When Lions Kill the Wrong Prophets image

When Lions Kill the Wrong Prophets

One of the stranger episodes in the Old Testament is the story of the man of God from Judah who confronts Jeroboam, sticks to his commitment to Yahweh, gets tricked by another prophet, and then gets killed by a lion (1 Kgs 13). Well, as with so many strange episodes in Samuel and Kings, Peter Leithart's outstanding commentaries show that strangeness is often a sign that something more is going on:

The man of God takes on the identity of the lying prophet, but, more than that, he takes the punishment that the lying prophet deserves, just as Judah was willing to give his life for his brother Benjamin (Gen 43:8-10; 44:18-34). The Israel that centres its worship on Bethel and golden calves is doomed, and Israel will not be saved until Judah dies too. But the death of Judah holds out hope for the restoration and reunion with Israel. By identifying with the man of God in his death, the old prophet hopes that his bones will rest in peace. As he is united with the man of God in his grave, Israel will be reunited with Judah in the grave of exile. The death of Israel will not save Israel; but when Judah dies, then all Israel will be saved.

And so, the prophetic power of this chapter stretches beyond Josiah. Many centuries later, another man of God condemns the shrines of Israel as “dens of thieves.” Another and greater Josiah, a scion of the house of David, throws tables and disrupts the worship of the temple, as the man of God disrupts Jeroboam’s worship. Another prophet resists the seductions of dining with demons and holds fast to his Father’s word. Ironically, the fate of this faithful prophet is the same as the fate of the unfaithful man of God, and he is mauled and exiled to the grave of another man. But this prophet and this Josiah do not remain in the grave, any more than Israel and Judah do; for his is Judah who dies for the sake of the harlot Israel.

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