Fausset's Bible Dictionary


("whose people is many".) "Rehoboam," ("enlarger of the people"), is much the same. Both names appear first in Solomon's time, when Israel's numbers were vastly increased.

1. Founder of the northern kingdom of Israel. Son of Nebat and Zeruah of Zereda or Zarthan in the Jordan valley (1Ki 7:46); of Ephraim (so "Ephrathite" means, 1Ki 11:26; 1Sa 1:1). His mother is called a "widow woman." When Solomon was building Millo, and was closing the gap (not "the breaches," for no hostile attack had been made since David had fortified the city, 2Sa 5:9), long afterwards called Tyropreon, separating Zion from Moriah and Ophel, so as to bring the temple mount within the city wall, and so complete the fortification of the city of David, he found Jeroboam able and energetic in "doing the work" (margin, 1Ki 11:28), so he made him overseer over all "the hoary work" of the house of Joseph. In this post Jereboam attempted a rebellion, the Ephraimites being impatient because of the heavy taxes and works imposed, and so having their old jealousy of Judah awakened afresh.

Events moved on, in God's providence, steadily toward the appointed end: Jeroboam of Ephraim over an army of Ephraimite work. men, employed for 20 years in works for the glory of Judah, and for palaces and idol temples (besides Jehovah's temple transferred from Shiloh in northern Israel to Judah's capital), all for a prince no longer of their own line. Naturally, Jeroboam became their king, and they wreaked their vengeance on Adoniram the collector in chief of taxes for those hated works. Solomon suppressed the rebellion, and Jeroboam fled to Egypt. Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh had previously met Jeroboam by the way, and drawn him aside into the field, and in Jehovah's name intimated that Jeroboam should have ten tribes, and the house of David one, for the apostasy of Solomon and the people, vividly symbolizing the fact as already accomplished in God's counsel by tearing His new (answering to the youthful vigour of the kingdom) four grainered garment into twelve pieces, and giving him ten.

As two, not merely one, remained, the numbers are symbolical not arithmetical, ten expressing completeness and totality (1Ki 12:20), "they made Jeroboam king over all Israel." (See ISRAEL.) Ahijah's words, "thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth," imply Jeroboam already in heart aspired to the throne before his overt rebellion. God gave no promise of permanence to Jeroboam as He did to the house of David, simply "if thou wilt walk in My ways I will build thee a sure house." Jeroboam fulfilled not the condition, and so his house was extirpated at his son's death (1Ki 15:25-31). David's seed was to be afflicted, but "not for ever." The tribes shall be united again in Messiah the Son of David (Eze 37:16-22). Ahijah's prophecy did not justify Jeroboam's attempt. Samuel anointed David in Saul's reign; yet David, even when God had put Saul his deadly foe in his power, would not lay violent hands on the Lord's anointed, but waited patiently God's way and time for raising him to the throne.

God had expressly said, "I will make Solomon prince all the days of his life"; so that Jeroboam had no pretext from Ahijah for rebellion, and Solomon would have justly slain him had he not escaped to Shishak or Sheshonk of Egypt. Sheshonk having dethroned the Pharaoh whose daughter Solomon had married, had naturally espoused Jeroboam's cause. At Solomon's death the Israelites called Jeroboam out of Egypt, for they had been longing for a less theocratic and more worldly kingdom, impatient already of submission to the royal house appointed by Jehovah (2 Samuel 20). Israel, having the right of making king whomsoever God chose (2Sa 2:4; 2Sa 5:3; 1Ch 29:22), assembled to Shechem (Nablus now) for that purpose, the ancient place of national assembly in Ephraim (Jos 24:1), and more suited than Jerusalem to their design of transferring the government to Jeroboam. Jeroboam, having formerly superintended Ephraim in the works of Solomon at Jerusalem in building Mille and repairing the city of David (1Ki 11:27), could readily suggest calumnies from his own professed experience.

Jeroboam as their spokesman, begged of Rehoboam a reduction of their tribute and heavy service, due no doubt to Solomon's maintaining such splendour and erecting magnificent buildings. They forgot the blessings of his reign, the peace, wealth, and trade which they enjoyed. Rehoboam, following the young men's counsel rather than the old and experienced counselors of his father (Pro 27:10), answered harshly (1Ki 15:1): "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins .... my father chastised you with whips, but I ... with scorpions," i.e. scourges with barbed points like a scorpion's sting. Had he "served them," they would have been "his servants for ever." By acting the tyrant he precipitated the secession. Adopting the watchword of Sheba's rebellion they cried "what portion have we in David? to your tents, O Israel; now see to thine own house (to Judah, of which David's representative was head), David."

