1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God

1And behold,(A) a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar(B) to make offerings. 2(C) And the man cried against the altar by the word of the LORD and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David,(D) Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.'” 3And he gave(E) a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.'”

 

Who this ‘man of God’ is, we are not told.  Just as mysterious as Melchizedek was, so this man of God bears no name unlike Shemaiah from the previous chapter.  What is key, however, is the precise description of his background, and the precision of his prophecy – a godly man from Judah, brought by God’s word to the house of God (Bethel), to proclaim against the false altar that a son of David, Josiah, shall destroy this false system of worship.  The predominate man of God is Jesus Christ Himself – as if this shadow of a godly messenger points us towards Christ, the man of Judah, the son of David, who himself shall also destroy this false system of worship.  Not by destruction of a mere altar in this mock-house of God, but a destruction of the house of God itself – the tearing down not of a mere altar (v.3) but the tearing down of the House of God (John 2:19).  Yet, the high priest that is sacrificed on this House of God, this Temple of the LORD built by Solomon’s hand and rebuilt time and time again, is Jesus Himself.

 

4And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. 6And the king said to the man of God,(F) “Entreat now the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. 7And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and(G) I will give you a reward.” 8And the man of God said to the king,(H) “If you give me half your house,(I) I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, 9for so was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.'” 10So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

 

This dried hand is but the true diagnosis of Jeroboam – dried up and lifeless (Ezekiel 37:11) – and only such healing could be achieved by the LORD Jesus (Jeremiah 8:22; Matthew 9:12).  Note, however, that Jeroboam does not pray to receive the LORD’s mercy, or the love of Christ – instead, he merely prays in v.6 that he may simply have his hand restored.  This is the classic sign of religion, that Christ is the means, and not the end.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

 

Jeroboam’s inability to pull in his hand made him a spectacle to all about him, that they might see and fear. If God, in justice, harden the hearts of sinners, so that the hand they have stretched out in sin they cannot pull in again by repentance, that is a spiritual judgment, represented by this, and much more dreadful.

But observe, He did not desire the prophet to pray that his sin might be pardoned, and his heart changed, only that his hand might be restored; thus Pharaoh would have Moses to pray that God would take away this death only (Ex. 10:17), not this sin.

 

And so this man of God rightly refuses fellowship with this king, who remains hard-hearted, stiff-necked, as according to the LORD’s command (v.9).  From v.1-10 thus far, the only faithful trustworthy figure has been the LORD Himself, using his agent (the man of God) to mercifully warn Jeroboam that He stays true to His word, demonstrated by the tearing down of the altar and ashes pouring out.  This is but the first fulfilment – the true horror is that the LORD knows Jeroboam would rebuild the altar despite this first sign, for it is on the rebuilt altar that Josiah will “sacrifice on you [the altar] the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.”  Thus, this horror is Jeroboam’s self-judgment – denying the first sign, denying the LORD’s faithfulness to His word and promises that Jeroboam’s false system of worship, false system of priesthood – Jeroboam himself, will all fall.

 

However, this faithfulness of the LORD means that the warning given to the man of God will also be fulfilled against the man of God should he be disobedient, though confirming the consistent truth that He is faithful; but we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

11Now(J) an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons[a] came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. 12And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. 14And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16And he said,(K) “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, 17for it was said to me(L) by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.'” 18And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.'” But he lied to him. 19So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.

 

What plays out here is a close parallel to the history of garden of Eden.  This old prophet lies in v.18, for the LORD does not contradict His own word to the man of God – yet this man of God chose to heed the false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:3-5), and broke the two-fold command: not to return to Bethel, and not to have food fellowship during his mission.  Just as Eve received the command not to eat the forbidden fruit, so also she was deceived and did not stay faithful to the word of God and instead heeded the word of a creature.  Thus, the liar (v.18) triumphed over the man of God.  Witness the result of the liar’s words:

 

20And as they sat at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, 22but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'” 23And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24And as he went away(M) a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. 25And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the road and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where(N) the old prophet lived.

How strange that the false prophet, like Balaam, is prophesying the truth (v.20-22) against this holy man! The donkey which this false prophet rode is instead ridden by Christ into the wilderness (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:14-15) – it is a picture of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:22), the sin of the old prophet transferred onto the man of God; the declaration that the man of God has sinned, but the old prophet and Jeroboam remain unscathed.  And that is the alarming aspect of these chapters and feud between Israel and Judah; neither king stood in Christ, though Shemaiah and this man of God had clearly spoken words of truth.  Yet, only the LORD has been faithful throughout, and v.23-25 is a clear example of the LORD fulfilling his warning, v.24 and 25 (and v.28 – with particular emphasis on “the lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey”) in particular showing that once the animals have killed the man of God, they have refrained from mauling him further.  This is a picture of the foolishness of man’s lust, in the donkey, against the picture of the devil prowling like a lion (1 Peter 5:8).  As Dev Menon states in his “Donkeys” blog entry:

“Genesis 16:12 – He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Ishmael)

Jeremiah 2:24 – a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her. (Israel)

Hosea 8:9 – For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.

