Tell Dan - The Story of One of God's Chosen

Tell Dan - The Story of One of God’s Chosen

 

When problems arise, God often uses an individual as part of His solution. Jeroboam was one such man. We first meet him in 1 Kings Chapter 11:

Then Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, Solomon’s servant, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also rebelled against the king. Now this was the reason why he rebelled against the king: Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of his father David.

Now the man Jeroboam was a valiant warrior, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.

Jeroboam was a man of action and character. He was noticed by King Solomon and placed as a military commander and project overseer. Apparently he was troubled by Solomon’s elaborate building projects and the heavy tax burden this placed on the people. He may have also been offended by Solomon’s allowance of his foreign wives to build shrines to their gods, and the resulting spiritual drift away from Yahewh by the royal court. He probably also noticed the reckless lifestyle of the Crown Prince, Rehoboam, who seemed more interested in his privileged lifestyle than actually caring for his people.

 It came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him and tore it into twelve pieces. He said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes  (but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did.

 Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes; but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand and give it to you, even ten tribes. But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name. I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel.  Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.                                                                                   1 Kings 11:26-39

God made four specific promises to Jeroboam:

  • God would be with him;
  • God would make him king over the 10 northern tribes and
  • He would reign over whatever he desired;
  • God would build an enduring dynasty that would rule Israel for generations.

God would do all these things as long as Jeroboam listened to what God told him to do and obeyed, that he would rule the nation according to God principles of government, and that Jeroboam would conduct his personal life in accordance with God principles for his relationships, and personal integrity.

1  Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 2 Now when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it, he was living in Egypt (for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon). 3 Then they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 5 Then he said to them, “Depart for three days, then return to me.” So the people departed.

Jeroboam fled to Egypt. When he heard that King Solomon had died, he returned and became one of the spokesmen for the nation to the new king Rehoboam. They asked him to lighten up the tax and labor burden which Solomon had decreed.

6 King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” 7 Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

8 But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. 9 So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! 11 Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”

 

Rehoboam asked his elders for counsel. They told him to listen to the assembly and lighten the public service and tax burden. He asked his friends, and they said to continue the taxes and labor, even increasing the levy.


12 Then Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” 13 The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him, 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the LORD, that He might establish His word, which the LORD spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

16 When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; To your tents, O Israel! Now look after your own house, David!”

 Rehoboam chose to go with the advice of his friends. The ten northern tribes withdrew from their relationship with Judah and King Rehoboam.

So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.

 19  So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 It came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David.                                    1 Kings 12:1-20

They chose Jeroboam to be their king, thus fulfilling the prophecy given months earlier.

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27  If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.

 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. 31 And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. 32 Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had  devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense.

Somehow, sin entered the picture. Jeroboam became fearful that God would not come through on his promises. He did not trust God’s goodness, just as Adam and Eve decided in the temptation in the Garden of Eden that they could not trust the goodness of God, and decided to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you suddenly been taken over by your fears and done things that you later regretted?

 

While we were busy feeding and clothing Miskito Indian refugees in a remote corner of Eastern Honduras in 1985-87, we became friends with Rolando Acosta, who coordinated U.S. AID ‘s help to these refugees. Rolando channeled food and rice and bean seed to us to distribute to the refugees in our zone along the Kruta and Coco Rivers. One day Rolando was flying with a Honduran pilot from the Miskitia back to Tegucigalpa in a twin-engine Piper Aztec. As they the pilot dodged the typical afternoon thunderstorms, they found themselves in the middle of a violent storm. The airplane was getting caught in the up and down drafts, and according the Rolando the flight was getting very uncomfortable.

Suddenly the pilot looked over to Rolando and shouted, “We are going to crash!”

Roland yelled back, “Fly the airplane!”

A few moments passed by with the airplane being tossed around by the air currents and the pilot yelled again, “We’re going down!”

Roland yelled louder “Fly the airplane!”

Things got worse and the pilot yelled “We are gonna die!”

Rolando looked at the terrified pilot and said calmly “Fly the Airplane!”.

In an instant the Aztec broke into clear air, and the turbulence stopped. The pilot regained his composure and silently flew on and landed in Tegucigalpa.

 

My father Forrest served in the 2nd Armored Division in World War II. He made the North Africa landing north of Casablanca in November of 1942, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and came ashore at Omaha Beach in Normandy in June of 1944. He and the rest of his surviving soldiers were the first American to enter Berlin in July 1945. His first division commander was a general named George Patton.

Forrest told us some colorful things that General Patton said during their weekly parades at Fort Benning before they shoved off for the African invasion. Here’s one:

“Your job is not to die for your country, but to make sure that the enemy S.O.B. dies for his.”

One of Patton’s statements that is relevant to our discussion is:

“Never take counsel of your fears.”

Discernment is different than fear. It is analyzing the situation and making a wise judgement based on all you know and have experienced. Of course, you consider the dangers and risks of a situation, but it is unwise to make your decision solely based on the perils of the moment.

For us, it often comes down to “What did God say?”

This is a question that my friend Roy Kendall, who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 30 years, asks friends who are planning a trip to Israel when political situations suddenly pose some potential threats to their safety. That question has been very helpful to us in our travels there, especially in the fall of 2000 when the Palestinian Intafada broke out and Muslim gunmen were randomly shooting Israelis at bus stops and from bridges over the highways. We went in October that year and it was a very instrumental time as we helped our friend Randy Smith begin a relief ministry out of his garage to Palestinian Christian families in Bethlehem and Bet Jala, as well as many of his Jewish neighbors in Jerusalem. It has been very helpful in many of the decisions we have had to make in all our adventures with the Lord! “What did God say?”

