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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

1 Kings 13



Verses 1-10


THE TESTIMONY OF GOD AGAINST THE CALF WORSHIP.—We have in this chapter, which some commentators consider to be derived from a different source from the narratives which precede and follow it—the expression of 1 Kings 13:32, "the cities of Samaria," according to them, proving it to be of a later date, while the style and colouring of the story suggest that it embodies a tradition current in the time of the compiler—an account of certain circumstances of profound significance which marked the inauguration of Jeroboam's first great feast—for the close connexion with 1 Kings 12:1-33. shows that it is "the fifteenth day of the eighth month" that is here described. The Chapter divides itself into two sections, the first (1 Kings 12:1-10) containing the public testimony of the prophet of Judah against the schismatic worship, the second (1 Kings 12:11-32) his subsequent perversion and his tragical death.

1 Kings 13:1

And, behold, there came a man of God [see on 1 Kings 12:22. The "man of God" is throughout carefully distinguished from the "prophet." Josephus calls the former Jadon, probably the Grecized form of Iddo, עִדּוֹ, which appears as יֶעְדוֹ Ia'do in the Keri of 2 Chronicles 9:29. Iddo, however, notwithstanding his "visions against Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (2 Chronicles 9:29), it cannot have been, for he survived to the reign of Abijah, and indeed wrote a "story" (Heb. Midrash, i.e; Commentary) of that reign, whereas this man of God died forthwith. For a similar reason, we cannot believe it to have been Shemaiah, the historian of the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:5, 2 Chronicles 12:15)] out of Judah [whither, as a rule, both priests and prophets would seem to have retreated (2 Chronicles 11:14, 2 Chronicles 11:16). It is clear, however, that the migration of the latter was not so general as that of the former. In 2 Chronicles 9:11 we find a prophet at Bethel; in 2 Chronicles 14:1-15. Ahijah is still at Shiloh, and at a later day we find schools of the prophets at Bethel, Jericho, etc. (2 Kings 2:8, 2 Kings 2:5). Stanley says with truth that "the prophetical activity of the time… is to be found in the kingdom, not of Judah, but of Israel," but omits to add that it was because the northern kingdom more especially needed their ministry. It was just for this reason that Ahijah and others remained at their posts.] by [Heb. in, same word as in verses 2, 9, 17, 20, 32, etc. Similarly, 1 Samuel 3:21. The ב is not merely instrumental, but, like the ἐν, of the N.T denotes the sphere or element. "By the word" would imply that he had received a Divine communication; "in the word," that his message possessed him, inspired him, was "in his heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones" (Jeremiah 20:9)] the word of the Lord unto Bethel [It is worth remembering that the new sanctuary at Bethel would probably be visible from the temple, so that this function was an act of open defiance]: and Jeroboam stood by [Heb. upon. See on 1 Kings 12:32, 1 Kings 12:33. It is the same occasion] the altar to burn incense [or to burn the fat, etc; of the sacrifice. See on 1 Kings 12:33. This altar was clearly, pro hac vice, an altar of burnt offering; not an altar of incense, as is proved by the next verse.]

1 Kings 13:2

And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord [This apostrophe of the altar is very striking and significant. It is as if the prophet disdained to notice the royal but self-constituted priest; as if it were useless to appeal to him; as if his person was of little consequence compared with the religious system he was inaugurating, the system of which the altar was the centre and embodiment]; Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name [This particular mention of the Reformer by name was formerly regarded, as by many it is still, as a remarkable instance of prophetic foresight. But the tendency of late, even amongst orthodox theologians, has been to doubt the authenticity of these two words, on the ground that it is unlike Scripture prophecy in general to descend to such details, which rather belong to soothsaying than prediction. Prophecy concerns itself not with names, times, and similar particulars, but with the "progressive development of the kingdom of God in its general features" (Keil). It is not for a moment denied that the prophet could just as easily, speaking "in the word of the Lord," have mentioned the name of Josiah, as the circumstance that a son of the house of David would utterly destroy the worship of calves. But it is alleged that the latter prediction is quite in accordance with Scripture usage, and the former altogether contrarient thereto. The case of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1), it is true, is an exception to the rule, unless כֹרֶשׁ (which means the sun) is, like Pharaoh and Hadad, a name of office, a title of the Persian kings. The instances of Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:9) are not parallels, as in both these cases the name was highly significant, and each was mentioned, not by way of prophecy, but as a direction to bestow that name on a child shortly about to be born. And it is certainly noticeable—though the argument e silentio is necessarily a precarious one—"that where this narrative is again referred to (2 Kings 23:15-18) there is no allusion to the fact that the man of God had prophesied of Josiah by name" (Rawlinson). On the whole, therefore, it seems probable that the two words יֹאשׁיָּהוּ שְׁמוֹ were no part of the original prophecy, but a marginal note which in course of time found its way accidentally into the text. The idea of Keil, that "Josiah" is mentioned here not as a proper name, but as an appellation, "he whom Jehovah sustains," is hardly worthy of serious consideration. It may be allowed, however, that the meaning of the name affords some slender reason for its mention]; and upon thee shall he offer [lit; sacrifice] the priests of the high places [see on 1 Kings 12:32] that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones [Heb. bones of man, i.e; human bones. Nothing could more completely foreshadow the future desecration of the altar. The presence in the congregation of a living man who had merely touched a dead body and had not been purified, defiled the tabernacle (Numbers 19:13), how much more the dead body itself, burnt on the very altar. The Samaritan who once strewed the temple with human ashes (Jos; Ant. 18.2. 2) knew that he took the most effectual way to pollute it] shall be burnt [Heb. shall they burn] upon thee. [For the fulfilment, see 2 Kings 23:20, "At the ground of this judgment, as of the whole theocratic law, lies the jus talionis".]

It is worthy of note how completely this brief protest proclaimed to Jeroboam the utter and shameful overthrow, both of his political and religious systems. A child of the rival house of David should stand where he then stood, his successors extinct or powerless to prevent him, and should cover this new cultus with disgrace and contempt. The man of God, he must have felt, has proclaimed in few words the fall of his dynasty, the triumph of his rival, and the failure of all his schemes.

1 Kings 13:3

And he gave a sign [The Heb. מוֹפֵת rather signifies a portent ( τέρας, miraculum, prodigium) than a sign, the proper word for which is אוֹת . The word occurs repeatedly in the Pentateuch, where it is rendered wonder, or miracle, by our translators (Wordsworth). Signs had, of course, been given before (Exodus 4:30; Exodus 7:9; 1 Samuel 12:17; etc.) but hardly in such immediate attestation of a special message. From this time forward such signs are not infrequent (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 38:8; 2 Kings 19:29). They mark the decline of faith (Matthew 12:39). As to the need at this crisis for some miraculous token, see Homiletics. The fitness of this particular sign is obvious] the same day, saying, This is the sign which [Rather that; אֲשֶר = quod. The A.V. rendering hardly makes sense. Nor does it agree, as Rawlinson seems to think, with the LXX; which reads τοῦτο τὸ ῥῆμα ὃ ἐλάησε κύριος, etc.] the Lord hath spoken [i.e; by me. "This is the proof that my message is from Him, and is no idle threat." Wordsworth sees in this sign "a proof vouchsafed by God Himself to the man of Judah, as well as to Jeroboam, that he was really sent by God," etc. But surely a man who came "in the word of the Lord," and cried, "Thus saith the Lord," wanted no proof that "he was doing God's bidding" (see 1 Corinthians 14:22)]; Behold, the altar shall be rent and the ashes [strictly, fat ashes. דֶּשֶׁן ; properly, "fatness" (see 9:9; Psalms 63:5. πιότης, LXX.), is the fat of the sacrifice, which was burnt upon the altar, mixed with the ashes that consumed it] that are upon it shall be poured out. [The sign, a partial destruction of the altar, and the scattering of the sacrifice, was admirably calculated to presage its ultimate and final and ignominious overthrow. The idea favoured by Stanley ("Jewish Ch." 2:280) that this prediction was fulfilled "if not before, at least" in the time of Amos, when the altar was destroyed by an earthquake shock (Amos 9:1; cf. Amos 3:14), does not seem to take account of verse 5.]

1 Kings 13:4

And it came to pass when king Jeroboam [The A.V. follows the LXX. The Heb. omits "Jeroboam"] heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand [instinctively. His first thought was, not to wait and see whether the promised sign was given, but to seize and punish the man who had dared thus to denounce and thwart him. And we may imagine how extremely mortifying this interruption must have been to him. It threatened the complete frustration of his policy at the very moment when it seemed certain of suceess] from the altar [the ledge or platform, i.e; where he stood. He did not leave it, but shouted his commands to his servants], saying, Lay hold on him. ["Arrest him," "let him not escape." One word in the Heb.] And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up [Possibly the result of paralysis or tetanus (Ackermann in Bähr). It was like the "withered hand" of the New Testament (Matthew 12:10, etc.) deprived of feeling and vital force, as the next words show], so that he could not pull it in again to him. [It was not only powerless to punish, it was punished. "Now stands the king of Israel, like some antique statue, in a posture of impotent endeavour" (Hall). This was a warning to the king, not so much against his unauthorized and schismatical rites, as against his attempt to avenge himself on the messenger of God (Psalms 105:14, Psalms 105:15).]

1 Kings 13:5

The altar also was rent [by the same invisible power, and probably at the same moment], and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

1 Kings 13:6

And the king [humbled and alarmed by the judgment he had experienced in his own person] answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now [The Heb. is very expressive—"Smooth or stroke the face." It is an expression which occurs several times. See especially Exodus 32:11; 2 Kings 13:4; 2 Chronicles 33:12; Proverbs 19:6] of the Lord thy God [i.e; whose messenger thou art. "Jeroboam, conscience stricken, does not dare to call Jehovah his own God" (Wordsworth). This was probably the case, yet surely it is an inference not warranted by the text. The expression, "The Lord thy God," is of constant occurrence, especially when a "man of God" is addressed; cf. 1 Kings 17:12; 1 Kings 18:10], and pray for me [This sudden change in his bearing shows how much Jeroboam was frightened. The sight, too, of the king humbly supplicating the prophet who a moment before had protested against the calf worship was calculated to make an impression on the minds of the people], that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought [lit; stroked the face of] the Lord, and the king's hand was restored him, and became as it was before.

