1 Kings 13 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Kings 13)

Verse 1

[1] And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.

Man of God — An holy prophet.

By the word, … — By Divine inspiration and command.

Verse 2

[2] And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.

The altar — And consequently, against all that worship.

O altar — He directs his speech to the altar, because the following signs were wrought upon it.

Josiah — Which being done above three hundred years after this prophecy, plainly shews the absolute certainty of God's providence; and fore-knowledge even in the most contingent things. For this was in itself uncertain, and wholly depended upon man's will, both as to the having of a child, and as to the giving it this name. Therefore God can certainly and effectually over-rule man's will which way he pleaseth; or else it was possible, that this prediction should have been false; which is blasphemous to imagine.

The priests — The bones of the priests, 2 Kings 23:15,16, whereby the altar should be defiled. How bold was the man, that durst attack the king in his pride, and interrupt the solemnity he was proud of? Whoever is sent on God's errand, must not fear the faces of men. It was above three hundred and fifty years ere this prophecy was fulfilled. Yet it is spoken of as sure and nigh at hand. For a thousand years are with God as one day.

Verse 3

[3] And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.

Gave a sign — That is, he then wrought a miracle, to assure them of the truth of his prophecy.

Verse 4

[4] And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.

Put forth, … — To point out the man whom he would have the people lay hands on.

The altar — Where it was employed in offering something upon it.

Dried up — Or, withered, the muscles and sinews, the instruments of motion, shrunk up. This God did, to chastise Jeroboam for offering violence to the Lord's prophet: to secure the prophet against farther violence: and, that in this example God might shew, how highly he resents the injuries done to his ministers, for the faithful discharge of their office.

Verse 6

[6] And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.

Thy God — Who hath manifested himself to be thy God and friend, in a singular manner; and therefore will hear thy prayers for me, though he will not regard mine, because I have forsaken him and his worship.

Besought — To assure Jeroboam, that what he had said, was not from ill-will to him, and that he heartily desired his reformation, and not his ruin.

Restored — Because he repented of that violence, which he intended against that prophet, for which God inflicted it: and that this goodness of God to him, might have led him to repentance; or, if he continued impenitent, leave him without excuse.

Verse 9

[9] For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.

For so, … — My refusal of thy favour, is not from any contempt, or hatred of thy person; but in obedience to the just command of my God, who hath forbidden me all father converse or communication with thee.

Eat nor drink — In that place, or with that people. Whereby God declares, how detestable they were in God's eyes; because they were vile apostates from the true God, and embraced this idol-worship, against the light of their own consciences, merely to comply with the king's humour and command.

Nor turn — That by thy avoiding the way that led thee to Beth-el as execrable, although thou wentest by my special command, thou mightest teach all others, how much they should abhor that way, and all thoughts of going to that place, or to such people, upon any unnecessary occasion.

Verse 11

[11] Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.

A prophet — One to whom, and by whom God did sometimes impart his mind; as it is manifest from verse 20,21, and one that had a respect to the Lord's holy prophets, and gave credit to their predictions: but whether he was a good man, may be doubted, seeing we find him in a downright lie, verse 18. And altho' an holy prophet may possibly have continued in the kingdom of Israel, he would never have gone from his own habitation, to dwell at Beth-el, the chief seat of idolatry, unless with design to preach against it: which it is evident he did not; his sons seem to have been present at, and, and to have joined with others in that idolatrous worship.

Verse 21

[21] And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee,

Cried — With a loud voice, the effect of his passion, both for his own guilt and shame, and for the prophet's approaching misery.

Verse 22

[22] But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

Shall not, … — Thou shalt not die a natural, but a violent death; and that in this journey, before thou returnest to thy native habitation. But is it not strange that the lying prophet escapes, while the man of God is so severely punished? Certainly there must be a judgment to come, when these things shall be called over again, and when those who sinned most and suffered least in this world, will receive according to their works.

Verse 23

[23] And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.

Saddled for him — But, it is observable, he doth not accompany him; his guilty conscience making him fear to be involved in the same judgment with him.

Verse 24

[24] And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.

Slew him — "But why doth God punish a good man so severely for so small an offence?" His sin was not small, for it was a gross disobedience to a positive command. And it cannot seem strange if God should bring his deserved death upon him in this manner, for the accomplishment of his own glorious designs, to vindicate his own justice from the imputation of partiality; to assure the truth of his predictions, and thereby provoke Jeroboam and his idolatrous followers to repentance; and to justify himself in all his dreadful judgments which he intended to inflict upon Jeroboam's house, and the whole kingdom of Israel.

Verse 28

[28] And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass.

He found, … — Here was a concurrence of miracles: that the ass did not run away from the lion, according to his nature, but boldly stood still, as reserving himself to carry the prophet to his burial; that the lion did not devour its prey, nor yet go away when he had done his work, but stood still, partly to preserve the carcase of the prophet from other wild beasts or fowls, partly, as an evidence that the prophet's death was not casual, nor the effect of a lion's ravenous disposition, but of God's singular and just judgment; and consequently, that his prediction was divine, and should be infallibly accomplished in its proper time; and partly, as a token of God's favour to the deceased prophet, of whose very carcase he took such special care: thereby signifying, that although for wise and just reasons he thought fit to take away his life, yet his remains was precious to him.

Verse 30

[30] And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!

His grave — So that threatening, verse 22, was fulfilled; and withal, the memory of his prophecy was revived and preserved among them, and his very carcase resting there, might be a witness of their madness and desperate wickedness, in continuing in their abominable idolatry, after such an assurance of the dreadful effects of it.

They — The old prophet and his sons, and others, whom common humanity taught to lament the untimely death of so worthy a person.

Alas, … — Which was an usual form of expression in funeral-lamentations.

Verse 31

[31] And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones:

When I am dead, … — Tho' he was a lying prophet, yet he desired to die the death of a true prophet. Gather not my Soul with the sinners of Beth-el, but with this man of God: Because what he cried against the altar of Beth-el, shall surely come to pass. Thus by the mouth of two witnesses was it established, if possible to convince Jeroboam.

Verse 32

[32] For the saying 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, shall surely come to pass.

Samaria — That is, of the kingdom of Samaria; as it was called, though not when this fact was done, yet before these books were written. Samaria was properly this name of one city, chap. 21:1, but from hence the whole kingdom of Israel was so called.

Verse 33

[33] After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.

After this — That is, after all these things: the singular number put for the plural; after so many, and evident, and successive miracles.

Made again — He abated not so much as a circumstance in his idolatrous worship.

Whosoever — Without any respect to tribe or family, or integrity of body, or mind, or life; all which were to be regarded in the priesthood.

Verse 34

[34] And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.

Sin — Either, an occasion of sin, and means of hardening all his posterity in their idolatry: or, a punishment, for so the word sin is often used. This his obstinate continuance in his idolatry, after such warnings, was the utter ruin of all his family. They betray themselves effectually, who endeavour to support themselves by any sin.