1 Kings 13
In the close of the foregoing chapter we left Jeroboam attending his
altar at Beth-el, and there we find him in the beginning of this, when
he received a testimony from God against his idolatry and apostasy.
This was sent to him by a prophet, a man of God that lived in Judah,
who is the principal subject of the story of this chapter, where we are
I. What passed between him and the new king.
1. The prophet threatened Jeroboam's altar
(1 Kings 13:1,2),
and gave him a sign
(1 Kings 13:3),
which immediately came to pass,
1 Kings 13:5.
2. The king threatened the prophet, and was himself made another sign,
by the withering of his hand
(1 Kings 13:4),
and the restoring of it upon his submission and the prophet's
1 Kings 13:6.
3. The prophet refused the kindness offered him thereupon,
1 Kings 13:7-10.
II. What passed between him and the old prophet.
1. The old prophet fetched him back by a lie, and gave him
1 Kings 13:11-19.
2. He, for accepting it, in disobedience to the divine command, is
threatened with death,
1 Kings 13:20-22.
3. The threatening is executed, for he is slain by a lion
(1 Kings 13:23,24),
and buried at Beth-el,
1 Kings 13:25-32.
4. Jeroboam is hardened in his idolatry,
1 Kings 13:33,34.
"Thy judgments, Lord, are a great deep."
|A Prophet Sent to Jeroboam; the Withering of Jeroboam's Hand.
||B. C. 974.|
1 And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word
of the LORD unto Beth-el: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn
2 And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and
said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall
be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee
shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense
upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.
3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign
which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and
the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
4 And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of
the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Beth-el, that
he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him.
And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that
he could not pull it in again to him.
5 The altar also was rent, 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.
6 And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat
now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand
may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD,
and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it
7 And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and
refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
8 And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me
half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat
bread nor drink water in this place:
9 For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat
no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that
10 So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he
came to Beth-el.
I. A messenger sent to Jeroboam, to signify to him God's displeasure
against his idolatry,
1 Kings 13:1.
The army of Judah that aimed to ruin him was countermanded, and might
not draw a sword against him
(2 Kings 12:24);
but a prophet of Judah is, instead thereof, sent to reclaim him from
his evil way, and is sent in time, while he is but dedicating his
altar, before his heart is hardened by the deceitfulness of his sin;
for God delights not in the death of sinners, but would rather they
would burn and live. How bold was the messenger that durst attack the
king in his pride and interrupt the solemnity he was proud of! Those
that go on God's errand must not fear the face of man; they know who
will bear them out. How kind was he that sent him to warn Jeroboam of
the wrath of God revealed from heaven against his
ungodliness and unrighteousness!
II. The message delivered in God's name, not whispered, but cried with
a loud voice, denoting both the prophet's courage, that he was neither
afraid nor ashamed to own it, and his earnestness, that he desired to
be heard and heeded by all that were present, who were not a few, on
this great occasion. It was directed, not to Jeroboam nor to the
people, but to the altar, the stones of which would sooner hear and
yield than those who were mad upon their idols and deaf to divine
calls. Yet, in threatening the altar, God threatened the founder and
worshippers, to whom it was as dear as their own souls, and who might
conclude, "If God's wrath fasten upon the lifeless guiltless altar, how
shall we escape?" That which was foretold concerning the altar
(1 Kings 13:2)
was that, in process of time, a prince of the house of David, Josiah by
name, should pollute this altar by sacrificing the idolatrous priests
themselves upon it, and burning the bones of dead men. Let Jeroboam
know and be sure,
1. That the altar he now consecrated should be desecrated. Idolatrous
worship will not continue, but the word of the Lord will endure for
2. That the priests of the high places he now made should
themselves be made sacrifices to the justice of God, and the first and
only sacrifices upon this altar that would be pleasing to him. If the
offering be such as is an abomination to God, it will follow, of
course, that the offerers must themselves fall under his wrath, which
will abide upon them, since it is not otherwise transmitted.
3. That this should be done by a branch of the house of David.
That family which he and his kingdom had despised and treacherously
deserted should recover so much power as to demolish that altar which
he thought to establish; so that right and truth should at length
prevail, both in civil and sacred matters, notwithstanding the present
triumphs of those that were given to change the fear both of God and
the king. It was about 356 years ere this prediction was fulfilled,
yet it was spoken of as sure and nigh at hand, for a thousand years
with God are but as one day. Nothing more contingent and arbitrary than
the giving of names to persons, yet Josiah was here named above 300
years before he was born. Nothing future is hidden from God. There are
names in the book of the divine prescience
names written in heaven.
