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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

1 Kings 13

Verse 1


A prophet cometh to Beth-el. Jeroboam, in opposing him, hath his hand withered; which at the prayer of the man of God is restored, The prophet himself for his disobedience is afterwards slain by a lion. Jeroboam still continueth hardened.

1 Kings 13:1

(1) ¶ And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.

It should seem that Jeroboam the king was in the very act of prophanation and idolatry when this man of God came in the Lord's name with this solemn commission.

Verses 2-3

(2) And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee. (3) And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.

Let us pause to admire the faithfulness of the Lord's servant in thus executing his warrant in the king's presence. Observe how he executed his commission. He cried no doubt with a loud voice. And observe to whom he spoke; not to man, but to the altar. When men refuse to hear we find the Lord calling upon the inanimate parts of creation to attend. That is a beautiful instance in point, Hear O heavens, and give ear O earth. Isaiah 1:2 . The prophecy he delivered was not to take place for more than 350 years, and yet the prophet mentions the very name of the prince by whom it should be accomplished. But perhaps what galled Jeroboam most was, that the house of David was so honorably spoken of. Yes! what galls Satan and his race most, is Jesus's name and cross. Here, Reader, therefore, let you and I, like Paul, glory. Galatians 6:14 .

Verses 4-5

(4) And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he 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 pull it in again to him. (5) The altar also 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 the LORD.

Observe, to what a daring height of impiety was the king arrived. Alas! how doth sin harden the heart. Think Reader! what effect must the sinew-struck hand of the king, and the pouring out of the ashes, with the altar's rending, have had upon the minds of the spectators. But we do not hear of any one act of conversion wrought by it. No! until the Lord turns the heart, the most awful signs lose their power. When our dear Lord on the cross bowed his sacred head, and with a loud voice, that all in heaven and hell might hear, said; It is finished; though not the altar only was smitten, but the vail of the temple divided, and rocks rent, and the graves opened, yet we read of no heart being rent, nor a soul, except the dying thief, converted. Oh! to what state of obduracy hath sin hardened the soul!

Verse 6

(6) And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.

Observe, Jeroboam prays the prophet to intercede for the recovery of his hand, but not his heart. Like another Pharaoh, he desired the punishment to be taken off, but not a word of the Lord's making off the cause. And yet what could testify the merciful tenderness of the Lord to pardon sin more than thus instantly restoring Jeroboam's hand at the instance of his servant. Precious Jesus! was not this interceding of the prophet a type of the ever-prevailing efficacy of thy intercession at the right hand of power, for the poor withered souls of thy people?

Verses 7-10

(7) And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward. (8) And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: (9) For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. (10) So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.

No doubt, this part of the Lord's command to the prophet was to testify his abhorrence of idols. And it became a test of his fidelity.

Verse 11

(11) ¶ Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and 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 they told also to their father.

The character of this man is not far to fetch. Had he been a true prophet of the Lord how could he live in Beth-el, and be witness to Jeroboam's continued iniquity, without reproving him? Hence, therefore, in the very opening of his history it is easy to discover that he was of the false prophets. And we read not only of Jezebel's prophets, but of the prophets of Samaria, who caused the Lord's people to err. See 1 Kings 18:19 ; Jeremiah 23:13-14 . With this view of the real character of this old prophet, as he is called, we shall be now better able to enter into a proper apprehension of the circumstances of the whole history.

Verses 12-32

(12) And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. (13) And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, (14) And 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. (15) Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. (16) 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: (17) For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. (18) He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. (19) So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. (20) And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: (21) And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, (22) But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers. (23) ¶ 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. (24) And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase. (25) And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. (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 word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him. (27) And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him. (28) And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass. (29) And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. (30) And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! (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: (32) For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD 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.

I do not detain the Reader through the whole of this relation, because general observations upon the whole should seem to be most suited to our present conception of things, and the gracious design of the Holy Ghost in causing such events to be recorded. There can be no question, I think, from what is here said of this old prophet but that he was not a prophet of the Lord. And yet some difficulty will still occur to reconcile this conviction with what is said of him in 1 Kings 13:20 ; that the word of the Lord came to him. But in answer to this difficulty I would observe; is it not possible for the Lord to make use even of his enemies sometimes, as suits the blessed purposes of his holy will, to reprove or punish, to nourish or strengthen his servants. Hence the Magicians in Egypt were permitted, to a certain extent, to imitate God's faithful servant Moses. And now in the present hour may not unawakened men, who unsent of God minister in holy things, sometimes be made instrumental for good to the Lord's people? See Exodus 8:7 ; Matthew 7:22 . With respect to the fall and punishment of the man of God that came out of Judah to Beth-el, the subject holds forth a lesson of great usefulness in the church, and no doubt it was one intention of the Holy Ghost, for which it was recorded. It should be remembered that the Lord had made suitable provision in the church, to guard his servants against false teachers by a positive law; in which the Lord expressly caused it to be stated that it was possible for even the sign which a false prophet might give to come to pass; but yet this was to be considered as no authority for departing from a positive law of God. See Deuteronomy 13:1-4 . I beg the Reader to remark with me the nature of the punishment; that his carcass should not come to the sepulchre of his fathers. But there is nothing in this more than a temporal judgment. And an apostle under the gospel state had it in commission, to tell the church of believers, that when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32 . After all, how sweet is it to wait upon the Lord, and to watch his grace and providence in all events. Surely the very wrath of man shall praise him. God exercises an holy jealousy over his people; and the sins of his servants shall be chastised, though he shows favor to their persons for Jesus's sake. The psalmist makes a beautiful observation on this subject. Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel, called upon the Lord and he answered them. But though he answered them as the Lord God in covenant, and was a God that forgave them, it is said that he took vengeance of their inventions. Psalms 99:6-8 . Reader! do you not eye Jesus in all this? The covenant of redemption holds forever good; and the blood and righteousness of Jesus never lose their efficacy. Oh! to grace in Jesus what mercies are owing!

Verses 33-34

(33) After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. (34) 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.

What an awful example doth this man afford of an unreclaimed heart! oh, Reader! learn from it the vast and infinite importance of the Spirit's work upon the soul, without whose gracious influence every sinner's heart would be more and more hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin.

Verse 34


My soul! pause over the perusal of this chapter, and contemplate in what a variety of views thou mayest gather spiritual improvement from it under the blessed Spirit's teaching.

In the awful character of Jeroboam, learn the truth of that solemn scripture; though favor be showed to the wicked; yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.

In the character of the false prophet, grown old in sin as well as years, what an alarming representation is held forth to what a desperately wicked state men may advance, who though ministering in holy things, never feel their power, and live and die unconscious of their influence.

In the character of the man of God acting with such faithfulness in daring the impiety of Jeroboam, and yet falling under the slender temptation of the deceiver, may we learn what a mixture of faith and unbelief makes up the characters of the Lord's followers.

Where then, blessed Jesus, under all these views, where shall we direct our thoughts for perfection and for comfort but to thee? Thou art indeed holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. Here then, dearest Lord, in thee and thy complete righteousness, may my soul direct her sole regard for acceptance and for favor. All altars, sacrifices, worship, doctrine, government, ordinances, and services, which look not to thee are alike false. But in thee all true sanctuary service finds acceptance. As a nail fastened in a sure place by the master of assemblies; on thee, thou precious Lamb of God, which takest away the sin of thy people, would I hang my life, my hope, my confidence, my all!

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.