This Week's Focus Passage

1 Kings 13:18 ‘But he lied unto him.’

1 Kings 13:18 ‘But he lied unto him.’

When we read this somewhat disturbing narrative in the book of 1 Kings and the 13th chapter, we come away with many questions upon our minds as well as our hearts; not the least of which is ‘who was this man of God’? The narrative begins for us with a simple pronouncement regarding his appearing, when it tells us;

And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of Jehovah unto Bethel: and Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.—1 Kings 13:1.

The initial questions which are raised already in this first verse include what is this man who is referred to a ‘a man of God’? And what are we to understand to be the meaning for our being told that he came ‘by the word of Jehovah’? The expression, ‘man of God’ has been, by God the Holy Spirit, more than seventy times in the Old Testament. We think most readily of its application to ‘Moses the man of God,’ as the human author of Psalm 90. Although David is recognized at the primary author in the book of the Psalms, and while he has been referred to as ‘a man of God,’ once in the book of 2 Chronicles and twice in the book of Nehemiah, yet he has not been so referenced once in the book of Psalms. The term has been employed more often than not in speaking of prophets, and while both Moses and David were prophets, the greater number of those receiving this appellation, ‘man of God,’ were among those that came after David, such as Elijah and his successor, Elisha, along with the  prophet found in this week’s focus passage.

Subsequent to his admittedly unexpected appearance as a ‘man of God’ and sent ‘by the word of Jehovah,’ we are soon informed of the assignment that he had evidently been given by Jehovah, for we are told that ‘he cried against the altar by the word of Jehovah.’ We must, at this point, step back to consider the altar being cried against; its origin as well as the nature of its use. The origin devolves back to the division of the kingdom of Israel; the breach brought about, to all appearances, by the intransigence of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, after his father’s death. It was besought of this young king by his subjects that he would lighten the burdens that had been imposed upon them by Solomon; this was also the counsel of ‘the wise old men that had stood before Rehoboam’s father. But this young upstart refused to give heed to their counsel and listened, rather, to the counsel of the ‘young men that were grown up with him, that is, his peers. Solomon had written years earlier, the wise advice, ‘Walk with wise men and thou shalt be wise.’ Rehoboam chose rather to walk with foolish youth, and be stupid. This brought about a breach in the nation. While Judah and Benjamin continued with Rehoboam, the other ten tribes followed after Jeroboam, who very shortly thereafter realized that when the call went out for the tribes to gather together at the three annual feast days, those who were with him would be enticed by tradition and law to go to the proper place for those occasions of worship in Jerusalem and most likely would not return to him. This usurper then determined upon an alternative course. He would provide the people with another form of worship, another place for worship, and an unlawful set of other priests. Thus do we find Jeroboam ‘standing by the altar to burn incense;’ thus do we find Jehovah protesting this abomination by sending His prophet to remonstrate.

Thus we may be convinced that the ‘man of God’ did precisely that which his master had directed him to do; he cried against this abominable altar. And in spite of threats from this apostate, he remained true to his calling as he allowed God to make it clear to Jeroboam that this man was His man. The ‘man of God’ refused to accept an invitation for refreshment and a reward, informing the wicked king that God had commanded him to go out from Bethel by another way than he had come.

Now we are faced with an enigma; the subsequent behavior of this ‘man of God’ does not correspond well with his faithful behavior before Jeroboam. We now learn of yet another prophet; we are told almost nothing other than that he was old. But he sent his sons to fetch this ‘man of God’ back to his house that he might honor him. They said, ‘Come home with us, and eat bread.’ He relates the command God had given him, Thou shalt eat no bread not drink water there, not turn again to go by the way that thou camest. This was the word of Jehovah to him, but the old prophet told him that he also had received word from God to bring him to his house, But he lied to him. And the man of God who would not give in to the threats of a king, gave way to this lie. Why? We are not told; but going, disobedience was charged him.

While he was enjoying the hospitality of his host, the old prophet, a true word from Jehovah came to this deceiver to speak unto the ‘man of God that came from Judah, saying,’ Forasmuch as thou hast been disobedient unto the mouth of Jehovah and hast not kept the commandment which Jehovah thy God commanded thee, but camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to thee, Eat no bread and drink no water; thy body shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers. Subsequently, this disobedient ‘man of God’ took his leave

of the old prophet, And when he was gone, a lion met him on the way, and slew him.

The man of God sent from Judah by Jehovah conspicuously disobeyed his Lord. He distinctly did precisely that which Jehovah had told him not to do. He was deceived by the old prophet and this deception does not seem to enter in the matter at all by way of any mitigation of his disobedience. What are we to learn from this?

Perhaps we may be assisted by one of the early church fathers; Theodoret:

“In my opinion,’ said Theodoret, “this punishment served to confirm the declaration concerning the altar. For it was not possible for the statement of such a man to be concealed: and this was sufficient to fill with terror those who heard it; for if partaking of food contrary to the command of God, and that not of his own accord, but under a deception, brought such retribution upon a righteous man, to what punishments would they be exposed who had forsaken the God who made them, and worshipped the likeness of irrational creatures?”

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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