Genesis 49:14-15 – “Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. 15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor. (blessings from Jacob)

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus tames the wild donkey lusting after everything, living alone…
She was chained up by the law, restraining the lust – but still rebellious
Untied by the Master, she willingly bears this Burden
She carries Him to the cross….

Thus, the donkey brings the man of God, full of sin because of the false prophet’s deception, ‘devoured’ by the prowling lion, the picture of him sprawled across the road in between the two inanimate animals.  This is our Saviour, the Son of Man, who bore our sins for us.  Though this man of God has disobeyed, the parallel here is that the Son of Man obeyed till his death, bearing our sins upon him until he cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” (Mark 15:34).

26And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the LORD; therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the LORD spoke to him.” 27And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And they saddled it. 28And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey. 29And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back to the city[b] to mourn and to bury him. 30And he laid the body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying,(O) “Alas, my brother!” 31And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried;(P) lay my bones beside his bones. 32(Q) For the saying that he called out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against(R) all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of(S) Samaria shall surely come to pass.”

It is strange here therefore for the prophet to want to be buried with the man of God – save for only one apparent reason, that this prophet should partake in the man of God’s glory – v.32 – “For the saying that he called out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass”.  What privilege it is, therefore, that this prophet is buried with the man of God just as we are called to bury our old sinful lives of falsehood (Colossians 2:12) and rise in His truth, demonstrated through this man of God who is but a shadow of Christ, a prophet of the Old Testament pointing to God’s faithfulness to His overarching promise that judgment will be declared against the altars and false worship of this world by the very return of His true son Josiah, in the name of Christ Jesus.  Thus Adam Clarke states, “This argues a strong conviction in the mind of the old prophet, that the deceased was a good and holy man of God; and he is willing to have place with him in the general resurrection.”  And so the old prophet joins in the man of God’s prophesying, by himself prophesying the judgment in the cities of Samaria (though Samaria is not yet established until 1 Kings 16:24!), a display of the restoration of Israel spreading out to the surrounding Gentile nations (Isaiah 54:2-3). 

33After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. 34(T) And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam,(U) so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

And how unsurprising that despite hearing the LORD’s faithfulness enacted against the man of God Himself, just as the Father’s wrath had been poured out onto the Son – the cosmic sacrifice of His only begotten Son (Genesis 22), that the man of God should have his Last Supper with the false prophet, drinking the cup of wrath upon Himself (Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 26:39) and being the living scapegoat, dying by the judgment at the house of God (Bethel) – prophesying the day that the altar shall be smashed once and for all, just as the true House of God is torn down by the Son who died not where he came, but will return to a renewed Jerusalem one glorious day.  That glorious day, for Josiah, is in 2 Kings 23:15-20, approximately 350 (half of the fullness of 700 years) years after 1 Kings 13:

15Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected(BD) by Jeroboam the son of Nebat,(BE) who made Israel to sin,(BF) that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned,[d] reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. 16And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it,(BG) according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. 17Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him,(BH) “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted[e] these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” 18And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones(BI) of the prophet who came out of Samaria. 19And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were(BJ) in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20And(BK) he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars,(BL) and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

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1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God

2 thoughts on “1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God

  1. A friend says:

    You are sick. You don’t even realize it. You are high on the drug of delusion. Yes, you are literally high. Your brain is filled with endorphins and it feels wonderful.

    But if you ever want to wake up, and set your mind free from the chains of mental slavery, i recommend you start here:

    http://www.amazon.ca/God-Delusion-Richard-Dawkins/dp/0618680004

    Or listen to Hitchens debate Blair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msnKNdo5pPI

    Here is another thoughtful discussion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kuzYwzGoXw

    I really do hope you take the time to open your mind. Don’t dismiss my help as arrogance.

    1. Jacky says:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for messaging me. It shows your politeness as a response to our earlier correspondence on our mutual friend’s status. To extend that etiquette of politeness between us, I hope that we can have a mutual open dialogue. Since you are on my blog, where Scripture is the number one point of discussion, I hope that we can use Scripture as a point of discussion. However, given the tone in your first message, you sound just as dogmatic as the worst of the religious I have met.

