1 Kings 13

Confronting The King

Jeroboam led Israel astray with his false worship practices, so God sent a prophet from Judah to denounce these practices. Jeroboam had taken his place at the altar during the inaugural feast that was held in Bethel. A prophet from Judah arrived on the scene, and the celebration was interrupted with a divine warning to Jeroboam. The word spoken would not be fully realized for another three hundred years. This prophet approached the place of sacrifice and cried out against it. The prophet described the sign that would authenticate his words. The altar would be torn down, and the shapes from the sacrifices would come pouring out. King Jeroboam was not about to tolerate this intrusion and raising his hand to the prophet he demanded that this prophet be seized. Suddenly, the hand that was raised could not be controlled, and the altar was severed as the ashes spilled before those gathered for the unholy celebration. God's word was clear. The sacrifice was unacceptable, and the proud king was humiliated before his people. Jeroboam is terrified by this judgment and the loss of use in his hand. He begged the prophet from Judah to intercede on his behalf and ask God to restore his hand. The man of God did as the king asked and the Lord restored the use of his hand. The king was relieved, and he invited the man of God to come home with him for refreshment and a reward. This prophet refuses the king's hospitality and adds that there were no circumstances under which he would go with the king. God had instructed this man not to eat, drink, or return home the same way. God intended for the people to know that Jeroboam and his false worship had been repudiated. The prophet began the journey home by another route than the one he traveled on the way to Bethel.

Prophets Disobey Too

The divided kingdom saw most of the prophets relocate in Judah, but there was at least one old prophet who remained at Bethel. This man's sons came home and told their father what had occurred during the feast. The old prophet seems moved by the actions of the man from Judah, and he inquired about which way he was traveling. The old prophet's sons showed their father which direction the prophet was traveling, and he asked them to saddle the donkey for him. The old prophet rode off after this prophet from Judah. The text gives no indication as to why this man pursued the prophet from Judah and when he caught up the man of God from Judah was sitting under an oak tree taking a rest. The old prophet inquired about this man's identity and then invited him to his home. The man of God from Judah declined the offer and repeated the Lord's instructions as he had explained to Jeroboam earlier. The old prophet then identifies himself as a fellow servant and fabricates a story about an angel visiting him and telling him to bring him into his home for bread and water. This was a lie, and the man of God from Judah believed the old prophet and went with him to his house for refreshment. During the meal, the old prophet received a word from the Lord and cried out against the man of God from Judah. The man who earlier denounced the disobedience of Jeroboam now is denounced himself. The news delivered at the table was devastating. The man of God from Judah had disobeyed and as a result would die but his body would not come to the tomb of his fathers. The meal ended, and the man of God from Judah departed. Along the way, a lion attacked the man and killed him. To show that this was no accident, God had the donkey and the lion stand beside the body. This peculiar behavior would serve as a sign that God had brought this thing to pass. Some men from Bethel passed by and saw what had happened. They reported it to the old prophet who had his sons saddle the donkey, and he went in search of the body.  The lion did not eat the body or attack the donkey. The old prophet collected the man's body and brought it back to the city. He was filled with sorrow, and he mourned the man of God from Judah. He buried the body in his own tomb and instructed his sons to bury him beside the prophet from Judah. The old prophet was convinced that God's word against the altar in Bethel would come to pass. Jeroboam seems unphased by what transpired. God sent a prophet, paralyzed his hand, split the altar, and imposed severe judgment on the man of God from Judah. This hard-hearted king continued his sinful patterns. Shortly after these events, the king returned to his policy of appointing priests from all the people rather than adhering to God's commands. Jeroboam's willful disobedience forfeited his claims to all the promises made to him by Ahijah the prophet about establishing him. His house was doomed to destruction.

Things To Consider:

  • Why is God zealous for his name?
  • How does God use signs?
  • Why do you think God restored Jeroboam's hand?
  • Why do you think the old prophet acted the way he did?
  • Why do you think God punished the prophet from Judah since the old prophet Bethel lied to him?
  • Why does disobedience bring death?
  • Why do you think the prophet from Bethel was sad?
  • Why do you think Jeroboam continued doing the same things?