THE BOOK OF 1 KINGS
Lesson 5: Chapters 12-13
Part II: The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
The Division of the Kingdom Under the Reigns of Rehoboam and Jeroboam
You established Your earthly kingdom of Israel and Your kingly representative to be models of faith and justice to the other kingdoms of the earth. Sadly, the spiritually unhealthy desires of men corrupted Your divine plan, and to humble the Davidic kings You allowed Your earthly kingdom of Israel to become divided. In much the same way, Your earthly kingdom of the universal Church has become divided and many men and women who have left the true faith have fallen into error. We pray for the day when Your kingdom of the Church will be restored in its fullness for there are many who worship what they do not understand, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman. Give Christ's earthly Vicar, Pope Francis, the humility and wisdom to lead Your Kingdom of the New Covenant Church, and please give all the faithful the spiritual strength to obediently follow the narrow path to salvation. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Yahweh said to
Jeroboam of Ephraim: "I am going to tear the kingdom from Solomon's hand and
give ten tribes to you. He will keep one tribe for the sake of my servant
David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all
the tribes of Israel; for he had forsaken me to worship Astarte the goddess of
the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, Milcom the god of the Ammonites; he has
not followed my ways by doing what I regard as right, or by keeping my laws and
ordinances as his father David did. But it is not from his hands that I will
take the kingdom ... I shall, however, take the kingdom from the hand of his son..."
1 Kings 11:31b-35
Chapter 12: The Political and Religious Schism
When Solomon fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in the City of David his father;
his son Rehoboam succeeded him.
1 Kings 11:43
1 Kings 12:1-5 ~ The Assembly at Shechem and the appeal
of the Northern Tribes
1 Rehoboam then went to Shechem, all Israel having come to Shechem to proclaim him king. 2 As soon as Jeroboam son of Nebat heard the news (he was still in Egypt where he had taken refuge from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 They now sent for him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came. And they spoke as follows to Rehoboam. 4 "Your father laid a cruel yoke on us; if you will lighten your father's cruel slavery, that heavy yoke which he imposed on us, we are willing to serve you." 5 He said to them, "Go away for three days and then come back to me." And the people went away.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles chapter 10. When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam, the son by the Ammonite princess Naamah (1 Kng 14:31), was appointed to succeed his father on the throne of Israel. One might assume that Rehoboam's coronation has taken place in Jerusalem like his father (1 Kng 1:32-40), but it appears that the northern tribes requested a Sacred Assembly at Shechem in the territory of Ephraim to affirm the kingship of Rehoboam. A similar assembly took place at Mizpah when Saul was chosen to rule Israel (1 Sam 10:17-27) and for David who had already been chosen of king of Judah when the elders of Israel came to him at Hebron to offer him the kingship of all Israel (2 Sam 5:1-4). Shechem was centrally located and was therefore a suitable site for tribal gatherings, and its history made it the ideal place for making political and religious covenants. It was also not a city controlled by the powerful tribe of Judah, Rehoboam's tribe.
Question: Who was Jeroboam of Ephraim? See 1 Kng 11:28, 40; 12:20.
Answer: Jeroboam of Ephraim had been a former overseer of forced labor for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh in Solomon's administration, but he had rebelled against King Solomon and had been living in exile in Egypt.
Question: The assembly of the twelve tribes agrees
to make Rehoboam king of all Israel, but what conditions do they make before
acknowledging Rehoboam as king? Also see 1 Chr 10:3-5.
Answer: Solomon's levies for his building projects, the taxes to support his court, and the collection of materials needed for the building projects placed a heavy burden on the tribes. They ask for tax relief and relief from forced labor which they characterize as "slavery".
Scripture uses the word "yoke," the wooden collar worn by
oxen to pull a plough, as an image of the burden the tribes bore under
Solomon's rule. It is an image used in the books of the Pentateuch (Gen 27:40;
Lev 26:13; Dt 28:48), in the books of prophets (
Is 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; 47:6; 58:6, 9;
Jer 2:20; 5:5; 27:8, 11, 12; etc.), in the New Testament by Paul (
Gal 5:1 and 1 Tim 6:1), and by Jesus (Mt 11:28-30).
Question: Jesus is the eternal king of the New Covenant Davidic kingdom of the Church. Unlike the heavy "yoke" of obligations and financial support of kings and rulers upon the necks of the people, what did Jesus say about His "yoke" of obedience in Matthew 11:28-30?
Answer: He said: "Come to me all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light."
Rehoboam's reply to their request is to give him three days before he gives them his answer. The three days may be literal or may simply refer to a short period of time.
