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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 13


In this chapter two remarkable prophets are depicted, but their names are nowhere given. Both had probably been trained in the schools of the prophets, (see note on 1 Samuel 10:5,) and may be taken as representatives of others of like character and standing. One, dwelling at Beth-el, in the very face of Jeroboam’s idolatry, is a dumb oracle, silent and at ease in the presence of a glaring evil; the other comes from his distant home in Judah, and solemnly proclaims his message from the Lord, but is corrupted and ruined by the very man whose neglected work he seems to have in part performed. Very naturally have many expositors supposed that the action of the old prophet of Beth-el, in seeking to mislead the man of God from Judah, sprung from feelings of jealousy. And several things in the action of the prophet of Judah remind us of Balaam, whom greed for the rewards of Balak deprived of an honourable end. Usually the true prophets among the chosen people stand out in holy character, far removed from every phase of lying or corrupting vices; but, true to all the facts of human nature and experience, the sacred writer here draws aside the vail, and shows us that the prophets, notwithstanding their sacred calling and inspiration, were human still, and men of like passions with ourselves. “It was manifestly wrong,” says Theodoret, “for one who had heard the Divine voice to give credence to a human voice contradicting; he should have persisted in carrying out the very commandment that had been enjoined upon him. And I am of opinion,” he adds, “that his speedy punishment served to confirm his prediction against the altar: for it was not possible to conceal or forget the history of such a man. It would tend to inspire all who heard it with a holy fear. For if the simple partaking of food contrary to the Divine command, and that not from desire on his part, but from being deceived by another, brought down such sudden vengeance on a righteous man, with what punishments shall they be visited who forsake God and worship senseless idols?”

Verse 1

1. A man of God A truly accredited prophet, but his name is unknown. Josephus calls him Jadon, Epiphanius Joas, and Tertullian Sameas; but these names, together with the supposition that he was identical with Iddo the seer, or Shemaiah, have grown out of mere conjecture.

By the word of the Lord Or, in the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord was the spiritual element in which he went upon his mission.

To burn incense This seems to show that Jeroboam performed with his own hand the holy service of the priests. See note on 1 Kings 12:32 and 1 Kings 13:4.

Verse 2

2. Josiah by name This precise description of a future event, and naming of the chief person, is, of course, with the rationalists, ample proof that the whole thing was written after the events had occurred. But all their reasoning proceeds from the gratuitous assumption that such predictions could never have thus occurred, and that all such records of the supernatural are mythical or legendary. The devout believer sees in this accurate portrayal of a future event only one instance out of many in the chain of Old Testament history and revelation. Isaac, (Genesis 17:19,) Solomon, (1 Chronicles 22:9,) and Cyrus, (Isaiah 45:1,) were also named before their birth. For the literal fulfilment of this prophecy, see 2 Kings 23:15-20.

Verse 3

3. He gave a sign He wrought a miracle as the evidence of his Divine authority the credentials of his being Jehovah’s ambassador. “Without this sign, the prophecy of an event that did not take place for three hundred and fifty years would have wanted authority with those who knew not the utterer.” Kitto.

Verse 4

4. Put forth his hand from the altar This seems to show that he was at the time actually performing priestly functions. Compare above 1 Kings 13:1 and 1 Kings 12:32.

His hand… dried up Here was another miracle, wrought, not by the agency of the prophet, but by God himself. It confuses, and for the time terrifies, the king, but produces in him no reformation.

Verse 6

6. Entreat now the face of the Lord More literally, Stroke the face. Caress; entreat so imploringly that you cannot be refused. The king’s alarm and momentary terror was like that of the sorcerer Simon. Acts 8:24.

Verse 7

7. Come home with me He tempts him with three things: royal hospitality, refreshment, and reward. How much these offers influenced the future action of the prophet can only be imperfectly conjectured.

Verse 8

8. Half thine house Compare the similar declaration of Balaam, Numbers 22:18; Numbers 24:13.

Verse 9

9. Eat no bread… nor turn again by the same way He must have no fellowship or communion with their works of darkness, not so much as even to eat and drink with them. Then he must also “deliver his message, as it were, in transitu as he passes along. He shall not seem to be sent on purpose, but as if he only called by the way, his spirit being stirred, like Paul’s at Athens, as he passed and saw their devotions. God would, by this command, try his prophet, as he did Ezekiel, whether he would not be rebellious like that rebellious house.” Ezekiel 2:8. Henry.

Verse 11

11. An old prophet An old man who in his youth had probably been trained up in the schools of the prophets, and thence derived the title of prophet. It is usually supposed, and with reason, that he had fallen from his integrity, and had become corrupt and worldly.

His sons came and told him He did not himself go forth to witness the abominations of the king’s calf-worship, but he allowed his sons to go.

