New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

1Ki 13:1 There came a man of God out of Judah by the word of Yahweh to Beth El: and Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense-
This prophet would have been tempted to reason that he need not make this long and dangerous journey; for after all, the ten tribes had chosen to secede from Judah. But we learn here of our responsibility to all our brethren, even if they have separated from us wrongfully. And this prophet was willing to risk death to do so (:4).

1Ki 13:2 He cried against the altar by the word of Yahweh and said, Altar, altar, thus says Yahweh: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name. On you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and they will burn men’s bones on you’-
The fulfillment came 330 years later (2 Kings 23:15,16). This is one of the few prophecies which apparently had no short term fulfilment to validate it; but there was therefore a dramatic sign given at the time (:3).

1Ki 13:3 He gave a sign the same day saying, This is the sign which Yahweh has spoken: Behold, the altar will be split apart, and the ashes that are on it will be poured out-
LXX and Hebrew "fat" instead of "ashes". "Split" is the word used for the 'rending' of the kingdom from Judah to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:13,30,31). But the lesson was that Jeroboam's false religious system would now be rent apart. The potential promised to Jeroboam of becoming king of the 'split / rent' kingdom on God's behalf, experiencing the fulfilment of God's promises to David (1 Kings 11:38) had now in turn been rent. 

1Ki 13:4 It happened, when the king heard the saying of the man of God which he cried against the altar in Bethel, that Jeroboam put out his hand from the altar, saying, Seize him! His hand, which he put out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back again to himself-
Jeroboam's reaction to the prophet was exactly that of Saul to David and Solomon to Jeroboam. They all thought that their action in murdering people could somehow stop the fulfilment of God's word. Jeroboam's action is a typical example of anger with the messenger because of the message. And we experience this often in our preaching of God's word to others.

1Ki 13:5 The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of Yahweh-
I noted on :2 that the prophecy about Josiah was not to be fulfilled for 330 years. But most prophecies had a short term fulfilment, for according to the Mosaic law, this was how a prophet could be tested and validated. Therefore this dramatic sign was given. An earthquake or earth tremour split the altar, and the ashes or "fat" fell to the ground. 

1Ki 13:6 The king answered the man of God, Now entreat the favour of Yahweh your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me again. The man of God entreated Yahweh, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before-
The prayer of the man of God caused Jeroboam’s hand to be healed. But he used the words of Pharaoh to Moses: "Pray for me...". The prayers of someone else can affect the fortunes of another in a way which would not happen if they just prayed for themselves. The Corinthians “helped… by prayer for us” (2 Cor. 1:11)- as if Paul’s unaided prayers had less power than when the Corinthians were praying for him too. we note Jeroboam refers to "Yahweh your God". Despite all his cleverly planned allusions to Yahweh worship in his new religious system, and his awareness of Yahweh's word- Yahweh was not his God. We marvel that a man can experience an absolute miracle- and still not be convicted of Yahweh as his God. This is further evidence against the Pentecostal idea that miracles are necessary in order to elicit faith. The Bible is full of examples of where they do not do so.

1Ki 13:7 The king said to the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward-
"Home" was presumably to Shechem. For they were at Bethel at the time. Jeroboam still saw things in a very materialistic way, reasoning as did Saul (1 Sam. 9:7), and had utterly failed to appreciate the great spiritual potentials offered to him in 1 Kings 11:38. We see internal corroboration of the record in the character presentation of Jeroboam; in 1 Kings 13:7 and also 1 Kings 14:3, Jeroboam thinks that prophets must be paid for their services.

1Ki 13:8 The man of God said to the king, Even if you gave me half of your house, I would not go in with you, neither would I eat bread nor drink water in this place-
The prophet is tempted to break the commandment received not to do so (:9), but he overcomes it. He is then to be tested in a similar way again, and he fails it. God tests us and then repeats the test, that we might learn; or that our apparent obedience may be tested and proven to ourselves as real.

