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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

1 Kings 13

Verse 1

Rather, “in the word of the Lord.” The meaning seems to be, not merely that the prophet was bid to come, but that he came in the strength and power of God’s word, a divinely inspired messenger. (Compare 1 Kings 13:2, 1 Kings 13:5,1 Kings 13:32.)

By the altar - “On the altar;” i, e. on the ledge, or platform, halfway up the altar, whereupon the officiating priest always stood to sacrifice. Compare 1 Kings 12:32 note.

Verse 2

A child shall be born ... Josiah by name - Divine predictions so seldom descend to such particularity as this, that doubts are entertained, even by orthodox theologians, with respect to the actual mention of Josiah’s name by a prophet living in the time of Jeroboam. Only one other instance that can be considered parallel occurs in the whole of Scripture - the mention of Cyrus by Isaiah. Of course no one who believes in the divine foreknowledge can doubt that God could, if He chose, cause events to be foretold minutely by his prophets; but certainly the general law of his Providence is, that He does not do so. If this law is to be at any time broken through, it will not be capriciously. Here it certainly does not appear what great effect was to be produced by the mention of Josiah’s name so long before his birth; and hence, a doubt arises whether we have in our present copies the true original text. The sense is complete without the words “Josiah by name;” and these words, if originally a marginal note, may easily have crept into the text by the mistake of a copyist. It is remarkable that, where this narrative is again referred to in Kings (marginal reference), there is no allusion to the fact that the man of God had prophesied of Josiah “by name.”

Verse 3

He gave a sign - A sign of this kind - an immediate prophecy to prove the divine character of a remote prophecy - had scarcely been given before this. In the later history, however, such signs are not unfrequent (compare 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:14-16).

The ashes ... shall be poured out - i. e., “The half-burnt remains of the offerings shall be ignominiously spilled upon the ground.”

Verse 5

We need not suppose a complete shattering of the altar, but rather the appearance of a crack or fissure in the fabric, which, extending from top to bottom, caused the embers and the fragments of the victims to fall until they reached the ground.

Verse 7

I will give thee a reward - It was customary to honor a prophet with a gift, if he performed any service that was requested at his hands (see the marginal references).

Verse 9

Eat no bread, nor drink water - The reason of the command is evident. The man of God was not to accept the hospitality of any dweller at Bethel, in order to show in a marked way, which men generally could appreciate, God’s abhorrence of the system which Jeroboam had “devised of his own heart.”

Nor turn again by the same way that thou camest - This command seems to have been given simply to test the obedience of the prophet by laying him under a positive as well as a moral obligation.

Verse 11

The truly pious Israelites quitted their homes when Jeroboam made his religious changes, and, proceeding to Jerusalem, strengthened the kingdom of Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 10:16-17. This “old prophet” therefore, who, without being infirm in any way, had remained under Jeroboam, and was even content to dwell at Bethel - the chief seat of the new worship - was devoid of any deep and earnest religious feeling.

Verse 14

Under an oak - literally, “under the oak,” or “the terebinth-tree.” There was a single well-known tree of the kind, standing by itself in the vicinity of Bethel, which the author supposed his readers to be acquainted with.

Verse 18

But he lied unto him - It is always to be remembered that the prophetic gift might co-exist with various degrees of moral imperfection in the person possessing it. Note especially the case of Balaam.

Verse 21

Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord - It was his duty not to have suffered himself to be persuaded. He should have felt that his obedience was being tried, and should have required, ere he considered himself released, “the same, or as strong, evidence,” as that on which he had received the obligation. Disobedience to certain positive commands of God, was one which it was at this time very important to punish signally, since it was exactly the sin of Jeroboam and his adherents.

Verse 22

On the anxiety of the Hebrews to be buried with their fathers, see Genesis 47:30; Genesis 49:29, Genesis 49:1,Gen 49:25; 2 Samuel 19:37, etc.

Verse 28

The lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass - These strange circumstances were of a nature to call men’s attention to the matter, and cause the whole story to be bruited abroad. By these means an incident, which Jeroboam would have wished hushed up, became no doubt the common talk of the whole people.

Verse 30

He laid his carcase in his own grave - As Joseph of Arimathaea did the body of our Lord Matthew 27:60. The possession of rock-hewn tombs by families, or individuals, was common among the Jews from their first entrance into the holy land to their final expulsion. A sepulchre usually consisted of an underground apartment, into which opened a number of long, narrow “loculi,” or cells, placed side by side, each adapted to receive one body. The cells were 6 or 7 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet high. They were commonly closed by a stone placed at the end of each. Many such tombs still exist in Palestine.

Verse 32

Against all the houses of the high places - i. e., more than the two high places at Dan and Bethel. There were many lesser high places in the land, several of which would be likely to be in Israel 1 Kings 3:4.

In the cities of Samaria - The word Samaria cannot have been employed by the old prophet, in whose days Samaria did not exist 1 Kings 16:24. The writer of Kings has substituted for the term used by him that whereby the country was known in his own day.

Verse 33

Whosoever would, he consecrated him - i. e., he exercised no discretion, but allowed anyone to become a priest, without regard to birth, character, or social position. We may suspect from this that the office was not greatly sought, since no civil governor who cared to set up a priesthood would wish to degrade it in public estimation. Jeroboam did impose one limitation, which would have excluded the very poorest class. The candidate for consecration was obliged to make an offering consisting of one young bullock and seven rams 2 Chronicles 13:9.

Verse 34

This persistence in wrong, after the warning given him, brought a judgment, not only on Jeroboam himself, but on his family. Jeroboam’s departure from the path of right forfeited the crown 1 Kings 11:38; and in that forfeiture was involved naturally the destruction of his family, for in the East, as already observed, when one dynasty supplants another, the ordinary practice is for the new king to destroy all the males belonging to the house of his predecessor. See 1 Kings 15:29.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-13.html. 1870.