The Problem with Jeroboam II

by Matthew W. Bassford

In any secular history book, Jeroboam II would look like a successful king. He reigned for 41 years in an age when length of reign correlated with political power. Militarily, he was one of the greatest commanders among the monarchs of Israel. During his reign, he brought the seesaw wars between Israel and Syria to a victorious conclusion. By the time he was done, Jeroboam II had conquered not only the Syrian capital of Damascus but even the city of Hamath, 100 miles further north. Not since the reign of Solomon had Israelite power reached so far.

However, there was a problem. Even though God had used Jeroboam II to deliver Israel from Syrian oppression, he himself was not a righteous man. I Kings 14:24 reports that he was every bit as idolatrous as his namesake, Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

As a result, even though Jeroboam II's success was impressive, it wasn't lasting. His son and successor Zechariah only reigned for six months before being assassinated in a palace coup. None of the subsequent kings of Israel came close to Jeroboam II's success, and during the reign of Hoshea, the Assyrians carried the Israelites off into captivity. Under Jeroboam II, Israel prospered for a time, but because they didn't build on a foundation of godliness, they did not endure.

We do well to remember that this same principle applies today. Everywhere around us, we see people and institutions that are apparently prospering despite their rejection of God's will. Men who love money more than anything else build thriving businesses. Churches that have abandoned the New Testament have thousands of people in attendance on Sunday morning. Those within our nation who advocate turning our backs on God appear to be growing more powerful every year.

However, as was the case with Jeroboam II, success without God only sows the seeds of later disaster. Men who sacrifice their families on the altar of business ambition generally come to regret it on their deathbeds if not before. Churches that thrive because of a charismatic pastor and a fast-and-loose approach to the Scriptures hardly ever continue to prosper after the pastor exits the pulpit. Similarly, those in our nation who take their stand against the Lord will do no better than similar challengers have for millennia.

Sometimes, it's hard for us to bear with the success of the wicked, especially when in our own judgment, we ourselves aren't succeeding nearly as well. However, a longer-term perspective will reveal the truth. As Psalm 1 puts it, the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away. Only the righteous will endure like a tree planted beside a stream. At best, the wicked can hope to be like Jeroboam II, but even being like Jeroboam II isn't very good.