III. A sign is given for the confirming of the truth of this
prediction, that the altar should be shaken to pieces by an invisible
power and the ashes of the sacrifice scattered
(1 Kings 13:3),
which came to pass immediately,
1 Kings 13:5.
1. A proof that the prophet was sent of God, who confirmed the word
with this sign following,
2. A present indication of God's displeasure against these idolatrous
sacrifices. How could the gift be acceptable when the altar that should
sanctify it was an abomination?
3. It was a reproach to the people, whose hearts were harder than these
stones and rent not under the word of the Lord.
4. It was a specimen of what should be done to it in the accomplishment
of this prophecy by Josiah; it was now rent, in token of its being then
IV. Jeroboam's hand withered, which he stretched out to seize or smite
the man of God,
1 Kings 13:4.
Instead of trembling at the message, as he might well have done, he
assaulted him that brought it, in defiance of the wrath of which he was
warned and contempt of that grace which sent him the warning. Rebuke
a sinner and he will hate thee, and do thee a mischief if he
can; yet God's prophets must rather expose themselves than betray their
trust: he that employs them will protect them, and restrain the wrath
of man, as he did Jeroboam's here by withering his hand, so that he
could neither hurt the prophet nor draw it in to help himself. When his
hand was stretched out to burn incense to his calves it was not
withered; but, when it is stretched out against a prophet, he shall
have no use of it till he humble himself. Of all the wickedness of the
wicked there is none more provoking to God than their malicious
attempts against his prophets, of whom he has said, Touch them not,
do them no harm. As this was a punishment of Jeroboam, and
answering to the sin, so it was the deliverance of the prophet. God has
many ways of disabling the enemies of his church from executing their
mischievous purposes. Jeroboam's inability to pull in his hand made him
a spectacle to all about him, that they might see and fear. If God, in
justice, harden the hearts of sinners, so that the hand they have
stretched out in sin they cannot pull in again by repentance, that is a
spiritual judgment, represented by this, and much more dreadful.
V. The sudden healing of the hand that was suddenly dried up, upon his
1 Kings 13:6.
That word of God which should have touched his conscience humbled him
not, but this which touched his bone and his flesh brings down
his proud spirit. He looks for help now,
1. Not from his calves, but from God only, from his power and his
favour. He wounded, and no hand but his can make whole.
2. Not by his own sacrifice or incense, but by the prayer and
intercession of the prophet, whom he had just now threatened and aimed
to destroy. The time may come when those that hate the preaching would
be glad of the prayers of faithful ministers. "Pray to the Lord thy
God," says Jeroboam; "thou hast an interest in him; improve it for me."
But observe, He did not desire the prophet to pray that his sin might
be pardoned, and his heart changed, only that his hand might be
restored; thus Pharaoh would have Moses to pray that God would
take away this death only
not this sin. The prophet, as became a man of God, renders good
for evil, upbraids not Jeroboam with his impotent malice, nor triumphs
in his submission, but immediately addresses himself to God for him.
Those only are entitled to the blessing Christ pronounced on the
persecuted that learn of him to pray for their persecutors,
When the prophet thus honoured God, by showing himself of a forgiving
spirit, God put this further honour upon him, that at his word he
recalled the judgment and by another miracle healed the withered hand,
that by the goodness of God Jeroboam might be led to repentance, and,
if he were not broken by the judgment, yet might be melted by the
mercy. With both he seemed affected for the present, but the
impressions wore off.