Verse 14

14. Went after the man of God What was his object? Some have surmised that it was merely to show him becoming hospitality. But he must have learned from his sons that the man was forbidden to accept the hospitality of any one. More probable is the opinion that he was moved with jealousy and chagrin that a prophet should come from a distance to reprove the king’s idolatry, while he himself had uttered no word of disapproval; and to this may be added Kitto’s supposition, “That his single but guileful object was to lay his king under an essential obligation, by making the man of God contradict himself in a matter which he alleged to be most binding and urgent upon him, and of thus reducing the moral weight and authority of the message he had delivered.” But he adds, “We entirely acquit him of intending to involve the man of God in the disastrous consequences which ensued.” It is nowise impossible that still other impulses also moved him, for his soul at such a time might well have been the seat of excited and conflicting feelings. And while his first emotions were probably those of jealousy and shame, he may also have felt a burning desire to meet and talk with some true prophet, in hope that such intercourse might raise him from his present spiritual poverty and indifference. It was this very conflict of opposing impulses that makes his character so strangely mysterious.

Sitting under an oak Rather, the oak; some tree well known from its association with this or some other memorable incident. There was nothing necessarily wrong in his thus resting under the tree; but some find here the beginning of his fall. This stay delayed his journey, and enabled the tempter to overtake him; and while sitting under the oak the thought of Jeroboam’s promised rewards may have inclined him, Balaam-like, to yearn for the wages of unrighteousness.

Verse 18

18. I am a prophet also “The door of his heart seems to have been standing ajar, almost half-opened already, to the invitations of the old man. Otherwise surely he would have said: Thou a prophet! How is it, then, that thou dwellest at Beth-el, the house of Jeroboam’s corrupt worship? If thou hadst been indeed a prophet of the Lord thou wouldst have denounced that worship, and I should not have been sent from Judah to lift up my voice against it.” Wordsworth.

He lied unto him Whatever may have been the conflicting emotions and controlling motives of the old prophet of Beth-el, his impious falsehood shows how fallen and depraved was his spiritual state.

Verse 20

20. The word of the Lord came unto the prophet that brought him back So God may often speak through a wicked prophet. So he did through Balaam, uttering the sublimest oracles of blessing, though that soothsayer would fain have cursed Israel. He made even the dumb ass speak with man’s voice, and rebuke the madness of the prophet. The attempt of Dr. Kennicott, to make the latter part of this verse mean the prophet whom he had brought back, is uncalled for, and precluded by the unmistakable meaning of the same words in 1 Kings 13:26. On the faulty translation of the words in 1 Kings 13:23 see note there.

Verse 22

22. Thy carcass shall not come Thou shalt perish by a violent death on thy return, and thy body shall not be buried with thy kindred. Thou shalt not reach home alive or dead. “We read of no accusation or reply on the part of the seduced prophet, nor any excuse on the part of his seducer. The matter was too solemn for bandying words; and both understood where the real pinch of the matter lay.” Kitto.

Verse 23

23. To wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back Here is a mistake of our translators. לנביא is not in apposition with לו , but is rather used in the sense of a genitive of possession. The verse should be translated thus: He (the man of God from Judah) saddled for himself the ass of the prophet who had brought him back. It seems that the man of God from Judah had no beast at all, but had pursued all his journey thus far on foot. Now, however, a fearful sense of coming judgment comes over his spirit, and, unhindered, he takes the ass belonging to the old prophet who had been instrumental in his ruin, and sets out to meet his fate.

Verse 27

27. Saddle me the ass Another ass, belonging probably to the sons of the old prophet.

Verse 28

28. The lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass Herein was signally manifest the punitive hand of God. The ass is choice food for a lion, and man he attacks not when he has other prey. He also is wont to tear and mangle his prey. But in this case the lion, seeming to know that he had a signal mission, acted contrary to the instincts of his nature, and stopped when his work was done. These facts, attested by sufficient witnesses, (compare 1 Kings 13:25,) made the solemn lessons of the prophet’s disobedience and death all the more impressive.

Verse 30

30. Alas, my brother His mourning doubtless came from the depths of his heart. The mere facts of the intercourse of these two prophets are profoundly impressive. The old prophet of Beth-el could not but think that he had been instrumental in his brother’s fall.

Verse 31

31. My bones beside his bones The old prophet perceived that when his fallen brother’s words came to be fulfilled, the bones of the neighbouring tombs would probably be used to burn upon the altar, and so he took this way to secure his own bones from desecration. Compare 2 Kings 23:18.

Verse 32

32. And against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria This passage is probably an interpolation, taken from 2 Kings 23:19, for Samaria was not built till the time of Omri, (1 Kings 16:24,) and from that capital city the surrounding country took its name. Omri named his capital after the owner of the hill on which he built the city, from which it appears that only the hill, and not the surrounding province, bore up to that time the name Samaria, or Shomeron. Hence it would have been a singular anachronism for a person of Jeroboam’s time to speak of the cities of Samaria. It is possible, indeed, that a prophet divinely illuminated might have been enabled thus to speak of things that were not as though they were, but the peculiar manner of his doing it here is unlike any other instance of revelation on record.

Shall surely come to pass By this positive word of the old prophet, as well as by all the memorable circumstances of his brother-prophet’s disobedience and death, Jehovah’s oracles against the altar at Beth-el received additional weight and fearfulness.

Verse 33

33. Made again See note on 1 Kings 12:31.

Whosoever would The mere desire of the one who offered himself for the priesthood was the sufficient call to the holy service.

Verse 34

34. This thing became sin בדבר , in this text, is probably an error of some early transcriber, and should be הדבר , as in 1 Kings 12:30. This sacrilegious impiety became the standing and crying sin of Jeroboam’s family, and led to its utter destruction.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.