Then they "made Jeroboam king over all Israel." His first care was to fortify (so "build" means, for the two cities existed long before) Shechem his first residence (Tirzah was his subsequent abode, 1Ki 14:17). (It was to Shechem Rehoboam had hastened to meet Israel, to secure Ephraim's allegiance, as he knew he was sure of Judah's allegiance; Shechem had been burnt down by Abimelech). Also Penuel, to secure Gilead against enemies from the E. and N.E. Next, adopting carnal policy instead of God's will, which assured him the kingdom on condition of obedience, and which designs ultimately to reunite Israel to Judah after Judah's temporary chastisement for sin, he set up two golden calves, one at Dan the other at Bethel, to obviate the apprehended return of Israel to Rehoboam through going up to the great feasts at Jerusalem.  He thus violated God's command that there should be only one altar, namely, that at Jerusalem; still worse, he violated the second commandment by worshipping Jehovah, who is a spirit, under the form of images somewhat like the two cherubim.

Rome compared the Protestant reformation to Jeroboam's secession; but it is she who breaks the unity of the faith by representing the one God underimages, in violation of the second commandment; paving the way to violating the first, as Jeroboam's sin prepared the way for Baal worship. Borrowing Aaron's words concerning his calf, Jeroboam insinuated that his calf worship was no new religion, but a revival of their fathers' primitive one in the desert, sanctioned by the first high priest: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of Egypt" (Exo 32:4; Exo 32:8). The places were hallowed by ancient tradition: Bethel on the S. of his kingdom, the scene of Jehovah's revelation to the patriarch Jacob (Gen 28:11; Gen 28:19; Gen 35:7); and Dan, at the sources of the Jordan (now Tell el Kadi) in the far N., consecrated by the Danites' image worship, at which Moses' descendant  officiated; so that no part of his kingdom was beyond easy reach of one or other of the two sanctuaries.

(But Condor presents various reasons for supposing, with the older writers except Josephus, that Dan and Bethel were two heights W. and S. of Shechem: Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, Jan. 1878. ) He made priests of the people indiscriminately, not of Levi; any who "came to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams" (2Ch 13:9). Thus one sin entailed many others, and brought its own punishment; for the Levites, refusing to be priests of the calves, and the godly were alienated from him, and most emigrated to Judah (2Ch 11:13-14; 2Ch 11:16), strengthening Rehoboam. Jeroboam transferred the feast of tabernacles from the legal seventh to the eighth month ("the month which he had devised of his own heart," 1Ki 11:33; see Col 2:23, "will worship"), his pretext being the later ripening of the vintage in the N. than in the S., but his real reason being to separate Israel from Judah religiously, the legal 15th day being still retained.

While Jeroboam stood in person to burn incense, or rather to burn the sacrificial portions of the flesh, upon the altar of Bethel, usurping the priest's office, a man of God out of Judah, impelled by (1Ki 13:2; Hebrew in; Hag 1:13) the word of Jehovah, Iddo according to Josephus (Ant. 8:8, section 5), cried against the altar: "behold, a child born unto the house of David, Josiah, upon thee shall offer the priests of the high places that burn incense (burn sacrifices) upon thee (retribution in kind), and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee," to defile thee. He gave also a sign of the future fulfillment of his prophecy; "the altar shall be rent, and the ashes ... poured out" (implying the altar's destruction and the desecration of the sacrificial service). Josiah's name, as Cyrus', in Isa 44:28; Isa 45:1, is specified as a concrete description of what God would do by him ("he whom Jehovah will support"), to execute His judgment on Bethel and its priests: fulfilled 2Ki 23:15-20. Jeroboam attempting to seize the prophet had his hand dried up, and was only restored upon the prophet's intercession.

Failing by violence, Jeroboam tried to win the prophet by favors; asking him home to refresh himself with food and offering him a present. This only elicited a stronger rejection of him on the part of God. Not for half his house would the prophet go in with him, or eat or drink in the place, or return by the way he came. God would have His people to hold no communion with the apostates of Bethel, or to have any renewed communication with any on the way, which might ensue from meeting the same persons on the same road again. Contrast Balaam's tempting God (through desire of reward) by asking again, as if God would change His once for all declared will (Numbers 22-24; 1Pe 5:2). An old prophet at Bethel, where, Lot like, he dwelt, risking the corrupting influences of bad association (1Co 15:33; 2Co 6:14-18), jealous that any should be faithful where he himself was not, and desiring to drag down the man of God to his own low level (Psa 62:4), overtook him, and by a lie, saying "an angel of God spoke unto me, Bring him back that he may eat," overcame his constancy. He ought to have remembered God cannot contradict Himself (Num 23:19; Gal 1:8-9).

