Daniel Agee

1st Kings 13: Prophecies of Yeroboam’s altar, of donkey, lion, dead prophet point to Messiah

Daniel AgeeThis chapter has some odd elements: a “man of God” who spoke condemnation to the false-worship altar of the now-separate northern kingdom of Israel, he got tripped up in his mission by another prophet, then his body is watched over by a donkey and a lion. Rather than oddities, these are messages from God about the coming exiles of Israel, the return from exile and the role of the Messiah.

We read about a prophet — literally, an אִישׁ אֱלֹהִים (“man of God”) — who traveled from the southern kingdom of Yehudah (Judah) to the northern kingdom of Israel to speak to Yeroboam (Jeroboam). Yeroboam was not always a bad guy. When he was a young man, God spoke with Yeroboam and prophesied to give the kingdom to him because as a young man he actually was more righteous than Solomon (1st Kings 11:26–40). 

It is commonly assumed, based on the writings of Josephus and Jerome, that the name of the prophet in 1st Kings 13 was עִדּוֹ Iddo (Jaddo), a prophet who served the House of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Some dispute that, based on 2nd Chron. 9:29, in which Iddo was described as a “seer” for Yeroboam, yet the prophet in 1st Kings 13 dies on his way back to Yehudah.

Regardless, this man of God comes to Beit ’El (Bethel) and doesn’t even speak to a person. He speaks to the altar that Yeroboam is making his sacrifices upon. The prophet knew this altar would last for 300 years before it would be destroyed by Yoshiah (Josiah), Rehoboam’s heir. 

It was split when the man of God spoke to it but it was rebuilt and reused for 15 generations. 

Yerobam purposefully replaced God with his own version of God. This was a political act but it was also a spiritual repudiation of God. The Creator brought this “man of God” to speak with Yeroboam because at one time Yeroboam was a righteous man, but as we read through, it turns out that Yeroboam’s heart was so hardened in rebellion that he did not turn back to God despite the miracles he witnessed and experienced personally. 

The man of God tells the altar, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’ Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the LORD has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.'” The fulfillment of this prophesy is recorded in 2nd Kings 23:15-20. 

Then Yeroboam ordered that the man be arrested but at that point, his arm stiffened supernaturally. Yeroboam asks the man of God to heal his arm, the man prayed and Yeroboam’s arm was restored but rather than repent, he tried to buy the man of God off. The man of God rebuff’s Yeroboam’s request and gift. 

The old prophet was not in attendance at this ceremony. It appears that the old prophet did not want to follow Yeroboam’s new religion. It wasn’t that he was too old and feeble to go, after all, he was able to hop on a donkey and chase down the man of God later to find him and get more information about his story and mission.

Mysterious messianic message

This is the only prophet that God instructed not to eat or drink during an entire trip. It is a very strange story. Any story that revolves around the number three and a death is a messianic role play

The man of God goes to Bethel to speak against the altar, he returns to Bethel to eat with the old prophet and then his body is returned to Bethel and buried. 

He is also invited to eat and drink three times and he tells Yeroboam and the old prophet three times that he is not supposed to eat and drink three times. 

The donkey is also saddled three times. The donkey is a prophetic reference to the firstborn, as recorded in the Torah (Ex. 13:13; 34:20). 

It’s recorded three times that the corpse of the man of God is “cast down” treated like garbage. It’s so worthless, the lion doesn’t even eat it. 

There’s a message in all these “threes.” The old prophet learns a lesson of his own. He, in a sense, experiences the same fate that Israel is going to experience. Israel, the Northern Tribes, rebelled against God. They eat and drink, not at God’s altar and temple, but their own. They are represented by the first-born son of Rachel, Joseph and their rebellion against God culminated in exile in Babylon, which is symbolized by the lion.  

God is not just telling Yeroboam and the altar but the people themselves that because they have chosen to rebel in the House of God among the pagan altars and worship pagan idols, their first born will be cast down as a worthless corpse. God has sealed the fate of the fate of the altar and the house of Israel. It will not matter if a righteous king came into Israel in the future because God knows that Yeroboam would not repent and that no one after him would repent. 

God uses the man of God’s disobedience and the old prophet’s disobedience to teach a lesson. This is a declaration of the destruction of Israel. 

There are eight sets of three in this prophecy. In the Bible, eight is a symbol of new beginnings — e.g., eighth-day circumcision to “redeem” newborns and Sh’meni Atzeret, the appointment with God the eighth day after the start of the festival of Sukkot/Tabernacles — and three, of a situation that involves life and death — e.g., three-day cleansing of Israel at Sinai to meet God for the Ten Commandments, three-day fast of Esther before the Haman ultimatum and three-day period of death and resurrection of the Messiah. That suggests this prophecy means that after the exile of Israel in Babylon, there would be a new beginning. 

At the end of the story, the man of God was buried in a new tomb, owned by the old prophet, just as the Messiah was killed and laid in a new tomb. 

It’s wonderful to find the Messiah in the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writings, i.e., the Hebrew scriptures). He is not just found in the New Testament and a few prophesies. His story is told and retold in interesting places throughout the scriptures in hidden treasures. 

Speaker: Daniel Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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