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The Empires of the Bible from the Confusion of Tongues to the Babylonian Captivity

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    CHAPTER XII. THE TEN TRIBES—REIGN OF JEROBOAM

    OF the kings of Israel and of Judah it may be said in the beginning, and by way of comparison, that, of the kings of Judah many were bad and some were good; while of the kings of Israel many were bad and some were worse.EB 193.1

    2. Jeroboam was acknowledged king by the people as soon as Rehoboam had fled from Shechem. He made Shechem his capital, and built himself a palace there. Shechem was thirty-four miles north or Jerusalem.EB 193.2

    3. But Jeroboam was not content to rule in the kingdom; he must rule in religion too. It was not enough for him to be head of the Ten Tribes; he would be the head of the religion also. He “said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David; if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem.” 1[Page 193] 1 Kings 12:26, 27. To the mere politician, or to one imbued with Egyptian ideas, it would appear that this might be so. For according to the word of the Lord, all the males were to appear before Him in Jerusalem three times in a year especially, besides many other important occasions of worship which it was proper for the people to attend. Also the Levites, who were in their cities throughout all the ten tribes, would have to go up from time to time to fulfil the order of their courses in the temple. The great center of the religious interest of Israel would therefore be at Jerusalem. This was certain.EB 193.3

    4. But Jeroboam had no right to conclude from this, that the Ten Tribes would reject him or his descendants, and return to the king of Judah. This would not have occurred. The separation of the ten tribes from the other two, was the arrangement of the Lord; and was for the best interests of all concerned, under the circumstances. And if Jeroboam had been content to serve the Lord only, and wait His time, as did David when he was anointed king while Saul yet reigned, this separation would have been made in the Lord’s way, and then the purpose of the Lord in dividing the kingdom, would have been seen. But when Jeroboam took everything into his own hands, and gave the Lord no place whatever, this threw awry the whole course of things. Then everything that he contemplated appeared in a wrong color; and his conclusions were certain to be wrong. To his short-sightedness there appeared to be no other way: whereas had he only feared the Lord and given Him a place in all his affairs, he could have clearly seen another and far better way.EB 193.4

    5. Again, Jeroboam had no right to draw the conclusion that he did draw, because God had not called him to be head or general director of His religion, but to serve the Lord himself and be king of the Ten Tribes. If Jeroboam had but done this, and left the people free to serve the Lord for themselves, and to go up to Jerusalem to worship according to the word of the Lord, not only could this have been done by them, but by himself also, with perfect safety to every interest of his kingdom. In addition to all this, not to let the people go to Jerusalem to worship and to offer sacrifice, was in itself to abandon the Lord.EB 194.1

    6. From his standpoint, however, Jeroboam could not see otherwise than that the preservation of his kingdom depended on keeping the people away from Jerusalem. Accordingly he chose this course, and thereby assured the absolute annihilation of his kingdom.EB 194.2

    7. Having abandoned the Lord and His religion, and yet finding religion essential as a political factor, Jeroboam invented one to suit his purpose. “The king took counsel, and made two calves of gold.” These calves were images of Egyptian gods. If not before, Jeroboam had learned about them and their worship during his sojourn in Egypt. The worship was of the same nature as that of the gods of the Ammonites, Moabites, and Zidonians, with the exception of burning children in the fire.EB 194.3

    8. “And he set one in Beth-el.” Bethel was at the southern border of the dominion of Jeroboam, and only twelve miles from Jerusalem. Jeroboam could present quite an array of precedent for making Beth-el a place of worship. He could present the fact that there Abraham erected the first altar in the land, and there had worshiped, both before and after he went to Egypt. He could present the fact that there the Lord had appeared to Jacob; that there Jacob had set up a pillar and called it God’s house that there Jacob had built an altar and had worshiped the Lord, after his return to the land from the house of Laban; and there the Lord had appeared to him again, and had renewed to him the promise made to Abraham and to Isaac, to give him that land; and the further facts that in the time of the judges at that place was the ark of the covenant, and there the people had come to inquire of the Lord.EB 195.1

    9. All this was before there was any worship of the Lord in Jerusalem by any of the seed of Abraham or of Israel. He could declare that not only had Abraham and Jacob chosen Beth-el as the place of their worship, but neither Abraham nor Isaac, nor yet Jacob, had ever worshiped at Jerusalem at all. When Jeroboam had built his altar there, he could cite all this precedent, and appeal to all these sacred memories, in favor of Beth-el as against Jerusalem as the place where they ought to worship. But against all precedent there stood the plain word of God that Jerusalem was the place that He had chosen, and that there the people should worship and offer their sacrifices. All the use that could be made of precedent, was to support the devices of his own heart. In fact that is the only use that can ever be made of it. The true question is never, What has been done? but always, What is the right thing now to do? The use of the golden calf he justified by the old cry in the wilderness: “Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”EB 195.2

