NOTHING TRUMPS THE WORD OF GOD
The Word of the Lord packs a punch. It has substance. It delivers on its promises. You ignore God’s Word at your own peril. Jeroboam learned that lesson here; as did the Man of God who delivered the message of judgment to Jeroboam. When you have the clear directive from God regarding how to approach Him in worship, you cannot try to establish some type of substitute man-made system as we saw in Chap. 12. When God has clearly defined your mission, you cannot be dissuaded by even the voice of an angel or someone claiming to have contradictory revelation. You must simply obey the clear Word of God or suffer the consequences of His judgment.
Iain Provan: Jeroboam stands, like Solomon (1 Kgs. 8:22), at the altar of his new temple, ready to dedicate it to his gods. He does not, however, get his chance to speak, for this temple has no legitimacy. And so, as Solomon’s temple was built in fulfillment of a prophetic promise about both temple and dynasty (2 Sam. 7:1–17), the building of Jeroboam’s temple evokes prophetic threats (1 Kgs. 13:2–3; 14:7–13), which in due course will come to fulfillment in the destruction of both dynasty and temple. The Lord is the God of history, whose word must be obeyed—even by the very prophets who deliver it—if blessing is to follow (13:11–32).
Stan Anderson: The name of that city means “House of God,” so you would expect that God would be honored there. Sadly that was not the case. Bethel had become a place of corruption and a place of convenience. Jeroboam, the king, had set up an alternate place of worship that would be more convenient. It was his plan to control the people and keep them loyal. This is a clear picture of what is going on in the world today…religion that is driven by compromise and convenience. The all-important question is not, “Is it right?” but “Does it work?” God’s man delivered a powerful message against the false worship and King Jeroboam was there to hear it.
Donald Wiseman: Increased prophetic activity is attested at special times of tension among God’s people (e.g. Elijah Elisha, the birth of Christ, the early days of the church, etc.). It aims to heighten awareness of God’s word and the inevitable consequences of rejecting it. . . main argument = judgment will inevitably befall those who defy God’s word.
I. (:1-10) THE WORD OF GOD REIGNS SUPREME OVER THE RESISTANCE OFFERED BY HUMAN AUTHORITY AND POWER –
INTERACTION BETWEEN JEROBOAM AND THE MAN OF GOD
A. (:1-3) Jeroboam Confronted by the Man of God
1. (:1-2) The Scenario
a. (:1) Man of God Dispatched to Indict Jeroboam’s Religious Expediency
“Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.”
Mordecai Cogan: by YHWH’s word. The term appears seven times in this chapter (vv. 1, 2, 5, 9, 17, 18, 32), pointing to the tale’s central theme; cf. also 20:35.
David Guzik: Apparently, there were no qualified messengers within the northern kingdom of Israel. This is a sad commentary on the spiritual state of Jeroboam’s kingdom.
b. (:2) Message from the Lord of Coming Judgment
“And he cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, ‘O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”
Wiersbe: The prophet spoke to the altar, not to the king, as though God no longer wanted to address Jeroboam, a man so filled with himself and his plans that he had no time to listen to God. The message declared that the future lay with the house of David, not with the house of Jeroboam.
MacArthur: The prophet predicted that Josiah would slaughter the illegitimate priests of the high places of his day who made offerings on the altar at Bethel. This prophecy was realized in 2Ki 23:15-20, executing the divine judgment on the non-Levitical priesthood established by Jeroboam (12:31, 32).
2. (:3) The Sign
“Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the LORD has spoken, Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’”
William Barnes: One of the famous tests of a true prophet (Deut 18:15–22) refers to the accuracy of a future prediction of the would-be prophet as a confidence-inspiring test of his or her orthodoxy. I have come to refer to this phenomenon as “the test of short-term prediction,” since such a test would work best in the short-term future. This is the case in the present verse: Jeroboam’s altar will split apart and its ashes will be poured out—a prediction that comes to pass that very same day (see 13:5).
Thomas Constable: According to the Mosaic Law, the priests were to carefully carry away the ashes from the altar to a clean place for disposal. The pouring out of them there, along with the destruction of this altar, symbolized God’s control of Jeroboam and His rejection of this sacrificial system.
