1 Kings 13:3
And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD has spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.
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(3, 4) The sign.—Both the signs, like most miraculous signs, shadow forth plainly the thing signified. The sign, announced to secure credence to the prediction, is itself a visible type of what that prediction foretold, in the shattering of the altar and the scattering of the ashes of the burnt-offering. The sign actually given includes, besides this, the sudden withering of the king’s hand, stretched out in defiance of the prophet—an equally plain symbol of the miserable failure of his strength and policy, when opposed to the Law and the judgment of God. It should be noted that the withdrawal of this last sign of wrath, on the submission of the king and the prayer of the prophet, was apparently designed to give Jeroboam one more opportunity of repentance. The last verses of the chapter (1Kings 13:33-34) seem to imply that, but for the interposition of the old prophet of Bethel, he might still have taken that opportunity.

1 Kings 13:3. He gave a sign the same day — That is, he then wrought a miracle to assure them of the truth of his prophecy. Saying, this is the sign, &c. — A proof that I speak from God, and not from myself. The altar shall be rent, &c. — This could not be effected but by the power of God, who hereby demonstrated that he had sent this prophet to speak these words which were presently fulfilled.13:1-10 In threatening the altar, the prophet threatens the founder and worshippers. Idolatrous worship will not continue, but the word of the Lord will endure for ever. The prediction plainly declared that the family of David would continue, and support true religion, when the ten tribes would not be able to resist them. If God, in justice, harden the hearts of sinners, so that the hand they have stretched out in sin they cannot pull in again by repentance, that is a spiritual judgment, represented by this, and much more dreadful. Jeroboam looked for help, not from his calves, but from God only, from his power, and his favour. The time may come when those that hate the preaching, would be glad of the prayers of faithful ministers. Jeroboam does not desire the prophet to pray that his sin might be pardoned, and his heart changed, but only that his hand might be restored. He seemed affected for the present with both the judgment and the mercy, but the impression wore off. God forbade his messenger to eat or drink in Bethel, to show his detestation of their idolatry and apostacy from God, and to teach us not to have fellowship with the works of darkness. Those have not learned self-denial, who cannot forbear one forbidden meal.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."

2-9. he cried against the altar—which is put for the whole system of worship organized in Israel.

Behold, a child shall be born … Josiah by name—This is one of the most remarkable prophecies recorded in the Scriptures; and, in its clearness, circumstantial minuteness, and exact prediction of an event that took place three hundred sixty years later, it stands in striking contrast to the obscure and ambiguous oracles of the heathen. Being publicly uttered, it must have been well known to the people; and every Jew who lived at the accomplishment of the event must have been convinced of the truth of a religion connected with such a prophecy as this. A present sign was given of the remote event predicted, in a visible fissure being miraculously made on the altar. Incensed at the man's license of speech, Jeroboam stretched out his hand and ordered his attendants to seize the bold intruder. That moment the king's arm became stiff and motionless, and the altar split asunder, so that the fire and ashes fell on the floor. Overawed by the effects of his impiety, Jeroboam besought the prophet's prayer. His request was acceded to, and the hand was restored to its healthy state. Jeroboam was artful, and invited the prophet to the royal table, not to do him honor or show his gratitude for the restoration of his hand, but to win, by his courtesy and liberal hospitality, a person whom he could not crush by his power. But the prophet informed him of a divine injunction expressly prohibiting him from all social intercourse with any in the place, as well as from returning the same way. The prohibition not to eat or drink in Beth-el was because all the people had become apostates from the true religion, and the reason he was not allowed to return the same way was lest he should be recognized by any whom he had seen in going.

He gave a sign the same day, i. e. he then wrought a miracle, to assure them of the truth of his prophecy. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, this is the sign which the Lord hath spoken,.... As a confirmation of the truth of what the prophet had said, and for the proof of his being a true prophet of the Lord:

behold, the altar shall be rent; of itself, by an invisible hand, by the power of God:

and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out; signifying it should be entirely demolished, not only shaken but destroyed, so as not to be capable of retaining the ashes on it; this was an emblem of the utter abolition of idolatry here in future times.

And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the {c} sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.

(c) By this sign you will know that the Lord has sent me.

