Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

1 Kings 13

Verses 1-34

The Disobedient Prophet

1 Kings 13:26

I. Jeroboam had just successfully completed his idolatrous stroke of policy. He had set up a form of religion which, however much it might offend against God's truth, had at least this merit in his eyes, that it would strike a great blow against the established Church at Jerusalem, and be a serious injury to the State religion whose influence he abhorred and whose prestige more than anything else he dreaded as a dangerous political menace to his separatist policy. It was all-important therefore that there should be no hitch in what was now practically the inauguration of a new religion. Certainly it was a bold stroke, and at this moment when the scene is depicted he was in the very agony of his crafty device, restless, no doubt suspicious, and pledged to desperate measures for men are most suspicious when they are most conscious that they are doing wrong and have 'bribed themselves to disbelieve things which their conscience tells them are true, by doing acts which their conscience tells them are wrong'. And it is at this moment that the nameless prophet out of Judah bursts in upon him, a prophet from God in itself an unwelcome phenomenon just then; as a prophet from Judah doubly hateful. It seems likely to end in his death had not God intervened to save His prophet. Jeroboam while raising his hand to order his arrest, finds it paralysed and useless, while the altar is rent by invisible powers and the ashes are poured out. So far you see the man of God had done his work well. He had executed a commission dangerous enough to try the strongest nerve. The hardest part was done. He could relapse now. There were certainly three distinct temptations which the prophet had to face. First, there was the temptation, which comes from the natural fear in a man's heart, not to deliver his message, to hesitate to confront the fury of the king in the moment of his pride and successful sin. Then there was the still more dangerous temptation of flattery and bribery, for Jeroboam turned round and, when force had failed, tried to take the edge off his humiliation by feasting and entertaining the prophet. Then there was the more subtle temptation still, namely, to forget his instructions which were three: first, to deliver his message, which he did; secondly, not to eat bread, nor drink water in the place; and thirdly, not to return by the way by which he came. And in these two last, the easiest of all to execute, he failed.

II. We feel at the outset that there is an appeal to us here in that title which we have heard more than once this afternoon, 'The Man of God,' a title wonderful in its dignity and grand in its significance; for it speaks to us of many things. It tells us where the man comes from, straight from the court, straight from the presence, straight from the inspiration of the Almighty, from God Himself. The man of God, God's representative, God's ambassador; here is a service in which, alas! there are many vacancies. And we notice now, once more, where the man of God in the Bible fell. He fell in the easiest point of his duty, he fell by the neglect of the details of his mission, 'troublesome restrictions,' 'irritating items,' as he might think them, in which, to put aside the strict letter of obedience, he might say involved, could involve, no principle. And is not this the very region in which so many a man of God fails? The main duties are done with bravery, activity, and vigour no waste of time, no waste of money, no frivolity, no unseemly gaiety, no foolish idleness, no serious, gross, open sin. But in some little matter at home by peevish ill-temper, or exacting selfishness, or from disregard of Christian practice, as the outcome of Christian principle, in these things the man of God falls. Exact obedience, attention to minute trifles, involve principles of the highest authority. These same prohibitions are given now to every man of God who has wisdom to follow them out. 'Eat no bread and drink no water there.'

W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 276.

References. XIII. 1. Bishop Bickersteth, Sermons, p. 238. XIII. 6. R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii. p. 92. A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix. p. 165. XIII. 21, 22. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 277. XIII. 26. E. A. Askew, Sermons Preached in Greystoke Church, p. 214. T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 76. H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx. p. 136. T. Arnold, Sermons for the Christian Seasons, vol. iii. p. 729. XIII. 33. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 102. XIV. 13. J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 169. C. Bosanquet, Blossoms for the King's Garden, p. 216. XVI. 7. F. D. Maurice, Prophets and Kings, p. 105.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.