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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

1 Kings 13

 

 

Verses 1-10

THE MYSTERIOUS PROPHET OF JUDAH

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . There came a man of God: an unknown prophet. Josephus suggests Jadon, confounding him with Iddo (2Ch 13:22), but he lived on during Abijab's reign; whereas this man died immediately. Names fade; ministries endure. By the word of the Lord— בִּדְבַּר—"By the word" means not commanded by, but in the power of the word, obeying its impulsion. Jeroboam stood by the altar (see notes on 1Ki 12:33)—Acting a foremost part in the national apostasy.

1Ki . "Cried against the altar," as if ignoring the king; for the profaned altar possessed a vaster solemnity than the mere agent of its profanation. And the prediction of its ruin would carry with it and include the doom of the violator of God's temple—the lesser included in the greater. The "altar" also symbolically stood for the whole system of idolatry imposed now upon Israel. Josiah by name—One of the most minutely delineated prophecies of Scripture, and most minutely fulfilled, after a lapse of 360 years (2Ki 22:1; 2Ki 23:15). Evidence of literal inspiration of prophets. Possibly the word יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ—Josiah—may be (as Keil suggests) descriptive of the child who should do this work of retribution, and not necessarily his personal name, the word meaning "whom Jehovah sustains." Yet Divine Providence arranged that the prophecy should assert itself even in the name which the predicted person bore.

1Ki . A sign the same day—A portent and pledge of the coming event. מוֹפֶת means a prodigy rather than a simple "sign."

1Ki . Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God—"Entreat," חִלָה, to soften; "entreat the face," soften the rigour of its expression.

1Ki . Come home with me—A guilesome attempt to get the man under his influence, since he had experienced his alarming power; or to lessen the startling impression which the event of his arm withering had produced on the people—an event calculated to convey an appearance of Divine rebuke of the king. If the people became alarmed the king's control would be gone.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE INVINCIBLE COURAGE OF A DIVINELY AUTHORISED MESSENGER

THE audacity of Jeroboam must not go unreproved or unpunished. He had assumed sacerdotal functions, and stood by the altar to offer sacrifice. He had introduced dangerous innovations, and involved the whole nation in the guilt of idolatry. His conduct is to be denounced at the very altar where his offence culminated in its highest aggravation. It required more than ordinary bravery to confront so strong-willed and reckless a king, who seemed impatient of contradiction, and was accustomed to be obeyed. But Jehovah had already provided an agent, and qualified him for the work. A stern-visaged prophet of Judah, like a spectral figure emerging out of misty space, appears upon the scene, armed with supernatural powers before which the proud king was humbled and made to tremble. The passage illustrates the invincible courage of a divinely authorized messenger.

I. It aided him in the full and faithful declaration of the Divine message (1Ki ).

1. As to the promise of a coming avenger. "Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name." The very name of the avenger is predicted, an unusual instance of particularity in Divine prophecies. Only three other similar instances are recorded: Israel (Gen ); Solomon (1Ch 22:9); and Cyrus (Isa 45:1). The All-Prescient Jehovah, who sees the end from the beginning, may cause events to be foretold minutely by His prophets, though in the general law of His providence He does not do so. He only can be the most capable judge as to how much of the future should be revealed.

2. As to the particular character of the punishment to be imposed. "Upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places," &c. (1Ki ). This prophecy was exactly fulfilled (2Ki 23:15-20). God is too righteous to indulge in idle threats. They who disregard warning are without excuse when the punishment falls.

3. As to the visible tokens of the authenticity of the message. "And he gave a sign the same day," &c. (1Ki ). The altar was rent, and the ashes poured out (1Ki 13:5), as an evidence that the prophet was Jehovah's ambassador, and spoke with the Divine sanction. Without this sign the prophecy of an event that did not take place for three hundred and fifty years would have wanted authority with those who knew nothing about the strange, mysterious messenger. God gives to His servants all the power necessary to accomplish their difficult and often unwelcome mission; and woe be to him who has not the courage or fidelity to act in harmony with his commission—neither to fall short of it, nor to go beyond.

II. It rendered him fearless in the presence of an angry and unscrupulous monarch (1Ki ). Like all usurpers and tyrants, Jeroboam's remedy for all difficulties was force. He would have made short work of the man who had dared to interrupt him in the very act of performing the highest function of his self-assumed priesthood, and who denounced him and his idolatrous policy in the presence of his courtiers and supporters. The divinely authorised messenger is as bold as a lion (Pro 28:1). and is not to be intimidated by the fear of consequences. Few prophets suffered more than Jeremiah; yet all the cruelties of his enemies were impotent in bribing him to silence, or in impairing his fidelity. A sense of the Divine call to service, however painful and perilous, fills the soul with an incorruptible bravery.

III. It was supported by unmistakable evidences of supernatural power The king's hand was withered, and the altar rent asunder (1Ki ). He who had not scrupled to stir up rebellion and to seize a crown, did not scruple to lay his hand menacingly on God's servants; but in vain. How unexpected was the result! God will protect His messengers, who are ever the special butts of malice: he who touches them, touches the apple of His eye. Before God strikes, He warns: He willeth not that any should perish, but rather that they should come to repentance. It does not appear that either Jeroboam or his followers were moved to repentance by all they witnessed—another example of the hardening nature of sin, and the powerlessness of external miracles to affect and transform man's spiritual nature. How many beheld the miracle-working power of Christ, and yet died in unbelief!

IV. It was not inconsistent with an act of mercy (1Ki ). Jeroboam prayed, not for pardon, but for the restoration of his withered limb. An impenitent heart ever betrays itself in greater concern for its sufferings than its sins. They who in prosperity reject the warnings of God's messengers are ready enough in distress to have recourse to their prayers. To pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us is the way to obtain the promised beatitude (Mat 5:10; Mat 5:44). Those who are most severe and faithful in telling us of our sins are the most eager and genuine in rendering sympathetic help when we are in trouble. Courage and tender-heartedness go together.

