Even clear warnings are had to obey. The Bible is filled with stories of people who had direction from God and yet chose their own way. Their disobedience was rarely due to ignorance of what God wanted; rather, it grew out of stubborn selfishness. Jeroboam was a consistent example of this all-too-human trait.
During his construction activities, Solomon noticed young Jeroboam’s natural leadership skills and made him a special project foreman. Shortly after this, God contacted Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah. He told Jeroboam that God would punish David’s dynasty by tearing the kingdom from Solomon’s son and that Jeroboam would rule the ten northern tribes. And God made it clear that the same fate would destroy Jeroboam’s family if they refused to obey God. Apparently Solomon heard about these events and tried to have Jeroboam killed. The future king escaped to Egypt, where he stayed until Solomon died.
When Rehoboam, Solomon’s heir, took the throne, Jeroboam returned. He represented the people in demanding that the new king be more lenient than his father. Rehoboam’s unwise choice to reject his people’s request led to their rejecting him as king. Only Judah and the annexed tribe of Benjamin remained loyal to David’s dynasty. The other ten tribes made Jeroboam king.
Rather than seeing this fulfilment of God’s promise as motivation to obey God, Jeroboam decided to do whatever he could to secure his position. He led his kingdom away from the God who had allowed him to reign. God had already warned him of the consequences of his action – – his family was eventually wiped out. And Jeroboam set into motion events that would lead to the destruction of the northern kingdom.
Sin’s consequences are guaranteed in God’s word, but the timing of those consequences is hard to predict. When we do something directly opposed to God’s commands and there isn’t immediate disaster, we are often fooled into believing we have got away with disobedience. But that is a dangerous assumption. Jeroboam’s life should make us recognise our frequent need to admit our disobedience and ask God to forgive us.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- An effective leader and organiser
- First king of the ten tribes of Israel in the divided kingdom
- A charismatic leader with much popular support
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Erected idols in Israel to keep people away from the temple in Jerusalem
- Appointed priests from outside the tribe of Levi
- Depended more on his own cunning than on God’s promises
Lessons from his life:
- Great opportunities are often destroyed by small decisions
- Careless efforts to correct another’s errors often lead to the same errors
- Mistakes always occur when we attempt to take over God’s role in a situation
- Where: The northern kingdom of Israel
- Occupations: Project foreman, king of Isreal
- Relatives: Father: Nebat. Mother: Zeruah. Sons: Abijah, Nadab
- Contemporaries: Solomon, Nathan, Ahijah, Rehoboam
Key verses: “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth” (1 Kings 13:33, 34).
Jeroboam’s story is told in 1 Kings 11:26-14:20. He is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles 10-13.