1Ki 13:9 for so was it commanded me by the word of Yahweh saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, neither return by the way that you came’-
There was possibly the idea that eating and drinking together with others was a sign of religious fellowship (1 Cor. 5:11). But likely the prophet was being empowered miraculously as Elijah was later, to make a journey in God's strength. And the lack of food and water was to make him closer to God through fasting. Bethel was south of Shechem, so the prophet coming from Judah would not have travelled on this road. Perhaps the command not to return was because God wanted the prophet not to be delayed by people who had seen him coming wanting to congratulate him or otherwise delay him on his return journey. His whole period outside the border of Judah was to be without eating or drinking, so he was being told to make the journey as quickly as possible, and not allow himself to be delayed.

1Ki 13:10 So he went another way, and didn’t return by the way that he came to Bethel-
See on :9. However the exact reason for this is unclear. It may have been just a simple test. The first part of the commandment, not to eat food, he had obeyed. Now he was to be tested regarding the second part of the commandment.

1Ki 13:11 Now there lived an old prophet in Bethel; and one of his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king-
The prophet was returning to Judah, so he was moving south of Bethel. To go back to Bethel would require him to return by the way he had come, in spirit, although he may have argued that seeing he was travelling a different road back home (:10), his return to Bethel by that road was not strictly returning by "the way that he came to Bethel". But such legalism leads into sin, as we see here. We wonder why this prophet was still in Bethel and had not joined the Levites in going to live in Judah. Perhaps it was because he was old. Yet his subsequent behaviour makes us wonder whether he was in fact a prophet of Yahweh, or just a "prophet" in a general sense.

1Ki 13:12 Their father said to them, Which way did he go? Now his sons had seen which way the man of God went, who came from Judah-
We note the emphasis upon "the way". He had been told by his sons all the words spoken (:11), so he knew the prophet from Judah was not to eat or drink, nor return by "the way" he had come. Perhaps as discussed on :11 he reasoned that returning to his house would not be returning by the way the prophet had come to Bethel- because he was on a different route. But knowing he had been forbidden to eat and drink, it was surely wrong of him to fake a word from Yahweh commanding him now to eat and drink. Perhaps he reasoned that the command not to eat and drink meant not to do so with Jeroboam. We can see the wrong thinking which his legalism led him to.

1Ki 13:13 He said to his sons, Saddle the donkey for me. So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it-
The focus of the Divine cameraman is zoomed in close up. Sometimes we have scant detail, at others, such as this, we get much detail. We are thereby invited to imagine what the man was thinking as they saddled the donkey and he mounted it, and why he was doing this...

1Ki 13:14 He went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. He said to him, Are you the man of God who came from Judah? He said, I am-
If he had not eaten nor drunken, he was presumably tired. This would militate against my earlier suggestion that he was given miraculous power with which to make the journey without eating or drinking.

1Ki 13:15 Then he said to him, Come home with me, and eat bread-
We naturally ponder the man's motives. He faked a word of Yahweh, and yet is not so dramatically punished as the brave prophet from Judah who had done what he ought to have done, if he were a true prophet of Yahweh. Perhaps on the other hand, he realized this, and desperately wanted to show his respect to this prophet who was braver than he. So desperate that he faked a word from Yahweh. And yet that weakness was used by God to test the prophet from Judah. We marvel at the Divine ecology revealed in all this. The situation gets the less strange the more we think about it. For this kind of mixed motive is quite imaginable.  

1Ki 13:16 He said, I may not return with you, nor go in with you; neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place-
"This place" presumably refers to the ten tribes, although perhaps Bethel and its environs is specifically in view.

1Ki 13:17 For it was said to me by the word of Yahweh, ‘You shall eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that you came’-
By taking a different route home, the prophet had fulfilled this. But he rightly interpreted the spirit of it as meaning that he must not return at all by any road he had travelled on.

