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And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, 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 became as it was before.

And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.

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 :

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.

So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Beth-el.

COMMENT.-Jeroboam had returned from Egypt on the news of Solomon's death, and the revolted Israelites at once made him king ; not anointing him, for the priests had all adhered to Judah. The Levites were not reckoned as a tribe, so that the ten were made up by the division of Joseph into two; but Judah and Benjamin were always the fighting tribes—the lion and wolf; and they had mustered a hundred and eighty thousand men to put down the rebellion, when a command came through Shemaiah the prophet to abstain from war, since the separation was the will of God; and Rehoboam obeyed. Jeroboam was thus a powerful and wealthy prince, reigning by God's own appointment in the richest portions of the land. He rebuilt Shechem, where Joseph was buried, and which had been overthrown by Abimelech, and fortified Penuel on the Jordan, where Jacob had wrestled with the angel. In fact, he seems to have tried to revive the recollections of Jacob and Joseph in opposition to those of Judah. After God's interference on his behalf, he surely might have trusted to His protection, in simple obedience; but the thought of the three yearly feasts that took everyone on pilgrimage to Jerusalem alarmed him, lest the Israelites should be drawn back to their allegiance to the house of David. He would not trust God, but thought for himself, and resolved to have a national religion as well as a separate throne ; and thus he won the sad distinctive epithet, “who made Israel to sin," and ruined his dynasty and kingdom, instead of establishing it. He had seen priestly kings in Egypt; he would be a priestly king himself. He would excuse his people the long journey to Jerusalem, and give them two shrines near home instead-one, the old idolatrous temple at Dan, set up long ago with Micah's teraphim; the other at Bethel, named the “House of God” by Jacob, and consecrated by his vision—that vision which above all taught fearless trust. In both these places Jeroboam meant to adore the true and only God, JEHOVAH; but as there was no Light to betoken His presence, a visible emblem was supplied. There was much to lead Jeroboam to the choice of the calf or ox. He had seen the bulls, Apis and Mnevis, as the emblems of the God of Nature in Egypt, and moreover the ox or unicorn was the ensign of Joseph, besides being one of the four animal forms united to form the cherubic figure. He forgot what had befallen Israel beneath Mount Sinai, when they “turned their glory into the similitude of a calf that eateth hay;" he ordained new priests, and himself the first, and instituted a new feast, probably a harvest feast, as it fell a month later than that of the Tabernacles.

There he stood, himself officiating at his new altar at Bethel, probably for the first time, when in the midst of the festal throng there appeared a man in the rough hairy garment of a prophet, and standing before the altar, but taking no notice of the king, spoke to it his prediction:“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, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.” This was the most entire defilement an altar could suffer, and that it should be done by a son of the house of David showed not only that Jeroboam's new form of religion should be overthrown, but that his kingdom should not stand. Three hundred years passed before the fulfilment of this prophecy, but it was minutely carried out; and it is remarkable that the father of the king who fulfilled it was one of the worst of idolaters, and the most unlikely to have named his son Josiah in memory of this prediction. As an immediate token that the message came from God, the altar was at once riven asunder, and all that was on it fell ; and Jeroboam, stretching out his hand to seize the prophet, found it paralysed, and could not draw it back. Scarcely a miracle had been worked during the hundred and twenty years of faith, and the shock was all the greater. Jeroboam showed himself subdued, and on the prophet's prayer his hand was restored. He invited the messenger to come home with him, meaning, probably, to win him over to his side ; but God had given express commands that the prophet should only deliver his message and then return to Judah, without touching the feast, without converse, without even treading the same path, and, like Balaam, with a dangerous asseveration betraying a secret wish, he refused.

LESSON III.

THE DISOBEDIENT PROPHET.

B.C. 975.—1 KINGS xiii. 11–32.

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el : the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.

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.

And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass : and he rode thereon,

And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak : and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah ? And he said, I am.

Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.

And he said, may not return with thee, nor go in with thee : neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place :

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.

He said unto him, 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. But he lied unto him.

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

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 :

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,

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 carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

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.

And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him : and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.

And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase : 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 : therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him.

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

And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase : the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn

And the prophet took up the carcase 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.

And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother !

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 sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried ; lay my bones beside his bones :

For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Beth-el, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.

the ass.

COMMENT.— It seems as if the command to go straight back to Judah from Bethel had been especially given with a view to the weakness of the prophet's character. He kept it at first. He had done nobly in the sight of men, but when he was alone he gave way to the first temptation, and it is to be observed that all the harm came of this slight act of disobedience. He sat down under an oak to rest. So he exposed himself to all the trial that proved too strong for him. Depend upon it, most temptations come when we are loitering, or in some way or other not strictly obedient.

In the meantime there was an old prophet at Bethel, who had not quitted the place when Jeroboam defiled it, and, if he had not gone to the idolatrous festival himself, had allowed his sons to go thither. Some think, indeed, that he wanted to persuade the man of God from Judah to come over to Jeroboam's side, or that he was jealous of the new influence that was drawing the king away from Bethel, as if it were more than mere curiosity that led him to play the part he did. A wicked part it was. He was not afraid to pretend to have had direct commands froin Heaven to lead his brother to transgress. It might be hard for the prophet of Judah to know whether this were the truth, but it was a difficulty he had brought on himself by lingering so as to be overtaken. Even then, a sincere prayer for an answer from God would almost certainly have shown him what to do ; but no doubt his will was to go back and ‘enjoy the wonder of Bethel at the effects of his words. He went back to the festival, where the food had been offered to the calf of Bethel. But, how marvellous ! The power of God forced the tempter himself to speak. He it was who was forced to pronounce the sentence on disobedience : “Thy carcase shall not come into the sepulchre of thy fathers.” This did not appear to mean that the doom should come immediately, only that the prophet should die far from his home, and he set forth without special fear; but, ere long, word was brought back of the strange sight of the dead man by the wayside, watched by the ass and by the lion. The ass stood fearlessly beside the wild beast, which had not touched either it or the corpse, but stood there, kept as it were as a silent witness that it had been the messenger of its Creator. And so, with a stricken heart, the old prophet carried back the body to his own burial place, a cave in the rocks, and bade his sons take care that he himself should lie close beside, with a sense that God would guard the remains of His servant from being burnt on the altar of the calf. For the disobedient prophet, as we call him, was God's servant. He fell through weakness, and if his doom was heavy, it was a doom affecting this life, not the next. Only, let us take from the sad story the fear of small acts of disobedience, and the still greater fear of leading others to disobey, even when we cannot understand the use of the commands under which they are laid.

* That is to say

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