Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.The Disobedient Prophet
1 Kings 13:26
I. Jeroboam had just successfully completed his idolatrous stroke of policy. He had set up a form of religion which, however much it might offend against God's truth, had at least this merit in his eyes, that it would strike a great blow against the established Church at Jerusalem, and be a serious injury to the State religion whose influence he abhorred and whose prestige more than anything else he dreaded as a dangerous political menace to his separatist policy. It was all-important therefore that there should be no hitch in what was now practically the inauguration of a new religion. Certainly it was a bold stroke, and at this moment when the scene is depicted he was in the very agony of his crafty device, restless, no doubt suspicious, and pledged to desperate measures—for men are most suspicious when they are most conscious that they are doing wrong and have 'bribed themselves to disbelieve things which their conscience tells them are true, by doing acts which their conscience tells them are wrong'. And it is at this moment that the nameless prophet out of Judah bursts in upon him, a prophet from God—in itself an unwelcome phenomenon just then; as a prophet from Judah doubly hateful. It seems likely to end in his death had not God intervened to save His prophet. Jeroboam while raising his hand to order his arrest, finds it paralysed and useless, while the altar is rent by invisible powers and the ashes are poured out. So far you see the man of God had done his work well. He had executed a commission dangerous enough to try the strongest nerve. The hardest part was done. He could relapse now. There were certainly three distinct temptations which the prophet had to face. First, there was the temptation, which comes from the natural fear in a man's heart, not to deliver his message, to hesitate to confront the fury of the king in the moment of his pride and successful sin. Then there was the still more dangerous temptation of flattery and bribery, for Jeroboam turned round and, when force had failed, tried to take the edge off his humiliation by feasting and entertaining the prophet. Then there was the more subtle temptation still, namely, to forget his instructions which were three: first, to deliver his message, which he did; secondly, not to eat bread, nor drink water in the place; and thirdly, not to return by the way by which he came. And in these two last, the easiest of all to execute, he failed.
II. We feel at the outset that there is an appeal to us here in that title which we have heard more than once this afternoon, 'The Man of God,' a title wonderful in its dignity and grand in its significance; for it speaks to us of many things. It tells us where the man comes from, straight from the court, straight from the presence, straight from the inspiration of the Almighty, from God Himself. The man of God, God's representative, God's ambassador; here is a service in which, alas! there are many vacancies. And we notice now, once more, where the man of God in the Bible fell. He fell in the easiest point of his duty, he fell by the neglect of the details of his mission, 'troublesome restrictions,' 'irritating items,' as he might think them, in which, to put aside the strict letter of obedience, he might say involved, could involve, no principle. And is not this the very region in which so many a man of God fails? The main duties are done with bravery, activity, and vigour—no waste of time, no waste of money, no frivolity, no unseemly gaiety, no foolish idleness, no serious, gross, open sin. But in some little matter at home by peevish ill-temper, or exacting selfishness, or from disregard of Christian practice, as the outcome of Christian principle, in these things the man of God falls. Exact obedience, attention to minute trifles, involve principles of the highest authority. These same prohibitions are given now to every man of God who has wisdom to follow them out. 'Eat no bread and drink no water there.'
—W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 276.
References.—XIII. 1.—Bishop Bickersteth, Sermons, p. 238. XIII. 6.—R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii. p. 92. A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix. p. 165. XIII. 21, 22.—Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 277. XIII. 26.—E. A. Askew, Sermons Preached in Greystoke Church, p. 214. T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 76. H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx. p. 136. T. Arnold, Sermons for the Christian Seasons, vol. iii. p. 729. XIII. 33.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 102. XIV. 13.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 169. C. Bosanquet, Blossoms for the King's Garden, p. 216. XVI. 7.—F. D. Maurice, Prophets and Kings, p. 105.
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.
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.
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.
The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.
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.
And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
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.
So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.
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.
And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.
And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back:
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,
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.
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.
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.
And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him.
And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.
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.
And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.
And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!
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:
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.
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.
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.