Two kings of Israel whose reigns were separated by some 130 years.
1. First king of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel; the son of Nebat, one of Solomon’s officers in the village of Zeredah; of the tribe of Ephraim. Apparently at an early age Jeroboam was left fatherless, to be raised by his widowed mother Zeruah.—1Ki 11:26.
When Solomon observed that Jeroboam was not only a valiant, mighty man but also a hard worker, he put him in charge of the compulsory labor force of the house of Joseph. (1Ki 11:28) Subsequently, Jeroboam was approached by God’s prophet Ahijah with startling news. After tearing his own new garment into 12 pieces, the prophet told Jeroboam to take ten of them in symbol of how Jehovah would rip Solomon’s kingdom in two and make Jeroboam king over ten of the tribes. This, however, was to be merely a governmental division and not also a departure from true worship as centered at the temple in Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom. So Jehovah assured Jeroboam that he would bless and prosper his reign and build him a lasting house of successors provided he kept God’s laws and commandments.—1Ki 11:29-38.
Possibly it was upon learning of these events that Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam. However, Jeroboam fled to Egypt, and there under the sheltering protection of Pharaoh Shishak he remained until the death of Solomon.—1Ki 11:40.
The news of Solomon’s death in about 998 B.C.E. brought Jeroboam quickly back to his homeland, where he joined his people in demanding that Solomon’s son Rehoboam lighten their burdens if he wanted their support of his new kingship. Rehoboam, however, disregarded the good advice of the older counselors in preference to that of younger men his own age who told him to increase the workload of the people. The ten tribes responded to this harshness by making Jeroboam their king. In reality, this “turn of affairs took place at the instance of Jehovah, in order that he might indeed carry out his word that Jehovah had spoken by means of Ahijah.”—1Ki 12:1-20; 2Ch 10:1-19.
The newly installed king Jeroboam immediately set about building up Shechem as his royal capital, and E of Shechem, on the other side of the Jordan, he fortified the settlement of Penuel (Peniel), the place where Jacob had wrestled with an angel. (1Ki 12:25; Ge 32:30, 31) Seeing his subjects streaming up to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam envisioned that in time they might switch their allegiance to Rehoboam and then they would kill him. So he decided to put a stop to this by establishing a religion centered around two golden calves, which he set up, one at Bethel in the south, the other at Dan in the north. He also set up his own non-Aaronic priesthood, composed of those among the people in general who were willing to procure the office by offering one bull and seven rams. These then served “for the high places and for the goat-shaped demons and for the calves that he had made.” Jeroboam also invented special ‘holy days’ and personally led the people in sacrificing to his newly created gods.—1Ki 12:26-33; 2Ki 23:15; 2Ch 11:13-17; 13:9.
On one such occasion when Jeroboam was about to offer up sacrificial smoke on his altar at Bethel, Jehovah’s spirit caused a certain man of God to reprove the king for his detestable idolatry, and when the king ordered this servant of God seized, the altar split open, spilling its ashes, and the king’s hand dried up. Not until the man of God softened Jehovah’s anger was the hand restored, but even after that Jeroboam continued in his blasphemous defiance of Jehovah. (1Ki 13:1-6, 33, 34) His introducing calf worship constituted “the sins of Jeroboam,” sins of which other Israelite kings became guilty by perpetuating this apostate worship.—1Ki 14:16; 15:30, 34; 16:2, 19, 26, 31; 22:52; 2Ki 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 6, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:21-23.
In the 18th year of Jeroboam’s reign Rehoboam died, but the warring that had gone on between the two nations continued during the three-year reign of Rehoboam’s son Abijam (Abijah), who succeeded him. (1Ki 15:1, 2, 6; 2Ch 12:15) On one occasion Abijah assembled 400,000 to battle against Jeroboam’s forces twice the size. Despite Jeroboam’s superior force and his clever ambush strategy, he was badly beaten. He lost 500,000 men and many of his Ephraimite towns and was greatly humiliated. Judah’s victory was because Abijah and his men trusted in Jehovah and cried to him for help.—2Ch 13:3-20.
To add to Jeroboam’s calamity, his son Abijah fell deathly sick, whereupon the king had his wife disguise herself, and then he sent her with a gift to the old prophet Ahijah, now blind, to inquire whether the child would recover. The answer was ‘No.’ Additionally the prediction was made that every male heir of Jeroboam would be cut off, and with the exception of this son, in whom Jehovah found something good, none of Jeroboam’s offspring would have a decent burial, but, instead, their carcasses would be eaten either by the dogs or by fowl.—1Ki 14:1-18.
Shortly thereafter, in about 977 B.C.E., “Jehovah dealt [Jeroboam] a blow, so that he died,” bringing to an end his 22-year reign. (2Ch 13:20; 1Ki 14:20) His son Nadab succeeded him to the throne for two years before being killed by Baasha, who also cut off every breathing thing of Jeroboam’s house. In this way his dynasty was abruptly terminated “according to Jehovah’s word,” and “on account of the sins of Jeroboam.”—1Ki 15:25-30.
2. King of Israel; son and successor of Jehoash, and great-grandson of Jehu. As the 14th ruler of the northern kingdom Jeroboam II reigned for 41 years, starting in about 844 B.C.E. (2Ki 14:16, 23) Like so many of his predecessors he did what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes by perpetuating the calf worship of Jeroboam I.—2Ki 14:24.
Notice is taken of a special genealogical registration, evidently made during the reign of Jeroboam II. (1Ch 5:17) However, the outstanding achievement of his reign was the restoration of land that had earlier been lost by the kingdom. In fulfillment of Jonah’s prophecy, Jeroboam “restored the boundary of Israel from the entering in of Hamath clear to the sea of the Arabah [Dead Sea].” He is also credited with restoring “Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel.” (2Ki 14:25-28) This may mean that Jeroboam made the kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath tributary, as they had once been to Judah during the reign of Solomon.—Compare 1Ki 4:21; 2Ch 8:4.
In the wake of these successes doubtless came a wave of material prosperity for the northern kingdom. But at the same time the nation continued in its spiritual decline. The prophets Hosea and Amos had some harsh criticism to offer rebellious Jeroboam and his supporters for their outright apostasy, as well as their immoral conduct—fraud, thievery, fornication, murder, oppression, idolatry, and other God-dishonoring practices. (Ho 1:2, 4; 4:1, 2, 12-17; 5:1-7; 6:10; Am 2:6-8; 3:9, 12-15; 4:1) Particularly pointed was Jehovah’s warning to Jeroboam by the mouth of his prophet Amos: “I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with a sword.”—Am 7:9.
After Jeroboam’s death, his son Zechariah ascended the throne. (2Ki 14:29) However, there was a gap of 11 years between Jeroboam’s death and the six-month rule credited to Zechariah, the last of Jehu’s dynasty. Possibly because Zechariah was very young or for some other reason, his kingship was not fully established or confirmed as his until about 792 B.C.E.