The Sin of Jeroboam

By Evan Wiggs


There are many sad stories in the Bible of failed leaders and failed lives, but few match the story of Jeroboam son of Nebat.  His is one of the saddest because of what the Lord said by the Prophet Ahijah.


But first lets look at the history and see what preceded Jeroboam’s failure.  We see just one generation after David the rot starts to set in.  David had his failure with Bathsheba and his failure with Absalom, but is seemed that with Solomon the gold standard had been struck and there would be as God promised always a man of David’s descendents on the throne of Israel.  We see that Solomon was humble in asking for just wisdom in the first appearance of the Lord to Solomon in I Kings 3:5 – 14.  The Lord promised Solomon that He would give him a kingdom that would surpass David’s and would give him heavenly wisdom, massive wealth and a long life.  As Solomon began to build the Temple the Lord appeared to him again and said:


1 Kings 6:11-13 ( NASB ) 11Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon saying,  12Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father.  13“I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”


See the power that God places in leaders hands, His faithfulness to the nation rested much in the righteousness of the leader.  That is a truth demonstrated all through history and even in our times.  But what happened to Solomon to bring about the man Jeroboam?


1 Kings 11:1-13 ( NASB )
1Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,  2from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love.  3He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.  4For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not £wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  5For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.  6Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.  7Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.  8Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

9Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,  10and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the LORD had commanded.  11So the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.  12“Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  13“However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”


For all the wisdom of Solomon the sin of the flesh is what drew him away from God.  His foreign wives lead him away to the detestable gods of the people around Israel.  The religious practices of the followers of these gods are why God wanted these people driven out in the beginning and Israel had trouble with these sensuous practices for hundreds of years and Solomon was no different.  His failure stands out as a major fall that lead to much misery and eventual deportment of God’s people to Assyria and Babylon .  All the bright promise of God’s rich promises were permanently  tarnished by his utter failure.  But the scripture actually treats Solomon rather kind.  The mention of him in most of scripture don’t tell us of his abject failure, probably because it came later in his life and the golden age of David still cast its’ hue upon Solomon.  God even said that He would not rip the kingdom away from Solomon until after his death for the sake of David and the sake of Jerusalem.


We meet Jeroboam son of Nebat during the final days of apostasy of Solomon.


1 Kings 11:28 ( NASB ) 28Now the man Jeroboam was a valiant warrior, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. 


Now Jeroboam looks very promising here.  He is a valiant warrior and he was very hard working and industrious.  He could get things done and people listened to him.  He caught Solomon’s eye and he was placed over the forced labor of the tribe of Joseph.  This was an important position of power and authority in Solomon’s kingdom.  Jeroboam was the man of the hour.  But God is now stepping in against the failure of Solomon and Ahijah the prophet has something to say.


1 Kings 11:29-40 ( NASB ) 29It came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field.  30Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him and tore it into twelve pieces.  31He said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes  32(but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel),  33because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did.  34‘Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes;  35but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand and give it to you, even ten tribes.  36‘But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.  37‘I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel 38‘Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.  39‘Thus I will afflict the descendants of David for this, but not always.’”  40Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.


Well here we go.  God comes in and suddenly Jeroboams promising life in Solomon’s kingdom takes a rapid turn.  God reveals that He is willing to tear the kingdom of Solomon apart.  Do you know God is not stuck in any rut about his people, He is willing to rip the kingdom apart just as He is willing to rip a church up by the roots when the leaders fail Him and His people.  His love is very severe. 


Here was God speaking through the prophet and He gave Jeroboam a magnificent promise, that He would bless him with an enduring kingdom like David.  But as in every promise of God there is an “If” statement, a demand from the Living God for righteousness in the follower.  It has not changed brothers and sisters He still promises and demands, are you listening?


Jeroboam must follow God’s ways to receive the full promise of God, there is not other way, there is no shortcut, obedience is what God wants and He will get.


Solomon hears about the meeting and in paranoid fear tries to kill Jeroboam and he has to run to Egypt.  Sound familiar, remember David running from a paranoid Saul.  The kingdom has been ripped away from Saul and given to David.  Surely the parallels were not wasted on Jeroboam.  He went to Egypt for safety and hopefully to think and pray about what God has said.


Well Solomon died and left behind an son Rehoboam who lost the 10 tribes in a fit of stupidity.  In I Kings  12: 1-24 the story is told of a foolish young man who like many youth imagine they are wise when they are actually fools with no experience.  Rehoboam failed to listen to his advisors that would have saved him the kingdom and listened to his peers who were spoiled snots.  But is was intended to be this way so God could tear the 10 northern tribes away from Rehoboam.


