Good morning! Today’s passage (1 Kings 13-14) focuses our attention largely on Jeroboam, the first king of the breakaway northern Israel. A visit by a mysterious man of God brings divine judgment and opens up a story about the reliability of prophets manifesting the word of God. When Jeroboam refuses to put a stop to idolatry, both his family and Israel suffer as a consequence. A main focus of the stories that begin here is the preoccupation with idolatry—this becomes almost the only measure of whether a ruler was righteous or not.
The “man of God from Judah” who arrives at Jeroboam’s altar at the beginning of chapter 13 is a prophet, though not referred to as such. He foretells the reign of later king Josiah and his movement to purge the “high place” altars to foreign gods. (This is one of several clues here that help biblical scholars date the writing of this history to at least after the time of Josiah and the fall of the northern kingdom.) The man of God’s judgment includes a supernatural withering of Jeroboam’s hand, plus the destruction of the altar that Jeroboam had built. But it’s when the prophet leaves Jeroboam that the story gets most interesting. Another prophet follows after the man of God, tricks him into coming home and eating food (against God’s command). The first prophet, unwittingly led astray by the second prophet’s deception about having a more recent revelation from God, is still eaten by a lion as judgment. The second prophet regrets his trick (we never know why he did it) and buries the dead man in his own tomb. I’m not sure what lesson we are to get from this story, but it foretells later battles about which prophets are truly channeling the will of God, and which are merely acting on their own volition. Deadly consequences come from whatever a prophet says, so even claiming to know the will of God is playing with fire.
Another prophet, Ahijah, features in 1 Kings 14. Jeroboam’s son is sick and the king’s wife seeks out help from Ahijah, who advised Jeroboam to claim royal prerogative in the first place. The prophet foretells the boy’s death as judgment from God because Jeroboam did not turn out to be a righteous king. Judgment will also extend to Israel for its idolatry (worshipping with sacred poles of the goddess Asherah), and include exile “beyond the Euphrates”—another detail that helps date this text. This might be a good time to remember that when the Bible describes God visiting death on innocents as punishment for the wrongs of others, this reflects the worldview of the writers rather than the God who elsewhere protects and preserves innocent life.
A final section of chapter 14 updates us on Rehoboam in Judah. On his watch, all Judah has committed idolatry as well, returning to the nature and idol worship of the Canaanite tribes who were displaced in the time of Joshua. Again implicitly as divine punishment, Egypt’s King Shishak invades Jerusalem to the point of looting the temple and the king’s palace, taking away all the wealth of Solomon. Both Jeroboam and Rehoboam lie dead at the end of the passage, their kingdoms passing into the hands of their sons. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 Kings 15-17. Thanks for reading!