And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.
Rather, "in the word of the Lord." The meaning seems to be, not merely that the prophet was bid to come, but that he came in the strength and power of God's word, a divinely inspired messenger. (Compare 1 Kings 13:2, 1 Kings 13:5,1 Kings 13:32.)
By the altar - "On the altar;" i, e. on the ledge, or platform, halfway up the altar, whereupon the officiating priest always stood to sacrifice. Compare 1 Kings 12:32 note.
And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, 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 that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.
A child shall be born ... Josiah by name - Divine predictions so seldom descend to such particularity as this, that doubts are entertained, even by orthodox theologians, with respect to the actual mention of Josiah's name by a prophet living in the time of Jeroboam. Only one other instance that can be considered parallel occurs in the whole of Scripture - the mention of Cyrus by Isaiah. Of course no one who believes in the divine foreknowledge can doubt that God could, if He chose, cause events to be foretold minutely by his prophets; but certainly the general law of his Providence is, that He does not do so. If this law is to be at any time broken through, it will not be capriciously. Here it certainly does not appear what great effect was to be produced by the mention of Josiah's name so long before his birth; and hence, a doubt arises whether we have in our present copies the true original text. The sense is complete without the words "Josiah by name;" and these words, if originally a marginal note, may easily have crept into the text by the mistake of a copyist. It is remarkable that, where this narrative is again referred to in Kings (marginal reference), there is no allusion to the fact that the man of God had prophesied of Josiah "by name."
And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
He gave a sign - A sign of this kind - an immediate prophecy to prove the divine character of a remote prophecy - had scarcely been given before this. In the later history, however, such signs are not unfrequent (compare 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:14-16).
The ashes ... shall be poured out - i. e., "The half-burnt remains of the offerings shall be ignominiously spilled upon the ground."
And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.
The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.
We need not suppose a complete shattering of the altar, but rather the appearance of a crack or fissure in the fabric, which, extending from top to bottom, caused the embers and the fragments of the victims to fall until they reached the ground.
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.
I will give thee a reward - It was customary to honor a prophet with a gift, if he performed any service that was requested at his hands (see the marginal references).
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.
Eat no bread, nor drink water - The reason of the command is evident. The man of God was not to accept the hospitality of any dweller at Bethel, in order to show in a marked way, which men generally could appreciate, God's abhorrence of the system which Jeroboam had "devised of his own heart."
Nor turn again by the same way that thou camest - This command seems to have been given simply to test the obedience of the prophet by laying him under a positive as well as a moral obligation.
So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.
Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
The truly pious Israelites quitted their homes when Jeroboam made his religious changes, and, proceeding to Jerusalem, strengthened the kingdom of Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 10:16-17. This "old prophet" therefore, who, without being infirm in any way, had remained under Jeroboam, and was even content to dwell at Bethel - the chief seat of the new worship - was devoid of any deep and earnest religious feeling.
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.
Under an oak - literally, "under the oak," or "the terebinth-tree." There was a single well-known tree of the kind, standing by itself in the vicinity of Bethel, which the author supposed his readers to be acquainted with.
Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
And he said, I 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.
But he lied unto him - It is always to be remembered that the prophetic gift might co-exist with various degrees of moral imperfection in the person possessing it. Note especially the case of Balaam.
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,
Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord - It was his duty not to have suffered himself to be persuaded. He should have felt that his obedience was being tried, and should have required, ere he considered himself released, "the same, or as strong, evidence," as that on which he had received the obligation. Disobedience to certain positive commands of God, was one which it was at this time very important to punish signally, since it was exactly the sin of Jeroboam and his adherents.
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.
On the anxiety of the Hebrews to be buried with their fathers, see Genesis 47:30; Genesis 49:29, Genesis 49:1,Genesis 49:25; 2 Samuel 19:37, etc.
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 the ass.
The lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass - These strange circumstances were of a nature to call men's attention to the matter, and cause the whole story to be bruited abroad. By these means an incident, which Jeroboam would have wished hushed up, became no doubt the common talk of the whole people.
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!
He laid his carcase in his own grave - As Joseph of Arimathaea did the body of our Lord Matthew 27:60. The possession of rock-hewn tombs by families, or individuals, was common among the Jews from their first entrance into the holy land to their final expulsion. A sepulchre usually consisted of an underground apartment, into which opened a number of long, narrow "loculi," or cells, placed side by side, each adapted to receive one body. The cells were 6 or 7 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet high. They were commonly closed by a stone placed at the end of each. Many such tombs still exist in Palestine.
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 Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.
Against all the houses of the high places - i. e., more than the two high places at Dan and Bethel. There were many lesser high places in the land, several of which would be likely to be in Israel 1 Kings 3:4.
In the cities of Samaria - The word Samaria cannot have been employed by the old prophet, in whose days Samaria did not exist 1 Kings 16:24. The writer of Kings has substituted for the term used by him that whereby the country was known in his own day.
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.
Whosoever would, he consecrated him - i. e., he exercised no discretion, but allowed anyone to become a priest, without regard to birth, character, or social position. We may suspect from this that the office was not greatly sought, since no civil governor who cared to set up a priesthood would wish to degrade it in public estimation. Jeroboam did impose one limitation, which would have excluded the very poorest class. The candidate for consecration was obliged to make an offering consisting of one young bullock and seven rams 2 Chronicles 13:9.
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.
This persistence in wrong, after the warning given him, brought a judgment, not only on Jeroboam himself, but on his family. Jeroboam's departure from the path of right forfeited the crown 1 Kings 11:38; and in that forfeiture was involved naturally the destruction of his family, for in the East, as already observed, when one dynasty supplants another, the ordinary practice is for the new king to destroy all the males belonging to the house of his predecessor. See 1 Kings 15:29.