3. And he gave a sign the same day] The sign was necessary because the event foretold was to be at so remote a date that none who were living in Jeroboam’s day would be alive to see it. Hence to assure them that it would come to pass a startling token of the power in which the prophet spake is exhibited by the rending of the altar and the scattering of what was on it in the presence of all who stood by. The word מופת rendered ‘sign’, is much more frequently used of ‘wonders’ and ‘miracles’, and it has that sense in some degree here. With this we may compare the use of τέρας as well as σημεῖον for the miracles of the New Testament.

and the ashes that are upon it] The Hebrew word, which is the same as that so often rendered ‘fatness’, applies only to the ashes of an altar, which would be mixed up with the fat of sacrifices burnt upon it. Hence the LXX. renders by ἡ πιότης ‘the fat’, or ‘fatness’.Verse 3. - And he gave a sign [The Heb. מופֵת rather signifies a portent (τέρας, miraculum, prodigium) than a sign, the proper word for which is אות. The word occurs repeatedly in the Pentateuch, where it is rendered wonder, or miracle, by our translators (Wordsworth). Signs had, of course, been given before (Exodus 4:30; Exodus 7:9; 1 Samuel 12:17; etc.) but hardly in such immediate attestation of a special message. From this time forward such signs are not infrequent (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 38:8; 2 Kings 19:29). They mark the decline of faith (Matthew 12:39). As to the need at this crisis for some miraculous token, see Homiletics. The fitness of this particular sign is obvious] the same day, saying, This is the sign which [Rather that; דועק ְ אֲֶשר. The A.V. rendering hardly makes sense. Nor does it agree, as Rawlinson seems to think, with the LXX., which reads τοῦτο τὸ ῤῆμα ο{ ἐλάησε κύριος, etc.] the Lord hath spoken [i.e., by me. "This is the proof that my message is from Him, and is no idle threat." Wordsworth sees in this sign "a proof vouchsafed by God Himself to the man of Judah, as well as to Jeroboam, that he was really sent by God," etc. But surely a man who came "in the word of the Lord," and cried, "Thus saith the Lord," wanted no proof that "he was doing God's bidding" (see 1 Corinthians 14:22)]; Behold, the altar shall be rent and the ashes [strictly, fat ashes. דֶּשֶׁן; properly, "fatness" (see Judges 9:9; Psalm 63:5. πιότης, LXX.), is the fat of the sacrifice, which was burnt upon the altar, mixed with the ashes that consumed it] that are upon it shall be poured out. [The sign, a partial destruction of the altar, and the scattering of the sacrifice, was admirably calculated to presage its ultimate and final and ignominious overthrow. The idea favoured by Stanley ("Jewish Ch." 2:280) that this prediction was fulfilled "if not before, at least" in the time of Amos, when the altar was destroyed by an earthquake shock (Amos 9:1; cf. 3:14), does not seem to take account of ver. 5.] But this institution became a sin to Jeroboam, because it violated the fundamental law of the Old Testament religion, since this not only prohibited all worship of Jehovah under images and symbols (Exodus 20:4), but had not even left the choice of the place of worship to the people themselves (Deuteronomy 12:5.). "And the people went before the one to Dan." The expression "to Dan" can only be suitably explained by connecting it with העם: the people even to Dan, i.e., the people throughout the whole kingdom even to Dan. The southern boundary as the terminus a quo is not mentioned; not because it was for a long time in dispute, but because it was already given in the allusion to Bethel. האחד is neither the golden calf at Dan nor (as I formerly thought) that at Bethel, but is to be interpreted according to the receding את־האחד ואת־האחד: one of the two, or actually both the one and the other (Thenius). The sin of which Jeroboam was guilty consisted in the fact that he no longer allowed the people to go to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, but induced or compelled them to worship Jehovah before one or the other of the calves which he had set up, or _(as it is expressed in 1 Kings 12:31) made a house of high places, בּמות בּית (see at 1 Kings 3:2), instead of the house of God, which the Lord had sanctified as the place of worship by filling it with His gracious presence. The singular בּית ב may be accounted for from the antithesis to יהוה בּית, upon which it rests. There was no necessity to say expressly that there was a house of high places at Bethel and Dan, i.e., in two places, because it followed as a matter of course that the golden calves could not stand in the open air, but were placed in a temple, by which the sacrificial altar stood. These places of worship were houses of high places, Bamoth, because the ark of the covenant was wanting, and therewith the gracious presence of God, the Shechinah, for which no symbol invented by men could be a substitute. Moreover Jeroboam made "priests from the mass of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi." העם מקצות, i.e., not of the poorest of the people (Luther and others), but from the last of the people onwards, that is to say, from the whole of the people any one without distinction even to the very last, instead of the priests chosen by God out of the tribe of Levi. For this meaning of מקצות see Genesis 19:4 and Ezekiel 33:2, also Lud. de Dieu on this passage. This innovation on the part of Jeroboam appears very surprising, if we consider how the Ephraimite Micah (Judges 17:10.) rejoiced that he had obtained a Levite to act as priest for his image-worship, and can only be explained from the fact that the Levites did not consent to act as priests in the worship before the golden calves, but set their faces against it, and therefore, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 11:13-14, were obliged to leave their district towns and possessions and emigrate into the kingdom of Judah.
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