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people to bring their offerings and come to worship, instead of going up to the Temple at Jerusalem. To render the separation more secure, he altered the time of the Feasts, and commanded the Feast of Tabernacles to be kept a month later, and the same with the rest which followed; while he artfully concealed the real idolatry of the act, by representing it only as a substitute for going to the Temple at Jerusalem, and not as intended to change the object of their worship. Josephus gives a long address which Jeroboam made to the people, expressing his desire to relieve them from the fatigue of the long journey to Jerusalem, and from venturing into an enemy's city, and declaring that the Calves were dedicated to the same God as the Temple of Solomon, and that as Jehovah was present every where, he thought it better his people should go to worship Him in cities nearer their homes, and have priests from among themselves, and not be obliged to have them from the Tribe of Levi.
Thus artfully, but not as the wicked always think wisely, did Jeroboam lead his people into an act of direct disobedience to the Divine Will, under the specious pretext of consideration for their convenience and political necessity : but the sin was the same in the sight of God, however plausibly defended, and the consequences were exactly what had been so often predicted by the Prophets - the ruin and final captivity of the people, and the destruction of Jeroboam and
his house. On the first sacrifice being offered at Bethel, an awful warning was vouchsafed ; but in vain.
When Jeroboam had prepared everything ready for the new worship, he assembled the people at Bethel, and taking upon himself the office of High Priest, he approached the Altar to offer incense; but at the very moment he was about to burn the incense, there came a man of God out of Judah, and cried against the altar, saying,
“ 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.”
“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 upon it shall be poured out.”
“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.”
“And the king answered and said unto the man of God, entreat 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.”
“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. So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.”
It was in those times, and still continues to be in some countries, a sign of peace and friendship to partake of the rites of hospitality; therefore had the prophet accepted the offer of Jeroboam and gone and eaten at his table, it would have been a public profession of respect and submission from a true prophet, sent by God to denounce a flagrant act of impiety which Jeroboam was committing at that very time, and afterwards persisted in; whereas, by declaring in the hearing of all assembled, that he was forbidden to taste food or drink water in their city, the prophet expressed in the most striking manner, how utterly lost and unworthy of God's favor the people were become by their present idolatrous worship. The conduct of the prophets was as much regarded as their words, because it was sometimes purposely commanded them, and then it was as significant as the message which they delivered. Repeated instances of this occur, particularly in the later prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and will explain what befel the prophet of Judah when he departed from his instructions, and went to the house of a false prophet.
There were present at the sacrifice at Bethel the sons of an old prophet who dwelt there. This prophet seems to have been like Balaam, a bad man, but inspired to prophecy on certain occasions, even against his own will, and who felt and dreaded the power of God, while in his heart he was a worldly-minded idolator. When his sons returned and related to him all that had occurred, how the king's hand had withered at the command of the prophet from Judah, and the altar was rent,- he no doubt feared the effect it would produce on the mind of Jeroboam; but when his sons farther told him how the prophet had refused to remain, because he was commanded to return without eating or drinking, he formed the wicked design of inducing the man of God to disobey this command, by which he would either bring destruction on himself, or, if unpunished, bring the divine authority of his message into doubt. Accordingly, he enquired of his sons which way the man of God went, and commanding them to saddle his ass, he mounted and followed after him. He found him resting under an oak. “And he said unto him, art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am. 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.”
The wicked prophet then replied, “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."
This was a falsehood: and the true prophet ought to have distrusted a wicked man and obeyed simply and exactly the command he had received, which he had no doubt the means of knowing was not revoked; or, if he really doubted, he might have prayed for direction; but far from so doing, he assented without hesitation, and even with apparent willingness, and returned home with the false prophet, and did eat bread and drink water with him. Whilst they sat at table, “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: But camest