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JEROBOAM jĕr’ ə bō’ əm (יָרָבְעָ֔ם, LXX ̔Ιεροβοαμ, meaning may the people increase; the name itself is known from Biblical times from a beautiful jasper seal picturing a roaring lion and inscribed, lshm’ ’bd yrb’m, “belonging to Shema, the minister of Jeroboam”). The name of two kings of the northern kingdom of Israel.

Jeroboam i

As the first king of the secessionist kingdom of Israel, he reigned twenty-two years (1 Kings 14:20; 931-910 b.c. according to Thiele; 922-901 according to Albright) and established a short-lived dynasty. Jeroboam’s son Nadab was assassinated by Baasha after a reign of less than two years (1 Kings 15:25-30). His career is described in 1 Kings 11:26-14:20 and 2 Chronicles 10:1-13:20.

His rise to power

Three different accounts.

There are three different accounts of Jeroboam’s life prior to his becoming king—two in the LXX, and a third in the MT which forms the basis of most Eng. trs.

a. 1 Kings 11:26-12:24 LXX. With three important exceptions, this Gr. VS in its various recensions agrees in substance with the MT. The exceptions are (1) 11:43— “And Solomon slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David his father. And when Jeroboam son of Nebat—now he was yet in Egypt, as he had fled from before Solomon and dwelled in Egypt—heard, he went directly and came to his city, to Sarira in the hill country of Ephraim. King Solomon slept with his fathers, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.” (2) 12:2, 3a (MT and Eng. VSS) is not found in numerous LXX MSS. (3) 12:12a—“And all Israel came to King Rehoboam on the third day.”

b. 1 Kings 12:24a-z LXX. This account differs markedly from the previous one and often contradicts it, and various estimates are made of its worth: “there be a genuine historical source behind the variant account” (Gray, Kings, p. 268) and “in this second account, vilifying of Jeroboam is not a superimposed addition; it is the very substance and the basic design” (Gooding, Vet Test., XVII, 188).

c. 1 Kings 11:26-12:24 MT. There are two differences between MT and LXX of this section: (1) When did Jeroboam return from his exile in Egypt? Immediately upon hearing of the death of Solomon (LXX 11:43) or after Israel had assembled in Shechem to make Rehoboam king (MT 12:1-3a)? (2) What part did Jeroboam play in the negotiations with Rehoboam? Did he stay in the background until after the revolt, or did he take a prominent role, perhaps even lead, in the grievances against the king (MT vv. 3a and 12a)? Furthermore, it has become an almost unchallenged opinion that the MT is inconsistent but that the LXX is internally consistent and to be preferred (e.g. Burney, Montgomery, and Gray; contra Gooding).

Evaluation of the accounts.

For these reasons, the MT is to be preferred to the LXX in its account of Jeroboam’s rise to power.

Resultant picture.

Jeroboam the son of Nebat and Zeruah, a widow, became a recognized leader of men during the reign of Solomon, who put him in charge of the forced labor crew from the house of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). Meeting Jeroboam alone in the country, the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh tore his own new garment into twelve pieces and had Jeroboam take ten to symbolize the fact that God was about to tear ten of the tribes away from Solomon and his son. Only one tribe, Judah (Benjamin, which never seems to have recovered from the slaughter and near extinction mentioned in Judges 20 and 21, was counted with Judah; cf. 1 Kings 11:32, 36; 12:20f.), would remain to perpetuate the Davidic line. When Solomon heard of the prophecy, or perhaps of a plot by Jeroboam to bring Ahijah’s prophecy to an early fulfillment, he sought to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to safety in Egypt. (The full account is in 1 Kings 11:26-40.)

When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam went to Shechem to be made king over the twelve tribes. “And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt, and they sent and called to him, and Jeroboam and all of the assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam” (1 Kings 12:2, 3; for the basis of this tr. see reason [4] in A.2., above). With Jeroboam leading a delegation, the twelve tribes demanded that Rehoboam lighten the demands of the monarchy. Instead, three days later, he announced burdensome increases. At that, the northern tribes revolted. Soon afterward, Rehoboam foolishly sent the worst possible man he could have chosen, Adoram, who headed the hated corvée, to try to pacify the northern ten tribes. They stoned Adoram to death and forced Rehoboam to flee back to Jerusalem. By now it was widely known that Jeroboam had returned from exile in Egypt, that he had played a prominent part in the futile negotiations with King Rehoboam and was sympathetic to their cause, and most importantly, that one of their own prophets, Ahijah from Shiloh, had prophesied that Jeroboam would be king after the death of Solomon. So northern Israel called Jeroboam to the coronation convocation (’dh) to make him their king (cf. the reaction later to the prophetic word that Jehu was to be king, 2 Kings 9:1-13). (See 1 Kings 12:1-20.)

