Here is an account of the reign of Jeroboam the second. I doubt it is an indication of the affection and adherence of the house of Jehu to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that they called an heir-apparent to the crown by his name, thinking that an honourable name which in the book of God is infamous and stigmatized as much as any.
I. His reign was long, the longest of all the reigns of the kings of Israel: He reigned forty-one years; yet his contemporary Azariah, the king of Judah, reigned longer, even fifty-two years. This Jeroboam reigned just as long as Asa had done (1 Kgs. 15:10), yet one did that which was good and the other that which was evil. We cannot measure men’s characters by the length of their lives or by their outward prosperity. There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked.
II. His character was the same with that of the rest of those kings: He did that which was evil (2 Kgs. 14:24), for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam; he kept up the worship of the calves, and never left that, thinking there was no harm in it, because it had been the way of all his ancestors and predecessors. But a sin is never the less evil in God’s sight, whatever it is in ours, for its being an ancient usage; and a frivolous plea it will be against doing good, that we have been accustomed to do evil.
III. Yet he prospered more than most of them, for though, in that one thing, he did evil in the sight of the Lord, yet it is likely, in other respects, there was some good found in him and therefore God owned him, 1. By prophecy. He raised up Jonah the son of Amittai, a Galilean (so much were those mistaken that said, Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet, John 7:52), and by him intimated the purposes of his favour to Israel, notwithstanding their provocations, encouraged him and his kingdom to take up arms for the recovery of their ancient possessions, and (which would contribute not a little to their success) assured them of victory. It is a sign that God has not cast off his people if he continue faithful ministers among them; when Elisha, who strengthened the hands of Joash, was removed, Jonah was sent to encourage his son. Happy is the land that has a succession of prophets running parallel with a succession of princes, that the word of the Lord may endure for ever. Of this Jonah we read much in that little book of scripture that bears his name. It is probable that it was when he was a young man, and fit for such an expedition, that God sent him to Nineveh, and that it was when he had yet been but a little conversant with the visions of God that he flew off and fretted as he did; and, if so, this is an undoubted evidence of the forgiveness of his faults and follies, that he was afterwards employed as a messenger of mercy to Israel. A commission amounts to a pardon, and he that had himself found mercy, notwithstanding his provocations, could the better encourage them with the hope of mercy notwithstanding theirs. Some that have been foolish and passionate, and have gone about their work very awkwardly at first, yet afterwards have proved useful and eminent. Men must not be thrown away for every fault. 2. By providence. The event was according to the word of the Lord: his arms were successful; he restored the coast of Israel, recovered those frontier-towns and countries that lay from Hamath in the north to the sea of the plain, (that is, the sea of Sodom) in the south, all which the Syrians had possessed themselves of, 2 Kgs. 14:25. Two reasons are here given why God blessed them with those victories:—(1.) Because their distress was very great, which made them the objects of his compassion, 2 Kgs. 14:26. Though he saw not any signs of their repentance and formation, yet he saw their affliction, that it was very bitter. Those that lived in those countries which the enemies were masters of were miserably oppressed and enslaved, and could call nothing their own; the rest, we may suppose, were much impoverished by the frequent incursions the enemy made upon them to plunder them, and continually terrified by their threatenings, so that there was none shut up or left, both towns and countries were laid waste and stripped of their wealth, and no helper appeared. To this extremity were they reduced, in many parts of the country, in the beginning of Jeroboam’s reign, when God, in mere pity to them, heard the cry of their affliction (for no mention is made here of the cry of their prayers), and wrought this deliverance for them by the hand of Jeroboam. Let those whose case is pitiable take comfort from the divine pity; we read of God’s bowels of mercy (Isa. 63:15; Jer. 31:20) and that he is full of compassion, Ps. 86:15. (2.) Because the decree had not yet gone forth for their utter destruction; he had not as yet said he would blot out the name of Israel (2 Kgs. 14:27), and because he had not said it he would not do it. If this be understood of the dispersion of the ten tribes, he did say it and do it, for that name still remains under heaven in the gospel Israel, and will to the end of time; and because they, at present, bore that name which was to have this lasting honour, he showed them this favour, as well as for the sake of the ancient honour of that name, 2 Kgs. 13:23.
IV. Here is the conclusion of Jeroboam’s reign. We read (2 Kgs. 14:28) of his might, and how he warred, but (2 Kgs. 14:29) he slept with his fathers; for the mightiest must yield to death, and there is no discharge in that war. Many prophets there had been in Israel, a constant succession of them in every age, but none of the prophets had left any of their prophecies in writing till those of this age began to do it, and their prophecies are part of the canon of scripture. It was in the reign of this Jeroboam that Hosea (who continued very long a prophet) began to prophesy, and he was the first that wrote his prophecies; therefore the word of the Lord by him is called the beginning of the word of the Lord, Hos. 1:2. Then that part of the word of the Lord began to be written. At the same time Amos prophesied, and wrote his prophecy, soon afterwards Micah, and then Isaiah, in the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah. Thus God never left himself without witness, but, in the darkest and most degenerate ages of the church, raised up some to be burning and shining lights in it to their own age by their preaching and living, and a few by their writings to reflect light upon us on whom the ends of the world have come.