Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.A prophet of Judah prophesieth against the altar at Beth-el: Jeroboam offering him violence, his hand withereth; and, at the prayer of the prophet, is restored, 1 Kings 13:1-6. He refusing the king’s entertainment, departeth from Beth-el, 1 Kings 13:7-10. An old prophet seducing him, bringeth him back, 1 Kings 13:11-19. He is for it reproved of God by the old prophet; and is slain by a lion; and buried by the old prophet; who confirmeth his prophecy, 1 Kings 13:20-32. Jeroboam’s obstinacy, 1 Kings 13:33,34.
A man of God; a holy prophet. By the word of the Lord; by Divine inspiration and command.
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.He cried against the altar; and consequently, against all that worship, which is oft signified by the name of the altar. See Isaiah 19:19 1 Corinthians 9:13 Hebrews 7:13 13:10. O altar, altar; he directs his speech to the altar, partly because the following signs were wrought upon it, and partly to signify that Jeroboam would no more regard his words than the altar did, and yet they should take effect.
A child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; which being done above three hundred years after this prophecy, plainly shows the absolute certainty of God’s providence and foreknowledge, 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 overrule man’s will which way he pleaseth; or else it was possible that this prediction should have been false, which is blasphemous to imagine.
Upon thee shall he offer the priests; synecdoehically, the bones of the priests, 2 Kings 23:15,16, whereby the altar should be defiled.
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.He gave a sign the same day, i. e. he then wrought a miracle, to assure them of the truth of his prophecy.
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.He put forth his hand, to point out the man whom he would have the people lay hands on, and to stir them up to do so.
From the altar; where it was employed in offering something upon it. Dried up, or withered; the muscles and sinews, the instruments of motion, were shrunk up. This God did, partly, to chastise Jeroboam for offering violence to the Lord’s prophet; partly, to secure the prophet against further violence; and partly, that in this example God might show how highly he resents the injuries done to his ministers in and for the faithful discharge of their office.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The king answered, i.e. spoke, as that word is oft used in both Testaments.
Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God, who by his zeal for time 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.
The man of God besought the Lord, to assure Jeroboam that what he had said was not from ill-will to him, and that he heartily desired his reformation, not his ruin.
The king’s hand was restored again; partly, to assure him that the stroke was from God; partly, because he repented of that violence which he intended against the prophet, for which God inflicted it; and partly, that the goodness of God to him might have led him to repentance; or if he continued impenitent, leave him without all excuse.
And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.Horrid stupidity! He desires to requite the instrument, but takes no notice of the chief cause and author of this great and wonderful mercy, which was God.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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 further converse or communication with thee.
Eat no bread, nor drink water, to wit, in that place, or with that people; whereby God declares how detestable they were in God’s eyes; not because their idolatry was so bad as that of the heathens, but because they were vile apostates from the true God, and embraced this idolworship against the light of their own consciences, merely to comply with the king’s humour and command; and because their vicinity and relation to the tribe of Judah made this more dangerous, as to their infection by it.
Nor turn again by the same way that thou camest; 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 trivial and unnecessary occasion.
So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.An old prophet; a prophet of the Lord; one to whom and by whom God did sometimes impart his mind, as is manifest from 1 Kings 13:20,21, and one first had a respect to the Lord’s holy prophets, and gave credit to their predictions; all which the following relation shows: but whether he was a holy and good man may justly be doubted, seeing all those qualifications might meet in a vicious man, to and by whom he may reveal some part of his mind, as he did to Balaam, Num 23, &c., and in such his other qualities are sometimes found; and we find him in a downright and premeditated lie, and that without any great temptation to it, 1 Kings 13:18. And albeit a holy prophet might 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 to have joined with others in that idolatrous worship, 1 Kings 13:11, and that not without their father’s connivance. In Beth-el; for thither he came to dwell, probably expecting some great advantages from Jeroboam; but he came out of Samaria, 2 Kings 23:18, where he either was born, and had lived before; or his usual dwelling was at Beth-el, but had lately been at Samaria, and was now returned to Beth-el.
His sons came; who probably were eye and ear witnesses of what had passed.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Sitting under an oak; being faint and weary with his journey, and possibly with the heat, which makes him choose this shady place; and especially with hunger and thirst, 1 Kings 13:9. And he might easily guess that this was the old prophet, by his age and carriage, and, it may be, by his prophetical mantle, and by the character which his sons had given him.
Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.No text from Poole on this verse.