His reign.

The first threat to newly crowned Jeroboam came from Rehoboam, who massed an army for an invasion of Israel. Shemaiah intervened with a word from the Lord not to begin intertribal warfare, so the troops returned home. Meanwhile, Jeroboam fortified Shechem and Penuel, both in strategic passes and both connected with the patriarchs.

The sins of Jeroboam.

Contrary to the prophecy of Ahijah which brought him to power (1 Kings 11:38f.), Jeroboam perverted the worship of the Lord by reviving the Mesopotamian bull worship of pre-Abrahamic days as Aaron had done (12:27-30; Exod 32:1-5; Josh 24:14f.; on comparisons between Jeroboam and Aaron, see JBL, LXXXVI [1967], 129-140, and U. Cassuto, Exodus, ET, pp. 407-410), to keep the people from making religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Golden bulls (not just bull-pedestals; see R. K. Harrison, OT Times, Eerdmans [1970], p. 210f.) became the objects of worship at Bethel and at Dan, contrary to the law (Exod 20:4). This was the great sin of Jeroboam. Further, he promoted worship at the high places, appointed non-Levites as priests, and changed the date of the Feast of Tabernacles (perhaps by changing the calendar: see JBL, LXXXIII [1964], 109-118). An unnamed prophet from Judah prophesied at Bethel against the altar there: Josiah would profane it by burning dead men’s bones upon it and tear it down (fulfilled about 300 years later, 2 Kings 23:15ff.). Jeroboam continued his policies and became the prime Biblical example of an idolatrous king.

The wars of Jeroboam.

After the initial peace resulting from Shemaiah’s prophecy (1 Kings 12:22-24), Jeroboam’s kingdom was at war first with Rehoboam and then with Abijam of Judah (14:30; 15:6; 2 Chron 12:15b). In the fifth year of his reign, Shishak of Egypt invaded Judah and Israel in an attempt to gain control of Pal. during the civil war that had weakened both parties (1 Kings 14:25ff.; the invasion of Israel is not mentioned in the Bible, but Shishak’s victory inscr. at Karnak lists Taanach, Shunem, Rehob, Mahanaim and Megiddo—all Israelite cities—among the conquered places).

His ruin.

Finally, in a decisive battle with Abijam, described in 2 Chronicles 13:1-22, Jeroboam’s forces were decisively defeated with the loss of Bethel and other border cities. Jeroboam never regained his power, and his son Nadab lasted only two years before Baasha’s coup d’etat. Ahijah’s second recorded prophecy had been fulfilled (1 Kings 14:2-18; 15:27-30). The dynasty of Jeroboam I was finished.

Jeroboam II

As the thirteenth (14th if Tibni is counted) king of Israel (co-regent 793-782 b.c.; king, 782-753 b.c. according to Thiele; c. 786-746 b.c. according to Albright), Jeroboam II extended the Israelite empire into Trans-Jordan from the Arabah to the borders of Hamath, in accordance with Jonah’s lesser-known prophecy of national expansion (2 Kings 14:25). The Biblical account is very short (14:23-29; he is mentioned in 1 Chron 5:17 in a genealogy), but his territorial expansion occurred in a power vacuum in the ancient Near E and can be pieced together from archeological sources (for the most thorough discussion, see Menahem Haran, “The Rise and Decline of the Empire of Jeroboam ben Joash,” Vet Test, XVII [1967], 266-297). Briefly, the Assyrians weakened Ben-hadad’s kingdom, Jeroboam recovered Trans-Jordania from Ben-hadad, and then the Assyrians were too busy with more important local and national problems to worry about Jeroboam’s increasing power until after his death.

During this period, Israel enjoyed a peace, political prestige and economic prosperity unparalleled since the days of Solomon, but its moral and religious life was bankrupt. Hosea and Amos reflect the religious and social decay (e.g., Hos 6:4-10; 10:1-15; Amos 2:6-8; 3:13-4:5) of this period. The prosperity was only temporary. When Jeroboam II died, his son Zechariah ruled only six months before he was murdered, ending the Jehu dynasty in the fourth generation (2 Kings 15:8-12). Thirty years later, Israel was no longer a nation.