1 Kings 12:6-11 ~ Rehoboam seeks advice
6 King Rehoboam then consulted the elders who had been in attendance on his father Solomon while he was alive, and said, "How do you advise me to answer this people?" 7 They replied, "If you become the servant of this people today, and submit to them and give them a fair reply, then they will remain your servants forever." 8 But he rejected the advice given him by the elders and consulted the young men in attendance on him, who had grown up with him. 9 He said, "How do you advise us to answer these people who have been saying, 'Lighten the yoke which your father imposed on us!'" 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, "This is the way to answer these people who have been saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, you must lighten it for us!' This is the right thing to say to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's loins. 11 Although my father laid a heavy yoke on you, I shall make it heavier still. My father controlled you with the whip, but I shall apply a spiked lash [scorpions]!'" [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 927.
Question: Rehoboam consulted what two groups of
men? Whose advice does he follow?
Answer: He consulted the advisors of his father and his own friends. He rejected the sound advice of his father's advisors in favor of his friends.
The state councilors of his father were experienced men who understood the art of governing. The Hebrew word for "young men" in verse 8 is yeladim, a word that usually means "child" or even "infant." Since Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king (1 Kng 14:21), a man in middle age, using this word for his contemporaries does not refer to their youth but may have been used to emphasize their childish attitude and behavior or highlight the fact that these men had been his companions at court since they were all children. The statement in verse 10: This is the right thing to say to them, My little finger is thicker than my father's loins', is a crude and exaggerated metaphor of macho arrogance that probably has sexual undertones.
my father laid a heavy yoke on you, I shall make it heavier still. My father
controlled you with the whip, but I shall apply a spiked lash [scourge you with
The threat may involve torture involving actual scorpions, whose sting is painful and poisonous, or it could be a lash with bits of sharp iron attached to the leather strips that feels like the sting of a scorpion as the NAB translators have interpreted the phrase.
1 Kings 12:12-19 ~ Rehoboam renders his decision
12 On the third day Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam in obedience to the king's instruction: "Come back to me in three days' time." 13 And the king gave the people a harsh answer, rejecting the advice given him by the elders 14 and speaking to them as the young men had recommended, "My father made your yoke heavy, I shall make it heavier still! My father controlled you with the whip, but I shall apply a spiked lash!" 15 Thus the king refused to listen to the people, and this was brought about by Yahweh to fulfil the promise which he had made through Ahijah of Shiloh to Jeroboam son of Nebat. 16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, the people answered the king thus: "What share have we in David? No heritage in the son of Jesse! Away to your tents, Israel! Now look after your own House, David!" So Israel went home again. 17 Rehoboam, however, reigned over those Israelites who lived in the towns of Judah. 18 When King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of forced labor, all Israel stoned him to death, while King Rehoboam managed to mount his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. And Israel has remained in rebellion against the House of David from that day to this.
Like many weak men and women in leadership positions, Rehoboam did not comprehend that being a leader does not mean having the power to force people to do your will but is defined instead by inspiring people to have confidence in your leadership which promotes the desire to follow your lead. He also forgot that the duty of a king of Israel is to serve God and to shepherd the people, not for the people to serve him. Rehoboam ignored the sound advice of his father's counselors and decided to follow the advice of his friends. He did, however, refrain from using their crude remark in verse 10b.
Question: How did Jesus define His role as King of
the Kingdom of the Church in John 10:7-18 and the role of His disciples as
leaders of His Church in John 13:12-15 and in 21:15-17?
Answer: He is the Good Shepherd who leads His "sheep" in the way to salvation. He is willing to lay down His life for His "sheep." His disciples must be willing to take up the role of servants to the "flock" of His Church. They must "feed" the flock spiritually and intellectually and lead them in the path of righteousness.
15 Thus the king
refused to listen to the people, and this was brought about by Yahweh to fulfil
the promise which he had made through Ahijah of Shiloh to Jeroboam son of
Verse 15 reaffirms God's control over human events. Ahijah is the prophet sent by God to Jeroboam to offer him the kingdom of ten tribes to humble the Davidic kings in 1 Kings 11:29-39.
16 When all
Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, the people answered the
king thus: "What share have we in David? No heritage in the son of Jesse!
Away to your tents, Israel! Now look after your own House, David!"
The people of the northern tribes repeat the same taunt as the one made by the rebel Sheba son of Bichri the Benjaminite when he led the northern tribes in a revolt against David (2 Sam 20:1-2). "What share have we in David" can be interpreted to mean "what has the House of David done for us?" Rehoboam was foolish not to remember the defection of the northern tribes in both Absalom's revolt and the revolt led by Sheba. History has repeated itself, but Rehoboam did not have God on his side to restore his kingdom as God restored David.
