11th February: I Kings 11.29-32; 12.19; Psalm 80; Mark 7.31-37
If you buy a jeroboam of wine, you are choosing a bottle with a capacity four times that of an ordinary bottle. It is named for a northerner who led a revolt against Solomon which led to the sundering of the kingdom to the north and to the south; his name possibly comes from the Hebrew root rbb meaning to increase.
Jeroboam caught Solomon’s eye [I Kings 11.28] and was put in charge of the forced labour gangs Solomon had commanded to be formed in order to complete Solomon’s extensive construction projects. Such an enslavement had been unknown since Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; this conscription of a people that God himself had liberated was a fundamental contradiction.
Jeroboam doesn’t escape the condemnation of the author of Kings; he is dismissed as the one ‘who made Israel sin’. [I Kings 14.16] But he turns from being Solomon’s collaborator to being his adversary. (One thinks of the crafty steward of Jesus’ parable [Luke 16.1-8] who in the end wins his master’s approbation when he proves to be a more successful trickster than even his master had been.) Jeroboam sets in motion a chain of events that eventuate in the unravelling of the kingdom King David had sewn together and Jeroboam himself became the first King of the new, northern, nation of Israel.