The Sin of Jeroboam
1 Kings 12:26-28
And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:…

This passage describes the act which is so often referred to with horror, in the books of Kings and Chronicles, as "the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat." To an irreligious man like himself, nothing would appear more natural or politic than this conduct. He had been driven into Egypt by Solomon, had there married Pharaoh's daughter, and become familiar with the worship of Apis and Mnevis. Now he had returned, and found himself the ruler of the ten tribes, the first king of the separate "kingdom of Israel." Recognizing as he did the religious tendencies and memories of his people, he saw that the national assemblies for worship in the temple at Jerusalem would, sooner or later, unite the tribes again under one king. Hence his action. Looking at his conduct

(1) from the earthward, and

(2) from the heavenward side, we see that his policy was at once shrewd and sinful.


(1) It was an appeal to tribal independence. In effect he said, "Why should you men of Ephraim be dependent for your worship on Judah? Why should your tribute go to support their temple? Let us have a place of our own." This argument has been repeated by demagogues in every land and age. Class has been set against class, nation against nation, Church against Church, by this spirit. Show some of the advantages of recognizing our interdependence.

(2) It was an appeal to self-indulgence. "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem." Point out instances in which religious teachers have condescended to such base suggestions as this; e.g., the theology that declares self-conquest nothing, that makes faith the executioner, instead of the sustainer of morality; the teaching that will offer "indulgences" to those of sinful habit; the worship that pleases a sensuous taste, but demands no intelligent thought, etc.

3. It was an appeal to former memories. He made Shechem his capital, a place associated with Abraham and Jacob, and afterwards assigned to the Levites, and made a free city. He erected one of the calves at Bethel, a holy place on the borders of Benjamin and Ephraim (see Genesis 32.). No doubt his design was to conciliate those who were proud of past history.

4. It was a bold attempt to deceive the devout. He pretended that it was the old worship reestablished; that Jehovah was really represented by the calves: "These be thy gods (the old gods) that brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Not the first or last time in which the prince of darkness has appeared as an angel of light Shrewd as was the policy, it was not perfectly successful even during his reign. The best people emigrated to Judah (like the Huguenots to England), to enrich another kingdom by work and wealth; and the prophets and many of the priests were roused to hostility. Even had it succeeded, however, such policy deserved to be branded with infamy. Principle must never be sacrificed to expediency. Success never condones wrong doing with God.


1. It revealed his utter distrust of God. See the promise that had been given him (1 Kings 11:38): "I will build thee a sure house." He could not believe it. He would trust his own skill rather than God's favour. So had it been with Saul and Solomon. The path of simple obedience is strait and narrow, and few there be that find it." "Do My will and trust Me," is the lesson of life, but we are slow to learn it. Many professing Christians consider religion inappropriate to business competition and to political movements. In this they resemble the son of Nebat.

2. It violated the fundamental law of the Decalogue. If the first command was not actually broken, the second was, necessarily. Had these calves merely been the outward symbols of Jehovah, they were amongst the forbidden "images." Jeroboam knew this. He remembered the calf Aaron made, for his words were an echo of those of the first high priest. He knew that only the intercession of Moses then saved the people from destruction, yet again he defiantly disobeyed. Show the peril of allowing images, crucifixes, banners, the elements in the sacrament, etc., to take a false position in Christian worship. Even if the initiated worship God through these, they break (in spirit) the second command; while the more ignorant are with equal certainty led to the violation of the first.

3. It involved and necessitated other sins.

(1) The people worshipped in the place God had not chosen, as He had chosen the temple.

(2) They had no ark of the covenant on which rested, and because of which was promised, the real presence of God.

(3) The priests were chosen by the king in opposition to the ordinance of God (vers. 31, etc., ex universo populo.

(4) The national feast of tabernacles was changed from the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34) to the eighth, not only because the harvest was later in the north than in the south of Judah, but to widen insidiously the breach between the kingdoms. So in all ages and in all spheres one sin leads to another. It would be better to die as Abigail (1 Kings 14:13) than to reign as Jeroboam. - A.R.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

WEB: Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.

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