VI. The prophet's refusal of Jeroboam's kind invitation, in which
1. That God forbade his messenger to eat or drink in Beth-el
(1 Kings 13:9),
to show his detestation of their execrable idolatry and apostasy from
God, and to teach us not to have fellowship with the works of darkness,
lest we have infection from them or give encouragement to them. He must
not turn back the same way, but deliver his message, as it were,
in transitu--as he passes along. He shall not seem to be
sent on purpose (they were unworthy such a favour), but as if he only
called by the way, his spirit being stirred, like Paul's at Athens, as
he passed and saw their devotions. God would, by this command,
try his prophet, as he did Ezekiel, whether he would not be
rebellious, like that rebellious house,
2. That Jeroboam was so affected with the cure of his hand that though
we read not of his thanksgivings to God for the mercy, or of his
sending an offering to the altar at Jerusalem in acknowledgment of it,
yet he was willing to express his gratitude to the prophet and pay him
for his prayers,
1 Kings 13:7.
Favours to the body will make even graceless men seem grateful to good
3. That the prophet, though hungry and weary, and perhaps poor, in
obedience to the divine command refused both the entertainment and the
reward proffered him. He might have supposed his acceptance of it would
give him an opportunity of discoursing further with the king, in order
to his effectual reformation, now that he was convinced; yet he will
not think himself wiser than God, but, like a faithful careful
messenger, hastens home when he has done his errand. Those have little
learned the lessons of self-denial that cannot forbear one forbidden
|The Prophet Deceived.
||B. C. 974.|
11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came
and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day
in Beth-el: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they
told also to their father.
12 And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his
sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from
13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they
saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under
an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that
camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with
thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this
17 For it was said to me by 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.
18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and
an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him
back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink
water. But he lied unto him.
19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house,
and drank water.
20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word
of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back:
21 And he cried 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,
22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the
place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and
drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of
The man of God had honestly and resolutely refused the king's
invitation, though he promised him a reward; yet he was over-persuaded
by an old prophet to come back with him, and dine in Beth-el, contrary
to the command given him. Here we find how dearly his dinner cost him.
Observe with wonder,
I. The old prophet's wickedness. I cannot but call him a false prophet
and a bad man, it being much easier to believe that from one of such a
bad character should be extorted a confirmation of what the man of God
said (as we find,
1 Kings 13:32)
than that a true prophet, and a good man, should tell such a deliberate
lie as he did, and father it upon God. A good tree could never
bring forth such corrupt fruit. Perhaps he was trained up among the
sons of the prophets, in one of Samuel's colleges not far off, whence
he retained the name of a prophet, but, growing worldly and profane,
the spirit of prophecy had departed from him. If he had been a good
prophet he would have reproved Jeroboam's idolatry, and not have
suffered his sons to attend his altars, as, it should seem, they did.
1. Whether he had any good design in fetching back the man of God is
not certain. One may hope that he did it in compassion to him,
concluding he wanted refreshment, and out of a desire to be better
acquainted with him and more fully to understand his errand than he
could from the report of his sons; yet his sons having told him all
that passed, and particularly that the prophet was forbidden to eat or
drink there, which he had openly told Jeroboam, I suppose it was done
with a bad design, to draw him into a snare, and so to expose him; for
false prophets have ever been the worst enemies to the true prophets,
usually aiming to destroy them, but sometimes, as here, to debauch them
and draw them from their duty. Thus they gave the Nazarites wine to
that they might glory in their fall. But,
2. It is certain that he took a very bad method to bring him back. When
the man of God had told him, "I may not, and therefore I will not,
return to eat bread with thee" (his resolutions concurring with the
1 Kings 13:16,17),
he wickedly pretended that he had an order from heaven to fetch him
back. He imposed upon him by asserting his quondam character as a
prophet: I am a prophet also as thou art; he pretended he had a
vision of an angel that sent him on this errand. But it was all a lie;
it was a banter upon prophecy, and profane in the highest degree. When
this old prophet is spoken of
(2 Kings 23:18)
he is called the prophet that came out of Samaria, whereas there
was no such place as Samaria till long after,
1 Kings 16:24.
Therefore I take it he is so called there, though he was of Beth-el,
because he was like those who were afterwards the prophets of
Samaria, who caused God's people Israel to err,
II. The good prophet's weakness, in suffering himself to be thus
imposed upon: He went back with him,
1 Kings 13:19.
He that had resolution enough to refuse the invitation of the king, who
promised him a reward, could not resist the insinuations of one that
pretended to be a prophet. God's people are more in danger of being
drawn from their duty by the plausible pretences of divinity and
sanctity than by external inducements; we have therefore need to
beware of false prophets, and not believe every
III. The proceedings of divine justice hereupon; and here we may well
wonder that the wicked prophet, who told the lie and did the mischief,
went unpunished, while the holy man of God, that was drawn by him into
sin, was suddenly and severely punished for it. What shall we make of
this! The judgments of God are unfathomable. The deceived and the
deceiver are his, and he giveth not account of any of his
matters. Certainly there must be a judgment to come, when these
things will be called over again, and when those that sinned most and
suffered least, in this world, will receive according to their works.
