II Chronicles 12 is about King Rehoboam of Judah. Specifically, it focuses on the disasters that Judah experienced on account of Rehoboam’s spiritual neglect and transgression, and Rehoboam’s humbling of himself before the LORD, which influenced God to turn from God’s wrath towards Judah, to refrain from destroying Judah altogether, and to ensure that things went well in Judah.
I have two items.
1. Whereas I Kings 14:22-24 mentions the idolatry that existed in Judah under Rehoboam’s reign, II Chronicles does not really highlight that. According to the Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary, the Chronicler believes that Rehoboam’s problem was not idolatry, but rather being spiritually passive and failing to be a spiritual leader.
There are indications in II Chronicles 12 that support this view. Actually, I would say that the picture in II Chronicles 12 is that Rehoboam did not seek God and that led him to neglect God’s law, and neglect of the law in turn led to Rehoboam’s transgressions of that law. I would go further and suggest that I Kings 14:22-24 is complementary with II Chronicles 12. I Kings 14:22-24 does not say that Rehoboam himself worshiped idols, but rather that Judah did so while he was king. Juxtaposing I Kings 14:22-24 with II Chronicles 12, we could say that Rehoboam failed to be a spiritual leader and simply left many of the Judahites to their own devices: he failed to stand up and encourage them to worship the true God rather than pagan gods.
In my opinion, the Artscroll does well to highlight how the Chronicler tells the story. The problem is not just breaking rules. The problem is failing to seek God. Once we are enamored with God’s beauty, glory, and righteousness within the context of a relationship, we may be less likely to break God’s rules, or to worship what is less than God.
2. II Chronicles 12:9-14 is a bit enigmatic. At least v 11 is. II Chronicles 12:9-14 states the following (in the KJV):
9 So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house; he took all: he carried away also the shields of gold which Solomon had made.
10 Instead of which king Rehoboam made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king’s house.
11 And when the king entered into the house of the LORD, the guard came and fetched them, and brought them again into the guard chamber.
12 And when he humbled himself, the wrath of the LORD turned from him, that he would not destroy him altogether: and also in Judah things went well.
I get that Shishak of Egypt came to Jerusalem and took the treasures of the temple and of the king, including Solomon’s golden shields. I get that Rehoboam made shields of brass to replace those gold shields. And I get that Rehoboam humbled himself and that influenced God to show clemency to Judah. But why does v 11 say that the guard came and fetched the brass shields when Rehoboam went into the house of the LORD?
The explanation that I found the most edifying was offered by the Artscroll. The Artscroll said that Rehoboam was allowing the brass shields to instruct him. Rehoboam was allowing himself to be reminded that, on account of his sins, the shields before him were of brass and not gold, due to Shishak’s invasion. Brass is inferior to gold. This reminder would exhort Rehoboam to follow God and to be humble.
There is a place for people to let their past to stay in the past, as they look ahead. On the other hand, there is also a place for people to remember where their misdeeds led them, such that they are motivated to try to avoid those misdeeds in the future. The point here should not be discouragement about the past, but learning from it and moving forward.