1 Kings 13

CHAPTER XIII

A man of God prophesies against Jeroboam's altar, and foretells

the destruction of that altar, and of its idolatrous priests by

Josiah; and gives Jeroboam a sign that the prophecy should be

accomplished, 1-3.

Jeroboam is enraged, and orders the man of God to be seized;

and stretching out his hand for this purpose, his arm dries up,

4.

The altar is rent, and the ashes poured out, according to the

sign given by the man of God; and at his intercession

Jeroboam's arm is restored, 5, 6.

Jeroboam wishes to engage him in his service, but he refuses,

and tells him that he was ordered by God not even to eat or

drink in that place; and he accordingly departs, 7-10.

An old prophet that dwelt at Beth-el, hearing of this, rides

after the man of God; deceives him; brings him back to his

house, and persuades him to eat and drink, 11-19.

While he is eating, the word of the Lord comes to the old

prophet, and he foretells the death of the man of God; who

departing is met by a lion, and slain, 20-25.

On hearing this, the old prophet goes to the place, finds the

carcass, brings it home, burns it, and mourns over it, charging

his sons to bury him, when dead, in the same grave, 26-32.

Notwithstanding these warnings, Jeroboam continues in his

idolatry, 33, 34.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIII

Verse 1. There came a man of God] Who this was we know not. The

Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic call him a prophet. The Vulgate and

Septuagint follow the Hebrew, ish elohim means a

Divine person, one wholly devoted to God's service. Some have

thought it was Shemaiah, others Joel, and others Iddo. It could

not have been the latter, for he wrote the acts of Jeroboam,

2Ch 9:29, and the prophet was killed before he returned home;

but conjecture is idle on such a subject.

Jeroboam stood by the altar] Like gods, like priest; he made

himself high priest, and he took of the lowest of the people, and

made them priests of the high places; they proved themselves to be

fools by worshipping calves.

Verse 2. He cried against the altar] He denounced the

destruction of this idolatrous system.

A child shall be born-Josiah by name] This is one of the most

remarkable and most singular prophecies in the Old Testament. It

here most circumstantially foretells a fact which took place three

hundred and forty years after the prediction; a fact which was

attested by the two nations. The Jews, in whose behalf this

prophecy was delivered, would guard it most sacredly; and it was

the interest of the Israelites, against whom it was levelled, to

impugn its authenticity and expose its falsehood, had this been

possible. This prediction not only showed the knowledge of God,

but his power. He gave, as it were, this warning to idolatry, that

it might be on its guard, and defend itself against this Josiah

whenever a person of that name should be found sitting on the

throne of David; and no doubt it was on the alert, and took all

prudent measures for its own defence; but all in vain, for Josiah,

in the eighteenth year of his reign, literally accomplished this

prophecy, as we may read, 2Ki 23:15-20. And from this latter

place we find that the prophecy had three permanent testimonials

of its truth. 1. The house of Israel; 2. The house of Judah; and,

3. The tomb of the prophet who delivered this prophecy, who, being

slain by a lion, was brought back and buried at Beth-el, the

superscription on whose tomb remained till the day on which

Josiah destroyed that altar, and burnt dead men's bones upon it.

See above, verses 16-18. 2Ki 23:16-18

Verse 3. And he gave a sign] A miracle to prove that the

prophecy should be fulfilled in its season.

Verse 4. Lay hold on him.] No doubt, stretching out his own hand

at the same time, through rage, pride, and haste, to execute his

own orders.

And his hand dried up] The whole arm became suddenly rigid; the

nerves no longer communicated their influence, and the muscles

ceased to obey the dictates of the will.

Verse 5. The altar was also rent] It split or clave of its own

accord; and, as the split parts would decline at the top from the

line of their perpendicular, so the ashes and coals would fall

off, or be poured out.

Verse 6. Entreat-the face of the Lord thy God] The face of God

is his favour, as we see in many parts of the sacred writings. He

says, thy God; for Jeroboam knew that he was not his God, for he

was now in the very act of acknowledging other gods, and had no

portion in the God of Jacob.

And the king's hand was restored] Both miracles were wrought to

show the truth of the Jewish religion, and to convince this bold

innovator of his wickedness, and to reclaim him from the folly and

ruinous tendency of his idolatry.

Verse 7. Come home with me-and I will give thee a reward.] Come

and be one of my priests, and I will give thee a proper salary.

Verse 9. For so it was charged me-Eat no bread, &c.] That is,

Have no kind of communication with those idolaters. He was charged

also not to return by the way that he came; probably lest the

account of what was done should have reached the ears of any of

the people through whom he had passed, and he suffer

inconveniences on the account, either by persecution from the

idolaters, or from curious people delaying him, in order to cause

him to give an account of the transactions which took place at

Beth-el. This is a reason why he should not return by the same

way; but what the reason of this part of the charge was, if not

the above, is not easy to see.

