JEROBOAM


JEROBOAM (Heb. יָרָבְעָם), first king of post-Solomonic Israel; son of Nebat and Zeruah, from the town of Zeredah in Ephraim (I Kings 11:26). Jeroboam reigned for 22 years (14:20), approximately from 928 to 907 B.C.E. Two explanations have been offered for the meaning of his name: "[That God] will increase the number of the people"; and "he who fights the battles of the people," a name appropriate to the fact that he led the rebellion against Rehoboam. Jeroboam, a "mighty man of valor," whom King Solomon placed in charge of the corvée of Ephraim and Manasseh to fortify Jerusalem, "lifted up his hand against the king" (I Kings 11:26–28). *Ahijah the Shilonite supported Jeroboam's rebellion and promised him rule over ten tribes, as well as over people who favored political dissociation from the House of David. Details of Jeroboam's rebellion are not reported in the Books of Kings, but it appears that it took place in the second half of Solomon's reign. The Septuagint states that Jeroboam succeeded in conscripting 300 chariots and had his stronghold in the town of Zeredah (or Zererah). The rebellion failed and Jeroboam was forced to flee to Egypt, where he was sheltered by Pharaoh *Shishak (an account which also appears in I Kings 11:40 of the MT). According to the Septuagint, Shishak also gave his sister-in-law to Jeroboam in marriage and it was this union which produced a son, Abijah.

When Solomon died, Jeroboam returned from Egypt, and according to some sources he even participated in a popular meeting at Shechem and conducted, together with the elders of Israel, the negotiations with Rehoboam about the reduction of taxes (but cf. I Kings 12:20). When Rehoboam turned down their request, the leaders of the people – excluding those of Judah and Benjamin – proclaimed their political independence from the House of David, and appointed Jeroboam as their king. Immediately on ascending the throne, Jeroboam embarked on a series of moves aimed not only at countering the attempts by the king of Judah to reconquer the central and northern tribal territories but also at widening the breach between the two kingdoms. There is no record of Jeroboam's activities in the administrative and military organization of his new kingdom. It is known only that he first fortified Shechem, apparently his capital, but for unknown reasons he left Shechem and built Penuel in eastern Transjordan (I Kings 12:25), and later he possibly went to Tirzah (14:17; cf. 15:21). Jeroboam's activities in matters of ritual are described negatively in I Kings 12:25–33. He made two golden calves, placing one at Dan in the north and the other at Beth-El in the south. Calf worship was not something completely new in the ritual of Israel, but rather a reintroduction of an earlier ritualistic tradition. Dan and Beth-El were cultic holy places before the establishment of the kingdom. The *golden calf, which either served as a pedestal on which YHWH stood, or actually represented YHWH, was opposed by the writer of Exodus 32. That author composed the story of the golden calf in the wilderness (cf. I Kings 12:28 with Ex. 32:4) as a polemic against Jeroboam's cultic restoration by claiming that its origins were in ancient rebellion against YHWH (Aberbach and Smolar 1967; Sperling). It must further be observed that Ahijah, who supported the rebellion, was a prophet of YHWH. Perhaps the Shiloh tradition had no problem with the use of calves in the worship of YHWH.

In the fifth year of Jeroboam's reign, Shishak, the king of Egypt, invaded Israel. The biblical versions of Shishak's campaign (I Kings 14:25–28; II Chron. 12:2–12) recount mainly what occurred in the kingdom of Judah, but the wall engravings of the Temple of Karnak in Egypt list towns conquered by Shishak and indicate that Jeroboam's Israel suffered most in this war. Shishak invaded the southern territory of the kingdom of Israel by way of Gezer and Gibeon, penetrated the fruitful valley of Succoth, from there he turned to the Beth-Shean and Jezreel valleys, and then returned to Egypt by way of the coastal plain. Possibly Shishak intended to demonstrate Egypt's might and to reinstate its authority over Israel, but the adventure resulted not in Egyptian domination over the kingdoms in Palestine but merely in plunder. Archaeologists have discovered that many towns in the kingdom of Israel, such as Gezer, Beth-Shean, Taanach, and Megiddo, were destroyed during this campaign. *Abijah's success in conquering Jeroboam's territories in the southern part of the mountains of Ephraim (II Chron. 13:3–19) must be understood not only against the background of Jeroboam's weakness as a result of Shishak's campaign, but also in light of the increasing pressure upon Israel at Aram-Damascus in the northeast and by the Philistines in the southwest. Perhaps even by Jeroboam's time the eastern Transjordanian states had succeeded in regaining their independence by exploiting both the internal conflict between Israel and Judah and the external pressure of the Arameans and Philistines on the kingdom of Israel.

[Bustanay Oded /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In the Aggadah

Jeroboam was rewarded with royal dignity for rebuking Solomon, who closed the breaches in the walls of Jerusalem (which David had made to allow all Israel to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem on festivals.). Solomon had done this so that he could exact a toll for the benefit of Pharaoh's daughter (Sanh. 101b). When Jeroboam himself was confronted with the temptations of power (Lev. R. 12:5), his pride and his craving for predominance unbalanced him. Realizing that continued pilgrimage to Jerusalem would place Rehoboam, king of Judah, foremost in the minds of the people, he, who had once fought for free pilgrimage to Jerusalem, now erected an "iron curtain" between the people and the Temple (TJ, Av. Zar. 1:1, 39a; Sanh. 101b.). Assisted by evil men, he succeeded in setting up the golden calves in Dan and Beth-El, making use of his good reputation to obtain extra privileges from the Sanhedrin and full authority for all his actions, including idol worship. Jeroboam and his lackeys conducted a powerful propaganda campaign filled with distortions and historical misrepresentations, exalting the tolerance and forgiveness, the goodness and lovingkindness implicit in the religion of the calves, as opposed to the restrictions and severity of the Law of Moses (TJ, Av. Zar. and Sanh., loc. cit.). This propaganda did not deceive most of the people, however, so that when Jeroboam took his calves to all the tribes, none would accept them except that of Dan which had worshiped Micah's graven image in tribal times (Num. R. 2:10). No one would be appointed priest in the new shrines and Jeroboam was compelled to choose his priests from the dregs of the population (TJ, Av. Zar. loc. cit.). Since the decree prohibiting pilgrimages to Jerusalem was ignored by the people, Jeroboam posted guards on the borders and ordered all transgressors to be put to death (Tosef., Ta'an. 4:7; Sanh. 102a). Even these measures failed to put a stop to the pilgrimages and the king's son himself publicly disobeyed the order (MK 28b).

See also *Israel, Kingdom of (In the Aggadah).

[Elimelech Epstein Halevy]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bright, Hist, 210–9; Kittel, Gesch, 2 (1922), 387ff.; H.T. Olmstead, History of Palestine and Syria (1931), 150; E. Auerbach, Wüste und gelobtes Land, 2 (1938), 29ff.; Albright, Arch Rel, 156, 219; Albright, Stone, 228ff.; Noth, Hist Isr, index; Ginsberg, in, Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Papers, 1 (1967), 91; IN THE AGGADAH: A.A. Halevi, Sha'arei ha-Aggadah (1963), 23ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Aberbach and L. Smolar, in: JQR, 59 (1968), 118–32.; idem, in: JBL, 86 (1967), 129–40; N. Na'aman, in: L. Handy (ed.), The Age of Solomon (1997), 57–80; S.D. Sperling, The Original Torah (1998), 91–102; M. Cogan, I Kings (AB; 2000), 336–83.


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