A. A prophecy from a man of God.
1. (1-2) The coming destruction of the altar in Bethel.
And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ ”
a. A man of God went from Judah to Bethel: Apparently, there were no qualified messengers within the northern kingdom of Israel. This is a sad commentary on the spiritual state of Jeroboam’s kingdom.
i. This anonymous man of God was used in an important way. He demonstrates that one does not need to be famous to be significantly used by God.
b. Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you: This is a remarkable prophecy that would be precisely fulfilled 340 years later. 2 Kings 23:15 documents the fulfillment of this prophecy in the days of Josiah, King of Judah: Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image.
i. This was more than a pronouncement of judgment against the altar; it also announced that the judgment would come through a ruler of Judah (the house of David). This was a special rebuke and source of concern to Jeroboam, who was always aware of the threat from his neighbor to the south (as in 1 Kings 12:27).
ii. We know that this didn’t happen for some 350 years, but Jeroboam didn’t know that in advance. He went to his grave worried about the fulfillment of this prophecy, which was a sort of immediate judgment on Jeroboam.
2. (3-5) Signs to confirm the prophet’s words.
And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.” So it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, who cried out against the altar in Bethel, that he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Arrest him!” Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself. The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.
a. He gave a sign the same day: The prophecy of the man of God would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years, so an immediate sign was given to confirm the word to the present-day hearers.
b. Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out: This would be a convincing sign, and a direct rebuke to the idolatrous worship at that altar.
c. Arrest him! Jeroboam’s reaction was immediate - he sought to silence the messenger rather than respond to the message. The prophecy from the man of God was like most every message of coming judgment - an implicit invitation to repentance. Jeroboam obviously did not accept this invitation.
i. “If Jeroboam would not have Jehovah’s priests, God sends His prophet into his land.” (Knapp)
d. His hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself: God confirmed His word of judgment in two ways. First, He judged the disobedient king at the precise point of his most glaring sin (the outstretched hand against the man of God). Second, He fulfilled the immediate word against the altar (the altar also was split apart).
i. “This God did, partly, to chastise Jeroboam for offering violence to the Lord’s prophet; partly, to secure the prophet against further violence; and partly, that in this example God might show how highly he resents the injuries done to his ministers in and for the faithful discharge of their office.” (Poole)
3. (6) Jeroboam’s plea.
Then the king answered and said to the man of God, “Please entreat the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and became as before.
a. Please entreat the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored: Under the evident judgment of God, Jeroboam had no use for golden calves or their altars. He knew that his only hope was in the Lord and in His representative.
i. As the subsequent chapters will show, Jeroboam didn’t really repent here; or if he did, it was only for a moment. Wanting to receive something from God is not the same as repentance.
b. So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him: To his credit, the man of God showed great grace to Jeroboam. He quickly moved from being under arrest to being an intercessor for his persecutor. This was great mercy from the man of God, and especially from God - who answered his prayer.
i. God did this, “Partly, to assure him that the stroke was from God; partly, because he repented of that violence which he intended against the prophet, for which God inflicted it; and partly, that the goodness of God to him might have led him to repentance; or if he continued impenitent, leave him without all excuse.” (Poole)
4. (7-10) The man of God declines Jeroboam’s invitation.
Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.’“ So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.
a. I will give you a reward: Jeroboam quickly - and naturally, given the circumstances - embraced the man of God as a friend. He wanted to refresh and reward him, without any repentance from the sin the man of God denounced.
b. If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place: The man of God refused the invitation, based on a prior warning from God. To accept Jeroboam’s invitation would demonstrate fellowship with his idolatry.
B. The man of God’s disobedience and death.
1. (11-17) An old prophet in Bethel invites the man of God to dinner.
Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’ “
a. Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel: It seems that this was a faithful prophet to the Lord. This demonstrates that not every godly person left Israel for Judah; some still remained behind.
i. “Probably once a prophet of the Lord, who had fallen from his steadfastness, and yet not so deeply as to lose the knowledge of the true God, and join with Jeroboam with his idolatries.” (Clarke)
b. Come home with me and eat bread: This prophet from Bethel invited the unnamed man of God to his home, as Jeroboam had invited him. The man of God refused, under the same reason he refused Jeroboam - that God had specifically told him to return to Judah without accepting hospitality, and to return a different way (also in 1 Kings 13:10).
