When those that set up idols, and keep them up, go to enquire of the Lord, he determines to answer them, not according to the pretensions of their enquiry, but according to the multitude of their idols, Ezek. 14:4. So Jeroboam is answered here.
I. The prophet anticipates the enquiry concerning the child, and foretels the ruin of Jeroboam’s house for the wickedness of it. No one else durst have carried such a message: a servant would have smothered it, but his own wife cannot be suspected of ill-will to him.
1. God calls himself the Lord God of Israel. Though Israel had forsaken God, God had not cast them off, nor given them a bill of divorce for their whoredoms. He is Israel’s God, and therefore will take vengeance on him who did them the greatest mischief he could do them, debauched them and drew them away from God.
2. He upbraids Jeroboam with the great favour he had bestowed upon him, in making him king, exalting him from among the people, the common people, to be prince over God’s chosen Israel, and taking the kingdom from the house of David, to bestow it upon him. Whether we keep an account of God’s mercies to us or no, he does, and will set even them in order before us, if we be ungrateful, to our greater confusion; otherwise he gives and upbraids not.
3. He charges him with his impiety and apostasy, and his idolatry particularly: Thou hast done evil above all that were before thee, 1 Kgs. 14:9. Saul, that was rejected, never worshipped idols; Solomon did it but occasionally, in his dotage, and never made Israel to sin. Jeroboam’s calves, though pretended to be set up in honour of the God of Israel, that brought them up out of Egypt, yet are here called other gods, or strange gods, because in them he worshipped God as the heathen worshipped their strange gods, because by them he changed the truth of God into a lie and represented him as altogether different from what he is, and because many of the ignorant worshippers terminated their devotion in the image, and did not at all regard the God of Israel. Though they were calves of gold, the richness of the metal was so far from making them acceptable to God that they provoked him to anger, designedly affronted him, under colour of pleasing him. In doing this, (1.) He had not set David before him (1 Kgs. 14:8): Thou hast not been as my servant David, who, though he had his faults and some bad ones, yet never forsook the worship of God nor grew loose nor cold to that; his faithful adherence to that gained him this honourable character, that he followed God with all his heart, and herein he was proposed for an example to all his successors. Those did not do well that did not do like David. (2.) He had not set God before him, but (1 Kgs. 14:9), “Thou hast cast me behind thy back, my law, my fear; thou hast neglected me, forgotten me, and preferred thy policies before my precepts.”
4. He foretels the utter ruin of Jeroboam’s house, 1 Kgs. 14:10, 11. He thought, by his idolatry, to establish his government, and by that he not only lost it, but brought destruction upon his family, the universal destruction of all the males, whether shut up or left, married or unmarried. (1.) Shameful destruction. They shall be taken away as dung, which is loathsome and which men are glad to be rid of. He worshipped dunghill-deities, and God removed his family as a great dunghill. Noble and royal families, if wicked, are no better in God’s account. (2.) Unusual destruction. Their very dead bodies should be meat for the dogs in the street, or the birds of prey in the field, 1 Kgs. 14:11. Thus evil pursues sinners. See this fulfilled, 1 Kgs. 15:29.
5. He foretels the immediate death of the sick child, 1 Kgs. 14:12, 13.
(1.) In mercy to him, lest, if he live, he be infected with the sin, and so involved in the ruin, of his father’s house. Observe the character given of him: In him was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam. He had an affection for the true worship of God and disliked the worship of the calves. Note, [1.] Those are good in whom are good things towards the Lord God of Israel, good inclinations, good intentions, good desires, towards him. [2.] Where there is but some good thing of that kind it will be found: God, who seeks it, sees it be it ever so little and is pleased with it. [3.] A little grace goes a great way with great people. It is so rare to find princes well affected to religion that, when they are so, they are worthy of double honour. [4.] Pious dispositions are in a peculiar manner amiable and acceptable when they are found in those that are young. The divine image in miniature has a peculiar beauty and lustre in it. [5.] Those that are good in bad times and places shine very brightly in the eyes of God. A good child in the house of Jeroboam is a miracle of divine grace: to be there untainted is like being in the fiery furnace unhurt, unsinged. Observe the care taken of him: he only, of all Jeroboam’s family, shall die in honour, shall be buried, and shall be lamented as one that lived desired. Note, Those that are distinguished by divine grace shall be distinguished by divine providence. This hopeful child dies first of all the family, for God often takes those soonest whom he loves best. Heaven is the fittest place for them; this earth is not worthy of them.
(2.) In wrath to the family. [1.] It was a sign the family would be ruined when he was taken by whom it might have been reformed. The righteous are removed from the evil to come in this world, to the good to come in a better world. It is a bad omen to a family when the best in it are buried out of it; when what was valuable is picked out the rest is for the fire. [2.] It was likewise a present affliction to the family and kingdom, by which both ought to have been bettered; and this aggravated the affliction to the poor mother that she should not reach home time enough to see her son alive: When thy feet enter into the city, just then the child shall die. This was to be a sign to her of the accomplishment of the rest of the threatenings, as 1 Sam. 2:34.
6. He foretels the setting up of another family to rule over Israel, 1 Kgs. 14:14. This was fulfilled in Baasha of Issachar, who conspired against Nadab the son of Jeroboam, in the second year of his reign, murdered him and all his family. “But what? Even now. Why do I speak of it as a thing at a distance? It is at the door. It shall be done even now.” Sometimes God makes quick work with sinners; he did so with the house of Jeroboam. It was not twenty-four years from his first elevation to the final extirpation of his family.
7. He foretels the judgments which should come upon the people of Israel for conforming to the worship which Jeroboam had established. If the blind lead the blind, both the blind leaders and the blind followers shall fall into the ditch. It is here foretold, 1 Kgs. 14:15; (1.) That they should never be easy, nor rightly settled in their land, but continually shaken like a reed in the water. After they left the house of David, the government never continued long in one family, but one undermined and destroyed another, which must needs occasion great disorders and disturbances among the people. (2.) That they should, ere long, be totally expelled out of their land, that good land, and given up to ruin, 1 Kgs. 14:16. This was fulfilled in the captivity of the ten tribes by the king of Assyria. Families and kingdoms are ruined by sin, ruined by the wickedness of the heads of them. Jeroboam did sin, and made Israel to sin. If great men do wickedly, they involve many others both in the guilt and in the snare; multitudes follow their pernicious ways. They go to hell with a long train, and their condemnation will be the more intolerable, for they must answer, not only for their own sins, but for the sins which others have been drawn into and kept in by their influence.
II. Jeroboam’s wife has nothing to say against the word of the Lord, but she goes home with a heavy heart to their house in Tirzah, a sweet delightful place, so the name signifies, famed for its beauty, Song 6:4. But death, which will stain its beauty and embitter all its delights, cannot be shut out from it. Hither she came, and here we leave her attending the funeral of her son, and expecting the fate of her family. 1. The child died (1 Kgs. 14:17), and justly did all Israel mourn, not only for the loss of so hopeful a prince, whom they were not worthy of, but because his death plucked up the flood-gates, and made a breach, at which an inundation of judgments broke in. 2. Jeroboam himself died soon after, 1 Kgs. 14:20. It is said (2 Chron. 13:20), The Lord struck him with some sore disease, so that he died miserably, when he had reigned twenty-two years, and left his crown to a son who lost it, and his life too, and all the lives of his family, within two years after. For a further account of him the reader is referred to the annals of his reign, drawn up by his own secretaries, or to the public records, like those in the Tower, called here, The Book or register, of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, to which recourse might then be had; but, not being divinely inspired, these records are long since lost.
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