|King of Israel|
Illustration of Jeroboam setting up two golden calves, Bible Historiale, 1372.
|Reign||c. 931 to 910 BC|
|Birthplace||United Kingdom of Israel|
|Place of death||Tirzah, Northern Kingdom of Israel|
|Successor||Nadab, his son|
|Consort||Egyptian princess Ano (as per the Septuagint)|
|Royal House||New House, unknown|
|Kings of Ancient Israel|
|United Monarchy of Israel|
|Northern Kingdom of Israel|
Jeroboam // (Hebrew: יָרָבְעָם yarobh`am, Greek: Ιεροβοάμ Hieroboam) was the first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy.
The name Jeroboam יָרָבְעָם is commonly held to have been derived from riyb רִיב and ʿam עַם, signifying "the people contend" or "he pleads the people's cause". It is alternatively translated to mean "his people are many" or "he increases the people" (from רבב rbb, meaning "to increase"), or even "he that opposes the people". In the Septuagint he is called Hieroboam (Ιεροβοάμ).
Jeroboam was the son of Nebat (Douay-Rheims: Nabat), a member of the Tribe of Ephraim of Zereda. His mother, named Zeruah (צרוע "lepros" ) was a widow. 1 Kings 11:26) He had at least two sons—Abijam and Nadab, who succeeded him on the throne.
While still a young man, King Solomon made him superintendent over his tribesmen in the building of the fortress Mello in Jerusalem and of other public works, and he naturally became conversant with the widespread discontent caused by the extravagances which marked the reign of Solomon.
Influenced by the words of the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11:29–39), he began to form conspiracies with the view of becoming king of the ten northern tribes; but these were discovered, and he fled to Egypt, where he remained under the protection of pharaoh Shishak until the death of Solomon. After this event he returned and was made leader of the delegation sent to ask the new king Rehoboam to lighten the burdens which his father had placed upon them. No sooner had Rehoboam imprudently rejected their petition than ten of the tribes withdrew their allegiance to the house of David and proclaimed Jeroboam their king, only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remaining faithful to Rehoboam.
He rebuilt and fortified Shechem as the capital of his kingdom, and at once adopted means to perpetuate the division with the southern Kingdom of Judah. Fearing that pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem prescribed by the Law might be an occasion for the people of the Northern Kingdom to go back to their old allegiance, he determined to provide for them places of worship within their own boundaries, and set up two golden calves to be worshipped, one in Bethel and the other in Dan. Thus he became distinguished as the man "who made Israel to sin". This policy was followed by all the succeeding kings of Israel.
According to 1 Kings 13:1–6, while Jeroboam was engaged in offering incense at Bethel, a "man of God" warned him that "a son named Josiah will be born to the house of David" who would destroy the altar (referring to King Josiah of Judah who would rule approximately three hundred years later). Attempting to arrest the prophet for his bold words of defiance, Jeroboam's hand was "dried up", and the altar before which he stood was rent asunder. At his urgent entreaty his "hand was restored him again" (1 Kings 13:1–6, compare 2 Kings 23:13–16); but the miracle made no abiding impression on him. This "man of God" who warned Jeroboam has been equated with a seer named Iddo.
War with Judah
He was in constant "war with the house of Judah". While the southern kingdom made no serious effort to militarily regain power over the north, there was a long-lasting boundary dispute, fighting over which lasted during the reigns of several kings on both sides before being finally settled.
In the eighteenth year of Jeroboam's reign, Abijah, Rehoboam's son, became king of Judah. During his short reign of three years, Abijah went to considerable lengths to bring the Kingdom of Israel back under his control. He waged a major battle against Jeroboam in the mountains of Ephraim. Biblical sources credit Abijah with having a force of 400,000 and Jeroboam having 800,000. The Biblical sources mention that Abijah addressed the armies of Israel, urging them to submit and to let the Kingdom of Israel be whole again, but his plea fell on deaf ears. Abijah then rallied his own troops with a phrase which has since become famous: "God is with us as our leader." As per the Bible his elite warriors fended off a pincer movement to rout Jeroboam's troops—killing 500,000 of them.
Jeroboam was crippled by this severe defeat to Abijah and posed little threat to the Kingdom of Judah for the rest of his reign. He also lost the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron, with their surrounding villages. Bethel was an important centre for Jeroboam's Golden Calf cult (which used non-Levites as priests), located on Israel's southern border, which had been allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua, as was Ephron, which is believed to be the Ophrah that was allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua.
Jeroboam died soon after Abijam.
Commentary on sources
The account of Jeroboam's life, like that of all his successors, ends with the formula "And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (1 Kings 14, 19).
"The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel", likely compiled by or derived from these kings' own scribes, is likely the source for the basic facts of Jeroboam's life and reign, though the compiler(s) of the extant Book of Kings clearly made selective use of it and added hostile commentaries. His family was eventually wiped out.
The prophecies of doom concerning the fall of both the House of Jeroboam and the northern kingdom as a whole ("For the Lord shall smite Israel..., and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river") might have been composed retroactively, after the events described had already come to pass (this position is a secular or non-literal approach to scripture). Alternately, the prophesy could have been a logical deduction. Judah had just been conquered and turned into a vassal of Egypt, while little Israel stood between the Egyptian and Mesopotamian empires.
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, ISBN 9780825438257
- "Study dictionary: Jeroboam". NeXtBible Learning Environment. Source of transliterations and explanation of significance.
- An alternate interpretation of the English text, claims Zeruah was the grandmother of Jeroboam, being the mother of Nebat. But this is not supported by the Hebrew source. Additionally throughout the Books of Kings, it is standard practice to also list the names of kings' mothers, on the occasion of the beginning of their reign.
- 1 Kings 14:1
- Driscoll, James F. "Jeroboam". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 6 Jan. 2014
- Jewish Encyclopedia
- 2 Chronicles 13:1
- 2 Chronicles 13:3
- 2 Chronicles 13:4–12
- 2 Chronicles 13:17
- 2 Chronicles 13:20
- 2 Chronicles 13:19
- 1 Kings 12:25–33
- Joshua 18:20–28, esp. 23
|King of Israel
931 BC – 910 BC