      Dawkins and Hitchens are indeed very charismatic speakers and writers. There is, unfortunately, one blinding mistake in their thinking – that they have simply not read Scripture and understood its meaning. To me, your quotations on your friend’s status shows that you have not thought through Scripture vigorously (perhaps to due an adherence to the Hitchkins formulae). This is saddening, especially whether you identify yourself to their scientific and philosophical thinking. Dawkins, in particular, is a person of non-superstition (which, by the way, is the prime focus of Dawkins’ God Delusion; as opposed to ‘non-religion’ since Dawkins is synonymously describing religion as superstition). I am just as much a scientist as Dawkins – but our starting ground is different.

      To kick things off, these verses are my starting ground:

      Romans chapter 1:

      ” 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

      24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. ”

      Revelation 13:8

      All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

      Friend, you say that “reason” is king. But for Dawkins and Hitchens to rely so solely on reason (so close as to capitalising Reason and making it “God”) one crucial aspect is always denied as it is such an attack on pride. That our reason is, actually, (and I agree!) supposedly to be inherently powerful. We are *meant* to be reasonable men. Yet, reason always bases itself on a presupposition to work. Such is the world of deductive reasoning. And that is how science works. Start a presupposition, reason it out with evidence. However, read Romans 1 – we have fallen and corrupted minds due to our sin. If we do not presuppose that we are sinners, but are in fact evolved non-determined species, then of course there is actually no reason to have this discussion right now. For the very reason that we do not have corrupted reasoning!

      Dawkins stated on pg. 232 of “God Delusion” (Black Swan edition): “There are some weird things (such as the Trinity, transubstantiation, incarnation) that we are not ‘meant’ to understand. Don’t even try to understand one of these, for the attempt might destroy it. Learn how to grain fulfillment in calling it a mystery. Remember Martin Luther’s virulent condemnation of reason, quoted on pg. 221, and think how protective of meme survival they would be.”

      On pg. 221 is states – “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God”.

      Yet, Dawkins works, again, the two presumptions here: firstly, that we are not sinners. By ‘sinners’, I mean we are removed in relationship with God. Our reason is not clouded by ‘sin’, by ‘being removed from our Creator’. Instead, it is somehow sublimely unique, a champion of the Enlightenment age to remove all things as ‘mystery’. What is sad is that Dawkins is speaking to a stickman he has created, or is addressing Christians who have not vigorously tested their dogma against Scripture (yes – there are times when traditions and Scriptures have not matched, sadly). The Trinity is no mystery – historically recorded in Matthew 28 on how the Three in One work together; or Genesis 1; or John 17, a discussion between the Father and the Son. Martin Luther’s preference of the Divine Word is not some blind dogmatic adherence. It is because to him, the Word is remedy to our sin (see, again, 1 Corinthians 2 which I’ve quoted to you so many times I wonder whether you have read). This throws out of the water Dawkins’ description of sin on pg. 284-286 of the same book. He say it is ‘unreasonable’ to accept Jesus’ version of sin (which he wrongly describes). I say that his presumption that he can judge whether sin is reasonable or not is, itself, a bit presumptuous.

      So, to use the tool of ‘reason’, I have reasoned out my belief hopefully as diligently as you had yourself hoped. Reason is but a medium. It is not a champion of anything. *Who* uses reason is only capable of determining whether such ‘reason’ is based on the appropriate values. I believe that Jesus Christ is my reason (btw – if you check the Greek in John 1, you will realise that describing Jesus as ‘the Logos’ is not just a fancy term; it is John identifying Jesus as the source of all reason and logical thinking; see Colossians 1:15 for a greater implication of what that means). For that reason alone, I reasoned out all the points above, flowing from such belief. You, therefore, cannot say that I am unreasonable. All you can charge me with is that I am starting on a different presupposition from you.

      Calling me delusional and sick would not win any brownie points either, but hey, I’ve been called many things… (perhaps not high – I only get something close to endorphins after a long run or standing on my hands for longer than a few minutes, but some call that blood rush).

      Please note, however, one warning. If this discussion is just you telling me to read Hitchkins, or just a shouting match, or just you throwing abuses at me, I am at liberty to end this discussion at any time. I’ve done many online discussions before, and one thing I am quite certain is that such online debates often are fruitless because of its impersonal nature. At least on a political or journalistic forum, people can confront each other face to face. Online is such a cowardly medium where one can assert anything they wish without repercussions. Thankfully, I stand by my beliefs regardless of the forum (hopefully anyway!). If you are not ready to work your ‘reasoning’ on different presuppositions, then I will not extend the warm welcome any further. Please understand that I have quoted Dawkins only for the sake of this discussion, though he is not as vigorous a scientist as one might think if he misquotes Scripture, Martin Luther, and so forth. One might think that if you are trying to rebut something, you will actually try to understand what you are criticizing to begin with?

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