Westworld: How Old Testament King Rehoboam Could Be Prophetic for Season 3
Who was King Rehoboam and what does he have to do with Incite's Rehoboam on Westworld season 3?
The following contains spoilers for Westworld season 3.
And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his place. – 2 Chronicles 9:31
The current conflict at the heart of Westworld isn’t necessarily Dolores versus the human race. Certainly she’s not a fan of humanity, and with good reason, but humanity is only a tool being wielded against her by another entity, the mysterious Serac and his super-computer AI system Rehoboam. The name of that program might be coincidental, but this is Westworld, and Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are running the show. There’s no such thing as coincidence behind the scenes of this show. Rehoboam, an Old Testament king of Israel mentioned in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, was chosen for a specific reason.
And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away. 1 Kings 12:3-5
As a Bronze Age king, Rehoboam would have had unlimited power, like his father Solomon before him. What the king said, the people did, no matter what it might have been. People were essentially little more than chattel in the eyes of a bad king, and Rehoboam would certainly fall under the heading of “bad king” by any measure applied then or now. In the above cited verse, the leaders of Israel approach their new king Rehoboam after the death of his father King Solomon and ask him to lighten the labors put on their shoulders. Solomon had asked a lot of the people, building David’s temple in Jerusalem, building the king’s palace, rebuilding the city walls, a fleet of ships, multiple cities… given that it’s work done by people by hand, it’s no wonder that the people of Israel were looking for a break, and Rehoboam was the man who could give them that break. If the king told someone to go on vacation, they went. If he told someone to be a priest or an architect or a warrior, they picked up their vestments, plumb bob, or level, whether they were qualified or not.
In much the same fashion, the AI Rehoboam has ultimate control over the destiny of individuals in the world of Westworld. Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) puts on suits, goes on job interviews, has good test scores by whatever metric is used to determine job fit, and a background in the military that would get him a leg up on anyone in today’s world. Does he get a cushy civil service job? No, because Rehoboam has decided that, in 10-12 years he’s going to kill himself, and thus, he’s not worth investing in. Caleb remains a construction worker and petty criminal. Not through any fault of his own; what Rehoboam says goes, whether it’s talking about Caleb or siding with Charlotte Hale in her attempt to take Delos private.
And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 1 Kings 12:13-14
Putting aside the logistical question of how to discipline someone with scorpions—I’m picturing a Fear Factor-style box full of scorpions with some poor Israelite’s head stuck in it—anyone can agree that being punished with scorpions is worse than being punished with a whip. But Rehoboam the computer is established as being just as cruel as Rehoboam the king. When Liam says that his father was killed, he doesn’t mean just by Serac; Rehoboam is likely the entity that indicated that Liam Dempsey Sr. needed to be taken out for the good of Incite. Serac might have ordered the trigger pulled, or pulled it himself, but he didn’t make that decision. Serac, as Liam says, has the system, and the system can do more than fill jobs and direct traffic.
It is heavily implied that the AI Rehoboam is more than willing to stamp out anyone who tries to step off the path it has generated for them. Dolores is one of the few entities in the world not under Rehoboam’s control, and Serac will do anything to stop her, from having crooked cops attack an ambulance to torturing Caleb for information. Her mere presence damages the path Rehoboam and Serac have crafted for the world. Hence Serac’s desperation to stop Dolores to the point of unleashing a fully-operational Maeve on an unsuspecting human world. Serac and Rehoboam might believe that they can use a glitch in the system to stop glitches plural in the system, but they might just be dooming police officers, Yakuza, and innocent bystanders to die for a futile cause.
However, the use of the name Rehoboam is more than just short-hand for a cruel despot who used up and discarded the people while squandering the wealth amassed by Solomon. Rehoboam was also the last king of unified Israel, and his actions are kind are what led to the ultimate downfall of Israel as a kingdom and Israel itself as a regional powerhouse. If Solomon ruled a flourishing kingdom, Rehoboam reigned over the sundering of a people, and the more he tried to control the kingdom, the more the people rallied around the more popular exiled figure Jeroboam.
Jeroboam was one of many foes of Solomon raised up by God during Solomon’s rebellious period, and a very popular man of the people who inspired a cult of personality around him to the point where Solomon tried to kill him and forced him to flee to Egypt. Of course, with no more Solomon, Jeroboam returns and was one of the leaders of the people who went to Rehoboam to ask for mercy as seen above. When Rehoboam refused to listen to reason, Israel would split into two kingdoms, with Jeroboam becoming the leader of the northern kingdom of Israel and Rehoboam becoming ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah.
So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only. 1 Kings 12:19-20
Dolores is a threat to the entire system, and through the downfall of humanity, Rehoboam’s control over the world. It is unsurprising that the AI, which might be sentient itself considering no one but Serac has access to its deeper systems, would defend itself by sending kill squads after Dolores and restoring Maeve to the full flower of her skills to protect its hegemony over humanity. Dolores is a threat because she’s unpredictable, and because she guides the people around her to do unpredictable things. Caleb is miserable because he’s losing at a rigged game. Do you think that there might be other people willing to cast their lots with Dolores and her effort to change the world in her own image? Dolores led a Host rebellion within Westworld, she is very much a populist Jeroboam-like figure with a history of successful rebellion.
At the core of the dispute between Rehoboam and Dolores isn’t something like free will, it’s power. Dolores is tired of not having it, and she’s going to make a world for the Hosts no matter the cost. Rehoboam and Serac want the one piece of information that they don’t currently have: Protagoras, the secret dossier compiled by Delos on its guests that was crucial to Rehoboam’s creation.
Solomon asked God for wisdom; knowledge is power. Rehoboam has power over 99.99 percent of the world, except for one crucial piece still lost to it: Dolores Abernathy. Rehoboam’s kingdom split when he lost the people of Israel, and Dolores Abernathy is the kind of Host that can win people to her side and plunge the globe into class war. The power struggle between Rehoboam and Jeroboam resulted only in a pair of weakened kingdoms who were easy prey, ending an age of peace and prosperity.
Serac, when making his offer of employment to Maeve, tells her in no uncertain terms there is no path in which humans and Hosts share the same world. However, he does offer her something better. Like the divided Kingdom of Israel, Serac proposes a mutually-beneficial separation. The humans continue to occupy the physical plane with no Hosts to interfere in Rehoboam’s plans, and the Hosts will be able to live in peace and happiness within the Sublime. A choice between hell among the living, or heaven in a virtual utopia.