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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 13

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3029. B.C. 975.

A prophet threatens Jeroboam’s altar, and gives a sign, which immediately comes to pass, 1 Kings 13:1-5 . He restores Jeroboam’s withered hand, and leaves Beth-el, 1 Kings 13:6-10 . The old prophet deceives and entertains him, 1 Kings 13:11-19 . He is threatened with death, 1 Kings 13:20-23 . Slain by a lion and buried, 1 Kings 13:24-32 . Jeroboam is hardened in his idolatry, 1 Kings 13:33 , 1 Kings 13:34 .

Verse 1

1 Kings 13:1. Behold, there came a man of God A holy prophet; for none are called men of God in the Old Testament, but prophets. By the word of the Lord By divine inspiration and command. “There is no foundation for so much as conjecture who this prophet was. His prophecy, however, is one of the most remarkable which we have in sacred writ. It foretels an action that exactly came to pass above three hundred and forty years afterward. It describes the circumstances of the action; and specifies the very name of the person who was to do it; and therefore every considerate Jew, who lived in the time of its accomplishment, must have been convinced of the divine authority of a religion founded on such prophecies as this; since none but God could foresee, and consequently none but God could fore-tel events at such a distance.” Le Clerc, Calmet, and Dodd. Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense Upon the feast day which he had instituted.

Verse 2

1 Kings 13:2. He cried against the altar And consequently against all the worship performed at it. O altar, altar He directs his speech against the altar, because the following signs were to be wrought upon it. Behold, a child shall be born, &c. This prophecy is the more wonderful, because it foretels of what family the child should spring, and what should be his name; and in the accomplishment of it we see the absolute certainty of God’s providence and foreknowledge, even in the most contingent things. For the particulars here mentioned, namely, the having a child, and the giving it this name, were in themselves things as uncertain, dependent on man’s will, and contingent as any events can be: and yet God exactly foretold them, and they came to pass accordingly. God therefore can foresee how the will of man, and of numbers of men, whose wills are dependant on each other, will be influenced in all possible circumstances, and that for ages to come; or, he can certainly and effectually, and yet without infringing or violating man’s liberty, overrule his will which way he pleaseth; otherwise it was possible this prediction might have been false, which it would be blasphemy to assert. Upon it shall he offer the priests The meaning is not that he should offer or burn the priests alive, but that he should slay the priests of the high places, and then burn their bones, as he did the bones of those that had been buried, and thereby should defile this altar. How bold was the man that durst thus attack the king in his pride, and interrupt the solemnity in which he gloried! Those who are sent on God’s errand, must not fear the faces of men. Although it was so many ages ere this prophecy was to be fulfilled, the time is spoken of as sure and nigh at hand. For a thousand years are with God as one day.

Verse 3

1 Kings 13:3. He gave a sign the same day That is, he then wrought a miracle to assure them of the truth of his prophecy. Saying, this is the sign, &c. A proof that I speak from God, and not from myself. The altar shall be rent, &c. This could not be effected but by the power of God, who hereby demonstrated that he had sent this prophet to speak these words which were presently fulfilled.

Verses 4-5

1 Kings 13:4-5. He put forth his hand To point out the man on whom he would have the people to lay hands. From the altar Where he stood, and where his hand was employed in offering something upon it. And his hand dried up Or withered, the muscles and sinews, the instruments of motion, shrinking up or becoming relaxed. This God did, not only to give another token, besides those which the man of God had mentioned, that his words would be fulfilled; but also to chastise Jeroboam for offering violence to the Lord’s prophet; to secure the prophet against further violence, and that in this example God might show how highly he resents the injuries done to his ministers for the faithful discharge of their office. The altar also was rent, &c. This train of miracles, instantly wrought, and confirming so evidently the prophet’s mission, so amazed all the people, that we do not find any of them attempted to lay hold on him. And Jeroboam himself, for the present, was astonished and confounded at the sight of the effects produced by God’s miraculous power.