1 Kings 13:7

And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself [with food, ablutions, etc. We are hardly justified in seeing in these words (with Bähr and Keil) an attempt to "gain the prophet over to his side by friendliness," and to render his threat harmless in the eyes of the people. The king doubtless may have hoped that it would "blunt the edge of the prophet's denunciation of his schismatical altar" (Wordsworth); but this was not the object, or not the sole object, with which the invitation was given. Jeroboam could not possibly have clone less, after the signal service the man of God had rendered him, than invite him to his palace. Eastern courtesy alone (Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2; Genesis 43:24, etc.) would require him to offer hospitality to his benefactor. And he could scarcely hope that any hospitalities would either neutralize the impression which the recent miracles had made, or win over to his side one who had a direct commission from the Most High to oppose him. With more reason, Wordsworth cites 1 Samuel 15:30, "Honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people." A feeling of gratitude may have prompted the invitation, while the king at the same time was very sensible of the advantages which would accrue to himself if it were accepted], and I will give thee a reward. [The services, especially of seers and prophets, were invariably requited in the East with presents, as are those of Judges, Kadis, Kaimakams, and other officers at the present day (see 1 Kings 14:3; Genesis 24:53; Genesis 33:11; Genesis 43:11; Numbers 22:17; 3:17; 6:18; 13:15; 1 Samuel 9:7, 1 Samuel 9:8; 1 Samuel 12:3; 2 Kings 5:5, 2 Kings 5:15; 2 Kings 8:8, 2 Kings 8:9).]

1 Kings 13:8

And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house [cf. Numbers 22:18, of which, however, there is hardly a reminiscence. Obviously, half the contents or wealth of thy house], I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place.

1 Kings 13:9

For so was it charged [Heb. he, sc. the Lord, charged me] me by [Heb. in] the word of the Lord, saying, Fat no bread, nor drinkwater [Participation in food—the "eating salt"—is in the East a token of friendship and affinity; a sign of close communion and fellowship. The prophet's refusal to participate was consequently a practical and forcible disclaimer of all fellowship, a virtual excommunication, a public repudiation of the calf worshippers.

Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11," With such an one, no, not to eat." As Corn. à Lapide, "Ut ipso facto ostenderet, Bethelitas idololatras adeo esse detestabiles, et a Deo quasi excommunicates, ut nullum fidelium cum iis cibi vel potus communionem habere velit"], nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. [ the object of this command was not "simply to test the obedience of the prophet" (Rawlinson), nor yet that no one might "force him to a delay which was irreconcilable with his commission" (Keil), for that was practically executed, but to avoid as far as possible—what, indeed, happened in spite of these precautions—his being traced and followed. Because of this provision, the old prophet (1 Corinthians 5:10) was reduced to ask, "What way went he?" But the charge, we can hardly doubt,was also designed to serve another purpose, viz; to warn the prophet against doing what he did presently—against returning to Bethel. When he was followed, and when he was told of a revelation commanding his return, he should have remembered, among other things, that it had clearly been part of God's purpose, as evidenced by the explicit instructions given him, that he should not be followed. This alone should have led him to suspect this old prophet of deceit.]

1 Kings 13:10

So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.


1 Kings 13:2, 1 Kings 13:3, 1 Kings 13:8

Protest and Excommunication.

The sin of Jeroboam, the schism which he inaugurated in person at the first feast of tabernacles held in Bethel, was not consummated without protest. When the king, possibly in the "golden garments" of the priesthood, mounted the altar platform and stood before the vast multitude assembled to witness this first great function of the new regime, a messenger of God, sent from Judah, the seat of the true religion, lifted up his voice and witnessed against these irregular and impious proceedings, against the unsanctified altar, the unhallowed sacrifice, and the intrusive priesthood. It must have been pretty clear beforehand that any protest addressed to Jeroboam, who had devised and elaborated this corruption of Mosaic worship, would be unavailing, but nevertheless it must be made. It was probably in part because Jeroboam was beyond the reach of remonstrance that the warning was addressed to the altar itself In other words, it was made for the sake of the people rather than of their king. They should be mercifully, and therefore distinctly, taught that this calf worship had not and could not have the sanction of the Most High. Whether they would hear, or whether they would forbear, they should see that God had not left Himself without witness; they should know that at this crisis there had been a prophet amongst them. The breach should not be made without due warning of its sinfulness and its consequences. "For a testimony unto them" the man of God addresses the dumb altar, the sign and centre of the new system, and proclaims not only its overthrow but the destruction of Jeroboam's house and the defeat of all his schemes.

And as, under such circumstances, mere threats, of whatsoever character and by whomsoever spoken, would have had but little weight without "signs following," the message straightway receives the confirmation of a miracle. That the man of God "came from Judah" was in itself reason enough why the men of Israel should not listen to him, unless he compelled their attention by prodigies. "A partizan," they would say, "perhaps a hireling of Rehoboam, it was natural such a one would prophecy evil of the Northern Church and kingdom," and so his words would have been unheeded, even if his life had been spared. Besides, one who professed to come as he did, "in the word of the Lord," they had a right to ask for his credentials, and those credentials could only be miraculous. Had not Moses and Aaron "wrought signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh and all his servants?" Had not Samuel, too, supported his message by a portent? (1 Samuel 12:18.) If the denunciation of the schism, consequently, was not to be inoperative, he must "give a sign" the same day.

And to these "two witnesses"—"the "sure word of prophecy" and the "sign following"—the rashness and impiety of Jeroboam procured the addition of a third, or rather of two more—silent, but eloquent attestations, each of them, that the prophet had not spoken in his own name. For, enraged at this bold, this most unwelcome and sinister interruption of his ritual, and fearing the effect of this brave protest on his audience and the thousands of Israel to whom the news would ultimately come, and forgetting at the moment the sacred character of the speaker and the unseen panoply which protected him, he stretches forth his hand intuitively, as if to detain the prophet, and thunders his commands to the attendant soldiery to arrest him. But that hand, really raised against the Most High, suddenly becomes rigid and powerless, and he must needs stoop to beg the prophet's prayers that it may be restored to him again. And so it came to pass that the heretic king furnished in his own person, much against his will, two powerful proofs that the "man of God" did indeed speak the word of God and was supported by the power of God. It is thus that God makes the wrath of man to praise Him.

Such, then, was the PROTEST, in word and deed, which marked the first great service of the schismatic Church. But that was not all. The protest was to be followed by an INTERDICT. The man of God was commissioned at the same time to put the city and inhabitants of Bethel under a ban. He was to treat them as lepers, as so tainted with heresy, so polluted and unclean in the sight of God, that he could neither eat of their bread nor drink of their cup. For this was clearly the object of the injunction, "Eat no bread nor drink water there;" it was to show that all who participated in this unhallowed worship were thenceforward to be treated by Divine command as heathens and publicans. And to the children of the East this public disclaimer of fellowship, this practical excommunication, would have a significance such as with our altered conditions of society we can hardly conceive, though the "Boycotting" of our own time may help us to understand its operation. Every citizen of Bethel, every worshipper of the calves, would feel himself branded as unclean. The "scarlet letter" which the Puritans of New England printed on the bosom of the adulteress hardly involved a greater stigma. It was for this reason, therefore, that when the king bade the man of God to his palace and promised him a royal recompense for the service he had rendered him, the latter flung back his invitation in his face, and swore that half the king's house would not tempt him to eat of his dainties. Jeroboam, and his people through him, should learn that if they would persist in their wanton defiance of Divine law; if they would have two churches and three sanctuaries where God had decreed there should in either case be but one; if they would sacrifice before the works of their own hands, and by ministers of man's ordaining, and at times of man's devising, then the pious Hebrews who preserved inviolate the ancient faith should wipe their hands of them, and treat them as renegades and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel

The lessons of this history are manifold. Two, however, occupy a position of pre-eminence above the rest.

1. That corruptions of religion are not to be consummated without PROTEST on the part of the Church. That Christianity, as well as Judaism, should have its heresies and schisms was distinctly foretold by St. Paul himself (1 Corinthians 11:19; Acts 20:29, Acts 20:30). But if they are inevitable, because of the frailty of our nature and the hardnesss of our hearts, they are none the less sinful, and it is none the less our duty to strive and to witness against them. If God did not suffer that first great schism to pass unreproved, can we do better, or do less, than follow His example? It may be said that we cannot always distinguish between heresy and orthodoxy—that we "call our doxy orthodoxy, and other people's doxy heterodoxy," and this is quite true. But individual opinion is one thing and the teaching of the Church another. Has the Church, then, no teaching office? Is she or is she not "the pillar and ground of the truth"? Has she or has she not the promise of our Lord's guidance and illumination? (Matthew 18:17, Matthew 18:18; Matthew 28:20.) Or can the Church universal err? (Matthew 16:18.) Is her "Quod semper, quod ubique," etc; no test of truth? It is not for the private Christian to claim any infallibility, but it is for the Church to say what is in and what is against her depositum fidei. And furthermore it is her duty, in her synods and by her officers, to protest against all corruptions of the faith. "A man that is a heretic … reject," Titus 3:10; cf. Titus 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 6:3-5 ("From such withdraw thyself"); Romans 16:17; Matthew 18:17; Matthew 8:1-34, John 9:1-41, John 10:1-42; Galatians 1:8; Galatians 2:11. The Christian verity is not less dear to God than was the teaching of Hoses. The preacher is as much bound to preserve the faith whole and undefiled as was the prophet. And it is idle to say, as it sometimes is said, that mere protests are worse than useless. They may not avert a schism—this protest did not—but they may have their use nevertheless, as this had. Or if they are entirely futile as regards others, they are not forgotten of God. Besides, who shall say that success or non success is to alter the standard of Christian duty? It is surely something to be able to say, whatever the issue, Liberavi animam meam. It is to be remembered that God knew beforehand that this His protest, though enforced by signs and wonders, would be comparatively unavailing.

2. That certain crimes against morality and religion are still to be visited by EXCOMMUNICATION. Not the excommunication of bell and book and candle—that finds no place in Holy Scripture—but social excommunication such as that described to us in this history. Indeed, there is also an ecclesiastical excommunication which must sometimes be wielded. There are persons with whom we have no right to eat and to drink at the Table of our Blessed Lord—persons who must be repelled at any cost from Holy Communion, lest we should indirectly make ourselves "partakers of other men's sins" (1 Timothy 5:22). When Jn Wesley once proposed to give a note of admission to the Lord's Table to a man of dubious character, Henry Moore, one of his preachers, bluntly said that if that man were admitted he should refuse to attend. "Sir," said Wesley, "I should attend even if the devil came to Holy Communion." "So should I," was the answer; "but not if John Wesley gave him a note of admission." For it is obvious that the Eucharist, the closest rite of fellowship—the rite which makes and proclaims us members one of another (Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5)—if knowingly administered to the "notorious evil liver" is a virtual condoning of his sin; it is equivalent to bidding him God speed (2 John 1:10, 2 John 1:11), and so it makes the Church "partaker of his evil deeds." "Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Corinthians 5:1-13 :15). But our history points rather to social than ecclesiastical interdict. And it must be distinctly understood that the refusal to eat and drink with notorious and incorrigible evil livers is a part of Christian duty (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:15; Matthew 18:17). We are not permitted to know them and to treat them like other men. The story of St. John's hurriedly leaving the bath because of the presence there of the heretic Cerinthus, is one for which the so called tolerance of the age can only afford a contemptuous smile; but the age is often wiser in its own conceit than Christ and His apostles. Only let us remember, if we must treat any as heathens and publicans, how Christ treated the penitent publicans (cf. Luke 15:1, Luke 15:2); and then let us not shrink from discharging this painful duty both to our country, our Church, and our God. Among the secondary lessons of our story are these:

1. That right shall triumph in the long run. The schism throve for 250 years, but the altar was ultimately dishonoured and overthrown. The Reformer who should desecrate it with bones of men was already appointed in the counsels of God. Even so, sooner or later, "every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:18). "If this work be of men, it will come to nought" (Acts 5:38).

