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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

1 Kings 13

Verse 1



"And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of Jehovah unto Bethel: and Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar by the word of Jehovah, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith Jehovah: Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on thee shall he sacrifice the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall they burn upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which Jehovah hath spoken: Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, that Jeroboam put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back again to him. The altar was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of Jehovah. And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Entreat now the favor of Jehovah thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God entreated Jehovah, and the king's hand was restored him again, and it became as it was before. And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward. And the man of God said to the king, If thou wilt give me half thy house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread, nor drink water in this place; for so was it charged me by the word of Jehovah, saying, Thou shalt eat no bread, nor drink water, neither return by the way that thou camest. So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel."

If there had been any doubt whether or not Jeroboam had sinned against God in his erection of pagan altars in Israel, the event recorded here would have removed it. This cursing of the altar in Bethel by a man of God was backed up and revealed as valid by the most startling signs coming from God Himself.

"There came a man of God out of Judah" (1 Kings 13:1). "Josephus said his name was Jadon; Tertullian supposed he was Shemaiah; and some have thought he might have been Iddo the seer (2 Chronicles 13:22). But these are all untenable guesses."[1] We do not know his name.

The close connection of this narrative with the preceding chapter, "Shows that it is the fifteenth day of the eighth month that is here described,"[2] namely, the very first day of that false Feast of Tabernacles ordained by Jeroboam.

What a magnificent and comprehensive prophecy this was! "A future son of the house of David (which Jeroboam hated) would stand in exactly the same place where Jeroboam was standing, with all of Jeroboam's successors either extinct or powerless to prevent it, and he would cover this pagan cultus with the shame and contempt which it deserved."[3]

"Josiah by name" (1 Kings 13:2). This writer deplores the current tendency of so-called Christian commentators to delete, compromise, or in some other manner deny the validity of predictive prophecy, especially anything as definite as this is. Our view is that the prophecy is valid, just as it was in the case of Isaiah's naming of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:2). "The definite nature of this prophecy would not necessarily render it impossible any more than the mention of Cyrus, nearly two centuries before his birth (Isaiah 44:26)."[4]

"If thou wilt give me half thy house, I will not go in with thee" (1 Kings 13:8). "The refusal of hospitality was an extreme action in the east and represented God's complete rejection of Jeroboam and Bethel."[5]

The purpose of the author of Kings in recording this event, "Was to show that Jeroboam received adequate warning, and that Judeans should avoid all relations with northerners."[6]

Verse 11


"Now there dwelt 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: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them also they told unto their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? Now his sons had seen what way the man of God went, that came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass; and he rode thereon. Now he went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak; and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee; neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: for it was said to me by the word of Jehovah, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. And he said unto him, I also am a prophet as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of Jehovah, saying, bring him back with thee into thy house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water."

"He ... found him sitting under an oak" (1 Kings 13:14). It must be considered significant that the man of God was idly resting under an oak tree instead of returning to Judah, and the man could not have been blameless, because God had dearly instructed him to waste no time on his mission. Many a servant of God has been overcome with disaster in a moment of idleness.

"Come home with me, and eat bread" (1 Kings 13:15). One may only speculate as to the motivation of the "old prophet." He was a lying scoundrel, and it is possible that he suspected the man of God as being a fellow of the same school, and therefore decided to test him.

In any event, the man of God was quite foolish to believe the words of the lying pretender. Would God have told the man of God one thing and then have contradicted it by sending an authentic word by another? "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1). Although not stated, there appears to have been an unworthy desire on the part of the man of God to return, and, where there is an antecedent willingness, there is always provided by the Evil One an opportune invitation to do wrong.

The warning for present-day Christians in this is clear enough. There are many pious, attractive, and pretentious religious propositions in our own times that, in the last analysis, are nothing but lies, dressed up with every plausible appearance of authenticity by the devices of Satan, but still unqualified lies.

Verse 20


"And it came to pass as they sat at the table, that the word of Jehovah came to the prophet that brought him back; and he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, Forasmuch as thou hast been disobedient unto the mouth of Jehovah, and hast not kept the commandment which Jehovah thy God commanded thee, but camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water: thy body shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers. And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back. And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his body was cast in the way; and the ass stood by it; the lion also stood by the body. And, 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 dwelt."

That the Word of God actually came to this evil old prophet should not surprise us. God also spoke to Balaam by the speech of a donkey. 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.

That the lion neither tore the donkey, nor ate the body of the slain prophet, nor fled from any of the passers-by, affirmed the presence of an element of the supernatural in the death of the man of God.

Verse 26


"And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the mouth of Jehovah: therefore Jehovah hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake unto him. And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled it. And he went and found his body in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the body: the lion had not eaten the body, nor torn the ass. And the prophet took up the body of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back; and he came to the city of the old prophet, to mourn, and to bury him. And he laid his body in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!"

The most remarkable proof that God had actually spoken through the man of God was seen and accepted at its face value by the old man. He was no longer referred to by the author of Kings as "the old prophet," but is called simply "the prophet" in 1 Kings 13:29. He was, no doubt, filled with remorse and shame that his shameful lie had become the occasion of the death of the man of God.

Whatever the reputation of this old prophet might have been in Bethel before the events of this chapter, he was forever afterward enrolled among those prophesying the end of the regime of Jeroboam and the religious system represented by Bethel.

Verse 31


"And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying which he cried by the word of Jehovah against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass."

There was no excuse whatever for Jeroboam's failure to heed the word of God in this matter, because of the powerful witness against his regime provided by the events of this chapter. The wicked old prophet was absolutely certain of the eventual fulfillment of all that the man of God had said, and he had the courage to declare it. However, as Jesus said so many centuries afterward of certain unbelievers, "Neither would they be persuaded if one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

Verse 33


"After this thing, Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again from among all the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, that there might be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth."

Scholars like Montgomery and Dentan write this episode off as some kind of legend erroneously accepted into the Bible, but this writer rejects that notion altogether. Due to the extreme wickedness of Jeroboam, which we have summarized in a paragraph below, it was incumbent upon God Himself to provide incontrovertible evidence to all Israel of the Divine displeasure that fell upon the terrible apostasy taking place under Jeroboam. God's love of the seed of the Chosen People could not have allowed him to do less.


(a) He made paganism the official religion of Israel. (b) He consecrated priests of tribes other than that of Levi. (c) He erected pagan idols in Dan, Bethel, and Samaria. (d) He arrogantly intruded himself into the sacrifices. (e) He organized and promoted a corrupt Feast of Tabernacles, contrary to God's law. (f) He persuaded the people to disobey God by not going to Jerusalem to worship. (g) He established and organized high places all over northern Israel.

With Jeroboam at the head of northern Israel, the nation was doomed to eventual destruction.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.