God Killed the Deceived but Not the Deceiver


This is a story about which my mother used to wonder. She found it “strange” and “mysterious” and “hard to understand” but she never questioned its veracity, for it was written in the infallible and flawless “Word of God” (the Bible). It is found in 1 Kings 13:1-32

In short, a man of God, a prophet, made a prophecy to an altar upon which King Jeroboam was making offerings to other gods. He prophesied that the altar would be destroyed. Jereboam, stretched out his hand toward the prophet, and said to one of his servants, “Seize him!” His hand immediately became withered or paralyzed so that he couldn’t move it. He then asked the man of God to pray to Yahweh to restore his hand. The prophet did so, and it was immediately restored. Jereboam was so grateful (or perhaps it was the thought he’d better not mess with a prophet whose prayers God answered) that he invited him to his home to eat and drink, with a promise of a reward. But the prophet said, “Even if you give me half of your possessions, I will not go. For Yahweh commanded me not to eat or drink while away, or return by the same route.”

But an old prophet from Bethel learned from his sons what the man of God had done. So he rode and met the man of God and invited him to his house for a meal. Again the man of God refused on the basis of Yahweh’s commands. But the old prophet said, "I, too, am a prophet. An angel told me the word of Yahweh, that I was to bring you to my house for a meal. But the old prophet lied. No such angel had appeared to him at all. But the man of God did not know this. He knew that Yahweh sometimes changed his mind, and probably thought that He had done so on this occasion. So he went to the lying prophet’s house and ate with him. Then Yahweh spoke to the man of God through the lying old prophet, “Because you’ve disobeyed my instruction to you, your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.” So after the man of God had eaten and drunk, he rode away on his donkey, and encountered a lion that killed him. The lion and the donkey stood beside his body. People who saw it told the old prophet. The old prophet said, “That is the man who disobeyed the word of Yahweh. So Yahweh gave him to the lion.” Then the old prophet rode to the body, laid it on his donkey, and brought it back to the city. Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and mourned his death, crying, “Alas! my brother!” After that he requested his sons that when he died, they would lay him in the same tomb—lay him beside the man of God, “For,” he said, “The word of Yahweh against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places in Samaria shall surely come to pass.”

Why did the prophet lie to the man of God? Did he WANT God to kill him? Yet he seemed to truly respect the man of God since he wished to be buried with him, and declared that the man’s prophecy from Yahweh, would surely come to pass. Was the lying prophet punished, or even rebuked for his deception? There is nothing in the record that suggests so. And does that fact indicate that Yahweh APPROVED of the prophet’s deception? Is obeying minor commands such as He gave the man of God, more important to Yahweh than refraining from lying or deception?

These are questions for which I have no answers. Any thoughts?


(1) Perhaps simply because he was a pathological liar i.e., “a false prophet”. (2) Perhaps because being as dishonest as he was figured “the man of God” may be somehow a means of tapping into the King’s wealth (given what was apparently on offer, vs. 8).

Again it is pure speculation… perhaps having been previously rebuked for his many deceptions (lies) ruled him out as being a prophet of Yahweh; and yet he carried on regardless in his (no-doubt known to all) many deceptions; remaining ever envious of the real thing.

Perhaps this false prophet’s ostracisation and isolation from the service of Yahweh was punishment enough? And yet selfishly in his own death perhaps sought nearness to God by proximity to “the man of God” in the grave?

Again since the text doesn’t actually give us these sorts of details we are left to “fill in the gaps” with what we DO know of the human condition, etc.

Hardly… the whole incident would appear to show a major lapse in judgment on behalf of “the man of God” – seems harsh BUT there are details we are simply not given, and as the saying goes… “to whom much is given much is required” – perhaps such was the case here?


It seems to me that there should be some kind of moral to the story, but what is it? This man of God comes from Judah to denounce the altar of Jeroboam. On the other hand, we have the son of Solomon, Rehoboam, ruling over Judah who doesn’t seem to be much better. If he was following in his father’s footsteps, he was probably worshipping other gods as well. Besides that, Rehoboam sounds like a tyrant and a slave driver. The story goes on to say that the old prophet lied, but again, the man of God disobeys as well. Obviously, the old prophet’s prophecy came true, so I wouldn’t say that he was a false prophet. Then in verse 31 he says “Alas, my brother!” I don’t really know, but it seems to me that maybe the moral of the story would be that before you go preaching to and judging someone else, you’d better get your own house in order first.???


Though he remained “a false prophet” Balaam had moments of speaking truth…


The gist of the story suggests that the “old prophet” was about to die himself. It’s quite possible God did kill him (or Jeroboam; see later!) soon after he made arrangements to bury the younger prophet in honor – an honor the younger prophet might not have gotten had he died later.