J. A. Montgomery, The Books of Kings (ICC, edited by H. S. Gehman [1951]); J. Bright, A History of Israel (1960), 208-219, 238ff. passim; W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (rev. ed., 1963), 58ff., 116f.; J. Gray, I and II Kings (1963), 268-310, 556-559; E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (rev. ed., 1965); D. W. Gooding, “The Septuagint’s Rival Versions of Jeroboam’s Rise to Power,” Vet Test, XVII (1967), 173-189; E. W. Heaton, The Hebrew Kingdoms (1968), 69-75, 96-98; J. D. Shenkel, Chronology and Recensional Development in the Greek Text of Kings (1968); C. F. Burney, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Kings (1918, 1970 with prolegomenon by W. F. Albright), proleg. 25-38, text 163-192, 319-321; R. W. Klein, “Jeroboam’s Rise to Power,” JBL, LXXXIX (1970), 217f.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The name was borne by two kings of Israel.

(1) Jeroboam I, son of Nebat, an Ephraimite, and of Zeruah, a widow (1Ki 11:26-40; 12-14:20). He was the first king of Israel after the disruption of the kingdom, and he reigned 22 years (937-915 BC).

I. Jeroboam I

1. Sources:

The history of Jeroboam is contained in 1Ki 11:26-40; 12:1-14:20; 2Ch 10:1-11:4; 11:14-16; 12:15; 13:3-20, and in an insertion in the Septuagint after 1Ki 12:24 (a-z). This insertion covers about the same ground as the Massoretic Text, and the Septuagint elsewhere, with some additions and variations. The fact that it calls Jeroboam’s mother a porne (harlot), and his wife the Egyptian princess Ano (compare 1Ki 11); that Jeroboam is punished by the death of his son before he has done any wrong; that the episode with the prophet’s mantle does not occur until the meeting at Shechem; that Jeroboam is not proclaimed king at all--all this proves the passage inferior to the Massoretic Text. No doubt it is a fragment of some historical work, which, after the manner of the later Midrash, has combined history and tradition, making rather free use of the historical kernel.

2. His Rise and Revolt:

Jeroboam, as a highly gifted and valorous young Ephraimite, comes to the notice of Solomon early in his reign (1Ki 11:28; compare 9:15,24). Having noticed his ability, the king made him overseer of the fortifications and public work at Jerusalem, and placed him over the levy from the house of Joseph. The fact that the latter term may stand for the whole of the ten tribes (compare Am 5:6; 6:6; Ob 1:18) indicates the importance of the position, which, however, he used to plot against the king. No doubt he had the support of the people in his designs. Prejudices of long standing (2Sa 19:40 f; 20 f) were augmented when Israelite interests were made subservient to Judah and to the king, while enforced labor and burdensome taxation filled the people’s hearts h bitterness and jealousy. Jeroboam, the son of a widow, would be the first to feel the gall of oppression and to give voice to the suffering of the people. In addition, he had the approval of the prophet Ahijah of the old sanctuary of Shiloh, who, by tearing his new mantle into twelve pieces and giving ten of them to Jeroboam, informed him that he was to become king of the ten tribes. Josephus says (Ant., VIII, vii, 8) that Jeroboam was elevated by the words of the prophet, "and being a young man of warm temper, and ambitious of greatness, he could not be quiet," but tried to get the government into his hands at once. For the time, the plot failed, and Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he was received and kindly treated by Shishak, the successor to the father-in-law of Solomon.

3. The Revolt of the Ten Tribes:

The genial and imposing personality of Solomon had been able to stem the tide of discontent excited by his oppressive regime, which at his death burst all restraints. Nevertheless, the northern tribes, at a popular assembly held at Shechem, solemnly promised to serve Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, who had already been proclaimed king at Jerusalem, on condition that he would lighten the burdens that so unjustly rested upon them. Instead of receiving the magna charta which they expected, the king, in a spirit of despotism, gave them a rough answer, and Josephus says "the people were struck by his words, as it were, by an iron hammer" (Ant., VIII, viii, 3). But despotism lost the day. The rough answer of the king was met by the Marseillaise of the people:

"What portion have we in David?

Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse:

To your tents. O Israel:

Now see to thine own house, David" (1Ki 12:16).

Seeing the turn affairs had taken, but still unwilling to make any concessions, Rehoboam sent Adoram, who had been over the levy for many years (1Ki 5:14; 12:18), and who no doubt had quelled dissatisfaction before, to force the people to submission, possibly by the very methods he had threatened to employ (1Ki 12:14). However, the attempt failed. The aged Adoram was stoned to death, while Rehoboam was obliged to flee ignominiously back to Jerusalem, king only of Judah (1Ki 12:20). Thus, the great work of David for a united kingdom was shattered by inferiors, who put personal ambitions above great ideals.

