OT Survey 113 Seminar 14 Jeroboam
Andrew Hodge 7th August 2006
Old Testament Survey OTE 113
Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago pp 185-206; 1 Kings 11-15; 2 Chronicles 10-11
Discuss the reasons for anointing Jeroboam:
See below for an expansion of this list:
(1) He was talented and ambitious - noted to be so by Solomon himself
(2) He was able to stand against Solomon and temporarily had to escape to Egypt for Solomon sought to kill him
(3) Good enough while in Egypt to be married to the Queen’s eldest sister
(4) He was a natural leader - the people of the North readily accepted him, wanting him to quickly return from Egypt when Rehoboam wanted to be made king over all Israel.
(5) He was willing to follow the religious inclination of most of the Northern tribes
(6) He was willing to go along with the prophecy given him from the LORD by Ahijah in 1 Kings 11
(7) He was summoned from Egypt by the ten tribes before Rehoboam had made a decision regarding tribute ie they made it a fait accompli.
Discuss the historical background of the Nation’s division:
The Golden Age under Solomon was only achieved at great personal cost to the average Israelite in terms of taxes and contributions of wealth and labour. This included absences of several months per year of breadwinners from their homes to provide manpower for Solomon’s large and innovative projects. A proper Temple - fair enough, but major palaces, idol worshipping high places, shrines and temples for wives and concubines, public and military buildings, ships and their trade, etc were more than those living in the supposed freedom of a republic were prepared to tolerate. With a change of King, the Israelites were looking forward to relief.
Under Solomon, military peace was almost complete apart from minor aggravations (Hadad the Edomite in the south 1 Kings 11:14-22); Rezon the son of Eliadah in the north (1 Kings 11:23-25); and Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26-40).
Jeroboam was the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite (or Bethlehemite) of Zereda (in Mount Ephraim) ie Jeroboam was of the proud and troublesome tribe of Ephraim which was not in the royal line of Judah.
Jeroboam’s talents were sufficient for Solomon to appoint him overseer of the forced labour requirement for the tribe of Ephraim (and Manasseh? 1 Kings 11:28). From the Ephraimite point of view, he must have done a good job of this, possibly by minimising the burden. However, he endeared himself to his tribe and they subsequently looked to him for leadership against Solomon’s successor Rehoboam.
Jeroboam left his duties in Jerusalem (v 29) on account of his opposition to Solomon over the issue of the building of Millo and repairing the “breaches” of Jerusalem (v 27). Spence-Jones comments: “We have elsewhere suggested that this was the breach in the line of circumvallation, caused by the Tyropæon valley, and that the Millo was the bank, or rampart which closed it.” In other words, Solomon was fortifying Jerusalem in Judah as his seat of rule (not unreasonably), possibly at the expense of the principal cities in other tribes, while at the same time using their labour to do so. Jeroboam perhaps unwisely but unable to prevent himself, “lifted up his hand against the king” (v 26), Solomon seeks to kill him (v 40, after the prophecy of Ahijah vv 29-38) and Jeroboam accepts the need to leave.
Historically this occurred 10 to 12 years before Solomon’s death. This indicates that Jeroboam was unable to accept Solomon’s leadership well before the time appointed for him to exercise his own, and that his fellow Ephraimites did not forget him while he was in self-imposed exile in Egypt. While in Egypt he is thought of sufficiently highly to be married to the Egyptian Queen’s (Tahpenes) eldest sister (Ano).
Jeroboam had probably focused himself on the overthrow of Solomon when he left Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:37). On his way out, alone in a field, a fellow Ephraimite, the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh, confirms from the LORD that the kingdom would be rent in two - 10 and 1 (2) tribes - on account of the idolatry of Solomon and the nation, and that God would give the ten to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29-39). God promises Jeroboam that He will give him all his heart desires if he will walk in God’s commandments as did David. He does not, he is struck down by God (2 Chronicles 13:20) and his family is obliterated by a usurper from Issachar, Baasha, who takes Israel from Jeroboam’s son, Nadab.
Ahijah reminds Jeroboam of some salient facts. God has decided that Jerusalem was to be His chosen place and not only would there not fail a Davidic king on the throne (1 Kings 11:36) but also Jerusalem was the place where God desired the Nation to worship Him. Although not given until later (1 Kings 14:7-11), God had also prophesied to Jeroboam, through Ahijah, that his family would be destroyed (1 Kings 15:29-30) and that the kingdom would be rent from him. God did not intend Jeroboam or any of the Northern tribes to be in the line of succession to Messiah.
Jeroboam is popularly voted in as king of the ten northern tribes ~930 BC and reigns to ~909 BC. The division of the nation into Northern and Southern tribal collections results in a renaming - Israel for the 10, Judah for the 2. Simeon, originally within Judah, has by this time moved northwards from the Negev to a place possibly near the eastern border of Ephraim with Manasseh, west of Jordan (and about 500 men and their families into Edom), therefore being naturally included in the North (1 Chronicles 4:31, 39-43).
