The story takes place in I Kings 12 and II Chronicles 10. At the end of Solomon’s reign he had been excessive and had put a heavy burden on the people. The heavy burden was a forced labor policy. Enforcing the labor policy was a matter of having ‘overseers’ use whips on the people. When the people asked Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son and successor, to have the forced labor end, he made a political mistake. Rather than listening to the advice of some moderate counselors, he listened to his younger hot-headed buddies. Rehoboam’s reply was that, instead of whips, he would use scorpions to force their labor. A ‘scorpion’ is a kind of leather pouch filled with sand and studded with metal spikes attached to the end of a whip. This sparked a rebellion and Israel split over it.
Not only is Psalms 1 a good guide to follow in making choices, it is also a reminder of what happens to those who fail to choose their associates wisely. Verse 1 is three don’t: Avoid the ungodly, ones who have no reverence for God. Don’t keep company with those who do wrong. Sinfulness is like a virus, it spreads to others. Don’t join in with mockers. They have no concern for their fellowman. Their end is not pretty. Verse 4 states they are worthless and will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Rehoboam is an example of what not to do. The sad thing is that he had a chance to do otherwise. There were others he could have consulted. They were there. He made a choice and showed who he really was.