V. It enabled him to resist the strongest temptation to disobedience (1Ki ).

1. The temptation appealed to his physical needs. "Come home with me and refresh thyself" (1Ki ). Weary and faint as he must have been with his journey, this invitation would cost the prophet some self-denial to resist. Satan ever tempts most powerfully at the weakest point and at the weakest moment. But the prophet must have no fellowship or communion with their works of darkness—not so much as even to eat and drink with them. He was not to accept the hospitality of any dweller at Bethel, in order to show in a marked way, which men generally could appreciate, God's abhorrence of the system which Jeroboam had "devised of his own heart."

2. The temptation offered immediate temporal advantage. "And I will give thee a reward" (1Ki ). It was customary to honour a prophet with a gift if he performed any service that was requested at his hands (1Sa 9:7-8; 1Ki 14:3; 2Ki 5:5; 2Ki 8:9). The prophet was tempted with three things: royal hospitality, refreshment, and reward. How far these offers influenced the future action of the prophet can be only imperfectly conjectured. At this point of his history they had no power to corrupt his fidelity. Neither offers nor threats must be allowed to prevail with us to swerve a single step from the path of duty.

3. The temptation was resisted by a remembrance of God's Word. "For so was it charged me by the Word of the Lord" (1Ki ). This was the weapon by which the Sinless One conquered the most furious onslaughts of the great adversary (Mat 4:4; Mat 4:7; Mat 4:10). The Word of God is an impregnable defence, against which the arrows of temptation are shot in vain.

LESSONS:—

1. Faithful rebukes often produce proud wrath.

2. In the way of duty the Divinely-authorized messenger need fear no danger.

3. To reject Divine warnings aggravates transgression and invites vengeance.

THE CALF WORSHIP DENOUNCED

I. The great business of the prophet is evidently to denounce the altar and the sacrifices in Bethel. Of course, the rationalist teacher exclaims, "These were the offences of Jeroboam. He was an intruder upon the special privileges of the Jerusalem hierarchy; he had courage to introduce priests taken from the lowest of the people; he broke through the formalities of the Levitical law. Such a man in our days would be called a reformer or asserter of national and individual independence. Therefore he is denounced by the ecclesiastics who have compiled the Jewish records." Yes, if the establishment of visible sensible worship be a great step in the progress of the human intellect—if the introduction of a set of priests continually at work to make that worship more visible, more sensual, more gross, to be a mode of fulfilling the aspirations of those who desire moral and spiritual liberty—if the breaking through the fetters of a law which restrained all sacerdotal inventions whatsoever, and bore witness continually that sacrifices were not offered to appease a tyrant, but to remove an obstacle between a righteous Lord and His unrighteous subjects—if the consequent establishment of a devil-worship be that which wise men of the nineteenth century after Christ call reformation, Jeroboam deserves all their patronage, and the man of God who came out of Judah to pronounce a curse upon his altar, all their wrath.

II. And this is precisely the question, not for this passage of the history only, but for every subsequent passage of it. The revolting kings of Israel, in whom modern enlightenment discovers the champions of human progress, were introducing the most unlimited sacerdotal tyranny, were making that sacerdotal tyranny an instrument of regal tyranny. The priests of the high places, the prophets of the grove, were building their own power upon the degradation of the multitudes whom they drew after them, were using that power to confirm every unrighteous decree, to remove every real moral restraint from the kings. The prophets, who, we are told, would never have been praised except in a book compiled by the supporters of a certain set of caste interests, were bearing a protest, at the hazard of their lives, for a righteous order which no caprices of human superstition or human will could set aside, for a spiritual authority which not only did not demand the slavery of the conscience, but was incompatible with it, for an actual relation between the Most High and His creatures which not only did not involve their regarding Him as an object of terror or distrust, but proved such habits of mind to contain the very essence of sin.

III. Men like the one we are now considering are said to speak the Word of the Lord, or sometimes in the Word of the Lord. Their function assumes that the thoughts of man's heart and the utterances of it are of all things the most sacred; that a presence is there which men are seeking in dark groves, on high places, in sun, or sea, or air; that this Presence is not a phantom, not a creation of their own, but He who is, He who formed them; that the best and wisest man is He who confesses this presence with awe and wonder, who believes that he is standing before a living Being to whom all within is naked and open, who desires that that Being should direct him, act upon him, use him for His own purposes, who knows that those purposes are right purposes, who is sure that they cannot concern him more than they concern his fellows. To a man thus taught and trained, idolatry was something absolutely appalling. He had no measure of its enormity, only he was sure that a people worshipping calves, seeking God in high places, were flying from a friend and a deliverer, to enemies and destroyers; from the living and the true, to death and falsehood. He knew that it was so. He was certain that he was not uttering himself or his own fancies, when he said that it was so. God was speaking through his lips: God was pronouncing sentence upon that which defied him. What signified who might stand before the altar, who might be burning incense upon it? He no more could or dared tremble at the worshipper than at the thing worshipped. Both were creatures of the Eternal God. The one was setting himself up, the other was set up in contempt of Him: each alike must come down. The truth must stand fast and fulfil itself. He had only to proclaim the truth.

IV. But how shall the idolater know it and be convinced of it? The arm, we are told, which was stretched out to perform the sacrifice, and then to seize the prophet, was dried up so that he could not pull it again to him. "Here," you say, "is a miracle; such a one as we expect in all records of this kind." Precisely, such a one as you might expect in a record of this kind, and as you would not expect and not meet with in a record of another kind written by the supporters of a body which was interested in superstition, and trying by all means to sustain the reputation of it. The man of God testifies to Jeroboam that the juices and springs of life are renewed from an invisible source, that it is another than the dead thing which he is worshipping who can dry them up or give them their natural flow—a protest exactly in accordance with that which Moses bore against the gods of Pharoah, a protest on behalf of regularity and law, and for a God of regularity and law, with whom are the issues of daily life and death, against the seeker of charms in natural things, against the worshipper of capricious deities. The other part of the sign is precisely of the same kind. The altar is rent and the ashes are poured out from the altar, as a sure and everlasting testimony that law and order shall not be violated with impunity by any ruler, under any religious pretext, that his religious acts are more hateful in the sight of God than all his other acts, and must hasten the vengeance upon those.