18 When King
Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of forced labor, all Israel stoned him
to death, while King Rehoboam managed to mount his chariot and escape to
Jerusalem. And Israel has remained in rebellion against the House of David
from that day to this.
Refusing to accept the reality of the defection of the northern tribes, Rehoboam immediately sent his minister of forced labor to the north to collect workers. The result was disastrous; Adoram is murdered and Rehoboam, who it appears was still at Shechem, had to flee for his life.
1 Kings 12:20-25 ~ The political schism
20 When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they summoned him to the assembly and made him king of all Israel; no one remained loyal to the House of David except the tribe of Judah. 21 When Rehoboam reached Jerusalem he mustered the whole House of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand picked warriors, to fight the House of Israel and win back the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon. 22 But the word of Yahweh came to Shemaiah, man of God, 23 "Say this to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, to the whole House of Judah, to Benjamin and to the rest of the people, 24 Yahweh says this: 'Do not go and make war on your brothers, the Israelites; let everyone go home, for this is my doing.'" They obeyed the command of Yahweh and turned back in accordance with his word. 25 Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the mountain country of Ephraim and made that his residence. Then, leaving there, he fortified Penuel.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles chapter 11. The tribe of Judah remained loyal to Rehoboam and so did the tribe of Benjamin (verses 17 and 21). It was either out of loyalty to the House of David that the tribe of Benjamin remained as part of the kingdom of Rehoboam, or because they were not strong enough to break away from the much larger tribe of Judah just south of Benjaminite territory that included the city of Jerusalem, the royal capital and residence of the king.
Question: Rehoboam intended to go to war to keep
the kingdom intact, but what was Yahweh's command through His prophet Shemaiah?
What was God's reason for the command? See 1 Kng 11:39.
Answer: God forbade Rehoboam and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to war against their Israelite "brothers." It was God's doing that the kingdom should be divided, and the reason was to humble the descendants of David.
fortified Shechem in the mountain country of Ephraim and made that his
residence. Then, leaving there, he fortified Penuel.
Jeroboam made Shechem, the city in the valley between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Then he moved to Penuel which the literal text records he refortified. Penuel was a city located on the Jabbok River, a tributary that was east of the Jordan River. The city had been destroyed by the Judge Gideon to revenge the failure of its elders to give provisions to his troops in the era of the Judges but was later rebuilt (Judg 8). Jeroboam may have feared that Rehoboam was intending to lead an army against him, and he may have believed the stronghold on the east side of the river was more easily defended. Abner and David also withdrew to strongholds in the Transjordan when they feared attack by a superior force (2 Sam 2:8; 17:22, 24). Later Jeroboam made the city of Tirzah, on the west side of the Jordan just north of Shechem in Ephraimite lands, his capital (1 Kng 14:17).
Question: What important event in salvation
history took place at Penuel [Peniel], a site that means "face of God"? See Gen 32:24-31.
Answer: Left alone without his family and his retainers, Jacob son of Isaac wrestled with a "man" at Penuel until dawn. The mysterious being dislocated Jacob's hip and gave him a new name, "Israel." Realized he had an encounter with the divine, Jacob named the site "face of God."
1 Kings 12:26-33 ~ The religious schism
26 Jeroboam thought to himself, "As things are, the kingdom will revert to the House of David. 27 If this people continues to go up to the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, the people's heart will turn back again to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will put me to death." 28 So the king thought this over and then made two golden calves; he said to the people, "You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here is your God [here are your gods], Israel, who brought you out of Egypt!" 29 He set one up at Bethel, 30 and the people went in procession in front of the other one all the way to Dan. In Israel this gave rise to sin, for the people went to Bethel to worship the one, and all the way to Dan to worship the other. 31 He set up shrines on all high places and appointed priests from ordinary families, who were not of Levitical descent. 32 Jeroboam also instituted a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth of the month, like the feast kept in Judah, when he offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did at Bethel, offering sacrifices to the calves which he had made and, at Bethel, installing the priests of the high places which he had set up. 33 On the fifteenth of the eighth month, the month which he had chosen deliberately, he offered sacrifices on the altar which he had made at Bethel; he instituted a feast for the Israelites and himself went up to the altar to burn the sacrifices. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 930 and Ancient Israel, page 672.
What began as a political schism now becomes a religious schism. Jeroboam realizes that as long as the northern tribes are worshiping at the Jerusalem Temple that the House of David will have influence over them and that influence will undermine his authority.
Question: What three things did Jeroboam initiate
to discourage worship of Yahweh at the Jerusalem Temple?
