Jeroboam I (which, according to Hitchcock’s Bible Names and Dictionary means “he that opposes the people”), the son of Nebat, (1 Kings 11:26-39), was the first king of the break-away ten tribes or Kingdom of Israel. He reigned for 22 years. Politically speaking, he is the founding father of the northern Kingdom of Israel, which survived until the Assyrian invasions and the deportation of the Israelites in 722 B.C.E.
Biblical archaeologist William F. Albright dates Jeroboam’s reign to 922 B.C.E.-901 B.C.E. Edwin R. Thiele offers the dates 931 B.C.E.-910 B.C.E.
Jeroboam started as an appointee of King Solomon to lead forced labour gangs in the city of Jerusalem.
Jeroboam was also identified as the future king of Israel by the prophet Ahijah after Solomon fell out of favour with the prophets (Solomon established high places where his foreign wives could worship, and the prophets of Yahweh sharply disagreed with him). The rising star – among the prophets and masses – of Jeroboam made him the envy of Solomon. Solomon considered him a threat to his rule and Jeroboam had to escape to an Egyptian king and stayed there until Solomon’s passing.
Returning at the time of the inauguration of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, Jeroboam was chosen as a king by the northern tribes and succeeded in building an autonomous nation that lasted 200 years notwithstanding antagonistic actions by its neighbours.
From Grace to Grass
Things began to go awry soon than later. Jeroboam’s desire to sever every tie with the southern kingdom of Judah resulted in awful gaffes.
Mistake Number One: He erected his altars in the cities of Dan and Bethel.
The Bible simply tells us, “Now this thing became a sin.” It was a sin when Jeroboam recommended it, but it was more of sin when the people followed it. The people were extremely drawn to the religion of Jeroboam that they went as far as Dan (at the far north of Israel) to worship at the shrine of the golden calf.
Jeroboam continued to go down the path of destruction; “he made shrines on the high places.” He made more places of worship than the main centres at Bethel and Dan. These high places were even more comfortable for the people. They did not have to travel for long.
Mistake Number Two: Jeroboam then removed the priesthood that God commanded, he “made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” Jeroboam discarded the commandments of God concerning the priesthood of Israel and instituted a priesthood of his tastes.
Mistake Number Three: Jeroboam provided for a rare feast to be held “in the month which he had devised in his own heart.”
The god and the religion of our heart
This summarises Jeroboam’s religion – it was devised in his own heart.
Jeroboam is an example of those who create their religion according to their feelings, desires, and aspirations. This is what is happening currently. We want to have a god who accedes to our wishes. We want a god who does not tell us what to do. We want a god who fits our bill. That is how we are coming up with ridiculous religions like Gnosticism, African spiritualism, among others. It is a time of ‘and man created god in his image.’
We are supposed to examine our idea of God and test it to see if it aligns with the Scripture. We have to leave the high throne by sacrificing our flesh. Death to the flesh is the end of arrogance, selfishness, and stupidity; things that make us ‘create our god and our religion.’ At the final analysis, all the gods we make in our image are illusions. The God of the Bible is the one true God.