1 Kings
1-3 The Word to the Altar 4-6 Jeroboams Hand 7-10 The Invitation Rejected 11-19 The Lie of the Old Prophet 20-22 The Announcement of Judgement 23-32 The Death of the Man of God 33-34 The Sin of Jeroboam
The Word to the Altar

1Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. 2He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’” 3Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the LORD has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’”

God sends out of Judah a man of God. He comes “by the word of the LORD” from Judah to Bethel. “The word of the LORD” is the power that comes upon the man of God and by which he is driven to speak his message. He becomes a killjoy. The name of the man of God is not known, the name does not matter. It is about his message and on behalf of Whom he comes.

Are there not prophets in Bethel? Yes, there is an old prophet, but God cannot use him. How could that be possible? He may be disturbed, but he is not taking any action. He stays with that horrible imitation religion, without we hear him protesting. Possibly he is a man like Eli. He sees the evil, but has no strength to act against it. The fact that he is not in the right relationship with God is shown by the fact that he lies to the man of God from Judah to let him return with him (verse 1818He said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” [But] he lied to him.).

Fearlessly, the man of God from Judah moves into the celebrating crowd. He is qualified to testify, he can be God’s mouth, for he is connected with the true service of God and not with the idolatry of Jeroboam (cf. Jer 15:1919Therefore, thus says the LORD,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.
). He directs the word, which is the word of God, to … the altar. Why to the altar and not to the calf or to Jeroboam? Because the altar symbolizes the whole service and because Jeroboam stands on the altar (verse 44Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself.); it is his service, he is the boss of the altar. Jeroboam moderates to be able to bring a sacrifice. Later king Uzziah will perform the same presumptuous act that will bring him the plague of leprosy (2Chr 26:1919But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.).

God has clearly indicated in His Word where and how He wants to be worshipped and served. Every believer may desire to be a man of God – man or woman – a witness of God’s rights in the midst of a Christianity that serves Him at will. To be a man of God God has given us His Word (2Tim 3:16-1716All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.). Someone is a man of God when he or she reflects daily on the Word of God. At the same time, such a person will open himself up to the mighty working of God’s Spirit. Then formation is possible into the image of the Lord Jesus, the true Man of God.

The man of God prophesies the judgment over the altar. It is remarkable and rare that the prophecy mentions the name of the man by whom God allows the judgment to be carried out: king Josiah from the house of David. The genus of David, despised and forsaken by Jeroboam and his kingdom, will again have so much power that it will destroy this altar which he believes he is installing. It will take about three hundred years before this prophecy is fulfilled, but already we are told what will happen and by whom (2Kgs 23:15-1815Furthermore, the altar that [was] at Bethel [and] the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah.16Now when Josiah turned, he saw the graves that [were] there on the mountain, and he sent and took the bones from the graves and burned [them] on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things.17Then he said, “What is this monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”18He said, “Let him alone; let no one disturb his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.). For God, the future is present.

Another exception where God mentions the name of someone He uses for future events is in the case of Cyrus. God mentions His name as the deliverer of His people from the Babylonian exile, far before Cyrus is born (Isa 44:2828“[It is I] who says of Cyrus, ‘[He is] My shepherd!
And he will perform all My desire.’
And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’
And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’”
; 45:1-61Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed,
Whom I have taken by the right hand,
To subdue nations before him
And to loose the loins of kings;
To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
2“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth;
I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.
3“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
4“For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen [one],
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor
Though you have not known Me.
5“I am the LORD, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
6That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
). He knows the future from afar.

The prophet gives a sign: the altar will split apart and the ashes shall be poured out. According to the prescription the ashes should be taken up (Lev 6:10-1110The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes [to] which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar.11Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.). It is proof that God desecrates this altar.


Jeroboams Hand

4Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. 6The king said to the man of God, “Please entreat 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 it became as it was before.