Jeroboam set up two major shrines: one at Bethel in central Israel and the other at Dan on the northern border. Notice that the place name "Bethel" will be mentioned nine times in this episode; nine is the symbolic number of judgment in Scripture (12:29, 30, 32 twice, 33 twice; 13:1, 4, and 10). Bethel, a place name meaning "place/house of God," was an Ephraimite town about fourteen miles north of Jerusalem (Josh 16:1; 1 Chr 7:28). This former "place of grace" will become a place of divine judgment.
Question: What was the historical significance of
Bethel? See Gen 28:10-22; 35:6-15;
Judg 4:5; 20:26;
1 Sam 7:16. Why did
Jeroboam choose Bethel as a site for worship?
Answer: Jeroboam probably chose Bethel because it had a longer historical tradition for the Israelites than Jerusalem. There was no Israelite presence at Jerusalem until David conquered the city in c. 1000 BC; he was trying to prove to the people that they did not need to go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh. The Israelite tradition associated with Bethel:
However, while the Israelites had driven out the Canaanite and occupied Bethel since the time of Joshua's conquest and did not occupy Jerusalem until David conquered the Jebusite city in c. 1000 BC, there was a spiritual and a historical connection to Jerusalem for the covenant people:
Jeroboam's declaration to the people was, "Here is your God [here are your gods], Israel, who brought you out of Egypt!" concerning Golden Calf worship he established at Dan and Bethel. In the Hebrew and Greek texts, the word "gods" is in the plural. For some scholars the use of the plural for "god" leaves no question that Jeroboam's act is idolatrous and is a rejection of monotheism. Others argue that the use of the plural "elohim" refers to Yahweh, as is sometimes the case elsewhere in Scripture to emphasis the greatness of Yahweh above other false gods.
Question: These words echo the words of what other
such declaration early in Israel's history? See Ex 32:3-6. What is the sin
that is repeated by Jeroboam? See Ex 20:4-5; Dt 6:8.
Answer: He uses the same words as the Israelites concerning the sin of the Golden Calf at Mt Sinai. They declared that the molten calf was a visual image of Yahweh. It is the sin of idol worship that was forbidden in the second commandment.
The images of both the Canaanite god Baal and the Egyptian god Apis were bulls. Jeroboam has returned from his exile in Egypt where he may have become devoted to the god Apis, and he probably hopes that worship of the golden calf will resonate with Israelites who have become attracted to the worship of the Canaanite chief deity, Baal. He has reintroduced pagan worship into Israel. He has evidently forgotten the events that followed the worship of the Golden Calf at Sinai (Ex chapter 32). His failure recalls the old saying that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
Question: What was Yahweh's warning to Jeroboam in
1 Kings 11:38?
Answer: His success as king and God's continuing protection over him was conditional on being obedient to all Yahweh's commands and prohibitions. Jeroboam has violated that condition by introducing idol worship.
Question: What was God's command concerning the ordained
priesthood who served at God's holy altar? What did Jeroboam do concerning
priests to serve at his shrines? See Ex 28:1; 40:12-15;
Numbers 18:8, 19;
Jer 33:21-22; Mal 2:4-7;
Sir 45:7/8, 15/19.
Answer: Only the descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest, were to be ordained to serve at God's holy altar. Only these ordained priests could offer acceptable sacrifice and lead the people in right worship. Jeroboam established a counterfeit priesthood that was incapable of offering acceptable sacrifice and worship. Any sacrifices and offerings those priests made were unacceptable to Yahweh.
The inspired writer of 2 Chronicles writes concerning the loyalty of the legitimate priesthood in this troubled period: The priests and Levites from all over Israel left their districts to put themselves at his [Rehoboam's] disposal. The Levites, indeed, abandoned their pasture lands and their holdings and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from the priesthood of Yahweh. Jeroboam had appointed his own priests for the high places dedicated to the satyrs and calves which he had made. And those members of all the tribes of Israel who were determined to seek Yahweh, God of Israel, followed those priests and Levites to Jerusalem to sacrifice to Yahweh, God of their ancestors (2 Chr 11:13-16).
33 On the
fifteenth of the eighth month, the month which he had chosen deliberately, he
offered sacrifices on the altar which had had made at Bethel; he instituted a
feast for the Israelites and himself went up to the altar to burn the
Jeroboam even instituted a counterfeit feast day that was a copy of the Feast of Shelters [Tabernacles/Booths] that God ordained be celebrated begin on the 15th day of the seventh month (Lev 23:33-38). None of the religious practices instituted by Jeroboam constituted legitimate worship. They were not God ordained but ordained by Jeroboam to worship false gods.