B. (:4-6) Jeroboam Attempts to Attack the Man of God
1. (:4) Freezing the Outstretched Hand of Jeroboam
“Now it came about when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, that Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, ‘Seize him.’ But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself.”
The actions of God, not the actions of Jeroboam, determine the outcome.
Mordechai Cogan: withered. Literally, “dried up”; cf. Zech 11:17. The threatening hand had become inoperable.
2. (:5) Fulfilling the Word of the Lord
“The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.”
This is the heart of this section demonstrating that God will fulfil His Word despite any resistance or opposition.
Dale Ralph Davis: The man of God spoke of the altar being ‘torn’ (vv. 3, 5). The verb (qāra‘) is significant. Yahweh uses this verb (11:11, 12, 13) when he tells Solomon he is going to ‘tear’ the kingdom from him. The verb occurs in 11:30 when Ahijah the prophet ‘tore’ his new cloak into twelve ‘torn pieces (cognate noun) and explained it meant that Yahweh ‘was tearing’ the kingdom from Solomon (11:31). Would Jeroboam remember Ahijah and get the point? A torn cloak had meant a torn kingdom, a kingdom under judgment. Now, at Bethel, a torn altar signified torn religion, a religion under judgment.
Let me digress momentarily to emphasize how clearly Yahweh spoke to Jeroboam that day, what evidence he gave him that Yahweh himself was speaking and acting. One could say Yahweh gave Jeroboam a barrage of signs. He gave a sign of power, the paralyzed hand (v. 4), as if to say, ‘This is my servant; I sent him; and if you try to harm him, you’re toast!’ He gave a sign of truth, the torn altar (vv. 3, 5), which, as already explained, gave present proof of future fulfillment (v. 2). No one could dispute that an unseen hand had assaulted the altar before their very eyes. And yet he granted a sign of grace, for when the man of God interceded, Yahweh restored the king’s hand (v. 6). Was that not the immense kindness of Yahweh? Was it not a token of what Yahweh would delight to do for Jeroboam? Was it an invitation to return and enjoy his goodness? Manipulation, however, was not the way back (v. 7) and Jeroboam’s smooth tactic meets a direct rebuff, a sign of repudiation (vv. 8–9). Leaving lunchless was a form of acted excommunication—the true man of God was to have no dealings, enjoy no fellowship, carry on no relations with the apostate regime. Jeroboam & Co. were cut off from the true people of God. The acted sermon was as clear as the spoken.
3. (:6) Freeing the Frozen Hand of Jeroboam
“And the king answered and said to the man of God, ‘Please entreat the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.’ So the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before.”
David Guzik: To his credit, the man of God showed great grace to Jeroboam. He quickly moved from being under arrest to being an intercessor for his persecutor. This was great mercy from the man of God, and especially from God, who answered his prayer.
C. (:7-10) Jeroboam Attempts to Compromise the Man of God
1. (:7) Compensation Offered
“Then the king said to the man of God, ‘Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.’”
Iain Provan: We may be intended to read Jeroboam’s invitation to dine and receive a gift (v. 7), then, as an attempt to buy the Judean’s loyalty. If the prophet can reverse God’s judgment in the small matter of the hand, perhaps he can also exchange the curse on the altar for a blessing. The invitation from the old prophet living in Bethel (a false prophet who later spoke truly) can be understood in the same way (vv. 11, 15)—as an attempt to stave off the destruction of Bethel, and the desecration of his own tomb, which he knows must follow the Judean’s words of verse 2 (v.32). It is concern about the possibility of corruption, then, that may lie behind the instructions given to the Judean about his journey. He is to go directly to Bethel and come directly back. He is not even to stop for refreshment, and he is to vary his route so that he cannot easily be found and prevented from completing his mission (cf. Matt. 2:12). It is when he does stop (v. 14) that his troubles begin.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary: Jeroboam was artful, invited the prophet to the royal table, not to do him honor, or show his gratitude for the restoration of his hand, but to win, by his courtesy and liberal hospitality, a person whom he could not crush by his power.