Because of his fear of losing his kingdom, Jeroboam forgot what God said and decided to give his people an alternative to the commanded three times-a-year-travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship Yahweh during the feasts of Passover, First Fruits and Tabernacles. Instead Jeroboam brought back the golden calf that Aaron made in the wilderness and built two altars- one at Bethel and one at Dan.

A golden calf?  Remember when Moses was receiving the laws, the design of the Wilderness Tabernacle, and the priestly garments while up on the mountain with God?

 

1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”                                          Exodus 32:1-4

 

Why the calf? Hathor was the Egyptian goddess of love, music, dance, joy, drunkenness, trade, navigation, among other roles. She was the protector of travelers and slaves. Her image was often portrayed as a bovine, a cow or calf. She was a very sensual goddess. This brought a rebuke from the Lord Himself.

 

1 Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. 2  He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’                                                                                                           1 Kings 13:1-2

 

The building of these altars and worship of the golden calf brought severe consequences on the Northern Kingdom. This opened the door to all the Canaanite religions, and the golden calves remained at Dan & Bethel until the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC. However, during the revival in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (640-608 BC), in addition of clearing out all idol worship in Judah, Josiah fulfilled the prophecy regarding the altar at Bethel.

 

Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he  demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah. 16 Now when Josiah turned, he saw the graves that were there on the mountain, and he sent and took the bones from the graves and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things.                                                                    2 Kings 23:15-16

 

Obviously, Jeroboam deserved to feel the wrath of God and be punished for his dastardly deed. Yet God continued to reach out to Jeroboam, offering him opportunity to repent and turn back to God and His ways. It’s the Grace of God in action. God is always giving us these moments to turn back from our sinful decisions and return to our walk with Him.

 

O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”                                Isaiah 44:21-22

 

God reached out to Jeroboam in a very remarkable manner.

 

3 Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the LORD has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’”   4 Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5 The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. 6 The king said to the man of God, “Please  entreat the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.

 So the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before.

 7 Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” 8 But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. 9 For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’” 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.                                                         1 Kings 13:4-10

 

God gave opportunity to Jeroboam to repent and return to a relationship with him, even healing his hand.

But his decisions continued to plague Israel with consequences for the next generations. Yet in the midst of their evil, God sent a prophet to encourage King Amaziah to restore the original borders of the kingdom.  Again, God’s Grace in action, answering the prayers of His people.

 

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. 24 He did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 25  He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. 26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. 27 The LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Jo                   2 Kings 14:23-27

 

Beginning in 1966, archeologist Avraham Biran led a team that uncovered much of what we see today at Tel Dan. For almost 30 years his team uncovered the city gates, the homes, the ‘Abraham Gate’, and the most famous discovery- an inscription in Aramaic referring to the Kingdom of Judah by its dynastic name-‘House of David’.

 With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD the Israelite Temple, the only remaining ancient worship sites are at Arad in the Negev and here at Tel Dan. According to archeologist Dr Randall Smith, when Biran uncovered the altar stones, he refused to place them back in their original position. He knew the curse that this altar had brought on the nation of Israel. Instead, he constructed a metal frame in the shape of the original altar, complete with the ‘horns’ on each corner.

 

What is the lesson for us after our visit to Tel Dan? Here are a few thoughts.

 

God is trustworthy. He is good. He has our best interest at the center of His heart. He will do anything to bring us into His family. We know that from what He did on the Cross.

When we hear God speak to us, nudge us, and direct our words and actions, obedience to Him will result in a true-life adventure. Yes it may often be a risky undertaking, but it will be a remarkable experience.

We humans are affected by a very powerful force called sin.  As God told Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7).

 Sin is like a tiger crouching out of sight awaiting a careless moment to pounce on us. 

Peter used the same metaphor when he told his friends that Pride and Fear are the open doors that sin attacks us.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9   But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.                                     1 Peter 5:6-10

 

God will be our source of strength to resist temptations and always offer the grace which he purchased for us by His death on the cross when we fail. Many have discovered that allowing sin into your life establishes a ‘beachhead’ for an even stronger presence of sin that will affect your relationships with God, your family, and your friends. God told Cain that he must ‘master sin’. Peter tells us to resist sin. Our prayers, our remembrance of who we are,  and what God has done for us, helps us to develop our life disciplines that will result in maturity.

Peter says that it will God Himself through this process that will “perfect” us. In the original Greek text this word is katartísō, from katá, with, and artízō:  to adjust, fit, complete. The fundamental meaning is to put a thing in its appropriate condition, to establish, set up, equip, arrange, prepare, mend.

 

Paul declares this same concept in his letter to the church in Philippi, using a similar Greek word.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.                                                                       Philippians 2:12-13

 

“Work out” in the original Greek text is: Katergázomai; from katá, and ergázomai, to work. To work out; trans. to bring about, accomplish, to carry out a task until it is finished.

 Kenneth Wuest in his Word Studies in the Greek New Testament translates this important principle this way:

Wherefore, my beloved ones, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, carry to its ultimate conclusion your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is the One who is constantly putting forth His power in you, both in the form of the constant activity of (your) being desirous of and the constant activity of (your) putting into operation His good pleasure.                                                     

Philippians 2:12-13

 

Finally, the Grace of God is always available for us. God is constantly pursuing us.

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