"Our little systems have their day,

They have their day and cease to be."

Magma est veritas, etc. The Babel of sects cannot last forever.

2. The ministers of God are secure so long as they do their duty. Jeroboam, with the ten tribes at his back, was powerless against the unprotected missionary. "He reproved kings for their sakes, saying… Do my prophets no harm" (Psalms 105:14, Psalms 105:15). The stars shall fall from their courses before a hair of their heads shall be injured. Cf. Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:22; 2 Kings 1:10, etc. But it may be objected, "The saints and messengers of God have often been brutally outraged and murdered" (Hebrews 11:35-37). True, but who shall say that they were not then most secure? "Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). It was when Stephen was martyred that he saw "Jesus standing"—i.e; to help—"at the right hand of God." It has been suggested that it was when St. Paul was stoned and taken up for dead (Acts 14:19) that he was caught up into Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4). Sic iter ad astra.

3. The wicked cannot dispense with the prayers of the saints. "Entreat the face of the Lord thy God and pray for me" (cf. Exodus 9:28; Numbers 12:2, Numbers 12:13; Acts 8:24). How often has this history repeated itself; and what a foreshadowing of the world to come! Here was one of the synagogue of Satan worshipping at the prophet's feet, etc. (Revelation 3:9). Observe, too, it is the part of a man of God to answer threats with prayers. "They are mine adversaries, but I, prayer" (Psalms 109:4, Heb.; cf. Psalms 35:13 sqq.) It is the very best way of overcoming evil with good.

4. Men are often more concerned about their sufferings than about their sins. Jeroboam's entreaty is, not that his sin may be forgiven, but that his hand may be restored. How many pray, "Heal my body;" how few, "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee" (Psalms 41:4). The plague of head or hand extorts more cries for mercy than the plague of the heart (1 Kings 8:38).

5. "Law and order cannot be violated with impunity by any ruler under any religious pretext" (Maurice). The rent altar teaches the lesson of Psalms 2:2-5 : "Those betray themselves that think by any sin to support themselves."… "He promised himself that the calves would secure the crown to his family, but it proved they lost it" (M. Henry).

6. Let the ministers of God beware of bribery. "Come home with me and I will give," etc. The device of Jeroboam for silencing and conciliating the prophet has often been tried since, and with fatal success. How many men's mouths have been stopped by a sop—by place or pension, nay, by an insignificant present. Men know well—the enemy of man knows well—that the preacher finds it hard to reprove a benefactor. The writer once heard an influential person boasting that he had silenced his clergyman's remonstrances and appeals by a present of game! The world has a shrewd suspicion that the clergy are not incorruptible; that they, like others, have their price. Let us be on our guard against social corruption. How sinister the influence of some homes on the younger clergy. The cordial "Come home with me" was to them a snare of Satan. With the State clergy how strong the temptation to sacrifice independence for a benefice; with Nonconformists, to speak smooth words lest the congregation should "stop the supplies." The man of God thus speaks to all ministers of God.


1 Kings 13:1-3

The Fire of Jehovah.

Jeroboam went to inaugurate his feast of tabernacles at his principal temple in Bethel, and to give effect to the ceremonies officiated in person as high priest. Then, as he stood by the altar, censer in hand, he was confronted by the word of the Lord. A man of God from Judah denounced the altar in the words before us, which contain a very remarkable prophecy; and he authenticated his message by a miraculous sign. The subject teaches—


1. This is evinced in His works of creation.

2. It is evinced in prophecy.

3. This example is too circumstantial to have been accidental.


1. The message to Jeroboam was to this very effect.

2. These things were an allegory.

1 Kings 13:4-6

The Man of Sin.

When the man of God predicted the confusion of the political religion of Jeroboam, and gave the sign that the altar at Bethel should be rent and its ashes poured out, the pride of the king who stood there as a priest was mortified, and his resentment was manifested as described in the text.


1. He transgressed God's law

2. He did so impudently.


1. He was confronted by the word of God.

2. He was humbled by the power of God.

3. Yet he persisted in his sin.

1 Kings 13:7-10

The Man of God.

We may view "Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin," as the "man of sin" of his time, and a forerunner of the Antichrist of more modern times (2 Thessalonians 2:3). In contrast to him we have to consider the "man of God," in which character this prophet who confronted Jeroboam at Bethel, is described. The instructions under which he acted teach us how a saint should behave amongst workers of iniquity.


1. He must not eat and drink with them.

2. He must refuse their presents.


1. While serving God he is safe.

2. But it is perilous longer to remain.

3. But why must he return by another way?


1 Kings 13:1, 1 Kings 13:2

The Nameless Prophet.

Jeroboam's inauguration of the high place at Bethel was an imitation of Solomon's dedication of the temple at Jerusalem. Like Solomon, he chose the feast of tabernacles as the season for this ceremony, although he daringly altered the date of the feast from the seventh month to the eighth. Describe the scene: the crowds of people, the new-made priests, the gorgeous shrine, the conflicting feelings of the worshippers. None dared to oppose the king, and at the expected moment he stepped forward to burn incense before the calf. Just then one, who had been till then unnoticed, pressed to the front of the crowd. He came from the neighboring kingdom of Judah. In words of terrible invective he delivered the message of the Lord. Who was he? Josephus (Ant; 1 Kings 8:8. § 5) identifies him with Iddo the seer. There is no proof of this. He was one of the many servants of Jehovah who have done their work without emblazoning on it their name. Like John the Baptist, he was content to be "a voice crying" out a testimony for God. In considering the service rendered in his day by this NAMELESS PROPHET let us look at the following:


1. Its Divine origin. "He cried… in the word of the Lord." A remarkable expression. It represents the word as the sphere in which he lived, the atmosphere he breathed. A sense of the Divine presence, a confidence in the Divine call, a certainty of the Divine message, characterized him. This was a sign of the true prophet. Compare with this the call of Samuel, the announcements of Elijah, the commission of Isaiah, etc. To some the declarations of God's will came fitfully. Prophecy was never a constant possession of a servant of God. There was a tidal flow of inspiration, the law of which we know not. So was it with the miraculous powers of the Apostles.

2. Its definite nature (verse 2). The very name of the coming avenger is mentioned more than three hundred years before Josiah's birth. It was foretold that the priests would be sacrified on the altar at which they had insulted God. The lex talionis is the ground of this, as of other theocratic laws. It reminds us that the sinner is destroyed by his own sin; that punishments are not arbitrary, but are the legitimate issues of crime against God. It was further announced that the bones of the dead would be taken from the graves and burnt on the altar, so that the place of idolatry might be defiled and dishonoured. See Numbers 19:16. For fulfilment of prophecy read 2 Kings 23:15-20.

3. Its merciful design. In 1 Kings 12:24 we read that God forbade the advance of the army of Judah on Jeroboam. Instead of carnage he sends this message. He willeth not the death of a sinner, but would rather he should turn from his wickedness and live. Suggest the warnings God now sends to rouse us to thought and penitence.

II. HIS COURAGE. It was a bold thing to venture amongst the people at a time when they were full of hatred to Judah, and of unwillingness to be reminded of Jehovah; and to face the king, who was a man of despotic and resolute temper, in the very pride of his royal strength. But in the presence of them all the prophet's cry arose, "O altar, altar, thus saith Jehovah," etc; as if the stones would listen more readily than the people. Give examples of similar courage being displayed by men who have had the Consciousness they were speaking for God; e.g; Moses before Pharaoh, Elijah before Ahab, John the Baptist before Herod, Peter and John before the Sanhedrim, Paul before Felix. From church history, too, such examples as that of Ambrose, John Knox, etc; may be cited. Show how requisite courage is now to genuine fidelity to conviction, amongst sceptical or sinful associations.

III. HIS CREDENTIALS. A sign was given there and then. The altar was cleft in twain, and the ashes were poured out. For the significance of the latter see Le John 16:3, John 16:4. Point out the credibility of supernatural signs as attesting supernatural revelations. Refer to the miracles of Christ, of which He said, "Believe me for the very works' sake." See also Mark 16:20; Acts 2:1-47 :48. Indicate the nature of the credentials which the world may fairly demand of Christian men in the present day; and show how far we fail in giving these, and the causes of our failure.

IV. HIS SAFETY. Amidst all the perils encircling him he was "kept by the power of God." The hand that would have slain him was withered; the man who cursed his message besought his prayers. "Man is immortal till his work is done." When God's servants die, it is because they have fulfilled the purpose of their lives. They have many enemies, but God can disable all their foes. The path of duty is the path of safety. Illustrate this from the records of the Christian Church; Luther at Worms, etc.

1. Learn to listen for God's message. He would make you His "voice."

2. Learn to dare anything in God's name. The rarity of Christian chivalry.

3. Learn to trust in God's protection. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

4. Learn to pray even for your persecutors. Compare Acts 2:6 with Matthew 5:44.—A.R.


1 Kings 13:6

The King confronted by the Prophet.

Jeroboam is not allowed to pursue his iniquitous career without solemn Divine rebuke and warning. Though Rehoboam has been forbidden to attempt forcibly to suppress the revolt of the tribes (1 Kings 12:24), a "man of God out of Judah" is sent sternly to denounce the rival altar, and to give the sacrilegious king something like a symbolic forewarning of the disasters that should surely befall him. The scene, described here with so much simplicity and dramatic force, is full of moral instruction.

I. In the person of the king we see THE HELPLESSNESS OF A WICKED MAN IN THE HANDS OF AN OFFENDED GOD. The physical associations and the mental conditions here presented are alike suggestive of this. It is a striking picture of restrained infatuation and impotent rage.

1. The king's withered arm tells how God can in a moment turn the strength that is used against Him to weakness. "When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity," etc. (Psalms 39:11).

2. The rent altar suggests the certain frustration, sooner or later, of the purposes and plans of those that are at enmity with God. "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought," etc. (Psalms 33:10). "If this counsel or this work be of man," etc. (Acts 5:38).

