Jeroboam II was the son of Joash, also known as Jehoash, and the 13th king of Israel. He was the 4th king of the dynasty of Jehu and one of the Northern Kingdom’s most illustrious rulers. He was the contemporary of Amaziah (2 Kings 14:23) and Uzziah (2 Kings 15:1), kings of Judah
The presentation of the reign of Jeroboam in 2 Kings 14:23-29 briefly tells of Jeroboam’s ascension to the throne of Israel and all of the things he accomplished. Although Jeroboam is dismissed in a few verses, he reigned for forty-one years (786-746 B.C.). His kingship was marked by military victories over many of Israel’s traditional enemies. During his reign, the Northern Kingdom enjoyed a time of prosperity that it had not enjoyed since the days of Solomon.
The books of Amos and Hosea also provide important information about the economic and religious life of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam. According to the superscription of Amos (Amos 1:1) and Hosea (Hosea 1:1), both prophets were active during the reign of Jeroboam and their oracles provide background information on the social and religious life in the eighth century B.C.
The writer of 2 Kings does not provide much information about the lengthy reign of Jeroboam or about his political and economic successes. However, the basic facts he gives about his kingdom, provide a glimpse of Jeroboams’s accomplishments. Politically, Jeroboam was a good administrator. He continued the policies of his father Joash and was able to bring to a successful conclusion the wars which his father had undertaken. Jeroboam ascended to the throne of Israel not long after the nation had been delivered from the oppression of the Arameans.
The narrative of 2 Kings 13:1-7 describes how Yahweh delivered Israel from her oppressors. So, when Jeroboam took the throne of Israel, he did so with the intent of recovering the land Israel had lost to the Syrians.
According to John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983), p. 257, “Jeroboam was one of the strongest military figures of Israel’s history.” Jeroboam carried on Joash’s policies of aggressive expansion of the borders of Israel. He was able to contain Syrian invasion by conquering their capital, Damascus (2 Kings 14:28); he recovered the whole territory from Lebo Hamath (north of Damascus) to the Sea of the Arabah, that is, the Dead Sea (2 Kings 14:25).
During his reign Ammon and Moab were conquered (Amos 6:13) and the Transjordanic tribes were restored to their territory (2 Kings 13:5; 1 Chronicles 5:17-22). The restoration of the borders of Israel, “from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah” (1 Kings 14:25) was a return to the ideal boundaries of Israel that existed in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 8:65).
Jeroboam’s conquests were made possible because of Assyria’s weakness and its involvement with military campaigns elsewhere in its empire. With the absence of Assyria in Palestine, the door was wide open for Jeroboam to step in and restore Israel’s boundaries back to the ideal borders of the Solomonic era.
According to the writer of 2 Kings, Jeroboam’s military accomplishments came because of the Lord’s concern for his people. He provides two reasons for the Lord’s intervention in the affairs of Israel. First, he says that Jeroboam’s war policies and his military campaigns were in accordance with the word of the Lord as preached by Jonah, the son of Amittai, a prophet from Gath-hepher (2 Kings 14:25).
The nationalistic tenor of Jonah’s message is also present in the prophetic book that bears his name. In addition, the writer of 2 Kings says that Jeroboam’s victory came because of God’s compassion for his people: “For the LORD saw that the distress of Israel was very bitter; there was no one left, bond or free, and no one to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Joash” (2 Kings 14:26-27).
The recovery of territory that Israel had lost brought a great flow of wealth back into the Northern Kingdom. With the increase of territory came the increase of revenue brought in by trade and taxation. Israel controlled many of the important trade routes and as such was receiving the tolls of the caravans that used those routes.
The standard of living in Israel improved. The economic prosperity was so good that Bright (p. 259) says that no living Israelite could remember better times. According to Amos, people were able to build better houses, “houses of hewn stone” (Amos 5:11). The rich people had summer and winter houses. The description provided by Amos of a banquet scene within one of these palatial abodes clearly describes the prosperous life of many Israelites in the eighth century.
Amos speaks of people lying on beds of imported ivory, people lounging on their expensive couches, eating lambs from the flock and calves from the stall, singing idle songs to the sound of the harp and playing musical instruments, drinking wine from bowls, and anointing themselves with the finest oils (Amos 6:4-6).
To be continued.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary