- 1 Kings 12:1-33
- 2 Chron. 11:13-14, 16-17
- 1 Kings 13:1-32
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam reigned in his place. Yet, because of Solomon’s idolatry GOD had promised to rip away ten of the twelve tribes from him. GOD had spoken to Jeroboam and told him that He would make him king over the ten tribes of Israel. Solomon attempted to kill Jeroboam (an indication of a rebellious and stubborn heart) so Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he remained until Solomon died.
When Rehoboam was made king, the Israelites (led by Jeroboam) asked him to lighten the heavy burden Solomon had laid upon the people, most likely in the form of taxes and labor. Rehoboam told them to come back in three days for his answer. First the elders of the Israelites advised Rehoboam to comply with their request and the nation would serve him gladly. But this displeased Rehoboam, so he asked his young friends with whom he had grown up for their advice. They suggested he use this opportunity to demonstrate his manhood and place heavier-still burdens upon the people. As a result of this decision, the ten tribes from the north rebelled and proclaimed Jeroboam as their king.
Jeroboam went to Shechem, fortified it, and lived there. Interestingly, there is no indication that Jeroboam recalled during these events the promise GOD had made to make him king over Israel. Had Jeroboam sought the LORD and walked in His ways then his kingdom would be secure. Yet, sadly, he chose the path of idolatry. Rather than trusting in GOD’s promise, Jeroboam feared that if the Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to worship, sacrifice, and remember the appointed feasts and festivals of the Law of Moses, then they would return to Rehoboam and serve him. So Jeroboam decided to create his own system of priests and worship.
Taking a page from the “playbook” of the generation of Israelites that left Egypt, Jeroboam had two golden calves made. He set one of them at Dan in extreme Northern Israel and the other at the south border of Israel in Bethel. He told the people to worship there at those idols, proclaiming them “your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Also, Jeroboam setup his own system of priests from tribes other than Levi. The Levite priests and Israelites who were faithful to GOD chose to leave their homes and live in Judah so that they could worship GOD acceptably, in the prescribed manner.
GOD responds to Jeroboam’s wickedness with a warning sent by a prophet:
1 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. 2 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.’” 3 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.”
4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” 8 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. 9 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.’” 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.
(1 Kings 13:1-10 NKJV)
That day an old prophet living in Bethel heard about these events from his sons, so he went after the prophet of GOD who was on his way home. The old prophet tried to get the other to return to his home to have dinner with him, but when the prophet of GOD refused, the old man lied to him and said an angel had told him it was okay to go to the old prophet’s home. Hearing this, the prophet of GOD agreed and went with the old prophet.
20 Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; 21 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, 22 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.’”
23 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. 24 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. 25 And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
26 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.”
(1 Kings 13:20-26 NKJV)
Curiously, we do not have an account of any punishment that the old prophet received for lying and tricking the other prophet into coming to his house. The old prophet did instruct his sons to bury him beside the prophet from Judah who had died on account of his deception in disobeying GOD’s command. Therefore it seems the old prophet was remorseful for what happened.
The message for us from these events is clear: When GOD gives a set of instructions it is essential that we follow His commands completely. Failure to rely upon Him and trust in what He tells us will result in punishment and perhaps eternity in hell for those who never repent. As the apostle Paul would later write:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
(Gal. 1:8 NKJV)