The man of God had honestly and resolutely refused the king’s invitation, though he promised him a reward; yet he was over-persuaded by an old prophet to come back with him, and dine in Beth-el, contrary to the command given him. Here we find how dearly his dinner cost him. Observe with wonder,
I. The old prophet’s wickedness. I cannot but call him a false prophet and a bad man, it being much easier to believe that from one of such a bad character should be extorted a confirmation of what the man of God said (as we find, 1 Kgs. 13:32) than that a true prophet, and a good man, should tell such a deliberate lie as he did, and father it upon God. A good tree could never bring forth such corrupt fruit. Perhaps he was trained up among the sons of the prophets, in one of Samuel’s colleges not far off, whence he retained the name of a prophet, but, growing worldly and profane, the spirit of prophecy had departed from him. If he had been a good prophet he would have reproved Jeroboam’s idolatry, and not have suffered his sons to attend his altars, as, it should seem, they did. Now, 1. Whether he had any good design in fetching back the man of God is not certain. One may hope that he did it in compassion to him, concluding he wanted refreshment, and out of a desire to be better acquainted with him and more fully to understand his errand than he could from the report of his sons; yet his sons having told him all that passed, and particularly that the prophet was forbidden to eat or drink there, which he had openly told Jeroboam, I suppose it was done with a bad design, to draw him into a snare, and so to expose him; for false prophets have ever been the worst enemies to the true prophets, usually aiming to destroy them, but sometimes, as here, to debauch them and draw them from their duty. Thus they gave the Nazarites wine to drink (Amos 2:12), that they might glory in their fall. But, 2. It is certain that he took a very bad method to bring him back. When the man of God had told him, “I may not, and therefore I will not, return to eat bread with thee” (his resolutions concurring with the divine command, 1 Kgs. 13:16, 17), he wickedly pretended that he had an order from heaven to fetch him back. He imposed upon him by asserting his quondam character as a prophet: I am a prophet also as thou art; he pretended he had a vision of an angel that sent him on this errand. But it was all a lie; it was a banter upon prophecy, and profane in the highest degree. When this old prophet is spoken of (2 Kgs. 23:18) he is called the prophet that came out of Samaria, whereas there was no such place as Samaria till long after, 1 Kgs. 16:24. Therefore I take it he is so called there, though he was of Beth-el, because he was like those who were afterwards the prophets of Samaria, who caused God’s people Israel to err, Jer. 23:13.
II. The good prophet’s weakness, in suffering himself to be thus imposed upon: He went back with him, 1 Kgs. 13:19. He that had resolution enough to refuse the invitation of the king, who promised him a reward, could not resist the insinuations of one that pretended to be a prophet. God’s people are more in danger of being drawn from their duty by the plausible pretences of divinity and sanctity than by external inducements; we have therefore need to beware of false prophets, and not believe every spirit.
III. The proceedings of divine justice hereupon; and here we may well wonder that the wicked prophet, who told the lie and did the mischief, went unpunished, while the holy man of God, that was drawn by him into sin, was suddenly and severely punished for it. What shall we make of this! The judgments of God are unfathomable. The deceived and the deceiver are his, and he giveth not account of any of his matters. Certainly there must be a judgment to come, when these things will be called over again, and when those that sinned most and suffered least, in this world, will receive according to their works. 1. The message delivered to the man of God was strange. His crime is recited, 1 Kgs. 13:21, 22. It was, in one word, disobedience to an express command. Judgment is given upon it: Thy carcase shall not come to the sepulchre of thy fathers, that is, “Thou shalt never reach thy own house, but shalt be a carcase quickly, nor shall thy dead body be brought to the place of thy fathers’ sepulchres, to be interred.” 2. Yet it was more strange that the old prophet himself should be the messenger. Of this we can give no account but that God would have it so, as he spoke to Balaam by his ass and read Saul his doom by the devil in Samuel’s likeness. We may think God designed hereby, (1.) To startle the lying prophet, and make him sensible of his sin. The message could not but affect him the more when he himself had the delivering of it, and had so strong an impression made upon his spirit by it that he cried out, as one in an agony, 1 Kgs. 13:21. He had reason to think, if he must die for his disobedience in a small matter who sinned by surprise, of how much sorer punishment he should be thought worthy who had belied an angel of God and cheated a man of God by a deliberate forgery. If this were done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry? Perhaps it had a good effect upon him. Those who preach God’s wrath to others have hard hearts indeed if they fear it not themselves. (2.) To put the greater mortification upon the prophet that was deceived, and to show what those must expect who hearken to the great deceiver. Those that yield to him as a tempter will be terrified by him as a tormentor; whom he now fawns upon he will afterwards fly upon, and whom he now draws into sin he will do what he can to drive to despair.