4. The Election:

As soon as Jeroboam heard that Solomon was dead, he returned from his forced exile in Egypt and took up his residence in his native town, Zeredah, in the hill country of Ephraim Septuagint 1Ki 12:20 ff). The northern tribes, having rejected the house of David, now turned to the leader, and perhaps instigator of the revolution. Jeroboam was sent for and raised to the throne by the choice and approval of the popular assembly. Divinely set apart for his task, and having the approval of the people, Jeroboam nevertheless failed to rise to the greatness of his opportunities, and his kingdom degenerated into a mere military monarchy, never stronger than the ruler who chanced to occupy the throne. In trying to avoid the Scylla that threatened its freedom and faith (1Ki 11:33), the nation steered into the Charybdis of revolution and anarchy in which it finally perished.

5. Political Events:

Immediately upon his accession, Jeroboam fortified Shechem, the largest city in Central Israel, and made it his capital. Later he fortified Penuel in the East Jordan country. According to 1Ki 14:17, Tirzah was the capital during the latter part of his reign. About Jeroboam’s external relations very little is known beyond the fact that there was war between him and Rehoboam constantly (1Ki 14:30). In 2Ch 13:2-20 we read of an inglorious war with Abijah of Judah. When Shishak invaded Judah (1Ki 14:25 f), he did not spare Israel, as appears from his inscription on the temple at Karnak, where a list of the towns captured by him is given. These belong to Northern Israel as well as to Judah, showing that Shishak exacted tribute there, even if he used violence only in Judah. The fact that Jeroboam successfully managed a revolution but failed to establish a dynasty shows that his strength lay in the power of his personality more than in the soundness of his principles.

6. His Religious Policy:

Despite the success of the revolution politically, Jeroboam descried in the halo surrounding the temple and its ritual a danger which threatened the permanency of his kingdom. He justifiably dreaded a reaction in favor of the house of David, should the people make repeated religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem after the first passion of the rebellion had spent itself. He therefore resolved to establish national sanctuaries in Israel. Accordingly, he fixed on Bethel, which from time immemorial was one of the chief sanctuaries of the land (Ge 28:19; 35:1; Ho 12:4), and Dan, also a holy place since the conquest, as the chief centers of worship for Israel. Jeroboam now made "two calves of gold" as symbols of the strength and creative power of Yahweh, and set them up in the sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan, where altars and other sacred objects already existed. It appears that many of the priests still in the land were opposed to his image-worship (2Ch 11:13 ). Accordingly, he found it necessary to institute a new, non-Levitical priesthood (1Ki 13:33). A new and popular festival on the model of the feasts at Jerusalem was also established. Jeroboam’s policy might have been considered as a clever political move, had it not contained the dangerous ppeal to the lower instincts of the masses, that led them into the immoralities of heathenism and hastened the destruction of the nation. Jeroboam sacrificed the higher interests of religion to politics. This was the "sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin" (1Ki 12:30; 16:26).

7. Hostility of the Prophets:

It may be that many of the prophets sanctioned Jeroboam’s religious policy. Whatever the attitude of the majority may have been, there was no doubt a party who strenuously opposed the image-worship.

(1) The Anonymous Prophet.

On the very day on which Jeroboam inaugurated the worship at the sanctuary at Bethel "a man of God out of Judah" appeared at Bethel and publicly denounced the service. The import of his message was that the royal altar should some day be desecrated by a ruler from the house of David. The prophet was saved from the wrath of the king only by a miracle. "The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar." This narrative of 1Ki 13 is usually assumed to belong to a later time, but whatever the date of compilation, the general historicity of the account is little affected by it.

(2) The Prophet Ahijah.

At a later date, when Jeroboam had realized his ambition, but not the ideal which the prophet had set before him, Ahijah predicted the consequences of his evil policy. Jeroboam’s eldest son had fallen sick. He thought of Ahijah, now old and blind, and sent the queen in disguise to learn the issue of the sickness. The prophet bade her to announce to Jeroboam that the house of Jeroboam should be extirpated root and branch; that the people whom he had seduced to idolatry should be uprooted from the land and transported beyond the river; and, severest of all, that her son should die.

8. His Death:

Jeroboam died, in the 22nd year of his reign, having "bequeathed to posterity the reputation of an apostate and a succession of endless revolutions."

S. K. Mosiman

(2) Jeroboam II (2Ki 14:23-29), son of Joash and 13th king of Israel; 4th sovereign of the dynasty of Jehu. He reigned 41 years. His accession may be placed circa 798 BC (some date lower).