3. The king's inability to pray for himself reminds us how God sometimes forsakes those who forsake Him, so that it seems utterly vain for them to call upon Him. Many a man has felt like Saul, "I am sore distressed, and God is departed from me," etc. (1 Samuel 28:15).

4. His appeal to the prophet to intercede for him is typical of the way in which ungodly men are often contrained by force of circumstance to seek succour from those whom they have despised. "The wheel of fortune turns and lowers the proud," and they are placed, perhaps, at the mercy of the very men whom they once scorned and injured. Such are the penalties that God often inflicts on those who trifle with His authority and defy His power. Such is the curse that falls upon "presumptuous sin."

II. The behaviour of the prophet presents A FINE EXAMPLE OF MORAL DIGNITY AND CONSCIOUS STRENGTH. See here—


1 Kings 13:1-10

I. THE PRETENSIONS OF ERROR DEEPEN ITS SHAME. The idolatrous altar was being solemnly consecrated. The people's eyes were dazzled with the splendour of the priestly and regal display. Jeroboam himself stood by the altar to offer incense. And then the cry arose which arrested every ear and thrilled through every soul.

1. The attempt to give importance to the new idolatry only broadened the mark for God's rebuke: it simply lent emphasis to His condemnation. They had come to consecrate, and had really come to attend upon God while He desecrated the work of their hands. Heathenism in its splendour thus rebuked by the preaching of the cross, Rome by the light of the Reformation.

2. The agent by whom God's glory was vindicated. The insignificance of the poor, weary, travel-stained man deepened their disgrace. "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."


1. The altar will be desecrated. The place will be made an abomination and horror. Sin's judgment will in the end be sin's destruction.

2. The sin will be wiped out in the blood and shame of those who have wrought it. The priests will be offered upon the altar, the bones of its worshippers burned upon it. The world's sin will be ended in God's fiery judgment upon the sinful.

3. The certainty of God's purpose. Centuries intervened between the prediction and the fulfilment, but all was arranged. The time was fixed, the avenger named. There is no uncertainty in God's mind regarding the end of iniquity. The decree has been recorded, the time fixed, THE MAN named by whom He will judge the world in righteousness.

4. The sign meanwhile given. The altar was rent and its ashes poured out. The wrath revealed from heaven now is proof that all God's purpose shall be fulfilled.


1. The withered arm. The arm outstretched in eager, wrathful command to arrest the man of God, withered in the very attitude. It was the emblem of his house and of his people; they were withered in the attitude of rebellion against God.

2. The prophet's safety. He needed none to shield him. God protects all those who serve Him.

3. Jeroboam's humiliation. He turns from idol and altar and priests, and requests the prophet's intercession with Jehovah.

4. His arm is restored at the prophet's request, and he thus bears in his person another token that the word he has heard is from God. It is the story of God's contest with darkness and wrong today.

IV. SEPARATION ESSENTIAL FOR TESTIMONY. Jeroboam's hospitality and reward were alike refused. The prophet was even forbidden to return by the same way: he was not to enter even into acquaintance with men who were sinning so deeply against God. Unless there be separation our testimony is a sham. Our life unsays our speech. If we will speak God's word to the sinful, our attitude must reveal their distance from God and the peril in which they stand. If our own heart be filled with holy fear it may pass item us to them.—J.U.

Verses 11-34


THE DISOBEDIENCE AND DEATH OF THE MAN OF GOD.—The seduction of the man of God, who has borne such fearless witness against Jeroboam's ecclesiastical policy, and his tragical end, are now narrated, partly because of the deep impression the story made at the time, but principally because these events were in themselves an eloquent testimony against the worship of the calves and the whole ecclesiastical policy of Jeroboam, and a solemn warning for all time against any, the slightest, departure from the commandments of God. The very unfaithfulness of this accredited messenger of the Most High, and the instant punishment it provoked, became part of the Divine protest against the new regime, against the unfaithfulness of Israel; whilst the remarkable manner in which these occurrences were recalled to the nation's memory in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 23:17, 2 Kings 23:18) made it impossible for the historian of the theocracy to pass them over without notice.

1 Kings 13:11

Now there dwelt an old prophet [Heb. a certain (lit. one) old prophet. For this use of אֶחָד (= τις) of. 1 Kings 20:13; 1 Kings 19:4] at Bethel [It is at first somewhat surprising to find one of the prophetic order residing here, at the very seat and stronghold of the apostasy, especially after what we read in 2 Chronicles 11:13-16, that the priests and Levites, and it would seem all devout worshippers of the Lord God of Israel, had left the country, and had gone over to Rehoboam. For we cannot suppose that a sense of duty had kept this prophet at his post (see note on 2 Chronicles 11:1). The fact that he remained, not only in the kingdom, but at its ecclesiastical capital; that he stood by without protest when the schism was being effected, and that, though not present himself at the sacrifice, he permitted his sons to be there, is a sufficient index to his character. It is quite possible that strong political sympathies had warped his judgment, and that he had persuaded himself that the policy of Jeroboam was necessitated by the division of the kingdom, which he knew to be from the Lord, and which one of his own order had foretold. Or it may be that, despite his better judgment, he had gone with his tribe and the majority of the nation, and now felt it difficult to withdraw from a false position. Or, finally, he may have taken the side of Jeroboam because of the greater honours and rewards that prince had to bestow (see on 2 Chronicles 11:18). There is a striking similarity between his position and action and that of Balaam]; and his sons [The Heb. has son; The LXX; Syr; and Vulg; sons. It is quite true that a "very slight change in the Hebrew text would bring it into accordance with the Septuagint here" (Rawlinson, similarly Ewald), but it would be against sound principles of textual criticism to make it. It is much more likely that the LXX. and other versions have been altered already, and that the plural has been introduced here because it is uniformly found in the later narrative. "His son" ( בִּנו ), as the lectio ardua, is therefore to he retained. The use of the singular indicates that one of them was at first the principal speaker. Perhaps one hastened home with the news before the rest. The sons of the prophet are not to be confounded with "the sons (i.e; disciples) of the prophets" (2 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 2:4, passim); not merely because "the latter would scarcely have witnessed the golden calf worship" (Bähr), but also because they would have been differently designated] came and told him all the works [Heb. work] that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they [observe the plural] told also to their father. [It is quite clear that the virtual excommunication which the man of God had pronounced had made as great an impression as the signs which he had showed. The interdict was a matter which came home to the Bethelites, as an affront to the whole community.]

1 Kings 13:12

And their father said unto them, What way went he? [The question shows that the old prophet throughly understood the import of those "words," and that his first thought was that the interdict must be removed at any cost.] For his sons had seen [Heb. and his sons saw, or showed. LXX. δεικνύουσιν. Similarly most of the versions. A very slight change in the vowel points ויּרַאְוּ for ויּרִאוַּ would give this sense] what way the man of God went which came from Judah.

1 Kings 13:13

And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. [This prompt and seemingly abrupt command—though we cannot be sure that all the conversation is here reported—shows his instant resolve to follow. These are the words of one who had made up his mind, coute que coute, to bring the man of God back.] So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon.

1 Kings 13:14

And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak [Heb. the oak; i.e; the well-known oak. Possibly there was but one, or one of great size, in the neighbourhood—such trees are comparatively rare in Palestine. Possibly also this tree became well known from these events. It is singular that in another place (Genesis 35:8) we read of "the oak" ( אַלּוֹן ) of Bethel, whilst in 4:5 we read of the "palm tree" ( תֹּמֶר ) of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel." And it is not at all improbable, seeing that in 1 Samuel 10:3 we read of the terebinth ( אֵלוֹן ) of Tabor—in the A.V. rendered "plain of Tabor"—which Ewald ("Hist. Israel," 1 Samuel 3:21; 1 Samuel 4:1-22 :31) considers to be only a dialectic variation of Deborah, and remembering the great age to which these trees attain, that the same tree is referred to throughout. The word here used, it is true, is אֵלָה (which is generally supposed to indicate the terebinth, but is also "used of any large tree" (Gesenius), and which, therefore, may be used of the אַלּוֹן of Bethel. Both names are derived from the same root ( אוּל fortis. Cf. Amos 2:9), and both indicate varieties—what varieties it is not quite clear—of the oak. Some expositors have seen in this brief rest the beginning of his sin, and certainly it would seem against the spirit of his instructions to remain so near a place (see note on 1 Samuel 10:16) from which he was to vanish speedily, and, if possible, unperceived. In any case the action betrays his fatigue and exhaustion], and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.

1 Kings 13:15

Then he said unto him, Come home with me [Heb. Come with me to the house] and eat bread. The sting was in the tail of this invitation. If he would partake of food, he would thereby remove the ban and so neutralize one part of his mission.]

1 Kings 13:16

And he said, I may not [Heb. am not able to] return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place. [The translation "in that place" adopted by Wordsworth (after the Vulgate, in loco isto) does not agree with the Hebrew. And it is not required by the context. The tree was probably at no great distance from the town.]

1 Kings 13:17

For it was said to me [Heb. a word to me] by [Heb. in] the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread, nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.

1 Kings 13:18

He said unto him; I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel Some, including Josephus and most Jewish commentators, have supposed him to be altogether a false and lying prophet, such as are found plentifully later on in the history (1 Kings 22:6; Jeremiah 28:1); but against this is the fact that he was undoubtedly the channel of a Divine communication (verse 21). The real difficulty, no doubt, lies in the fact that one by whom the Spirit of God spake to man should have acted so base a part as he did. But it must be remembered

1 Kings 13:19

So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water [cf. 1 Kings 13:10].

1 Kings 13:20

And it came to pass, as they sat at the table [cf. Psalms 78:30. He is taken in the act, "even in the blossoms of his sin"], that the word of the Lord came unto the prophet that brought him back.

1 Kings 13:21

And he cried [same word as in 1 Kings 13:2. He who denounced the "sin of Jeroboam" is now denounced in turn] unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God commanded thee.

1 Kings 13:22

But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, flat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase [rather corpse; "carcase" is now a term of disparagement, of which, however, there is no idea in the Hebrew] shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers. [The desire, common in a greater or less degree to all mankind, to rest after death amongst kindred dust, was especially strong in the Jew. It is evidenced by the common euphemism "he was gathered unto his fathers," and by the provisions of Abraham (Genesis 23:4), Jacob (Genesis 47:29; Genesis 49:29-31), and Joseph (Genesis 1:25). See also the words of Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:37; and compare 2 Samuel 2:32). This denunciation did not necessarily imply a violent death (as Keil, al.) or even a speedy death, but it prepared the man of God for some untimely end.]

