Jeroboam I, son of Nebat

Jeroboam was an Ephraimite who led the revolt against Rehoboam. As a young man, Jeroboam's industrious character caught the eye of Solomon. He became a trusted servant who was placed in charge of Solomon's northern labor force. Due to Solomon's wholesale endorsement of his foreign wives' idolatries, the LORD sent Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam with a prophesy of judgment. Ahijah tore the new garment upon him into twelve pieces: “And he said to Yarov`am, Take ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Yisra'el, Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Shlomo, and will give ten tribes to you...”

Upon discovery of this ominous event, Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam. He fled to the refuge of Egyptian king Shishak. After Solomon's death, Jeroboam returned from Egypt at the call of the northern tribes. They made him their king and Jeroboam led the revolt against Solomon's son Rehoboam, heir to the Judean throne. God promised Jeroboam a long dynasty (1Ki 11:38) if he would only walk in the righteous ways of David. Unfortunately for Israel, Jeroboam chose a different path.

Fearing a return of allegiance by the people to the house of David, Jeroboam had two golden calves fashioned and set up in Beth-el and Dan. He declared by quoting Aaron (Exo 32:4): “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

Jeroboam established the city of Shechem in Mount Ephraim as an alternate to Jerusalem. A non-Levitical priesthood was inaugurated to serve in the high places and facilitate worship of the golden calf. He instituted a non-Biblical feast to be celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. Jeroboam's deceptions worked because he made it convenient for the children of Israel to sin. By adopting his carefully crafted “replacement” theology, they could skip the thrice yearly journey to Jerusalem as was commanded in the Torah.

Once when Jeroboam stood at the idolatrous altar in Bethel (1Ki 13:1-6) to burn incense, a man of God from Judah appeared and spoke a prophesy of ultimate judgment upon his false practices and priests. Jeroboam put forth his hand to grab the man, but it was immediately smitten by God and withered to a stump. The idol altar was miraculously overturned as a confirmatory sign that a future king of Judah would be born named Josiah, a righteous king who would carry out the decreed judgment (the prophecy was fulfilled indeed, three centuries hence - 2Ki 23:15). Jeroboam begged the prophet for the restoration of his hand, but despite God's mercy in restoring it, he proceeded to ignore the divine warning.

Sadly, the satanic masterstroke of his vain imagination doomed not only Jeroboam's own house, but all of Israel for the next two and a half centuries. Over every successive king of Israel the Scripture records a variation of this epitaph: “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he did not depart from the sins of Yarov`am the son of Nevat, with which he made Yisra'el to sin.”