Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Jeroboam's Apostasy
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Kings 11:26-28

This is a flashback to what occurred in verses 9-12—Jeroboam was somebody who came to Solomon's attention, and he promoted Jeroboam, who then became renowned within the kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Deception, Idolatry and the Feast of Tabernacles

1 Kings 12:25-33

I Kings 12:25-33 records the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel's apostasy. Fearing that he might eventually lose political control over the ten tribes because of their long-standing religious ties to Jerusalem, capital of the Kingdom of Judah (verse 27), Jeroboam I instituted a state religion designed to meet his peoples' needs for convenience - and his own need for power. He built two shrines, one in Bethel, at the southern extremity of his kingdom, the other in Dan, near its northern boundary (verse 29). If not de jure, at least de facto, he exiled the Levites, the priestly tribe established by God, and installed in their place a priesthood of his own devising (verse 31). Finally, he moved the fall holy day season from the seventh month to the eighth, thereby effectively setting aside the Sabbath commandment, since the holy days are God's Sabbaths (see Leviticus 23:1-3, 23-44). All this "became a sin" for Israel (I Kings 12:30).

Jeroboam's apostasy, his movement to false religious practices, took deep root. In fact, the house of Israel never departed from the practices he established. II Kings 17:21-23 records this fact:

Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight. . . .

Having abandoned the Sabbath, the God-given sign marking them as His people (Exodus 31:13-17), the folk of the northern tribes eventually lost their identification. That is why most Israelites do not know who they are to this day. The forefathers forsook the sign that denoted their connection to God.

Take this line of thought to its logical conclusion: The Sabbath is a memorial to creation and, by extension, to the Creator God (see Exodus 20:11). Modern-day Israelites do not know who they are today because their forefathers, generations ago, abandoned this memorial to the Creator God. Therefore, modern-day Israelites have come to abandon more than the sign: They have abandoned the God to whom the sign points. They no longer know God.

This is not an overstatement. Make no mistake: Failure to recognize who Israel is today is failure to recognize the God who made Israel! The distressing secularism running rampant in the modern nations of Israel today has its roots in Sabbath-breaking. The antidote for secularism in America is not an inane Constitutional amendment requiring the teaching of creationism in the state schools. The panacea some offer, prayer in the public schools, will not do the trick. Increased Sunday church attendance will not stanch the flood of secularism; after all, most Sunday worshippers accept the doctrines of biologic and economic determinism (i.e., evolution and socialism, respectively) just as avowed atheists do. Attempting to unite a people with its God through these measures is surely akin to building a wall with "untempered mortar" (see Ezekiel 13:9-23). In the coming storm, such a wall will fall.

However, one will never find a Sabbath-keeper who is a secularist, for the Sabbath-keeper has maintained his link with the Creator God. Sabbath-keeping and secularism mix about as well as oil and water.

Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign

1 Kings 12:28-33

Jeroboam, in an effort to bolster his power over the northern tribes, instituted religious changes which "became a sin" (I Kings 12:30) for Israel.

»Fearing that he could eventually lose control over the people as they journeyed to Jerusalem for religious festivals, he built two shrines, one in the southern region of his kingdom, Bethel, and the other in Dan, near its northern boundary. He put golden calves in both sites, asserting, "Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!" (I Kings 12:28).

»He changed the fall festival season from the seventh month, Tishri (see Leviticus 23:33-43), to the eighth (I Kings 12:33).

»He "made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi" (I Kings 12:31). Since the Levites had no land as a part of their inheritance (see Joshua 13:33), they migrated south to the kingdom of Judah, where they served in the Temple. The dearth of priests in the north was filled by people who were not Levites.

Jeroboam intended to build his own "designer religion" from the ground up, complete with its own traditions and shrines. He was astute enough to grasp the importance of establishing a priesthood loyal to the government.

"And this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth" (I Kings 13:34). Because of his refusal to obey God, Jeroboam never realized the conditional promise God made him in I Kings 11:38: "I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David." Jeroboam's son and heir, Nadab, died by assassination after only two years of rule, and Baasha from the tribe of Issachar took the throne of Israel and slaughtered all of Jeroboam's progeny (I Kings 15:25-30).

