I Kings 13

 

 

            The Testimony of God Against the Calf Worship (vs. 1-10)

 

We have in this chapter an account of certain circumstances of profound significance

which marked the inauguration of Jeroboam’s first great feast — for the close

connection with ch.12. shows that it is “the fifteenth day of the eighth month

that is here described. The chapter divides itself into two sections:

 

  • (vs. 1-10) containing the public testimony of the prophet of Judah against the

            schismatic worship,

  • the second (vs. 11-32) his subsequent perversion and his tragic death.

 

 

1  And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah” - as a rule, both

priests and prophets would seem to have retreated (II Chronicles 11:14,16).

It is clear, however, that the migration of the prophets was not so general as that

of the priests. In v. 11 we find a prophet at Bethel; in ch. 14. Ahijah is still at

Shiloh, and at a later day we find schools of the prophets at Bethel, Jericho, etc.

(II Kings 2:3,5).  The prophetical activity of the time is to be found in the

kingdom, not of Judah, but of Israel.  The northern kingdom more especially

needed their ministry. It was just for this reason that Ahijah and others remained

at their posts - “by the word of the LORD” - by the word” would imply that

he had received a Divine communication; “in the word,” that his message

possessed him, inspired him, was “in his heart as a burning fire shut up in his

bones(Jeremiah 20:9) -  “unto Bethel:” the new sanctuary at Bethel would

probably be visible from the temple - “and Jeroboam stood by the altar to

burn incense.”  This altar was clearly an altar of burnt offering; not an altar of

incense, as is proved by the next verse.

 

2  And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said,

O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD;” - This apostrophe of the altar is

very striking and significant. It is as if the prophet disdained to notice the

royal but self-constituted priest; as if it were useless to appeal to him; as if

his person was of little consequence compared with the religious system he

was inaugurating, the system of which the altar was the centre and embodiment.

 “Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name;

and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn

incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.”  Hebrew –

bones of man, i.e., human bones. Nothing could more completely foreshadow

the future desecration of the altar. The presence in the congregation of a living man

who had merely touched a dead body and had not been purified, defiled the

tabernacle (Numbers 19:13), how much more the dead body itself, burnt on the

very altar. The Samaritan who once strewed the temple with human ashes

(Josephus., Ant. 18:2. 2) knew that he took the most effectual way to pollute it -

 shall be burnt [Hebrew shall they burn] upon thee. (For the fulfillment,

close to 350 years later - see II Kings 23:20) 

 

It is worthy of note how completely this brief protest proclaimed to Jeroboam

the utter and shameful overthrow, both of his political and religious systems.

A child of the rival house of David should stand where he then stood, his

successors extinct or powerless to prevent him, and should cover this new

cultus with disgrace and contempt. The man of God, he must have felt, has

proclaimed in few words the fall of his dynasty, the triumph of his rival,

and the failure of all his schemes.

 

3 “And he gave a sign” - The Hebrew tpewOm rather signifies a portent

The Greek - (te>ravteras - wonder) than a sign, the proper word for which is

twOa. The word occurs repeatedly in the Pentateuch, where it is rendered

wonder, or miracle, by our translators. Signs had, of course, been given before

(Exodus 4:30; 7:9; I Samuel 12:17-18) but hardly in such immediate attestation

of a special message. From this time forward such signs are not infrequent

(Isaiah 7:14; 38:8; II Kings 19:29). They mark the decline of faith  [Matthew

12:39] -  (something that contemporary Christianity might heed – CY – 2010)

 the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken;”

“This is the proof that my message is from Him, and is no idle threat” - a proof

vouchsafed by God Himself to the man of Judah, as well as to Jeroboam, that

he was really sent by God - “Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes

that are upon it shall be poured out.”  The fat of the sacrifice will be mixed

with the ashes that consumed it.  The sign, a partial destruction of the altar, and

the scattering of the sacrifice, was admirably calculated to presage its ultimate

and final and ignominious overthrow.

 

4  And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the

man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put

forth his hand” - [Instinctively, Jeroboam’s first thought was, not to wait and

see whether the promised sign was given, but to seize and punish the man who

had dared thus to denounce and thwart him. And we may imagine how

extremely mortifying this interruption must have been to him. It threatened the

complete frustration of his policy at the very moment when it seemed certain of

suceess  “from the altar,” – he did not leave the platform but shouted his

commands to his servants -  “saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which

he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to

him.” - It was like the “withered hand” of the New Testament (Matthew 12:10)

deprived of feeling and vital force, as the next words show - so that he

could not pull it in again to him.  It was not only powerless to punish, it

was punished.  Now stands the king of Israel, like some antique statue, in a

posture of impotent endeavor. This was a warning to the king, not so much

against his unauthorized and schismatical rites, as against his attempt to avenge

himself on the messenger of God (Psalm 105:14-15).

 

5  The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar,

(by the same invisible power, and at the same moment) according to the

sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.”