1Ki 13:18 He said to him, I also am a prophet as you are; and an angel spoke to me by the word of Yahweh, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house, that he may eat bread and drink water’. He lied to him-
The whole incident underlines the importance of personal relationship with God. If we are given a word from the Lord to do something, we are to do it, and not let that be overridden by the words of others, even if they claim to also be reasoning according to God's word. Our personal understanding of God's word is to be utterly paramount. No matter how apparently credible is another argument against it. And we must remember that the man had not eaten nor drunk for some time, and was resting, exhausted, beneath a tree (:14). Perhaps in his weakness he wondered whether this was God's way of sustaining him. But God will not send help to us in any way which so fragrantly breaks His own word to us.

1Ki 13:19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water-
LXX "So he turned him back". The problem with what he did was that the prophet of Judah's word to Jeroboam now appeared compromised. For Jeroboam had tried to seize him after his condemnation of the altar, but had been stopped. But now it seemed God had intervened to slay His prophet, and so there was no need to take his word seriously.

1Ki 13:20 It happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of Yahweh came to the prophet who brought him back-
Whether or not this old man was a true prophet of Yahweh, he was used to speak Yahweh's word to the prophet of Judah.

1Ki 13:21 and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying-
"Cried" is s.w. in :2 for how the prophet cried against Jeroboam for his disobedience. For all his bravery, he was no better; at least in this moment of his life. He is condemned to death, not perhaps because he will not be saved, but as a lesson for us as to the importance of very personal obedience to God's word. The old prophet apparently sinned worse, but wasn't immediately slain. That point is so obvious in the story, and we are surely to conclude from it that sometimes men are punished with death for far 'less', apparently, than others sin. We think of Uzzah being slain for touching the ark in an apparently well meaning way, and David preserved after the sin with Uriah. The outcomes of our sins are sometimes so that others may hopefully learn something. Everything in our lives is so multi factorial. See on :24. 

Thus says Yahweh, ‘Because you have been disobedient to the mouth of Yahweh, and have not kept the commandment which Yahweh your God commanded you-
God's word is His actual word. The prophet heard "the mouth of Yahweh". And those words have been recorded. When we read His word, we hear His voice. Jeremiah spoke "from the mouth of the Lord" (2 Chron. 36:12). His word brings Him that near to us, if we will perceive it for what it is. Jeremiah also was "disobedient to the mouth of Yahweh" (same phrase in Lam. 1:18), but wasn't immediately slain; see commentary on the first half of this verse.

1Ki 13:22 but came back, and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, Eat no bread, and drink no water; your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers’-
"The place" was the apostate area of the ten tribes, and Bethel in particular. The old prophet's house is included within that, another indication that he was perhaps not untainted by the apostacy around him. On :30 I will note that the prophet's body didn't come to the tomb of his fathers, but rather to the tomb of the old prophet. But this came about through the old prophet's deep respect for the prophet of Judah.

1Ki 13:23 It happened, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back-
His sons had saddled the donkey for their father, but now the old prophet, despite his age, does this menial task for the prophet of Judah, as a sign of respect. We note that the old prophet carries the blame- "he had brought back" the prophet of Judah, resulting in his death.

1Ki 13:24 When he had gone, a lion met him by the way, and killed him. His body was cast in the way, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the body-
I suggested on :21 that the apparently harsh judgment of the prophet was in order to teach others a lesson. And so the manner of his death advertised this. The lion killed him, but didn't eat him. Nor did he touch the donkey. Lions kill to eat, but this lion didn't eat the prophet. And it was all done in such a public manner (:25). Everyone would know that this was a judicial death from Yahweh. And they would have marvelled at His insistence upon personal obedience to Him, and not following anyone even if they falsely claimed to speak in Yahweh's Name. The equivalent of the old prophet was Jeroboam, who was setting up another religion on the basis of falsely representing Yahweh's word. 

1Ki 13:25 Behold, men passed by, and saw the body cast in the way, and the lion standing by the body; and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived-
See on :24. The public nature of the strange slaying would have been gossiped far and wide, as it was such an unusual scene that was described. For everyone knew that lions kill only to eat.