V. The story of the prophet is continued in these words. (Read 1Ki ). The invisible teacher who had bid him go forth on his journey and carry the message to the king, had made him understand as clearly, that when he had done his errand, he was to go back into Judah. He had no doubt that this was what he ought to do. It was part of his commission. The other part of it would not be faithfully discharged if this was forgotten. These words and acts of the prophet were connected with his own life, they belonged to his very self. His conscience, as well as his powers of thought and reflection, were not crushed or stifled by the Divine communication, but were awakened by it into activity. And the conscience so awakened was proof against any solicitations of the king. (Condensed from F. D. Maurice.)

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . The man of God out of Judah.

1. He comes led by the Word of God, and goes on his dark, difficult way in faith, without taking counsel with flesh and blood.

2. He stands, strong and bold, before the king, fears him not, testifies against his sins, and announces the judgment of God.

3. He makes entreaty for him who was about to lay hold on Him, and heaps coals of fire on his head.

4. He resists the offers of the king, and will not be secured by bribes.

—The testimony against the service of the false gods.

1. It proceedeth from a nameless, unknown, insignificant man, who, without worldly consequence, has nothing and knows nothing, except only the power of the Divine Word. That is the manner of the Lord in His kingdom. He accomplishes by means of small, insignificant instruments, what no king, with all his power, can do. The altars of heathendom are shattered by means of the testimony of fishers and tax-gatherers (1Co ), even as were the altars of the false worshippers of God by means of a poor, world-despised recluse.

2. It was received at first with scorn, wrath, and violence; but the wrath is powerless and avails nothing; the altar is rent, and the threatening arm is dried up. Humble entreaties then take the place of wrath (Isa ). But though the withered arm be restored, the heart remains withered as before. Physical aid is always readily received by men, whilst they shut their hearts to the testimony against their sins.—Lange.

1Ki . But O, the patience and mercy of our long-suffering God, that will not strike a very Jeroboam unwarned! Judgment hovers over the heads of sinners, ere it light. If Israel afford not a bold reprover of Jeroboam, Judah shall. When the king of Israel is in all the height both of his state and his superstition, honouring his solemn day with his richest devotion, steps forth a prophet of God, and interrupts that glorious service with a loud inclamation of judgment. Doubtless, the man wanted not wit to know what displeasure, what danger must needs follow so unwelcome a message; yet, dares he, upon the commission of God, do this affront to an idolatrous king, in the midst of all his awful magnificence. The prophets of God go upon many a thankless errand. He is no messenger for God that either knows or fear the faces of men.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . God announces beforehand His judgments to sinners, that they may have time and space for repentance. Woe to them who misemploy the respite, for the measure of their sins will be full. In the new covenant we have a far weightier prophecy. Unto us is born a Son, named Jesus, out of the House of David; who will come again and pronounce judgment upon those who know not God, and who obey not the gospel (2Th 1:8-9).—Lange.

—The prophet directed his speech to the altar out of detestation of such an abomination: and, as having no hope to prevail with Jeroboam, who stood by it, and was more insensible than that altar, or than the heap of stones which Bede once preached unto.—Trapp.

—It was the altar, not the person of Jeroboam, which the prophet thus threatens: yet not the stones are stricken, but the founder in both their apprehensions; so dear are the devices of our own brain to us, as if they were incorporated into ourselves. There is no opposition of which we are so sensible as that of religion. That the royal altar should be thus polluted by dead men's bones and the blood of the priests, was not more unpleasing than that all this should be done by a child of the house of David; for Jeroboam well saw that the throne and the altar must stand or fall together; that a Son of David could not have such power over the altar, without an utter subversion of the government, of the succession; therefore is he thus galled with this comminatory prediction.

—Probably a prophecy against Jeroboam's own person, instead of against the insensate altar, would have touched him less nearly. But this showed that his policy would come to nought, and that the power he was establishing with so much solicitude would be utterly subverted, while the house of David would still subsist in its strength, for only so could a king of that house be able to do this upon an altar in this realm. The king grasped the full meaning of this message, and it filled him with rage against the man who had dared to deliver it then and there.—Kitto.

1Ki . The miracles which the Lord our God performs are not only proofs of his almighty power to amaze us, but likewise significant signs which reveal to us His eternal decrees, and lead us to the recognition of that heavenly truth which sanctifies our hearts.

1Ki . Although faithful teachers often accomplish nothing and fail most signally with men of high degree, yet must they never on this account abandon their office. For if thou warn him thou hast delivered thy soul (Eze 3:19), and although the obdurate remain untouched, yet it shall not remain without fruit (Isa 55:10). How did even this warning work itself out and bear fruit after three hundred years (2Ki 23:15). Sinners eminent by wealth and position will only listen to prophets who are dumb dogs and cannot bark (Isa 56:10). When a true servant of the Lord cries out, "The axe is already laid at the root of the tree," they arise in wrath and cry out, "Seize him" (2Ti 4:1-5). He who attacks a servant of God because of his testimony, never remains unpunished. In vain doth the enemy stretch forth his hand against those who are under God's protection (Job 7:4; Lev 4:29; Psa 37:17). Those who will not listen to the word of truth, God often visits with bodily pain in order to humble them and teach them to pray and supplicate.—Cramer.

—A fearful stroke, had he well considered it; but his heart was as hard as his hand withered. Jeroboam had as great a miracle wrought before him herein, as St. Paul had at his conversion; but without the Spirit's concurrence, neither miracle, nor ministry, nor misery, can in the least measure mollify the heart of an obdurate and obstinate sinner. Valens, the Arian emperor, would have signed a sentence of banishment against Basil, but could not by reason of a sudden trembling of his right hand, so that he could not write one letter of his own name, but for anger tore the paper in pieces, and let Basil alone. There is a story of one of our late innovators, who, turning with the times and beginning to bow towards altars, never went upright more; and of another who, hearing perjury condemned by a godly preacher, and how it never escaped unpunished, said in a bravery, "I have often forsworn myself, and yet my right hand is no shorter than my left." These words he had scarce uttered, when such an inflammation arose in that hand, that he was forced to go to the chirurgeon and cut it off lest it should have infected the whole body; and so it became shorter than the other. The Jews tell us, that when Jeroboam's hand was dried up, the false prophets told him that this fell out by chance, and so kept him from thinking of God who had smitten him. Let the saints learn to put their confidence in God; for if He deny concourse and influence, the arm of all adverse power shrinketh up presently.—Trapp.

