1 Kings 13:24
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.
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(24) A lion.—The lion is noticed in the Old Testament not unfrequently, especially in Southern Palestine: at Timnath (Judges 14:5); near Bethlehem (1Samuel 17:34); at Kabzeel, in Judah (2Samuel 23:20); near Aphek (1Kings 20:36); in the thickets and forests of the Jordan valley (Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 5:6), &c. The lion of Palestine is probably of the variety still constantly found in the neighbourhood of Babylon; and the prevalence of lions is shown by the occurrence of such names as Lebaoth, or Bethlebaoth, “the house of lions” (see Joshua 15:32), and by the many names for the lion used in Scripture, as, for example, in Job 4:10-11. Now that the forests have disappeared from Palestine the lions have disappeared with them.

13:23-34 God is displeased at the sins of his own people; and no man shall be protected in disobedience, by his office, his nearness to God, or any services he has done for him. God warns all whom he employs, strictly to observe their orders. We cannot judge of men by their sufferings, nor of sins by present punishments; with some, the flesh is destroyed, that the spirit may be saved; with others, the flesh is pampered, that the soul may ripen for hell. Jeroboam returned not from his evil way. He promised himself that the calves would secure the crown to his family, but they lost it, and sunk his family. Those betray themselves who think to support themselves by any sin whatever. Let us dread prospering in sinful ways; pray to be kept from every delusion and temptation, and to be enabled to walk with self-denying perseverance in the way of God's commands.On the anxiety of the Hebrews to be buried with their fathers, see Genesis 47:30; Genesis 49:29, Genesis 49:1,Genesis 49:25; 2 Samuel 19:37, etc. 24. a lion met him by the way, and slew him—There was a wood near Beth-el infested with lions (2Ki 2:24). This sad catastrophe was a severe but necessary judgment of God, to attest the truth of the message with which the prophet had been charged. All the circumstances of this tragic occurrence (the undevoured carcass, the untouched ass, the passengers unmolested by the lion, though standing there) were calculated to produce an irresistible impression that the hand of God was in it. A lion met him; for there were many lions in Judea, and this was brought hither by God’s special providence.

Why doth God punish a good man so severely for so small an offence?

Answ. First, His sin was not small, for it was a gross disobedience to a positive command.

Object. But he supposed, and was told by another prophet, that God had repealed his command, and so was deceived.

Answ. First, He had no sufficient discharge from the former command; for he neither was assured that the old man was a prophet, nor that the message he delivered was from God; but had reason to suspect the contrary, or at least to inquire the mind of God in this doubtful point, which he grossly neglected to do, and willingly believed the message, because it suited with his own inclination and necessity. Add to this, that he being a prophet was obliged to the greater exactness in obedience to all God’s precepts; and therefore this sin was much greater in him than in another, because hereby God was dishonoured, and the authority and success of his message blasted, and Jeroboam and the idolatrous Israelites hardened in their wicked courses, for the prevention whereof it was necessary that God should exercise severity towards him.

Answ. Secondly, As his sin was not so small, so his punishment was not so great, as may be imagined. For as to his outward man, his bodily death (which was a debt that he owed to God and nature) in this way was not so painful and terrible as many other kinds of death; and as to his soul, God, by giving him a gracious admonition both of his sin and danger, 1 Kings 13:21,22, awakened him to true repentance, which doubtless he practised, and so was prepared for his death, and by this sudden death freed from all the miseries of an evil time and world, and speedily let into eternal glory.

Answ. Thirdly, As the world and all men in it were made for God’s glory, and all their lives and deaths ought to be laid out in his service; so it cannot seem strange nor harsh if God should bring his deserved death upon him in this manner, for the accomplishment of his own glorious designs, as to vindicate his own honour and justice from the imputation of partiality; to assure the truth of his predictions, and thereby provoke Jeroboam and his idolatrous followers to repentance; to justify himself in all his dreadful judgments which he intended to inflict upon Jeroboam’s house, and the whole kingdom of Israel, for their cursed apostacy; and to warn all succeeding sinners not rashly to venture upon small sins, and especially to take heed of greater sins, for which they might expect far sorer punishments.

His carcass was cast in the way; his life and soul being gone, his dead body falls to the ground, and lies there.

The lion also stood by the carcass: See Poole "1 Kings 13:28".

And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him,.... Perhaps not far from Bethel; and this lion might come out of the same wood the she bears did, that devoured the children that mocked the prophet, as Bishop Patrick conjectures, 2 Kings 2:23.

and his carcass was cast in the way; in the high road, where it seems the lion seized him, and he fell:

and the ass stood by it; disregarded and unhurt by the lion, though the prophet was pulled off of the back of him:

the lion also stood by the carcass: not offering to tear it in pieces and devour it, but rather, as if he was the guard of it, to keep off all others from meddling with it; these circumstances are very surprising, and show the thing to be of God; for when the lion had done what he had a commission to do, which was to kill the prophet, he was to do no more.

And when he was gone, {k} 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.

(k) By this fearful example, God sets forth how dangerous it is for men to behave coldly, or deceitfully in the charge to which God has called them.

24. a lion met him] That beasts of prey were common in the land at this time we may see from the history of the shepherd life of David, where he encountered both a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34). The death of the prophet was caused by a stroke of the beast’s paw, but to shew that it was a visitation of the Lord, the natural instinct of the lion to devour what it has slain is checked, and instead of tearing the body, it stands by it as a guard.