1 Kings 13:23

And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled [i.e; the prophet of Bethel; the "man of God" would seem to have come on foot. See below] for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back. This translation is inadmissible. For not only is the term "prophet" throughout this narrative restricted to the prophet of Bethel (the prophet of Judah being always spoken of as "the man of God,") but the expression here used הַנָּבִיא א ה is also twice used (1 Kings 13:20, 1 Kings 13:26) of the same prophet. He is characterized there, that is to say, as "the prophet which brought him back;" it is hardly likely, therefore, that the same words are here to be interpreted, "the prophet whom he brought back." The mistake has arisen from the proximity of לוֹ ("for him") to לַנָּבִיּא ("to" or "for the prophet"). But the לוֹis here indicative of possession (the dative of the possessor), as in 1 Samuel 14:16, "the watchmen to," i.e; of, "Saul," and 1 Samuel 16:18, "a son to Jesse" (cf. Genesis 14:18 Heb.; 1 Kings 5:1-18 :29 Heb.; Ruth 2:3 Heb.) We must therefore render "He saddled for him (the man of God) the ass of the prophet which brought him back." The man of God had been delayed by his return to Bethel, and the prophet, out of pity, lends or gives him his ass. Not merely, it is probable, for the sake of speeding him on his way, but that he might have some living thing with him on a journey which he had so much cause to dread.

1 Kings 13:24

And when he was gone [Heb. and he went], a lion (Lions were evidently numerous in Palestine in former days, though they are now extinct. This is proved by the names of places, such as Laish, Lebaoth, etc; and by the constant reference to them in Scripture. They had their lairs in the forests, one of which existed near Bethel (2 Kings 2:24), and especially in the thickets of the Jordan valley (Jeremiah 49:19; Zechariah 11:3).] met [Heb. found. The primary meaning of מָצָא is, no doubt, "found accidentally," "came upon" ( εὗρεν, invenit), but it is often used of finding after a search (1 Samuel 9:4, etc.), and it should be remembered that this is the word used in verses 14, 28] him by [in, as below] the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way [road, highway, verse 25], and the ass stood [Heb. standing] by it, the lion also stood [standing] by the carcase. [These particulars are mentioned to show that his death was no accident, or chance, but a visitation of God. There are probably but few persons who have not felt that this summary punishment was marked by extreme severity; the more so, as the prophet was cruelly deceived, and that by a brother prophet, who claimed to have received a subsequent revelation, and whom, consequently, it appeared to be a duty to obey. And when it is observed that the really guilty person, the prophet of Bethel, so far as appears, escaped all punishment, and by his lie secured for himself respect for his remains, we seem to have a case of positive hardship and injustice. As I have discussed the question at some length elsewhere, it must suffice to say here that the difficulty is at once removed if we remember that although the Jewish dispensation was one of temporal recompenses, yet all the same there is a judgment hereafter. No doubt the man of God was punished for his disobedience, for inexcusable disobedience it was. It is quite true that he was solemnly assured that an angel had appeared to revoke his commission, but for this he had only the word of a stranger, of one, too, with whom he had been commanded "not even to eat." He had "the word of the Lord;" that is to say, the voice of God, borne in upon his soul, forbidding his return, and the word of an irreligious stranger, who gave no "sign the same day" in proof of his mission, authorizing it. There can be no doubt which he ought to have followed, the more so as the command he had himself received was so remarkably explicit and decisive (verse 9); so decisive that we can hardly suppose he would have deviated from it, had not the pains of hunger and thirst pleaded powerfully in favour of the pretended revelation of the Bethelite prophet. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that he eagerly welcomed this cause for returning. It is impossible, therefore, to acquit him of disobedience. Nor is it difficult to see that the consequences of this disobedience were serious. It was not as if he had disregarded a mere positive obligation, the only object of which was to test his obedience (Rawlinson); he had acted in a way calculated to destroy the moral effect of his mission. He had been employed not only to testify publicly against the calf worship, but also to lay the city and the new sanctuary of Jeroboam under an interdict, and by his return that interdict lost much of its force. His eating and drinking, small matters in themselves, were full of significance. Indeed, he did in one way precisely what Jeroboam and his people were doing in another he forsook the plain commands of God for the ordinances of men; he listened to the tempter and ate the forbidden fruit; and so it came to pass flint, instead of witnessing against disobedience, he himself set them the example of disobedience. It is the story of the Fall over again; and therefore death, the punishment of the Fall, befell him. But before we say that his punishment was too severe, let us remember what, by the mercy of God, that primal punishment has become. It has been turned into a blessing. It has given us the incarnation, redemption, eternal life. We forget that death is not necessarily an evil—is in reality a blessing. One of the heathen has said that if we only knew what the future life was like, we should not be content to live. To this "man of God" it must surely have been gain to die. If the flesh was destroyed, it was that the spirit might be saved (1 Corinthians 5:5). Only because we forget that death is the gate of life do we complain of the severity of his doom. And as to the lying prophet who wrought all this mischief escaping retribution—which, by the way, he did not do, for assuredly he must have had a life-long remorse—it is overlooked that the day of retribution has not yet arrived. There is for him a judgment to come. It may he said that the Jew did not know of this—that the future life had not then been revealed. That is quite true, and for that very reason this visitation would make all the deeper impression on their minds. To this must be added that the man of God did not die merely or principally because of his sin, but "that the works of God might be made manifest in him." His death was necessary in order that his mission might not be altogether invalidated. His miserable end—as it must have seemed to them—would surely speak to the inhabitants of Bethel and to all Israel and Judah, for long years to come, as to the sure vengeance awaiting the disobedient, whether king, prophet, priest, or people. Though dead "he cried against the altar of Bethel." And the sacred narrative (verses 26-32) affords us some ground for hoping that the "old prophet" became penitent for his sin. It is noteworthy that he joins his testimony to that of the man of God. Thus, this tragedy extorted even from him a warning against disobedience (verse 26), and a confirmation of the prophecy against the altar of Bethel (verse 32).]

1 Kings 13:25

And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. [This was precisely what God had designed. By this means, the very disobedience and death of the man of God became a part of the protest against the new rites. "For if the partaking of food against the commandment of God, though the result not of indulgence, but of deceit, brought so great a punishment upon a righteous man, what sort of chastisements would befall those who had left God their Maker and were worshipping senseless images" (Theodoret.)]

1 Kings 13:26

And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient [Heb. rebelled; same word as in verse 21] unto the word [Heb. "mouth," as in verse 21] of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn [Heb. as marg; broken. The word "is very expressive, for the lion kills with one blow" (Thenius)] and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.

1 Kings 13:27

And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.

1 Kings 13:28

And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase nor torn [Heb. broken, as in verse 26] the ass.

1 Kings 13:29

And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass [i.e; the one standing by], and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. [The mourning is specially mentioned, because in the East professional wailers were and are employed at funerals. The Jew, no less than the Greek and Roman, esteemed it a great misfortune and disgrace to be deprived of decent burial: Isaiah 14:19; Jeremiah 22:19; and especially 2 Kings 9:10.]

1 Kings 13:30

And he laid his carcase in his own grave [Matthew 27:60. This was a mark of profound respect (Ruth 1:17; Genesis 23:6)]; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother. [A customary formula in lamentation (Jeremiah 22:18). It hardly implies that "he was mourned and buried as a relative of the family" (Bähr). Seeing that the old prophet was responsible for his death, he could hardly have done less. "It is a cruel courtesy to kill a man and then help him to his grave" (Hall).]

1 Kings 13:31

And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre [Palestine, being of limestone formation, has a large number of caves. These, enlarged and adapted, were everywhere used for interments. ("The whole cliffs on its southern side [Hinnom] are honeycombed with tombs," Porter). In three sides of the cave vaults (loculi), each large enough to hold a body, were recessed in the rock, the entrance being closed by a slab of stone In the so called "tombs of the kings" and "prophets" we have such sepulchres on a large scale. A Paper on the Tombs of Palestine will be found in the Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, p. 66 sqq. It appears from 2 Kings 23:17 that a pillar was erected to mark this prophet's resting place] wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. [That is to say, "Bury me in the cell next to his" (Rawlinson). But it is not absolutely certain that this arrangement (of loculi) obtained at this early period. The bodies may have been in much closer contact. See 2 Kings 13:21. The LXX. adds here, "That my bones may be saved with his bones;" an obvious gloss, founded on 2 Kings 23:18. This request throws some light on the yearning desire of the modern Jew to rest as near as possible to the bodies of the saints. See Porter, 1. p. 145.]

1 Kings 13:32

For the saying which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel; and against all the houses of the high places [At that time there would seem to have been but two "high places." Keil sees "a prophetic element in these words." He thinks the old prophet foresaw that such sanctuaries would be multiplied. Rawlinson gathers, "from the mention of the great high place in 1 Kings 3:4, that there were many lesser high places in the land," which, no doubt, was the case at the date of Solomon's accession. It is probable, however, that many of these, if not all, would be deserted when the temple was built. And it is most reasonable to suppose that in these, as in the following words, the historian has represented the prediction or affirmation of the old prophet in the language of his own time] which are in the cities of Samaria. [Obviously, these exact words cannot have been used by the prophet of Bethel, for Samaria dates its existence and name from the reign of Omri (1 Kings 16:24). The compiler of the Kings probably found the term in the documents which he used, or possibly, as already suggested, translated the prophet's meaning into the language of a later day] shall surely come to pass.

1 Kings 13:33

After this thing [calculated though it was to make a deep impression and to furnish a solemn warning] Jeroboam turned not from his evil way. "Some hand was found that durst repair the altar God had rent" (Matthew Henry). According to Josephus, the old prophet now explained away the miracles of the prophet of Judah, alleging that the altar had fallen because it was new and the king's hand had become powerless from fatigue (Ant; 1 Kings 8:9, § 1)], but made again [Heb. "returned and made." The tautology is significant. He returned not from his sin, but returned to it] of the lowest [see on 1 Kings 12:11] of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would [Heb. pleased], he consecrated [Heb. filled his hand. In the consecration of Aaron and his sons, and possibly of their successors also, the portions of the victim which were usually burned upon the altar, together with the right shoulder or leg, which was the priest's portion, and three cakes of unleavened Bread, were put into the hands of the candidates for the priesthood, and waved before the Lord before they were offered on the altar (Exodus 29:22-26; Le Exodus 8:25-28). To "fill the hand" consequently Became a synonym for consecration] him [It would almost appear, from the extreme readiness with which Jeroboam ordained his priests, that few candidates offered themselves for the office. In one respect, however, he exacted more from the candidate than did the law. For whereas the latter required "one bullock and two rams" (Exodus 29:1, etc.), he demanded one Bullock and seven rams as the offering on consecration (2 Chronicles 13:9], and he became one of the priests [Heb. and he became priests, etc. So the Chaldee. LXX. καὶ ἐγένετο ἱερεύς] of the high places.