Jeroboam doesn't get scared of the word of God. He believes that he can silence this intruder and disrupter of his plans. He stretches out his hand and orders the arrest of the man of God. His outstretched hand is a sign of his authority. However, his hand dries up, making it completely powerless, indicating that God’s authority is greater. God’s authority also shows that meanwhile happens what the man of God has said. The altar splits apart and the ash is poured out. Then Jeroboam tempers his tone and asks for intercession. He speaks to the man of God about “your God” and not about “my God”. He Himself has no relationship with God as His God.

He does not ask to pray for him that his sin will be forgiven, which would indicate that his heart had changed. He only asks that his hand be healed again while he hardens his heart. So Pharaoh wanted Moses to pray that God “would only remove this death from me”, but not his sin (Exo 10:16-1816Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you.17Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the LORD your God, that He would only remove this death from me.”18He went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the LORD.). The prophet, as a real man of God, has rewarded evil with good. He speaks to God directly for him. He acts in the spirit of what Christ has said to His disciples, that they will pray for their persecutors (Mt 5:10,4410“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.44But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,).


The Invitation Rejected

7Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” 8But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. 9For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’” 10So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.

When Jeroboam’s hand is healed, he changes his attitude towards the man of God. He tries to catch up with him and gain his favor. He invites him to come along for a refreshment and a reward. Therein lies a great temptation, but the man of God refuses. He doesn’t imagine that he will get another chance to talk to Jeroboam and take him off his bad road.

He keeps the word of the LORD, Who gave him clear commands. He knew what to say, what not to do and the way to take, both to and from. The fact that he was not allowed to return by the way he had come, but had to return by another way, indicates that God doesn’t come back on His word.

The LORD had told him that he could not eat bread nor drink water there. This means that he must not have fellowship with evil. This also applies to us (2Cor 6:14-1814Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.17“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.18“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.; 2Tim 2:19-2219Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”20Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these [things], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.22Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love [and] peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.; 2Jn 1:9-119Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into [your] house, and do not give him a greeting;11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.). This concerns certainly someone like Jeroboam, who leads the people in evil and encourages them to do so. It also concerns all those who live there, such as the old prophet.

The man of God refuses any form of fellowship with Jeroboam, as Abraham refused to accept anything from the king of Sodom (Gen 14:22-2322Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth,23that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’). Everything that gives the impression that it is not so bad to connect with evil is an insult to God. In addition, it supports the other in his false position.


The Lie of the Old Prophet

11Now an old prophet was living in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the deeds which the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king, these also they related to their father. 12Their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” Now his sons had seen the way which the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he rode away on it. 14So he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16He said, “I cannot return with you, nor go with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17For a command [came] to me by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’” 18He said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” [But] he lied to him. 19So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house and drank water.

The old prophet hears from his sons what has happened. They were present at the feast of Jeroboam. Would he have sent them? In any case, he could not keep them away from being there. Apparently he did not go himself. In this context, a practical remark: Do we allow our children to go to places where we do not want to go ourselves? We may ask the Lord to help us make the right decisions.

The sons inform their father of what they have seen and heard, including the words with which the man of God rejected the offer of Jeroboam. The old prophet is so misted in his thinking because of his long stay in this wicked environment that he devises a plan to get the man of God in his house. It is a false plan. His plan is to “make the Nazarite drink wine” (Amos 2:1212“But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
And you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’
), that is to say, to get a believer devoted to God to the point where he becomes unfaithful to his calling.

He does so to justify himself in his false position and to soothe the voice of his conscience. If he can get the man of God to come to his house to eat with him – to eat together is a picture of fellowship – then he is not so bad. The old prophet possesses the same spirit as Jeroboam. He is led by the same selfish motives as Jeroboam and comes to the same blatant disobedience as Jeroboam.

The old prophet finds the man of God sitting under an oak. The man of God sought some rest, but that is the beginning of the deviation. He has brought his message by God’s command to a place that cannot be a place of rest. It may be that his service has demanded so much of him that he has become tired. It is understandable that he had to rest for a while. Here we see that a weakness that is admitted becomes a reason for sin.

