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1 Kings 13 Study Notes

13:1 The distinctive introductory statement of this account is literally, “And behold, a man of God came/was coming.” This formula, announcing the arrival of a man, can occur at a dramatic new turn within the plot of an episode (Nm 25:6; Jdg 19:16), but it can also open a new story (1Sm 2:27; 2Kg 4:42). Therefore this chapter could be either a dramatic turn in the preceding story or an entirely different event on a later occasion when King Jeroboam officiated at a sacrifice.

13:2-3 The prophet’s curse was especially insulting. Contact with human remains was one of the most powerful ways to pollute or desecrate any sacred object. This prophecy that Josiah, centuries later, would desecrate this altar with the corpses of its priests was a powerful statement of God’s rejection of this disobedient worship. As related in the later story, these were corpses of already dead priests retrieved from a local cemetery (2Kg 23:16). The truth of the prophet’s curse was attested by an immediate sign, the damaging of that altar with the spilling of ashes on the ground. Some suggest that irregular disposal of sacrificial ashes invalidated a sacrifice. If so, the spilling of the ashes here is symbolic of the unacceptability of sacrifices offered on this altar.

13:4-7 God also miraculously punished Jeroboam. The immediate healing of his hand as a result of the prophet’s intercession should have been another witness to direct Jeroboam into faith and obedience. The king’s spiritual shallowness was apparent when he trivialized the miraculous sign into an occasion to beg a personal favor from the prophet. Then Jeroboam offered the prophet a reward and thus treated God like a bargaining partner.

13:8-10 This prophet’s steadfastness in obedience contrasts with Saul’s willingness to give in to people (1Sm 28:23-25) and Gehazi’s eagerness to benefit from Naaman’s generosity (2Kg 5:20-27). To eat food with Jeroboam might be perceived as withdrawing judgment and endorsing his kingdom (1Sm 15:24-31).

13:11-19 Jeroboam’s shallow perception of God’s holiness would be matched by a certain old prophet who lived in Bethel. This prophet lied to the prophet from Judah. Perhaps the prophet of Bethel wanted the prophet of Judah to validate Bethel’s ritual by sharing food with him.

13:20-22 Then ironically, as they ate, God spoke his true judgment through the same prophet who had just moments earlier lied. God’s judgment of the disobedient prophet from Judah is another example of his severe judgment in this book.

13:23-29 This account of the prophet’s death is full of wonders. The lion did not devour the corpse or injure the donkey. The donkey stayed put instead of running away. And the lion did not threaten the old prophet when he came to retrieve the corpse—an act of nobility and bravery in contrast to his earlier deceit. To the ancient Israelites, loss of burial with one’s own clan was a severe judgment.

13:30-32 The prophet from Judah was buried with honor and respect, and the old prophet reaffirmed the truth of the message by sharing his burial place with the dead prophet.

13:33-34 Jeroboam trivialized and profaned sacred ritual by assuming the right to ordain priests, and in doing so, forfeited his covenant with God. This second statement of judgment on Jeroboam (see notes at vv. 2-3; 14:10-11) focuses on this offense (cp. 2Kg 17:7-12).

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