Now Jeroboam’s chance to make good comes.  He becomes king of Israel or the 10 northern tribes.  He has a little quandary in that Rehoboam controls Jerusalem where the Temple is and where the people went up to all the holy festivals.


 1 Kings 12:26-33 ( NASB ) 26Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.  27“If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”  28So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”  29He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.  30Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.  31And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.  32Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.  33Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense.


It appears the Jeroboam forgot what God had said to him not so long ago.  He grew fearful instead of asking what God thought about this.  I believe that if Jeroboam had listened and followed God the tribes of Judah and Benjamin would have come over to him rather than stay with foolish Rehoboam.  But Jeroboam took the situation in hand, remember he was a can do person and he was used to being in charge and he took charge and failed big.  His name became used as a synonym for wretched sin.  God tried to make a mid course correction and help Jeroboam move in the right direction.


1 Kings 13:1-10 ( NASB ) 1Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.  2He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”  3Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the LORD has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’”  4Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself.  5The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.  6The king said to the man of God, “Please entreat the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” So the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before.  7Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.”  8But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place.  9“For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’”  10So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.


Oh God wanted Jeroboam to listen and the prophet was a wild man of the Lord who spoke with fierce courage and truth.  He spoke of a time when the altar Jeroboam was just burning a strange fire upon would be desecrated by human bones being burnt on it.  And as a sign that the Word of the Lord was true the altar was split in half.  Jeroboam, the take charge guy pointed at the prophet and tried to have him arrested, but God again tried to correct and his hand withered.  How sad he had to ask the prophet “Please entreat the Lord your God”  God was no longer his God, but now He was the prophet’s God.  God showed His faithfulness and healed the hand, but Jeroboam wasn’t listening.


Now the judgment of God starts to fall like a hammer upon the house of Jeroboam.  His son Abijah gets sick and Jeroboam asks his wife to disguise herself to go to the prophet Ahijah to see if he would survive.  Isn’t it interesting that he didn’t go to any of the priests he has put in all the high places and at Dan and Bethel with the golden calves.  He knew there was no Word from God there, just lies and empty religion.  No word from those priests of falsehood would come true.  We have many priests of falsehood in our churches today brothers and sisters and their word is not the Word of God, but merely the word of man.


1 Kings 14:5-18 ( NASB ) 5Now the LORD had said to Ahijah, “Behold, the wife of Jeroboam is coming to inquire of you concerning her son, for he is sick. You shall say thus and thus to her, for it will be when she arrives that she will pretend to be another woman.”

6When Ahijah heard the sound of her feet coming in the doorway, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam, why do you pretend to be another woman? For I am sent to you with a harsh message.  7“Go, say to Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, “Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel,  8and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you—yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight;  9you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back—  10therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone.  11“Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the LORD has spoken it.”’  12“Now you, arise, go to your house. When your feet enter the city the child will die.  13“All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he alone of Jeroboam’s family will come to the grave, because in him something good was found toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.  14“Moreover, the LORD will raise up for Himself a king over Israel who will cut off the house of Jeroboam this day and from now on.

15“For the LORD will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they have made their £Asherim, provoking the LORD to anger.  16“He will give up Israel on account of the sins of Jeroboam, which he committed and with which he made Israel to sin.”

17Then Jeroboam’s wife arose and departed and came to Tirzah. As she was entering the threshold of the house, the child died.  18All Israel buried him and mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through His servant Ahijah the prophet.


Jeroboam’s disaster starts to unfold and the sin becomes full bloom.  His son is to die and he will be the only one to actually reach his grave and this is because God actually saw something good in this son Abijah.  What did God see?  A heart that was willing to turn to Him, but his father Jeroboam caused this one to die as he would not listen.  I believe Abijah would have been a good king after Jeroboam if Jeroboam had done what God wanted, but because Jeroboam failed his son died.  Don’t you know that our failure to listen and obey God will kill our promises?  What would have been can be killed today by disobedience.


Look what the Living One says about Jeroboam.  Jeroboam had cast the Living God behind his back like so much worthless trash.  Can a man do anything so foolish? And now the foolishness of Jeroboam was coming home to roost.  No one else in Jeroboam’s family would even make their graves, but they would be cast upon the ground like dung, or just as Jeroboam had treated God as worthless trash to be cast behind his back so would Jeroboam and all his descendents be cast aside as worthless trash.


Later King Baasha fulfills the prophecy of Ahijah and all of Jeroboams relatives are cast out on the ground just as God said.  His name is used in a curse when a king is pronounced as a great sinner it is said that he followed in the example of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.


Will you listen dear one?  God is speaking to you and desires truth in your inward parts, obedience complete and full.  If you follow him all the promises of God will come true and you will live a life of joy full and free. But remember the story of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and look at his failure and do not make it your own.


Evan Wiggs