I was reading this passage today as part of my daily reading and it confuses me. The old prophet from Bethel lies to the Man of God and convinces him that God wished for him to stay with Him. Now the man of God does make a mistake in not inquiring of God for an answer. And his punishment is to be killed by a marauding lion… ok… But the Prophet from Bethel who lied and brought about this punishment is unscathed… How does this make sense?
@scottbeau What a great question! Once you understand this story, it is actually both rational and moving. But I must confess the first time I read this story it was very distressing because I did not understand it. Two critical fact yous need to grasp this story - then it should all click:
- the prophet living in Beth-El was an idol worshiping false prophet - the true prophet of God from Judah was a danger to his livelihood - this explains why this Beth-El prophet lied - he wanted to see this true prophet of God dead. Like Balaam who advised Balaak to tempt the Israelites to adultery and like Jeroboam earlier in the passage, this false prophet was hoping to lead the true prophet astray.
- the false prophet had become a true prophet by the end of the story - the false prophet was converted!
So, after this false prophet leads God’s prophet astray, the true God actually speaks through this false prophet and the false prophet becomes a true prophet! Wow! This story shows that God’s Word will come true even if His servants make a mistake. In addition, the true prophet of God receives honor in his death, so there is actually some resolution to this very tragic story.
The following article from JSTOR really laid it out nicely:
In the first half of the story, the Beth-El prophet, like Jeroboam
in the earlier narrative, invites the Judahite man of God to eat and
drink in Beth-El. Here, however, no preceding cure indebts the
Beth-El prophet to the man of God. The invitation must be read
rather as a conscious attempt to trick the man of God into com-
promise.'2 The prophet’s home sanctuary (to which he perhaps
is professionally attached) is in danger. The invitation, then, seems
to be motivated more by patriotism than by piety; the misguided
prophet baits his lure with a lying oracle. In the ensuing drama, the
Judahite man of God moves tragically, from obedience through
unwitting disobedience to death.
The Beth-El prophet, on the other
hand, moves ironically, from narrow patriotism through sacrilege
to true prophetic mission. He receives, willy-nilly, a word of
Yahweh and declares it. Behind this contrast stands the inexorable
word of Yahweh which will not be thwarted. Disserted by one bearer,
it casts him aside and seizes another, no matter how unworthy.'3
In the second half of the story the Beth-El prophet has changed.
Now that he has become a medium of Yahweh’s word, he behaves
very differently. His concern for the dead man of God leads him to
brave the lion in order to honor his “brother” with burial and
mourning. His efforts to care for the corpse counterbalance his
earlier deception and restore to the dead man some of the honor he
had forfeited in life. At the end, the old prophet makes his own the
very oracle against Beth-El on account of which he brought about
his “brother’s” downfall. Thus his ironic movement culminates in
his becoming witness against his own people in service to the divine
word he betrayed. In this half of the story the man of God’s destiny
too changes; his tragic movement is reversed. Though slain, he is
honored by the lion who slew him,14 by the donkey who carried him,
and by the prophet who betrayed him. He is mourned, buried fit-
tingly, and his memory commended to the next generation.
Walsh, Jerome T. “The Contexts of 1 Kings XIII.” Vetus Testamentum , vol. 39, no. 3, 1989, pp. 355–370. JSTOR , www.jstor.org/stable/1519610.
Things We Can Learn
I am not sure all of these are direct applications of the text, but they are things that are woven into the narrative.
- claims to angelic visitation are no assurance of truth
- we should heed the Word of the Lord
- God can use anyone, even a false prophet
- even a false prophet is not beyond God’s reach
I think this passage is a clear warning against heeding false prophets. Just because someone claims to have had a heavenly vision or seen an angel, we must test and weigh all such claims against the revealed Word of God.
Galatians 1:8 - But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!
Does that help clear things up a bit?
Thank you that helps a lot…
@scottbeau Glad to hear! Definitely a passage that requires a bit more digging. Christ be with you.
That’s such an interesting part of the scripture. It reminds me of how the Lord can use the most unexpected of characters to do his will. That’s a lesson in itself. Through him anything is possible.