Jeroboam (Sept., `ieroboam), name of two Israelitish kings.
(I) JEROBOAM I was the first ruler of the Northern Kingdom after the schism of the Ten Tribes. He was a son of Nabat an Ephraimite, and his mother’s name was Sarua. While still a young man he was placed by King Solomon over the tributes of Ephraim and Manasses (III Kings, xi, 28). In that capacity he superintended the labors of his tribesmen in the building of the fortress Mello in Jerusalem and of other public works, and he naturally became conversant with the widespread discontent caused by the extravagances which marked the reign of Solomon. Before the end of the latter’s reign, Jeroboam received from the Prophet Ahias an intimation that he was destined to be king over ten of the tribes which in punishment of the idolatry of Solomon were about to sever their allegiance to him and his house. At the same time it was promised that if Jeroboam were faithful to the Lord, his house would be confirmed in authority over Israel (III Kings, xi, 38). Not satisfied to await the death of the king, the time set by the prophet for the fulfillment of the promise, Jeroboam instigated a revolt which was unsuccessful, and he was obliged to flee, taking refuge with King Sesac in Egypt where he remained until the death of Solomon in 975 B.C. (or 938 according to the Assyrian chronology). After this event he returned to Palestine, and he was made leader of the delegation sent by the dissatisfied element of the population to ask the new king Roboam to lighten the burdens which his father had placed upon them. No sooner had Roboam imprudently and harshly rejected their petition than ten of the tribes withdrew their allegiance to the house of David and proclaimed Jeroboam their king, only the tribes of Juda and Benjamin remaining faithful to Roboam. Jeroboam established his headquarters at Sichem, and soon added to the political also a religious schism. Fearing lest the pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem prescribed by the Law might be an occasion for the people of the Northern Kingdom to go back to their old allegiance, he determined to provide for them places of worship within their own boundaries, and for this purpose he set up two golden calves to be worshipped, one in Bethel and the other in Dan. He also built temples in the high places and had them served by priests drawn from the lowest of the people (III Kings, xii). The prophet Ahias announced the Divine vengeance that was to come upon the house of Jeroboam because of these evil deeds (III Kings, xiv), and in the sequel of Israelitish history the worst doings of the kings are always referred to as like unto the wickedness of Jeroboam, the son of Nabat, who caused Israel to sin. He died in 954 (or in 917) after a reign of twenty-two years.
(2) JEROBOAM II was the twelfth successor of the preceding, and the fourth king of the dynasty of Jehu. He succeeded his father Joas in 824 (or 783) and reigned forty-one years. In 802 Rammanirar III, King of Assyria, undertook a campaign into the “West lands”, and the Kingdom of Israel (Land of Amri), together with Syria and Phoenicia, was placed under a heavy tribute. Jeroboam, however taking advantage of the weakened condition of Syria, reestablished toward the north and in other directions the ancient boundaries of Israel (IV Kings, xiv, 25). The military and patriotic successes of Jeroboam had been foretold by Jonas, son of Amathi (ibid.), and the Sacred Writer adds that the Lord saved the Israelites by the hand of Jeroboam, son of Joas. From the political standpoint, Jeroboam was an intelligent and energetic ruler, but with regard to his religious activities, his reign is resumed in these words: “He did that which was evil before the Lord. He departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam, son of Nabat who made Israel to sin” (IV Kings, xiv, 24). Evidences of the religious decay during his otherwise prosperous reign are found in the writings of the prophets Amos and Osee, his contemporaries, who frequently inveigh against Idolatry and its many concomitant evils and moral degradation. Jeroboam II died in 783 (or 743).
JAMES F. DRISCOLL