The prophet, the instrument of his sin (according to God's righteous law: Pro 1:31; Jer 2:19), became the instrument of his punishment; his tempter became his accuser: "forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of Jehovah ... thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers." So a lion slew him, yet ate not his body, nor tore the ass, but stood passively, an emblem of mercy amidst judgment; also to mark it was no mere chance, but the visitation of Jehovah, a warning to Bethel; "if judgment begin (thus immediately) at the house of God, what shall the end be of them that obey not ... God; and if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" (1Pe 4:17-18). God chastises His children immediately, so that they may not be condemned with the world; He is slower in punishing the worldly, that His longsuffering may lead them to repentance (1Co 11:30; 1Co 11:32; Rom 2:4).

The worldly prophet showed much sentimentality at his death, laying his carcass in his own grave, and exclaiming "Alas! my brother." Balaam like (Num 23:10), desiring at death to lie with the man of God, he utters no self reproach, though having caused his death. Jeroboam unwarned by his visitation "returned not from his evil way," "ordaining whosoever would (1Ki 13:33-34; 2Ch 11:15) priests, for the high places, the devils, and the calves" (the gods worshipped in these houses in the high places being called "demons" or devils (literally, goats, from the Egyptian goat-shaped god Mendes or Pan) from their nature, and calves from their form; Lev 17:7, "evil spirits of the desert" (Speaker's Commentary, seiriym; 1Co 10:20-21). So it "became sin unto his house, to cut it off."  on the death of the former, Jeroboam's son, and the prophecy of the latter against Jeroboam).

Rehoboam's son Abijah defeated Jeroboam, and gained for a time Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephraim. "Because the children of Judah relied upon the Lord God of their fathers," "God delivered (2 Chronicles 13) the Israelites into their hand." Jeroboam never recovered strength again; and the Lord struck him (by a special visitation, 1Sa 25:38), and he died after a 22 years' reign, and "slept with his fathers," i.e. was buried in his ancestral tomb. Nadab, or Nebat from his grandfather's name, succeeded. Jeroboam's master stroke of policy recoiled on himself. The brand rests eternally on him that he "sinned and made Israel to sin." Rejecting Jehovah's will, he was no longer king by the will of God, but a successful usurper, whose example others followed. The son whose throne Jeroboam was at such pains to secure permanently fell with all Jeroboam's house before Baasha.

2. Jeroboam II, Joash's son, fourth of Jehu's dynasty. In Jehoahaz' reign Jehovah gave Israel promise of a "saviour" from Syria who "had made Israel like the dust by threshing" (2Ki 13:4-5). Jeroboam was that saviour, fulfilling the further prophecy of Jonah that Jeroboam should "restore the coast of Israel from the entering in of Hamath unto the sea of the plain" (2Ki 14:23-29). Jeroboam took Syria's capital, Damascus (Amo 1:3-5; Amo 6:14; where Amos warns Israel not to exult in having just taken Hamath, for that shall be the foe's starting point to afflict you: contrast 1Ki 8:65), and Hamath, and restored the tribes E. of Jordan (1Ch 5:17-22; 2Ki 13:5). Assyria's depression from 800 to 750 B.C., according to their inscriptions, harmonizes with Scripture that then Jeroboam II. in Israel, and Uzziah in Judah, were able to enlarge their borders. The long period of prosperity thus given was a respite which should have led Israel to repentance.

When they repented not, speedy and final judgment followed. The calf worship, as an engine of state policy, still remained at Bethel. The priest there, Amaziah, alleged before Jeroboam (Amo 7:9-13), "Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel," exaggerating Amos' prophecy, "I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword," as if he had said, "Jeroboam shall die by the sword."  Jeroboam seems not to have heeded Amaziah through awe of Jehovah's prophet. In all ages the ungodly have accused witnesses against the national sin as guilty of treason: as Elijah and Jeremiah 1Ki 18:17; Jer 37:13-14; Joh 19:12 the Antitype, Joh 11:48-50 political expediency being the plea for persecution; Act 17:6-7; Act 24:5, Paul. After reigning 41 years he was buried in state and entombed with the kings of Israel. Amaziah's expression, "the land is not able to bear all Amos' words," implies a critical state of the country, which eventuated in actual anarchy for some time after Jeroboam's death.


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)