A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF 1 KINGS 13: Don’t Become Guilty of Spiritual Adultery

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


You may have never considered yourself capable of committing something like spiritual adultery. That you are cheating on God. Well, God has. A condition where we betray God with our own version of idolatrous worship. James 4:4 says such a thing is possible. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. So, we have 1 Kings 13 to illustrate such a thing for us.



Verse 1: The entire passage begins with the introduction of a man of God from Judah to Bethlehem by the word of the Lord. Fourteen more times he is designated as such in the chapter. A prophet with no name. Incognito. A good way to serve the Lord. Closely associated with him is the word of the Lord. He contrasts with Jeroboam who was standing by the altar to burn incense to protect his version of the Lord and the worship he had created. This man of God poses a threat to the idolatrous worship Jeroboam had promoted and established in the north.

Verse 2: The man of God cried against the altar by the word of the Lord. This was more than a pronouncement of judgment against the altar. It also announced that the judgment would come through a ruler of Judah which was from the house of David. O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, 'Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name. He ruled Judah about 300 years later 640-609 B.C. (2 Kings 22:1-23:30). This was a special rebuke and source of concern to Jeroboam, who was always aware of the threat from his neighbor to the south (1 Kings 12:27). We know that this didn’t happen for some 350 years, but Jeroboam didn’t know that in advance. He went to his grave worried about the fulfillment of this prophecy, which was a sort of immediate judgment on Jeroboam.

The prophet predicted that Josiah would slaughter the illegitimate priests of the high places of his day who made offerings on the altar at Beth-el. And human bones shall be burned on you. This prophecy was realized (in 2 Kings 23:15-20), executing the divine judgment on the non-Levitical priesthood established by Jeroboam (12:31-32). The Bible is full of forward predictive prophecy. This is evidence of the fact that God is capable of making pronounced predictive prophecy and deliberately does so as a show against the idolatrous practices. The fact is God is able to perform whatever he predicts because He is sovereign. He is not afraid of being sort of found out as some impotent being. 

An Application—The Word of God will always be contested by the pride of man. People will be determined to protect their version of God’s word. It is the altar of man, not God. That altar claims teaching contrary to the Bible and they are okay with that. Their altar is corrupt.

Verses 3-5: The prophecy of the man of God would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years, so an immediate sign was given to confirm the word to the present-day hearers. Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, "This is the sign which the Lord has spoken. Here was the sign. Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out. This would be a convincing sign, and a direct rebuke to the idolatrous worship at that altar. Contact with the ground would render the ashes “unclean” and nullify the procedure. This man of God brought a message that Jeroboam did not want to hear. The sign that God was displeased with this worship will be the destruction of the altar, and the ashes will spill out on the ground. Jeroboams immediate response was stretching out his hand from the altar, saying, "Seize him." He sought to silence the messenger rather than respond to the message. 

PT—This is the usual response from people who compete with the word of God rather than obey it. Their agenda is to preserve their idolatrous and perverted understanding. God confirmed His word of judgment in two ways. First, He judged the disobedient king at the precise point of his most glaring sin. But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. Second, He fulfilled the immediate word against the altar. The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar. All of it only confirmed the word of the Lord.

Verse 6: Apparently, under the evident judgment of God, Jeroboam had no use for golden calves or their altars (11:28). Why not call on the golden calf’s he was so confident in previously? Please entreat the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me. He knew that his only hope was in the Lord and in His representative. Jeroboam was not repenting here. Wanting to receive something from God is not the same as repentance. The man of God showed great grace to Jeroboam. He quickly moved from being under arrest to being an intercessor for his persecutor. So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king's hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before. This was great mercy from the man of God, and especially from God, who answered his prayer.

Verses 7-10: Jeroboam quickly – and naturally, given the circumstances – embraced the man of God as a friend. "Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward." He wanted to refresh and reward him, without any repentance from the sin the man of God had denounced. The man of God refused the invitation, based on a prior warning from God. It was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, 'You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.'" To accept Jeroboam’s invitation would demonstrate fellowship with his idolatry. The prophet’s own conduct was to symbolize the Lord’s total rejection of Israel’s false worship and recognition that all the people had become apostates. It even required him to return home by a different route from the one by which he came, lest he should be recognizedSo he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.

An Application— When we know the word of God is being compromised, we must make some gesture that signifies total rejection of the idolatrous interpretation being placed on that word from others who have a personal agenda of some kind. To acquiesce would have been to say God agreed.



Verses 11-17: We are now introduced to a sort of rival priest who was living in Bethel. This is on the heels of the man of God priest leaving that place post haste in another direction as it was known as a place of idolatrous worship. We can imagine the compromise this old priest had made due to his living in this very region. Proximity to sinful worship is not the best idea if you want to be fully devoted to the word and worship of God. Whether that was the actual case or not, things seem sketchy anyway according to the narrative. His sons heard of the incident and informed their father and so they saddled the donkey for him and he rode away on it.

This prophet from Bethel found the man of God and invited him to his home, as Jeroboam had invited him. The man of God refused, under the same reason he refused Jeroboam. I cannot return with you, nor go with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. For a command came to me by the word of the Lord, 'You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.' His instructions had been clear. He knew he was not to go home and eat or drink with anyone here.

Verses 18-19: The prophet from Bethel then gave a false word from God, trying to persuade the man of God from Judah to change his course from doing exactly what God told him. He claimed that an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, 'Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.'" But he lied to him. Unfortunately, the man of God from Judah listened to the lie from the prophet of Bethel. So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house and drank water. Why would the man of God prophet do this now? Possibly for several reasons:

·         The prophet from Bethel was most likely older (an old prophet, 1 Kings 13:11) and had the respect of the man of God.