1. The message delivered to the man of God was strange. His crime is
1 Kings 13:21,22.
It was, in one word, disobedience to an express command. Judgment is
given upon it: Thy carcase shall not come to the sepulchre of thy
fathers, that is, "Thou shalt never reach thy own house, but shalt
be a carcase quickly, nor shall thy dead body be brought to the
place of thy fathers' sepulchres, to be interred."
2. Yet it was more strange that the old prophet himself should be the
messenger. Of this we can give no account but that God would have it
so, as he spoke to Balaam by his ass and read Saul his doom by the
devil in Samuel's likeness. We may think God designed hereby,
(1.) To startle the lying prophet, and make him sensible of his sin.
The message could not but affect him the more when he himself had the
delivering of it, and had so strong an impression made upon his spirit
by it that he cried out, as one in an agony,
1 Kings 13:21.
He had reason to think, if he must die for his disobedience in a small
matter who sinned by surprise, of how much sorer punishment he should
be thought worthy who had belied an angel of God and cheated a man of
God by a deliberate forgery. If this were done to the green tree,
what shall be done to the dry? Perhaps it had a good effect upon
him. Those who preach God's wrath to others have hard hearts indeed if
they fear it not themselves.
(2.) To put the greater mortification upon the prophet that was
deceived, and to show what those must expect who hearken to the great
deceiver. Those that yield to him as a tempter will be terrified by him
as a tormentor; whom he now fawns upon he will afterwards fly upon, and
whom he now draws into sin he will do what he can to drive to
|The Deceived Prophet Slain.
||B. C. 974.|
23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he
had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the
prophet whom he had brought back.
24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew
him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by
it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
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.
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 unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath
delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him,
according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him.
27 And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And
they saddled him.
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 the ass.
29 And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and
laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet
came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.
30 And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned
over him, saying, Alas, my brother!
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 wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside
32 For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD
against the altar in Beth-el, and against all the houses of the
high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely
come to pass.
33 After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way,
but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high
places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one
of the priests of the high places.
34 And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even
to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the
I. The death of the deceived disobedient prophet. The old prophet that
had deluded him, as if he would make him some amends for the wrong he
had done him or help to prevent the mischief threatened him, furnished
him with an ass to ride home on; but by the way a lion set upon him,
and killed him,
1 Kings 13:23,24.
He did but return back to refresh himself when he was hungry, and
behold he must die for it; see
1 Samuel 14:43.
But we must consider,
1. That his offence was great, and it would by no means justify him
that he was drawn into it by a lie; he could not be so certain of the
countermand sent by another as he was of the command given to himself,
nor had he any ground to think that the command would be recalled, when
the reason of it remained in force, which was that he might testify his
detestation of the wickedness of that place. He had great reason to
suspect the honesty of this old prophet, who did not himself bear his
testimony, nor did God think fit to make use of him as a witness
against the idolatry of the city he lived in. However, he should have
taken time to beg direction from God, and not have complied so soon.
Did he think this old prophet's house safer to eat in than other houses
at Beth-el, when God had forbidden him to eat in any? That was to
refine upon the command, and make himself wiser than God. Did he think
to excuse himself that he was hungry? Had he never read that man
lives not by bread alone?
2. That his death was for the glory of God; for by this it appeared,
(1.) That nothing is more provoking to him than disobedience to an
express command, though in a small matter, which makes his proceedings
against our first parents, for eating the forbidden fruit, the easier
to be accounted for.
(2.) That God is displeased at the sins of his own people, and no man
shall be protected in disobedience by the sanctity of his profession,
the dignity of his office, his nearness to God, or any good services he
has done for him. Perhaps God by this intended, in a way of righteous
judgment, to harden Jeroboam's heart, since he was not reformed by the
withering of his hand; for he would be apt to make a bad use of it, and
to say that the prophet was well enough served for meddling with his
altar, he had better have staid at home; any, he would say that
Providence had punished him for his insolence, and the lion had done
that which his withered hand might not do. However, by this God
intended to warn all those whom he employs strictly to observe their
orders, at their peril.
