In II Chronicles 10 and I Kings 12, Northern Israelites, led by Jeroboam, go to King Rehoboam and challenge him to lessen their burdens of taxation. Rehoboam confers with the elders, and they advise him to do so, since that will win over the people. Rehoboam also consults with some young men, and they advise him to be really harsh with the Northern Israelites and to flex his muscle. Rehoboam goes with the young men’s advice, and the result is that Northern Israel secedes.
The Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary maintains that there are differences between the stories in II Chronicles 10 and I Kings 12. In I Kings 12, the elders are offering Rehoboam advice about the immediate situation, and that advice is about how the king can manipulate the Northern Israelites so that they will serve him. The elders, after all, say “If today” (I Kings 12:7), indicating that they are speaking of the situation at hand. And they essentially suggest that Rehoboam serve and speak kindly to the people, and the people will then be his servants.
In II Chronicles 10, on the other hand, the elders are offering Rehoboam a model of kingship in general, as a way to guide Rehoboam on how to address the situation at hand. The Artscroll notes that, in II Chronicles 10:7, the elders are advising Rehoboam about how he can be of benefit to the people. They are saying that kingship is to benefit the people. Rehoboam is then to use that as a guide in handling their demands.
The Artscroll says that Rehoboam’s harsh response to the Northern Israelites was misguided, but it denies that the response was evil, for the harsh response arguably accorded with precedent. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 8a says that Joshua used a rod to beat Israel’s head, and B.T. Sotah 40a interpreted I Chronicles 28:2 to mean that the Israelites would be David’s brothers if they listened to him but his subjects if they did not. But Rehoboam’s response was still misguided because it encouraged the Northern Israelites to rebel.
Am I convinced by what the Artscroll is saying? Overall, not particularly, but I will admit that I Chronicles 10 spells out that the king is to benefit the people.