I was researching something called the repetition principle. In general, this principle is that if something is repeated often enough, it’ll have an effect. Think of commercial jingles or slogans that are constantly repeated. These repetitions create patterns that our mind easily grasps, and in the case of advertising, the idea is that if your mind associates a jingle with a product, you’ll be more likely to buy that product.
I don’t know that I’m fully on board with that. I have a certain brand of car insurance, though I can more quickly and easily sing the jingles from other insurance companies. You would not want to hear me sing these jingles, but I could.
But repetition does have an effect on us.
When things are repeated in Scripture, are they more important than things that are just mentioned once? It could be unwise to take that perspective, because all of God’s Word is important. But repetition in the Bible is God’s way of saying: “Hey, people, I mentioned this before. Pay attention, and remember this.” God taps us on the shoulder to remind us.
Who was the best king of Israel? Most accounts point to David as this king. In the book of Acts it says that David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 Acts 13:22And when he had removed him, he raised up to them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.
American King James Version×). We are also told twice in Ezekiel that David will have a leadership role in the Kingdom (Ezekiel 34:23-24 Ezekiel 34:23-24 23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24 And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.
American King James Version×; 37:24-25) That’s a pretty big deal.
But there’s a measuring rod that the Bible gives us to determine the best king of Israel. David is used as a standard of comparison when the legacies of five other good kings are defined. Solomon (1 Kings 3:3 1 Kings 3:3And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.
American King James Version×), Asa (1 Kings 15:11 1 Kings 15:11And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father.
American King James Version×), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3 2 Kings 18:3And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
American King James Version×), Josiah (2 Kings 22:2 2 Kings 22:2And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
American King James Version×) and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:3-4 2 Chronicles 17:3-4 3 And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not to Baalim; 4 But sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
American King James Version×) were all compared to David at the end of their reign.
Being compared to David was the Bible’s measuring rod of a good king, and no other good king is used more often as the standard. By this yardstick, David was the best king of Israel.
This same measuring rod can be used to determine the worst king of Israel. There was one bad king who was used 14 times in the same way that David was used as a standard of comparison. This king was Jeroboam.
These 14 kings were Baasha (1 Kings 15:33-34 1 Kings 15:33-34 33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.
34 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin with which he made Israel to sin.
American King James Version×), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18-19 1 Kings 16:18-19 18 And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died. 19 For his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the LORD, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin.
American King James Version×), Omri (1 Kings 16:25-26 1 Kings 16:25-26 25 But Omri worked evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him. 26 For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin with which he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities.
American King James Version×), Ahab (1 Kings 16:30-31 1 Kings 16:30-31 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.
American King James Version×), Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51-52 1 Kings 22:51-52 51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. 52 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin:
American King James Version×), Jehoram (2 Kings 3:1-3 2 Kings 3:1-3 1 Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. 2 And he worked evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. 3 Nevertheless he joined to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.
American King James Version×), Jehu (2 Kings 10:31 2 Kings 10:31But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
American King James Version×), Johoahaz (2 Kings 13:1-2 2 Kings 13:1-2 1 In the three and twentieth year of Joash the son of Ahaziah king of Judah Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years. 2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.
American King James Version×), Johoash (2 Kings 13:10-11 2 Kings 13:10-11 10 In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years. 11 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin: but he walked therein.
American King James Version×), Jeroboam, son of Joash (2 Kings 14:23-24 2 Kings 14:23-24 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
American King James Version×), Zechariah (2 Kings15:8-9), Menahem (2 Kings 15:17-18 2 Kings 15:17-18 17 In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. 18 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
American King James Version×), Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:23-24 2 Kings 15:23-24 23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned two years. 24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
American King James Version×) and Pekah (2 Kings 15:27-28 2 Kings 15:27-28 27 In the two and fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years. 28 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
American King James Version×).
That is quite a list. These 14 bad kings were all compared to Jeroboam when the legacies of these kings were defined. Sadly, the bad far outweigh the good. And as man has advanced in his ways, and not in God’s ways, it may not even be that close in a study of today’s modern rulers.
In addition to being compared to Jeroboam, 13 times in the examples cited for these kings, the phrase “who had made Israel sin” is repeated. Christ has a warning for those who lead children, or people in general for that matter, astray (Matthew 18:6-7 Matthew 18:6-7 6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
American King James Version×).
Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was the first king of Israel after God tore apart the house of Solomon during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. At this time Rehoboam remained king in Jerusalem over Judah and Benjamin. In 2 Chronicles 13, we also read that the tribe of Levi was under the rule of Rehoboam. And that makes perfect sense, in what we will uncover, because Jeroboam was making up his own rules when it came to defining holy days and priests. The Levites would not have taken the reign of Jeroboam in stride because of this. The other 10 tribes made Jeroboam their king.
So what made Jeroboam such a bad king? There are six verses in the Bible that do well to describe the man Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28-33 1 Kings 12:28-33 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said to them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.
30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even to Dan.
31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.
32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like to the feast that is in Judah, and he offered on the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
33 So he offered on the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast to the children of Israel: and he offered on the altar, and burnt incense.
American King James Version×). In reading of the evil of Jeroboam here, one can compile a pretty scary list of sins. He made idols and worshiped them. He made priests of his own choosing (including himself in 1 Kings 13:33 1 Kings 13:33After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.
American King James Version×). He established his own holy days. He put himself in the place of God. He lacked humility.