1Ki . The importance of the authentication of the man of God by a miraculous sign appears from the conduct of Jeroboam towards him. Without waiting for the confirmation of his word by the announced miraculous sign, the king stretches his hand towards him with the words, "Lay hold on him;" but must now experience in the hand with which he could set aside the prophet who was disagreeable to him, the omnipotence of the Lord who has power to protect his servants. The outstretched hand is withered by a miracle—that is, stiffened, deprived of vital juice—so that he cannot draw it in again. On this follows the miraculous sign announced, and Jeroboam's wicked arrogance is broken down by the double miracle; he is constrained to entreat the prophet to intercede for him with the Lord his God, that his hand may be restored.—Keil.

—Resolute wickedness is impatient of reproof, and, instead of yielding to the voice of God, rebelleth. Just and discreet reprehension doth not more reform some sinners than exasperate others. How easy is it for God to cool the courage of proud Jeroboam! The hand which his rage stretches out, dries up and cannot be pulled back again; and now stands the king of Israel, like some antique statue, in a posture of impotent endeavour, so disabled to the hurt of the prophet, that he cannot command that piece of himself. What are the great potentates of the world in the powerful hand of the Almighty? Tyrants cannot be so harmful as they are malicious. It must needs be a great strait that could drive a proud heart to beg mercy where he bent his persecution; so doth Jeroboam, holding it no scorn to be beholden to an enemy. In extremities the worst men can be content to sue for favour where they have spent their malice.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . He who desires for himself the intercession of others must himself draw near humbly and penitently to God and implore His mercy. In this wise can we know if we are indeed children of God and guided by His Spirit, if we pray and supplicate for those who have done their worst to us, and thus overcome evil with good (1Pe 3:9).

—The faith of the wicked in the prayers of the good.

1. Shows that religion may be respected while it is personally ignored.

2. That religion bears external evidence of its own superiority.

3. That the wicked are ever ready to share in the benefits of religion while they reject its claims.

4. That the example of a religious life has a powerful influence for good.

—The display of miraculous power will not avail to change the heart.

1. It appeals mainly to the external senses.

2. The judgment may be convinced while the will remains unchanged; men reject religion, not for want of evidence, but for want of will.

3. To refuse divinely attested truth is to incur the greater guilt.

1Ki . Although the ungodly often hold in high esteem these holy men especially raised up by God, yet they never follow their instructions and warnings (Mar 6:19). What boots it that we gratefully acknowledge the material blessings which meet us, if we leave unfulfilled the very object of these blessings, namely, the turning of our hearts from sin and the world to God. Unbelief and impenitence cannot be outweighed by even the highest friendship and humanity. When the world can effect nothing more by force and threats, it seeks to gain its ends by plausible love tokens.—Osiander.

1Ki . There is no bribe to which the man of God will yield: to him, that which God has commanded him seems, in all times and all places, in evil as in good days, the fixed and definite plan of action. The best weapon and defence against the snares of our spiritual enemy is the law and Word of God. It is far from being unimportant with whom we eat and drink, i.e., in fellowship and intimate alliance (1Co 5:2).—Starke.

1Ki . The reasons for the Divine commands.

1. Are not always apparent.

2. Are always grounded in wisdom and righteousness. 3 Disobedience is inexcusable even where the Divine reasons are not understood.

—He was charged also not to return by the way that he came; probably lest the account of what was done should have reached the ears of any of the people through whom he had passed, and he suffer inconveniences on the account, either by persecution from the idolaters, or from curious people delaying him in order to cause him to give an account of the transactions which took place at Bethel. This is a reason why he should not return by the same way; but what the reason of this part of the charge, if not the above, is not easy to see.

—This command seems to have been given simply to test the obedience of the prophet by laying him under a positive as well as a moral obligation. When he turned back with the old prophet, and retraversed a road over which he had already passed, he disobeyed this injunction, as by eating and drinking he disobeyed the other.—Speaker's Comm.

1Ki . If in a certain position thou hast done what God commanded, and left undone what He forbade, then go on thy way peaceful and content, how dark and unknown soever it may seem to thee.


Verses 11-32

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . An old prophet in Bethel: who had been faithless amid surrounding faithlessness. His alertness to win the prophet of Judah to his house arose from

(1) his interest (professional) in a fellow-prophet's mission—this feeling awoke immediately he heard of one of his own class being near.

(2) A sense of shame may have stirred in him that a prophet from a distance should have come to do what he himself, being near, should have long ago done.

(3) He may have desired to reinstate himself in the king's confidence, and in public estimation, by uniting himself in this way with a distinguished and true prophet. There may have been no desire on his part to induce the prophet of Judah into sinning, but he himself prevaricated in order to succeed in his wish to gratify his curiosity or calm his self-rebuke by this act of courtesy.

1Ki . An angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord—Not "the Lord spake," but an "angel," or messenger, one of his sons; hiding the real facts, and conveying a false impression.

1Ki . The word of the Lord came, &c.—Making deceitful lips speak truth.

1Ki . And he cried—Rather, "it cried." The man was but the passive agent; the Word of God used the man's organs of utterance.

1Ki . Bury me in the sepulchre wherein, &c.—Deeply impressed now that he was a true prophet, and that it was an evil and a bitter thing to sin against the Lord. Possibly he had a superstitious hope that by burial with this true prophet he himself might be advantaged when the dead should be raised, or that his own bones would be allowed to rest undisturbed in company with a man of God.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

TEMPTATIONS TO DISOBEDIENCE

I. Assail us at the moment we are most clearly conscious of duty done. The mysterious prophet of Judah had, with great effort and at great peril, accomplished his important mission, and, in obedience to the positive directions he had received, was returning homeward by a different route, when a temptation came upon him from a most unexpected quarter. It is ever so. There is little space afforded for self-gratulation on the achievement of one difficult task ere we are confronted with another; and woe to him who is off his guard at that moment. It is not always in the midst of the storm that the mariner finds his greatest danger, but in the deceitful and uncertain calm when some sudden and unexpected gust may strike his vessel unprepared. It was only lately that the Eurydice, a noble British man-of-war, after successfully navigating the world, was approaching the shores of England with every stitch of canvas spread, when her sails were smitten with a terrific blast, and in a few moments she heeled over and sank to the bottom of the sea, with hundreds of brave seamen whose hearts were beating with joy in the near prospect of home! (1Co ).