Wiersbe: Had the prophet eaten a meal with the king, that one simple act would have wiped out the effectiveness of his witness and ministry. In the east, sharing a meal is a sign of friendship and endorsement. The prophet certainly didn’t want to be a friend to such an evil man or give others the impression that he endorsed his wicked works. . . . A compromising servant of God muddies the waters and confuses the saints.
2. (:8-9) Conviction Regarding the Word of the Lord
a. (:8) Determining Factor is Not the Amount of Compensation
“But the man of God said to the king, ‘If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place.’”
b. (:9) Determining Factor is Obedience to the Word of the Lord
“For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’”
MacArthur: The prophet’s divine commission expressly forbade receiving any hospitality at Bethel. It even required him to return home by a different route from the one by which he came, lest he should be recognized. The prophet’s own conduct was to symbolize the Lord’s total rejection of Israel’s false worship and the recognition that all the people had become apostates.
3. (:10) Commitment to Return Home
“So he went another way, and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.”
II. (:11-32) THE WORD OF GOD REIGNS SUPREME OVER THE DECEPTION CAUSED BY COUNTERFEIT AUTHORITY AND POWER –
INTERACTION BETWEEN THE OLD PROPHET AND THE MAN OF GOD
A. (:11-19) Deception Can Look Harmless
1. (:11) Prophet Living in Bethel Seems Harmless
“Now an old prophet was living in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the deeds which the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king, these also they related to their father.”
Peter Pett: Meanwhile dwelling in Bethel was an old prophet who had served YHWH for many years. The fact that he was not present at the celebrations taking place at the Sanctuary, but rather sent his sons, indicates that he was very old. He was no longer actively involved as a prophet.
2. (:12-13) Pursuit of the Man of God Seems Friendly
“And their father said to them, ‘Which way did he go?’
Now his sons had seen the way which the man of God
who came from Judah had gone.
Then he said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’
So they saddled the donkey for him and he rode away on it.”
3. (:14) Pleasantries Exchanged with the Man of God
“So he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, ‘Are you the man of God who came from Judah?’ And he said, ‘I am.’”
4. (:15-17) Presentation of the Deceptive Temptation
a. (:15) Attack Against God’s Directive
“Then he said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat bread.’”
Cf. how Satan attacked Adam and Eve in the Garden
Peter Pett: Unless we see the old prophet as being deliberately malicious through jealousy we can only assume that what happened next was a test that he was making so as to determine whether the man of God really was a true prophet, or was simply acting on behalf of the king of Judah in order to undermine Jeroboam’s authority. His reasoning was probably that if the man was a true man of God he would discern that he was lying to him. Thus he told the man of God a false story suggesting that YHWH had countermanded His previous command and was now willing for him to partake of food in Israel. When the man of God changed his mind and began to eat with him the old prophet no doubt felt himself satisfied that the man of God was not a true prophet after all.
But then, as of old, the word of YHWH came to him while they were eating, and to his horror he learned what he had really done. He had to acknowledge to himself that he had seemingly betrayed a true prophet of YHWH. But, however embarrassed he might have felt, because it was the word of YHWH for the man of God he could not hold it back, and he declared to the man of God that because he had disobeyed YHWH he would not die in peace (would not be laid in the tomb of his fathers) although no other detail was given. We are not told what the man of God’s reaction was.
b. (:16) Answer Based on God’s Directive
“And he said, ‘I cannot return with you, nor go with you,
nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.’”
c. (:17) Authority Behind God’s Directive
“For a command came to me by the word of the LORD,
‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there;
do not return by going the way which you came.’”
John Schultz: One of my former veteran missionary colleagues, Walter Post, once gave me an outline of a sermon preached on this section. Referring to the prophet of Bethel, it read: “When God calls: – Do nothing less! – Do nothing more! – Do nothing else!” . .
One important lesson to draw from this is that we must not accept without question the “guidance” other people say they received regarding God’s will for our life. If we keep our fellowship with the Lord clean, we may believe that He will show us personally what His will for us is. God may use others to guide us, but our obedience must be to the will of God, not to the wishes of man.