II. The wonderful preservation of his dead body, which was a token of
God's mercy remembered in the midst of wrath. The lion that gently
strangled him, or tore him, did not devour his dead body, nor so much
as tear the ass,
1 Kings 13:24-26.
Nay, what was more, he did not set upon the travellers that passed by
and saw it, nor upon the old prophet (who had reason enough to fear it)
when he came to take up the corpse. His commission was to kill the
prophet; hitherto he should go, but no further. Thus God showed that,
though he was angry with him, his anger was turned away, and the
punishment went no further than death.
III. The care which the old prophet took of his burial. When he heard
of this unusual accident, he concluded it was the man of God, who
was disobedient to his Master (and whose fault was that?),
therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion,
1 Kings 13:26.
It would well have become him to ask why the lion was not sent against
him and his house, rather than against the good man whom he had
cheated. He took up the corpse,
1 Kings 13:29.
If there by any truth in the vulgar opinion, surely the corpse bled
afresh when he touched it, for he was in effect the murderer, and it
was but a poor reparation for the injury to inter the dead body.
Perhaps when he cheated him into his ruin he intended to laugh at him;
yet now his conscience so far relents that he weeps over him, and, like
Joab at Abner's funeral, is compelled to be a mourner for him whom he
had been the death of. They said, Alas! my brother,
1 Kings 13:30.
The case was indeed very lamentable that so good a man, a prophet so
faithful, and so bold in God's cause, should, for one offence, die as a
criminal, while an old lying prophet lives at ease and an idolatrous
prince in pomp and power. Thy way, O God! is in the sea, and thy
path in the great waters. We cannot judge of men by their
sufferings, nor of sins by their present punishments; with some the
flesh is destroyed that the spirit may be saved, while with others the
flesh is pampered that the soul may ripen for hell.
IV. The charge which the old prophet gave his sons concerning his own
burial, that they should be sure to bury him in the same grave where
the man of God was buried
(1 Kings 13:31):
"Lay my bones beside his bones, close by them, as near as may
be, so that my dust may mingle with his." Though he was a lying
prophet, yet he desired to die the death of a true prophet.
"Gather not my soul with the sinners of Beth-el, but with the man of
God." The reason he gives is because what he cried against the altar
of Beth-el, that men's bones should be burnt upon it, shall
surely come to pass,
1 Kings 13:32.
1. He ratifies the prediction, that out of the mouth of two
witnesses (and one of them such a one as St. Paul quotes,
one of themselves, even a prophet of their own) the word
might be established, if possible to convince and reclaim Jeroboam.
2. He does honour to the deceased prophet, as one whose word
would not fall to the ground, though he did. Ministers die, die
prematurely it may be; but the word of the Lord endures for ever, and
does not die with them.
3. He consults his own interest. It was foretold that men's bones
should be burnt upon Jeroboam's altar: "Lay mine (says he) close to
his, and then they will not be disturbed;" and it was, accordingly,
their security, as we find,
2 Kings 23:18.
Sleeping and waking, living and dying, it is safe being in good
company. No mention is made here of the inscription on the prophet's
tomb; but it is spoken of
2 Kings 23:17,
where Josiah asks, What title is that? and is told, It is the
sepulchre of the man of God that came from Judah, who proclaimed these
things which thou hast done; so that the epitaph upon the prophet's
grave preserved the remembrance of his prophecy, and was a standing
testimony against the idolatries of Beth-el, which it would not have
been so remarkably if he had died and been buried elsewhere. The cities
of Israel are here called cities of Samaria, though that name
was not yet known; for, however the old prophet spoke, the inspired
historian wrote in the language of his own time.
V. The obstinacy of Jeroboam in his idolatry
(1 Kings 13:33):
He returned not from his evil way; some hand was found that
durst repair the altar God had rent, and then Jeroboam offered
sacrifice on it again, and the more boldly because the prophet who
disturbed him before was in his grave
and because the prophecy was for a great while to come. Various methods
had been used to reclaim him, but neither threats nor signs, neither
judgments nor mercies, wrought upon him, so strangely was he wedded to
his calves. He did not reform, no, not his priesthood, but whoever
would, he filled his hand, and made him priest, though ever so
illiterate or immoral, and of what tribe soever; and this became
sin, that is, a snare first, and then a ruin, to Jeroboam's house,
to cut if off,
1 Kings 13:34.
Note, The diminution, disquiet, and desolation of families, are the
fruit of sin; he promised himself that the calves would secure the
crown to his family, but it proved they lost it, and sunk his family.
Those betray themselves that think by any sin to support