 

6  And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Entreat now

the face” -  Jeroboam is humbled and alarmed by the judgment he had

experienced uses a term in Hebrew which is very expressive — “Smooth or

stroke the face.”  It is an expression which occurs several times. See especially

Exodus 32:11; II Kings 13:4; II Chronicles 33:12; Proverbs 19:6 - “of the LORD

thy God,” - Jeroboam, conscience-stricken, does not dare to call Jehovah his own

God – “and pray for me,” - This sudden change in his bearing shows how much

Jeroboam was frightened. The sight, too, of the king humbly supplicating the prophet

who a moment before had protested against the calf worship was calculated to make

an impression on the minds of the people - “that my hand may be restored me

again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king's hand was

restored him again, and became as it was before.”

 

Men are often more concerned about their sufferings than about their

sins. Jeroboam’s entreaty is, not that his sin may be forgiven, but that his

hand may be restored. How many pray, “Heal my body;” how few, “Heal

my soul, for I have sinned against thee” (Psalm 41:4). The plague of head

or hand extorts more cries for mercy than the plague of the heart (ch. 8:38).

 

7  And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and

refresh thyself,” - Jeroboam could not possibly have done less, after the

signal service the man of God had rendered him, than invite him to his palace.

Eastern courtesy alone (Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 43:24) would require him to offer

hospitality to his benefactor.  A feeling of gratitude may have prompted the

invitation, while the king at the same time was very sensible of the advantages

which would accrue to himself if it were accepted, thereby blunting some of the

denunciation of his schismatical altar - and I will give thee a reward.”

 

8  And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half

thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink

water in this place:  9 For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD,

saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water,” - Participation in food — the “eating

salt” — is in the East a token of friendship and affinity; a sign of close communion

and fellowship. The prophet’s refusal to participate was consequently a practical

 and forcible disclaimer of all fellowship, a virtual excommunication, a

public repudiation of the calf worshippers.   (I Corinthians 5:11,” With such

 an one, no, not to eat”  - “nor turn again by the same way that thou

camest.”  The object of this command was to prevent him being traced and

followed.  Because of this provision (v. 10),  the old prophet was reduced

to ask, “What way went he?” (v. 12) - But the charge, we can hardly doubt,

was also designed to serve another purpose, viz., to warn the prophet against

doing what he did presently — against returning to Bethel. When he was

followed, and when he was told of a revelation commanding his return, he

should have remembered, among other things, that it had clearly been part

of God’s purpose, as evidenced by the explicit instructions given him, that

he should not be followed. This alone should have led him to suspect this

old prophet of deceit.  10  So he went another way, and returned not

by the way that he came to Bethel.”

 

 

                        ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 1-10)

 

The sin of Jeroboam, the schism which he inaugurated in person at the first

feast of tabernacles held in Bethel, was not consummated without protest.

When the king, possibly in the “golden garments” of the priesthood,

mounted the altar platform and stood before the vast multitude assembled

to witness this first great function of the new regime, a messenger of God,

sent from Judah, the seat of the true religion, lifted up his voice and

witnessed against these irregular and impious proceedings, against the

unsanctified altar, the unhallowed sacrifice, and the intrusive priesthood. It

must have been pretty clear beforehand that any protest addressed to

Jeroboam, who had devised and elaborated this corruption of Mosaic

worship, would be unavailing, but nevertheless it must be made. It was

probably in part because Jeroboam was beyond the reach of remonstrance

that the warning was addressed to the altar itself In other words, it was

made for the sake of the people rather than of their king. They should be

mercifully, and therefore distinctly, taught that this calf worship had not

and could not have the sanction of the Most High. Whether they would

hear, or whether they would forbear, they should see that God had not left

Himself without witness; they should know that at this crisis there had been

a prophet amongst them. The breach should not be made without due

warning of its sinfulness and its consequences. “For a testimony unto

them” the man of God addresses the dumb altar, the sign and center of the

new system, and proclaims not only its overthrow but the destruction of

Jeroboam’s house and the defeat of all his schemes.

 

And as, under such circumstances, mere threats, of whatsoever character

and by whomsoever spoken, would have had but little weight without

signs following,” the message straightway receives the confirmation of a

miracle. That the man of God “came from Judah was in itself reason

enough why the men of Israel should not listen to him, unless he compelled

their attention by prodigies. “A partisan,” they would say, “perhaps a

hireling of Rehoboam, it was natural such a one would prophecy evil of the

Northern Church and kingdom,” and so his words would have been

unheeded, even if his life had been spared. Besides, one who professed to

come as he did, “in the word of the Lord,” they had a right to ask for his

credentials, and those credentials could only be miraculous. Had not Moses

and Aaron “wrought signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, before

Pharaoh and all his servants?” Had not Samuel, too, supported his message

by a portent? (I Samuel 12:18.) If the denunciation of the schism, consequently,

was not to be inoperative, he must “give a sign” the same day.

