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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

Jeroboam

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GOD may have that in his heart for you, which you must not once let enter your heart for yourself. Your name may be written in the divine decree for something, the bare thought of which you must cast out of your heart like poison. And all Jeroboam's great talents, and all his great services, and all his great prospects, and all his great temptations, and all his great sins-all happened to him for ensamples; and they are all written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

But we must go back to the first beginning of Jeroboam's great temptations and great transgressions. It was King Solomon's many and terrible falls from godliness and from virtue that first set such a fatal snare before Jeroboam's feet. Solomon by this time was rushing insensate to his own ruin, and to the ruin of his royal house. If it were not written all over the Bible we would not believe it. Solomon's beautiful dream at Gibeon, his splendid prayer at the dedication of the temple, his wisdom, and his understanding, and his largeness of heart-it is all clean forgotten now. It is all become now like the morning cloud and the early dew. Can this be the same Solomon? Can this be that Solomon to whom the Lord appeared twice? For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Molech, the abomination of the Ammonites. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill of God that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of Ammon. In his old age, and when he should have been by this time a rare and a ripe saint of God, Solomon added this also to his other transgressions, an insane passion for building palaces both for himself and for his heathen queens, and temples and altars for their cruel and unclean gods, and great fortifications, and all manner of proud and costly and reckless public works. And, with it all, there was this also; Every stone of all Solomon's temples and palaces and heathen altars was laid wet with the blood of an oppressed and exasperated people. The prophet Samuel had foretold all this to the elders of Israel, and had got little thanks from them for so foretelling it. But every jot and tittle of God's great prophet had by this time been long proved true; and every warning word of his was now like a fire in the bones of Solomon's miserable subjects. As they bled to death under the whip of the tax-gatherer and the task-master, the people gnashed their teeth at their fathers and at themselves. For had not Samuel told it thus to their face? 'He will take your sons and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and for his horsemen; and he will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive-yards, even the best of them, and will give them to his servants. And he will take your menservants and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and will put them to his work, and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day, and the Lord will not hear you in that day,' Well, that day was now fully come. And it was amid all the terrible oppression and suffering of that day that Jeroboam rose so fast and so high in Solomon's service. Jeroboam's outstanding talents in public affairs, his skilful management of men, his great industry, and his great loyalty, as was thought, all combined to bring the son of Nebat under Solomon's royal eye, till there was no trust too important, and no promotion too high for young Jeroboam. And then, to crown it all, as time went on Satan more and more entered into Jeroboam's heart. And Jeroboam allowed Satan in his heart, and listened to Satan speaking in his heart, 'You are a greatly talented man. There is no other man in all the land fit to be your equal. Solomon is old, and his son is a fool. And who is to be king after Solomon dies? Thinkest thou ever who is fit to be king? Saul was but the son of Kish. David himself was but the son of Jesse. There has never been, and there never will be, respect of persons with the God of Israel. Jeroboam, you love your widowed mother. Play the man, then, but a little longer, and your mother will live to hear the cry of the people before she dies, this so sweet cry to her ears, Long live King Jeroboam!' And Jeroboam kept all these things and pondered them in his heart.

All this time, Ahijah the prophet, with those terrible eyes of his, was sleeplessly watching both the fast-coming fall of Solomon, as well as the immense industry and steady rise of Jeroboam. Ahijah's eyes, like a flame of fire, saw, naked and open, all that was hidden so deep in Jeroboam's heart; and he heard, as with God's own ears, all that Satan said to Jeroboam in his heart. Ahijah watched Jeroboam at his work, and he saw, till he could not be silent, that Jeroboam was fast undermining the walls of Jerusalem in his heart, all the time that he was receiving praise and promotion for building those walls up with his hands. 'Lay down thy plummet,' said Ahijah in hot anger to Jeroboam one day-'lay down thy measuring line, and come out to the potter's field with me.' And Jeroboam laid down his building and came out after Ahijah, Then Ahijah suddenly turned and stripped off his new garment that was upon Jeroboam, and tore it up into twelve pieces, and said, 'Thus and thus hast thou torn up the kingdom of Solomon in thine heart. And it shall be so. Take thee ten of these torn-up pieces and hide them with thee till all that is in thine heart shall come true.' And then the prophet, softening somewhat, went on to tell the trembling builder that if he would but cast Satan and all his counsels and all his hopes out of his heart from that day, then the God of Israel would make him a sure house, so that he and his seed should sit on the throne of Israel for ever. And Ahijah thrust the ten torn pieces upon Jeroboam and departed. And Jeroboam returned to his work on the wall of Jerusalem with his heart all in a flame. And it came to pass that when Solomon heard of all that, Solomon turned to be against Jeroboam. And Solomon eyed Jeroboam as Saul had eyed David, and as we all eye those gifted men who are fast rising to push us out of our seat. And just as David fled to Ramah from the javelin of Saul, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt from the same weapon of Solomon. And not Joseph, and not Moses himself, rose so fast and so high in Egypt as Jeroboam rose. In a short space of time the fugitive overseer of Solomon's works had actually become the son-in-law of Pharaoh himself. Jeroboam was a born king and statesman; and both Israel and Egypt, both heaven and earth, confessed it to be so. And if only Jeroboam had tarried the Lord's leisure, and had kept his heart clean and humble, Jeroboam would soon have been king over all Israel, he and his sons, till the Messiah came Himself to sit down on David's undivided throne.

