Is God’s Word really suggesting Rehoboam’s encouragement of polygamy was wise?
So I researched the verse in multiple translations, hoping to better understand the context and whether the NIV translation was true to the original Hebrew text. Here are a few of the more enlightening variations:
And he dealt wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the districts of Judah and Benjamin, in all the fortified cities, and he gave them abundant provisions and procured wives for them. (English Standard Version)
Rehoboam was wise enough to put one of his sons in charge of each fortified city in his kingdom. He gave them all the supplies they needed and found wives for every one of them. (Contemporary English Version)
But I think The Message may provide the best insight into the point of the verse: Rehoboam designated Abijah son of Maacah as the “first son” and leader of the brothers—he intended to make him the next king. He was shrewd in deploying his sons in all the fortress cities that made up his defense system in Judah and Benjamin; he kept them happy with much food and many wives.
What are the sources of competition that most often lead to conflict? Power and property. By assigning each of his sons an area over which he had authority, he gave each of them a measure of power. By assigning them to cities which were geographically dispersed, he gave each of them plenty of land and avoided conflict between them. Dispersing them also discouraged them from uniting against his chosen successor, Abijah.
By providing them with abundant provisions, he removed any provocation to raid one another. And by arming the cities equally, he not only enabled them to defend the nation, but to have a level playing field against one another so that one might not easily gain the advantage over the others.
His provision of wives may have been to strengthen alliances both internally and externally to maintain peace, which was common in this time period and even in recent times. In addition, if the wives he obtained for his sons were from the areas he assigned them, this would have not only allied his sons more closely to that location, but bonded the people of that region to them as well.
Maybe not wise in terms of spiritual discernment or functional relationships, but certainly strategic and even shrewd.