THE KING WHO LED ISRAEL TO SIN
I Kings 12:25 to 14:20; 15:25 to 32
THE Lord had told Jeroboam that he should become king over the Ten Tribes. and the Lord has promised Jeroboam that if he would serve the Lord, and do his will, then his kingdom would become great, and his descendants, those who should come after him, should sit long on the throne. But Jeroboam, though wise in worldly matters, was not faithful to the Lord God of Israel.
He saw that his people, though separated from the rule of King Rehoboam, still went up to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple, because there was the only altar in all the land. Jeroboam said to himself:
"If my people go up to worship at Jerusalem, then after a time they will become the friends of Rehoboam and his people; and then they will leave me, or perhaps kill me, and let Rehoboam rule again over all the land. I will build places for worship and altars in my own kingdom; and then my people will not need to go abroad to worship."
Jeroboam forgot that the Lord, who had given him the kingdom, could care for him and keep him, if he should be faithful to the Lord. But because he would not trust the Lord, he did that which was very evil. He chose two places, Bethel in the south, on the road to Jerusalem, and Dan far in the north; and made these places of worship for his people. And for each place he made a calf of god, and set it up; and he said to the people of Israel:
"It is too far for you to go up to Jerusalem to worship. Here are gods for you, at Bethel and at Dan. These are the gods which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Come and worship these gods."
And as the priests of the tribe of Levi would not serve in Jeroboam's idol-temples, he took men out of all the tribes, some of them common and low men, and made them his priests. And all through the land, upon hills and high places, Jeroboam caused images to be set up, to lead the people in worshipping idols.
In the fall of the year there was held a feast to the Lord in Jerusalem, to which the people went from all the land. Jeroboam made a great feast at Bethel, a few weeks later than the feast at Jerusalem, in order to draw people to his idol-temple at Bethel, and to keep them away from the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem. At this feast King Jeroboam went up to the idol-altar at Bethel, and burned incense, which was a sweet-smelling smoke, made by burning certain gums. Thus Jeroboam led his people away from the Lord to idols; and ever after this, when his name is mentioned in the Bible, he is spoken of as "Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin."
On a day when Jeroboam was offering incense at the altar, a man of God, a prophet, came from Judah; and he cried out against the altar, saying:
"O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord, Behold, in the time to come there shall rise up a man of the house of David, Josiah by name. And Josiah shall burn upon this altar the bones of the priests that have offered sacrifices to idols in this place. And this altar and this temple shall be destroyed."
The prophet from Judah also said to Jeroboam, "I will prove to you that I am speaking in the power of the Lord; and this shall be the sign. This altar shall fall apart, and the ashes upon it shall be poured out."
When King Jeroboam heard this, he was very angry. He stretched out his arm toward the prophet, and called to his guards, saying, "Take hold of that man!"
And instantly the hand which Jeroboam held out toward the prophet, dried up and became helpless And as if by an earthquake the altar before which the king stood was torn apart, and the ashes fell out upon the ground. Then the king saw that this was the work of the Lord. He said to the prophet, "Pray to the Lord your God for me, that he may make my hand well again."
Then the prophet prayed to the Lord, and the Lord heard his prayer, and made the king's hand well once more. Then King Jeroboam said to the prophet, "Come home with me, and dine, and rest; and I will give you a reward."
And the man of God said to the king:
"If you would give me half of your house, I will not go to your home, nor eat bread, nor drink water in this place. For the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Eat no bread, and drink no water in this place; and go to your home in the land of Judah by another way.' "
So the man of God left Bethel by a road different from that by which he came, and went toward his own home in the land of Judah.
There was living in Bethel at that time another prophet, and old man. His sons told him of the coming of the man of God from Judah, what he said, and what the Lord had wrought. The old man learned from his sons which road the prophet had taken, and followed after him, and found him resting under an oak tree. He said to him:
"Are you the man of God that came from Judah?"
And he said, "I am." Then said the old prophet of Bethel to him, "come home with me, and have supper with me."
But the man of God said to him, "The Lord has commanded me not to eat bread or drink water in this place; and I must therefore go back to my own home in the land of Judah."
Then the old man said:
"I am a prophet of the Lord as you are; and an angel spoke to me from the Lord, saying, 'Bring the prophet from Judah back to your house, and let him eat and drink with you.' "
Now this was not true. It was a wicked lie. Then the prophet from Judah went home with him, and took a meal at his house. This also was not right, for he should have obeyed what the Lord had said to him, even though another man claimed to have heard a different message from the Lord.
And even while they were sitting at the table, a word came from the Lord to the old prophet who had told the lie; and he cried out to the prophet from Judah, saying:
"Thus saith the Lord, 'Because you have disobeyed my command, have come back to this place, and have eaten bread and drunk water here, therefore you shall die and your body shall not be buried in the tomb with your fathers.' "
After dinner the prophet started again to ride upon his ass back to his own home. And on the way a lion came out, and killed him. But the lion did not eat the man's body. He stood beside it, and the ass stood by it also. And this was told to the old prophet whose lies had led him to disobey the Lord. Then the old prophet came, and took up his body, and laid it in his own tomb, and mourned over him. And he said to his sons:
"When I am dead, bury me beside the body of the prophet from the land of Judah. For I know that what he spoke as the message of God against the altar at Bethel shall surely come to pass."
At one time the child of King Jeroboam was taken very ill; and his mother, the queen, went to the prophet Ahijah, the one who had promised the kingdom to Jeroboam, who was now an old man and blind, if the child would be well again. But Ahijah said to her: "Tell King Jeroboam that thus saith the Lord to him:
"You have done evil worse than any before you; and have made graven images, and have cast the Lord behind your back. Therefore the Lord will bring evil upon you and upon your house. Your sick child shall die, and every other child of yours shall be slain; and your family shall be swept away. The dogs shall eat the bodies of your children in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat those that die in the field. And in times to come God shall smite Israel, and shall carry them into a land far away, because of the idols which they have worshipped."
And after this Jeroboam died, and his son Nadab began to reign in his place. But after two years Baasha, one of his servants, rose up against Nadab, and killed him, and made himself king over Israel. And Baasha killed every child of Jeroboam, and left not one son or daughter of Jeroboam alive, as Ahijah the prophet had said.
So, although Jeroboam was made king, as God had promised him, it came to pass that the kingdom was taken away from his family, because he did not obey the world of the Lord, but led his people into sin.