II. Are most dangerous when they come to us with a pretended religious sanction (1Ki ). The prophet of Bethel was old (1Ki 13:11), and commanded the reverence that belongs to age. He was recognized as a prophet, and had so much regard for his sacred office as to be absent from the king's idolatrous sacrifices, though he allowed his sons to be there (1Ki 13:11-12). His object might be to curry favour with the king by making the man of God contradict himself, and thus impair the moral weight and authority of the message that had been so faithfully delivered, and weaken its impression on the minds of the people. He gained his end by telling a lie—a lie that was aggravated by its boldness and profanity (1Ki 13:18). The prophet of Judah was too guileless to suspect the trap that was laid for him, though, being himself in direct communication with Jehovah, he ought not to have acted upon a contradiction of the command imparted to himself, or any other authority than that from which he had received it. He was beguiled; he turned back, and his doom was sealed. The most dangerous allurements of evil are presented when it robes itself in the external garb of goodness. When rack, and sword, and faggot fail to intimidate, a false show of piety will fatally deceive! Ah! how much need have we to cry—

Awake, my soul, when sin is nigh,

And keep it still awake.

III. Cannot be yielded to with impunity.

1. The disobedient are made conscious of their sin (1Ki ). The two prophets were startled at their humble meal by hearing the voice of the Lord uttering unmistakable condemnation; and this time the false prophet was made the vehicle of a true message from heaven, which he understood, we may well suppose, with real concern, and delivered with reluctance. A conviction of wrong-doing always precedes punishment: the sinner will be made to understand what it is for which he suffers.

2. The disobedient are certainly punished (1Ki ). The punishment may be strange, singular, and in a form utterly unexpected; but it will be certain. Here a lion was made the instrument of vengeance. It is said that lions like not to attack man unless driven to extremity for prey, and that an ass is choice food for a lion, while it is well known that a lion kills to eat. But in this case we see the natural instinct of the brute controlled by a superior power: the man is assailed and slain; his body and that of the ass remain unmolested. God is not restricted to any one method of punishing transgression: all the powers of the universe wait on His bidding.

3. The punishment of the disobedient is evident (1Ki ). The scene was patent to every passer-by, and soon became the common talk of the city. Where the offence was committed, there its punishment was witnessed. Jehovah will vindicate His righteous government of the universe by the most public and terrible punishment of sin (2Co 5:10).

4. The punishment of the disobedient is not unlamented (1Ki ). The awful transactions in which the prophet of Bethel was thus called to take a part could not but make a profound impression on his mind, and might be beneficial in promoting his spiritual reformation. He sorrowed over the unfortunate fate of his brother-prophet, and interred his body in his own tomb (1Ki 13:29-30). Do not think, O sinner! that your transgressions are unnoticed, or that you are the only one affected by them: they cannot be regarded with indifference by a Just and Beneficent God. And if you will persist in your disobedience, breaking through all restrictions, and spurning all help—if you will court ruin, and voluntarily surrender youself to the inevitable consequences of your sins—He who has done all He consistently can to recall you to obedience resolves you shall not perish unwept and unlamented; and as you drop into the abysmal depths of unutterable woe the voice of Infinite Pity shall exclaim in tones which, though not intended to do so, can only sharpen the stings of remorse: O! that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, &c. (Isa 48:18).

IV. Will not prevent the ultimate fulfilment of the Divine Word (1Ki ). "The saying which he cried by the Word of the Lord shall surely come to pass." Thus did the faithless prophet bear his testimony to the faithfulness of God. Jehovah is stronger than the Tempter, and will ere long expose his most plausible deceptions, baffle his wicked designs, and consign him to his own place.

LESSONS:—

1. False prophets are the most dangerous and fatal enemies of God's people.

2. They who seek to seduce the soul from its allegiance to God's Word, however specious their pretexts, are the emissaries of Satan.

3. We may be tempted to do evil by counterfeit appearances of piety, when we should not be driven to it by any fear of suffering.

This passage may also be homiletically treated as follows:—

AN UNFAITHFUL PROPHET

I. Is content to live in the midst of idolatry and moral corruption without lifting up a protesting voice (1Ki ). The prophet of Bethel could not be ignorant of the innovations of the idolatrous king; and while it does not appear that he actually sanctioned them by his presence, he did not restrain his sons from worshipping at the unholy altar. He lacked the courage to protest against the wickedness of the king, though he might be often powerfully moved to do so. He resisted the impulse until it became feebler; and he sank down a voiceless witness to the insults that were daily offered to his God. "He seemed to be one of those mixed characters, true to history and human nature, which perpetually appear among the sacred persons of the Old Testament; moved by a partial wavering inspiration; aiming after good, yet failing to attain it; full of genuine tender admiration for the prophet of whose death he had been the unwilling cause, the mouthpiece of truths which he himself but faintly understood." To disobey repeated calls to duty only confirms the soul in its unfaithfulness, and renders it content with evils against which it was wont to loudly and faithfully protest. There are times when silence becomes a sin.

II. Will descend to the most deceptive practices to tempt the faithful from their allegiance (1Ki ). What the prophet of Judah did, showed the old prophet what he should have done. Filled with shame for his neglect, and wishful to restore himself in his own opinion and in the opinion of others who had perhaps accused him of unfaithfulness, he sought to have intercourse with so courageous a witness for God, and to gain prestige by having him under his own roof. The objects were thoroughly selfish, and to accomplish it he did not scruple to tell a lie (1Ki 13:18). The most abandoned crave for companion ship in their sins, and will resort to all kinds of methods to bring down others to their own level. It is impossible to say to what depths of iniquity one single act of unfaithfulness may lead (Luk 16:10).

