Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Kings 13:26 - 13:26

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Kings 13:26 - 13:26

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1Ki_13:26. And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.

IT not unfrequently happens, that they who are enabled to maintain their steadfastness in more arduous circumstances, are surprised and overcome in situations of less difficulty. Noah and Lot, whilst living in the midst of ungodly men, were circumspect and exemplary in the highest degree; but when freed from those restraints, and enjoying repose in the bosom of their families, they fell, and greatly dishonoured their profession. The case of the disobedient prophet was not indeed to be compared with theirs in point of enormity: but, in withstanding greater temptations, and falling when his victory appeared complete, he exhibits another instance of human instability. Much indeed is to be said for him, because he was deceived: but his history affords a solemn warning unto all. In illustration of it we shall consider,

I.       The character of the seducer—

Many have thought him to be a pious man: and certainly there are many features in his character which have a favourable aspect. He is called “an old prophet,” which intimates that God had made use of him in revealing his will to men. He expressed a very high regard for the prophet that came out of Egypt, and, with considerable trouble to himself, sought to enjoy communion with him. Beyond a doubt he was at that time inspired of God, because he confirmed with divine authority the prediction that had been delivered, respecting the burning of men’s bones on Jeroboam’s altar; an event that did not take place till after the expiration of three hundred years. When he heard that the prophet whom he had deceived was dead, he went boldly, and as it were in faith, up to the very face of the lion, and took away from him the corpse, and returned with it to his own house. For the loss of so good a man he greatly mourned; and he determined to honour him to the utmost of his power. He interred his body in his own tomb; he wrote an inscription over it to commemorate his fidelity, and to record the prophecy he had delivered; (which, considering the offence it might give to Jeroboam, was no small instance of holy zeal:) and finally, he desired that his bones might be laid by the side of that pious man, to intimate, that he desired to have his portion with him at the resurrection of the just.

As to the deceit practised by him to obtain the society of that godly man, it may be said, that, though wrong in itself, it proceeded from love, and was a kind of pious fraud, for the obtaining of a privilege he could not otherwise enjoy.

But after all, if we candidly consider the other parts of his character, we cannot but pronounce him a wicked man. For,

1.       He forbore to testify against the sin of others—

[That he was a prophet, there is no doubt, even as Balaam had been before him. But to what purpose was he endued with a spirit of prophecy, if not to exert himself in reproving sin, and in maintaining the cause of God in the world? Was that a time to be silent, when idolatry was being established throughout the land, and God himself was set aside as no longer worthy of men’s regard? When God had set him there as a light, was he to put his light under a bushel? Should he not rather have “raised his voice on high, and shewn the house of Israel their transgressions?” Yet, behold, no testimony did he bear against the reigning abominations: he was “a dumb dog that could not bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber [Note: Isa_56:10-11.].” Methinks, if God had ever enjoined him to be silent, (as on some occasions he has done [Note: Eze_3:26.],) his experience should have accorded with that of Jeremiah, who tells us, that “God’s word was in his heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones, insomuch that he was weary with forbearing, and could not stay [Note: Jer_20:9.].” But no such feelings had he: he was content to let all go on their own way, provided he might but enjoy his ease: and therefore he was no better than an idol shepherd, against whom are denounced the heaviest woes [Note: Zec_11:17.]. The watchman that omits to give warning of the approaching enemy, and the shepherd that careth not for his flock, are among the most faulty of characters, and the most injurious of mankind [Note: Eze_33:1-9; Eze_34:1-10.] — — —]

2.       He countenanced sin in his own children—

[Every parent is bound to “bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord:” and every good man can have that testimony from God which Abraham had, “I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord [Note: Gen_18:19.].” But how did this prophet act? Did he restrain his sons? Did he insist that they should “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them [Note: Eph_5:11.]?” No: when they had attended the idolatrous service, they came home and told every thing to their father, assured that they should meet with no rebuke from him, nor receive at his hands any testimony of his displeasure. What pretensions then could he have to piety? Eli had reproved the impieties of his sons; yet, because he had not authoritatively interposed to prevent or punish their abominations, God visited him with a very signal judgment. How reprehensible then must this prophet have been, who both connived at, and consented to, a crime, for which he was bound by the law to put even his own children to death [Note: Deu_13:6-9.]! Let parents know, that if, by neglecting to “provide for their own household they deny the faith and become worse than infidels,” much more must they incur the heaviest guilt by neglecting to provide for their eternal interests — — —]

3.       He even tempted another to the commission of sin—

[Here his conduct was most wanton and cruel. He knew how steadfastly the man of God had resisted every temptation, and had withstood every inducement either of hope or fear; and behold, he calls falsehood to his aid, and pretends to a divine commission, in order that he may prevail to divert the holy man from his purpose, and to involve him in sin. Nor do we find that, when he was inspired to denounce the judgments of God against him for his transgression, he ever humbled himself, or implored pardon for his offence: methinks, the least he could have done would have been to intercede with God, as David did for his suffering people, “Let thy hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house, and not against this poor man whom I have deceived [Note: 2Sa_24:17.]:” but he felt no such compunction, notwithstanding the enormity of his offence. Unhappy he, who was thus led to offend! But unhappier far that wicked man, who cast the stumbling-block before him [Note: Mat_18:7.]! He probably thought it but a light matter to deceive a person in so small a point as this: but, if to tempt a Nazarite with wine was no light sin [Note: Amo_2:12.], neither could this be light, “where the guilt of falsehood and blasphemy was superadded to that of causing his brother to offend.”]

