We had read what great wealth came into Solomon’s treasuries every year from tribute from foreign nations. The burden that Israel complained of to Rehoboam, saying, “Your father made our yoke heavy, now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you,” (2 Chr 10:4) — that was a tax burden.
Kings in the ancient world rarely taxed their own people; their revenue came in from foreign tribute. But in order to build the Temple, Solomon began taxing his own people, and they were willing to pay it, because it was for the Temple. But notice that after the Temple was completed, the tax stayed. Such is ever the way — how hard it is for a government or bureaucracy, once they get used to a stream of income, to wean themselves from it! It almost never happens.
So when Rehoboam denied the people’s request to lighten their burden, and instead sent his man Hadoram to collect the revenue from Israel, the children of Israel stoned him to death with stones (2 Chr 10:18). The children of Israel were willing to pay a fair revenue, but they drew the line at an unfair revenue that burdened them excessively. There is no such revenue commanded in Torah; in fact, in Torah, God makes no provision for the people to support a king or his government, but they are to support the priests and Levites with tithes and offerings, and the widows, orphans, strangers, and poor among them.
So the moral of the story is, a government will burden a people as long as the people allow themselves to be so burdened. When the people begin asking the government for a redress of their burden, and the government does not listen to them or the wise advice of the elders, but instead returns a harsh answer, then they have acted in the foolishness of Rehoboam and are begging for trouble.
When Jeroboam set up the worship of the golden calves in Israel, the idolatry that he led the nation into is called demon worship (2 Chr 11:15). This is where Paul learned that sacrifices to idols were in reality sacrifices to demons (1 Cor 10:20). The Levites that were throughout the ten tribes that rebelled from Rehoboam came to Judah and Jerusalem, and would not serve the idols, and Jeroboam made new priests for his idols out of anyone.
So the southern kingdom of Judah was made up of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, plus the Levites (who were not numbered among the twelve tribes); while the northern kingdom of Israel was made up of the ten tribes who were left. Rehoboam remained faithful to the LORD for three years (2 Chr 11:17), while Jeroboam abandoned the LORD immediately and became like the nations around them, which the LORD had driven out before Israel.