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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Jeroboam


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the son of Nebat and Zeruah, was born at Zereda, in the tribe of Ephraim, 1 Kings 11:26 . He is the subject of frequent mention in Scripture, as having been the cause of the ten tribes revolting from the dominion of Rehoboam, and also of his having "made Israel to sin," by instituting the idolatrous worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, 1 Kings 12:26-33 . He seems to have been a bold, unprincipled, and enterprising man, with much of the address of a deep politician about him; qualities which probably pointed him out to King Solomon as a proper person to be entrusted with the obnoxious commission of levying certain taxes throughout the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. On a certain day, as Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem into the country, having a new cloak wrapped about his shoulders, the Prophet Ahijah met him in a field where they were alone, and seizing the cloak of Jeroboam, he cut it into twelve pieces, and then addressing him, said, "Take ten of them to thyself; for thus saith the Lord, I will divide and rend the kingdom of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee. If, therefore, thou obeyest my word and walkest in my ways as David my servant has done, I will be with thee, and will establish thy house for ever, and put thee in possession of the kingdom of Israel," 1 Kings 11:14-39 . Whether it were that the promises thus made by Ahijah prompted Jeroboam to aim at taking their accomplishment into his own hands, and, with a view to that, began to solicit the subjects of Solomon to revolt; or whether the bare information of what had passed between the prophet and Jeroboam, excited his fear and jealousy, it appears evident that the aged monarch took the alarm, and attempted to apprehend Jeroboam, who, getting notice of what was intended him, made a precipitate retreat into Egypt, where he remained till the death of Solomon. He then returned, and found that Rehoboam, who had succeeded his father Solomon in the throne of David, had already excited the disgust of ten of the tribes by some arbitrary proceedings, in consequence of which they had withdrawn their allegiance from the new monarch. These tribes no sooner heard of his return than they invited him to appear among them in a general assembly, in which they elected him to be king over Israel. Jeroboam fixed his residence at Shechem, and there fortified himself; he also rebuilt Penuel, a city beyond Jordan, putting it into a state of defence, in order to keep the tribes quiet which were on that side Jordan, 1 Kings 12:1-25 .

But Jeroboam soon forgot the duty which he owed to God, who had given him the kingdom; and thought of nothing but how to maintain himself in the possession of it, though he discarded the worship of the true God. The first suggestion of his unbelieving heart was, that if the tribes over whom he reigned were to go up to Jerusalem to sacrifice and keep the annual festivals, they would be under continual temptations to return to the house of David. To counteract this, he caused two golden calves to be made as objects of religious worship, one of which he placed at Dan, and the other at Bethel, the two extremities of his dominions; and caused a proclamation to be made throughout all his territories, that in future none of his subjects should go up to Jerusalem to worship; and, directing them to the two calves which had been recently erected, he cried out, "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of Egypt!" He also caused idolatrous temples to be built, and priests to be ordained of the lowest of the people, who were neither of the family of Aaron nor of the tribe of Levi. 1 Kings 12:26-33 . Having appointed a solemn public festival to be observed on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in order to dedicate his new altar, and consecrate his golden calves, he assembled the people at Bethel, and himself went up to the altar for the purpose of offering incense and sacrifices. At that instant a prophet, who had come, divinely directed, from Judah to Bethel, accosted Jeroboam and said, "O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord, A child shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he sacrifice the priests of the high places who now burn incense upon thee: he shall burn men's bones upon thee." To confirm the truth of this threatening, the prophet also added a sign, namely, that the altar should immediately be rent asunder, and the ashes and every thing upon it poured upon the earth. Jeroboam, incensed at this interference of the prophet, stretched out his hand and commanded him to be seized; but the hand which he had stretched out was instantly paralyzed, and he was unable to draw it back again. The altar, too, was broken, and the ashes upon it fell to the ground according to the prediction of the prophet. Jeroboam now solicited his prayers that his hand might be restored to him.

The man of God interposed his supplication to Heaven, and the king's hand was restored to him sound as before. Jeroboam then entreated him that he would accompany him to his own house, and accept a reward; but he answered, "Though thou shouldst give me the half of thine house, I would not go with thee, nor will I taste any thing in this place, for the Lord hath expressly forbidden me to do so," 1 Kings 13:1-10 . But notwithstanding this manifest indication of the displeasure of Heaven, it failed of recovering Jeroboam from his impious procedure. He continued to encourage his subjects in idolatry, by appointing priests of the high places, and engaging them in such worship as was contrary to the divine law. This was the sin of Jeroboam's family, and it was the cause of its utter extirpation. Some time after his accession to the throne of Israel, his favourite son Abijah fell sick, and, to relieve his parental solicitude, Jeroboam instructed his wife to disguise herself, and in that state to go and consult the Prophet Ahijah concerning his recovery. This was the same prophet who had foretold to Jeroboam that he should be king of Israel. He was now blind through old age; but the prophet was warned of her approach, and, before she entered his threshold, he called her by name, told her that her son should die, and then, in appalling terms, denounced the impending ruin of Jeroboam's whole family, which shortly after came to pass. After a reign of two-and-twenty years, Jeroboam died, and Nadab, his son, succeeded to the crown, 1 Kings 13:33-34 ; 1 Kings 14:1-20 .

2. JEROBOAM, the second of that name, was the son of Jehoash, king of Israel. He succeeded to his father's royal dignity, A.M. 3179, and reigned forty-one years. Though much addicted to the idolatrous practices of the son of Nebat, yet the Lord was pleased so far to prosper his reign, that by his means, according to the predictions of the Prophet Jonah, the kingdom of the ten tribes was restored from a state of great decay, into which it had fallen, and was even raised to a pitch of extraordinary splendour. The Prophets Amos and Hosea, as well as Jonah, lived during this reign.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Jeroboam'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/j/jeroboam.html. 1831-2.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 26th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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