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:i.e. In Beth-el, where thou desirest me to do it.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Not with evil design against him, but out of curiosity to know all the truth and circumstances from his own mouth, and to express his kindness to him, and to relieve his pressing hunger; whereby possibly he thought to please God, and to compensate for his miscarriages. But his sin was great; for he did not only tell a premeditated lie, but also made God a liar, and to contradict himself, and all this without any pretence of necessity, or benefit to himself.
So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.No text from Poole on this verse.
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:As they sat at the table; there the prophet meets with a severe judgment, where he was pleasing himself with this seasonable refreshment.
The word of the Lord came by secret instinct into his mind, as sometimes God spake to Moses and other prophets when they were in company with others.
Unto the prophet that brought him back; so he makes this prophet publicly to call himself liar, and to pronounce a terrible sentence against him, to whom he professed so much kindness. Indeed the Hebrew words are ambiguous, and by others rendered thus, to the prophet whom he had brought back which agrees very well with the Hebrew phrase, and may seem to be the best translation, by comparing 1 Kings 13:23, where the very same phrase is so rendered; and 1 Kings 13:26, where this message is said to be spoken to him. But these arguments are not cogent; not that from 1 Kings 13:23, because it is a common thing for the same phrase in divers verses, and sometimes in one and the same verse, to be diversely used; nor that from 1 Kings 13:27, for that may be rendered concerning him. And therefore our translation is better, as is manifest from 1 Kings 13:21.
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,He cried with a loud voice, the effect of his passion, both for his own guilt and shame, and for the prophet’s approaching misery, and his unhappy influence both in procuring and in denouncing of it.
The mouth, i.e. the word of command coming out of his mouth; a metonymy of the cause for the effect.
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.i.e. Thou shalt not die a natural, but a violent death; and that in this journey, before thou returnest to thy native habitation; and thy carcass shall not be buried in the proper sepulchre; which was esteemed a kind of curse, and a note of infamy; as the contrary was reckoned an honour and blessing. See 1 Kings 14:13 Isaiah 14:19,20 Jer 22:19 26:23.
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.That he might sooner come to his home, and, if possible, escape the judgment threatened. But it is observable, he doth not accompany him; his guilty conscience making him to expect and fear to be involved in the same judgment with him.
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.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, 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Or rather,
concerning him; for so the particle lamed is oft used, as Genesis 10:13 Psalm 3:2 91:11, compared with Matthew 4:6. See Poole "1 Kings 13:20".
And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.Being secure as to himself, because so many others had been there without any harm; and because he perceived the prophet’s death was a judgment of God, and that for special reasons.
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.Here was a concurrence of miracles: That the ass did not run away from the lion, according to his nature and custom, but boldly stood still, as reserving himself for the carrying of the prophet to his burial; that the lion did not devour its prey, as the manner is; nor yet go away when he had done his work which he was sent for, but stood still; partly, to preserve the carcass of the prophet from other wild beasts or fowls, which would quickly have eaten it; partly, as an evidence that the prophet’s death was not casual, nor the effect of a lion’s hungry and ravenous disposition, but of God’s singular and just judgment; and consequently, that this 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 carcas: 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 were precious to him, and his soul did live in his sight.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!So that threatening, 1 Kings 13:22, was fulfilled; and withal, the memory of his prophecy was revived and preserved among them, and his very carcass resting there might be a witness of their madness and desperate wickedness, in continuing their abominable idolatry after such an assurance of the dreadful effects of it.
They mourned over him; the old prophet, and his sons, and others, whom common humanity taught to lament the untimely death of so worthy a person.
Alas, my brother! was a usual form of expression in funeral lamentations. See Jeremiah 22:18.
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:That I may be secured from that judgment threatened 1 Kings 13:2.
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.Of Samaria, i.e. 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 the name of one city, 1 Kings 20:1; but from hence the whole kingdom of Israel was so called, Jeremiah 31:5 Hosea 7:1 Hosea 8:5 Amos 3:9; and the king of Israel is called the king of Samaria, 2 Kings 1:3 Hosea 10:7; and (as here) we read of the cities of Samaria, Ezra 4:10.
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 thing, i.e. after all these things; the singular number put for the plural; after so many, and evident, and successive miracles; which is noted to aggravate his infidelity and apostacy.
Made again of the lowest of the people priests; he abated not so much as a circumstance in his idolatrous worship.
Whosoever would; without any respect to tribe or family, or integrity of body, or mind, or life; all which were to be regarded in the priesthood.
He consecrated him, Heb. he filled his hand; of which phrase see Exodus 28:41 29:9,33.
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.This thing became 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 oft used. This his obstinate continuance in his idolatry after such warnings was the utter ruin of all his family.