5. (:18-19) Perversion of Truth
a. (:18a) False Pretenses
1) Misrepresenting the Status and Power of His Credentials
“And he said to him, ‘I also am a prophet like you,”
2) Misrepresenting the Source and Authority of His Invitation
“and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD,”
3) Misrepresenting the Substance and Intentions of His Invitation
“saying, Bring him back with you to your house,
that he may eat bread and drink water.’”
Peter Pett: The mention of the angel was probably the old prophet’s way of avoiding putting his lie directly in the mouth of YHWH, and it should possibly have caused the man of God to stop and think. This was clearly a less direct message than he had himself received. However, as he knew that angels had spoken to men in the past he let it go.
David Guzik: Perhaps this was true, and perhaps it was a deceiving angel. Satan and his messengers can appear as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
b. (:18b) False Story
“But he lied to him.”
c. (:19) Fatal Sin
“So he went back with him,
and ate bread in his house and drank water.”
Dale Ralph Davis: At the very least the man of God should have registered suspicion, since the old prophet if only by his residence was associated with the apostatizing northern kingdom. He swallowed a counter revelation-claim in opposition to the clear word already received. That is the essential problem. And that is a recipe for disaster. . .
Did you notice how steadfast and rock-solid the man of God was in his encounter with King Jeroboam (vv. 1–10)? He neither succumbed to the king’s intimidation nor to his blandishments. Yet he fell when faced with the poppycock of a religious deceiver. This pattern is instructive: sometimes we have courage to face major crises but lack sense for subtle dilemmas. We can muster defiance for the danger of the hour but cannot find discernment for the ploy of the moment. Ministry must be grounded in both the power of God and the wisdom of God.
David Guzik: The man of God from Judah listened to the lie from the prophet of Bethel. He did this for several reasons:
· The prophet from Bethel was probably older (an old prophet, 1 Kings 13:11) and had the respect of the man of God.
· The prophet from Bethel identified with the man of God (I too am a prophet as you are).
· The prophet from Bethel claimed a spectacular experience (an angel spoke to me).
· The prophet from Bethel claimed to speak for the LORD (by the word of the LORD).
· The prophet from Bethel did not seem to be an idolater who should be shunned (Bring him back with you to your house).
· The prophet from Bethel offered no reward, other than simple food (he may eat bread and drink water).
B. (:20-25) Disobedience Will Be Judged
1. (:20-22) Prophecy of Imminent Judgment
a. (:20) Revelation to the Old Prophet of Imminent Judgment
“Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table,
that the word of the LORD came to the prophet
who had brought him back;”
b. (:21-22a) Reason for the Judgment Declared to the Man of God
“and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you,’”Eat no bread and drink no water’;”
Iain Provan: It is further made clear that God’s law stands over everyone—that even prophets must obey it, or face judgment—and that God can use even false prophets occasionally to speak the truth.
c. (:22b) Reality of the Imminent Judgment
“your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.”
Peter Pett: Furthermore we should remember that by his folly the man of God had in effect countermanded his own message by eating and drinking in Israel, and had the matter ended there all Israel would have believed that the man of God’s message no longer applied. We must remember in considering this the vital role that hospitality played in ancient society. It was not just a casual thing. Once you had supplied hospitality, or received it, you had made a pledge of friendship which was seen as sacrosanct. It was a sign of guaranteed friendly relations. On the other hand to refrain from hospitality was a direct sign of enmity, and of evil intentions. Thus the man of God’s disobedience could have had catastrophic results on the faith of the true believers in Israel. The only way in which that could be avoided was by YHWH’s judgment falling on the man of God, thus indicating that in his act of enjoying hospitality he had not been YHWH’s representative.
R. D. Patterson: Because the man of God had disobeyed the full counsel of God, he would not be buried in the tomb of his father; this meant that he would meet a violent death along the way home (vv. 21-22).
2. (:23) Preparations for the Last Ride Following the Last Meal
“And it came about after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, for the prophet whom he had brought back.”
3. (:24) Particulars of this Amazing Divine Judgment
“Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body.”
Donald Wiseman: It would be taken as a sign of the man of God’s status that the lion neither further mauled his body nor touched the donkey.
