Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

1 Kings 13

Verses 1-3

1 Kings 13:1-3. There came a man of God Commentators are not agreed who this prophet was, neither is there any foundation for so much as a conjecture. The prophesy, however, is one of the most remarkable that we have in sacred writ. It foretels an action which exactly came to pass above three hundred and forty years afterwards. It describes the circumstances of the action, and specifies the very name of the person who was to do it; and therefore every Jew who lived in the time of its accomplishment must have been convinced, one would think, of the divine authority of a religion founded upon such prophesies as this; since none but God could foresee, and consequently none but God could foretel, events at such a distance. See Le Clerc and Calmet.

Verses 4-6

1 Kings 13:4-6. And his hand—dried up, &c.— The Almighty employs here three striking proofs to convince a deluded people that HE is the true God, and not those calves which an idolatrous king had set up from a principle of false policy. We see the seducer punished in the first miracle, cursed in the second, and his altar rent in the third. The king was in a good state of health; the circulation of his blood was regular; the nervous fluids proper for sensation and motion visited every organ of his body; his fibres were in just tension. In this state, attempting to point out the prophet, he stretched forth the hand with which he offered incense. And instantly, his hand which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back. It does not seem as if this drying up should be understood of the arm's really becoming dry; as if all the vital fluids had ceased to flow thither, and it grew shrivelled, as is the case with those whose nerves are contracted; but that he became paralytic, and deprived of all voluntary motion. The paralytics of the New Testament will give room to treat more fully on this matter. However, the source of the nervous fluids as it were dried up; the fibres lost their tone, and the motion which depends upon them instantly ceased. It cannot be doubted, that a quick transport of passion may sometimes be the natural cause of a palsy, or of some similar maladies. But the anger of Jeroboam was a fury of short duration: as soon as he was smitten by the Almighty, he uttered not a word more against the prophet; but, suddenly changing his style, addressed him, as in 1Ki 13:6 and the prophet having prayed for him, the king's hand was restored, and became as before. There is no physician who does nor confess this cure to be miraculous. The palsy is not cured suddenly, nor by words; it is a work of time, length of which is required to give a current to the nervous fluid, a tone to the fibres, and an equilibrium to the blood and spirits. This disorder demands a long use of various remedies. We see none of these applied. The God of Israel shews the apostate king, that he is the sole matter of his body and of his life, as well as of the kingdom which he has given him.

Verses 7-9

1 Kings 13:7-9. The king said—come home with me, &c.— The reason is obvious, why this prophet was forbidden to eat and drink with the people of Beth-el; because he was to have no familiarity with idolaters. But why he should not return by the same way that he came is not so evident. Probably God enjoined his prophet not to return by the same way, lest Jeroboam, or any other of the inhabitants of Beth-el, either to satisfy their curiosity upon an occasion so uncommon, or to do him some mischief for his severe denunciations against their altar and way of worship, might send men after him to bring him back. See Calmet and Le Clerc.

REFLECTIONS.—Jeroboam, (who himself ministered as a priest,) in the height of his impious offering, seemed to glory in his shame; his courtiers around him joined his idolatrous service, and none dared remonstrate against the horrid crime: but God will not suffer these doings to pass without a severe rebuke.

1. God sends a prophet from Judah to Beth-el; and in the midst of the crowd, near the altar where the king stood, he boldly delivered his message, and proclaimed aloud Divine judgment upon the altar and its worship-pers; that it should be defiled with dead men's bones; and that a king should arise, Josiah by name, who would offer up the idolatrous priests upon it: and, to confirm the truth of his message, he gives a sign, which immediately came to pass, an evidence of God's present displeasure, and an earnest of the threatened destruction. Note; (1.) Before God strikes, he warns; he willeth not that any should perish, but rather that they should come to repentance. (2.) God's prophets must not fear the faces of men, but openly and faithfully, even to the greatest, declare their message, however unwelcome or dangerous.

2. Jeroboam, enraged at what he termed such insolence, stretches out his hand, and gives command to seize the prophet; when instantly, struck of God, it dried up; a warning to him how dangerous it was to fight against God. Note; (1.) Faithful rebukes often provoke proud wrath. (2.) The preachers of God's word are the especial butts of malice; but God will protect them: he that toucheth them, toucheth the apple of his eye. (3.) In the way of duty, we need fear no danger. (4.) The hearts of sinners, like the arm of Jeroboam, are, by rejecting God's warnings, given up to judicial hardness and impenitence.

3. Such a stroke, though it turned not his heart, altered for the time his tone. He now begs the prophet, whom he had threatened, to be his advocate, hoping for more success from his prayers than his own: not that he sought forgiveness of his sin, but deliverance from his affliction. The prophet charitably consents to pray for him, and at his request God restores the withered arm. Note; (1.) They who in their prosperity reject the warnings of God's ministers, will in their distress have recourse to their prayers. (2.) An impenitent heart ever betrays itself, in a greater concern for its sufferings than its sins. (3.) To pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us, is the way to obtain the promised beatitude, Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:44.