This is one of those stories that stand as evidence that even a legitimate prophet of God can mislead people as a prophet of God, and be in rebellion (whether well-meant or not) against God. The underlying word for “disobey” is “rebelled against” and it’s the same word used of Aaron and even Moses at Meribah in Numbers 20:24 and 27:14.

Presumably, though, the younger prophet, being under fierce temptation not to eat or drink until he returned home, should have discerned that either this guy was lying for some reason or had himself been fooled by a devil masquerading as an angel. Also, the old prophet didn’t say he was passing along a command to the younger prophet; and didn’t even say it was the angel or presence of YHWH himself but only an angel. God might make allowances for previous orders, but He wouldn’t send mere angels to announce that. Moreover, the old prophet was himself living in the same Israel city of Bethel where Jeroboam was worshiping with the altar – but neither he nor his sons had been asked to do anything there, which at best casts aspersion on his honor that some other prophet would be called to do so, and even suggests he was complicit in the idolatry going on. The younger Judean prophet should have been suspicious when this guy from Bethel shows up on the road and invites him back to Bethel to eat and drink. (Which also by the way would void the command not to go back by the same road.) Note that the old prophet makes his lie about the angel after hearing the command of YHWH Himself – the younger prophet should have been suspicious that the older prophet wasn’t at least confused why a mere angel would come to him making an offer against the command, or perhaps seeing it as a test and so (since there wasn’t an anti-command involved) encouraging the starving young prophet to keep going, maybe with support provided by the old prophet.

In fact, the old guy should have been notorious already to the younger prophet, if 2 Chronicles 11:16-17 correctly reports the situation. Jeroboam had been interfering with priestly families caravaning down to Jerusalem to serve their courses in the Temple there (and otherwise interfering with any local priestly duties of theirs, appointing other people as idolatrous priests instead), so all the priestly families had packed up and moved down to Judah, inspiring anyone who devotedly cared about God (possibly including this young prophet who knows his way to, from, and around whichever Bethel this is in Israel) to migrate south, too. (At the time Reheboam was acting much more faithfully to God.)

So who is this old prophet still in Bethel with his sons and/or disciples? He’s someone who should have been opposing the situation but who hadn’t been, or Jeroboam would have been persecuting his school. This is something that should have been at least suspiciously suspicious to the younger prophet. It turns out later that this guy already had a tomb reserved near the Bethel idolatrous altar along with the priests serving there!!

In a way things turn out as well as they could under the circumstances, since the old prophet actually comes to penitently honor and validate the younger one, and takes a public stand in validating him. Jeroboam had already tried to kill the younger prophet for speaking out against the idolatry. The older guy there in the same place, just volunteered to be killed by the evil king.

Later (in 2 Kings 23) when Josiah arrives to fulfill the prophecy, he burns the bones of the priests and prophets buried near the idol’s altar of Bethel (actually burns them on the idolatrous altar) – but spares the bones of the younger and the older prophet, for both of them had stood up against the altar and had prophesied his coming.


Here’s some further commentary, from the Protestant site Got Questions: What can we learn from the man of God and the lying prophet?


As a followup, it’s possible that the younger prophet was already in some rebellion against God when the older one caught up to him, for he was found under an oak. Although resting under shade trees is a tempting prospect, hardcore devotees would be leery about doing so even in observant areas because the areas were also public restrooms and may have been easily defiled – moreso if Gentiles had possibly been camping and/or pooping there! This applies to trees near a road, btw, not to trees well back from a road. Although even then you’d want to be careful your hair didn’t get caught in low-hanging branches (since those who hang from a tree are cursed per Torah). Worse, in a time and place like Bethel-of-Samaria where this is happening, pagan sacrifices were being made under trees whether near the road or not.

The younger prophet couldn’t have gotten far out of Bethel already, and he’s already resting under an oak tree apparently near the road. For us that wouldn’t have been a big deal, and after all he must have been starving and dehydrated. By the principles of hard kosher Torah observance, though, he shouldn’t have been caught dead under that tree! – nor gone near it even for shade, considering the stringency of the terms of his self-sacrificial mission, where he would only survive by a miracle from God: not drinking for three days on a round trip of four to six days. The command not to go back the same way, means it would be impossible to take the shortest route both coming and returning. (The area wasn’t a desert yet like today, but dehydration is still dehydration.)


That point about the tree has some interesting connections to the story of Zachaeus and Jesus in GosLuke, by the way.


