Jeroboam's Calves
1 Kings 12:28
Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said to them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem…

Unbelief is the root of all mischief. Had the king of Israel believed God, he would have obeyed Him; then he would have been under no temptation to set up a spurious religion to the confusion of his family and people. But what did he mean by these calves?


1. So he describes them in the text.

(1) "These are thy Elohim, O Israel." Our English Bibles give the word "God" without the capital G, as though the purpose of Jeroboam were to lead the people away from the true God. This, indeed, was the effect, but that it was the design may well be doubted.

(2) He farther identifies the Elohim represented in them as having brought them up out of the land of Egypt. This expression is equivalent to saying that the Elohim he would remind them of in these figures was the same who wrought all the miracles of the Exodus.

(3) We must not be misled by the words, "Behold thy Elohim," or "These airs thy Elohim," as though he wished to impose these calves upon them as the very Elohim who wrought all the wonders of their miraculous history. For this is a Hebraism for similitudes (see Genesis 41:27; Daniel 2:38; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Note: Romanists impose their monstrous transubstantiation upon those who have not discerned this.

2. His error was a reproduction of Aaron's.

(1) This will be clear from a comparison of the text with Exodus 32:4.

(2) Aaron could not, under the very shadow of the Shekinah, and within hearing of the voice of thunder from Sinai, have intended to substitute his calf for the very Elohim.

(3) But that he only intended it as an emblem of the true God is placed very clearly before us in the words following (Exodus 32:5, 6), in which the feast celebrated before his calf is called a "feast of Jehovah"

3. Yet this was idolatry.

(1) Idolatry may consist of worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. This the Romanist does when he worships the wafer.

(2) Or it may be substituting some imagination of his heart for the God who has miraculously revealed Himself, and whose revelations concerning Himself are written in Holy Scripture. Such were the idealizations of the ancient (and also modern) heathen.

(3) Or it may consist in attempting to worship the true God through unauthorised images (see Exodus 20:4). This was the case with Aaron, also with Jeroboam. It is likewise the case with the Romanist, who uses crucifixes, and images and pictures of the Persons of the Trinity.


1. He had the cherubim in his mind.

(1) These had the visage of a calf. They had, indeed, also the visages of a lion, of a man, and of an eagle. But the whole figure terminated in the foot of a calf (Ezekiel 1:7).

(2) Jeroboam's calf probably had also associated with it the other visages of the cherubim; so probably had Aaron's, for they respectively call their image by the plural name Elohim (אלהים). The single image at Bethel is also called calves (עלגים) in the plural, which suggests a plurality of visages, though not necessarily visages of calves, for the whole emblem appears to have been designated by this name.

2. But the cherubim were emblems of the Holy Trinity.

(1) The calf or young bull, which by the ancients was taken for an emblem of fire, stood here for the first Person of the Godhead. (See Bato's "Critica Hebraea," under עגל and כרוב; also his learned "Inquiry into the Occasional and Standing Similitudes of the Lord God in the Old and New Testaments.")

(2) The lion was the symbol of light, and stood for the second Person. With the face of the lion that of the man was constantly associated, foreshadowing the assumption of the manhood into the Godhead by that blessed Person.

(3) And the eagle, the emblem of air, stood for the Holy Spirit.

(4) These, therefore, are called the cherubim, or similitudes of the Great Ones, from רבים Great Ones, and כ like.

3. Micah's teraphim were like Jeroboam's calves.

(1) They were a compound or plural image like the cherubim, and used like them (see Judges 17:5, 18:5).

(2) Michael was a worshipper of the true God, and so was Laban, who also used teraphim (see Genesis 31:19, 30, 37, 49),

(3) Compare also 1 Samuel 19:13; Ezekiel 21:21; Hosea 3:4.

(4) The cerberus of the pagans, with its plurality of heads, was a corruption, and the name of that monster keeps up the sound, of the original Hebrew cherubim. How subtle is the spirit of idolatry! We cannot keep too close to God's Word. - M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

WEB: Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and see your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"

The Sin of Jeroboam
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