 

And to these “two witnesses” — “the “sure word of prophecy” and the

sign following” — the rashness and impiety of Jeroboam procured the

addition of a third, or rather of two more — silent, but eloquent

attestations, each of them, that the prophet had not spoken in his own

name. For, enraged at this bold, this most unwelcome and sinister

interruption of his ritual, and fearing the effect of this brave protest on his

audience and the thousands of Israel to whom the news would ultimately

come, and forgetting at the moment the sacred character of the speaker

and the unseen panoply which protected him, he stretches forth his hand

intuitively, as if to detain the prophet, and thunders his commands to the

attendant soldiery to arrest him. But that hand, really raised against the

Most High, suddenly becomes rigid and powerless, and he must needs

stoop to beg the prophet’s prayers that it may be restored to him again.

And so it came to pass that the heretic king furnished in his own person,

much against his will, two powerful proofs that the “man of God” did

indeed speak the word of God and was supported by the power of God.

It is thus that God makes the wrath of man to praise Him.

Such, then, was the PROTEST, in word and deed, which marked the first

great service of the schismatic Church. But that was not all. The protest

was to be followed by an INTERDICT. The man of God was

commissioned at the same time to put the city and inhabitants of Bethel

under a ban. He was to treat them as lepers, as so tainted with heresy, so

polluted and unclean in the sight of God, that he could neither eat of their

bread nor drink of their cup. For this was clearly the object of the

injunction, “Eat no bread nor drink water there;” it was to show that all

who participated in this unhallowed worship were thenceforward to be

treated by Divine command as heathens and publicans. And to the children

of the East this public disclaimer of fellowship, this practical excommunication,

would have a significance such as with our altered conditions of society we can

hardly conceive, though the “Boycotting” of our own time may help us to understand

its operation. Every citizen of Bethel, every worshipper of the calves, would feel

 himself branded as unclean. The “scarlet letter” which the Puritans of New

England printed on the bosom of the adulteress hardly involved a greater stigma. It was

for this reason, therefore, that when the king bade the man of God to his palace

and promised him a royal recompense for the service he had rendered him,

the latter flung back his invitation in his face, and swore that half the king’s

house would not tempt him to eat of his dainties. Jeroboam, and his people

through him, should learn that if they would persist in their wanton

defiance of Divine law; if they would have two churches and three

sanctuaries where God had decreed there should in either case be but one;

if they would sacrifice before the works of their own hands, and by ministers

of man’s ordaining, and at times of man’s devising, then the pious Hebrews who

preserved inviolate the ancient faith should wipe their hands of them, and treat them

as renegades and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.

 

If God did not suffer that first great schism to pass unreproved, can we do better than

follow His example?  The preacher of today is as much bound to preserve the

faith whole and undefiled as was this prophet.  Let the ministers of God beware

 of bribery. “Come home with me and I will give,” etc. The device of Jeroboam

for silencing and conciliating the prophet has often been tried since, and with fatal

success.  The world has a shrewd suspicion that the clergy are not incorruptible;

that they, like others, have their price. Let us be on our guard against social

corruption.  And finally:

 

We may view “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin,” as the

man of sin” of his time, and a forerunner of the Antichrist of more

modern times (II Thessalonians 2:3).

 

As Jeroboam was the sign of the man of sin, this prophet was, at least in his

instructions, a typical “man of God.”

 

  • He came from Judah, where God was purely worshipped in His

            temple, to Ephraim, where “altars were made unto sin,” he would

            personate that moral lapse into which Ephraim had fallen.

 

  • In his speedy return from Ephraim to Judah, after deprecating the sin

      of the place, he would represent to the Ephrathites what God expected

      from them, repentance and reformation.

 

  • But the way back to God is not precisely the reversal of the way from

            Him. Adam fell by sin of his own and was turned out of Eden, but must

            return by the righteousness of another (Genesis 3:24). Our way back to

            God is the “new and living way opened in the blood of Jesus.”

            (Hebrews 10:20)

 

 

            The Disobedience and Death of the Man of God (vs. 11-34)

 

The seduction of the man of God, who has borne such fearless witness against

Jeroboam’s ecclesiastical policy, and his tragic end, are now narrated,

partly because of the deep impression the story made at the time, but

principally because these events were in themselves an eloquent testimony

against the worship of the calves and the whole ecclesiastical policy of

Jeroboam, and a solemn warning for all time against any, the slightest,

departure from the commandments of God. The very unfaithfulness of this

accredited messenger of the Most High, and the instant punishment it provoked,

became part of the Divine protest against the new regime, against the unfaithfulness

of Israel; whilst the remarkable manner in which these occurrences were recalled

to the nation’s memory in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 23:17-18) made it impossible

for the historian of the theocracy to pass them over without notice.

