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Jeroboam (also known as Jeroboam son of Nebat, or Jeroboam I) was the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam's life is biblically documented in the First Book of Kings and briefly in Second Chronicles. Originally, Jeroboam managed the entire labor force of the Tribe of Joseph for King Solomon, before being promised by God to become King over ten of Israel's tribes. He became a rebel against Solomon and fled to Egypt and was a refugee for some time.

Jeroboam became King after Solomon's son, Rehoboam angered the Israelites into an open rebellion. Once Jeroboam was King he practiced evil against God and would permanently mark a pattern for all future Israelite kings.

Biography

Early Life

Jeroboam was born to a man named Nebat and his wife Zeruah. Zeruah was probably a leper, because her name called her this. He grew up in the town of Zeredah, located in the Tribe of Ephraim. At one point Jeroboam's father died and his mother was widowed.[1]

Despite the death of his father, Jeroboam would be traditionally referred to as "the son of Nebat". Jeroboam was named "the people contend", which was probably given to him as he was king or a Labor Manager. It could have been given to him in infancy or growing up indicate popularity or even infamy amongst people who knew him.

At a certain time in his life Jeroboam was married and had two sons named Abijah and Nadab; there is no indication when his family began.

Laborer of Solomon

As a young man, Jeroboam was conscripted along with thousands of other Israelites to work on Solomon's numerous and colossal construction projects; particularly on the Millo- an outer terrace to complete the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Jeroboam was a very hardworking, capable and efficient laborer on the millo; so much, that King Solomon noticed him. For Jeroboam's hard work and capabilities, he was promoted to managing the labor force over the entire Tribe of Joseph (for he was from the half tribe of Ephraim) for Solomon's projects[2]. He was among 550 other Israelites who had the position of overseer over other laborers- in Jeroboam's case some of his relatives[3].While Jeroboam had a high position amongst Solomon's labor force, he disliked the tediousness of the work[4].

Refugee of Egypt

At one point Jeroboam left Jerusalem, maybe because he had completed a construction project and probably headed towards home (the Tribe of Ephraim). On the road, Jeroboam was met by Israel's prophet at the time- Ahijah the Shilonite who was alone with him in the wilderness. Jeroboam was given ten pieces of ripped cloth by Ahijah as a symbol of Jeroboam's future Kingship over ten of twelve tribes of Israel; not including Judah and Benjamin. Ahijah also promised Jeroboam a prosperous kingdom if he obeyed God.[5] Sometime before Solomon's death another prophet named Iddo also had some visions about Jeroboam, the nature of which are unknown; other than they also were related to Solomon[6]. The prophecies concerning Jeroboam may have become widely known in the nation during this time[7].

Then Jeroboam begun a rebellion against Solomon[8] and the King may have learned of the prophecy. Jeroboam's life was in imminent danger from Solomon's persecution, so he fled to Egypt as a refugee under the rule of King Shishak[9]. Jeroboam remained in Egypt (potentially for several years or longer) until he heard of Solomon's death. He learned this when heard the news that Solomon's son, Rehoboam was in Shechem for his upcoming coronation. [10]

Gaining His Throne

Jeroboam traveled to Shechem to join the crowd present for the coronation of Rehoboam. During the coronation Jeroboam spoke out along with the crowd against the difficult labor of Solomon[4]. His pleas were not distinctive, as the majority of people did not know Jeroboam was in Israel[7]. Rehoboam asked the people for three days to consider lightening the amount of work for the Israelites. After the three days, Jeroboam and all the people congregated before Rehoboam. To their dismay, Rehoboam decided to increase the workload. Eventually news became widespread that Jeroboam had returned from his exile in Egypt. He started a rebellion with the help of unscrupulous men[11]. Eager to remove their king, the Israelites illegally instated Jeroboam as their king[7].

As soon as Rehoboam learned that Israel had betrayed him, he mustered his army of loyal Judahites to attack Jeroboam. Shemaiah, a prophet of God told Rehoboam that Jeroboam's rise to King was God's will, so the attack was called off.[12]

The Evil King

A New Religion

As the new King of Israel, Jeroboam expanded the village of Shechem, located in his home tribe of Ephraim. He established Shechem as his home and then proceeded to rebuild the city of Penuel. With Jeroboam's newfound power came fear of losing it. Jeroboam became concerned that Israelites needing to sacrifice to God were traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem in the Nation of Judah. He reasoned that by traveling to Judah they would become loyal to the House of David and to Rehoboam; then they would conspire against him and assassinate him.[13]

The King consulted his advisers and together they decided to reinstitute worship of the ancient Golden Calf idol that the Israelites had practiced during the days of Moses . Jeroboam in a proclamation to the people declared pilgrimages to Jerusalem unnecessary and he quoted the idolatrous words of Aaron; for he said the Golden Calves would be the image of the Deliverer from Egypt. Jeroboam had one Calf installed in the city of Bethel and another in Dan to cover the geographic boundaries of Israel.

