PLACED on the
throne by the ten tribes of Israel who had rebelled against the house of
David, Jeroboam, the former servant of Solomon, was in a position to bring
about wise reforms in both civil and religious affairs. Under the
rulership of Solomon he had shown aptitude and sound judgment; and the
knowledge he had gained during years of faithful service fitted him to
rule with discretion. But Jeroboam failed to make God his trust.
greatest fear was that at some future time the hearts of his subjects
might be won over by the ruler occupying the throne of David. He reasoned
that if the ten tribes should be permitted to visit often the ancient seat
of the Jewish monarchy, where the services of the temple were still
conducted as in the years of Solomon's reign, many might feel inclined to
renew their allegiance to the government centering at Jerusalem. Taking
counsel with His advisers, Jeroboam determined by one bold stroke to
far as possible, the probability of a revolt from his rule. He would bring
this about by creating within the borders of his newly formed kingdom two
centers of worship, one at Bethel and the other at Dan. In these places
the ten tribes should be invited to assemble, instead of at Jerusalem, to
this transfer, Jeroboam thought to appeal to the imagination of the
Israelites by setting before them some visible representation to symbolize
the presence of the invisible God. Accordingly he caused to be made two
calves of gold, and these were placed within shrines at the appointed
centers of worship. In this effort to represent the Deity, Jeroboam
violated the plain command of Jehovah: "Thou shalt not make unto thee
any graven image. . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve
them." Exodus 20:4, 5.
So strong was
Jeroboam's desire to keep the ten tribes away from Jerusalem that he lost
sight of the fundamental weakness of his plan. He failed to take into
consideration the great peril to which he was exposing the Israelites by
setting before them the idolatrous symbol of the deity with which their
ancestors had been so familiar during the centuries of Egyptian bondage.
Jeroboam's recent residence in Egypt should have taught him the folly of
placing before the people such heathen representations. But his set
purpose of inducing the northern tribes to discontinue their annual visits
to the Holy City led him to adopt the most imprudent of measures. "It
is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem," he urged; "behold
thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."
1 Kings 12:28.
were invited to bow down before the golden images and adopt strange forms
tried to persuade the Levites, some of whom were living within his realm,
to serve as priests in the newly erected shrines at Bethel and Dan; but in
this effort he met with failure. He was therefore compelled to elevate to
the priesthood men from "the lowest of the people." Verse 31.
Alarmed over the prospect, many of the faithful, including a great number
of the Levites, fled to Jerusalem, where they might worship in harmony
with the divine requirements.
ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month,
like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So
did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he
placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made."
bold defiance of God in thus setting aside divinely appointed institutions
was not allowed to pass unrebuked. Even while he was officiating and
burning incense during the dedication of the strange altar he had set up
at Bethel, there appeared before him a man of God from the kingdom of
Judah, sent to denounce him for presuming to introduce new forms of
worship. The prophet "cried against the altar, . . . and said, O
altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; 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.
gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath
spoken; Behold, the altar shall
be rent, and
the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out." Immediately the
altar "was rent, 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."
1 Kings 13:2, 3, 5.
this, Jeroboam was filled with a spirit of defiance against God and
attempted to restrain the one who had delivered the message. In wrath
"he put forth his hand from the altar" and cried out, "Lay
hold on him." His impetuous act met with swift rebuke. The hand
outstretched against the messenger of Jehovah suddenly became powerless
and withered, and could not be withdrawn.
the king appealed to the prophet to intercede with God in his behalf.
"Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God," he pleaded,
"and pray for me, 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
become as it was before." Verses 4, 6.
Vain had been
Jeroboam's effort to invest with solemnity the dedication of a strange
altar, respect for which would have led to disrespect for the worship of
Jehovah in the temple at Jerusalem. By the message of the prophet, the
king of Israel should have been led to repent and to renounce his wicked
purposes, which were turning the people away from the true worship of God.
But he hardened his heart and determined to follow a way of his own
At the time
of the feast at Bethel the hearts of the Israelites were not fully
hardened. Many were susceptible to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The
Lord designed that those
taking rapid steps in apostasy should be checked in their course before it
should be too late. He sent His messenger to interrupt the idolatrous
proceedings and to reveal to king and people what the outworking of this
apostasy would be. The rending of the altar was a sign of God's
displeasure at the abomination that was being wrought in Israel.
seeks to save, not to destroy. He delights in the rescue of sinners.
