King Jeroboam - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Jeroboam - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Jeroboam
Previous King: Solomon   Next King: Nadab


Jeroboam's Rise Prophesied
Jeroboam's Rise to Power
Jeroboam's Apostasy
The Prophet from Judah Rebukes Jeroboam
Jeroboam's Doom Foretold
Jeroboam's Decline and Fall
For Discussion


Jeroboam, acting under God's direction, led a rebellion against the evil King Rehoboam. The outcome was that Israel was divided. Jeroboam became the first king over the larger portion, still called Israel, and Rehoboam remained king over the smaller portion, named Judah, after Rehoboam's tribe.

Jeroboam will forever be remembered as the king “who caused Israel to sin.” He became the prototype of an evil king; 15 later kings were described as being evil “like Jeroboam”.

Although God had promised Jeroboam a great and lasting dynasty, Jeroboam rejected God's promise, and in that way nullified it. In order to achieve political security, Jeroboam abolished national worship of the LORD, and replaced it with worship of golden calf idols. These idols, and the sins practiced in connection with their cult, brought God's wrath, ending Jeroboam's dynasty after only two generations. Jeroboam's legacy eventually caused the downfall of the kingdom of Israel as well.

Where to read Jeroboam's story: 1 Kings 11:25 - 14:20; 2 Chronicles 10:1 - 13:20

Jeroboam's Rise Prophesied

In a private meeting, the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh got Jeroboam's full attention by ripping his brand new robe into 12 pieces — a startling act, given the high cost of clothing in those days. Ahijah told Jeroboam to take 10 of the 12 pieces for himself, as a symbol that God was going to divide the kingdom of Israel, and make Jeroboam king over 10 of its 12 tribes.

God would do this, the prophet said, because King Solomon had rejected God, establishing idol cults whose worship required extreme sins, including human sacrifice. So Solomon's heir would inherit only a small portion of the kingdom — out of respect for Solomon's father, the faithful King David.

In this prophecy, God made Jeroboam a stunning promise: if, like David and unlike Solomon, Jeroboam would be faithful to the LORD, God would assure Jeroboam a great and lasting dynasty. Unfortunately, Jeroboam ignored and rejected God's promise.

When King Solomon learned of this prophecy, he ordered Jeroboam killed. But Jeroboam escaped to Egypt, and lived there until Solomon's death.

Source: 1 Kings 11:29-40

Jeroboam's Rise to Power

When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took his office. When Jeroboam learned of Solomon's death, he returned from exile in Egypt to attend Rehoboam's coronation.

At the coronation, the nation's local leaders met for collective bargaining with the new king, hoping for relief from the oppressive tax burden. Jeroboam's leadership skills were recognized by everyone; he had been a construction worker so capable that he was promoted to general manager for an entire tribe. So the local leaders procured Jeroboam to present their requests to the king.

King Rehoboam, however, refused to negotiate, insisting instead that he would raise taxes, probably to sponsor massive public works projects, as Solomon had done. Upon this, the leaders of 10 of Israel's 12 tribes abandoned the coronation, determined to secede from the union.

Jeroboam, having led the negotiations, was the obvious choice to be king of the newly formed nation of Israel.

King Rehoboam, naturally enough, refused to recognize the independent half-nation, instead viewing it as an internal rebellion to be brought under control. He assembled an army for this purpose. But just as civil war was ready to begin, God sent word to Rehoboam that he must call off the war and go home; the secession and Jeroboam's ascension had happened at God's bidding.

Source: 1 Kings 12:1-24; 2 Chronicles 10:1 - 11:4

Jeroboam's Apostasy

As soon as Jeroboam took office, he faced a political crisis. Many Israelites were heartbroken that the nation was divided, and there were rumblings of reuniting. A reunion could only happen under David's rightful heir, King Rehoboam — and the result would be certain death for King Jeroboam. So naturally, he was opposed to reunion.

Fueling the longings for reunion were the annual pilgrimages; the LORD required every worshipper to attend a festival at Jerusalem, Rehoboam's capital, three times every year. Jerusalem was a splendid place, rich with meaning for all the Israelites. Solomon had built beautiful palaces, and his temple was one of the architectural wonders of the world. Not only that, but King Rehoboam himself would be presiding over the ceremonies. All this was very inviting to Jeroboam's public.

God had promised Jeroboam that his kingdom would be secure. But Jeroboam didn't trust God's promise. He decided the pilgrimages to Jerusalem were too dangerous, and he had to stop them.