2. (18-19) The prophet from Bethel lies to the man of God from Judah.
He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ “ (He was lying to him.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.
a. He was lying to him: The prophet from Bethel gave a false word from God, trying to persuade the man of God from Judah to change his course from doing exactly what God told him.
i. “As he found the man of God sitting under an oak, probably faint with fatigue and fasting, for he had no refreshment, his humanity might have led him to practise this deception, in order to persuade him to take some refreshment.” (Clarke)
ii. “But his sin was great; for he did not only tell a premeditated lie, but also made God a liar, and to contradict himself, and all this without any pretence of necessity, or benefit to himself.” (Poole)
b. An angel spoke to me: Perhaps this was true, and perhaps it was a deceiving angel. Satan and his messengers can appear as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
c. So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water: The man of God from Judah listened to the lie from the prophet of Bethel. He did this for several reasons:
· The prophet from Bethel was probably older (an old prophet, 1 Kings 13:11) and had the respect of the man of God.
· The prophet from Bethel identified with the man of God (I too am a prophet as you are).
· The prophet from Bethel claimed a spectacular experience (an angel spoke to me).
· The prophet from Bethel claimed to speak for the Lord (by the word of the Lord).
· The prophet from Bethel did not seem to be an idolater who should be shunned (Bring him back with you to your house).
· The prophet from Bethel offered no reward, other than simple food (he may eat bread and drink water).
i. No matter how natural and seductive this enticement was, it was the duty of the man of God to resist it. He had a word from God to guide his actions, and should receive no other word accept through dramatic and direct confirmation by God’s Spirit. His failure at this point ended his usefulness as a man of God.
ii. “When we have received a direct command fresh from the lips of Christ, we must act on it, and not be turned aside by a different suggestion, made to us through the lips of professing Christians . . . Deal with God at first-hand.” (Meyer)
iii. “God never contradicts Himself in His dealings with His servants. Let us be true to His commands, refusing to be deflected from the path of obedience, even by an angel from heaven.” (Morgan)
3. (20-22) The prophet from Bethel prophesies the doom of the man of God.
Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’ ”
a. The word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back: This prophet from Bethel spoke a lie in the name of the Lord in 1 Kings 13:18. Now he received a true prophecy while the man of God from Judah ate at his table.
b. Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord: God promised great judgment against the man of God from Judah for his disobedience. This was a hard test, but he failed it. He should have kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded, no matter how subtle and innocent the temptation was to disobey.
c. Your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers: God judged the man of God from Judah far more strictly than He judged Jeroboam or the prophet from Bethel. It would seem that they were guilty of worse sins (leading national idolatry and a deliberate lying prophecy), yet the man of God received worse judgment.
i. “For a body to lie unburied was a curse, hence the emphasis on detail of the place of burial. It was a disgrace to be buried away from the family among strangers.” (Wiseman)
ii. This is an example of an important principle of the way God works. We think that strict judgment should begin among the most ungodly, but often God begins strict judgment among His own people (1 Peter 4:17). Usually this is because God knows that the world will not be reached when His people are compromising and disobedient.
iii. “By permitting himself to be seduced by the old prophet, when he should have acted only on the expressly declared counsel of God, he committed the sin unto death [1 John 5:16-17]; that is, such a sin as God will punish with the death of the body, while he extends mercy to his soul.” (Clarke)
4. (23-25a) The word of the prophet from Bethel is fulfilled.
So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse.
a. A lion met him on the road and killed him: The word - the second word - of the prophet from Bethel was fulfilled. He didn’t say that the man of God would perish by a lion, but that he would not be buried in the tomb of his fathers.
i. “Lions were attested in Palestine until at least the thirteenth century a.d.” (Wiseman)
b. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse: This demonstrates that this was no mere accident, but something unique from God. The lion did not attack the donkey (the donkey stood by it), nor did he attack the men who passed by. This lion was on a special mission of judgment from God, and seems to be more obedient than the man of God from Judah was.
