Jeroboam, who would one day become the first king of the ten tribes of Israel, started his career as one of the officials working for King Solomon. The King, impressed with the young man's dedication to work, put him in charge of the whole labor force of the country. He perhaps would not have been so endeared of the man had he known what the Prophet Ahijah would one day tell Jeroboam.
Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD , the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. (1 Kings 11: 30-31)
Influenced by these words, he began to conspire against the King, who discovered it. Jeroboam promptly fled to Egypt, where he remained under the protection of Shishak I.
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam ascended to the throne. Jeroboam returned to Israel and went to meet Rehoboam as the head of the workers, who obviously retained loyalty to him, to plead for better conditions.
"Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."
Rehoboam answered, "Go away for three days and then come back to me." So the people went away.
(1 Kings 12:4-5)
Rehoboam returned with the news that taxes would be increased! They revolted, making Jeroboam their king, leaving Rehoboam only the tribes of Judah and its ancilillary Benjamin.
Jeroboam rebuilt and fortified Shechem as the capital of his kingdom. As a means to perpetuate the division between the two kingdoms, he had two golden calves placed at Dan and Bethel, which lay at either end of Israel, and then told his people not to worship at Jerusalem anymore but to bring their offerings to the shrines he had built.
One day, while he was offering incense at Bethel, a prophet from Judah appeared before him with a warning message from God, saying that the altar would split.
When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, "Seize him!" But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the LORD .
(1 Kings 13:4-5)
At his entreaty his hand was restored but the miracle seemed to have had no lasting effect on him and he persisted in his godless ways.
He died after a reign of twenty-two years, and was succeeded by his son Nadab.