Solomon’s son Rehoboam is a young blade who unwisely rejects the advice of his father’s counsellors and attempts to impose greater burdens on the Israelites than they suffered before. If he had accepted wise counsel, he would not only have retained the whole kingdom but also have had as great a rule as his father enjoyed (1 Kings 12:7). He again very foolishly attempted to impose further tribute by sending out Adoram who was in charge of this; Rehoboam should have realised that he was sending Adoram to his death - Israel stoned him (1 Kings 12:18).
When the ten northern tribes reject Rehoboam in Shechem (forcing him to flee back to Jerusalem) the cry goes up (1 Kings 12:16): “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. So Israel departed unto their tents.” Israel now sees itself as being separate from Judah and for the majority of the next 200 years there is either animosity or outright warfare between them.
Jeroboam’s sin was such that he ‘drave all Israel away from serving the Lord’ resulting very soon in the death of his own son (1 Kings 14:1-17) and ultimately in removal of the northern kingdom from the land (2 Kings 17:21-23). Along the way his large Northern Army was defeated by a small Southern Army under Rehoboam’s son Abijam, by the direct intervention of Jehovah, on account of the Northerners’ apostasy (2 Chronicles 13:1-20).
Explain the actions of Jeroboam to secure his position as king of the ten Northern tribes:
He fortifies Shechem in Ephraim as his capital, about 50 km north of Jerusalem.
Jeroboam’s perpetual claim to infamy was the erection of golden calves at either end of his kingdom - Dan in the north, Bethel in the south - for he was afraid that the religious inclination of some of the Northerners would be to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship, and even afraid for his life if they insisted on doing this (1 Kings 12:27). The significance of Bethel is its association with the worship of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; of Dan is the set-up of a previous alternative idolatrous altar for the convenience of the tribe of Dan that forced its way into the north to Laish (Judges 18).
Many of the Levites left the north to live in the south on account of this in any case, but for the average northerner, Jeroboam made it easy for worship by placing the calves nearer than Jerusalem. A few years after Jeroboam’s death, Baasha the third northern king, tried to physically stop pilgrimage to Jerusalem altogether by building Ramah (midway between Bethel and Jerusalem and presumably on a well-travelled road 1 Kings 15:17). He was foiled by the Judean king Asa.
An unanswered question is why Jeroboam decided on golden calves as his idols. He even says to his subjects: “Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (! Kings 12:28). It should have been obvious to any Israelite that the golden calves of the wilderness wanderings were the exact opposite of the God Who actually brought them out. Idol worship is forbidden by the second commandment. Perhaps the apostasy of the northerners was so great that they accepted a barefaced lie (similar to the Israelites in the wilderness influenced by Aaron Exodus 32:1-6), but if they were that fallen away from Jehovah, why did they not continue worshipping the local idols instead of manufacturing a new one just because there was a change of king?
Definitely something here that I do not understand. Various commentators come up with various options eg they were not really bulls or calves but platforms on which the invisible YHWH was supposed to stand (cf. W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity2, 1957, pp. 299–301); not particularly convincing, but supporting the concept that Jeroboam fused the worship of Jehovah with the local deities, influenced by his exposure to the idols of Egypt - a sin perhaps greater than rejecting YHWH altogether. Other commentators say they don’t know and at least this is an honest view.
In addition, the real Levites having left for Jerusalem, Jeroboam appointed all kinds of worthless men as priests, and appointed the North to celebrate a feast mimicking the solemn feast appointed by God for the Temple (the Feast of Tabernacles) a month after the real date - at Jeroboam’s pleasure (1 Kings 12:27-33).
Jeroboam himself - acting as priest (strictly prohibited under Mosaic Law) - sacrifices for this feast on an altar he built at Bethel. A man of God comes out of Judah, bringing the word of the LORD in condemnation; Jeroboam’s hand withers and is restored, the altar is split in two (13:2-6).
God utterly condemns Jeroboam’s actions because they are directly and publicly rebellious against Him; most of the subsequent kings of the north, whose policy is to act in the same way, are compared with the evil paradigm of this first king. Jeroboam “changed the centers of worship, the object of worship, the priesthood, and the time of worship.”
Illustrate and explain how rebellion toward God results in an accelerating slide into false religion:
Same today as in any other time: man is created to worship. If his Creator is seen as being personally irrelevant, then the focus of worship is turned elsewhere.
Seeing one’s Creator as being irrelevant is rebellion against the inbuilt conscience and the external evidence of general revelation. They have no excuse.
Worship of anyone or anything else than the God of the scriptures is ultimately not satisfying, therefore there is an accelerating increase in the search for alternatives resulting in many gods, or increasing aggressiveness in application to a chosen path eg ultimately resulting in self mutilation or human sacrifice (man being originally made in the image of God - there is no higher sacrifice).
Scripture abounds with religions like this. In today’s Westernised societies the world system requires sacrifice on the altar of money, influence, position, etc. In today’s ‘Easternised’ societies eg Islam, radical fundamentalism claims many lives, other religions shut minds away from appreciating obvious truths.
There is only one way out of this rapid downward spiral - the intervention of God Himself in salvation.
Counsel others to appreciate the dangers related to uncertain ethics and I should be able to teach how this causes unrighteous behaviour:
The Pulpit Commentary: 1 Kings, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, 236 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004).
 The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.
D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary, 556 (InterVarsity Press, 1996, c1982, c1962).
Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library, 687 (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001).