August Konkel: The donkey stands helplessly beside his body, just as Jeroboam stood beside the shattered altar. In subtle terms this scene shows Jeroboam to be a dumb animal.
MacArthur: Both the donkey and the lion acted unnaturally: The donkey did not run and the lion did not attack the donkey or disturb the man’s body. Unlike the disobedient prophet, the beasts bent their wills to God’s sovereignty.
4. (:25) Prophet Receives Report of the Unnatural Death Scene
“And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown on the road, and the lion standing beside the body; so they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.”
C. (:26-32) Divine Decrees Will Be Carried Out
1. (:26) Fulfilment of Prophecy of Judgment Against the Man of God
a. Man of God Executed Because of Disobedience
“Now when the prophet who brought him back from the way heard it, he said, ‘It is the man of God, who disobeyed the command of the LORD;’”
b. Man of God Executed by Sovereign Governance
“therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to him.”
2. (:27-30) Funeral Managed by the Old Prophet
a. (:27-28) Observation of the Unnatural Circumstances of the Death
“Then he spoke to his sons, saying, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’
And they saddled it. And he went and found his body thrown on
the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the body;
the lion had not eaten the body nor torn the donkey.”
b. (:29a) Retrieval of the Body
“So the prophet took up the body of the man of God
and laid it on the donkey, and brought it back”
c. (:29b-30) Pathos of Mourning and Burial of the Man of God
“and he came to the city of the old prophet to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid his body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, ‘Alas, my brother!’”
3. (:31-32) Future Fulfilment of Coming Judgment Against Bethel Assured
a. (:31) Burial Request
“And it came about after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, ‘When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones.’”
Iain Provan: Given the context, it is much more likely that his concern is not so much to be remembered in the grave as to be allowed to remain in the grave. Thus, this is his alternative plan (after his hospitality stratagem failed) to avoid the desecration of his bones that he knows will otherwise take place (v. 32; cf. v. 2). As it turns out, this second plan is one that works (2 Kgs. 23:17–18).
b. (:32) Bethel Headed for Certain Judgment
“For the thing shall surely come to pass 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.”
(:33-34) EPILOGUE – NO REPENTANCE FOR JEROBOAM – REJECTION OF THE SUPREME WORD OF THE LORD
A. (:33) Dead Man Walking – Persisting in Sin of Religious Expediency
“After this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way,
but again he made priests of the high places from among all the people;
any who would, he ordained, to be priests of the high places.”
Dale Ralph Davis: He simply repaired the altar and went on worshiping there (vv. 33–34). The word of God was his mercy—and he despised it.
B. (:34) Defining Sin Wipes Out the House of Jeroboam
“And this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam,
even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.”
Iain Provan: The closing verses of the chapter tie the story of the prophets back to the Jeroboam narrative. True prophecy will bring forth the judgment it promises; even prophets cannot escape if they are disobedient. And if prophets cannot escape, neither can kings. Bethel, and by extension all the other shrines on the high places that center around Bethel’s cult, will indeed be destroyed (v. 32). Even in face of all that has just happened, however, Jeroboam continues in his evil ways (v. 33), appointing illegitimate priests for the high places just mentioned. That is to say, he proliferates his new cult, extending it beyond Bethel and Dan into the rest of his kingdom. And because all the warnings of chapter 13 have led him, not to repentance (like Ahab in 1 Kgs. 21:28–29), but to a hardening of heart, the destruction of his house is now assured (v. 34). This was the sin—this persistence in idolatry—that led him to disaster. His adherence to his religious reforms has put the prize of an everlasting dynasty out of reach; his attempt to make his own “house” secure, by building a “house” for his gods at Bethel and lesser shrines for them elsewhere, has failed.
David Guzik: All in all, Jeroboam is an example of sinful failure.
· He failed despite great blessing and favor from God.
· He failed for the sake of mere political advantage.
· He failed and led an entire nation into idolatry.
· He failed despite specific warnings to repent.
· He failed despite specific judgment and deliverance from that judgment.
· He failed despite a clear message and example of integrity.