Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 13

A sign from God

1 Kings 13:3-5

In many ancient religions, the priests burned various gifts to God, or to a false god. The place where they burned these gifts was called the altar. The smoke from the gifts rose towards heaven, of course. People saw that as a sign or evidence that their God had accepted their prayer (Psalm 141:2).

God sent a holy man from Judah to declare God’s message against the altar that Jeroboam had built. God would not accept the prayers or gifts that people offered there. The holy man declared the sign, or evidence, by which God would show the truth of his word: Jeroboam’s altar would split apart. That was a very terrible sign; it showed that God was angry.

Jeroboam immediately ordered his men to arrest the holy man who declared that message. He stretched his arm to point to that man. However, it is a foolish and dangerous action to act against a holy person, or even a holy object. Uzzah died when he reached out to hold the sacred object called the ark (2 Samuel 6:6-8).

Jeroboam had reached out his arm as a sign of his authority to arrest the holy man. However, a holy person belongs to God – and God had given Jeroboam no power over this holy man. That was why God, in his anger, acted at once against Jeroboam. Jeroboam’s arm suddenly lost all its power – Jeroboam could not even pull it back towards him. It seems that at the same moment, the altar split apart. Its ashes poured out onto the ground.

It was clear that God had acted against Jeroboam, against his wrong religion, and against this altar.

Next part: The holy man obeys God's instructions (1 Kings 13:6-10)


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