Additionally, Jeroboam had temples constructed at high places and priests assigned to each temple. Jeroboam drove out all of the Levite priests in the kingdom and they all fled to Jerusalem[14]. A feast day was created on the same day as the Feast of Booths as an alternative holiday. The King went forth himself and made sacrifices on that day in Bethel.[15] While Jeroboam was at his altar, a prophet appointed by God from Judah arrived at Bethel. By God's word the prophet gave foresight concerning the eventual demise of Jeroboam's derivative religion. Jeroboam was outraged by the man's word so he outstretched his hand and ordered the prophet to be apprehended. His hand became paralyzed and Jeroboam was unable to retract his hand near his body. Only after the King asked the mysterious prophet to ask God for his hand to be restored, did Jeroboam have the ability to move his hand. Therefore, Jeroboam invited the prophet into his home and offered him a gift. The prophet refused, citing that God had forbidden him to eat any food during his prophetic activity.[16]

Jeroboam still did not repent from his evil activities, but he reinstated priests that were removed[17].

Prophecy Against Jeroboam

At this time, Jeroboam's son, Abijah became sick. Fearful of losing his son, Jeroboam sent his wife in disguise to the prophet Ahijah. When she went to Ahijah, he gave her a prophecy about her husband. Everyone loyal to the House of Jeroboam would either desert it, or die without burial due to Jeroboam's evil pagan idolatry. Furthermore, Jeroboam's son, Abijah would die, but would be buried; for God was pleased with him. After this Jeroboam's wife returned home and Jeroboam's son, Abijah died and was mourned by Israel just as foretold.[18]

Wars Against Judah

Over a period of eighteen years[19] Jeroboam constantly warred with Rehoboam. Other than the fact that Jeroboam was in conflict with Rehoboam without end, nothing else is known about their fighting.[20]

After Rehoboam died and was succeeded by Abijam, Jeroboam had at least one conflict with him[21]. Abijam mustered an army of four hundred thousand men against Jeroboam's army of eight hundred thousand. Jeroboam arranged a plan for his army to surround both sides of Abijam. Jeroboam was verbally challenged by Abijam for abandoning God and driving out the Levite priests. After Abijam's challenge, Jeroboam's ambush was revealed. However, God gave Jeroboam's army into Abijam's hand resulting in the death of five hundred thousand Israelites with the remainder fleeing. Jeroboam himself fled, only to be hunted by Abijam. In the process, Jeroboam had at least three cities (and their satellite villages) taken from him.[22]

Death

The loss at the battle with Abijam was catastrophic for Jeroboam. He was unable to recover from this loss during his reign (which continued for three years or less after the battle). He died after ruling over the Northern Kingdom of Israel for twenty-two years.[23]

Legacy

Biblical Accounts

The reign of Jeroboam was forever remembered and was recorded in the First Book of Kings and Second Book of Chronicles.


Verses

  1. 1 Kings 11:26 (Link)
  2. 1 Kings 11:27-28 (Link)
  3. 1 Kings 9:15, 23 (Link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 1 Kings 12:3-4, 2 Chr 10:3-4
  5. 1 Kings 11:29-39 (Link)
  6. 2 Chr 9:29 (Link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 1 Kings 12:20
  8. 1 Kings 11:27 (Link)
  9. 1 Kings 11:40 (Link)
  10. 1 Kings 12:2, 2 Chr 10:2 (Link)
  11. 2 Chr 13:6-7 (Link)
  12. 1 Kings 12:21-24 Chr 11:1-4 (Link)
  13. 1 Kings 12:25-27 (Link)
  14. 2 Chr 11:14-16, 2 Chr 13:9 (Link)
  15. 1 Kings 12:28-33 (Link)
  16. 1 Kings 13:1-9 (Link)
  17. 1 Kings 13:33 (Link)
  18. 1 Kings 14:1-17 (Link)
  19. 1 Kings 15:1, 2 Chr 13:1 (Link)
  20. 1 Kings 14:30, 1 Kings 15:6, 2 Chr 12:15 (Link)
  21. 1 Kings 15:7, 2 Chr 13:2 (Link)
  22. 2 Chr 13:3-19 (Link)
  23. 1 Kings 14:20, 2 Chr 13:20 (Link)

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