 

11  Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel;” - It is at first somewhat

surprising to find one of the prophetic order residing here, at the very seat and

stronghold of the apostasy, especially after what we read in II Chronicles 11:13-16,

that the priests and Levites, and it would seem all devout worshippers of the Lord

God of Israel, had left the country, and had gone over to Rehoboam. For we

cannot suppose that a sense of duty had kept this prophet at his post. The fact

that he remained, not only in the kingdom, but at its ecclesiastical capital; that he

stood by without protest when the schism was being effected, and that, though

not present himself at the sacrifice, he permitted his sons to be there, is a

sufficient index to his character. It is quite possible that strong political sympathies

had warped his judgment, and that he had persuaded himself that the policy of

Jeroboam was necessitated by the division of the kingdom, which he knew to be

from the Lord, and which one of his own order had foretold. Or it may be that,

despite his better judgment, he had gone with his tribe and the majority of the nation,

and now felt it difficult to withdraw from a false position. Or, finally, he may have

taken the side of Jeroboam because of the greater honors and rewards that

 prince had to bestow. There is a striking similarity between his position and action

and that of Balaam – (Numbers chps. 22-24) - “and his sons came and told him

all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words

which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.”

It is quite clear that the virtual excommunication which the man of God had

pronounced had made as great an impression as the signs which he had showed.

The interdict was a matter which came home to the Bethelites, as an affront to

the whole community.

 

12  And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had

seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.”  The question

shows that the old prophet throughly understood the import of those “words,” and

that his first thought was that the interdict must be removed at any cost.

 

13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him

the ass: and he rode thereon,”  - These are the words of one who had

determined to bring the man of God back.  14 And went after the man of

God, and found him sitting under an oak:  (It is interesting to note that

in Genesis 35:8, an oak of Bethel is mentioned and that Deborah, Rebekah’s

nurse was buried under it – considering the longevity of trees, could this be

the same one? – CY  - 2010) – Some expositors have seen in this brief rest

the beginning of the prophet’s sin, and certainly it would seem against the spirit

of his instructions to remain so near a place from which he was to vanish speedily,

and, if possible, unperceived. In any case the action betrays his fatigue and

exhaustion - “and he said unto him, Art thou the man  of God that camest

from Judah? And he said, I am. 

 

15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.”  The sting

was in the tail of this invitation. If he would partake of food, he would thereby

remove the ban and so neutralize one part of his mission.  Thus the danger of

parleying with the tempter.  The integrity of the man of God was imperiled as

soon as he began to listen to the persuasion that would lead him astray.

The first deliverances of conscience are generally right, and we run great moral

risk when we begin to question them. He who had resisted the allurements

of the king yields to those of the seeming prophet. Moral evil is always most

fascinating when it assumes a sacred disguise, and the false “prophet” is

the most plausible and dangerous of all tempters.

 

16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will

I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:  17 For it was said to me

by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there,

nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.”

 

18  He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel

spake unto me” – The lying prophet does not say that Jehovah spake to

him but an angel -  “by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back

with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water.

But he lied unto him.”  The object the old prophet had in view it is not so

difficult to divine. He hears that the prophet of Judah has refused the hospitality

of King Jeroboam, and has put the city of Bethel and the new cultus under a

virtual ban by refusing to eat bread in the place, or to hold any communication

with the inhabitants, himself among the rest, although he has taken no part, even

by his presence, in the ceremonial of the day. He naturally feels himself condemned

and aggrieved by this conduct. A prophet would feel the interdict much more keenly

than the people, and there can be little doubt that this man, who had been trying

to serve two masters, was deeply mortified by the excommunication pronounced

against him. He resolves, therefore, to rehabilitate himself in his own estimation and

that of his neighbors, by bringing back the man of God to eat and to drink, and so

in effect to remove the interdict, at any cost. If he succeeds, he win make the whole

city, and especially the sovereign, whose policy has been so emphatically condemned,

his debtor; while by accomplishing what the king had failed to effect, he will at once

heal his wounded pride and secure a position of influence in the new kingdom. If it

was the hope of temporal advancement had detained him at Bethel, he now sees,

as he thinks, an easy way to its attainment; if it was an ardent sympathy with the

new state of things, he sees before him an opportunity of expressing it in a most

practical and serviceable way.

 

“But he lied to him” - The man of God is deceived by lies. It is a favorite device

of the enemy. He is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). It was thus he deceived

our first parents. That weapon has answered so well that he plies it again

and again (II Corinthians 4:4; II Thessalonians 2:8-12 – Satan will be very active

lying and deceiving in the end time – he knows he has but a short time – thus the

theme of this web site – The Time is ShortHow are you handling his pitches?

Look to Jesus and be delivered from Satan’s grasp today!  CY – 2010). 

 

19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. 

20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD

came unto the prophet that brought him back:  21 And he cried unto the man

of God that came from Judah,” – he who denounced the “sin of Jeroboam” is now

denounced in turn -  “saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast

disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment

which the LORD thy God commanded thee,  22  But camest back, and hast

eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to

thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcass shall not come unto the

sepulcher of thy fathers.”  The desire, common in a greater or less degree to all

mankind, to rest after death amongst kindred dust, was especially strong in the Jew.

This denunciation did not necessarily imply a violent death or even a speedy death,

but it prepared the man of God for some untimely end.

 

23  And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk,

that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought

back.”  The man of God had been delayed by his return to Bethel, and the prophet,

out of pity, lends or gives him his ass. Not merely, it is probable, for the sake of

speeding him on his way, but that he might have some living thing with him on a

journey which he had so much cause to dread.

