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Verses 1-32

The prophecy of judgment on Jeroboam’s religious system 13:1-32

God sent a young Judahite prophet to Bethel to announce a prophecy that God would judge Jeroboam for his apostasy. When he arrived, the king was exercising his priestly function at the Bethel altar (1 Kings 13:1).

"Though kings could function as priests in certain circumstances (2 Samuel 6:12-15), it was strictly forbidden for them to offer incense for this was limited to the Aaronic priests alone (Numbers 16:39-40; 2 Chronicles 26:16-18)." [Note: Merrill, "1 Kings," p. 260.]

The prophet predicted Josiah by name 290 years before he became king of Judah (1 Kings 13:2; cf. Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1). God fulfilled this prophecy when Josiah destroyed Jeroboam’s religious system (2 Kings 23:15-20). The sign God gave was a miracle designed to prove the truthfulness of the prophecy to those who heard it (1 Kings 13:3). According to the Mosaic Law, the priests were to carefully carry away the ashes from the altar to a clean place for disposal (Leviticus 1:16; Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 6:10-11). The pouring out of them there, along with the destruction of this altar, symbolized God’s rejection of this sacrificial system. Jeroboam stretched out his hand in a gesture of authority (1 Kings 13:4). By incapacitating his hand, a symbol of power, God showed He had greater authority than the king and was sovereign over him (1 Kings 13:4).

We can see that Jeroboam had no regard for Yahweh when he called the Lord the prophet’s God rather than his own God (1 Kings 13:6). By offering the prophet a reward, Jeroboam was seeking to compromise him. If the prophet had accepted the reward, there would have been a question in the minds of onlookers concerning whether he was in Yahweh’s service or in Jeroboam’s (1 Kings 13:7). The young man wisely declined even to eat with the king, which in that culture implied mutual affection and protection (1 Kings 13:8).

The old prophet living in Bethel was a compromiser, as 1 Kings 13:11-32 make clear. If he had been faithful to Yahweh, he might have left Bethel and Israel when Jeroboam brought his nation under a humanly devised system of worship. Many of the faithful in Israel did this (1 Kings 13:11; cf. 2 Chronicles 11:13-17). However, several other faithful prophets lived and ministered in the Northern Kingdom (e.g., Hosea, Jonah, Ahijah, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, et at.). The old prophet tried to turn the young prophet away from what God had told him to do (1 Kings 13:15). He lied about God’s revelation to him (1 Kings 13:18). Like Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:13) and Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28), the young man listened to bad counsel rather than obeying a direct word from the Lord.

However, the old prophet did receive some revelations from God (1 Kings 13:20). He predicted that because the young prophet had not been completely faithful to God, he would have a dishonorable burial (1 Kings 13:22). A person’s burial made a statement about whether his life was honorable or not in the ancient Near East. Since the lion did not eat the prophet or maul his donkey, it was clear that this was an unusual slaying. God had sent the lion to judge the young prophet (1 Kings 13:24).

"Lions were attested in Palestine until at least the thirteenth century AD." [Note: Wiseman, p. 147.]

If God had not judged His own prophet for his disobedience, there might have been some doubt about whether God would judge Jeroboam for his. In spite of his own unfaithfulness, the old prophet admired his young friend and gave him as honorable a burial as was possible (1 Kings 13:30).

"Perhaps he felt that association with a true prophet of the Lord, even if only in death, would help erase his disobedience in life and ministry." [Note: Merrill, "1 Kings," p. 261.]

"Whatever his motives, and it is impossible to know them for sure, the old man is a mixture of curiosity, dishonesty, accuracy, and conviction." [Note: Wiseman, p. 189. Cf. W. Gross, "Lying Prophet and Disobedient Man of God in 1 Kings 13 : Role Analysis as an Instrument of Theological Interpretation of an OT Narrative Text," Semeia 15 (1979):122; and Leon J. Wood, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 184-89.]

This incident illustrates the importance of complete obedience to God’s Word. God used it to impress this truth on Jeroboam, the Israelites, and all who heard about it, as well as us.

"From beginning to end, the story dwells on a single theme-the fulfillment of the word of the Lord in its due time, having transcended the weakness of its bearer and converted its violators into its confirmants." [Note: Uriel Simon, "1 Kings 13 : A Prophetic Sign-Denial and Persistence," Hebrew Union College Annual 47 (1976):115.]

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