When the man of God tells what the LORD has said to him, the old prophet tells who he is in his reverence. He is also a prophet. That is not a lie. But then he lies about a word he says he received from God through an angel.

He is an example of all those people who say that you can read the Word of God differently than the way it came to you. If they also have an honorable age, there is a great danger of accepting what they say. They distort the truth and appeal to their own relationship with God. How misleading it is when people call on it to gain access to others.

The old prophet is so preoccupied with himself that he does not think about what the consequences for the man of God will be if he believes in his lie. A person who is in a false position and is looking for a justification for it is blind to the evil he does to others he wants to use for that justification.

The man of God should have known that if God had come back on His word, He would have told him so Himself, just like the first command. To go with him on the basis of a lie is a gross disobedience that he has to pay for with his death. He is much more responsible than the old prophet, because he knows better.


The Announcement of Judgement

20Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; 21and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, 22but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’”

God is holy. The old prophet suddenly receives a word from the LORD, something that must not have happened to him for many years. If God can let the false prophet Balaam and the false priest Caiaphas say things He wants them to say (Num 23:5,165Then the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and you shall speak thus.”16Then the LORD met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”; Jn 11:50-5250nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”51Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,52and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.), He can also let this old prophet say a word He wants. This intervention by God gives the meal a dramatic turn. The old prophet must make himself known as a liar and the man of God is confronted with God’s judgment. The heavy punishment is exacerbated by the fact that he will not be buried in the grave of his fathers.

This time it is a word from God. If it had not been God’s word, he would certainly have apologized. There is no personal word of the man in what he says to the man of God. God does not come back on His word. The sin of the man of God is so great that God can no longer use him as His man. There is nothing of any reaction of the man of God to the announcement of the judgement, nor do we hear of any reaction of the old prophet.


The Death of the Man of God

23It came about after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body. 25And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown on the road, and the lion standing beside the body; so they came and told [it] in the city where the old prophet lived. 26Now when the prophet who brought him back from the way heard [it], he said, “It is the man of God, who disobeyed the command of the LORD; therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to him.” 27Then he spoke to his sons, saying, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And they saddled [it]. 28He went and found his body thrown on the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the body; the lion had not eaten the body nor torn the donkey. 29So the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back, and he came to the city of the old prophet to mourn and to bury him. 30He laid his body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, [saying], “Alas, my brother!” 31After he had buried him, he spoke to his sons, saying, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32For the thing shall surely come to pass which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria.”

When the man of God leaves, he knows that he is going to die. It happens as it is predicted. The way it happens is clearly from God. The lion is a tool in His hand. The lion acts according to his nature when he kills the man of God, but he acts against his nature when he does nothing else. He stands by the corpse and also leaves the donkey alone. The donkey also stays there. The lion remains there as a witness, without doing anything more than what he is told to do.

When the prophet hears of it, he speaks of the man of God as one who has been rebellious against the LORD’s command. That is true. Then the old prophet acts according to his responsibility. He is also guilty and takes care of the dead body of the man of God. He takes him up and lays him in his own grave.

He instructs his sons to bury him, when he himself is buried, beside the man of God. He does not speak of “my” grave – it was “his own grave”, verse 3030He laid his body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, [saying], “Alas, my brother!” – but of “the grave in which the man of God is buried”. This identification prevents his bones from being burned when Josiah acts according to what the man of God has announced (2Kgs 23:17-1817Then he said, “What is this monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”18He said, “Let him alone; let no one disturb his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.).


The Sin of Jeroboam

33After this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way, but again he made priests of the high places from among all the people; any who would, he ordained, to be priests of the high places. 34This event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot [it] out and destroy [it] from off the face of the earth.

Jeroboam can’t be stopped by anything. He has not learned anything from the events and does not care about what God has shown and said. He perseveres in his sin. Then God speaks to him even more clearly. This is shown in the next chapter.


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