King Solomon saw Jeroboam was a good worker and a man of valor. He summoned him to Jerusalem to make him ruler over the house of Joseph. But Solomon wasn’t the only king interested in Jeroboam. After receiving his promotion from Solomon, the prophet Ahijah met him privately with a message from the king of kings. Solomon made him ruler over two tribes, but God will give him ten tribes. Ahijah left Jeroboam in possession of ten pieces of garment to remind him of God’s promise.
Jeroboam and Ahijah were the only ones present when he learned God would make him a king. Either Jeroboam boasted or Ahijah revealed his identity. When King Solomon learned the identity of his replacement he sought to thwart God’s will by killing Jeroboam. Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he remained to ponder the revelation he received from God until the death of Solomon nine years later.
Experience taught Jeroboam God keeps his word. After Solomon died, he returned home to lead the negotiations for better working conditions at Rehoboam’s coronation. Rehoboam promised to be a worse tyrant than his father. Ten tribes rejected him to make Jeroboam their king, and established a new capital in Tirzah.
Jeroboam was like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and then forgets what he looks like. He heard the word of God spoken by Ahijah but he did not do it. Jeroboam feared he would lose the loyalty of Israel and they would kill him if they continued worshipping God in Jerusalem. He consulted with the leaders who rejected Solomon. Solomon’s idolatry may have been a factor in the ten tribes’ willingness to abandon his dynasty. Instead of blatantly worshipping other gods Jeroboam and his counselors repeated Aaron’s folly. Aaron fashioned one gold calf. Jeroboam made two and repeated the same lie, “Behold your gods O Israel which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
Israel’s new king chose self-preservation through manipulation by creating a “Seeker Friendly” church. Give the people what they want, so they will do what the leaders want. Jeroboam and his counselors may have believed they were protecting their people from idolatry even as they led them into idolatry.
Few in Israel had access to the written word of God. They had the writings of Moses kept in the Ark of the Covenant too valuable for anyone but the priest to handle. God commanded the king to write a copy of the law and read it all of his life. It’s highly unlikely Jeroboam kept this command since he would be an unwelcome visitor in Judah. The public could view a copy written in plaster on large stones at Mt. Ebal. When God split the nation the copy on Mt Ebal may have been the only copy available to the northern kingdom. Most relied on and believed what their unreliable leaders told them about God.
Jeroboam’s teachings about Israel’s God appeared kinder and more inclusive. By making two gods and setting one in the northern city of Dan and the other in the southern city of Bethel he shortened the distance traveled to worship, which discouraged Israelites from going to Jerusalem. The family of Levi no longer had an iron grip on who could lead worship. Jeroboam consecrated anyone who wanted to be a priest. He even made himself one. And they had an annual festival in Bethel just like the one in Jerusalem. Jeroboam’s progressive religion distorted the true worship of God to appease Jeroboam’s fear of death and maintain his control over the citizens of Israel.
Instead of condemning Jeroboam who betrayed him God sent a man from Judah to condemn the false religion that justified its existence by claiming they were worshipping the God who delivered Israel from Egypt. Jeroboam burned incense at the altar in Bethel when a prophet arrived and told the altar it would be desecrated by a child from the house of David named Josiah.
King Jeroboam tried to arrest the man but his hand withered. He humbled himself so his hand could be restored, but did not repent for leading Israel astray. God had made the truth plain to Jeroboam, but he was not thankful for the honor God bestowed on him. Instead of serving God, he created a god that served him.
If there was any doubt Jeroboam knew the truth he swept it away with his actions. Jeroboam sought God for help when his son became sick instead of his gold calves. He sent his wife in disguise to Ahijah, his only connection to the one true God, to learn what would become of his son.
God first addressed what would become of Jeroboam. He would raise up a new king to replace him for the same reason he replaced Solomon. Jeroboam would be cast out like dung without a burial fitting for royalty. Abijah, his son, would die and the nation would mourn for him because he was the only light in Jeroboam’s wicked family. Israel spent the next sixteen years at war with Judah, which ended when Judah decimated Israel’s army and took possession of Bethel, the headquarters of Israel’s false religion.