Verse 11. An old prophet] Probably once a prophet of the Lord,

who had fallen from his steadfastness, and yet not so deeply as to

lose the knowledge of the true God, and join with Jeroboam in his

idolatries. We find he was not at the king's sacrifice, though his

sons were there; and perhaps even they were there, not as

idolaters, but as spectators of what was done.

Verse 14. And went after the man of God] I can hardly think that

this was with any evil design. His sons had given him such an

account of the prediction, the power, and influence of this

prophet, that he wished to have a particular acquaintance with

him, in order that he might get farther information relative to

the solemn import of the prophecy which he had denounced against

the idolatry at Beth-el. This good man could not have been an

object of the old prophet's malevolence.

Verse 18. An angel spake unto me] That he lied unto him is here

expressly asserted, and is amply proved by the event. But why

should he deceive him? The simple principle of curiosity to know

all about this prediction, and the strange facts which had taken

place, of which he had heard at second hand by means of his sons,

was sufficient to induce such a person to get the intelligence he

wished by any means. We may add to this, that, as he found the man

of God sitting under an oak, probably faint with fatigue and

fasting, for he had had no refreshment, his humanity might have

led him to practise this deception, in order to persuade him to

take some refreshment. Having fallen from God, as I have supposed,

1Ki 13:11, his own tenderness of conscience was gone; and he

would not scruple to do a moral evil, if even a temporal good

could come of it. Again, is it not possible that the old prophet

was himself deceived? for, though he lied unto him, it is possible

that he was not conscious of his lie, for Satan, as an angel of

light, might have deceived him in order to lead him to deceive the

other. He does not say, as the man of God did, It was said to me

by the word of the Lord; no: but, An angel spake unto me by the

word of the Lord. And I think it very likely that an angel did

appear to him on the occasion; an angel of darkness and idolatry,

in the garb of an angel of light, who wished to use him as an

instrument to bring discredit on the awful transactions which had

lately taken place, and to destroy him who had foretold the

destruction of his power and influence.

Verse 19. So he went back with him] He permitted himself to be

imposed on; he might have thought, as he had accomplished every

purpose for which God sent him, and had actually begun to return

by another way, God, who had given him the charge, had authority

to say, "As thy purpose was to obey every injunction, even to the

letter, I now permit thee to go with this old prophet, and take

some refreshment." Now God might as well have dispensed with this

part of the injunction, as he did in the case of Abraham: Take thy

son Isaac, thy only son, whom thou lovest-and offer him for a

burnt-offering; but, when he saw his perfect readiness, he

dispensed with the actual offering, and accepted a ram in his

stead. Thus much may be said in vindication of the man of God: but

if this be so, why should he be punished with death, for doing

what he had reason and precedent to believe might be the will of

God? I answer: He should not have taken a step back, till he had

remission of the clause from the same authority which gave him the

general message. He should have had it from the word of the Lord

to himself, in both cases, as Abraham had; and not taken an

apparent contradiction of what was before delivered unto him, from

the mouth of a stranger, who only professed to have it from an

angel, who pretended to speak unto him by the word of the Lord. In

this, and in this alone, lay the sinfulness of the act of the man

of God, who came out of Judah.

Verse 20. The word of the Lord came unto the prophet that

brought him back] "A great clamour," says Dr. Kennicott, "has been

raised against this part of the history, on account of God's

denouncing sentence on the true prophet by the mouth of the false

prophet: but if we examine with attention the original words here,

they will be found to signify either he who brought him back; or,

whom he had brought back; for the very same words,

asher heshibo, occur again in 1Ki 13:23, where they are now

translated, whom he had brought back; and where they cannot be

translated otherwise. This being the case, we are at liberty to

consider the word of the Lord as delivered to the true prophet

thus brought back; and then the sentence is pronounced by GOD

himself, calling to him out of heaven, as in Ge 22:11. And that

this doom was thus pronounced by God, not by the false prophet, we

are assured in 1Ki 13:26: 'The Lord hath delivered him unto the

lion, according to the word of the Lord which HE spake unto him.'

Josephus expressly asserts that the sentence was declared by God

to the true prophet." The Arabic asserts the same.

Verse 21. And he] That is, according to the above

interpretation, the voice of God from heaven addressing the man of

God, the old prophet having nothing to do in this business.

Verse 22. Thy carcass shall not come] This intimated to him that

he was to die an untimely death, but probably did not specify by

what means.

Verse 24. A lion met him-and slew him] By permitting himself to

be seduced by the old prophet, when he should have acted only on

the expressly declared counsel of God, he committed the sin unto

death; that is, such a sin as God will punish with the death of

the body, while he extends mercy to the soul. See my notes on

1Jo 5:16, 17.