My question would be, was the man of God really a man of God? For God told those in Judah, not to go up against their brothers in the first place. So, it would seem to me that the man of God disobeyed that order and went to Bethel anyway to start some trouble. Again, if he was a man of God, then the first place to start preaching would have been Judah, seeing that Rehoboam himself needed a little instruction.


Then again, maybe the man of God was instructed to leave both places and not look back. This would be similar to the story of Lot and his wife.


Thank you, Jason, and others for commenting on this story.

Not quite only an angel. He said it was an angel who told him the word of Yahweh.


LLC, at the time Reheboam was doing well enough, although he was already on the slope downward. As usual, political polygamy was a key opening that door. :unamused: Going up against their brothers meant military action – and they were certainly arming forts on the border to prevent Jeroboam from trying to come take Jerusalem and its neighborhood! But God was going to have them go up against their brothers to some extent later when Josiah rose to be king, so a prophet being sent up to Samaria to warn about that coming would be consistent enough.

Paidion, true my eyes must have done that reverse ellipsis thing where one of two somewhat similar details gets blipped out. :blush:


Jason, according to the story, the whole reason for the split was because Solomon was worshipping other gods and forcing the people into slavery.
1 Kings 11:31-34 "And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces (tribes) for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel; 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you (but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel) because they have forsaken Me, and worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, an Milcom the god of the people of Ammon, and have not walked in in my ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David.”
I suppose if it wasn’t David, Rehoboam would have been left with nothing. When Rehoboam came into power, he was instructed by the elders to be a servant to the people, and all would be well. Instead he acted the tyrant as he states in verse 11: “Whereas my father laid a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips ; but I will chastise you with scourges!”
Jeroboam had no intentions to return to Jerusalem. In fact, he went to the mountains of Ephraim to build a new city. Jeroboam wanted nothing to do with Rehoboam, nor did he want the people to return to Jerusalem because in doing so they might return to Rehoboam. This is why he built the golden calves. From what I understand, Rehoboam was the one who was planning a military attack on Jerobaom and the house of Israel. He was mad because he did not have complete power over all the tribes.


The reason I suggested that the man of God may have gone to Bethel to start trouble is because of his warning. When the man of God told Jeroboam that a child was to be born of the house of David and destroy his altars, I would think that he would have taken this as a threat that was to occur sometime in the near future. It seems odd that a man of God would be sent to warn Jeroboam of something that was to occur some three hundred years in the future. By then, he would be long dead and gone. Why would he care?


I’m beginning to think that maybe this story is out of place. It would make more sense if the man of God was addressing Jeroboam II.




Here’s a couple of other somewhat similar stories:

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him.
36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have gone from me, a lion shall strike you down.” And as soon as he had departed from him, a lion met him and struck him down.
37 Then he found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” And the man struck him—struck him and wounded him.
38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes.
39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’
40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.”
41 Then he hurried to take the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets.
42 And he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’” (1 Kings 20)


Paidion, Now you’ve got me going! I can’t make heads or tails of anything! :question: :laughing: According to 2 Chronicles chapter 13, Rehoboam’s son, Abijah, is the one who came up against Jeroboam I and took Bethel as well as some other cities and villages. I was thinking that the man of God would be warning Jeroboam of this attack, rather than one that was to come hundreds of years later. That’s why I suggested the story in question seems out of place. We see from 1 Kings 11:35-37 according to the prophet Ahijah, God was giving reign over Israel to Jeroboam because Solomon was worshipping other gods. In chapter 12:22-24, Shemaiah, the man of God warns Rehoboam and the house of Judah, not to go against Jeroboam because the split was God’s doing. Yet again in 2 Chronicles, Abijah claims( chapter 13, verse 5) that Jeroboam was the one in rebellion, that he took advantage of a young Rehoboam, and that all of Israel belonged to the house of David. So,wasn’t Abijah the one disobeying the Lord’s commands not go against his brothers?


So, this is my last attempt at trying to decipher the story. The man of God represents the message that Jeroboam was given by the prophet Ahijah; that Jeroboam would have ten tribes and be king of Israel only if he followed the ways of the Lord. God gave him rule over these tribes because Solomon was worshipping other gods. However, Jeroboam did not listen. Instead, he turned back to the very same ways from which he came, that of worshipping other gods. I’d say that the lion represents Judah. They go up against Jeroboam but do not completely destroy him. I think the donkey here represents some kind of enlightenment that happened because of the whole ordeal. The only thing I don’t get is the prophecy of Josiah when it was Abijah who attacked Jeroboam and took Bethel.


Prophecies can be fulfilled multiple times. Abijah is a case of details being fulfilled partially early, and other details being fulfilled later.