1 Kings 13:34

And this thing [Heb. "in this thing:" בַּדָּבָר . Cf. 1 Chronicles 7:23; 1 Chronicles 9:33] became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth [1 Kings 15:29. The forfeiture of the crown would bring in its train, almost as a matter of course, the destruction of his family (1 Kings 14:10-14). And we are taught here that both events are to be regarded, under the dispensation of temporal rewards and punishments, as the recompenses of his impiety; of that daring schismatic policy which, in all its branches, betrayed a complete disregard of the terms of the covenant, and which was persevered in contemptuous defiance of the repeated warnings of God.]


1 Kings 13:21 sqq.-The Man of God and the People of God.

The morning of that fifteenth day of the eighth month, that black day in the Hebrew Kalendar, that birthday of division, was hardly more memorable or eventful than the evening. In the morning the Bethelites saw the signs of the man of God; in the evening they saw in him a sign, a parable, and a terrible warning. The lesson of the rent altar and the rigid hand was followed by the lesson of the lion and the ass and the rigid corpse. Truly, of that day it might be truly said, "The evening and the morning were one day."

For we may be sure, when the old prophet came back from his quest of the body, and brought with him that melancholy burden, swinging across the ass, the men of Bethel, who had already heard from wayfarers of the tragedy, would crowd the streets or lanes—for Bethel was probably little more than a village—to meet him, and would gaze, hushed and awestruck, into the dumb and helpless face of the man whose words and deeds bad that day been so full of power. There was not a child that night but would leave his play to stare in silent wonder, or with whispered question, on the corpse. Of that sad funereal procession, the words which, near a thousand years later, described the entry of a living Prophet into an adjoining city, might justly be used, "All the city was moved, saying, Who is this?" (Matthew 21:10.) Nor would the language which described the effect of that same Prophet's death a few days later be less applicable here, "All the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts and returned" (Luke 23:48).

Let us now suppose, however, for the sake of bringing out the lessons of this narrative, that there were some in the crowd—as on the first feast day there may well have been—strangers in Bethel (cf. John 12:20; Acts 2:5-11), who did not understand the things which were come to pass there that day. Let us join them, as they go, carried by the stream, to meet the body; let us listen to their questions, and to the answers they receive. We shall not gather all the truth from the discourse we overhear, but we shall learn at all events one lesson which this tragedy had for the men of that time.

Now the first question which would rise to these strangers' lips, as they came upon the body, borne by the patient ass, which was the one terrified witness of the catastrophe, would be, "Who is this?" They think, perhaps, it is some peasant who has been slain as he tilled his fields, or some itinerant; chapman who has been murdered on his journey. But the bystanders speedily undeceive them. They tell them that this is "a man of God who came from Judah." His name, it may be, is unknown to them, but not his deeds. They relate, with breathless excitement, not unmixed with fear, how a few short hours ago he was amongst them; how on the morning of that very day he had confronted their king as he was in the act of sacrificing, had denounced his innovations, had foretold the overthrow of his policy and dynasty, and had then wrought wonderful works in attestation of his mission. The strangers listen with steadily increasing wonderment. Had this man been "a murderer whom vengeance suffered not to live," or a sinner above all men that dwelt in Bethel, they could have understood it. Such a one, however he might have met his end, would only have received the just reward of his deeds, but "a man of God," a man who wrought miracles, a favourite of Heaven!—they cannot comprehend it, and they, as excited as their informants, hurriedly ask how he has come by his death.

"A lion slew him," is the answer. It is true no human eye saw the deed, but there can be no doubt as to the manner of his death. Then they tell how wayfaring men that afternoon had seen a strange sight, a corpse cast in the way—whose corpse they knew not—and an ass and a lion standing as joint sentinels over it, etc. And then the strangers would understand that this man of God had died by the visitation of God. They would remember that the "teeth of evil beasts" were one of the plagues denounced in the law, and they would wonder, and they would ask, what this messenger of the Most High, this miracle worker, could have done between morning and evening to bring this terrible judgment down upon his head.

And this was a question which only the old prophet could rightly answer, and he had answered it already. He had told his sons and neighbours that afternoon, when first he heard of this tragedy, that it was the punishment of disobedience (1 Kings 13:26). Not improbably he proclaimed it again to the crowd which awaited his return. "He had been charged," he would say, as they stood gazing on the helpless corpse, "to lay our city under a ban; he had been commanded to eat no bread, to drink no water here. And he came back, and he ate bread and he drank water in my house; therefore it is that 'the lion hath torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord'" (1 Kings 13:26).

And so the men of Bethel, and the strangers among them—and thousands of strangers would be present in Bethel at that time—would understand that this man, albeit a prophet, and a doer of wondrous works, had paid the penalty of his partial disobedience with his life. They would perceive that God had not spared His own elect messenger. They would see that the man who had been commissioned to protest against Jeroboam's will worship, who had courageously faced the king in his might, and had stood like an Athanase against the world, had received judgment without mercy when he overstepped the commandment of his God. And they would assuredly be reminded, some of them at least, how sinful and how dangerous must be that departure from the law which they had that day seen instituted amongst themselves. And as one by one they dropped off, and, deeply awed and impressed, returned to their tents or booths, the one thought which above all others filled their minds would be this—how sure and swift and terrible was the recompense of disobedience.

But if these strangers, in their perplexity, proceeded to make further inquiries, as they may well have done; if they asked what could have led such a man as this to set at nought the plain commandment of God: if they discovered from the old prophet, or his sons, or others, the circumstances of his sin; if they learned that this man of God had resisted the entreaties of the king, had obeyed his own instructions to the letter, and had only come back and eaten bread on the solemn assurance of this old prophet himself that an angel from heaven had distinctly reversed his commission; if they understood that it was because he had taken this man at his word and trusted to his good faith, as they themselves would have done in like circumstances, that he had been induced to return; and that because of this, and nothing else, this ambassador of the Most Merciful had died by the stroke of a wild beast, we may imagine what their astonishment and horror would be like. "Who shall deliver us," they would cry, "out of the hand of this mighty God?" And it is probable that at first they would find it difficult to see wherein his sin lay, and to disentangle the right and the wrong in his conduct. They would say, and rightly, that he was much more sinned against than sinning. It would seem to them that the really guilty party escaped unpunished, whilst his innocent victim paid to the uttermost farthing. And it is possible that some found, at least for a time, in this episode, as some in later days have done, a riddle which they could not read. But its meaning could not be lost upon them all; if it had been, the Divine purpose in this visitation would have been defeated. It may be the old prophet himself expounded its lessons; it may be that "such as set their heart to seek the Lord"—and we may be sure that Jeroboam's innovations had occasioned the gravest misgivings and fears in many minds—found them out for themselves. But in any case some would not be long in discovering that these things were an allegory. "As hieroglyphics," says Lord Bacon, "preceded letters, so parables were more ancient than arguments." May we not add that acted parables were still more ancient than spoken ones. A Tarquin, striking off the heads of the tallest poppies, belongs to the beginnings of history. This was the age when men not only gave signs, but were such themselves (Isaiah 20:3; Ezekiel 24:24; Matthew 12:1-50 :89, 40). The death of the "man of God" accordingly was a parable, an object lesson of the most impressive kind as to the doom of the unfaithful people of God. In his end, men might see a foreshadowing of their nation's, if it should persevere in the worship of the calves.

For they would assuredly remember, as they pondered this history, that as this prophet of Judah was a man of God, precisely so was Israel the people of God (1 Kings 8:43, 1 Kings 8:52, 1 Kings 8:66; 1 Kings 14:7; Le 26:12; Deuteronomy 26:18). As he was to other men, so was Israel to other nations. Was he elect of God and precious? So were they. Had he a mission? So had they. Had God spoken to him? He had also spoken to them, and moreover had given them a charge not unlike his. For it is to be also considered that God had plainly spoken to Israel on this very subject of Divine worship. At the very threshold of the Decalogue, at the head of "the words of the covenant," stood the charge, "Thou shalt have none other gods but me. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," etc. And it is to be noted here that these words stand side by side with the formula," I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt"—the very words which Jeroboam had cited in instituting his new mode of worship; the very cry which had been raised before when Israel made its first golden calf (Exodus 32:8). It is almost certain, therefore, that these initial words of the covenant had been lately and forcibly recalled to their minds. But in any case they could not be ignorant that their forefathers had been expressly charged to make no similitude, no graven or molten image (Le 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 27:15, etc.) And this commandment. too, like the message of that morning, had been confirmed with signs following. The blackness, darkness, tempest, trumpet, fire, all these had attested that revelation of God's will. It might possibly occur to some of their minds, therefore, that when the first protest against a corrupt following of the true God was raised, He "gave a sign the same day."

Such, then, was the commandment given to Israel. It was as explicit, as authoritative as that which this dead prophet had recently received. But of late a new teacher had appeared amongst them, in the person of their king, who presumed to countermand this law of the Almighty. We are not told, indeed, that Jeroboam claimed to be prophet as well as priest, but we find him acting as one, and received as one. It is hardly likely that he laid claim to any revelation from on high. He was not the man to pretend to visions of angels. It was his contention that he was re-vetting to the old form of religion, but that was all. At the same time, he was the great false prophet of the Old Testament. Just as Moses was the giver of the law, just as Elias was its restorer, so was Jeroboam its depraver. Precisely what the lying prophet taught the man of God, that had he taught the people of God, viz; that God's command was somehow abrogated. Prophet of Bethel and priest king of Bethel were alike in this, that each met the Divine, "Thou shalt not," with the human, "Thou shalt." There was this difference between them, that the first inculcated disobedience to but one command, whilst the second contravened a whole system; but this very divergence would make the parallel all the more impressive. "If," they would argue, "if a prophet, a doer of signs and wonders, died without mercy because he listened to the voice of a brother prophet—who swore that he had received a revelation concerning him—and so was betrayed into breaking one commandment, of how much sorer punishment shall those be thought worthy who at the mere word of their king, albeit he claimed no spiritual authority, and acted from political motives only, reject the gracious covenant of heaven, confirmed by many signs, and go after false gods," etc. There were some, no doubt, would see in the corpse borne to its burial that day a foreshadowing of the more terrible judgment then hanging over their own heads.

And so we find this prophet of Judah has not lived or suffered in vain. His death, like that of Samson, wrought even more effectually than his life. He was set forth as it were appointed to death (1 Corinthians 4:9). He silently and unconsciously mirrored forth the sin and the punishment of a disobedient people.

It now only remains for us to indicate briefly how the analogy between man of God and people of God received its completion in the punishment which befell the latter. The punishment of the prophet was death; of the people, whose sin was much greater, death and superadded infamy. We see this—

1. In the case of Jeroboam's house. For the family of the deceiver was the first to suffer. As in the case of the man of God, "swift retribution" followed upon sin. And what retribution! The death and destruction of the race. He himself was smitten of God. His seed was suddenly cut off. The sword of Baasha was as swift as the lion's paw. Only one of his children "came to the grave." The rest were devoured of beasts and birds. (cf. 1 Kings 14:11 with 1 Kings 13:28.)

