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A SOLEMN MESSAGE FROM GOD
God would not leave Jereboam without clear witness to God's abhorrence of the evil that Jereboam had introduced in Israel. The Lord sent a man of God from Judah to Bethel at a time that Jereboam was using his altar to burn incense (v.1). The prophet addressed the altar with a strong voice, "Thus says the Lord, Behold a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David, and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you" (v.2). Before Jereboam had time to speak, the man of God told him, "This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out" (v.3).
Jereboam did not like to be so rudely interrupted in his false worship and he stretched out his hand, giving the order to arrest the man of God. But God abruptly intervened, causing the king's hand to immediately wither and become so paralyzed he could not withdraw it (v.4). But not only that. The sign the man of God spoke of the took place before their eyes: the altar was split apart and the ashes poured out (v.5).
Now it was Jereboam's withered hand that most affected him. The hand would not be helped by the arrest of the man of God, and Jereboam knew that he would now be dependent on the kindness of the prophet if he was to be healed. So he asked him to entreat the Lord that his hand might be restored. The man of God did so, and the Lord graciously answered by immediately healing his hand. What a lesson was here for Jereboam, that God is both a God of truth and a God of grace!
Instead of arresting the prophet, Jereboam invited him to his own home to be refreshed and to receive a reward (v.7)! Ungodly men are often ready to give money or other gifts to God, thinking that God can be bribed to be favorable to them while they remain indifferent to the Word of God.
The man of God refused the king's hospitality, telling him that whatever the king would give him, he would not go into Jereboam's house, nor eat or drink in Bethel. The Word of the Lord had commanded him not to eat or drink in that place, and not to return by the same route he had taken into the city (vs.8-9). The Word of God that Jereboam had despised must not be ignored by the prophet. The prophet then left by a different route.
THE MAN OF GOD DECEIVED
An old prophet lived in Bethel, but he did not have the energy of faith to resist the idolatrous worship of Jereboam. His sons told him of the man of God who came from Judah, what he had done and what he had spoken for the Lord to Jereboam (v.11). These things evidently spoke to the old prophet's conscience and he thought he should have some contact with the man of God from Judah. He and his sons followed the man of God and found him sitting under an oak tree (vs.12-14). If seems, now that he had gotten away from Bethel, he thought he could idly savor the experience in which he had been faithful to God. What a mistake! If he had a proper abhorrence of the evil he prophesied against, would he not have wanted to get far from that scene?
What a lesson for us! At a time when we have done something for the Lord, we are in great danger of being deceived by our self-complacency. When David, after many victories, relaxed on his rooftop when his men went to war, he was drawn away by strong temptation and became guilty of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:1-10.11.27). We today also are warned, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
The old prophet invited the man of God to go home with him for a meal, but the man of God rightly responded that he could not do so, for by the Word of the Lord he must not eat bread or drink water in that place (vs.15-17). The old prophet responded that he also was a prophet and that an angel had spoken to him by the Word of the Lord, telling him to bring the man of God back to his home to eat and drink with him. But this was a deliberate lie (v.18).
Certainly the man of God should not have been deceived by this, for God's Word to him directly was decisive: God would not change His mind. The prophet said an angel had spoken to him, but such second-hand or third-hand messages are not to be compared to the direct Word from God. We too must be careful to cling absolutely to the Word of God, and not be deceived by men who claim to be prophets, as many do today. The man of God accepted the word of the old prophet in preference to the Word of God, and returned with the old prophet to Bethel (v.19).
However, while they were eating, the Lord intervened by giving the old prophet a solemn message for the man of God. He told him, "Thus says the Lord, Because you have disobeyed the Word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but came back, ate bread and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, Eat no bread and drink no water, your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers" (vs.20-22).
At least we might expect the old prophet to apologize for lying but there is no mention of this. But after giving his solemn message to the man of God, he saddled the donkey for him, to send him on his way (v.23). He did not go far, for a lion met him on the road and killed him (v.24). Yet the lion did not try to eat the corpse, nor did it touch the donkey, and the donkey did not run away. Both the lion and the donkey remained standing by the corpse. How strange this would appear to all who saw it! Clearly God had one object in view in this incident, that His servant would be taken away in death!
People passing by witnessed this strange sight and reported it in Bethel. When the old prophet heard of it, he realized the victim must be the man of God, and he went to the spot, possibly with his sons (vs.26-28). He took up the corpse and laid it on a donkey. He evidenced unusual courage in the presence of the lion, but the lion did not interfere (v.29). Taking the body back to Bethel, he buried it in a tomb prepared for himself. The old prophet and his sons were apparently the only mourners. Likely any relatives of the man of God would know nothing of what became of him.
The old prophet instructed his sons that when he died they should bury him in the same grave beside the man of God (v.31), for he knew the prophecy of the man of God against the altar of Jereboam would be fulfilled (v.32). God's testimony remained true in spite of the failure of the messenger.
Jereboam's experience with the man of God, and the message he heard, had no lasting effect on him. He continued in his evil course of idolatry and made priests of anyone he desired, to serve Jereboam's interests in the idolatrous high places (v.33). This glaring sin would call down God's solemn judgment in exterminating the house of Jereboam from the face of the earth (v.34). After this Jereboam became known as the king who made Israel sin (ch.14:16).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany