Jeroboam II, king of Israel, began his 41 year reign at a time when God’s judgment against Israel was drawing to a close. Jeroboam I was the first king of Israel after the kingdom was divided at the time of Solomon’s death. Jeroboam I caused the people of Israel to sin because he made two calves of gold and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28).
The sins of Jeroboam I brought a curse upon his household (1 Kings 14:10) that continued until the time of Jeroboam II, about 150 years later. It says of Jeroboam II in 2 Kings 14:24 that “he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” In spite of his bad behavior, the LORD used Jeroboam II to free the northern kingdom from the oppression it suffered at the hands of the Syrian kings Hazael and Ben-hadad (2 Kings 14:25).
The kingdom of Israel had reached a point where their affliction was very severe. The people were rebelling against God and were on the verge of being wiped out by their enemies. “And the LORD said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (2 Kings 14:27). Jeroboam II was able to create a buffer or safety zone between Israel and Syria that enabled the Israelites to avoid destruction and exile for approximately 3o more years.
During Jeroboam II’s reign, he received a message from the LORD “by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher” (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah was sent to Nineveh to deliver a message of destruction to the Syrians, but instead of being destroyed, the people repented and were spared. It is not clear whether Jonah was sent to king Jeroboam II before or after he went to Nineveh, but more than likely Jonah went to Nineveh afterward.
Jonah’s message to the Ninevites may have been taken seriously because Israel had regained a significant amount of territory during Jeroboam II’s reign (2 Kings 14:125, 28). If the Israelites were not a serious threat to Nineveh, it seems unlikely the people would have turned to God for mercy. A key statement recorded in the book of Jonah indicates that the people were aware of God’s mercy toward his people (Jonah 3:9), and king Jeroboam II was a perfect example of that.