III. Is compelled to own the solemn reality and authority of the Divine Word. A message came to the old prophet the source and meaning of which he could not mistake (1Ki ). God may often speak through a wicked prophet. He did so through Balaam, uttering the sublimest oracles of blessing, though that sooth-sayer would fain have cursed Israel. The Bethel-prophet was also firmly convinced that the prophecy against the altar would certainly come true; and he therefore directed his sons to bury his corpse in the same grave as that of the Judah-prophet (1Ki 13:30-32). "The bones of the seducer and seduced being thus intermingled in the tomb, it so happened, as the former probably intended, that his bones escaped at the appointed time the defilement to which they would otherwise have been subjected. The tomb of the prophet that came out of Judah was then recognised, and for his sake the contents were spared from dishonour" (2Ki 23:17-18). The Word of God will vindicate itself, even in the lips of those who have sometimes ignored its authority.

IV. Involves his victims in fatal disaster (1Ki ). We are ready to admit that the old prophet did not intend to bring upon his victim the result that really happened. He might have a vague impression that his disobedience would not escape some kind of punishment; but had he foreseen how awful and immediate that punishment would be, he would not have persisted in his plot. But that is ever the way with wrong-doing; it goes farther than it intended, and stands aghast at the ruin it has itself produced.

V. Need not be devoid of brotherly sympathy and respect, nor be beyond the reach of reformation (1Ki ). The Bethel-prophet sincerely mourned over the sad fate of his brother prophet, and, with the most genuine respect, reverently interred his body in his own grave. The heart that was thus touched with fraternal pity was perhaps also smitten with grief on account of sin. He repented his unfaithfulness in the past; and he showed his desire to henceforth imitate the spirit and example of the dead prophet, by giving particular directions that his body should be laid in the same grave. As if he said:—"If I can have no more fellowship with my brother in life, I will at least be united to him in death; our common grave, to which I shall soon go down in sorrow, shall be a lasting testimony against the sin of Jeroboam."

LESSONS:—

1. It is a great honour and a great responsibility to be a prophet of the Lord.

2. An unfaithful prophet has a great power for evil.

3. The unfaithfulness of the messenger does not invalidate the Divine authority of the message.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . The history of these two prophets offers an important view of the relation of this class to the new order of things: in the prophet out of Judah we see a man of God full of life and strength, but who yet proved unstable in these disturbed times; in the old Israelite we look upon one in whom the fire is almost quenched, it only glimmers faintly—a type of the expiring high and manly strength of Israel; he is still upheld by faith in God's Word rather than by self-reliance. They both yet speak and testify in death. The fall and death of the man of Judah set forth two great truths.

1. He who thinketh he standeth, let him take heed (1Co ). He had conducted himself grandly and nobly, and victoriously withstood a severe temptation, yet he yielded to a lesser one. The higher a man stands the deeper is his fall, and to whom much is given from him will much be required (1Co 16:13; 1Co 10:13). Only those who are true unto death can obtain the crown of life.

2. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out (Rom ). He who is holy in all His ways, knows how to establish firmly that which is threatened with destruction and annihilation by human treachery and deceit. The death and the grave of the man of God announce, in louder and more threatening accents than did his lips, the altar is rent.—Von Gerlach.

1Ki . I do not know any passage more useful than this for disabusing us of a prejudice which the mere word prophet is liable to create in our minds. "If the man was inspired," we say to ourselves, "inspired by God, we must be sure he would do the right thing, and say the right thing. It would destroy all our security if we thought otherwise." No, brethren; it would destroy no security at all which the Bible designs to give us. On the contrary, we shall lose a great security, we shall fall into a great danger, if we do not strictly adhere to the teaching of the Bible on this subject, but set up certain canons of our own. The first obvious lesson which this passage teaches us is, that a prophet, a true prophet, a prophet of God, might be grossly deceived. The second is, that he must be deceived if he yielded to any pretences of inspiration on the part of any man, though that man were called a prophet, and were a prophet, when what he said went against a sure witness and conviction as to his own duty. The third is, that a prophet, not habitually a deceiver, might on a certain occasion wilfully deceive—in the plain language of Holy Writ, might lie. All these statements we accept on the authority of Scripture. And if we accept them, we may derive the very greatest profit from them. We are often apt to suppose that a prophet or inspired man is one who is raised above laws and government, who can lay down laws for himself, whose internal power is itself the rule for others and for his own conduct. The Scripture teaches us quite a different lesson. The characteristic quality of the prophet, when he is true, is obedience. He is nothing in himself. He is merely a servant. In the acknowledgment of his service, of the power which is upon him, his strength consists. But it is no mere impulse to which he yields himself. He is liable to all the same chances and foolish impulses as other people. He is particularly liable to confound these impulses with God's teaching and commands. He is, therefore, to be more suspicious of himself, more watchful against this confusion, than other men. If he once forgets the Invisible Ruler and Lawgiver, no one will commit such flagrant errors, such falsehood, such blasphemy.—Maurice.

1Ki . The old prophet, when he hears of the man of God, hastens upon his way, and spares neither care nor pains to see him and bring him to his house. How much time, pains, and money are expended by the children of this world to see and hear what will gratify their senses, whilst they stir neither hand nor foot to acquire that which pertains to their peace and salvation!

1Ki . Doubtless he was a prophet of God, but corrupt, resty, vicious. Prophecy doth not always presuppose sanctification: many a one hath had visions from God, who shall never enjoy the vision of God. A little holiness is worth much illumination.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . The danger of delay.

1. Gives an opportunity to be overtaken by the tempter.

2. The difficulties of our mission seem to multiply.

3. Often involves suffering and disaster.

1Ki . So in indifferent ordinary matters, which God has either ordered or forbidden, we must observe unerring obedience. Whatever obtains success and position by means of deceit cannot be followed by blessing, but rather by a curse. The Scripture is not silent concerning the sins of the man of God; and this, not that we may excuse our sins by his, but that we may guard ourselves from haughtiness and spiritual pride.

1Ki . There is no temptation so dangerous as that which comes shrouded under a vail of holiness, and pretends authority from God Himself. Jeroboam threatens, the prophet stands undaunted: Jeroboam fawns and promises, the prophet holds constant. Now comes a grey-headed seer, and pleads a counter message from God; the prophet yields and transgresses. Satan may affright us as a fiend, but he seduces us as an angel of light. Who would have looked for a liar under hoary hairs and a holy mantle?—Bp. Hall.

—Falsehood.

