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Kings of Israel


King Jeroboam sets up images of golden calves
Born United Kingdom of Israel
Died Tirzah , Northern Kingdom of Israel
Occupation King
Spouse(s) Egyptian princess Ano (as per the Septuagint)

Jeroboam (Hebrew: יָרָבְעָם‎, yarobh`am, commonly held to have been derived from riyb and `am, and signifying "the people contend," or, "he pleads the people's cause" - alternatively translated to mean "his people are many" or "he increases the people"; or even "he that opposes the people"; Greek: Ιεροβοάμ, Hieroboam in the Septuagint;[1] Latin: Jeroboam) was the first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy. He reigned for twenty-two years. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 922 to 901 BC, while Edwin R. Thiele offers the dates 931 to 910 BC.[2]


Jeroboam was the son of Nebat (Douay-Rheims: Nabat), a member of the Tribe of Ephraim of Zereda, whose mother's name was Zeruah (who later became a widow, and could have been leperous, as her name translates). (1 Kings 11:26) He had at least two sons - Abijam[3] and Nadab, who succeeded him on the throne. While still young, Jeroboam was promoted by Solomon to be chief superintendent of the "burnden", i.e. the bands of forced laborers.[4]

Influenced by the words of the prophet Ahijah, (1 Kings 11:29-39) he began to form conspiracies with the view of becoming king of the ten tribes; but these were discovered, and he fled to Egypt, where he remained under the protection of Shoshenq I (or Thutmose III in the revised chronological theory presented by Immanuel Velikovsky in his work Ages in Chaos) until the death of Solomon.[5]

On the death of Solomon, Rehoboam assumed the throne. However, the ten northern tribes revolted against his rule and invite Jeroboam to become their king. The conduct of Rehoboam favored the designs of Jeroboam, and he was accordingly proclaimed "king of Israel". [6]

He rebuilt and fortified Shechem as the capital of his kingdom. He at once adopted means to perpetuate the division with the southern Kingdom of Judah. He erected at Dan and Bethel, the two extremities of his kingdom, "golden calves," which he set up as symbols of God, enjoining the people not any more to go up to worship at Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, but to bring their offerings to the shrines he had erected.

Thus he became distinguished as the man "who made Israel to sin." This policy was followed by all the succeeding kings of Israel.

According to 1 Kings 13:1-6, 13:9, while Jeroboam was engaged in offering incense at Bethel, a "man of God" warned him that "a son named Josiah will be born to the house of David" who would destroy the altar (referring to King Josiah of Judah who would rule approximately three hundred years later). Attempting to arrest the prophet for his bold words of defiance, Jeroboam's hand was "dried up," and the altar before which he stood was rent asunder. At his urgent entreaty his "hand was restored him again" (1 Kings 13:1-6, 13:9; compare 2 Kings 23:15); but the miracle made no abiding impression on him. This prophet was Iddo.

War with Judah

The United Kingdom of Solomon breaks up, with Jeroboam ruling over the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in green on the map).

He was in constant "war with the house of Judah". While the southern kingdom made no serious effort to militarily regain power over the north, there was a long-lasting boundary dispute, fighting over which lasted during the reigns of several kings on both sides before being finally settled.

In the eighteenth year of Jeroboam's reign, Abijah, Rehoboam's son, became king of Judah.[7] During his short reign of three years, Abijah went to considerable lengths to bring the Kingdom of Israel back under his control. He waged a major battle against Jeroboam in the mountains of Ephraim. Abijah had a force of 400,000 while Jeroboam had 800,000.[8] Abijah addressed the armies of Israel, urging them to submit and to let the Kingdom of Israel be whole again,[9] but his plea fell on deaf ears. Abijah then rallied his own troops with a phrase which has since become famous: "Jehovah (God) himself is with us for a captain (commander of the army)." His elite warriors fended off a pincer movement to rout Jeroboam's troops - killing 500,000 of them.[10]

Jeroboam was crippled by this severe defeat to Abijah and posed little threat to the Kingdom of Judah for the rest of his reign.[11] He also lost the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages.[12] Bethel was an important centre for Jeroboam's Golden Calf cult (which used non-Levites as priests),[13] located on Israel's southern border, which had been allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua, as was Ephron, which is believed to be the Ophrah that was allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua.[14]

Jeroboam died soon after Abijam.

Commentary on sources

In assessing the career of Jeroboam, historians need to exercise caution due to the fact that the sole source of information about him is manifestly and outspokenly hostile, regarding his lifework as a wicked sin.

The account of Jeroboam's life - like that of all his successors - ends with the formula "And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (1 Kings 14, 19).

"The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel", likely compiled by or derived from these kings' own scribes, is likely the source for the basic facts of Jeroboam's life and reign - though the compiler(s) of the extant Book of Kings clearly made selective use of it and added hostile commentaries.

The prophecies of doom concerning the fall of both the House of Jeroboam and the northern kingdom as a whole ("For the Lord shall smite Israel..., and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river") might have been composed retroactively, after the events described had already come to pass (this position necessitates a secular or non-literal approach to scripture).

Some historians[who?] have expressed the view that the reference to the Golden Calf narrated in an earlier part of the Bible could be related to a propaganda war by between the southern and northern kingdom evident in the account of Jeroboam's life, the act of destroying the Golden Calf being attributed to the hallowed Moses in order to give create credence to the sinful nature - in the eyes of the southern kingdom - of worshiping such a representation of the deity.

See also


  1. "Study dictionary: Jeroboam". NeXtBible Learning Environment.  Source of transliterations and explanation of significance.
  2. Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 082543825X, 9780825438257
  3. 1 Kings 14:1
  4. 1 Kings 11:28
  5. 1 Kings 11:40
  6. 1 Kings 12:1-20
  7. 2 Chronicles 13:1
  8. 2 Chronicles 13:3
  9. 2 Chronicles 13:4-12
  10. 2 Chronicles 13:17
  11. 2 Chronicles 13:20
  12. 2 Chronicles 13:19
  13. 1 Kings 12:25-33
  14. Joshua 18:20-28, esp 23
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Solomon, Rehoboam
King of Israel
931 BC – 910 BC
Succeeded by