1 Kings 13:1 Yahweh's Condemnation of Jeroboam and the Story of the Two Prophets
The prophet Abijah
condemns Jeroboam and the Northern tribes: "Have you not driven out the
priests of Yahweh, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, to make priests of your
own like the peoples of foreign countries? Anyone who comes with a bull and seven
rams to get himself consecrated can become priest of theses gods that are no
gods. But for our part, our God is Yahweh, and we have not abandoned him; our
priests are sons of Aaron who minister to Yahweh, and those who serve are
Levites; morning after morning, evening after evening, they present burnt
offerings and perfumed incense to Yahweh, they put the bread of permanent
offering on the clean table and nightly light the lamps on the golden
lamp-stand; for we keep the decree of Yahweh our God, although you have
2 Chronicles 13:4-11
1 Kings 13:1-10 ~ Yahweh condemns the altar at Bethel
1 There came to Bethel at Yahweh's command a man of God from Judah, just as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to offer the sacrifice, 2 and at Yahweh's command this man denounced the altar. "Altar, altar," he said, "Yahweh says this, 'A son is to be born to the House of David, Josiah by name, and on you he will slaughter the priests of the high places who have offered sacrifice on you, and on you he will burn human bones.'" 3 At the same time he gave a sign. "This is the sign," he said, "that Yahweh has spoken, 'This altar will burst apart and the ashes which are on it will be split.'" 4 When the king heard how the man of God denounced the altar of Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, "Seize him!" But the hand he stretched out against the man withered, and he could not draw it back, 5 and the altar burst apart and the ashes from the altar were spilt, in accordance with the sign given by the man of God at Yahweh's command. 6 The king said to the man of God, "I beg you to placate Yahweh your God, and so restore me the use of my hand." The man of God placated Yahweh; the king's hand was restored as it had been before. 7 The king then said to the man of God, "Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I shall give you a present," 8 but the man of God replied to the king, "Were you to give me half your palace, I would not go with you. I will eat and drink nothing here, 9 for I have had Yahweh's order, 'You are to eat or drink nothing, nor to return by the way you came.'" 10 And he left by another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.
Notice that the word "altar" is used nine times in this
passage (13:1, 2 three times, 3, 4 twice, 5 twice). In the symbolic use of
numbers in Scripture, nine is the number of judgment.
God sent a prophet from Judah, referred to in this passage as "a man of God," to condemn the false altar at Bethel. He is only called "a man of God" in this chapter to differentiate him from another prophet who enters the story in verse 11, but he is a prophet (see verse 18). The "man of God" from Judah gives Jeroboam a prophecy that concerns a future Davidic heir named Josiah and a "sign" that what he has prophesied will come to pass.(1)
Question: What is the prophecy and is it fulfilled? Who is Josiah? See 2 Kng 22:1-2; 23:15-20.
Answer: The prophecy is that a Davidic heir named Josiah will destroy the false altar and false priests of Bethel and will burn human bones exhumed from graves on the altar, making it forever ritually "unclean." The prophecy is fulfilled when King Josiah of Judah destroys Bethel.
4 When the king
heard how the man of God denounced the altar of Bethel, he stretched out his
hand from the altar, saying, "Seize him!" But the hand he stretched out
against the man withered, and he could not draw it back, 5 and the altar burst apart and the ashes from
the altar were spilt, in accordance with the sign given by the man of God at
The stretching out of the kings hand toward the prophet and his command "Seize him!" is a hostile act indicating that the guards are to take the man captive.
Question: The man of God from Judah promises a "sign" that he speaks for God, but actually there are two "signs." What are they?
Answer: He announces that the altar will split apart and the ashes will be spilt, which does happen, but first God withers the hand of King Jeroboam when he orders his men to stop the prophet. It is God's divine intervention to protect His messenger.
Unlike the ashes of the Jerusalem Temple altar of sacrifice that are disposed of in a ritually "clean place" (Lev 1:16), the ashes of the sacrifices animals on the Bethel altar will be scattered without ceremony as befits their profane status.
6 The king said
to the man of God, "I beg you to placate Yahweh your God, and so restore me the
use of my hand." The man of God placated Yahweh; the king's hand was restored
as it had been before.
Notice that like King Saul, who deliberately failed in his obedience to God's commands, King Jeroboam refers to Yahweh as "your God" when speaking to the prophet (1 Sam 15:21, 30 and 1 Kng 11:6) and not "my God" like King David (i.e., see David's hymn of praise for Yahweh in 2 Sam 22:2-3, 7, 22, 29, 30, 47 and the Psalms attributed to David). Jeroboam has no emotional or spiritual relationship with Yahweh, God of Israel. His gods are the false images he has established at places of worship. He had violated the conditions of God's protection in 1 Kings 11:38.