1. Is always inexcusable.

2. Aggravated when in the garb of sanctity.

3. Never fails to produce mischief.

4. An evidence of moral degradation.

—The door of his heart seems to have been standing ajar, almost half opened already, to the invitations of the old man. Otherwise, surely he would have said: "Thou a prophet! How is it, then, that thou dwellest at Bethel, the house of Jeroboam's corrupt worship? If thou hadst been indeed a prophet of the Lord, thou wouldst have denounced that worship, and I should not have been sent from Judah to lift up my voice against it."—Wordsworth.

1Ki . The same sentence which the old prophet pronounced upon the man of God he pronounced upon himself, while he had led and betrayed him to disobedience. How often does the judgment which we utter for others fall upon ourselves, when we have sinned equally, or in greater measure (Rom 2:1).—Lange.

—O woful prophet! when he looks on his host, he sees his executioner; while he is feeding his body, he hears of his carcase; at the table he hears of his denied sepulchre; and all this for eating and drinking where he was forbidden by God, though bidden as from God. The violation of the least charge of God is mortal; no pretences can warrant the transgression of a Divine command.—Bp. Hall.

—Punishment.

1. Results from disobedience.

2. Is not inflicted without due warning.

3. Is certain.

4. In the hands of God, is never unjust.

1Ki . It has been asked, how did the prophet from Judah sin? or, at any rate, how did he sin so grievously as to deserve the punishment of death? Was he not justified in believing that God might revoke His command? Would it not have been wrong in him to suspect the old prophet of telling a lie? To such enquiries it may be replied: With God is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He cannot revoke a command until the circumstances under which the command was given are materially changed. The circumstances here were not changed. Again, if God gives a command and revokes it, He will revoke it as plainly and with as much evidence as He gave it. Here there was neither the same plainness, nor as strong evidence. The evidence to the man of God was in the one case the mere word of a man, and of a man who, by his lingering at Bethel, yet not rebuking Jeroboam, was clearly not a very good man; while in the other case the evidence had been the direct word of God. It was not the duty of the man of God to disbelieve the old prophet; but it was his duty not to have suffered himself to be persuaded. He should have felt that his obedience was being tried, and should have required, ere he considered himself released, the same, or as strong evidence as that on which he had received the obligation. With respect to the question whether the sin was such a heinous one as to deserve death, we may answer—first, that the sin, disobedience to certain positive commands of God, was one which it was at this time very important to punish signally, since it was exactly the sin of Jeroboam and his adherents; and secondly, that temporal death is not among God's heaviest punishments, that it comes on men both naturally and miraculously for light offences, and that in such cases we may regard it as sent in lieu of future punishment, and therefore as in some sort a mercy. We are not to suppose that the man of Judah perished eternally because he perished temporally.—Speaker's Comm.

1Ki . A stern punishment, it will be said, for such a crime. An actual punishment, certainly—one which asserted the fact that a prophet will not be more, but less, excused for his transgressions than another man. What was the magnitude of the punishment, we are no judges. A man who has been witness of a great national sin, and has foretold a great national calamity, who has found out the falsehood of a friend and a prophet, and who is conscious of having done wrong himself, may not think the sentence a very hard one which calls him out of a confused world; or more hard because it comes in a form which assures him that there is an eternal order which will vindicate itself in spite of his errors and those of all other men. A man of God who had learnt to trust God, could trust Him when He was slaying him, and see that there was a deep and awful righteousness and wisdom in the way in which the creatures of God going forth to seek their meat from Him may, without the least departure from the ordinary law of their kind, be made the instruments of punishing man's transgressions. The prophet who betrayed him, and then had the heavy punishment of being forced to proclaim the wrong which he himself instigated, is surely the greater object of compassion, especially if, as the narrative half leads us to suspect, his conscience was blunted, and he was able to understand Jeroboam's sin without any keen sense of his own. A man with a clear apprehension of the evil doings of rulers, and admiration for those who protest against them with a prophetical power of uttering the truth, yet with no love of truth or resolute abhorrence of falsehood, is a very painful but a very instructive spectacle. Everyone must be conscious of something akin to such a state of mind—some possibility of it, at all events, in himself. He should think of that with trembling and with the prayer—"See if there be any wicked way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting." There is something very pathetic in the homage to a truer and better man, which is expressed in the words—"Lay my bones beside his bones." The lion slew him for returning with me to eat bread and drink water; yet I should have been glad to die his death; for I feel that he was right within, and, therefore, that there is a sacredness in his carcase which I would wish mine to share! Maurice.

1Ki . The judgments of God often fall suddenly and unexpectedly, thus proving that though long delayed, they are sure to come, even as this, after the lapse of three hundred years, was the punishment threatened for the golden calf-worship.

1Ki . The last dread journey.

1. Was entered on with the oppressive consciousness that it must lead to death.

2. Was occupied with tormenting apprehensions as to what might be the particular form of death.

3. Was suddenly terminated by the appointed agent of retribution.

4. How many sad, painful journeys there are in the course of human life!

5. Who can tell the issue of a single journey?

1Ki . This old Bethelite that had taken pains to come and fetch the man of God into sin, will not now go back with him to accompany his departure. Doubtless he was afraid to be enwrapped in the judgment which he saw hanged over that obnoxious head. Thus the mischievous guides of wickedness leave a man when they have led him to his bane, as familiar devils forsake their witches when they have brought them once into fetters.

1Ki . The very wild beasts are led by a providence; their wise and powerful Creator knows how to serve himself of them. The lions guard one prophet, kill another, according to the commission received from their Maker. What sinner can hope to escape unpunished when every creature of God is ready to be an avenger of evil? Where a holy man buys so dearly such a slight frailty, what shall become of our heinous and presumptuous sins? Violent events do not always argue the anger of God; even death itself is to His servants a fatherly castigation.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . The chastisement with which God visits our fellow-men for their sins is both a warning to reflect upon our sins and deserts, and a call to work active deeds of love with all our might, in life and in death.