 

24  And when he was gone, a lion” – Lions were evidently numerous in

Palestine in former days, though they are now extinct. This is proved by the

names of places, such as Laish, Lebaoth, etc., and by the constant reference

to them in Scripture. They had their lairs in the forests, one of which existed near

Bethel (II Kings 2:24), and especially in the thickets of the Jordan valley (Jeremiah

49:19; Zechariah 11:3) – “met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcass

was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcass.”

These particulars are mentioned to show that his death was no accident, or chance,

but a visitation of God.  There are probably but few persons who have not felt that

this summary punishment was marked by extreme severity; the more so, as the

prophet was cruelly deceived, and that by a brother prophet, who claimed to have

received a subsequent revelation, and whom, consequently, it appeared to be a duty

to obey. And when it is observed that the really guilty person, the prophet of Bethel,

so far as appears, escaped all punishment, and by his lie secured for himself respect

for his remains, we seem to have a case of positive hardship and injustice. The

difficulty is at once removed if we remember that although the Jewish dispensation

was one of temporal recompenses, yet all the same there is a judgment hereafter.

No doubt the man of God was punished for his disobedience, for inexcusable

disobedience it was. It is quite true that he was solemnly assured that an angel

had appeared to revoke his commission, but for this he had only the word of a

stranger, of one, too, with whom he had been commanded “not even to eat.”

He had “the word of the Lord;” that is to say, the voice of God, borne

 in upon his soul, forbidding his return, and the word of an irreligious

stranger, (What lies are we believing and who is telling them to us? – CY -2010) –

who gave no “sign the same day” in proof of his mission, authorizing it. There

can be no doubt which he ought to have followed, the more so as the command

he himself had received was so remarkably explicit and decisive (v. 9); so decisive

that we can hardly suppose he would have deviated from it, had not the pains of

hunger and thirst pleaded powerfully in favor of the pretended revelation of the

Bethelite prophet. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that he eagerly welcomed

this cause for returning. It is impossible, therefore, to acquit him of disobedience.

Nor is it difficult to see that the consequences of this disobedience were serious.

It was not as if he had disregarded a mere positive obligation, the only object of

which was to test his obedience; he had acted in a way calculated to destroy

 the moral effect of his mission. He had been employed not only to testify

publicly against the calf worship, but also to lay the city and the new sanctuary

of Jeroboam under an interdict, and by his return that ban lost much of its force.

His eating and drinking, small matters in themselves, were full of significance.

Indeed, he did in one way precisely what Jeroboam and his people were doing

in another,  he forsook the plain commands of God for the ordinances of men;

he listened to the tempter and ate the forbidden fruit; and so it came to pass

that, instead of witnessing against disobedience, he himself set them the

example of disobedience. It is the story of the Fall over again; and therefore

death, the punishment of the Fall, befell him. But before we say that his

punishment was too severe, let us remember what, by the mercy of God, that

primal punishment has become. It has been turned into a blessing. It has given us

the incarnation, redemption, eternal life. We forget that death is not

necessarily an evil — is in reality a blessing. One of the heathen has said

that if we only knew what the future life was like, we should not be content

to live. To this “man of God” it must surely have been gain to die. If the

flesh was destroyed, it was that the spirit might be saved (I Corinthians 5:5).

Only because we forget that death is the gate of life do we complain of the

severity of his doom. And as to the lying prophet who wrought all

this mischief escaping retribution — which, by the way, he did not do, for

assuredly he must have had a life-long remorse — it is overlooked that the

day of retribution has not yet arrived. There is for him a judgment to come.

It may he said that the Jew did not know of this — that the future life had

not then been revealed. That is quite true, and for that very reason this

visitation would make all the deeper impression on their minds. To this

must be added that the man of God did not die merely or principally

because of his sin, but “that the works of God might be made manifest in

him.” His death was necessary in order that his mission might not be

altogether invalidated. His miserable end — as it must have seemed to

them — would surely speak to the inhabitants of Bethel and to all Israel

and Judah, for long years to come, as to the sure vengeance awaiting the

disobedient, whether king, prophet, priest, or people. Though dead “he

cried against the altar of Bethel.” And the sacred narrative (vs. 26-32)

affords us some ground for hoping that the “old prophet” became penitent

for his sin. It is noteworthy that he joins his testimony to that of the man of

God. Thus, this tragedy extorted even from him a warning against

disobedience (v. 26), and a confirmation of the prophecy against the altar

of Bethel (v. 32).]

 

25  And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcass cast in the way,

and the lion standing by the carcass: and they came and told it in

the city where the old prophet dwelt.”  This was precisely what God

had designed. By this means, the very disobedience and death of the man of

God became a part of the protest against the new rites. For if the

partaking of food against the commandment of God, though the result not

of indulgence, but of deceit, brought so great a punishment upon a righteous

man, what sort of chastisements would befall those who had left

God their Maker and were worshipping senseless images.

 

26  And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard

thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto

the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him

unto the lion, which hath torn him,” – [Hebrew margin – “broken” –

the word is very expressive for the lion kills with one blow] – “and slain him,

according to the word of the LORD, which He spake unto him.”