2. In the case of his intrusive priests. If they escaped a violent death, their remains experienced disgrace worse than death (1 Kings 13:2). Here prophet and priests stand in contrast. The respect accorded to his ashes was denied to theirs.

3. In the case of the entire people. For the captivity, foretold in 1 Kings 14:15, was the death of the kingdom, and the death knell of the people. The ten tribes soon lost their corporate existence. And what agonies preceded that dissolution! (See Jeremiah 52:1-34; Lamentations passim; Psalms 74:1-23; Psalms 137:1-9.) The people to death, the land to lions! (2 Kings 17:25.) Could the analogy be much closer?

But indeed the analogy does not end there. De te fabula narratur. The Christian Church has inherited the place, the privileges, the responsibilities of the Jewish people. If that Church, or if the individual Christian be unfaithful or disobedient, let them see their own fate glassed and pourtrayed in that of the disobedient prophet. "If God spared not the natural branches," etc. "I will remove thy candlestick out of his place." "Shame and everlasting contempt."

The Two Prophets. We have already considered the principal lesson which this strange history had for that time. Let us now indicate some of the lessons which it has for all time. The text, to borrow Bishop Ridley's phrase, "shall lead us by the hand;" we will record them as we find them set down in the story. And first let us contemplate the OLD PROPHET. Observe—

1. It was the false prophet that was old. Age should bring wisdom (Job 32:7; 1 Kings 12:7), and piety. But see Homiletics, p. 225. The old king (1 Kings 11:4) and the old prophet alike remind us that there is "no sinner like an old sinner."

2. It was only the false teacher that was styled a prophet. Probably because he alone had been taught in the schools. He was, so to speak, in the prophetical succession. The man of God was an irregular, though not self-constituted messenger. But observe, when God employs an irregular, He authenticates his mission with a sign. And consider, too, the unworthiness of ministers argues nothing against the office or the succession. See Art. XXVI.

3. The old prophet was in Bethel. "Where Satan's seat is" (Revelation 2:8). But God had not fixed the bounds of his habitation. What wonder if, like him who "pitched his tent toward Sodom" (Genesis 13:12), he fell into temptation and sin? The old prophet, in his way, has "lifted up his eyes and beheld the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere." He has remained here to worship the rising sun. Conscience bade him go. Convenience made him stay.

4. The old prophet tries to serve two masters. Though Jeroboam sets up molten images, a sanctuary, a priesthood, he raises no protest. But when Jeroboam burns incense and sacrifices, he does not sanction the proceeding by his presence, But he compromises the matter by sending his sons. "Video meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor." "He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed (James 1:6). The temporiser soon finds difficulties in his path. Those who try to gain both worlds generally contrive to lose both. After the conduct of 1 Kings 14:18, he could not respect himself; and after the prophecy of verse 32, he could expect no advancement from the king.

5. The old prophet stoops to lies. And yet he was a true prophet. A preacher of righteousness, yet he practised deceit. Bedlam has been called "a strange mixture of a man." This prophet's character and conduct were equally strange. But, alas! it is a common thing to find men's example differing widely from their precept; to find insight without holiness, light without love. Prophetic gifts do not imply piety. It is no new thing for God's ministers to fall into sin.

6. The old prophet slays a man of God. It was his tongue, not the lion's paw, really slew a man more righteous and better than he. A prophet is the instrument of a murder (cf. John 8:44). "What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?" (Psalms 120:3.) Let us take care lest we destroy with our meat one for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15). Let us remember—

"What guilt, what grief may be incurred

By one incautious, hasty word."

Now let us turn to the MAN OF GOD. Observe—

1. The man of God believes every word. He was not altogether without excuse. False prophets were not as plentiful as they afterwards became. He was unprepared for such unblushing deceit. We should probably have done the same. Yet we have had manifold warnings (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11.; Acts 20:29; 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1, etc.) We have been taught that if "an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto us," it is at our peril we listen (Galatians 1:8). We have been reminded that "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).

2. The man of God is deceived by lies. It is a favourite device of the enemy. He is the "father of lies" (John 8:44). It was thus he deceived our first parents. That weapon has answered so well that he plies it again and again (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:11).

3. The man of God goes back to Bethel. This faithful and courageous servant, who had defied the king, who had refused his dainties and rewards, etc; does not endure to the end. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law and offend in one point he is guilty of all," because he is guilty of disobedience. "Evil is wrought by want of thought." The commands of God must be kept in their entirety.

4. The man of God is denounced by the prophet. Those who lead us into sin are the first to tax us with it afterwards. The deceiver turns upon his victim. We get scant comfort from companions in sin. "What is that to us? See thou to that" (Matthew 27:4).

5. The man of God hears his doom in silence. "He was speechless." "I became dumb and opened not my mouth, for it was thy doing." "Being convicted by their own conscience" (John 8:9).

6. The man of God dies without mercy. Though a prophet, the teeth of an evil beast avenge his disobedience. Judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). The teacher shall receive the greater condemnation (James 3:1). "Many stripes" are for those who knew and did not. "The wages of sin is death."

7. Yet his corpse is not mangled or dishonoured. It was partly for our admonition that he died. He was ordained to be a sign to that generation. Therefore, though deceived, he was not forsaken. The lion and the ass keep watch over his remains. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." "A bone of him shall not be broken." "Let no man move his bones" (2 Kings 23:18), His honourable funeral (cf. Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:60) and the respect subsequently paid him show that he was no castaway.

And now that we have considered the prophet of Bethel and the prophet of Judah separated by deceit and death, let us see them for a moment reunited.

1. In their testimony. For to the witness of the man of God against the altar of Bethel was added the unwilling, and therefore powerful, witness of the old prophet (verse 32). Jeroboam has gained nothing by the death of the man who had denounced him and his rites. Though dead, he speaks, and speaks as he could never have done in life. And now "one of themselves, even a prophet of their own," has been constrained to echo and enforce his testimony. The king has now the testimony of two unimpeachable witnesses against his impious proceedings.

2. In their grave. "Lay my bones beside his bones." Like Balaam, this old prophet would "die the death of the righteous." "Gather not my soul with sinners" (Psalms 26:9) is his cry. "Sit anima mea cum illo." He will take his chance with the man of God rather than with the king. "I had rather be," says one, "with Origen wherever he is than with Justinian and Theodora wherever they are," "In death they were not divided."

But how different their lot in life. The deceived dies; the deceiver lives. The lion which slew the comparatively innocent man of God would not touch the lying prophet. Though old, he is spared to grow older, while the other's sun went down at noon. What an illustration this of the strange confusion of this present life (cf. Psalms 69:1-36; Psalms 73:1-28; etc.); what a proof of a life to come, where each shall receive his just recompense of reward! To the Jew, suckled in a creed of temporal rewards, etc; this history would present some anxious problems, all of which are clear since our Prophet, Priest, and King "brought life and immortality to light."


1 Kings 13:11-19

The Old Serpent again.

As the ways of the serpent are tortuous so are those of Satan. If he cannot effect his purposes by moving in one direction he will move in another, and thus by crooked ways he advances (Isaiah 27:1; Psalms 125:5). He had already tempted the man of God by means of the schismatic king, and failed; his next work is to see what influence an old prophet may have upon him. So versatile are his devices that it is our wisdom to be ever on the alert. Observe the adroitness with which he lays his plans. His astuteness is seen—


1. "The sons of the old prophet."

(1) They were near the altar. Whether by the contrivance of Satan, or that, finding them there, he made them his tools, is not revealed. Or whether they were there out of curiosity, or sympathy with the apostasy, is not revealed. But they were there—on the devil's ground. We must keep from that if we would escape mischief.

2. The old prophet himself.


1. See the stratagem in Eden, repeated.

2. See the spirit of the devil.

1 Kings 13:20-22

The Voice of Reproof.

No man of God will deliberately sin against God (John 8:44; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18). But the good are liable to be surprised or deceived into transgression (James 1:13-15; 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:2). We must be ever on our guard against the "wiles" and "depths" of Satan. For lack of vigilance this man of God fell into the snare, and we see here how he was reproved.


1. This is evident upon the face of the narrative.

2. But could not God revoke or modify His word?

3. Wherein, then, was his fault? The revocation here came not with the evidence of the command. The command was immediately from "the mouth of the Lord" (per. 21). The revocation came immediately from the mouth of the old prophet. Note: We are responsible for the proper use of reason in religion.


1. This came to the man of God himself.

2. It came to him in the ripeness of his transgression.

3. It was terribly severe.

1 Kings 13:28-29

The Visitation of Judgment.

The man of God from Judah, deceived by the old prophet of Ephraim, ate and drank in that land of apostasy. This was a disobedience to the word of the Lord, and a complicity in the abominations he was sent to denounce. For this he heard the Divine voice of reproof, and went forth to suffer accordingly, as detailed in the text.


1. Review the prophecy.

2. Note the fulfilment.


1. Miracle controlled the instincts of animals.

2. Here let us admire the Divine resources.

3. But what is the mystical meaning of the signs?

1 Kings 13:30-34

The Law of Extremity.

God has made us free to choose or refuse good or evil Will cannot be coerced and yet be free; coercion here, therefore, would be destruction. But while God does not compel us to choose the right, He induces by gracious promises, and admonishes by alternative penalties. Still we remain free to elect the good with its blessings, or the evil with its entailments of misery. But so loth is He to see His creatures wretched that He has opened a way of repentance and reformation for sinners. In this, mercy is carried to the extreme limit which consists with the welfare of the universe, which must ever depend upon the order and harmony of righteousness. At this point there comes in the law of extremity; and the sinner passing it has to encounter "judgment without mercy."