4. Jeroboam now would reward the prophet for his prayers, but he is forbidden to eat or drink in Beth-el, and therefore refuses the king's invitation. Note; (1.) We must testify against the workers of iniquity, by refusing to have any fellowship with them. (2.) Neither offers nor threatenings must prevail with us to swerve a step from the path of duty.

Verse 11

1 Kings 13:11. An old prophet—and his sons came and told him It appears from this, that these sons of the old prophet were present when Jeroboam stood at the altar, and therefore joined in that idolatrous worship, though their father did not: who, nevertheless, was too timorous to reprove them. There are various opinions concerning this prophet of Beth-el. Some will needs have him to have been a false prophet, highly in esteem with king Jeroboam, because he prophesied to him soft things, and such as would humour him in his wickedness. Others, however, have believed, that he was a true prophet of God, though a wicked one; not unlike the famous Balaam, who sacrificed every thing to his interest; whilst others say that he was a weak one, who thought that he might innocently employ an officious lie to bring the prophet of Judah back, who was under a prohibition indeed, but such a one as, in his opinion, related only to the house of Jeroboam, and such others as were of an idolatrous religion. See Joseph. Antiq. l. viii. c. 3.

Verse 24

1 Kings 13:24. A lion met him by the way, and slew him There was a wood not far from Beth-el, 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 which slew this prophet. We have in this narrative a cluster of miracles: the lion, contrary to his nature, neither eats the carcase, tears the ass, meddles with the travellers who pass by, nor hurts the old prophet and his ass. Nor is this all: the ass, on which the man of God rode, remains quietly, without seeming to regard the lion, which stands to watch the body till this strange account is carried into the city, and the old prophet arrives at the spot. All this was, doubtless, done to convince the people, that the man of God was not slain by accident, but that the lion had been directed by a supernatural power. See AElian's Var. Hist. l. vi. c. 5. Some have thought that this prophet's offence was a small one 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 recal 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. The lesson we are to learn from God's severity in this instance is, not to suffer our faith to be perverted by any suggestions made against a revelation of uncontested divine authority. See Galatians 1:8-9. Scheuchzer, and Stillingfleet's Origines Sacrae.

REFLECTIONS.—Nothing could be more noble than the prophet's behaviour before the king; and one cannot but grieve to see him afterwards thus deluded and slain.

1. The instrument of his fall is called an old prophet, originally of Samaria, but now of Beth-el; whose dubious character makes it difficult to determine, whether he were a good or bad man. He is called a prophet; was favoured with revelations; did not attend the idolatrous worship; believed and confirmed the word of God against the altar at Beth-el; buries the prophet in his tomb; and desires to lie by his side. On the other hand, his abode in Beth-el; his permitting his sons to attend the altar; and, especially, the base deceit here put upon so good a man, would rather induce one to think, that, like Balaam, though speaking some truth, he was false and faithless. Having heard by his sons what had passed, he follows the prophet, and invites him to take some refreshment. The prophet pleads his express prohibition, but this he pretends to over-rule by a later revelation made to him, who boasts himself a prophet also, enjoining him to bring his brother back. Deceived by this pretence, the good prophet complies, and suffers for it. Note; (1.) False prophets are the most fatal enemies of God's people. (2.) They who seek to draw us aside from God's revealed will, however plausible their pretexts, are the emissaries of hell. (3.) We may be seduced to do evil by appearances of piety, when we should not be driven into it by any fears of suffering.

2. The doom denounced on the disobedient prophet. The instrument of his delusion is made the messenger of his destruction. He upbraids him with his transgression, in returning contrary to his orders, and foretels his sudden and approaching death. If we enquire into so strange a transaction, we are lost. But we know that God is just in all his ways; the deceived and the deceiver are his; and we must wait till a judgment-day shall clear up every mysterious providence, and make his righteousness clear as the noon-day.

Verse 32

1 Kings 13:32. In the cities of Samaria How can they be called the cities of Samaria, when Samaria itself was not now built; nor had the separate kingdom of Jeroboam yet obtained that name? It is plain from hence, that the author or compiler of these books of kings lived after the time of Jeroboam, and writes of things and places as they were in his own day. He knew full well that Samaria was built by Omri, fifty years after Jeroboam, since he has himself given the account of its foundation; but he was willing to speak in the phrase then current, and to make himself intelligible to those who read him. And for this reason it is, no doubt, that in 2Ki 23:18 the false prophet of Bethel is said to have come from Samaria, though at that time there was no city of that name. Though this solution, which is Calmet's, may be thought very satisfactory; yet, as the prophet evidently speaks with foreknowledge of future events, why may we not suppose, that by the same foreknowledge he anticipates the name of Samaria, as well as the events which were to happen there? Houbigant remarks, it ought not to seem any thing strange, that the prophet names Samaria before it is built; as the man of God has named Josiah, 1 Kings 13:2, who reigned a long time after it was built. Instead of high places which are in the cities of Samaria, he reads, which shall be, &c. 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 was 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 sepulture 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 truth of another life, and of the eternal recompences or punishments that 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 shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14.

Verse 34

1 Kings 13:34. And this thing became sin Nothing can be more striking than the 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; and fearing lest his subjects should forsake him if they went to sacrifice 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 which they mean to avoid. Ostervald.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.