From the instance here related, we see, as in various other

cases, that often judgment begins at the house of God. The true

prophet, for receiving that as a revelation from God which was

opposed to the revelation which himself had received, and which

was confirmed by so many miracles, is slain by a lion, and his

body deprived of the burial of his fathers; while the wicked king,

and the old fallen prophet, are both permitted to live! If this

was severity to the man of God, it was mercy to the others,

neither of whom was prepared to meet his judge. Here we may well

say, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly

and the sinner appear?"

Verse 28. The lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass.]

All here was preternatural. The lion, though he had killed the

man, does not devour him; the ass stands quietly by, not fearing

the lion; and the lion does not attempt to tear the ass: both

stand as guardians of the fallen prophet. How evident is the hand

of God in all!

Verse 30. Alas, my brothers] This lamentation is very simple,

very short, and very pathetic. Perhaps the old prophet said it as

much in reference to himself, who had been the cause of his

untimely death, as in reference to the man of God, whose corpse he

now committed to the tomb. But the words may be no more than the

burden of each line of the lamentation which was used on this

occasion. See instances of this among the Asiatics in

Clarke's note on "Jer 22:18".

Verse 31. Lay my bones beside his bones] This argues a strong

conviction in the mind of the old prophet, that the deceased was a

good and holy man of God; and he is willing to have place with him

in the general resurrection.

Verse 32. In the cities of Samaria] It is most certain that

Samaria, or as it is called in Hebrew Shomeron, was not built at

this time. We are expressly told that Omri, king of Israel,

founded this city on the hill which he bought for two talents of

silver, from a person of the name of Shemer, after whom he called

the city Samaria or Shomeron; (see 1Ki 16:24;) and this was fifty

years after the death of Jeroboam. How then could the old prophet

speak of Samaria, not then in existence, unless he did it by the

spirit of prophecy, calling things that are not as though they

were; as the man of God called Josiah by name three hundred years

before he was born? Some suppose that the historian adds these

words because Samaria existed in his time, and he well knew that

it did not exist in the time of the old prophet; for himself, in

the sixteenth chapter, gives us the account of its foundation by

Omri. After all, it is possible that God might have given this

revelation to the old prophet; and thus by anticipation which is

the language of prophecy, spoke of Samaria as then existing. This

is the solution of Houbigant, and is thought sound by many good

critics.

Verse 33. Jeroboam returned not from his evil way] There is

something exceedingly obstinate and perverse, as well as blinding

and infatuating, in idolatry. The prediction lately delivered at

Beth-el, and the miracles wrought in confirmation of it, were

surely sufficient to have affected and alarmed any heart, not

wholly and incorrigibly hardened; and yet they had no effect on

Jeroboam!

Made-the lowest of the people priests] So hardy was this bad man

in his idolatry that he did not even attempt to form any thing

according to the model of God's true worship: he would have

nothing like God and truth. In his calves, or rather oxen, he

copied the manner of Egypt; and in the formation of his

priesthood, he seems to have gone aside from all models. Amongst

the worst of heathens, the priesthood was filled with respectable

men; but Jeroboam took of the lowest of the people, and put them

in that office.

Whosoever would, he consecrated him] He made no discrimination:

any vagabond that offered was accepted even of those who had no

character, who were too idle to work, and too stupid to learn.

Verse 34. And this thing became sin] These abominations were too

glaring, and too insulting to the Divine Majesty, to be permitted

to last; therefore his house was cut off, and destroyed from the

face of the earth.

A HOLY priesthood, a righteous ministry, is a blessing to any

state, because it has a most powerful effect on the morals of the

community; inducing order, sobriety, and habits of industry, among

the people: on the contrary, the profligacy of the clergy, and

false principles of religion, are the most likely to unsettle a

kingdom, and to bring about destructive revolutions in the state.

This is the principle on which all national establishments of

religion were originally formed. The state thought proper to

secure a permanency of religion, that religion might secure the

safety of the state; because it was supposed from the general

aversion of men from good, that, if left to themselves, they would

have no religion at all. Where the religion of the country is

pure, founded solely on the oracles of God, it deserves the utmost

sanction of the state, as well as the attention of every

individual. A Christian state has surely authority to enact, The

Christian religion is and shall be the religion of this land; and,

prejudice apart, should not the laws provide for the permanence of

this system? Is the form of Christianity likely to be preserved in

times of general profligacy, if the laws do not secure its

permanence? What would our nation have been if we had not had a

version of the sacred writings established by the authority of the

laws: and a form of sound words for general devotion established

by the same authority? Whatever the reader may do the writer

thanks God for the religious establishment of his country. For

abuses in church or state, he is the last to contend.

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