The success of the seducer leads us next to contemplate,

II.      The fate of the seduced—

There our proud hearts are almost ready to sit in judgment upon God. But “his ways are in the deep;” “neither giveth he account of any of his matters:” and whether we discern the equity of his dispensations or not, it becomes us to silence every murmuring thought with this, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Certainly we cannot but compassionate the fate of the unhappy man, when we see him falling a victim to the divine displeasure: nevertheless we derive from it much important instruction. The judgment inflicted on him shews us,

1.       That no command of God is to be trifled with—

[The command not to eat bread or drink water in that place might appear small; but, however small in itself, it was sanctioned by the same authority as the greatest. That there are degrees of importance in a moral view between one command and another, is certain: but as bearing the stamp of divine authority, all are alike, and to be regarded by us with equal reverence [Note: Jam_2:11.]. Our Lord informs us, that “whoso shall break one of the least of his commandments, and teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven [Note: Mat_5:19.],” or, as that expression seems to import, be the furthest from it. Accordingly we find in Scripture very heavy judgments inflicted for, what might be considered, very small offences: the man who gathered sticks upon the Sabbath-day was stoned to death by God’s express command: and Uzzah, who stretched forth his hand to support the tottering ark, was “struck dead for his error.” Let us therefore not presume to violate any commandment under the idea of its being but a small command, or a venial offence: for we behold in the instance before us, that God is “a jealous God,” and will vindicate the honour of his insulted law.]

2.       That the more nearly we are related to God, the more aggravated is every sin that we commit against him—

[It might have been hoped, that so small a sin, committed so inadvertently, by one who was actively engaged in God’s service, might have passed unnoticed: but, on the contrary, he was punished, whilst the idolatry of Jeroboam, and the impiety of the old prophet, were overlooked. But God has taught us that “judgment shall begin at the house of God [Note: Eze_9:6.];” and that the more distinguished we have been by his unmerited favours, the more certainly shall our transgressions be visited upon us [Note: Amo_3:2.]. Of this we have a most remarkable instance in the case of Moses, who for one inadvertent word was excluded from the land of Canaan; nor could any entreaties of Moses get the sentence reversed. Let us not then presume upon our relation to God, or upon the mercies we have received from him, but rather be the more fearful of offending him, in proportion to the kindness he has exercised towards us.]

3.       That there is a time coming, when the present inequalities of the divine dispensations shall be rectified—

[The sight of such lenity exercised towards the two great offenders, and such apparent severity towards this holy man, naturally leads our minds forward to a day of future retribution, when rewards and punishments shall be dispensed with impartial justice and unerring wisdom. At present, the saints are “chastened; but it is that they may not be condemned with the world:” whereas the ungodly are in many instances unpunished; but “are reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished;” being left in the mean time to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and to “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” Whatever therefore may now appear inexplicable to us, let us wait to have it cleared up at that day, when the whole assembled universe shall confess, “True and righteous are thy judgments, Lord God Almighty [Note: Rev_16:7.].”]

From this subject we will take occasion to suggest some useful advice—

1.       Guard against conforming to the world—

[This holy prophet was forbidden to eat bread or drink water in that idolatrous land, or even to return by the way that he came into it: and this was to shew the people that he would not have the smallest communion with them, or any acquaintance with their ways. The same precise conduct is not enjoined to us, nor indeed would it be practicable; for then, as the Apostle says, “we must needs go out of the world.” But the spirit of that conduct must be found in us: we must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We are commanded to “come out of the world, and be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing:” and the reason of this injunction is assigned to us, namely, that “the believer can no more have communion with the unbeliever than light with darkness, or Christ with Belial.” And our Lord constantly characterizes his followers in this way, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Let us remember then that we are merely sent here for a little time to fulfil the particular duties assigned us, and that our home and our rest are in a better world.]

2.       Be careful whom you select for your acquaintance—

[As we are not to select our friends from among the openly profane, so must we be careful whom we confide in even among the religious world. It is not every person that makes a profession of religion who will make a profitable companion. There are many who “have a name to live, and yet are dead;” and many “profess that they know God, but in works deny him.” St. John cautions us well on this head: “Brethren, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; for many false prophets are gone out into the world [Note: 1Jn_4:1.].” Had the good prophet inquired into the character of the old prophet, instead of giving implicit credit to his professions, he would not have fallen. And it is a melancholy fact, that multitudes of simple-hearted and godly Christians are essentially injured by their hypocritical associates [Note: Rom_16:18.]. We would earnestly advise, therefore, all young Christians to be on their guard, and to take those only for their confidential friends, whose lives they have found to correspond with their professions.]

3.       Let the word of God be the only rule of your conduct—

[The man of God had not the same evidence for the reversal of the command, that he had for the command itself: he was wrong therefore in giving such implicit credit to a stranger, whatever his character or professions might be. And is it not wrong in us to suffer the assertions of men, whatever their general character may be, to supersede the express declarations of God himself? Who amongst us has not heard a thousand times from human authority, that God does not command this or that; and that such strictness is not required of us? But we have an infallible standard by which we should try every sentiment that is proposed to us: “To the law, and to the testimony: if men speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.” Having “the sure testimony of God, we shall do well to take heed to it,” with jealous vigilance, undeviating constancy, and unabated firmness.]