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February 28, 2010
Jeroboam’s Barren Battle
Jeroboam, a highly
gifted young Ephraimite, comes to the notice of Solomon early in his reign (1 Kings 11:28;1 Kings
9:15,24). Solomon made him overseer of the fortifications
and public work at Jerusalem, and placed him over the levy from
the “house of Joseph.” The “house of Joseph” may stand
for the whole of the ten tribes (Amos 5:6; 6:6; Obadiah 1:18).
It was an important position; however, Jeroboam used it to plot
against the king. No doubt he had the support of many of the
people. Long standing animosity (2 Samuel 19:40 ff)
was worsened when Israelite interests were made subservient to
Judah and to the king, and enforced labor with burdensome
taxation filled the people with bitterness and jealousy.
Jeroboam gives voice to the suffering of the people (His name
means, “pleads the people’s cause”).
In addition, he had the message of the prophet Ahijah, 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
roused by the words of Ahijah, “and being a young man of warm
temper, and ambitious of greatness, he could not be quiet.”
For the time, his plans failed, and Jeroboam fled to Egypt where
he was received by Shishak, the Pharaoh who was successor to the
father-in-law of Solomon.
As soon as Jeroboam heard that Solomon was dead, he returned from Egypt
and took up his residence in his native town, Zeredah, in the
hill country of Ephraim. The northern tribes now turned to the
leader, Jeroboam. He was sent for and raised to the throne by
the choice and approval of the popular assembly, and of course
by God, as foretold through Ahiajah.
Despite the success of the revolution politically, Jeroboam feared for the
permanency of his kingdom. He dreaded a reaction in favor of the
house of David if the people should make repeated religious
journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple of God. Jeroboam now made
“two calves of gold” as symbols of the strength and power of
“the gods who brought you out of Egypt,” and set them up in
sanctuaries at Beth-el and Dan, where altars and other sacred
objects already existed.
Jeroboam had been given the chance to serve God. God had promised to bless
him if he did, but Jeroboam chose the wrong path. God sent words
through his prophets. The words for Jeroboam were not promising.
At one point, because of his son’s illness, Jeroboam sent for
the prophet Ahijah, but was told that the house of Jeroboam
would be cut off and that the people who had followed him to
idolatry would also be uprooted from the land and taken as
captives. The worst part of the message was that the son would
Lessons for You and
Man’s way is not the right way. Jeroboam, from early in life, was
zealous to do well for himself and his family. He was determined
to “make it” and “do it his way.” There was one problem,
in doing things his way, he left out God’s way. He decided to
gain power through his own fortifications, through his own
system of religion, and through his own popularity. His battle
to be “on top” was a barren and fruitless battle because he
ended up, in essence, fighting against God and His plan. His
heart was certainly not like that of another we read of who
fought against God — the apostle Paul; Acts 26:14,15.
How is our heart? Do we want to do things “our way” or
We can make bad matters worse. Jeroboam made bad matters worse.
Many of the priests still in the land were opposed to his image-worship (2 Chronicles 11:13).
Jeroboam realized he was losing some
of his strength in this way, so, he found it necessary to
institute a new, non-Levitical priesthood (1 Kings 13:33).
A new and popular festival on the model of the feasts at
Jerusalem was also established. 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” (1 Kings
12:30; 16:26). When we realize that we are in error, do we
try to turn to the right path or do we compound the error by
Take the “good” opportunity. Jeroboam had been given the chance
to serve God. God had promised to bless him if he did, but
Jeroboam chose the wrong path. We all have the opportunity to
serve God and obey His will. God doesn’t want anyone to
perish, and he gives us fair warning of the consequences of
disobedience. The plan for salvation is God’s plan. It is up
to us to respond to it.
Remember God in all circumstances. Jeroboam only thought of God when
times were hard, or he wanted something for himself. When
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. While it is true that God cares for us
and wants us to think of Him when times are difficult, it is
also true that God expects us to think of Him always. We can’t
live life as we please and then think God approves even though
our lives don’t reflect His ways.
— S. Scott Richardson Sr.