In looking at Jeroboam’s sin of creating and worshiping idols, one may find this puzzling. A golden calf is such a memorable event of the children of Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 32). Wouldn’t Jeroboam have read about this or heard about this at some point in his life? Besides, this is such a clear infraction of the Second Commandment. So either he willfully proceeded making two golden calves, or one may come to the baffling conclusion that Jeroboam knew one golden calf was wrong, but perhaps two (he made two!) would be ok.
In 2 Kings 22:8 2 Kings 22:8And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
American King James Version×, Hilkiah, the priest during Josiah’s reign in Judah, finds the “Book of the Law” of Moses. It is unclear how long Scripture had been lost, and may have been lost prior to the reign of Jeroboam. So perhaps Jeroboam did not know the story of Aaron and the golden calf, or the Ten Commandments. But even if he did know the writings of Moses, Jeroboam seemed intent on following his own ways, and the ways of men. In 1 Kings 12:28 1 Kings 12:28Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said to them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
American King James Version×it reveals that he asked for advice—certainly he did not ask this of God or God’s appointed priests or prophets.
Humility is an important character trait, pointed out by many verses in the Bible (1 Peter 5:6 1 Peter 5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
American King James Version×; Proverbs 22:4 Proverbs 22:4By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honor, and life.
American King James Version×; Psalms 147:6 Psalms 147:6The LORD lifts up the meek: he casts the wicked down to the ground.
American King James Version×). This is just three mentioned here, but I’m certain I’d be exhausted at the end of a search of verses addressing humility.
In those few verses from 1 Kings 12, we see Jeroboam violated the First, Second and Fourth Commandments. He did not put God first, he made idols and worshiped them, and he created his own Sabbaths. In addition, he was quite proud of himself. And it’s not hard to imagine that he used the name of God casually, or without reverence, so let’s just say he spit on the first four commandments, along with a host of biblical principles.
These sins were bad, but they were not the evil that God wants us to recognize and remember. Any one of these sins, or a combination of them all, is not why God chose to single out Jeroboam 14 times for us. The true evil of Jeroboam is identified in what comes next.
This shortcoming, this sin of Jeroboam, this attribute that God so effectively warns about, is in 1 Kings 13. A “man of God” visits Jeroboam, basically to tell Jeroboam of the awaiting doom for his behavior. As God wishes all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×), He will extend opportunities—even to the wicked and wayward. Perhaps God extends opportunities especially to the wicked and wayward.
Far from responding to God’s grace, Jeroboam points to the man of God, and says, “Arrest Him!”
It’s not mentioned what awaited the man of God. I picture Jeroboam firing up a big vat of oil so he could throw the man into it. Telling a proud man that he’s wrong doesn’t generally go so well, and I think we all have our own examples of how ineffective it is. But telling a proud king that he is wrong is quite dangerous. Remember the king from the book of Esther? The law was that anyone who even went into the inner court to visit the king without being invited would be put to death. It’s possible that in both of these cases—the man of God here and Esther—God’s hedge of protection was raised.
We’re told then that Jeroboam’s hand withered. Distraught, Jeroboam asks the man of God to pray to “your” God—not Jeroboam’s god or gods, but the man’s God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The man of God does, and Jeroboam’s hand was restored.
Now, we believe in miracles. But when a healing happens to someone else, it’s not always certain that there was divine intervention. It could be time and chance, or some other reason or factor to explain it. But when a healing happens to us personally, we know more clearly that God chose to intervene. We all have personal examples of when we know we’ve had God’s hand of mercy or protection on us.
My dad had something wrong with his shoulder for years. I was involved with a wallpaper-hanging project or two at their house because he could not lift his right arm above his head without some extreme discomfort. I hung enough wallpaper to actually get pretty good at doing it, but let’s be clear: I’m not offering up any wallpaper hanging services.
My dad was among a group of people who were praying for him, and he lifted his right arm, and felt a pop. He lifted it again, and he felt another pop. After that, he was completely healed. While I can suggest alternatives, try telling my dad that a miracle did not take place there. You won’t have much success suggesting otherwise.
So you would think that this would have registered to Jeroboam. Two miracles, back-to-back—first, the hand was withered, and then the hand was restored. Wouldn’t the God of Israel have stood out as the God, the One to worship and follow? Well, we read of Jeroboam’s reaction:
1 Kings 13:33-34 1 Kings 13:33-34 33 After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.
34 And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.
American King James Version×: “After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth.”
So here is the great sin of Jeroboam: He did not repent. He did not repent.
However ugly and ungodly our lives have been, and continue to be, there’s a way out. There is everlasting life, and a joy and peace that we are just not able to comprehend as humans. Our imagination of the new heaven and new earth does not qualify in any way to give us a proper insight of what awaits.
But it all hinges on repentance.
It is very easy to contrast David’s life with the ways of Jeroboam. David did not fashion idols, or put himself in place of God. David was an example of humility for us all. He listened to the prophets and repented profusely. It is abundantly clear what made David a good king and Jeroboam a bad king. And it is equally clear why these two kings became standards of their kind.
Jeroboam sinned, David sinned, and we all sin. But the legacies of 14 bad kings include a comparison to Jeroboam for the purpose of pointing out the treachery of an inability or unwillingness to repent.
One day our own legacies will be written down. If they include an absence of repentance, they will likely end with the statement, “And we did evil in the sight of the Lord, just as Jeroboam did.” God wants us to remember this. So He effectively reminds us of the importance of repentance, with these 14 taps on the shoulder.