    10. “And the other put he in Dan.” Dan was already the place of an idolatrous worship by the tribe of Dan. When this tribe sought for an inheritance in the land, they first sent out five men, who, in their search, came to Laish, and found a place where there was “no want of anything that is in the earth.” They returned and told their brethren what they had discovered, and the tribe then sent six hundred men to take possession of the place. As these men were on the way, they came to the house of one Micah of Mount Ephraim, where they found a graven image, an ephod, and a teraphim, and a molten image, and a Levite whom Micah had hired to be his priest in the worship of these gods. The Danites took priest, idols, and all, and carried them with them to Laish. They attacked and blotted out Laish and its inhabitants, and built there a new city and called it Dan, and there established their idolatrous worship. It lay near the Jordan, in the territory of Naphtali, about ten miles north of Lake Merom. It was easy enough for Jeroboam to set up his golden calf at Dan, and to turn to that place the worship of the people.EB 195.3

    11. Having now a place of worship at the northern, and another at the southern, extremity of his kingdom, Jeroboam could present very forcibly his next appeal,—“It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.” It is too hard for you to travel all the way to Jerusalem. Here is a place of worship at your very doors, as it were. It will be much easier to worship here than to travel the long journey to Jerusalem. These are the gods, anyhow, that brought you out of Egypt; you will worship here the same gods that they worship at Jerusalem, only in a little different way; all people cannot see alike; nevertheless we are but different branches of the one great church; it is not particular how or where you worship if you are only sincere.EB 196.1

    12. All this, Jeroboam could present in justification of his disregard of the plain word of the Lord. Nor was he the last one to do it. But with him, and with all other such ones, the Lord of Hosts declares, “This thing became a sin.” “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.” 2[Page 196] 1 Kings 12:30; 13:34. God has declared of Jeroboam, and of all others, that in so doing thou “hast cast me behind thy back.” Then there was fastened upon Jeroboam forever, the terrible inscription: “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who did sin and who made Israel to sin.”EB 196.2

    13. Jeroboam had now altars and gods; but he had no priests nor ministers; and, as the legitimate priests and Levites, scattered throughout his kingdom, were not ready to apostatize, he was obliged to create a priesthood and a ministry for his new worship. He was equal to the occasion; he could create a priesthood as well as the other parts of his worship. As his worship was apostate from the beginning, it was plain enough that he could find a priesthood only from among the most apostate of the people. Accordingly, he “made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.” 3[Page 197] 1 Kings 12:31-33.EB 196.3

    14. But even while he was worshiping, there came a prophet out of the land of Judah: “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. 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. And it came to pass, when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Beth-el, 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, 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.” 4[Page 197] 1 Kings 13:2-6.EB 197.1

    15. Yet even from this he took no warning. In spite of it all he went further in his evil way, for the record is: “After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again 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. 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.” 5[Page 198] 1 Kings 13:33, 34.EB 198.1

    16. When the prophet Ahijah had first spoken the word of the Lord to Jeroboam concerning his reigning over the ten tribes, he had said unto him: “It shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.” 6[Page 198] 1 Kings 11:38. And now, as he had so determinedly set himself in his own evil course, a word comes again to him from the Lord, by the prophet Ahijah. Jeroboam had a son whom he named Abijah, who had fallen sick. Jeroboam sent his wife to the prophet Ahijah, to inquire what would become of the child. Ahijah was very old, and almost blind, and to be sure that the prophet should not know who was come to inquire, Jeroboam had his wife disguise herself. But before she reached the house of the prophet, when he heard the sound of her feet as she came to the door, he called out to her: “Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.EB 198.2

    17. “Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; but hast done evil above all that were before thee: and hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every man child, him that is shut up and him that is left at large in Israel, and will utterly sweep away the house of Jeroboam, as a man sweepeth away dung, till it be all gone. Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the Lord hath spoken it. Arise thou therefore, and get thee to thine house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him; for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave: because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.EB 198.3

    18. “Moreover the Lord shall raise Him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now. For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He shall root up Israel out of this good land, which He gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river; because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger. And He shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he hath sinned, and wherewith he hath made Israel to sin.” 7[Page 199] 1 Kings 14:6-16.EB 199.1

    19. Jeroboam reigned twenty-two years, 975-954; “and the Lord struck him, and he died.”EB 199.2

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