II. Jeroboam II

1. His Warlike Policy:

Jeroboam came into power on the crest of the wave of prosperity that followed the crushing of the supremacy of Damascus by his father. By his great victory at Aphek, followed by others, Joash had regained the territory lost to Israel in the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz (2Ki 13:17,25). This satisfied Joash, or his death prevented further hostilities. Jeroboam, however, then a young man, resolved on a war of retaliation against Damascus, and on further conquests. The condition of the eastern world favored his projects, for Assyria was at the time engaged, under Shalmaneser III and Assurdan III, in a life-and-death struggle with Armenia. Syria being weakened, Jeroboam determined on a bold attempt to conquer and annex the whole kingdom of which Damascus was the capital. The steps of the campaign by which this was accomplished are unknown to us. The result only is recorded, that not only the intermediate territory fell into Jeroboam’s hands, but that Damascus itself was captured (2Ki 14:28). Hamath was taken, and thus were restored the eastern boundaries of the kingdom, as they were in the time of David (1Ch 13:5). From the time of Joshua "the entrance of Hamath" (Jos 13:5), a narrow pass leading into the valley of the Lebanons, had been the accepted northern boundary of the promised land. This involved the subjection of Moab and Ammon, probably already tributaries of Damascus.

2. New Social Conditions:

Jeroboam’s long reign of over 40 years gave time for the collected tribute of this greatly increased territory to flow into the coffers of Samaria, and the exactions would be ruthlessly enforced. The prophet Amos, a contemporary of Jeroboam in his later years, dwells on the cruelties inflicted on the trans-Jordanic tribes by Hazael, who "threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron" (Am 1:3). All this would be remembered now, and wealth to which the Northern Kingdom had been unaccustomed flowed in to its treasuries. The hovels of unburned brick in which the citizens had lived were replaced by "houses of hewn stone" (Am 5:11). The ivory house which Ahab built in Samaria (1Ki 22:39; decorations only are meant) was imitated, and there were many "great houses" (Am 3:15). The sovereign had both a winter and a summer palace. The description of a banqueting scene within one of these palatial abodes is lifelike in its portraiture. The guests stretched themselves upon the silken cushions of the couches, eating the flesh of lambs and stall-fed calves, drinking wine from huge bowls, singing idle songs to the sound of viols, themselves perfumed and anointed with oil (Am 6:4-6). Meanwhile, they were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, and cared nothing for the wrongdoing of which the country was full. Side by side with this luxury, the poor of the land were in the utmost distress. A case in which a man was sold into slavery for the price of a pair of shoes seems to have come to the prophet’s knowledge, and is twice referred to by him (Am 2:6; 8:6).

3. Growth of Ceremonial Worship:

With all this, and as part of the social organization, religion of a kind flourished. Ritual took the place of righteousness; and in a memorable passage, Amos denounces the substitution of the one for the other (Am 5:21 ). The worship took place in the sanctuaries of the golden calves, where the votaries prostrated themselves before the altar clothed in garments taken in cruel pledge, and drank sacrificial wine bought with the money of those who were fined for non-attendance there (Am 2:8). There we are subsidiary temples and altars at Gilgal and Beersheba (Am 4:4; 5:5; 8:14). Both of these places had associations with the early history of the nation, and would be attended by worshippers from Judah as well as from Israel.

4. Mission to Amos:

Toward the close of his reign, it would appear that Jeroboam had determined upon adding greater splendor and dignity to the central shrine, in correspondence with the increased wealth of the nation. Amos, about the same time, received a commission to go to Bethel and testify against the whole proceedings there. He was to pronounce that these sanctuaries should be laid waste, and that Yahweh would raise the sword against the house of Jeroboam. (Am 7:9). On hearing his denunciation, made probably as he stood beside the altar, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a messenger to the king at Samaria, to tell him of the "conspiracy" of Amos, and that the land was not able to bear all his words. The messenger bore the report that Amos had declared "Jeroboam shall die by the sword," which Amos had not done. When the messenger had gone, priest and prophet had a heated controversy, and new threatenings were uttered (Am 7:10-17).

5. Prophecy of Jonah:

The large extension of territory acquired for Israel by Jeroboam is declared to have been the realization of a prophecy uttered earlier by Jonah, the son of Amittai (2Ki 14:25)--the same whose mission to Nineveh forms the subject of the Book of Jonah (1:1). It is also indicated that the relief which had now come was the only alternative to the utter extinction of Israel. But Yahweh sent Israel a "saviour" (2Ki 13:5), associated by some with the Assyrian king Ramman-nirari III, who crushed Damascus, an left Syria an easy prey, first to Jehoash, then to Jeroboam. (see Jehoash), but whom the historian seems to connect with Jeroboam himself (2Ki 14:26,27).

Jeroboam was succeeded on his death by his weak son Zechariah (2Ki 14:29).

W. Shaw Caldecott