(jehr oh boh' am) Personal name possibly meaning, “he who contends for justice for the people” or “may the people multiply.” 1. First king of the Northern Kingdom Israel about 926-909 B.C. Jeroboam had an interesting rise to power. He managed the laborers Solomon had conscripted for his huge building projects (1 Kings 11:28). During Solomon's reign Ahijah, a prophet from Shiloh, confronted Jeroboam, tore his own coat into twelve pieces, and gave ten of them to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29-39). Ahijah interpreted this as God's pledge that Jeroboam would become king over ten of the twelve tribes. Upon Solomon's death, Jeroboam learned that the tribes would assemble at Shechem to make Solomon's son Rehoboam their king. Seizing upon the people's resentment toward Solomon's high-handed policies, Jeroboam led the ten tribes to revolt against the house of David. They then crowned Jeroboam king.
The inspired biblical writers did not consider Jeroboam a good king. Rather he became the example of evil kings in Israel because he built temples in Dan and Bethel with golden calves representing God's presence. What appeared to be good politics diverted people from worshiping at Jerusalem, God's chosen place. All the following northern kings suffered the biblical writers' condemnation because they walked in the ways of Jeroboam, encouraging worship at Dan and Bethel (see for example
1 Kings 15:26,1 Kings 15:34;
1 Kings 16:19,1 Kings 16:31). Jeroboam also instituted new worship practices at his temples (1 Kings 12:25-33), intentionally making Israelite worship different from that in Jerusalem, though claiming to worship the same God with the same worship traditions. Prophetic warnings failed to move Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:1-14:20).
2. Powerful king of Israel in the dynasty of Jehu about 793-753 B.C. (2 Kings 14:23-29). He managed to restore prosperity and territory to a weak nation but continued the religious practices of Jeroboam I and thus met condemnation from the biblical writers. Jonah, Amos, and Hosea prophesied during his reign. Jeroboam basically restored the boundaries of David's empire, reaching even into Syria.
M. Stephen Davis