To stop the pilgrimages, Jeroboam changed the national religion. He abolished worship of the LORD and in its place built two golden calf idols, modeled no doubt after the one built centuries earlier by the high priest Aaron. He placed the idols strategically — one in the extreme northern city of Dan, very convenient for the northern population; the other in the southern border town of Bethel, so any pilgrim to Jerusalem would have to pass right by it on their journeys.

Jeroboam also fired all the Levitical priests, who were established according to the LORD's instructions, were familiar with the LORD's regulations, and would influence the people against Jeroboam's new religion. He established a priesthood of his own, designed to take their orders from him. Many Levites and others faithful to the LORD emigrated to Judah.

The golden calf cult, and the sexually immoral practices historically associated with their worship, became an ongoing snare to the people of Israel.

Source: 1 Kings 12:26-33

The Prophet from Judah Rebukes Jeroboam

It was customary for kings to preside over religious gatherings, and so on this occasion Jeroboam was front and center at Bethel, leading a public ceremony in a sacrifice to his golden calf idol there. As he was about this, a prophet visiting from Rehoboam's kingdom caused a disturbance.

The unnamed prophet made an announcement: a future descendent of David, named King Josiah, would someday desecrate Jeroboam's altar by burning the bones of Jeroboam's priests on it. This would happen because the altar and its associated worship and practices were offensive to God.

It was customary for prophets, when they made far-future and therefore unverifiable prophecies, to accompany them by a miraculous sign that could be easily verified; and for that purpose the prophet further announced that the altar would be split apart, and the ashes that had accumulated on it would be spilled all over.

This disturbance was a huge embarrassment for Jeroboam, who was not only on public stage, but was also implicated as the originator of the evil cult. So Jeroboam in anger pointed at the prophet and ordered his guards to arrest him. However, the arm with which Jeroboam pointed immediately became paralyzed, and at that same moment the altar was split apart and its ashes spilled out.

Even the stubborn Jeroboam was momentarily convinced by this display. He rescinded his arrest order and asked the prophet to pray for the healing of his paralyzed arm, which was immediately healed.

The prophet died prematurely and was buried, not in his hometown as was customary, but in Bethel, near the place where he had prophesied. And some 300 years later King Josiah, from David's line, exhumed the bones of Jeroboam's priests and burned them on Jeroboam's altar, in order to render it unfit for further use as a cult object.

Jeroboam, however, ignored this warning and continued sponsoring the golden calf cult.

Source: 1 Kings 13

Jeroboam's Doom Foretold

Later in his reign, King Jeroboam's son Abijah became deathly sick, and Jeroboam sent his wife to seek advice and help from the prophet Ahijah, who years ago had predicted Jeroboam's rise as king. She went in disguise, possibly because she was visiting in enemy territory, or possibly to avoid publicity over her son's illness.

But Ahijah, though old and blind, was not fooled by her disguise, having been instructed in advance by God. As soon as she arrived the prophet exposed her disguise and gave her a message from God for Jeroboam: because Jeroboam had rejected God and introduced great sin into Israel, God was going to end his dynasty. Jeroboam and every male descendent would die in disgrace. The only exception would be the terminally ill Prince Abijah who, because of his integrity, would be allowed to die an honorable death — caused by his present illness.

The moment Jeroboam's wife returned home, Prince Abijah died. The nation observed a state funeral for him.

Source: 1 Kings 14:1-18

Jeroboam's Decline and Fall

Late in Jeroboam's career, one more in a series of wars broke out between Israel and Judah. It's not clear how the war started, but Judah's King Abijam, son of the late King Rehoboam, used the occasion to appeal to Jeroboam's cabinet to reject Jeroboam and his cult and return to the worship of the LORD, predicting that the LORD would give Judah victory over Jeroboam.

Jeroboam had masterminded an ambush, and the battle began. God did indeed fight on behalf of those who trusted him, and Judah inflicted half a million casualties on Jeroboam's forces, and captured and occupied several towns as well. Significantly, they captured Bethel, where one of Jeroboam's golden calves was housed.

This was a setback from which Jeroboam's administration never recovered.

Jeroboam died not long after, and was succeeded by his son Nadab. But soon Nadab was murdered by a soldier named Baasha, who pronounced himself king, and murdered the entire family of Jeroboam, fulfilling Ahijah's prophecy.

Source: 2 Chronicles 13; 1 Kings 15:28-30

For Discussion

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