A Judean prophet augurs doom for Jeroboam. The prophet, who was told by God not to eat on his journey, is tricked into eating at Bethel. He is killed by a lion and buried in Bethel.
God punishes the prophet: “He set out, and a lion came upon him on the road and killed him. His corpse lay on the road, with the ass standing beside it, and the lion also standing beside the corpse.” (v. 24)
III. Important Verses
1-3: A man of God arrived at Bethel from Judah at the command of the LORD. While Jeroboam was standing on the altar to present the offering, the man of God, at the command of the LORD, cried out against the altar: “O altar, altar! Thus said the LORD: A son shall be born to the House of David, Josiah by name; and he shall slaughter upon you the priests of the shrines who bring offerings upon you. And human bones shall be burned upon you.” He gave a portent on that day, saying, “Here is the portent that the LORD has decreed: This altar shall break apart, and the ashes on it shall be spilled.”
7-10: The king said to the man of God, “Come with me to my house and have some refreshment; and I shall give you a gift.” But the man of God replied to the king, “Even if you give me half your wealth, I will not go in with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water in this place; for so I was commanded by the word of the LORD: You shall eat no bread and drink no water, nor shall you go back by the road by which you came.” So he left by another road and did not go back by the road on which he had come to Bethel.
20-22: While they were sitting at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah: “Thus said the LORD: Because you have flouted the word of the LORD and have not observed what the LORD your God commanded you, but have gone back and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, ‘Do not eat bread or drink water [there],’ your corpse shall not come to the grave of your fathers.”
24: He set out, and a lion came upon him on the road and killed him. His corpse lay on the road, with the ass standing beside it, and the lion also standing beside the corpse.
33-34: Even after this incident, Jeroboam did not turn back from his evil way, but kept on appointing priests for the shrines from the ranks of the people. He ordained as priests of the shrines any who so desired. Thereby the House of Jeroboam incurred guilt — to their utter annihilation from the face of the earth.
1-6. An augury for Jeroboam
7-10. The Judean prophet spurns Jeroboam’s invitation
11-19. A prophet from bethel cozens the Judean to visit him
21-24. God rebukes the Judean and he is killed by a lion
25. The news is spread
26-32. The prophet from Bethel buries the Judean
33-34. Jeroboam’s evil activity
Chapter 13 tells the story of a Judean prophet’s trip to Bethel. He augurs doom for Jeroboam, destroys the altar, heals Jeroboam’s arm, is tricked by another prophet, and is killed by a lion. One might ask, what is the purpose of this story and what is it doing here? A medieval rabbi named David Kimhi (Radak) points to the Judean’s death in verse 24: “He set out, and a lion came upon him on the road and killed him. His corpse lay on the road, with the ass standing beside it, and the lion also standing beside the corpse.” Kimhi writes (translation my own): “Even though [Jeroboam] saw the portent of the broken altar, the portent of his hand which was withered and restored by means of the godly man’s prayers, saw the death of the prophet when he rebelled against God’s word, and heard about the miracle of the lion who stood next to the prophet’s corpse and didn’t eat it or the donkey, nevertheless he didn’t return from his wicked way.” Thus, according to Kimhi, this entire story is meant to highlight Jeroboam’s obstinance. This is corroborated by the summary statement in vv. 33-34: “Even after this incident, Jeroboam did not turn back from his evil way, but kept on appointing priests for the shrines from the ranks of the people. He ordained as priests of the shrines any who so desired. Thereby the House of Jeroboam incurred guilt — to their utter annihilation from the face of the earth.”
This interpretation is accepted by many modern scholars as well. Yet, unlike Kimhi, they attribute this implicit condemnation to the Deuteronomist. This, they feel, is demonstrated by the mention of Josiah in v. 2: “O altar, altar! Thus said the LORD: A son shall be born to the House of David, Josiah by name; and he shall slaughter upon you the priests of the shrines who bring offerings upon you. And human bones shall be burned upon you.” Collins writes: “The account of Jeroboam’s actions bears the clear imprint of the Deuteronomist, and is decidedly unsympathetic to the northern leader. He is virtually accused of idolatry in setting up the two golden calves… It is unlikely, however, that Jeroboam was guilty of idolatry. The deity may have been thought to stand on the calves, just as he was thought to sit above the cherubim in the Jerusalem cult. Jeroboam’s crime in the eyes of the Deuteronomists was that he promoted sacrificial worship outside Jerusalem. This is what is called, in the remainder of the history, the sin of Jeroboam… The Deuteronomists provide an explicit judgment on Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13, where a man of God is said to prophesy that a Davidic king named Josiah would one day tear down the altar at Bethel. The explicit mention of Josiah here leaves no doubt but that this king’s reform is the climax of the history. This episode is followed by a strange legend about how the man of God was eaten by a lion, because he was tricked into disobeying his orders. This story probably originated as a popular legend. The Deuteronomists uses it to show the perils of disobedience in a colorful way.” (255)
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
De Vries, Simon John. “1 Kings” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 12 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1985).
Longe, Burke O. “1 Kings with an Introduction to Historical Literature” Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984).
Kil, Yehudah “Sefer Melakhim” Daat Mikra (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1989)
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