🔼The name Jeroboam: Summary
- May The People Increase, Whose People Are Countless
- May The People Contend
- From (1) the verb רבב (rabab), to become many, and (2) the noun עם ('am), people.
- From (1) the verb ריב (rib), to strive or contend, and (2) the noun עם ('am), people.
🔼The name Jeroboam in the Bible
There are two Jeroboams in the Bible:
- The first and best known Jeroboam is the son of Nebat and Zeruah, and king of Israel (1 Kings 11:26). King Solomon had appointed this Jeroboam as head over the forced labor of the territory of Joseph (11:28), and one day, as he goes out from Jerusalem, he's met by the prophet Ahijah. He tells Jeroboam that the Lord will give him the ten tribes of Israel. Jeroboam flees to Egypt but returns after Solomon dies and his son Rehoboam is reigning. The northern tribes revolt, Jeroboam fortifies Shechem and Penuel, erects golden calves at Bethel and Dan, and continues to earn his epitaph "the king who made Israel sin" (2 Kings 13:6). He reigns for 22 years and is succeeded by his son Nadab.
- The second Jeroboam is the son and successor of king Joash of Israel (2 Kings 13:13), and apparently good friend of the prophet Elisha (13:14).
🔼Etymology of the name Jeroboam
The name Jeroboam consists of two elements. The final part is the word עם ('am), which can be either of the following:
The verb עמם ('mm) probably expressed to be inclusive or comprehensive. Its rare uses in the Bible relate to making secrets or making info available to an in-crowd. Preposition עם ('im) means 'with', מעם (me'im) means 'from', and עמה ('umma) means 'beside'. Noun עם ('am) means a people, ranging from all of mankind to the in-crowd of a small village. Noun עם ('am) refers to one's (paternal) kinsman.
There's some debate about the etymology of the first part of the name Jeroboam, but most commentators take it from the following word group:
The verb רבב (rabab) means to be or become many. Adjective רב (rab) means much, many or great, and the identical noun רב (rab) means chief or captain; hence too the familiar noun ραββι (rabbi), meaning Rabbi. Noun רב (rob) means multitude or abundance. Nouns רבבה (rebaba), רבו (ribo) and רבוא (ribo') mean ten-thousand or myriad. Noun רביבים (rebibim) denotes copious showers.
Noun רבב (rabab), describes a smear of viscous fat, an obvious sign that someone was well off. That same noun was spelled רבד (rabad), which may have helped the formation of the word ραβδος (rabdos), staff, rod or scepter.
Possibly a second yet identical verb רבב (rabab) means to shoot, particularly of arrows. This may very well be a specified usage of our verb since arrows are customarily shot en masse by many archers. Noun רב (rab) means archer, and is identical to the adjective meaning many.
The slightly more common verb רבה (raba) is obviously a by-form of רבב (rabab) and means to be or become great, many, much or numerous. Noun מרבה (marbeh) means increase or abundance. Noun מרבה (mirbah) means much. Nouns מרבית (marbit) and תרבות (tarbut) mean increase, greatness, multitude. Noun תרבית (tarbit) means increment or usury. Fittingly, noun ארבה (arbeh) denotes a kind of locust.
Possibly a second yet identical verb רבה (raba) means to shoot.
For a meaning of the name Jeroboam, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads May The People Increase and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names offers Whose People Are Countless. BDB Theological Dictionary concedes that the name Jeroboam "probably" means The People Increaseth, but also refers to the verb ריב (rib), meaning to strive or contend:
The very common verb ריב (rib) means to strive or contend and ranges from a mere bickering to full scale combat. Noun ריב (rib) means strife, dispute or plea. Noun יריב (yarib) denotes an opponent or adversary. Noun מריבה (meriba) refers to a place or agent of strife or contention.
Hence BDB offers the secondary possibilities of The People Contendeth and (The God) Amm Contendeth.