1. His conduct expressed repentance.

2. His conduct also expressed faith.


1. He disregarded the goodness of God.

2. He disregarded his remonstrances.


1 Kings 13:18, 1 Kings 13:19

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The miraculous element in this chapter is, with many, a reason for its rejection. The same reason might lead us to reject the story of our Saviour's life, and deny the possibility of supernatural revelation. If miracles and signs ever occurred they would be likely to do so at the time described in this chapter. Idolatrous practices were being set up. Many who had been worshippers of Jehovah had been seduced. Worldly policy, social influences, moral enervation, following on the extravagant prosperity of Solomon's reign, and an inherent tendency to sensuous worship, were all combining to induce the people to put away all belief in Jehovah. Then, if ever He would fitly reveal His power, as He did at the later crisis when Elijah faced the false prophets on Carmel. The effect on Jeroboam was nil, but the godless had warning, and the secret worshippers of the Lord still left in Israel were encouraged. The story of the temptation and fall of this prophet, who at least delivered one message with fidelity, is tragic and suggestive. After reading it we have left with us the following thoughts:

I. THAT A STRONG TEMPTATION HAD BEEN RESISTED. Jeroboam had failed to reach the prophet by violence, but resolved to overcome him by craft. Terrible as had been the effect of Jehovah's wrath (1 Kings 13:4), the king's conscience was not stirred. His heart was not touched, though his arm was withered. Hence he did not ask the prophet to pray that his sin might be forgiven, but that his arm might be restored. Immediately after, with a show of civility and gratitude, he invited him to his house. Clearly this was not in order to honour the prophet, but to weaken the effect of his message. The people had heard it, and had been moved by it; but if they saw the messenger going down in seeming friendship with their king, this would diminish, perhaps destroy, the effect of his words. Lest this should happen, the prophet had been forbidden to enter any house. As the representative of Jehovah, he was to show that God would not dwell amongst the people. Firmly, therefore, he rejected the invitation of the king, saying, "If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread not drink water in this place," etc. The temptation was resisted; the victory won. Give illustrations of similar moral conquests. A young man tempted to impurity says, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Another sits silent among the scorners, and cannot be induced to join or smile with them, etc. There are times when we are specially able to resist: e.g; when we come fresh from the influences of a Christian home; when we are feeling the impression of an earnest sermon; when we are made serious by the death of a dear friend. Under such influences many obey the command, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!"


1. The conquest of one evil may only bring on the assault of another; e.g; when sensuality is repressed, scepticism may arise and prevail. We sometimes forget that it is not a momentary but a life-long conflict we have to wage. If the Egyptians are drowned, the Amorites and Canaanites await us. A gross sin fails to conquer us, but a subtle sin may lead us to bitter bondage. We can never say to our soul, "Take thine ease;" but always, and everywhere, must listen to the command, "Watch, and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."

2. Lingering near scenes of temptation may imperil us fatally. Had the prophet not rested he might not have been overtaken, but would have crossed the border line of the two kingdoms. As the moth flutters round the candle, so do some hover about sin. They read of vices which they think they would never commit, and choose associates unlike what they mean to be, and yet dare to pray, "Lead us not into temptation." He who "standeth in the way of sinners," as one half inclined to join them, may at last "sit in the seat of the scorners," as one who has united with them. "Avoid it, pass not by it," etc. (Proverbs 3:15).

III. THAT A TRIVIAL ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE WAS A GREAT SIN. It seemed a small offence to go home with a brother prophet; but observe that he was in no doubt as to the will of God. He was not really deceived by that lie about the angel's message. He knew that he was forbidden to enter any house, and that the reason for that inhibition was weighty: he knew further that God would not contradict Himself, or alter his command, yet his sensuous wish for food and rest prevailed. An act may seem trifling, but the principle involved in it may be momentous. So it was in Eden. To eat the fruit, or to leave it untouched, might appear a question of small consideration; but man's decision of it, "brought death into the world, and all our woe." It is in trifles that we test the willingness of our children's obedience. If they refuse to do an unimportant act because to do it would be to disobey us, we are more satisfied with their sensitive loyalty than if the act were notoriously evil. To sin for the sake of a passing pleasure is morally worse than to sin for the sake of a kingdom, for the temptation is less.

IV. THAT A TRAGIC PUNISHMENT WAS INFLICTED. (Read 1 Kings 13:23-25.) Note the points which marked out this event as the result of God's displeasure, and not of accident; e.g; that it was foretold (1 Kings 13:21, 1 Kings 13:22), and that the lion did not kill the ass, nor eat the dead body. Show how Jesus Christ used the judgments of God, as recorded in the Old Testament, for purposes of moral and religious instruction. Sin merits punishment. "We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth, against them which commit such things," etc. (Romans 2:2-5). In the consciousness of frequent disobedience let the prayer arise, "God be merciful to me a sinner."—A.R.


1 Kings 13:20-22

The Disobedient Prophet.

The "old prophet," though here employed as the medium of a Divine message, had acted falsely towards his "brother" ("he lied unto him," 1 Kings 13:18). The fact that he was content to remain in the land under the rule of Jeroboam was against him. As the Levites had been supplanted by a base priesthood, so the prophets in Israel would seem to be a degenerate race. It must have aggravated the bitterness of the remorse the "man of God" felt, that the prophet who had dealt so treacherously with him should be commissioned to pronounce the Divine sentence on his transgression. His case seems altogether a hard one. How shall we explain it? What lessons does it teach?

I. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF A DIVINE COMMAND. The command had been given clearly and positively (1 Kings 13:9), and He who gave it had in no way revoked it. The reasons for it remained as they were. The man of God greatly erred in giving more weight to the report of an angelic message delivered to another than to the clear voice of "the word of the Lord" in his own soul. "God is not a man, that he should lie; nor the son of man, that he should repent" (Numbers 23:19), and His commands can be abrogated only by others that are equally explicit and authoritative.

II. THE DANGER OF PARLEYING WITH THE TEMPTER. The integrity of the man of God was imperilled as soon as he began to listen to the persuasion that would lead him astray. The first deliverances of conscience are generally right, and we run great moral risk when we begin to question them. He who had resisted the allurements of the king yields to those of the seeming prophet. Moral evil is always most fascinating when it assumes a sacred disguise, and the false "prophet" is the most plausible and dangerous of all tempters.

III. THE GUILT OF DISOBEDIENCE. "To obey is better than sacrifice," etc. (1 Samuel 15:22, 1 Samuel 15:23). The spirit of disobedience is the root of all practical iniquity. "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). A seemingly trifling offence may thus, especially under certain circumstances, have an important meaning, and entail fatal consequences out of all proportion to its outward form. It is on this principle, that every act of wilful wrong is a violation of the spirit of obedience, that St. James says, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).

IV. THE TEMPORAL PENALTIES THAT FOLLOW THE SIN EVEN OF GOOD MEN. The "man of God" may have been at heart a true prophet, and may have received in another world the eternal reward of the true prophet; but his transgression involved him in a violent death, and he was denied the privilege, so much desired by every Hebrew, of having his body laid in the "sepulchre of his fathers." Sin may be pardoned and yet punished. The temporal penalty may be inflicted though Divine mercy cancels the eternal. David's sin is forgiven, but his child must die (2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:14). Christ is "the propitiation for our sins," and His blood "cleanseth us from all sin," but He promises us no immunity from the ill effects, the shame and loss and pain and sorrow in which our sin may in this world involve us.—W.


1 Kings 13:11, 1 Kings 13:12

The Tempter.

I. THE PROPHET'S SIN AND DOOM. Evil is never wanting in emissaries. It finds them among the so-called followers of God as well as in the world. This was

1. a prophet. The possession of privileges does not ensure salvation. Balaam took the wages of unrighteousness. "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" etc. Is our own life on a level with the place God has given us? If not, we may be among those whose influence and suggestions place stumbling blocks in the path of God's children.

2. He dwelt at Bethel, without testifying against its sin, and unmoved by fear of God's judgment. How many who know God's will and have declared it to others remain in Bethel still!

3. His instant resolve. The very story of the prophet's obedience led him to tempt the man of God. His own religion was not like this, and this must therefore be either hypocrisy or delusion. Had the king's request not been made publicly it might have been acceded to. There must be a weak point somewhere, and he will try to find it. Lower life is ever suspicious of a higher, and is anxious to prove that it is not higher. The prophets in Bethel are ever on the watch to break the credit of the men of God from Judah. Is thine the spirit of the learner or of the scorner? Does the higher life judge thee and fill thee with desire to press upward, or only with angry suspicion and desire to show it is no better than thine own? They who are of the wicked prophet's spirit still do his work.


1. How the tempter found him. He sat, weary and faint, resting under the shadow of the tree. The invitation to eat bread had more power there than before in Bethel. The tempter knows his opportunity. In times of weakness and need we should hide ourselves in the joy and strength of God.

2. The weapons he uses. When an appeal to appetite fails, he professes his oneness with him and uses falsehood. "I am a prophet also as thou art, and an angel spake unto me," etc. To eat bread in Bethel with a prophet did not seem quite the same thing as eating with the idolatrous king; nor does fellowship with those who profess to know God, but yet remain in communion with the world, seem the same thing as fellowship with the world itself. It is thus that the testimony of the Church against idolatry and iniquity has so largely ceased. And then there is Scripture forevery concession. "An angel spake unto me… but he lied unto him." A worldly Church ensnares where the world itself cannot.

3. The fatal neglect. God was as near to him as He could be to his tempter, and he might have inquired of Him. But in the weakness of the flesh he desired to have it so. There is only one preservative from spiritual shipwreck—a sincere desire to know what the Lord saith, and a determination to follow that only.

III. HIS DOOM. (1 Kings 13:20-22.)

1. It was uttered as he sat at meat. Conviction found him in his Sin, and the food he had desired became as wormwood and gall to him.

2. It came from the lips of his seducer. We do not rise in the world's estimation through compliance with its desires. As God used the lying prophet so will He use the men of the world for the humbling of those who yield before their temptations.

3. The penalty. Death in the land where he had sinned. His carcase, buried in Bethel, declared the truth his obedience should have impressed. God will judge His unfaithful servants. If not glorified in their service, He will be glorified in their punishment.—J.U.

1 Kings 13:23-34

Judgment and its result.

I. MERCY DISPLAYED IN THE MIDST OF JUDGMENT. The sin may have been forgiven though the chastisement fell.

1. His body was preserved from dishonour. The lion's ferocity was bridled; the prophet's body was neither eaten nor torn; he guarded the remains from the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field.

2. The message he had borne received added weight by his punishment. In his humiliation God was exalted. The circumstances showed that the blow was from the hand of God, and the question was no doubt raised in many a heart, if the Lord has so punished His servant's error, what will Israel's judgment be?

3. He still preached in his grave. He was buried near the altar, and over his tomb was graven the story of his mission and his fate (2 Kings 23:17).

II. THE PUNISHMENT OF UNFAITHFULNESS. When all has been said that can be of the attendant mercy, the judgment still stands out in terribleness. The prophet still preached, but the cry came up from the dark pathway of death. Its place was not among the vessels of mercy, but among the vessels of wrath. If we eat in idolatrous Bethel, even though it be in ignorance, God's hand will find us. He punishes now in spiritual leanness, and that again leads to deeper judgment; in the falling away of our children into indifference and worldliness and sin, and will not God demand their blood at our hand? God will have perfect compliance in regard to the conduct of His own worship; He demands "a pure offering." Are we making His word our only law? Whose altar are we serving, Jehovah's or Jeroboam's?


1. The prophet's fear.

2. The king's unconcern. We are not told that he did anything worse than he had done before; he simply "returned not from his evil way." And this became sin to his house, to cut it off and to destroy it, etc. To bring upon ourselves God's judgments we need do no more than turn a deaf ear to His warnings.—J.U.


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

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