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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE FOLLY OF REHOBOAM

[177] ON the death of Solomon his son Rehoboam declared himself king in his place. Many of the rulers, hoever, sent for Jeroboam to return from Egypt and meet them at Shechem, where they might consider the matter of the succession. Hither Rehoboam came also. And Jeroboam and the rulers met him, and asked him whether he intended to rule over them gently and mildly, or to imitate the injustice and severity into which his father had fallen. Rehoboam told them he would give them an answer in three days. So they left him.

After they had gone, Rehoboam asked advice of his father's old counsellors. They told him to speak kindly to the rulers and assure them that he would be a mild and just king. But Rehoboam was not satisfied with his advice, and he consulted with the young men about him who were his friends. They told him that it did not befit him, who was the son of a great king, and should be a great king himself, to answer these men as they wished to be answered.

Rehoboam took their advice, and when the rulers and the people returned to him, he said,—

"My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins, and if ye have met with hard usage from my father, ye shall meet with rougher treatment from me; and if he chastised you with whips, ye must expect that I will do it with scorpions."

These were the words that the young men had told him to use. When the people heard them, they were angry, and [178] cried out that they would not have Rehoboam for their king. So ten of the tribes chose Jeroboam to rule over them. But the tribes of Judah and of Benjamin remained faithful to Rehoboam. Rehoboam was making ready a great army to proceed against Jeroboam and his people, but God sent a prophet named Shemaiah to forbid this, saying it was not just that brethren of the same country should fight against another. So the expedition was abandoned.

Jeroboam built himself a palace in the city Shechem and dwelt there. He did not want his people to go to Jerusalem and worship there with the other two tribes, fearing that they might be tempted to return to their first king. So he made two golden calves and built temples for them, one in the city of Bethel and the other in Dan. When the feast of the tabernacles was near at hand, he called the people together, and told them that it would no longer be necessary for them to go to Jerusalem, which was an enemy's city, to worship God.

"I have made two golden calves," said Jeroboam, "one in the city of Bethel and the other in Dan, so that you may go to whichever city is most convenient and worship God there. And I will ordain for you priests and Levites from among yourselves, that you may not need the sons of Aaron."

Then Jeroboam ordained himself high-priest, and with other priests of his own appointing he prepared to offer up sacrifices at the temple in Bethel. But when everything was ready, and just as he had ascended the steps of the altar in sight of all the people, a prophet came to him from Jerusalem. This prophet was named Jadon. He was sent by God, who was angry with Jeroboam. And he stood in the midst of the people and within hearing of the king, and said,—

"God bids me tell you that a king named Josiah shall be born of the family of David, who shall slay all these false priests that are living in this time, and shall burn the bones of those that are dead, because they are deceivers of the people, [179] and teach them false worship. And to show that what I say is true, a sign will be given you today, and this altar shall be broken to pieces, and all the fat of the sacrifices shall be poured upon the ground."

When the prophet had said this, Jeroboam fell into a passion, and stretched out his arm, ordering the people to lay hold of Jadon. But the arm instantly became shrunk and withered, so that he could not draw it back again. At the same moment the altar was shattered, and all that was upon it was poured out upon the ground. Then Jeroboam was afraid, seeing that God was with the prophet, and he asked him to pray that his right arm might be made well. Jeroboam invited Jadon to come in and sup with him, but Jadon answered,—

"God hath forbidden me to taste of bread or water in this city, and hath also told me to return on a different road from that on which I came."

Jadon turned to go back by another way to the land of Judah. There was living in Bethel a certain wicked old man, who was a false prophet. He was held in great esteem by Jeroboam, and when his sons came and told him about the prophet from Judah and of all he had done, he was troubled. For he said to himself, "This stranger will be held in great honor by the king, who will forget me." So he ordered his sons to saddle his ass, and he followed after Jadon. He found him resting under a large oak-tree, and he complained of him, because he had not come into his house and eaten with him. But Jadon answered that God had forbidden him to eat or to drink in the city of Bethel.

"Nay," said the old man, "surely God did not forbid thee to eat and drink with me, for I am a prophet as thou art, and worship God in the same manner that thou dost, and it is by His order that I now come to thee, to bring thee to my house and make thee my guest."

[180] Jadon believed this lying prophet, and went back with him. But while they were feasting and making merry, God appeared to Jadon, and said that he should be punished for transgressing His commands.

"On the way home," said the Lord, "thou shalt meet a lion, who will tear thee in pieces, and thy body shall not be buried in the sepulchre of thy fathers."

Everything happened as the Lord had said. And some travelers came and told the false prophet that they had seen the body of Jadon lying in the road, while a lion stood beside it. The old man sent his sons to bring the body to Bethel, where it was buried. And he said to his sons, "When I am dead, bury me in the same sepulchre with this prophet, for the words that he spoke shall surely come true." Then he went to Jeroboam, and said,—

"Wherefore art thou disturbed at the words of this silly fellow?"

Jeroboam told him the wonders that Jadon had performed. But the old man laughed at these things, and said,—

"Thy arm was enfeebled by the labor it had undergone in preparing the sacrifices, and a little rest soon brought it back to its former state. And as for the altar, it was new, and could not bear the weight of so many sacrifices, therefore it fell apart."

Then he told Jeroboam of the death of the prophet, and said that surely God had punished him for delivering false prophecies. And the king allowed himself to be persuaded, and continued in his wicked courses.

All the priests and Levites, together with many good and righteous men among the subjects of Jeroboam, left him and went to dwell in the kingdom of Rehoboam, for they were not willing to be forced to worship the golden calves. But as his prosperity increased, Rehoboam also became forgetful of the true God, and despised His worship and sacrificed to idols. Many of the people followed his example, [181] until God was angry with them, and determined to punish them. He therefore allowed Shishak, king of Egypt, to conquer their cities, and Shishak despoiled the temple and the palace of the king, and carried off all the gold and silver and other treasures, and he then returned to Egypt. Not long afterwards Rehoboam died, and was succeeded by his son Abijah.


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