King Jeroboam said it this way: “Lay hold on him” (1 Kgs. 13). A man of God had interrupted a worship service in Bethel at the very moment the king “stood by the altar to burn incense.” The outsider had shouted: “O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord . . . ‘Behold the altar shall be rent (torn asunder) and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.'” No wonder Jeroboam wanted that man arrested.
The king had erected that altar at Bethel and another one farther north in Dan as convenient places of worship for his people. Convenient? Yes. Pleasing to God? No! He had warned the Hebrew nation: “Take heed to thyself that thou offer not burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose” (Deut. 12) Later God chose Solomon’s magnificent temple in Jerusalem as His special place for worship. He wanted all twelve tribes to sacrifice only at that location. Jeroboam’s altars at Bethel and Dan defied God’s will.
Still worse, the man replaced the true worship of the Lord with two golden calves and began a religious festival of his own choosing in which he personally approached the altar to do sacrifice. He said to the people: “It is too much (troublesome) for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kgs. 12).
The same chapter reveals the actual reason for the king’s wicked actions. “Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now shall the kingdom (his ten tribes) return to the house of David if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem. Then shall the heart of this people turn again unto . . . their king of Judah and they shall kill me.'”
Therefore it provoked king Jeroboam when the man of God disrupted the worship service at Bethel. The king “put forth (extended) his hand from the altar saying ‘Lay hold on him.'” But no one made that arrest because suddenly Jeroboam’s outstretched hand dried up “so that he could not pull it to him again.” Simultaneously the altar split open and its sacrifice ashes poured out on the ground. The Lord intended those sledgehammer blows as warnings that the king and all earthly authorities must answer to almighty God for their actios.n
With his extended hand (and no doubt his arm) paralyzed in that position, Jeroboam pleaded: “Intreat now the face of the Lord thy God and pray for me that my hand may be restored me again.” The man of God prayed and the Lord restored the king’s hand. Yet even after experiencing such severe warnings and undeserved kindness, “Jeroboam returned not from his evil way and this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam to cut it off and to destroy it.” The stubborn man destroyed himself, his relatives, and eventually the ten northern tribes of Israel. Scripture frequently refers to him as “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin” (1 Kgs. 15:34, 16:19 & 26, 22:52).
Follow The Lord’s Word
The man of God also committed a blunder for which the Lord punished him. The Lord had given three clear-cut orders to the man: 1) go to Bethel and pronounce destruction of its altar; 2) do not eat bread or drink water while there (avoid their hospitality); 3) do not return home the same way you came (lest he be recognized and offered hospitality). When King Jeroboam offered him gifts and hospitality, the man of God answered: “If thou wilt give me half of thine house (possessions), I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place.” Then he “went another way and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.”
So far so good! But then an old prophet from Bethel hurried after the man of God and told him this lie: “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.'” The man of God probably reasoned that the old prophet could be trusted and that the Lord had made an exception to His clear orders. But the Lord had made no exception. While the man from Judah broke bread with the old prophet, this true message came from God: “Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord and . . . camest back and hast eaten bread and drunk water in this place . . . thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulcher of thy fathers.” He would be buried among strangers. The Lord requires His children to obey His commands exactly even when important or seemingly trustworthy people urge them to do otherwise.
A lion killed the man of God as he was traveling back to Judah. The old prophet buried him in his own tomb and mourned, saying: “Alas, my brother.” He also told his sons, “When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulcher wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones.” The old prophet considered it an honor to be buried next to a man who had bravely faced arrest in order to testify against the altar at Bethel.
P.S. 2 Kings 23:15-18 relates an interesting event which took place at
that grave 100 years later.