5. (25b-32) The man of God is given a decent burial and the prophet from Bethel testifies to his prophecy.
Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. Now when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard it, he said, “It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him.” And he spoke to his sons, saying, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled it. Then he went and found his corpse thrown on the road, and the donkey and the lion standing by the corpse. The lion had not eaten the corpse nor torn the donkey. And the prophet took up the corpse of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back. So the old prophet came to the city to mourn, and to bury him. Then he laid the corpse in his own tomb; and they mourned over him, saying, “Alas, my brother!” So it was, after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, “When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying which he cried out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel, and against all the shrines on the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, will surely come to pass.”
a. So the old prophet came to the city to mourn, and to bury him: The old prophet from Bethel was sympathetic to the man of God from Judah, even in his disobedience and resulting judgment. The prophet from Bethel was not a particularly righteous man or good prophet, having used a lying prophecy to lead the man of God into sin and judgment. He recognized the common weakness of this fellows servant of God.
i. How strange it was for the old prophet to look upon the carcass of the dead prophet, and to realize: “My sin is worse than his.” The ways of God’s judgment are sometimes past finding out, and only understandable from eternity.
b. He laid the corpse in his own tomb: Not in the tomb of the man of God from Judah’s fathers, in fulfillment of the previous prophecy.
c. When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones: Though he lied to him, led him into sin, and prophesied judgment against him, the prophet from Bethel still respected the man of God from Judah. Perhaps he understood that the word he spoke against the Jeroboam required a courage he did not have; therefore he confirmed the word of the man of God against Jeroboam and the altar at Bethel.
6. (33-34) No repentance from Jeroboam.
After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth.
a. After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way: He should have turned, but he did not. God’s dealing with the man of God from Judah was warning enough to Jeroboam, but it was a warning he ignored.
i. “All these wonderful accidents, as God’s hammers, did but beat upon cold iron.” (Trapp)
b. He became one of the priests of the high places: In ancient Israel, God commanded a strict separation between the office of king and priest. Jeroboam blurred this separation and this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam.
i. Jeroboam had great opportunity, especially in light of the promise of God through Ahijah recorded in 1 Kings 11:38: Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you. Jeroboam did not obey God and honor His commandments, and he never fulfilled his potential or promise.
ii. The same principle works in servants of God today. We are not called because of obedience, or used out of merit; but our disobedience hinders our potential for full use. Paul put it this way in 2 Timothy 2:21: Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter [works of dishonor], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. God uses vessels of honor, separation, usefulness, and preparation to their fullest potential.
iii. In his failure, Jeroboam became the prototype of the disobedient kings of Israel. The phrase He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin was used of many subsequent kings of Israel. These include:
· Baasha (1 Kings 15:33-34)
· Omri (1 Kings 16:25-26)
· Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51-52)
· Jehoram (2 Kings 3:1-3)
· Jehu (2 Kings 10:29-31)
· Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:1-2)
· Jehoash (2 Kings 13:10-11)
· Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-24)
· Zechariah (2 Kings 15:8-9)
· Menahim (2 Kings 15:17-18)
· Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:23-24)
· Pekah (2 Kings 15:27-28).
iv. One curious exception was Ahab, who was noted as worse than Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:30-31).
v. Jeroboam had great opportunity, but instead became a great curse to every generation of the northern kingdom after that. Even at the end of the Kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam’s sin was remembered: For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day. (2 Kings 17:21-23)
vi. All in all, Jeroboam is an example of sinful failure.
· He failed despite great blessing and favor from God.
· He failed for the sake of mere political advantage.
· He failed and led an entire nation into idolatry.
· He failed despite specific warnings to repent.
· He failed despite specific judgment and deliverance from that judgment.
· He failed despite a clear message and example of integrity.
© 2006 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission