Jeroboam [Jĕro bō'am]—enlarges, struggler for the people or the people have become numerous.
1. The son of Nebat from Zereda in Manasseh, who became the first king of the ten tribes of Israel. This Ephraimite, Jeroboam I, reigned for twenty-two years. His mother’s name was Zeruah, who was widowed at the time of his birth. This is the Jeroboam who rebuked the unnamed prophet (1 Kings 11:26-40; 12-16).
The Man Who Made Israel Sin
The dreadful description of Jeroboam tied to his name like a label, is that “he made Israel to sin.” His sin—the root and fruit of it—are the chief things the Bible records of this widow’s son. We are familiar with the incident of Ahijah taking Jeroboam’s new garment and tearing it into twelve pieces, giving Jeroboam ten pieces and prophesying the rending of Solomon’s kingdom, and the government of ten tribes of that kingdom passing into Jeroboam’s hands. No wonder Solomon sought to kill him. But after the king’s death and the refusal of Rehoboam to follow good advice, the kingdom split and ten tribes went with Jeroboam.
Solomon had lost his kingdom by idolatry and Jeroboam proposed to keep his ten-tribe kingdom by idolatry. So, abandoning the commandment and promise of God, Jeroboam set up golden bulls, one in Bethel and the other in Dan. People must have religion of some sort, Jeroboam reasoned, as he made the worship of the calves a part of the constitution of his kingdom. How sad it is to read that the Lord gave Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam! The consequences of national idolatry continued, for eighteen kings sat upon the throne of Judah after his death, but not one of them gave up the golden calves. Of fifteen of them it is said that they departed not from the sin of Jeroboam. As with the kings, so with the people who continued to walk in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did (2 Kings 17:22, 23).
There is no need to linger over what befell Jeroboam himself. He was warned by the man of God from Judah, but without avail. His son fell sick and died, and Jeroboam shortly after was defeated by his enemies. Then the Lord struck him and he died. Yet his name lives on with the terrible mark against it. “He made Israel to sin.”
2. A son of Joash or Jehoash the grandfather of Jehu, who succeeded Joash as king over the ten tribes, and who reigned for forty-one years (2 Kings 13:13; 14:16-29; 15:1, 8; 1 Chron. 5:17; Amos 1:1; 7:9-11). Both Hosea (Hos. 1:1) and Amos describe the temporary prosperity of Israel with the accompaniment of social and moral degeneracy during the reign of Jeroboam II. Under him, Israel regained the territory it lost to its hereditary enemy, Syria. The aspect of commanding interest in Jeroboam’s age when materialism was in the saddle was the appearance of a man with a message. Amid the shallow optimism possessing king and people alike was the voice of Amos, the herdsman of Tekoa, saying in effect: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.”
Israel’s prosperity ended with the death of this Jeroboam. A period of anarchy followed. Then he was succeeded by his son Zachariah, who after a reign of only six months, was murdered by Shallum who, in turn, was assassinated one month later. Think of it, three kings sat on Israel’s throne in seven months! Four out of six kings succeeding Jeroboam died violent deaths. In less than fifteen years four of Israel’s kings were murdered.