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen

2 Kings 17:22

Subsequent kings of the northern kingdom never departed from his apostasy, never sought to correct his errors. "Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight [sent them into captivity]" (verse 18).

Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen

2 Chronicles 11:13-17

(Compare with I Kings 12:28-33.) There are at least two reasons why Jeroboam did what he did. One is because he had no choice. It could have been that the Levites stood up to him and refused to teach and participate in error, so they simply left. If Jeroboam wanted to institute a religion, he had to have priests. He could not use the Levites because they were none available. He decided, then, to install anybody in that position who wanted to be a priest.

The second reason is that he may have summarily kicked them out because they represented too much of a threat. What occurred, though, insured that there would be no one who knew God's way enough to be a threat.

Related to the leaving of the Levites, Jeroboam instituted his own feast—one very similar to the Feast of Tabernacles only exactly one month later. He gave the people something new to celebrate.

Again, the appeal of his changes was convenience. The law say that three times a year all the males were to appear before the Lord, and that meant traveling to Jerusalem. So, to the Israelistes, Jeroboam's reasoning sounded good. Jerusalem was too far. In addition, being a bit further north than the Jews, their harvest season was a little bit later than in Judea, and thus the Feast of Tabernacles represented more of a financial risk for them. They decided, then, "Why not have it a month later?" Can we not see the carnal mind working?

"Yeah, that sounds really logical. It's a good and practical change because now the Feast will never fall during the harvest season, and we won't have to worry about losing our crops while we're keeping the Feast."

"Wow, what wisdom! Why didn't we think of this before? Jeroboam, you're a real leader."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception

Amos 8:14

"The sin of Samaria" refers to a name, Ashima, a Canaanite mother-goddess. This Ashima represents the importation of foreign cults and gods. Historically, Israel borrowed gods from the surrounding nations and combined their worship with that of the true God. By changing His nature, they destroyed the right image of the true God. This, in turn, changed the source of beliefs, ideals, laws, standards, ethics, and morality. Thus, when a famine of God's Word comes (Amos 8:11), immorality swiftly sets in.

Dan was the location of one of the sanctuaries that Jeroboam I set up to imitate the Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 12:29). His counterfeit sanctuary was made of a counterfeit Holy of Holies. Instead of cherubim, it had two golden calves arranged to form the base of a counterfeit mercy seat. Over the years, the visible presence of the calves became familiar to the Israelites, who soon were worshipping the calves as God. After a little more time, the nature of the calves became the nature of God.

Beersheba, with its false shrine associated with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was in the southern part of Judah. People made pilgrimages to Beersheba, a very long and arduous trip. Over time, they came to believe that righteousness accrued to them simply by going there. They walked "the way of Beersheba," thinking to put God in their debt.

But God owes no one anything! He blesses those who are in the right attitude, who are following His way, who are growing and overcoming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)

Mark 7:8

Like ancient Israel, we can easily fall back into our former ways. The Israelites rejected the law of God and relied on the traditions of Gentile nations. Elijah had to take drastic measures to prevent Baal worship from completely eradicating the worship of the true God (I Kings 18:20-40). Some of Judah's kings spent years tearing down shrines and high places to foreign gods (II Chronicles 34:1-7).

Christ warned the Pharisees: "For laying aside the commandments of God, you hold the traditions of men." For example, Christmas and Easter are traditions of men, but they are lies. What happens if a person, trying to establish a religion, mixes falsehood with the truth of God? Recall God's wrath when Aaron made a golden calf at the urging of the Israelites in the wilderness and proclaimed a feast to the Lord (Exodus 32:1-5). Observing Christmas and Easter in the name of Christ is no different.

Blending the lies of this world with the truth of God produces a foul mixture called syncretism (James 3:10-13). "Christian" religions of this world have mixed the traditions of paganism with some of the truth of God's Word. This is no different from what Israel was doing when Amos wrote back in 760 BC. Since their rejection of the house of David under Jeroboam I, the Israelites had practiced a syncretistic religion (Amos 5:21-26; 8:14; I Kings 12:25-33).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


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