·         The prophet from Bethel identified with the man of God (I too am a prophet as you are).

·         The prophet from Bethel claimed a spectacular experience (an angel spoke to me).

·         The prophet from Bethel claimed to speak for the LORD (by the word of the Lord).

·         The prophet from Bethel did not seem to be an idolater who should be shunned (bring him back with you to your house).

·         The prophet from Bethel offered no reward, other than simple food (he may eat bread and drink water).

PT No matter how natural and seductive this enticement was; it was the duty of the man of God to resist it. He had a word from God to guide his actions, and should receive no other word accept through dramatic and direct confirmation by God’s Spirit. Sadly, his failure at this point ended his usefulness as a man of God.

An Application— We must learn to take the word of God at face value. To understand it in a normal reading. Then, act upon that at face value normative understanding and stick to it. He had received no other word to this point. This reminds me of the garden where Adam had a clear directive from God but compromised it due to circumstances. It brings to mind the deception of Joshua by the Gibeonites who lied so that they could remain in the land (Joshua 9:15). The danger is that we may not be discerning and so susceptible to compromise and deception that looks like compliance but is actual disobedience.

Verses 20-25: This prophet from Bethel spoke a lie in the name of the Lord in 1 Kings 13:18. Now he received a true prophecy while the man of God from Judah ate at his table. 'Because you have disobeyed the command of the Lord, and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you… your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.' God promised personal judgment against the man of God from Judah for his disobedience. This was a hard test, but he failed it. Word got out and eventually came to the old prophet. So they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.

PT—No matter how subtle and innocent the temptation was to disobey; he could not hang in there. God judged the man of God from Judah far more strictly than He judged Jeroboam or the prophet from Bethel. It would seem that they were guilty of worse sins (leading national idolatry and a deliberate lying prophecy), yet the man of God received worse judgment. Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body. The lion did not attack the donkey (the donkey stood by it), nor did he attack the men who passed by. This lion was on a special mission of judgment from God, and seems to be more obedient than the man of God from Judah was. By the way, it is interesting that lions and bears roamed free throughout Israel at this time.

Verses 26-32: The old prophet from Bethel was sympathetic to the man of God from Judah, even in his disobedience and resulting judgment. He went and found his body thrown on the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the body; the lion had not eaten the body nor torn the donkey. The prophet from Bethel was not a particularly righteous man or good prophet, having used a lying prophecy to lead the man of God into sin and judgment. He recognized the common weakness of this fellow servant of God. It was obvious that the man was killed by the Lord. He used the lion to carry it out.

—This should also have been a warning to this old prophet. If God would have the man of God killed for this, what would he do to those who sacrifice to these golden calves? The prophet should fear for himself as well. He is allowing this to happen. He laid his body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, "Alas, my brother!" After he had buried him, he spoke to his sons, saying, "When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. In a sense, the old prophet cost the man of God his life. He would bury him, because he had respect for him as a man of God. He seemed truly sorry that he had caused his death. It is very obvious that the old prophet knew what Jeroboam was doing was wrong. For the thing shall surely come to pass 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. It is as if he is asking himself, why he had not spoken out against this evil in their land. He greatly admired the man of God.

An Application— Corrupt old priests are false teachers today. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Paul pictured people who would be bored by, apathetic to, and annoyed by sound doctrine. Moreover, they would choose to believe myths rather than the truth (e.g., atheistic evolution, humanism, reincarnation). 


Verse 33: The chapter circles back around to the subject matter with which it began. That is, Jeroboams corrupt activity around the altar. After this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way. Things had digressed so far that even such a provocative event as the ones between the priests had no lasting value. Jeroboam had the opportunity to turn and repent, but he did not. God’s dealing with the man of God from Judah was warning enough to Jeroboam, but it was a warning he ignored.

PT Though he had seen his altar torn apart, and the ashes poured out as the man of God predicted, his own hand withered, and that restored again upon the prayer of the prophet. And though he had heard of the death the man of God who died for his disobedience to the command of God, and the several marvelous things that attended it. These were so far from reforming him, that he seemed to be even more hardened by them.

But again he made priests of the high places from among all the people; any who would, he ordained, to be priests of the high places. In ancient Israel, God commanded a strict separation between the office of king and priest. Jeroboam blurred this separation and this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam.

Verse 34: In his failure, Jeroboam became the prototype of the disobedient kings of Israel. The phrase He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin was used of many subsequent kings of Israel including Baasha (1 Kings 15:33-34); Omri (1 Kings 16:25-26); Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51-52); Jehoram (2 Kings 3:1-3); Jehu (2 Kings 10:29-31); Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:1-2); Jehoash (2 Kings 13:10-11); Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-24); Zechariah (2 Kings 15:8-9); Menahim (2 Kings 15:17-18); Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:23-24); Pekah (2 Kings 15:27-28). One curious exception was Ahab, noted as worse than Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:30-31).

Even at the end of the Kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam’s sin was remembered: For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day (2 Kings 17:21-23).

PT—Here is the final nail in the coffin. This event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth. There would be no dynasty for Jeroboam. God’s promise for such a reality became null and void. This sin was so great, that God decides to cut the house of Jeroboam off from the earth. He was in total rebellion against God. God took the throne and cut them off forever. We are accountable to God for our view of His Word.


So What?

·         The word of God—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

·         It is a virtue to protect yourself from being deceived about the word of God. Better people than you and me certainly have been.

·         Do not act contrary to the directives we have been given from God at any time nor for any reason. Those directives are in force until God says otherwise.

·         Culture will want to swing you toward their understanding of thus says the Lord. That will always be in contradiction to what the Bible declares that directive to clearly be.