All this time, matters went on from bad to worse in Jerusalem, till Solomon died and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead. But with all that God's prophets and God's providences could do, neither Solomon nor his son altered their insane and suicidal ways one iota. In their utter exasperation and despair the oppressed people at last took the strong and desperate step of sending a secret embassy to Egypt to beseech Jeroboam to return and deliver them from their miseries. And Jeroboam left Egypt at once, and came back with the Hebrew ambassadors. And, whatever may have been in Jeroboam's heart, no fault at all can be found with the words of his ultimatum to Rehoboam. 'Thy father made our yoke grievous; now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father and his heavy yoke lighter, and we will serve thee.' But Rehoboam was demented enough to answer Jeroboam and the people with this insolence: 'My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.' At that, 'To your tents, O Israel,' rose the cry of rebellion till it rent the air. 'Now see to thine own house, O David.' So Israel rebelled against the house of David that day. And Jeroboam was made king over the ten tribes that day. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.

Now, here is our first admonition. Had Jeroboam on the day of his coronation, and henceforth, but taken Ahijah home to be his counsellor, Jeroboam had ability enough, and divine right enough, to have built up Israel into a great kingdom for God and for himself. But Jeroboam never loved Ahijah. He both feared and hated Ahijah. He was never at home, as we say, with Ahijah. He was never happy when he was alone with Ahijah, His heart, neither on the wall nor on the throne, was ever single enough for Ahijah's all-searching eyes. And thus it was that Satan still kept his place in Jeroboam's heart, and was still Jeroboam's counsellor in all the affairs of the state, and in all the affairs of the family, till Jeroboam's great fall, from which he and his people never recovered, came about in this way. The ten tribes continued to go up to Jerusalem to Solomon's temple to worship God. And as they did so Jeroboam began to fear lest, in their worship together, Judah and Israel should both so return to the Lord together, that the breach in the kingdom would be healed, and he and his son cast out of his rebellious throne. The fact is, we have here before us in black and white, to this day, the very identical words that Jeroboam at that time spake in his heart. He said this in his heart: 'If my people go up to do service in this way in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the hearts of this people turn back to Rehoboam, and they will kill me and my son with me.' Whereupon Jeroboam took counsel, and made two unclean idols of gold, and said. It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, You are not to suppose that Jeroboam was so stupid as to believe what he said and did that day. No. But he knew how stupid, and, indeed, how brutish at bottom his people were, as well as how superstitious. He knew well, also, how party spirit and ill-will had all along prevailed between Samaria and Jerusalem; and, the bad man that he was, Jeroboam deliberately set himself to traffic, and to establish his throne, in the sensuality, in the stupidity, and in the ill-will of his hoodwinked subjects.

But, happily for us all, there is nothing in God's name to usward that is more sure and more true than is His long suffering, and His immense patience, and the many calls to repentance that He sends us before He finally casts us off, And? lest Jeroboam should lose himself through his fear and hate at Ahijah, God actually condescended to set the old and faithful prophet aside and to send a new prophet to Jeroboam: a prophet whose eyes had not yet read Jeroboam's heart, and against whom Jeroboam could have taken up no umbrage. Unless we both know ourselves and hate ourselves, we shall be certain both to hate and put away from us the preacher who tells us to our faces what is in our heart, as Jeroboam hated and put away Ahijah; which hatred of Jeroboam at him was all the time one of Ahijah's surest seals, both to himself and to Jeroboam, that he was a true prophet of the heart-searching God.

With all that, Jeroboam was not a common man. And Jeroboam's sins were not the sins of a common man. It is only kings, and kings' counsellors, and popes, and bishops, and ministers, and elders, and such like, who can sin and make nations and churches and congregations to sin. But they can do it. And they are doing it every day. All who divide, and keep divided, nations, and churches, and families, and friends in order to make a name, or a living, or a party, or just a despite for themselves out of such divisions, they are the true seed of Jeroboam. All who inflame and perpetuate such divisions lest they should lose their stake of money, or of influence, or of occupation, or of pure ill-will; all able men who prostitute their talents to write or speak about men on the other side, as they would not like themselves to be spoken or written about-let them lay it to heart in whose lot they shall surely stand when every man shall give an account of himself to God. But common and mean men are not incapacitated and shut out by their commonness and meanness from sharing in Jeroboam's royal sin. The commonest and meanest man among us has more than enough of this terrible power of both sinning himself and making other men to sin. Every man among us has, in countless ways and on countless occasions, first sinned himself and then made other men to sin. Go back honestly into your past life and see. Take time; take a true light back with you, and look around, and see. Come up, as you shall one day be compelled to come up through your past life whether you will or no, and see. Some of them are dead and gone to judgment with the lesson in sin you gave them laid up before God against you. Some of them are still sinning here, and are prolonging your days in teaching a new generation to sin your sin. Sin yourself, if you will sin. But, as you would have a drop of water to cool your tongue in that torment, do not make other men to sin. Break the Sabbath law, neglect God's house, do despite to His means of grace, drink, bet, pollute yourself, scoff, blaspheme: your soul is your own. Make your bed in hell, if you will have it so; but, as God will smite you for it, let alone the young, and the innocent, and the pure, and the unsuspecting. So Jeroboam, who sinned and who made Israel to sin, though dead, yet speaketh.


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Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Jeroboam'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wbc/j/jeroboam.html. 1901.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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