 

27  And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they

saddled him.  28 And he went and found his carcass cast in the way,

and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass: the lion had not

eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass.  29 And the prophet took up the

carcass of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it

back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.

30 And he laid his carcass in his own grave;” – a mark of profound

respect -  “and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!

31  And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his

sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulcher wherein

the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones:  32 For the

saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in

Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the

cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.”

 

“Lay my bones beside his bones.” Like Balaam, this old prophet would

die the death of the righteous.” (Numbers 23:10) -“Gather not my soul

with sinners” (Psalm 26:9) is his cry. “Sit anima mea cum illo.” He will take

his chance with the man of God rather than with the king. In death they were

not divided.” But how different their lot in life. The deceived dies; the deceiver

lives. The lion which slew the comparatively innocent man of God would not

touch the lying prophet. Though old, he is spared to grow older, while the other’s

sun went down at noon. What an illustration this of the strange confusion

of this present life (cf. Psalms 69 and 73); what a proof of a life to come,

where each shall receive his just recompense of reward! To the Jew,

suckled in a creed of temporal rewards, this history would present

some anxious problems, all of which are clear since our Prophet, Priest,

and King “brought life and immortality to light.” (II Timothy 1:10)

 

33  After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way,” –

According to Josephus, the old prophet now explained away the miracles of

the prophet of Judah, alleging that the altar had fallen because it was new and

the king’s hand had become powerless from fatigue (Antiqities., 8:9, § 1)] –

The tautology is significant. He returned not from his sin, but returned to it -

 but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places:

whosoever  would, he consecrated him,” – Hebrew -  filled his hand.

In the consecration of Aaron and his sons, and possibly of their successors

also, the portions of the victim which were usually burned upon the altar,

together with the right shoulder or leg, which was the priest’s portion, and

three cakes of unleavened bread, were put into the hands of the candidates

for the priesthood, and waved before the Lord before they were offered

on the altar (Exodus 29:22-26; Leviticus 8:25-28). To “fill the hand”

consequently became a synonym for consecration -“and he became one

of the priests of the high  places.” It would almost appear, from the extreme

readiness with which Jeroboam ordained his priests, that few candidates offered

themselves for the office. In one respect, however, he exacted more from

the candidate than did the law. For whereas the latter required “one bullock

and two rams” (Exodus 29:1), he demanded one bullock and seven rams

as the offering on consecration (II Chronicles 13:9.

 

34  And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut

it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.” The forfeiture of the

crown would bring in its train, almost as a matter of course, the destruction of

his family (ch.14:10-14). And we are taught here that both events are to be

regarded, under the dispensation of temporal rewards and punishments, as

the recompenses of his impiety; of that daring schismatic policy which, in all its

branches, betrayed a complete disregard of the terms of the covenant, and

which was persevered in contemptuous defiance of the repeated warnings of

God.

 

 

                           ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 11-34)

 

                        The Man of God and the People of God

 

The morning of that fifteenth day of the eighth month, that black day in the

Hebrew Calendar, that birthday of division, was hardly more memorable or

eventful than the evening. In the morning the Bethelites saw the signs of

the man of God; in the evening they saw in him a sign, a parable, and a

terrible warning. The lesson of the rent altar and the rigid hand was

followed by the lesson of the lion and the ass and the rigid corpse.

 

For we may be sure, when the old prophet came back from his quest of the

body, and brought with him that melancholy burden, swinging across the

ass, the men of Bethel, who had already heard from wayfarers of the

tragedy, would crowd the streets or lanes — for Bethel was probably little

more than a village — to meet him, and would gaze, hushed and

awe struck, into the dumb and helpless face of the man whose words and

deeds had that day been so full of power. There was not a child that night

but would leave his play to stare in silent wonder, or with whispered

question, on the corpse. Of that sad funereal procession, the words which,

near a thousand years later, described the entry of a living Prophet into an

adjoining city, might justly be used, “All the city was moved, saying, Who

is this?” (Matthew 21:10.) Nor would the language which described the

effect of that same Prophet’s death a few days later be less applicable here,

“All the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things

which were done, smote their breasts and returned” (Luke 23:48).

Let us now suppose, however, for the sake of bringing out the lessons of

this narrative, that there were some in the crowd — as on the first feast day

there may well have been — strangers in Bethel (John 12:20; Acts 2:5-11),

who did not understand the things which were come to pass there that day.

Let us join them, as they go, carried by the stream, to meet the body; let us

listen to their questions, and to the answers they receive. We shall not gather

all the truth from the discourse we overhear, but we shall learn at all events

one lesson which this tragedy had for the men of that time.