The destruction of the altar is a sign that God has withdrawn His protection from Jeroboam. The withering of Jeroboam's hand that was stretched out toward the prophet indicating that the guards should arrest him and the bursting apart of the altar happened dramatically as the king was still standing at the altar. God was protecting his prophet and delivering the promised "sign" that was intended to serve as a warning and to have a spiritual impact on the king.
Question: The prophet was sent to specifically condemn
Jeroboam and the practice of idol worship that the king has established for the
people of the Northern kingdom, so why does the prophet take pity on Jeroboam and
grant his request to petition God to heal his withered hand?
Answer: The "signs" of the demolished altar and the withered hand are messages to Jeroboam that he has failed to be obedient to God's commandments. As a sign of God's mercy, his hand is healed; it is an invitation to Jeroboam to repent his sins.
The king is obviously impressed by the power of God
working through the prophet. In recognition of the prophet's status that had
been validated by the two "signs," Jeroboam invites the prophet to dine with
him and promises a reward as an enticement. It is customary to offer a gift to
a prophet through whom one has made a petition to God as Jeroboam did in his
plea for healing his hand or when calling on a prophet (1 Sam 9:7-8; 1 Kng 14:3).
It was the way the prophets were supported materially so they could
continue their ministry.
Question: Why does the prophet refuse the invitation? What three prohibitions did God give His prophet and for what possible reason? Was he tempted by the king's promise of a reward? See verses 7-10.
Answer: God ordered the prophet from Judah that so long as he was in the apostate kingdom he was:
His fasting was, along with prayer, probably to keep him spiritually strong in an apostate land. The prophet is obedient to God's command and is not tempted by the king's promise of a reward.
1 Kings 13:11-19 ~ The lying prophet and the man of God
11 Now there was an old prophet living in Bethel, and his sons came to tell him all that the man of God had done in Bethel that day; and the words which he had said to the king, they told these to their father too. 12 "Which road did he take?" their father asked. His sons showed him the road which the man of God who came from Judah had taken. 13 "Saddle the donkey for me," he said to his sons; they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted. 14 He followed the man of God and found him sitting under a terebinth. "Are you the man of God," he said, "who came from Judah?" "I am," he replied. 15 "Come home with me," he said, "and take some food." 16 "I cannot go back with you," he answered, "or eat or drink anything here, 17 for I have received Yahweh's order, 'You are to eat or drink nothing there, nor to return by the way you came.'" 18 "I too am a prophet like you," the other replied, "and an angel told me this by Yahweh's command, 'Bring him back with you to your house to eat and drink.'" He was lying to him. 19 The man of God went back with him; he ate and drank at his house.
That the old prophet from Bethel had not attended the ceremony at the false altar is an indication that he opposed Jeroboam's religious reforms that promoted idol worship, unlike his two sons who had attended the religious ceremony. The old prophet from Bethel was excited to hear about the prophecy and the ot (prophetic sign) the man of God from Judah performed in God's name at the Bethel altar. He rushed after the prophet from Judah and found him sitting under a terebinth tree.(2)
Question: Why did the prophet from Bethel want the
man of God from Judah to come to his home?
Answer: There are two possible answers, and both may be the reason for the old man's actions:
He followed the prophet from Judah and invited him to
come back to his home to rest and take food. At first the man of God from
Judah refused, and he repeated God's command in verses 16-17.
Question: Why do you think God commanded the prophet from Judah not to accept hospitality in the Northern Kingdom but to fast by refraining from eating and drinking and to leave the territory immediately?
Answer: It was probably because God had condemned not only the altar at Bethel but the territory of the Northern Kingdom as a profane place of idol worship, and the prophet was expected to fast and not to eat or drink until he removed himself from the "unclean" territory.
18 "I too am a
prophet like you," the other replied, "and an angel told me this by Yahweh's
command, 'Bring him back with you to your house to eat and drink.'" He was
lying to him. 19 The man of God
went back with him; he ate and drank at his house.
The inspired writer leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that the old prophet was lying.
Question: In order to convince the prophet from Judah to come to his home, why do you think the prophet from Bethel lied? Why did the prophet from Judah then accept his hospitality?
Answer: The old prophet from Bethel desperately wanted the other prophet come to his home, and he probably didn't see any harm in lying. The prophet from Judah probably did not consider that the prophet from Bethel was lying since he was a "brother" prophet, and perhaps being tired and hungry made him susceptible to accepting what the man said without questioning his motives.
