1 Kings 13


‘By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. By the word of the LORD he cried out against the altar: ‘Altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’ That same day the man of God gave a sign: ‘This is the sign the LORD has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.’ When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, ‘Seize him!’ But the hand he stretched out toward the man shrivelled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the LORD. Then the king said to the man of God, ‘Intercede with the LORD your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.’ So the man of God interceded with the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before. The king said to the man of God, ‘Come home with me for a meal, and I will give you a gift.’ But the man of God answered the king, ‘Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’ So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.’ 1 Kings 13:1-10

The Man Of God From Judah

After Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, a man of God speaks to Jeroboam, we don’t know who this man is, but some suggest it is Iddo the seer, 2 Chronicles 13:22.

Notice that God Himself didn’t speak directly to Jeroboam, He used his prophet from Judah, who was probably a Levite. His message wasn’t good news for Jeroboam, his message was of severe punishment which was coming upon him and his household.

Notice also that Jeroboam was ‘standing by the altar to make an offering’. He had no right to be there and no right to make an offering on his own.

Israel, the northern kingdom, simply wanted to get some kind of relief from Solomon’s taxes, 1 Kings 12:1-5, but Jeroboam used the excuse that the northern kingdoms were too far away from Jerusalem, to change God’s laws, 1 Kings 12:25-33. And so, he goes on and builds two more places of worship for sacrifices to be made, one in Bethel and one in Dan.

The mention of the name Josiah was a prophecy, as he wasn’t born yet, this is just like the naming of Cyrus, Isaiah 44:26 / Isaiah 44:28 / Isaiah 45:2. Because Josiah is named, this would leave no doubts that God was going to work through Josiah to bring an end to Israel’s apostasy, 2 Kings 23:17-18.

A sign was given in a visible split which was miraculously made on the altar. Jeroboam becomes really angry with the man because of what he said and so, he stretched out his hand and ordered his attendants to seize the man. At that moment Jeroboam’s arm became stiff and motionless, and the altar split apart so that the fire and ashes fell on the floor.

Scared by the effects of what happened, Jeroboam begged the prophet to pray and intercede for him. His request was granted, and the hand was restored to its healthy state. Jeroboam was crafty and invited the prophet to the royal table, but not to do him honour or show his gratitude for the restoration of his hand, but to win him over, by his courtesy and liberal hospitality, a person whom he couldn’t crush by his power.

Even though Jeroboam offered the prophet some hospitality, the prophet refused, he wasn’t going to be bought over by any amount he was offered. This tells us that God was completely rejecting Jeroboam and Bethel.

The prophet informed him of a divine restriction that prohibited him from mixing with any people in the place, as well as from returning the same way. The prohibition not to eat or drink in Bethel was because all the people had become apostates from the true religion, and the reason he wasn’t allowed to return the same way was he might be recognised by any whom he had seen in going.

‘Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king. Their father asked them, ‘Which way did he go?’ And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken. So he said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, ‘Are you the man of God who came from Judah?’ ‘I am,’ he replied. So the prophet said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat.’ The man of God said, ‘I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’ The old prophet answered, ‘I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’ (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.’ 1 Kings 13:11-19

As one prophet leaves, another one appears, this time it was an old prophet from Bethel who meets up with the man of God from Judah. We don’t know who he was but he appears to be going along and encouraging the apostasy of Jeroboam.

There’s no doubt that he was lying through his teeth to the man of God from Judah, but he was possibly driven by fear. He was an old man, he couldn’t stand up to Jeroboam because Jeroboam recruited the lowest of the people to be his prophets, 1 Kings 13:32.

It’s possible that he lied out of desperation and wanted the man of God to be in his company for a while so he can be encouraged. It’s also possible that he suspected that the man of God was the same as him, and therefore tried to test him.

‘While they were sitting at the table, the word of the LORD came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, ‘This is what the LORD says: ‘You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’ When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it. Some people who passed by saw the body lying there, with the lion standing beside the body, and they went and reported it in the city where the old prophet lived. When the prophet who had brought him back from his journey heard of it, he said, ‘It is the man of God who defied the word of the LORD. The LORD has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the LORD had warned him.’ The prophet said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me,’ and they did so. Then he went out and found the body lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey. So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, ‘Alas, my brother!’ After burying him, he said to his sons, ‘When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the message he declared by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.’ 1 Kings 13:20-32

When we read about what happened to the man of God here, we learn that we simply can’t ignore God’s commands. He may have been innocent in believing the old prophet’s lies, but he still had to pay the consequences for being disobedient to God.

Whatever the old prophet’s motives were for lying, the man of God should have never trusted him in the first place. Think about it, would God have told the man of God one thing and then have contradicted it by sending an authentic word by another? No! 1 John 4:1.

He was told not to stay in Bethel and not to eat and drink with anyone there, but he did and as a result of his disobedience he was killed by a lion.

Under normal circumstances, a lion would devour the whole carcass, but here it is standing beside the carcass, which tells us that God was in control of this situation. It’s almost as if the lion was protecting the carcass from other predators.

Coffman says that the Word of God actually came to this evil old prophet and there was apparently no appropriate medium in all of Bethel who could have served the purpose of God any better than this lying old prophet. When God actually spoke through him, he not only learned that the man of God was indeed an authentic spokesman from Jehovah, but he also came to believe all of the words which the man of God had spoken.

‘Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.’ 1 Kings 13:33-34

Even after everything which happened between Jeroboam and the man of God and the man of God and the old prophet, Jeroboam still didn’t change his ways, Luke 16:31. In fact, he began to spread his own religion and religious beliefs among the people by appointing anyone who wanted to be a priest. Because of this God was going to bring about the destruction of Jeroboam and his household.

Coffman shares the following useful summary of Jeroboam’s wickedness.

1. He made paganism the official religion of Israel.

2. He consecrated priests of tribes other than that of Levi.

3. He erected pagan idols in Dan, Bethel, and Samaria.

4. He arrogantly intruded himself into the sacrifices.

5. He organised and promoted a corrupt Feast of Tabernacles, contrary to God’s law.

6. He persuaded the people to disobey God by not going to Jerusalem to worship.

7. He established and organised high places all over northern Israel.

Go To 1 Kings 14