 

Now the first question which would rise to these strangers’ lips, as they

came upon the body, borne by the patient ass, which was the one terrified

witness of the catastrophe, would be, “Who is this?” They think, perhaps,

it is some peasant who has been slain as he tilled his fields, or some

itinerant merchant who has been murdered on his journey. But the

bystanders speedily undeceive them. They tell them that this is “a man of

God who came from Judah.” His name, it may be, is unknown to them, but

not his deeds. They relate, with breathless excitement, not unmixed with

fear, how a few short hours ago he was amongst them; how on the

morning of that very day he had confronted their king as he was in the act

of sacrificing, had denounced his innovations, had foretold the overthrow

of his policy and dynasty, and had then wrought wonderful works in

attestation of his mission. The strangers listen with steadily increasing

wonderment. Had this man been “a murderer whom vengeance suffered

not to live,” (Acts 28:4) or a sinner above all men that dwelt in Bethel, they

could have understood it. Such a one, however he might have met his end, would

only have received the just reward of his deeds, but “a man of God,” a man who

wrought miracles, a favorite of Heaven! — they cannot comprehend it,

and they, as excited as their informants, hurriedly ask how he has come by

his death.

 

“A lion slew him,” is the answer. It is true no human eye saw the deed, but

there can be no doubt as to the manner of his death. Then they tell how

wayfaring men that afternoon had seen a strange sight, a corpse cast in the

waywhose corpse they knew not — and an ass and a lion standing as

joint sentinels over it. And then the strangers would understand that

this man of God had died by the visitation of God. They would remember

that the “teeth of evil beasts” were one of the plagues denounced in the

law, and they would wonder, and they would ask, what this messenger of

the Most High, this miracle worker, could have done between morning and

evening to bring this terrible judgment down upon his head.

 

And this was a question which only the old prophet could rightly answer,

and he had answered it already. He had told his sons and neighbors that

afternoon, when first he heard of this tragedy, that it was the punishment of

disobedience (v. 26). Not improbably he proclaimed it again to the crowd

which awaited his return. “He had been charged,” he would say, as they

stood gazing on the helpless corpse, “to lay our city under a ban; he had

been commanded to eat no bread, to drink no water here. And he came

back, and he ate bread and he drank water in my house; therefore it is that

the lion hath torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord’”

 

And so the men of Bethel, and the strangers among them — and thousands

of strangers would be present in Bethel at that time — would understand

that this man, albeit a prophet, and a doer of wondrous works, had paid the

penalty of his partial disobedience with his life. They would perceive that

God had not spared His own elect messenger. They would see that the man

who had been commissioned to protest against Jeroboam’s will worship,

who had courageously faced the king in his might, and had stood like an

Athanase against the world, had received judgment without mercy when he

overstepped the commandment of his God. And they would assuredly be

reminded, some of them at least, how sinful and how dangerous must be

that departure from the law which they had that day seen instituted

amongst themselves. And as one by one they dropped off, and, deeply

awed and impressed, returned to their tents or booths, the one thought

which above all others filled their minds would be this — how sure and

swift and terrible was the recompense of disobedience.

 

But if these strangers, in their perplexity, proceeded to make further

inquiries, as they may well have done; if they asked what could have led

such a man as this to set at naught the plain commandment of God: if they

discovered from the old prophet, or his sons, or others, the circumstances

of his sin; if they learned that this man of God had resisted the entreaties of

the king, had obeyed his own instructions to the letter, and had only come

back and eaten bread on the solemn assurance of this old prophet himself

that an angel from heaven had distinctly reversed his commission; if they

understood that it was because he had taken this man at his word and

trusted to his good faith, as they themselves would have done in like

circumstances, that he had been induced to return; and that because of this,

and nothing else, this ambassador of the Most Merciful had died by the

stroke of a wild beast, we may imagine what their astonishment and horror

would be like. “Who shall deliver us,” they would cry, “out of the hand of

this mighty God?” And it is probable that at first they would find it difficult

to see wherein his sin lay, and to disentangle the right and the wrong in his

conduct. They would say, and rightly, that he was much more sinned

against than sinning. It would seem to them that the really guilty party

escaped unpunished, whilst his innocent victim paid to the uttermost

farthing. And it is possible that some found, at least for a time, in this

episode, as some in later days have done, a riddle which they could not

read. But its meaning could not be lost upon them all; if it had been, the

Divine purpose in this visitation would have been defeated. It may be the

old prophet himself expounded its lessons; it may be that “such as set their

heart to seek the Lord” — and we may be sure that Jeroboam’s

innovations had occasioned the gravest misgivings and fears in many minds

— found them out for themselves. But in any case some would not be long

in discovering that these things were an allegory. “As hieroglyphics,” says

Lord Bacon, “preceded letters, so parables were more ancient than

arguments.” May we not add that acted parables were still more ancient

than spoken ones. A Tarquin, striking off the heads of the tallest poppies,

belongs to the beginnings of history. This was the age when men not only

gave signs, but were such themselves (<232003>Isaiah 20:3; <262424>Ezekiel 24:24;

<401208>Matthew 12:39-40). The death of the “man of God” accordingly was a

parable, an object lesson of the most impressive kind as to the doom of the

unfaithful people of God. In his end, men might see a foreshadowing of

their nation’s, if it should persevere in the worship of the calves.

