the Second Week of Lent
Click to donate today!
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Jerobo´am, son of Nebat, and first king of Israel, who became king B.C. 975, and reigned 22 years.
He was of the tribe of Ephraim, the son of a widow named Zeruiah, when he was noticed by Solomon as a clever and active young man, and was appointed one of the superintendents of the works which that magnificent king was carrying on at Jerusalem. This appointment, the reward of his merits, might have satisfied his ambition had not the declaration of the prophet Ahijah given him higher hopes. When informed that, by the divine appointment, he was to become king over the ten tribes about to be rent from the house of David, he was not content to wait patiently for the death of Solomon, but began to form plots and conspiracies, the discovery of which constrained him to flee to Egypt to escape condign punishment. The king of that country was but too ready to encourage one whose success must necessarily weaken the kingdom which had become great and formidable under David and Solomon, and which had already pushed its frontier to the Red Sea ().
When Solomon died, the ten tribes sent to call Jeroboam from Egypt; and he appears to have headed the deputation which came before the son of Solomon with a demand of new securities for the rights which the measures of the late king had compromised. It may somewhat excuse the harsh answer of Rehoboam, that the demand was urged by a body of men headed by one whose pretensions were so well known and so odious to the house of David. The imprudent answer of Rehoboam rendered a revolution inevitable, and Jeroboam was then called to reign over the ten tribes, by the style of 'king of Israel' ().
The general course of his conduct on the throne has already been indicated in the article Israel, and need not be repeated in this place. The leading object of his policy was to widen the breach between the two kingdoms, and to rend asunder those common interests among all the descendants of Jacob, which it was one great object of the law to combine and interlace. To this end he scrupled not to sacrifice the most sacred and inviolable interests and obligations of the covenant people, by forbidding his subjects to resort to the one temple and altar of Jehovah at Jerusalem, and by establishing shrines at Dan and Bethel—the extremities of his kingdom—where 'golden calves' were set up as the symbols of Jehovah, to which the people were enjoined to resort and bring their offerings. The pontificate of the new establishment he united to his crown, in imitation of the Egyptian kings. He was officiating in that capacity at Bethel, offering incense, when a prophet appeared, and in the name of the Lord announced a coming time, as yet far off, in which a king of the house of David, Josiah by name, should burn upon that unholy altar the bones of its ministers. He was then preparing to verify, by a commissioned prodigy, the truth of the oracle he had delivered, when the king attempted to arrest him, but was smitten with palsy in the arm he stretched forth. At the same moment the threatened prodigy took place the altar was rent asunder, and the ashes strewed far around. This measure had, however, no abiding effect. The policy on which he acted lay too deep in what he deemed the vital interests of his separate kingdom, to be even thus abandoned: and the force of the considerations which determined his conduct may in part be appreciated from the fact that no subsequent king of Israel, however well disposed in other respects, ever ventured to lay a finger on this schismatical establishment. Hence 'the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he sinned and made Israel to sin,' became a standing phrase in describing that iniquity from which no king of Israel departed (; 1 Kings 13).
The contumacy of Jeroboam eventually brought upon him the doom which he probably dreaded beyond all others—the speedy extinction of the dynasty which he had taken so much pains and incurred so much guilt to establish on firm foundations. His son Abijah being sick, he sent his wife disguised to consult the prophet Ahijah, who had predicted that he should be king of Israel. The prophet, although he had become blind with age, knew the queen, and saluted her with—'Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam, for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.' These were not merely that the son should die—for that was intended in mercy to one who alone, of all the house of Jeroboam, had remained faithful to his God, and was the only one who should obtain an honored grave—but that his race should be violently and utterly extinguished: 'I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone' ().
The son died so soon as the mother crossed the threshold on her return; and as the death of Jeroboam himself is the next event recorded, it would seem that he did not long survive his son. He died in B.C. 954 ().
Jeroboam was perhaps a less remarkable man than the circumstance of his being the founder of a new kingdom might lead us to expect. The tribes would have revolted without him; and he was chosen king merely because he had been pointed out by previous circumstances. His government exhibits but one idea—that of raising a barrier against the reunion of the tribes. Of this idea he was the slave and victim; and although the barrier which he raised was effectual for its purpose, it only served to show the weakness of the man who could deem needful the protection for his separate interests which such a barrier offered.
Jeroboam, thirteenth king of Israel, son of Joash, whom, in B.C. 824, he succeeded on the throne, and reigned forty-one years. He followed the example of the first Jeroboam in keeping up the idolatry of the golden calves. Nevertheless the Lord had pity upon Israel, the time of its ruin was not yet come, and this reign was long and flourishing. Jeroboam brought to a successful result the wars which his father had under-taken, and was always victorious over the Syrians. He even took their chief cities of Damascus and Hamath, which had formerly been subject to the scepter of David, and restored to the realm of Israel the ancient eastern limits from Lebanon to the Dead Sea. He died in B.C. 783 (;; ).
The Scriptural account of this reign is too short to enable us to judge of the character of a prince under whom the kingdom of Israel seems to have reached a degree of prosperity which it had never before enjoyed, and was not able long to preserve.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Jeroboam'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​j/jeroboam.html.