After Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, a man of God speaks to Jeroboam, we don’t know who this man is, but some suggest it is Iddo the seer, 2 Chronicles 13:22.
Notice that God Himself didn’t speak directly to Jeroboam, He used his prophet from Judah, who was probably a Levite. His message wasn’t good news for Jeroboam, his message was of severe punishment which was coming upon him and his household.
Notice also that Jeroboam was ‘standing by the altar to make an offering’. He had no right to be there and no right to make an offering on his own.
Israel, the northern kingdom, simply wanted to get some kind of relief from Solomon’s taxes, 1 Kings 12:1-5, but Jeroboam used the excuse that the northern kingdoms were too far away from Jerusalem, to change God’s laws, 1 Kings 12:25-33. And so, he goes on and builds two more places of worship for sacrifices to be made, one in Bethel and one in Dan.
The mention of the name Josiah was a prophecy, as he wasn’t born yet, this is just like the naming of Cyrus, Isaiah 44:26 / Isaiah 44:28 / Isaiah 45:2. Because Josiah is named, this would leave no doubts that God was going to work through Josiah to bring an end to Israel’s apostasy, 2 Kings 23:17-18.
A sign was given in a visible split which was miraculously made on the altar. Jeroboam becomes really angry with the man because of what he said and so, he stretched out his hand and ordered his attendants to seize the man. At that moment Jeroboam’s arm became stiff and motionless, and the altar split apart so that the fire and ashes fell on the floor.
Scared by the effects of what happened, Jeroboam begged the prophet to pray and intercede for him. His request was granted, and the hand was restored to its healthy state. Jeroboam was crafty and invited the prophet to the royal table, but not to do him honour or show his gratitude for the restoration of his hand, but to win him over, by his courtesy and liberal hospitality, a person whom he couldn’t crush by his power.
Even though Jeroboam offered the prophet some hospitality, the prophet refused, he wasn’t going to be bought over by any amount he was offered. This tells us that God was completely rejecting Jeroboam and Bethel.
The prophet informed him of a divine restriction that prohibited him from mixing with any people in the place, as well as from returning the same way. The prohibition not to eat or drink in Bethel was because all the people had become apostates from the true religion, and the reason he wasn’t allowed to return the same way was he might be recognised by any whom he had seen in going.
As one prophet leaves, another one appears, this time it was an old prophet from Bethel who meets up with the man of God from Judah. We don’t know who he was but he appears to be going along and encouraging the apostasy of Jeroboam.
There’s no doubt that he was lying through his teeth to the man of God from Judah, but he was possibly driven by fear. He was an old man, he couldn’t stand up to Jeroboam because Jeroboam recruited the lowest of the people to be his prophets, 1 Kings 13:32.
It’s possible that he lied out of desperation and wanted the man of God to be in his company for a while so he can be encouraged. It’s also possible that he suspected that the man of God was the same as him, and therefore tried to test him.
When we read about what happened to the man of God here, we learn that we simply can’t ignore God’s commands. He may have been innocent in believing the old prophet’s lies, but he still had to pay the consequences for being disobedient to God.
Whatever the old prophet’s motives were for lying, the man of God should have never trusted him in the first place. Think about it, would God have told the man of God one thing and then have contradicted it by sending an authentic word by another? No! 1 John 4:1.
He was told not to stay in Bethel and not to eat and drink with anyone there, but he did and as a result of his disobedience he was killed by a lion.
Under normal circumstances, a lion would devour the whole carcass, but here it is standing beside the carcass, which tells us that God was in control of this situation. It’s almost as if the lion was protecting the carcass from other predators.
Coffman says that the Word of God actually came to this evil old prophet and there was apparently no appropriate medium in all of Bethel who could have served the purpose of God any better than this lying old prophet. When God actually spoke through him, he not only learned that the man of God was indeed an authentic spokesman from Jehovah, but he also came to believe all of the words which the man of God had spoken.
Even after everything which happened between Jeroboam and the man of God and the man of God and the old prophet, Jeroboam still didn’t change his ways, Luke 16:31. In fact, he began to spread his own religion and religious beliefs among the people by appointing anyone who wanted to be a priest. Because of this God was going to bring about the destruction of Jeroboam and his household.
Coffman shares the following useful summary of Jeroboam’s wickedness.
1. He made paganism the official religion of Israel.
2. He consecrated priests of tribes other than that of Levi.
3. He erected pagan idols in Dan, Bethel, and Samaria.
4. He arrogantly intruded himself into the sacrifices.
5. He organised and promoted a corrupt Feast of Tabernacles, contrary to God’s law.
6. He persuaded the people to disobey God by not going to Jerusalem to worship.
7. He established and organised high places all over northern Israel.