"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of
the wicked." Ezekiel 33:11. By warnings and entreaties He calls the
wayward to cease from their evil-doing and to turn to Him and live. He
gives His chosen messengers a holy boldness, that those who hear may fear
and be brought to repentance. How firmly the man of God rebuked the king!
And this firmness was essential; in no other way could the existing evils
have been rebuked. The Lord gave His servant boldness, that an abiding
impression might be made on those who heard. The messengers of the Lord
are never to fear the face of man, but are to stand unflinchingly for the
right. So long as they put their trust in God, they need not fear; for He
who gives them their commission gives them also the assurance of His
delivered his message, the prophet was about to return, when Jeroboam said
to him, "Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee
a reward." "If thou wilt give me half thine house," the
prophet replied, "I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat
bread nor drink water in this place: for so was it charged me by the
word of the
Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same
way that thou camest." 1 Kings 13:7-9.
Well would it
have been for the prophet had he adhered to his purpose to return to Judea
without delay. While traveling homeward by another route, he was overtaken
by an aged man who claimed to be a prophet and who made false
representations to the man of God, declaring, "I am a prophet also as
thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying,
Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink
water." Again and again the lie was repeated and the invitation urged
until the man of God was persuaded to return.
true prophet allowed himself to take a course contrary to the line of
duty, God permitted him to suffer the penalty of transgression. While he
and the one who had invited him to return to Bethel were sitting together
at the table, the inspiration of the Almighty came upon the false prophet,
"and he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, 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, .
. . thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulcher of thy fathers."
of doom was soon literally fulfilled. "It came to pass, after he had
eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass. . .
. And when he was gone, a lion 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. And, behold, men passed by, and
carcass cast in the way, . . . and they came and told it in the city where
the old prophet dwelt. 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." Verses 23-26.
that overtook the unfaithful messenger was a still further evidence of the
truth of the prophecy uttered over the altar. If, after disobeying the
word of the Lord, the prophet had been permitted to go on in safety, the
king would have used this fact in an attempt to vindicate his own
disobedience. In the rent altar, in the palsied arm, and in the terrible
fate of the one who dared disobey an express command of Jehovah, Jeroboam
should have discerned the swift displeasure of an offended God, and these
judgments should have warned him not to persist in wrongdoing. But, far
from repenting, Jeroboam "made again of the lowest of the people
priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he
became one of the priests of the high places." Thus he not only
sinned greatly himself, but "made Israel to sin;" 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." Verses 33, 34; 14:16.
close of a troubled reign of twenty-two years, Jeroboam met with a
disastrous defeat in a war with Abijah, the successor of Rehoboam.
"Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah:
and the Lord struck him, and he died." 2 Chronicles 13:20.
introduced during Jeroboam's reign became more and more marked, until
finally it resulted in the utter ruin of the kingdom of Israel. Even
before the death of
Jeroboam, Ahijah, the aged prophet at Shiloh who many years before had predicted the
elevation of Jeroboam to the throne, declared: "The Lord shall smite
Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and He shall root up Israel out
of this good land, which He gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them
beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord
to anger. And He shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who
did sin, and who made Israel to sin." 1 Kings 14:15, 16.
Yet the Lord
did not give Israel up without first doing all that could be done to lead
them back to their allegiance to Him. Through long, dark years when ruler
after ruler stood up in bold defiance of Heaven and led Israel deeper and
still deeper into idolatry, God sent message after message to His
backslidden people. Through His prophets He gave them every opportunity to
stay the tide of apostasy and to return to Him. During the years that were
to follow the rending of the kingdom, Elijah and Elisha were to live and
labor, and the tender appeals of Hosea and Amos and Obadiah were to be
heard in the land. Never was the kingdom of Israel to be left without
noble witnesses to the mighty power of God to save from sin. Even in the
darkest hours some would remain true to their divine Ruler and in the
midst of idolatry would live blameless in the sight of a holy God. These
faithful ones were numbered among the goodly remnant through whom the
eternal purpose of Jehovah was finally to be fulfilled.