Verse 6

1 Kings 13:6. The king said, Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God Of him who hath manifested himself to be thy God and friend in a singular manner; and therefore will hear thy prayers for me, though he will not regard mine, because I have forsaken him and his worship. The man of God besought the Lord This he did to assure Jeroboam that what he had said was not from ill-will to him, and that he heartily desired his reformation, not his ruin. And the king’s hand was restored God showed him this mercy, 1st, Because he repented of the violence intended against the prophet, for which his hand had been dried up: 2d, To assure him that the stroke was from God: and, 3d, That this goodness of God to him might lead him to repentance, or if he continued impenitent, might leave him without excuse.

Verses 7-9

1 Kings 13:7-9. I will give thee a reward He desires to requite the instrument, but takes no notice of God, the chief cause and author of this wonderful mercy. The man of God said, I will not go in with thee, &c. In obedience to God, he refuses to eat, or drink, or have any familiar society with him, against whom he had pronounced God’s indignation. For so it was charged me My refusal of thy favour is not from any contempt or hatred of thy person, but in compliance with the just command of my God, who hath forbidden me all further converse or communication with thee. Saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water Namely, in that place, or with that people. Hereby God showed his detestation of their idolatry, not because it was as bad as that of the heathen, but because they were vile apostates from the true God, and embraced this idol-worship against the light of their own consciences, merely to comply with the king’s humour and command; and because their vicinity and relation to Judah, exposed that tribe to the danger of being infected by their idolatry. God also intended hereby to teach his people in all ages to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, lest they should either give encouragement to, or receive infection from, them. Nor turn again by the same way thou earnest That by avoiding the way that led him to Beth-el as execrable, although he went by God’s special command, he might teach all others how much they ought to abhor that way, and all thoughts of going to that place, or to such idolatrous people, upon any unnecessary occasion.

Verse 11

1 Kings 13:11. There dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el One to whom and by whom God did sometimes reveal his will, as is manifest from 1 Kings 13:20-21; and one who had a respect to God’s holy prophets, and gave credit to their predictions. But that he was not a truly and uniformly good and pious man is certain, because we here find him guilty of a downright lie, 1 Kings 13:18. And, although a holy prophet, who had lived there before, might possibly have continued in the kingdom of Israel after its separation from Judah, and defection from the true worship of God; yet such a one would not have chosen to reside at Beth-el, the chief seat of idolatry, unless with a design to preach against it: this, it is evident, he did not; for his sons, it appears, were present when Jeroboam stood at the altar, and therefore joined in that idolatrous worship, and yet their father was too timorous to reprove them. He was probably somewhat like the famous Balaam, who was commissioned to utter divers true prophecies, but nevertheless loved the wages of unrighteousness, and was a wicked man.

Verse 14

1 Kings 13:14. And found him sitting under an oak Being faint and weary with his journey, and possibly with the heat also, (which made him choose to rest in this shady place,) and especially with hunger and thirst, 1 Kings 13:9. And the old prophet might easily guess that this was the prophet from Judah, by his age and carriage, and, it may be, by his prophetic mantle, and by the character which his sons had given of him.

Verse 18

1 Kings 13:18. But he lied unto him And yet, probably, not with any evil design, but out of curiosity, to know from his own mouth the truth and all the particulars of the message which he had just delivered to Jeroboam; and to express his kindness to him, and relieve his hunger and weariness, whereby, possibly, he thought he should please God. In this, however, he greatly erred, and involved both himself and the prophet from Judah in guilt and wrath.

Verse 19

1 Kings 13:19. So he went back with him Too readily hearkening to his words, and not considering that what God himself had expressly commanded, nothing but the express command of the same God could set aside: otherwise the commands of God might be made of none effect by any one who should feign to have a divine commission.

Verses 20-22

1 Kings 13:20-22. The word of the Lord came, &c. God obliged the prophet, who had caused him to sin, to denounce a punishment against him for it, that it might the more affect him; nothing being more piercing than to be reflected on by those who have caused us to err. And he cried unto the man of God With a loud voice, the effect of his passion, both for his own guilt and shame, and for the prophet’s approaching misery. Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord That is, the word of command coming out of his mouth; thy carcass shall not come into the sepulchre of thy fathers Thou shalt not die a natural, but a violent death, and that in this journey, before thou returnest to thy own habitation.