1Ki 13:26 When the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God who was disobedient to the mouth of Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh has delivered him to the lion, which has mauled him and slain him, according to the word of Yahweh, which He spoke to him-
The old prophet realized that he had been merely a channel. He doesn't say "the word of Yahweh which I spoke to him", but rather "which He spoke to him". "Mauled" is 'ripped', and the same Hebrew phrase for "mauled / ripped and slain" is used of the death of Eli, also by Divine judgment (1 Sam. 4:18). As the altar had been ripped (:3), showing how the kingdom had been ripped from Jeroboam as it had been from Solomon, so now the prophet of Judah was ripped or torn by the lion. He is presented as representative of Jeroboam and all disobedient to God's word. 

1Ki 13:27 He spoke to his sons saying, Saddle the donkey for me. They saddled it-
The repeated emphasis upon saddling donkeys in this story (:13,23,27) may be to connect with how the false prophet Balaam likewise saddled his ass and disobeyed God's word (Num. 22:21 s.w.). 

1Ki 13:28 He went and found his body cast in the way, and the donkey and the lion standing by the body. The lion had not eaten the body, nor mauled the donkey-
There was a fair chance that the old prophet would be killed by the lion, and realizing he too deserved Divine judgment for faking His word, he went there prepared to be slain too. He went therefore out of very deep respect, willing to pay with his life for that respect.

1Ki 13:29 The prophet took up the body of the man of God, and laid it on the donkey, and brought it back. He came to the city of the old prophet to mourn, and to bury him-
The old prophet, despite his age, travelled the road which the prophet of Judah would have travelled had he survived. This was a sign of identity with the prophet of Judah, again indicating that he felt this man had done what he ought to have done. 

1Ki 13:30 He laid his body in his own grave; and they mourned over him saying, Alas, my brother!-
It seems that the old prophet kept the body, laid it in the grave prepared for himself, and then went to the old prophet's city to mourn there (:29). This keeping of the body is unusual and may suggest the prophet had no living family. Again we see the Divine economy in how things worked out; for the old prophet's desire to identify himself with the death of the prophet of Judah, placing that man's body where his should have gone, resulted in the fulfilment of God's judgment of :22.

1Ki 13:31 It happened, after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb in which the man of God is buried. Lay my bones beside his bones-
This was a final act of identity with the prophet of Judah. The old prophet shows himself to be sincere in his devotion to God's word and the cause of the prophet. Despite faking Yahweh's word and bringing that prophet to his death. We see here what we are confronted by in our own lives and those around us- a sincere belief in Yahweh and genuine love of His ways, despite terrible failure at specific points (such as his faking of Yahweh's word and thereby leading a good prophet to his death), as well as general failure to attain our highest potentials (in this case, the old prophet ought to have delivered the message to Jeroboam, since he lived in Bethel. But he didn't). LXX adds "in order that my bones may be preserved along with his bones", suggesting he believed in a resurrection of the body for them both, by grace.  

1Ki 13:32 For the saying which he cried by the word of Yahweh against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, will surely happen-
This may imply that the prophet's message was against the other high places as well. The city of Samaria is not in view, but the towns in the region of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24). "Will surely happen" was faith indeed, for Josiah didn't fulfil the prophecies for another 330 years. The old prophet loved the prophet of Judah for what he had done and for his message, and although he lived in Bethel and was likely to be persecuted by Jeroboam for his stance, the death of the prophet from Judah inspired him to speak out as he ought to have done earlier. 

1Ki 13:33 After this thing Jeroboam didn’t return from his evil way-
The implication may be that he could have done, according to the spiritual potential he had explained on 1 Kings 11:38.

But again made priests of the high places from among all the people. Whoever wanted to, he consecrated him, that there might be priests of the high places-
"Again" doing this suggests the incident with his hand withering and then the subsequent slaying of the prophet were all intended to make him stop and change his policy. But he didn't.

1Ki 13:34 This thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the surface of the earth
The language here is slightly strange, as if the sin became sin and the sin was intended to destroy them. The idea is that God confirms people in their sins, and sin has its own downward dynamic, leading to destruction.