Adolescents in the Old Testament

Series | Lies Every Teen Believes

There is a great old story about King Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. At the beginning of the chapter we find Solomon’s kingdom divided, and Solomon’s son Rehoboam was made king in the South. The people of Israel petitioned the new king to lighten their heavy work burden and the high taxes placed on them by Solomon (vv.1-5). The new King Rehoboam sent the people away with a promise to answer in three days.

As we insert ourselves into the storyline we are initially impressed that Rehoboam immediately went to get counsel. There is, after all, safety in the abundance of counselors. Our impression is further strengthened when we see that at first he goes to the “old men” who had also stood with his father Solomon. These were the guys who had been around; they were the wise guys. But the story takes a turn for the worse when Rehoboam turns from their counsel in verse 8.

[Rehoboam] abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him…. (1 Kings 12:8)

The advice of his peers was to make the burden heavier than before. Their counsel to the new king was to increase his authority, his power, and wealth. The people should serve the king, not visa versa.

Now I don’t know if we would say that Rehoboam followed his friends’ direction because of “peer pressure” or because he didn’t want to lose his relationship with them by offending them. But regardless of his motivation, it definitely was not a good idea to listen to these punks.

But isn’t this just the way we would expect a teenager to act? Doesn’t this behavior seem adolescent, ignoring the elders and following the crowd? This is no surprise; it’s just what young men do.

In our discussion on the birth and growth of adolescence we have looked primarily at the various historical elements over the past century that have promoted (intentionally or unintentionally) this social myth. We’ve talked about the modern idea of adolescence as including more than just the actual years of being a teenager, but the mindset of rebellion and instability that are said to define those years. But whatever the history, we are most concerned with what God’s Word reveals about young people, what it expects of them, and what it expects of those who train them.

This leads us to the next step in our series: to look at the various OT vocabulary for young people and attempt to identify any relevant terms or descriptions of adolescent behavior as we recognize it today.

So does an account like that of Rehoboam reveal adolescence in Scripture? Is this narrative just the tip of the biblical iceberg? If we go below the surface will we find uncontrollable teenage hormones dominating ancient adolescents just like today? Will we find a category of juveniles who can’t help but be trouble causers?

We’ll have to see….