Verses 23-24

1 Kings 13:23-24 . He saddled for him the ass But it is observable, he does not accompany him: his guilty conscience making him fear to be involved in the same judgment with him. A lion met him by the way, and slew him There was a wood not far from Bethel, out of which the two she-bears came, mentioned 2 Kings 2:24; and, it is not unlikely, that out of the same wood came the lion that slew this prophet. His carcass was cast in the way His dead body fell to the ground, and lay in the place where the soul left it. The lion also stood by the carcass Which plainly showed that he was sent by God to execute only what God had threatened, and not to move one step beyond that commission, otherwise, agreeable to his nature and fierceness, he would certainly have devoured the carcass and torn the ass. “Some have thought,” says Dr. Dodd, “that this prophet’s was a small offence to have met with so severe a punishment: but the true state of the case is this: the prophet from Judah had sufficient evidence of the truth of his own revelation; had sufficient cause to suspect some corrupt ends in the prophet who came to recall him; and had sufficient reason to expect, an interposition of the same power that gave him the injunction to repeal it; and, therefore, his crime was an easy credulity, a complying with an offer merely to gratify a petulant appetite, which he knew was repugnant to a divine command. It argued a great levity, if not infidelity, of his own revelation, to listen to the pretended one of another man.” It must be acknowledged, however, to be strange, that the lying prophet should escape, while he, who, notwithstanding this error, was truly a man of God, is so severely punished. But judgment must begin at the house of God: God must correct his own children first. And there is a judgment to come, when these things shall be called over again, and when those who sinned most and suffered least in this world, will receive according to their works. This punishment of the prophet was a very striking admonition to Jeroboam of what he might expect, since God spared not a less guilty offender. And we may all learn from God’s severity, in this instance, 1st, Not to suffer our faith to be perverted by any suggestions made against a revelation of uncontested divine authority; and, 2d, Always to pay a strict regard and obedience to all the known commands of God.

Verses 25-26

1 Kings 13:25-26. They came and told it in the city As a wonderful thing that the lion should neither fall upon his prey, nor hurt them who passed by, but suffer them to go on quietly, Who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord Which was the true reason why he was so severely punished, in order that other prophets might not, upon any pretence or excuse, neglect punctually to attend to, and observe all the divine injunctions; for, had they not been deterred from neglecting and disregarding them, the authority of prophecy would have been soon lessened, and consequently the people have sooner or more readily fallen into idolatry. Which hath torn and slain him, according to the word of the Lord God had not expressly said that a lion should tear him; but, that he should suffer a violent death in some way, was implied in the threatening that his carcass should not come into the sepulchre of his fathers.

Verse 28

1 Kings 13:28. He found, &c. Here was a concurrence of miracles: that the ass did not run away from the lion, according to his nature, but boldly stood still, as waiting to carry the prophet to his burial; that the lion did not devour his prey, nor tear the ass, nor meddle with the travellers that passed by, nor hurt the old prophet, when he came to the spot, nor his ass; nor yet go away, when he had done his work, but stood still, as if, 1st, To preserve the carcass of the prophet, whom he had slain, from other wild beasts or fowls: 2d, As an evidence that the prophet’s death was not casual, nor the effect of a lion’s ravenous disposition, but of God’s singular and just judgment, who had directed the lion, by a supernatural power, how far to go, and where to stop; and, consequently, that the prophet’s prediction was divine, and would be infallibly accomplished in its proper time: and 3d, As a token of God’s favour to the deceased prophet, of whose very carcass he took such special care; thereby signifying, that, although for wise and just reasons he thought fit to take away his life, yet his remains were precious to him.