Verse 24. - And when he was gone [Heb. and he went], a lion (Lions were evidently numerous in Palestine in former days, though they are now extinct. This is proved by the names of places, such as Laish, Lebaoth, etc., and by the constant reference to them in Scripture. They had their lairs in the forests, one of which existed near Bethel (2 Kings 2:24), and especially in the thickets of the Jordan valley (Jeremiah 49:19; Zechariah 11:3).] met [Heb. found. The primary meaning of מָצָא is, no doubt, "found accidentally," "came upon" (εῦρεν, invenit), but it is often used of finding after a search (1 Samuel 9:4, etc.), and it should be remembered that this is the word used in vers. 14, 28] him by [in, as below] the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way [road, highway, ver. 25], and the ass stood [Heb. standing] by it, the lion also stood [standing] by the carcase. [These particulars are mentioned to show that his death was no accident, or chance, but a visitation of God. There are probably but few persons who have not felt that this summary punishment was marked by extreme severity; the more so, as the prophet was cruelly deceived, and that by a brother prophet, who claimed to have received a subsequent revelation, and whom, consequently, it appeared to be a duty to obey. And when it is observed that the really guilty person, the prophet of Bethel, so far as appears, escaped all punishment, and by his lie secured for himself respect for his remains, we seem to have a case of positive hardship and injustice. As I have discussed the question at some length elsewhere (Homil. Quart., vol. 4. pp. 214-221), it must suffice to say here that the difficulty is at once removed if we remember that although the Jewish dispensation was one of temporal recompenses, yet all the same there is a judgment hereafter. No doubt the man of God was punished for his disobedience, for inexcusable disobedience it was. It is quite true that he was solemnly assured that an angel had appeared to revoke his commission, but for this he had only the word of a stranger, of one, too, with whom he had been commanded "not even to eat." He had "the word of the Lord;" that is to say, the voice of God, borne in upon his soul, forbidding his return, and the word of an irreligious stranger, who gave no "sign the same day" in proof of his mission, authorizing it. There can be no doubt which he ought to have followed, the more so as the command he had himself received was so remarkably explicit and decisive (ver. 9); so decisive that we can hardly suppose he would have deviated from it, had not the pains of hunger and thirst pleaded powerfully in favour of the pretended revelation of the Bethelite prophet. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that he eagerly welcomed this cause for returning. It is impossible, therefore, to acquit him of disobedience. Nor is it difficult to see that the consequences of this disobedience were serious. It was not as if he had disregarded a mere positive obligation, the only object of which was to test his obedience (Rawlinson); he had acted in a way calculated to destroy the moral effect of his mission. He had been employed not only to testify publicly against the calf worship, but also to lay the city and the new sanctuary of Jeroboam under an interdict, and by his return that interdict lost much of its force. His eating and drinking, small matters in themselves, were full of significance. Indeed, he did in one way precisely what Jeroboam and his people were doing in another he forsook the plain commands of God for the ordinances of men; he listened to the tempter and ate the forbidden fruit; and so it came to pass flint, instead of witnessing against disobedience, he himself set them the example of disobedience. It is the story of the Fall over again; and therefore death, the punishment of the Fall, befell him. But before we say that his punishment was too severe, let us remember what, by the mercy of God, that primal punishment has become. It has been turned into a blessing. It has given us the incarnation, redemption, eternal life. We forget that death is not necessarily an evil - is in reality a blessing. One of the heathen has said that if we only knew what the future life was like, we should not be content to live. To this "man of God" it must surely have been gain to die. If the flesh was destroyed, it was that the spirit might be saved (1 Corinthians 5:5). Only because we forget that death is the gate of life do we complain of the severity of his doom. And as to the lying prophet who wrought all this mischief escaping retribution - which, by the way, he did not do, for assuredly he must have had a life-long remorse - it is overlooked that the day of retribution has not yet arrived. There is for him a judgment to come. It may he said that the Jew did not know of this - that the future life had not then been revealed. That is quite true, and for that very reason this visitation would make all the deeper impression on their minds. To this must be added that the man of God did not die merely or principally because of his sin, but "that the works of God might be made manifest in him." His death was necessary in order that his mission might not be altogether invalidated. His miserable end - as it must have seemed to them - would surely speak to the inhabitants of Bethel and to all Israel and Judah, for long years to come, as to the sure vengeance awaiting the disobedient, whether king, prophet, priest, or people. Though dead "he cried against the altar of Bethel." And the sacred narrative (vers. 26-32) affords us some ground for hoping that the "old prophet" became penitent for his sin. It is noteworthy that he joins his testimony to that of the man of God. Thus, this tragedy extorted even from him a warning against disobedience (ver. 26), and a confirmation of the prophecy against the altar of Bethel (ver. 32).] 1 Kings 13:24After he had eaten he saddled the ass for him, i.e., for the prophet whom he had fetched back, and the latter (the prophet from Judah) departed upon it. On the road a lion met him and slew him; "and his corpse was cast in the road, but the ass stood by it, and the lion stood by the corpse." The lion, contrary to its nature, had neither consumed the prophet whom it had slain, nor torn in pieces and devoured the ass upon which he rode, but had remained standing by the corpse and by the ass, that the slaying of the prophet might not be regarded as a misfortune that had befallen him by accident, but that the hand of the Lord might be manifest therein, so that passers-by saw this marvel and related it in Bethel.
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