Who was Jeroboam II?
In the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament, Jeroboam II ( 2 Kings 14:23-29 ), son of Joash and 13th king of Israel; 4th sovereign of the dynasty of Jehu. He reigned 41 years. His accession may be placed circa 798 bc (some date lower).
1. His Warlike Policy
Jeroboam came into power on the crest of the wave of prosperity that followed the crushing of the supremacy of Damascus by his father. By his great victory at Aphek, followed by others, Joash had regained the territory lost to Israel in the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:17 , 2 Kings 13:25 ). This satisfied Joash, or his death prevented further hostilities. Jeroboam, however, then a young man, resolved on a war of retaliation against Damascus, and on further conquests.
The condition of the eastern world favored his projects, for Assyria was at the time engaged, under Shalmaneser III and Assurdan III, in a life-and-death struggle with Armenia. Syria being weakened, Jeroboam determined on a bold attempt to conquer and annex the whole kingdom of which Damascus was the capital. The steps of the campaign by which this was accomplished are unknown to us.
The result only is recorded, that not only the intermediate territory fell into Jeroboam's hands, but that Damascus itself was captured (2 Kings 14:28 ). Hamath was taken, and thus were restored the eastern boundaries of the kingdom, as they were in the time of David (1 Chronicles 13:5 ). From the time of Joshua "the entrance of Hamath" (Joshua 13:5 ), a narrow pass leading into the valley of the Lebanons, had been the accepted northern boundary of the promised land. This involved the subjection of Moab and Ammon, probably already tributaries of Damascus.
2. New Social Conditions
Jeroboam's long reign of over 40 years gave time for the collected tribute of this greatly increased territory to flow into the coffers of Samaria, and the exactions would be ruthlessly enforced. The prophet Amos, a contemporary of Jeroboam in his later years, dwells on the cruelties inflicted on the trans-Jordanic tribes by Hazael, who "threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron" (Amos 1:3 ). All this would be remembered now, and wealth to which the Northern Kingdom had been unaccustomed flowed in to its treasuries.
The hovels of unburned brick in which the citizens had lived were replaced by "houses of hewn stone" (Amos 5:11 ). The ivory house which Ahab built in Samaria (1 Kings 22:39 ; decorations only are meant) was imitated, and there were many "great houses" (Amos 3:15 ). The sovereign had both a winter and a summer palace. The description of a banqueting scene within one of these palatial abodes is lifelike in its portraiture.
The guests stretched themselves upon the silken cushions of the couches, eating the flesh of lambs and stall-fed calves, drinking wine from huge bowls, singing idle songs to the sound of viols, themselves perfumed and anointed with oil (Amos 6:4-6 ). Meanwhile, they were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, and cared nothing for the wrongdoing of which the country was full. Side by side with this luxury, the poor of the land were in the utmost distress. A case in which a man was sold into slavery for the price of a pair of shoes seems to have come to the prophet's knowledge, and is twice referred to by him (Amos 2:6 ; Amos 8:6 ).
3. Growth of Ceremonial Worship
With all this, and as part of the social organization, religion of a kind flourished. Ritual took the place of righteousness; and in a memorable passage, Amos denounces the substitution of the one for the other (Amos 5:21). The worship took place in the sanctuaries of the golden calves, where the votaries prostrated themselves before the altar clothed in garments taken in cruel pledge, and drank sacrificial wine bought with the money of those who were fined for non-attendance there (Amos 2:8 ). There we are subsidiary temples and altars at Gilgal and Beersheba (Amos 4:4 ; Amos 5:5 ; Amos 8:14 ). Both of these places had associations with the early history of the nation, and would be attended by worshippers from Judah as well as from Israel.
4. Mission to Amos
Toward the close of his reign, it would appear that Jeroboam had determined upon adding greater splendor and dignity to the central shrine, in correspondence with the increased wealth of the nation. Amos, about the same time, received a commission to go to Bethel and testify against the whole proceedings there. He was to pronounce that these sanctuaries should be laid waste, and that Yahweh would raise the sword against the house of Jeroboam. (Amos 7:9 ).
On hearing his denunciation, made probably as he stood beside the altar, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a messenger to the king at Samaria, to tell him of the "conspiracy" of Amos, and that the land was not able to bear all his words. The messenger bore the report that Amos had declared "Jeroboam shall die by the sword," which Amos had not done. When the messenger had gone, priest and prophet had a heated controversy, and new threatenings were uttered (Amos 7:10-17 ).
5. Prophecy of Jonah
The large extension of territory acquired for Israel by Jeroboam is declared to have been the realization of a prophecy uttered earlier by Jonah, the son of Amittai (2 Kings 14:25 ) - the same whose mission to Nineveh forms the subject of the Book of Jonah (Jonah 1:1 ). It is also indicated that the relief which had now come was the only alternative to the utter extinction of Israel. But Yahweh sent Israel a "saviour" (2 Kings 13:5 ), associated by some with the Assyrian king Ramman-nirari III, who crushed Damascus, an left Syria an easy prey, first to Jehoash, then to Jeroboam. (see JEHOASH ), but whom the historian seems to connect with Jeroboam himself (2 Kings 14:26 , 2 Kings 14:27 ).
Jeroboam was succeeded on his death by his weak son Zechariah (2 Kings 14:29 ).
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