Verses 29-30

1 Kings 13:29-30. The prophet, (namely, the old prophet,) took up the carcass of the man of God “If there were any truth,” says Henry, “in the vulgar opinion, sure the corpse bled afresh when he touched it; for he was, in effect, the murderer.” He laid his carcass in his own grave A poor reparation this of the injury done him in deceiving him, and persuading him to disobey the command of God to his ruin. Hereby, however, the divine threatening, (in 1 Kings 13:22,) was fulfilled; and withal, the memory of his prophecy was revived from time to time, by the sight of his grave, and preserved among them; and even his carcass, resting there, might be a witness of their madness and desperate wickedness, in continuing to practise their abominable, idolatrous worship, after such an assurance of the dreadful effects of it. They mourned over him Namely, the old prophet and his sons, and others, whom common humanity taught to lament the untimely death of so worthy a person. Saying, Alas! my brother Which was a usual form of expression in funeral lamentations. “The case, indeed, was very piteous,” says Henry, “that so good a man, so faithful a prophet, and one so bold in God’s cause, should, for one offence, die as a criminal, while an old, lying prophet lived 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.” The reader will be pleased to see a similar reflection by Dr. Dodd. “Upon a review of this narrative, who can fail to admire the unsearchable secrets of the divine justice? Jeroboam revolts from his lawful sovereign, forsakes the worship of the true God, engages the people in gross idolatry, and is himself hardened by the menaces and miracles of the prophet, who wits sent to him; a false prophet deceives an innocent man with a lie, and draws him into an act of disobedience, contrary to his inclination; yet this wicked Jeroboam, and this seducing prophet, escape immediate punishment, while the other, who might mean no ill, perhaps, in turning back, is slain by a lion, and his body deprived of the sepulchre of his fathers! We must acknowledge, indeed, that the depths of the judgments of God are an abyss which our understandings cannot fathom; but nothing certainly can be a more sensible proof of the certainty of another life, and of the eternal recompenses or punishments which attend it, than to see the righteous so rigorously treated here, for slight offences, while, sentence not being speedily executed against evil men, we have an assurance from thence that God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil, Ecclesiastes 12:14.”

Verses 31-32

1 Kings 13:31-32. When I am dead, &c. 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 this man of God: because, what he cried against the altar of Beth-el shall surely come to pass Which he might easily conclude, both from the miracles wrought by the prophet of Judah, and from the wonderful particulars of his death. And against all the high places which are in the cities of Samaria That is, of the kingdom of Samaria, as it was called, though not when this fact was done, yet before these books were written. Samaria was properly the name of one city; but, as it became the capital of the kingdom of Israel, that whole kingdom was so called from it. The prophet of Judah had not indeed threatened as much as the prophet of Beth-el here mentions, (unless he said more than is related 1 Kings 13:2,) but it might easily be inferred from what he had predicted. Thus, by the mouth of two witnesses, was it established, if possible, to convince Jeroboam.

Verse 33

1 Kings 13:33. After this That is, after all these things; the singular number being put for the plural; after so many evident and successive miracles; Jeroboam returned not from his evil ways He was not at all changed in his principles or practice, but continued in his idolatry. Made again of the lowest of the people, &c. He abated not so much as a circumstance in his idolatrous worship. Whosoever would he consecrated him, &c. Without any respect to tribe, or family, or integrity of body, or mind, or life; all which things were to be regarded in the priesthood.

Verse 34

1 Kings 13:34. This thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam An occasion of sin, and a mean of hardening all his posterity in their idolatry; or, rather, it became a punishment, as the word sin often signifies. This his obstinate continuance in his idolatry, after such warnings, brought dreadful punishments upon his family, and these not of an ordinary kind; but such as effected its utter extirpation. We may reflect here with Ostervald, on the astonishing blindness and ingratitude of Jeroboam. “Instead of relying on the promises which God had made him, to preserve the kingdom in his family, if he continued faithful, fearing lest his subjects should forsake him, if they went to worship at Jerusalem; out of a false policy he set up an idolatrous worship in his kingdom, which occasioned the ruin of his family, and at last the ruin of the kingdom of the ten tribes. Thus men, instead of trusting to God, in the faithful discharge of their duty, for security, have recourse to ill methods, whereby they draw upon themselves, at length, those very misfortunes they mean to avoid.” Indeed, all those betray themselves effectually, who endeavour to support themselves or families by any sin.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-kings-13.html. 1857.
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