1 Kings 13:20-32 ~ The fate of the man of God from Judah
20 As they were sitting at table a word of Yahweh came to the prophet who had brought him back, 21 and he addressed the man of God who came from Judah. "Yahweh says this," he said. "Since you have defied Yahweh's command and not obeyed the orders which Yahweh your God gave you, 22 but have come back and eaten and drunk where he forbade you to eat and drink, your corpse will never reach the tomb of your ancestors." 23 After he had eaten and drunk, the prophet saddled the donkey for him, and he turned and went away. 24 A lion met him on the road and killed him; his corpse lay stretched out on the road; the donkey stood there beside it; the lion stood by the corpse too. 25 People going by saw the corpse laying on the road and the lion standing by the corpse, and went and spoke about it in the town where to old prophet lived. 26 When the prophet who had made the man turn back heard about it, he said, "This is the man of God who defied Yahweh's command! Yahweh has handed him over to the lion, which has mauled and killed him, just as Yahweh had foretold it would." 27 He said to his sons, "Saddle the donkey for me," and they saddled it. 28 He set off and found the man's corpse lying on the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the corpse; the lion had neither eaten the corpse nor mauled the donkey. 29 The prophet lifted the corpse of the man of God and put it on the donkey and brought it back to the town where he lived to hold mourning for him and bury him. 30 He laid the corpse in his own tomb, and they raised the mourning cry for him, "Alas, my brother!" 31 After burying him, the prophet said to his sons, "When I die, bury me in the same tomb as the man of God, lay my bones beside his. 32 For the word he uttered at Yahweh's command against the altar of Bethel and against all the shrines of the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true."
As the men were sitting at the table in the house of the
man from Bethel, the Spirit of God spoke through the prophet from Bethel.
Question: What words of prophecy did the old prophet from Bethel speak concerning the prophet from Judah?
Answer: The prophet from Judah had failed in his obedience to Yahweh's command to leave immediately and to observe a fast by not accepting food or drink in apostate territory. Yahweh's judgment was that the man was to die and not be buried with his ancestors.
In ancient times, to be buried in consecrated ground with one's ancestors was the hope of every man and woman of the covenant (i.e., Gen 47:30; 50:25; 1 Kng 11:43; 15:24). In the prophetic judgment the word used to describe the prophet's dead body in Hebrew in verses 24-25 is not corpse but of the "carcass left lying," abandoned on the road. This suggests that the punishment of the man of God from Judah was that his body would be cast out and treated as unwanted carrion. It seems a very harsh punishment for being tempted into disobeying Yahweh's command by a lying brother prophet. However, the man of God from Judah should have understood that Yahweh is not arbitrary and does not change His mind like humans. Therefore, the man from Judah should have understood that it was highly unlikely that God told the other prophet His earlier commands could be disregarded instead of speaking directly to him.
Question: What does Scripture teach about the
constancy of the word of God? See Num 23:16-19 and 1 Sam 15:26-29.
Answer: Speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit, the prophet Balaam told Moabite King Balak: "God is no human being that he should lie, no child of Adam to change his mind" (Num 23:19a). And the prophet Samuel told King Saul: "The Glory of Israel, however, does not lie or go back on his word, not being human and liable to go back on his word" (1 Sam 15:29).
23 After he had
eaten and drunk, the prophet saddled the donkey for him, and he turned and went
The prophet from Judah makes no protest, perhaps because he has accepted God's judgment for his failure.
24 A lion met him
on the road and killed him; his corpse lay stretched out on the road; the
donkey stood there beside it; the lion stood by the corpse too ... 28 He set off and found the man's corpse lying on
the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the corpse; the lion had
neither eaten the corpse nor mauled the donkey. 29 The prophet lifted the corpse of the man of God and put it on
the donkey and brought it back to the town where he lived to hold mourning for
him and bury him.
Question: What does the behavior of the lion tell us about the events in the story?
Answer: The lion is not behaving normally. He does not eat the dead man and he does not attack the donkey or the prophet from Bethel. It is obvious that God is directing the events.
St. John Cassian (360-435) noted that while the lion was God's instrument of divine judgment for the failure of the prophet from Judah, his sin was atoned for in his death and then, God in His mercy, made the lion act as the protector of his corpse so he could be given a proper burial (Conference, 7.25.2-26.1)
30 He laid the
corpse in his own tomb, and they raised the mourning cry for him, "Alas, my
brother!" 31 After burying him,
the prophet said to his sons, "When I die, bury me in the same tomb as the man
of God, lay my bones beside his. 32 For
the word he uttered at Yahweh's command against the altar of Bethel and against
all the shrines of the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come
Question: Was the old prophet from Bethel remorseful? Did he take responsibility for causing the death of the prophet from Judah because of his lie? Why did he bury the man from Judah in his own tomb?
Answer: Consider the actions of the old prophet from Bethel and form your own opinion. There is no one answer. The old prophet was either a sincere man who invited the true prophet out of consideration and hospitality and he lied intending no harm, or he was a false prophet who tried to seduce a true prophet. In either event, his deceit caused the prophet from Judah to disregard God's command to leave the territory of the Northern Kingdom immediately and to break his fast which brought about divine judgment and the death of the man from Judah.
