rehoboam was the son of the wisest of men, yet did not inherit his father’s wisdom.

“Neither wisdom nor grace runs in the blood. Solomon came to the crown very young, yet he was a wise man. Rehoboam came to the throne at 41, when men will be wise, if ever they will, yet he was then foolish. Wisdom does not go by age, nor is it the multitude of years, nor the advantage of education that reaches it. Solomon’s court was a mart of wisdom and a rendezvous of learned men.

“Rehoboam was the darling of the court; and yet all this was not sufficient to make him a wise man. He answered the people according to the counsel of the young men. He affected to be haughty and imperious and fancied he could carry all before him with a high hand. Many ruin themselves by consulting their humour more than their interest. “ Pp. 498 – 499. Have a reflective and wise weekend.