Jeroboam’s Apostasy and the Davidic Covenant

Lastly, the Davidic covenant which was given to David, for the people, with the promise of the Messiah kingship, ends the covenants in the Old Testament.  Like that of any other covenant in the Old testament, the Davidic covenant was no different in the sense that apostasy ruled more than ever, to the point that all of that of Israel would fall until the coming of Christ. Aaron’s account of the people leaving the covenant in Exodus 32 has many similarities to Jeroboam’s account in 1 Kings 12 with the calves. Although, where Moses mediated for the sins of Aaron, the sins of Jeroboam go unrequited, to the point of leading to the destruction of Israel in total apostasy. Here Jeroboam’s symbols of the calves continue on throughout the history of the 10 tribes; even the purge of Jehu does not eradicate them in 2 Kings10:29.

Although the people of Aaron and the followers of Jeroboam “find blessing only through Zion,” the Davidic covenant ends with an awful ending. Some liberal scholars see Jeroboam’s act with the calves as just an act in a nation that differed, and not as an act of apostasy. As earlier mentioned, Dr. Gary Knoppers says, “That history, as Deuteronomistic commentary on the relationship between Israel and its deity, is unkind to the northern kingdom is therefore hardly surprising. Its course testifies to the enduring value of the Jerusalem temple.”[1] The problem with this view is that Dr. Knoppers’ understanding of the Word is warped as it does not see the Divine, but only sees a book of history written by people no better than himself. However, Jeroboam’s decision to worship the calves instead of the God of Israel that had come into covenant with them, would lead not only him, but also his followers—10 of the 12 tribes—into total apostasy. There is no better example of corporate apostasy than this in the history of mankind, with one man leading a nation of people into total disbelief. Some who carry the same view as Dr. Knoppers believe that Jeroboam’s intent was to differ from the others and head in his own direction as a nation. However, those who left and decided that their thoughts and beliefs were better than obeying God, were broken off from the God that came into covenant with them.

What makes matters worse for Jeroboam is that he was warned about what he was doing in breaking covenant with God. In 1 Kings 13:1-6 a man of God made the covenant clear:

“And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the LORD and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’” And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before.”

Jeroboam knew exactly what he was doing against the God of the covenant. Yet for Jeroboam that meant nothing; his desires and his flesh were more important and would only lead him into apostasy, leaving the covenant of the coming Christ to save His people. By the time that Jeroboam’s arrest came, his heart was completely hardened and he was far from God. His fall came spiritually, through his individual apostatizing from the covenant—which would also lead to the corporate apostasy of 10 tribes of Israel. What Jeroboam thought was war against Judah, was only war against the God that had came into covenant with Adam, and with Jeroboam’s people—the nation of God—Israel. Jeroboam would go on to reign physically as king of Israel; however, he would never be spiritually part of the covenant which God had made with his fathers of Israel.


[1] Gary N. Knoppers “Aaron’s Calf and Jeroboam’s Calves,” pp. 104.

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