The Fathers of the Church were divided on the motives of the prophet from Bethel. Concerning this division of opinion, Bishop Isho'dad of Merv (c. 850) wrote: "Some authors assert that the old prophet was not an impostor but invited the true prophet to eat out of human sympathy in order to refresh and thank him for admonishing Jeroboam. And that is why God did not harm him as a consequence of this. According to others, he was a false prophet because, if he had been a true prophet, as others maintained, he would have not seduced a true prophet ..." (Books of Sessions, 1 Kings 13:11).
Question: What is significant about the old
prophet from Bethel burying the prophet from Judah in his own tomb?
Answer: Burying the dead man's body in his own tomb in Bethel fulfills the prophecy the old prophet made under the influence of God's Spirit in verses 21-22.
Some ancient commentators believe this act signifies the old man's remorse, while others say that since the prophet from Judah prophesied that the bones of the dead would be desecrated by being burned on the false altars (1 Kng 13:2) that he was hoping his bones would be spared if he was buried with a true prophet (i.e., St. Augustine, The Care to be Taken for the Dead, 7.9).
Question: In addition to the judgment of death and
not being buried in his family tomb for the prophet from Judah, what implied
judgment did God carry out against both the prophet who failed in obedience and
the prophet who lied and caused the death of his "brother" prophet?
Answer: Neither man's name is recorded in Sacred Scripture; their names are lost to salvation history.
Perhaps St. Theresa of Avila (1515-1582) gives us the best advice concerning the fate of the prophet of Judah. She writes the one called by God must have "a great and firm determination not to stop until the end has been reached, come whatever may, no matter what happens or what misfortunes may befall, no matter what anybody says, I will either reach the end or die on the way" (Way of Perfection, 35.2).
This story reaches its conclusion in 2 Kings 23:15-20 in the fulfillment of the prophecies of the man of God from Judah concerning King Josiah of Judah and the fate of the bones of the two prophets buried in the same tomb.
1 Kings 13:33-35 ~ Summary statement of Jeroboam's reign
33 Jeroboam did not give up his wicked ways after this incident, but went on appointing priests for the high places from the common people. He consecrated as priests of the high places any who wished to be. 34 Such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth.
The prophet from Judah cured Jeroboam's withered hand, and gave the sign of the destruction of the false altar of worship to bring Jeroboam to repentance. But Jeroboam did not repent his sins—he compounded them by continuing to appoint an apostate priesthood and to promote idol worship. His judgment was the extinction of his family line and the loss of the kingdom (1 Kng 15:29-30). St. John Chrysostom wrote: "... what angers and offends God, more than sin itself, is that sinners show no sorrow for their sins" (Homilai in Matthaeum,14.4).
Question for reflection or group discussion:
Jeroboam was the first king in history to desert God's holy Church to form an apostate church of his own, but he wasn't the last. When Pope Clement the VII refused to grant King Henry the VIII of England an annulment from his marriage to his queen of over 20 years in order to marry his mistress, Henry broke with Rome in 1534, refusing to acknowledge the authority of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and declared himself head of the Church of England. He drove out or executed any Catholic clergy loyal to the Pope and took possession of all the lands owned by Catholic churches and abbeys. He established his own clergy and pronounced that any Catholic priest or layperson that refused to swear allegiance to him as head of the Church in England was guilty of treason. It was at this time that St. Thomas More (martyred 1535) and many other faithful Catholics were tortured and/or martyred.
Question: What are the similarities and differences between the actions of Jeroboam in the 10th century BC and Henry the VIII in the 16th century AD? Are there other historical examples that you can cite?
Question: The prophet from Bethel professed to be faithful to God, but he lied when he told the man of God from Judah that God approved of him visiting the prophet's home and taking something to eat and drink. The prophet did not see the harm. How is the lie the prophet told that led to the death of the prophet from Judah like the lies other professing Catholics tell concerning the Church's long standing teachings? What is the "harm" in their false teachings? How is the fate of the "man of God from Judah" a cautionary tale for all Christians?
1. The prophecy was fulfilled in the 7th century BC. Righteous Davidic descendant, King Josiah of Judah, reigned as king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah from c. 640-609. He reformed religious worship in Judah, limiting worship and sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. He destroyed all false places of worship in Judah and Samaria (formerly the Northern Kingdom). Tragically, he was killed by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt at the Battle of Megiddo.
2. The terebinth tree was prevalent in ancient Israel. It grew in semi-arid areas and reached a great height and age.
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