JEROBOAM AND THE PROMISES
Jeroboam, son of deceased Nebat and the widow Zeruah Ephraimites (descendants of Joseph) was leaving Jerusalem to escape Solomon and ran into the prophet Ahijah form Shiloh. Jeroboam had a new overcoat and without saying anything, the prophet took a hold of the coat and tore it into twelve pieces then said, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand ad give you ten tribes. But for the sake of David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father did.’”
“However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and I will give Israel to you. I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever”(I Ki. 11:29-39). This of course was the prediction and promise Jacob had made to Joseph regarding his second son Ephraim (Gen. 48).
Ahijah moaned the loss of David’s influence and did not follow Solomon and all those that had abandoned the original Deuteronomic and Levital teachings. It must have been humbling to admit that God was looking elsewhere to continue his Covenant of the Promises. Their statement that Jeroboam caused Israel to sin is no totally accurate. He was an ambitious young man with much potential and Solomon recognized him and had placed him in charge of the work force over the house of Joseph. He began to disagree over the elaborate building for God and king and financial burden it had placed on the people. A God that lived in a small Ark needed no temple, or shrines for foreign gods, or a stable for a man with twelve thousand horses with mansions for his many wives. Solomon was going to silence him and he fled to Pharaoh Shishak in Egypt. At the death of Solomon, Jeroboam returned from exile and led in the negotiation with Rehoboam.
Upon Solomon’s death, Rehoboam, his son took up the reins. Ten tribes elected Jeroboam as their leader to negotiated with Rehoboam. Their request was, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (I Ki. 12:4). Rehoboam asked the North to return in three days for his decision. He consulted the elders that served his father and they recommended leniency, but the younger council members urged Rehoboam to tell the ten tribes, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” That was the answer Rehoboam gave to the Israelites and they responded, “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!” They went home and Jeroboam became their first king at Shechem. He was a descendant of Ephraim, Joseph’s second son.
Rehoboam did not take serious Israel’s decision to separate from him. He dared to sent his minister Adoniram to induct some laborers and he was killed. Rehoboam raised an army against rebellious Israel, but Shemaiah a man of God was sent to stop him with these words, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” Rehoboam obeyed the prophet (I Ki. 12:1-24). Hereinafter, two nations began to compete for the favor of God. However, instead of doing things that would please the Lord, they turned to ways that made their alienation progressively worse. To compete with the worship at Jerusalem, Jeroboam set up two golden calves, one in Bethel and the other at Dan and publicly declared that these were the gods that had delivered Israel from Egypt. Jeroboam even stretched out his hand against God’s messengers who were sent to predict his downfall. Ahijah the prophet was sent to speak these words “The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. This is the day! What? Yes, even now. And the Lord will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land that he gave to their forefathers and scatter them beyond the river, because they provoked the Lord to anger by making Asherah poles. And he will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit” (I Ki. 12: 25-14: 16).
It was not Jeroboam that introduced Baalism but Ahab and Jezebel. What then did he do wrong? He did what Aaron had done. Make an image for Yahweh, only he made two golden calves that were placed in Bethel and Dan. That was a violation of the second commandment. Yahweh had no image but a plain altar. The Levites and priests that kept on supporting the elaborate worship center in Jerusalem were told to leave and they did. The new king then appointed priests that were not Levites and like king Saul sacrificed for himself. In reality, God did not give him the priesthood but the kingdom and the power to protect the Deuteronomic way of worship. The Promises depended on keeping the statutes and commandments of the Lord God and not on establishing a dynasty. Jeroboam failed to comply with God’s demands and for that reason his kingdom self-destructed. The kings and pretenders killed each other off.
Two years after Nadab succeeded his father Jeroboam as king over Israel he was assassinated by Baasha. Baasha exterminated all of Jeroboams descendants. When Baasha’s son Elah became king, Zimri killed off all the members of his household. Seven days later, Omri became king by killing Zimri and he was the father of the notorious Ahab who married Jezebel the Sidonian princess. Omri purchased the hill from Shemer for two talents of silver and built the city of Samaria. Then he moved the capital of Israel from Tirzah to Samaria and turned it into a royal city of convenience and luxury. His son Ahab and wife Jezebel converted Israel to Baal worship and killed off most of the prophets of Yahweh. This was also the time in which Elijah was sent to take on Ahab and Jezebel. There were only seven thousand people left who had remained faithful to Yahweh. Ahab, the historian tells us, “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him, and there was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (I Ki. 15:25-21: 25).
Ahab was killed in battle against Aram and dogs licked his blood and his son Ahaziah succeeded him. Ahaziah was fatally wounded and he reigned for two years over Israel. He had no son and Joram his brother became king. He removed some of Ahab’s, his father’s idols, but kept the ways of Jeroboam. By this time, the cup of evil was running over and the Lord instructed Elisha to send one of his young prophets to anoint Jehu king over Israel. Jehu and his sons reigned for four decades. He destroyed Baal worship and killed the Baal prophets; but he did not remove the idols from Bethel and Dan (I Ki. 22:1-10,35). Jehu became king by killing and so did Shallum, Menaham, Pekahiah, Pekah and Hoshea the last king of Israel. All did evil in the eyes of the Lord and He handed them over to Shalmaneser of Assyria. The kingdom in the North was terminated. The Israelis were replaced with Assyrian captives from other nations and the new sovereign returned Jewish priests to keep Yahwism alive (II Ki. 13:1-17:41). Pagans had more faith in God’s Promises than the people of the Covenant.
Hosea the prophet was ordered to marry a prostitute in order to compare Israel to a whoring wife. Her name was Gomer, herself a child of prostitution. Her first-born son, Hosea had to “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.” Her second son, Hosea named ‘Lo-Ruhammah’ which meant, “I will no longer show love to the house of Israel.” Gomer gave birth to a third son and Hosea named him ‘Lo-Ammi.’ It meant, “For you are no longer my people, and I am not your God” (Hos. 1:2-9). In spite of Gomer’s adultery, the Lord instructed Hosea to be reconciled with his adulterous wife as an example of God’s love and forgiveness extended to a people that would return to God. At the end, Gomer became more faithful than Israel. Isaiah made this plea, “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me, I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I. All day long I held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations – a people who continually provoke me to my face” (Isa. 65:1-3). “The Israelites are stubborn like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow? Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone! Even when they are sober, they continue they continue to whore. Their rulers delight in shameful ways. A whirlwind will sweep them away and end their shameful sacrifices” (Hos. 4:16-19). Thus, Jacob – Israel lost ten sons to the world and his last two shall also be scattered among the nations. Only a branch may survive. “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom and we would have been like Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:9). Christians ought check with Paul in Romans 11:13-21.