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LESSON IV.
THE DEATH OF JEROBOAM'S CHILD.
ABOUT B.C. 970.—1 Kings xiii. 33—xiv. 18.

After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but 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.

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.

At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.

And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam ; and get thee to Shiloh : behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people.

And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, * and a cruset of honey, and go to him : he shall tell thee what shall become of the child.

And.Jeroboam's wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see ; for his eyes were set by reason of his age.

And the LORD said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee, for her son ; for he is sick : thus and thus shalt thou say unto her : for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman.

And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam ; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.

Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel,

And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes;

But hast done evil above all that were before thee : for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back:

Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam.

Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat ; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat ; for the LORD hath spoken it.

Arise thou, therefore, get thee to thine own house : and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.

And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him : for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. * Cakes marked with points.

† Small vessel.

Moreover, the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day : but what ? even now.

For 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."

And Jeroboam's wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah : and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died;

And they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.

COMMENT.-If Jeroboam were warned for a time, he soon fell back into his evil courses, and, while he thought he was securing his kingdom, was really ruining it. Another warning fell on him. His son, born in the happier and better times, bearing the same name as the young heir of Judah, and a child of hope and promise, sell sick. Jeroboam's calf-worship did not come from faith, but policy. He believed all the time in the true prophet, and in the time of his trouble he turned to the real prophet, Ahijah, who had foretold his kingdom. Jeroboam kept his court at Tirzah, in the tribe of Ephraim ; Ahijah, now old and blind, lived by the deserted sanctuary at Shiloh ; and Jeroboam, afraid or ashamed to have it known that he turned to him for comfort or counsel, made his wife disguise herself and take offerings that befitted a peasant woman rather than a queen. Little use was there in the disguise. God had already revealed to His servant both her coming and His message, and as she reached the door the old man greeted her with rebuke, yet with pity, as he made known to her the heavy tidings with which God had charged him. Jeroboam had not chosen to reign on God's terms; therefore his family were to be cut off, not only from the throne, like that of Saul, but they were to perish utterly, and die by terrible deaths. Only this one child, Abijah, should die in peace, because there was some good in him ; and this sentence was mercy to him, by taking him from the evil to come, though it was punishment to his parents, and the first token of the doom that was to fall, first on the house of Jeroboam, and then upon the new kingdom that he was adorning with strong cities and strengthening by alliances. He had poisoned his hopes at their source. Even the future captivity of Israel beyond the river

namely, the Euphrates--was foretold by the blind prophet, though the prediction was not fulfilled for two centuries and a half, during which, no doubt, the calf-worshippers laughed it to scorn. So the mother went home with her sad tidings, and, as she entered her own house, found her son had that moment died. He was buried with the pomp of a king's son, and all Israel sung their lamentation over him. They had better have wept for themselves and their children, for the early death of the boy had been his blessing. Who knows how he had mourned for his father's idolatry, how he had prayed towards the glorious Temple from which he was cut off, while, had he lived, he must have either joined in the idolatry, or had a cruel and bitter struggle with his father and the people! At any rate, we know that young Abijah was the only happy one of the house of Jeroboam.

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And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah.

And he fortified the strong holds, and put captains in them, and store of victual, and of oil and wine.

And in every several city he put shields and spears, and made them exceeding strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side.

And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts.

For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem : for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD :

And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.

And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.

So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years : for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.

And Rehoboam made Abijah the son of Maachah the chief, to be ruler among his brethren : for he thought to make him king.

And he dealt wisely, and dispersed of all his children throughout all the countries of Judah and Benjamin, unto every fenced city : and he gave them victual in abundance. And he desired inany wives.

And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.

And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the LORD,

With twelve hundred chariots, and threescore thousand horsemen : and the people were without number that came with him out of Egypt; the Lubims, * the Sukkiims, t and the Ethiopians.

And he took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem.

Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Ye have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak.

Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The LORD is righteous.

And when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.

Nevertheless they shall be his servants; that they may know my service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.

So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house ; he took all : he carried away also the shields of gold which Solomon had made.

Instead of which king Rehoboam made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king's house.

And when the king entered into the house of the LORD, the guard came and fetched them, and brought them again into the guard chamber.

And when he humbled himself, the wrath of the LORD turned from him, that he would not destroy him altogether : and also in Judah things went well.

So king Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem, and reigned ; for Rehoboam was one and forty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess.

And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD.

COMMENT.-At first the effect of the defection of the ten tribes was to draw closer the bonds that linked Judah with the Temple. All the priests and Levites abandoned their cities up and down the rebellious tribes, rather than sanction the calf-worship, and with them came all that were true and faithful to their God out of the tribes of Israel, giving up their lands for the sake of the right "The Lybians.

+ Cave-dwellers.

worship. Rehoboam fortified cities and strengthened himself; but his was not real religion ; "he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord,” and he fell away. His favourite wife, Absalom's granddaughter, was an idolatress, and the king and his people soon fell into that favourite but forbidden custom of sacrificing in the high places-old Canaanite sacred spots—instead of only in the Temple, a practice that would be the first step to the calf-idolatry. Observe, the worship of prayer might be offered everywhere ; it was sacrifice alone that was to be confined to “the place where God had set His Name.” It had been permitted wherever Samuel was during the loss of the ark, and afterwards at both the ark and the old tabernacle ; but the revelation of the glory in the Holy of Holies, and the fire descending on the altar, had so marked the Temple, that it was disrespect to God, and disobedience to His frequently repeated commands in the Book of Deuteronomy, to hold a sacri. fice elsewhere.

The punishment came soon. The peace which had lasted full fifty years was broken, and Jeroboam's friend and patron, the great Egyptian king Sheshonk, or Shishak, marched against Judah, and took Rehoboam's fortified cities. There he lay before Jerusalem, and the prophet Shemaiah, the same who had forbidden Rehoboam to put down the revolt of Israel by force of arms, rebuked the king and his sons and nobles for their sins, which were the cause of the calamity. On their repentance and humiliation, the prophet was sent to announce that the city should be saved, but should for a time be tributary; and accordingly Rehoboam was able to purchase exemption from pillage, by paying over a great quantity of his 'father's treasures to the Egyptians, especially the golden shields of the guard of honour, supplying their place with brass.

Shishak, on going home, celebrated his victory by a bas-relief in his great temple at Karnak, where the god appears receiving the submission of one hundred and thirty-three figures in chains, each labelled with the name of a city of Judah-Gibeon, Mahanaim, Ajalon, &c.; and one as Jehudah Malek, the Jewish Royalty-probably representing not Rehoboam himself, but Jerusalem, the royal city. Thus did God chasten Judah with the rod, as a man chasteneth his son; and Judah as yet was not hardened, and, though often backsliding, was not obstinate in her sin like Israel.

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