For they would assuredly remember, as they pondered this history, that as

this prophet of Judah was a man of God, precisely so was Israel the people

of God (ch. 8:43, 52, 66; 14:7; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 26:18).

As he was to other men, so was Israel to other nations. Was he elect of God

and precious? So were they. Had he a mission? So had they. Had God spoken

to him? He had also spoken to them, and moreover had given them a charge

not unlike his. For it is to be also considered that God had plainly spoken to

Israel on this very subject of Divine worship. At the very threshold of the

Decalogue, at the head of “the words of the covenant,” stood the charge,

“Thou shalt have none other gods but me. Thou shalt not make to

thyself any graven image,” -  And it is to be noted here that these words

stand side by side with the formula,  “I am the Lord thy God, which

brought thee out of the land of Egypt— the very words which Jeroboam

had cited in instituting his new mode of worship; the very cry which had been

raised before when Israel made its first golden calf (Exodus 32:8). It is almost

certain, therefore, that these initial words of the covenant had been lately and

forcibly recalled to their minds. But in any case they could not be ignorant that

their forefathers had been expressly charged to make no similitude, no graven or

molten image (Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:16, 25; 5:8; 27:15)  - And this

commandment. too, like the message of that morning, had been confirmed with

signs following. The blackness, darkness, tempest, trumpet, fire, all these had

attested that revelation of God’s will. It might possibly occur to some of their

minds, therefore, that when the first protest against a corrupt following of the

true God was raised, He “gave a sign the same day.”

 

Such, then, was the commandment given to Israel. It was as explicit, as

authoritative as that which this dead prophet had recently received. But of

late a new teacher had appeared amongst them, in the person of their king,

who presumed to countermand this law of the Almighty. We are not told,

indeed, that Jeroboam claimed to be prophet as well as priest, but we find

him acting as one, and received as one. It is hardly likely that he laid claim

to any revelation from on high. He was not the man to pretend to visions of

angels. It was his contention that he was reverting to the old form of

religion, but that was all. At the same time, he was the great false prophet

of the Old Testament. Just as Moses was the giver of the law, just as Elias

was its restorer, so was Jeroboam its depraver. Precisely what the lying

prophet taught the man of God, that had he taught the people of God, viz.,

that God’s command was somehow abrogated. Prophet of Bethel and

priest king of Bethel were alike in this, that each met the Divine, Thou

shalt not, with the human,Thou shalt.” There was this difference

between them, that the first inculcated disobedience to but one command,

whilst the second contravened a whole system; but this very divergence

would make the parallel all the more impressive. “If,” they would argue, “if

a prophet, a doer of signs and wonders, died without mercy because he

listened to the voice of a brother prophet — who swore that he had

received a revelation concerning him — and so was betrayed into breaking

one commandment, of how much sorer punishment shall those be thought

worthy who at the mere word of their king, albeit he claimed no spiritual

authority, and acted from political motives only, reject the gracious

covenant of heaven, confirmed by many signs, and go after false gods,” etc.

There were some, no doubt, would see in the corpse borne to its burial that

day a foreshadowing of the more terrible judgment then hanging over their

own heads.

 

And so we find this prophet of Judah has not lived or suffered in vain. His

death, like that of Samson, wrought even more effectually than his life. He

was set forth as it were appointed to death (I Corinthians 4:9). He

silently and unconsciously mirrored forth the sin and the punishment of a

disobedient people.

 

It now only remains for us to indicate briefly how the analogy between man

of God and people of God received its completion in the punishment which

befell the latter. The punishment of the prophet was death; of the people,

whose sin was much greater, death and superadded infamy. We see this:

 

  • In the case of Jeroboam’s house. For the family of the deceiver was the

            first to suffer. As in the case of the man of God, “swift retribution”

            followed upon sin. And what retribution! The death and destruction of the

            race. He himself was smitten of God. His seed was suddenly cut off. The

            sword of Baasha was as swift as the lion’s paw. Only one of his children

            came to the grave.” The rest were devoured of beasts and birds.

            ( ch. 14:11 compared with ch. 13:28.)

 

  • In the case of his intrusive priests. If they escaped a violent death, their

            remains experienced disgrace worse than death (v. 2). Here prophet and

            priests stand in contrast. The respect accorded to his ashes was denied to

            theirs.

 

  • In the case of the entire people. For the captivity, foretold in  ch.14:15,

      was the death of the kingdom, and the death knell of the people.

            The ten tribes soon lost their corporate existence. And what agonies

            preceded that dissolution! (See Jeremiah 52; Lamentations passim; Psalms

            74., 137.) The people to death, the land to lions! (II Kings 17:25.)

            Could the analogy be much closer?

 

But indeed the analogy does not end there. De te fabula narratur. (change the

names and the story would be of you) – The Christian Church has inherited the

place, the privileges, the responsibilities of the Jewish people. If that Church, or

if the individual Christian be unfaithful or disobedient, let them see their own fate

glassed and portrayed in that of the disobedient prophet. “If God spared not the

natural branches,” (Romans 11:21). “I will remove thy candlestick out of

 his place” (Revelation 2:5).  “Shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)

 

 

 

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