Jeroboam — increase of the people. (1.) The son of Nebat (1 Kings 11:26–39), “an Ephrathite,” the first king of the ten tribes, over whom he reigned twenty-two years (B.C. 976-945). He was the son of a widow of Zereda, and while still young was promoted by Solomon to be chief superintendent of the “burnden”, i.e., of the bands of forced labourers. Influenced by the words of the prophet Ahijah, he began to form conspiracies with the view of becoming king of the ten tribes; but these having been discovered, he fled to Egypt (1 Kings 11:29–40), where he remained for a length of time under the protection of Shishak I. On the death of Solomon, the ten tribes, having revolted, sent to invite him to become their king. The conduct of Rehoboam favoured the designs of Jeroboam, and he was accordingly proclaimed “king of Israel” (1 Kings 12:1–20). He rebuilt and fortified Shechem as the capital of his kingdom. He at once adopted means to perpetuate the division thus made between the two parts of the kingdom, and erected at Dan and Bethel, the two extremities of his kingdom, “golden calves,” which he set up as symbols of Jehovah, enjoining the people not any more to go up to worship at Jerusalem, but to bring their offerings to the shrines he had erected. Thus he became distinguished as the man “who made Israel to sin.” This policy was followed by all the succeeding kings of Israel.
While he was engaged in offering incense at Bethel, a prophet from Judah appeared before him with a warning message from the Lord. Attempting to arrest the prophet for his bold words of defiance, his hand was “dried up,” and the altar before which he stood was rent asunder. At his urgent entreaty his “hand was restored him again” (1 Kings 13:1–6, 9; comp. 2 Kings 23:15); but the miracle made no abiding impression on him. His reign was one of constant war with the house of Judah. He died soon after his son Abijah (1 Kings 14:1–18).
(2.) Jeroboam II., the son and successor of Jehoash, and the fourteenth king of Israel, over which he ruled for forty-one years, B.C. 825-784 (2 Kings 14:23). He followed the example of the first Jeroboam in keeping up the worship of the golden calves (2 Kings 14:24). His reign was contemporary with those of Amaziah (2 Kings 14:23) and Uzziah (15:1), kings of Judah. He was victorious over the Syrians (13:4; 14:26, 27), and extended Israel to its former limits, from “the entering of Hamath to the sea of the plain” (14:25; Amos 6:14). His reign of forty-one years was the most prosperous that Israel had ever known as yet. With all this outward prosperity, however, iniquity widely prevailed in the land (Amos 2:6–8; 4:1; 6:6; Hos. 4:12–14). The prophets Hosea (1:1), Joel (3:16; Amos 1:1, 2), Amos (1:1), and Jonah (2 Kings 14:25) lived during his reign. He died, and was buried with his ancestors (14:29). He was succeeded by his son Zachariah (q.v.).