—The fierce beast stands by the carcase, as to avow his own act and to tell who sent him, so to preserve that body which he had slain. O wonderful work of God! The executioner is turned guardian; and as the officer of the Highest, commands all other creatures to stand aloof from his charge, and command the fearful ass that brought this burden thither not to stir thence, but to stand ready pressed to carry it to the sepulchre; and now, when he hath sufficiently witnessed to all passengers that this act was not done upon his own hunger, but upon the quarrel of his Maker, he delivers up his charge to that old prophet who was no less guilty of this blood than himself.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . These strange circumstances at once showed the miraculous nature of the death, and were of a nature to call men's attention to the matter, and cause the whole story to be bruited abroad. By these means an incident which Jeroboam would have wished to be hushed up, became, no doubt, the common talk of the whole people.

1Ki . We often for the first time, at the grave of a friend, recognise what we possessed in him, and how we have sinned against him. One look into the open grave of one dear to us in life is adapted beyond anything to remind us of our own end. It is a very natural thing to rest in death near those who were closely bound to us in life by ties of blood or strong affection; but yet stronger should be the wish to die in the Lord, and enter into eternal glory. Then, whatever in the providence of God we may find our grave, there shall we rest in peace, for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof (Psa 24:1).—Lange.

1Ki . Grief. I. One of the fruits of sin. II. Is never out of place at the grave. III. Is intensified when at the grave of one whose death we have accelerated. IV. May lead to a blessed reformation of life.

—It is hard to find a man absolutely wicked: some grace will betray itself in the most forsaken breasts. It is a cruel courtsey to kill a man, and then to help him to his grave; to betray a man with our breath, and then bedew him with our tears. The prophet had needed no such friend, if he had not met with such an enemy.

1Ki . The infallibility of the Divine Word. I. Is not affected by time or the opposition of men. II. Is sustained by the testimony of competent witnesses. III. Is a powerful reason for placing implicit faith in it. IV. Constitutes it an unerring standard of judgment.


Verse 33-34

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

AN INVETERATE SINNER

I. That an inveterate sinner is indifferent alike to entreaty and warning. "After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way." There is something exceedingly obstinate and perverse, as well as blinding and infatuating, in idolatry. The gracious overtures of Jehovah through the prophet Ahijah (chap. 1Ki ), the prediction against the altar and the miraculous and awe-inspiring events in connection with it, sent as much in mercy as in anger, were surely sufficient to have affected and alarmed any heart not wholly and incorrigibly hardened: and yet they had no effect on Jeroboam! "All these wonderful accidents, as God's hammers, did but beat upon cold iron." This state of mind is not acquired all at once. It is the result of repeated rejections of God's grace, of stifled convictions, and a love of sin for its own sake. An inveterate sinner is an occasion of sorrow to ministers, to angels, to God!

II. That an inveterate sinner adds to his guilt by a stolid persistency in the same course of iniquity. "But made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places." Among the worst of heathens, the priesthood was filled with respectable men: but Jeroboam made no discrimination. Any strolling vagrant who offered himself was accepted, irrespective of moral or intellectual fitness. The king became more and more careless as to the character and motives of the men he appointed. The spiritual office is put to shame if borne by men who make a traffic of religion, and are intent only on filling their own hands. Wicked men grow worse and worse, till they have filled up the measure of their sins, and so wrath come upon them to the uttermost (Rev ; Rev 16:9; Rev 16:11).

III. That an inveterate sinner will not escape the most complete punishment. "And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam—even to destroy it from the face of the earth." Sin will not always triumph. Its glaring abominations cry to heaven for vengeance; and that vengeance, though long delayed, will fall with terrible and desolating power. When neither the severity nor the patient long-suffering of his God brings to repentance a man who walks in evil ways, he is brought by his own sin under the sentence for the obdurate, namely, temporal and eternal ruin (2Ti ; Joh 8:34).

LESSONS:—

1. Unrepented sin hardens the heart.

2. The goodness of God will not leave the most inveterate unwarned.

3. Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . Apparently the witness which the man of God bore, and the death which he died, were in vain. The destruction of an altar, and the withering of a hand which was cured again, were lessons soon forgotten. A law once broken, there must be continual new transgressions to justify the first. A superstition once established will go on increasing and multiplying itself. At last the sense of being under any authority will vanish almost wholly from the mind of the rebellious ruler. He will say—using the words in precisely the opposite sense to that in which they are used in the parable—"May I not do what I will with mine own?" As the necessary retribution for such a state of mind, he will become more and more a slave. The priests whom he has made will insist on ever higher prizes for their ignominious work. To soothe the fears which haunt him after the fear of a Righteous Being has been cast aside, he will ask those whom he has put in the place of his conscience what acts he must do that he may seem a religious man to them, possibly at last to himself.—Maurice.

—The means to strengthen or ruin the civil power is either to establish or destroy the right worship of God. The way to destroy religion is to embase the dispensers of it. This is to give the royal stamp to a piece of lead. It is a sad thing when all other employments shall empty themselves into the ministry; when men shall repair to it not for preferment, but refuge, like malefactors flying to the altars only to save their lives, or like those of Eli's race (1Sa ), that should come crouching and seeking to be put into the priest's office that they may eat a piece of bread.—R. South.

1Ki . Idolatry. I. An evil way. II. Delusive. III. Dangerous. IV. Corrupting. V. Leads to destruction.

—He exercised no discretion, but allowed anyone to become a priest, without regard to birth, character, or social position. We may suspect from this that the office was not greatly sought, since no civil governor who cared to set up a priesthood would wish to degrade it in public estimation. Jeroboam did impose one limitation, which would have excluded the very poorest class. The candidate for consecration was obliged to make an offering of one young bullock and seven rams (2Ch ).—Speaker's Comm.

—The authoritative source of the ministry. I. Is not the will of the aspirant. II. Not the exigencies of a false religious system. III. Not the appointment of the crown. IV. But the call of God.

1Ki . This persistence in wrong, after the warning given him, was such a sin as to bring a judgment, not only on Jeroboam himself, but on his family. Jeroboam's departure from the path of right forfeited the crown (chap. 1Ki 11:38), and in that forfeiture was involved naturally the destruction of his family, for in the East, when one dynasty supplants another, the ordinary practice is for the new king to destroy all the males belonging to the house of his predecessor.

—Diminution, disquiet, and desolation of families, is the fruit of sin. He promised himself that the calves would secure the crown to his family, but it proved they lost it and sunk his family. Those betray themselves that think by any sin to support themselves.—M. Henry.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/1-kings-13.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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