One of the stories in the Bible that has bothered me and many other Christians out there is the story of the old prophet and the man of God in 1 Kings 13.

1 Kings 13:16-19 (NKJV)

16 And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. 17 For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’”

18 He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.)

19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

I've tried to search for a satisfactory explanation regarding this seemingly disturbing story in the Bible, and these are what I could conclude from my search.

  1. That the old prophet was either a false prophet or formerly a prophet who has lost the ability to prophesy. This is evidenced by the fact that he willingly lived in one of Israel's center of idolatry at that time (which no true prophet would have done), and that God spoke to Jeroboam not through him, but through another man from a distant place instead, not to mention that the old prophet showed no displeasure at his children participating in the idolatrous worship activities alongside Jeroboam, but was more interested to rush off to catch up with the man of God. And, of course, the lie itself seals his true identity.

  2. That the man of God was to blame for his disobedience as well because he should have clearly discerned that the words of the old prophet were contradictory to what he has heard from God. He should have known that God doesn't change his words.

Now, Point 1 seems plausible enough to me. But it's Point 2 that I can't come to terms with. The man of God seemed to have done no wrong in his conscience; he merely wanted to follow what God told him. He undoubtedly didn't know that the old prophet was lying to him, and followed what he said in good conscience. If it is said that the man of God shouldn't have followed the old prophet's words on the grounds that those words were contradictory to what God said to the man of God, and that God doesn't change his words, I would have been at peace with that argument if it wasn't for the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Applying the same principle of what many out there have argued, it is then plausible to say that Abraham should also not have listened to the word of God telling him not to sacrifice Isaac in the end, since the order to sacrifice the ram instead was 'contradictory' to God's earlier command, and because, after all, 'God doesn't change his words.'

Genesis 22:9-14 (NKJV)

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

So he said, “Here I am.”

12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

My questions are these:

  1. What is the difference between Abraham's situation and that of the man of God in 1 Kings 13, whereby obeying a 'contradictory word' of God is justifiable in Abraham's case but not that of the man of God? Abraham knew that God Himself spoke this 'contradictory word,' but in the same light the man of God couldn't have known that the 'contradictory word' from the old prophet was not of God. After all, it did come from an elderly prophet who said he heard from the angel of God, whom in the eyes of the man of God would be more experienced as a prophet than he himself was.

  2. What should the man of God have done that he did not do when faced with the old prophet's words? In other words, what was the 'right answer' to this test? (besides saying that he naturally shouldn't obey a 'contradictory word' even if it seems to have come from God, because then Abraham also should naturally not have obeyed the 'contradictory word' of sacrificing the ram instead of Isaac)

Appreciate any plausible explanations that can finally help me (and many other Christians out there) get over this perplexing passage in the Bible :)

  • They don't seem to be similar stories to me at all.
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 15:21
  • I'm lost. Is there a simple explanation of the question? Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 19:24
  • @gideonmarx Basically, two questions: 1. What's the difference between the "sacrifice of Isaac" story and the "man of God" story in regards to instructions from God? 2. What should the man of God have done? The implied question is why was he punished (with death) for listening to the old prophet? Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 20:00
  • 1
    This is evidenced by the fact that he willingly lived in one of Israel's center of idolatry at that time (which no true prophet would have done) Why not? Wouldn't that be where a true prophet is the most needed? (The sick, not the whole, have need of the physician, etc...)
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 20:16
  • @MasonWheeler I believe God would rather send the prophet to such a place than to have the prophet live there being surrounded by idolatrous practices, which may potentially affect his devotion to God. To the best of my knowledge, none of the prophets of the Bible lived permanently in any overtly idolatrous city, unless circumstances forced him to do so such as during the exile period. Just an opinion. But my main point was that he probably wasn't a true prophet at that time based collectively on the reasons I stated above.
    – James
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 13:23

3 Answers 3


There is a key difference between the story of Abraham's "sacrifice of Isaac" in Genesis 22:1-19 and the story of the man of God from Judah in 1 Kings 13.

  • Abraham heard directly from the angel of the Lord that he was not to sacrifice his son Isaac after all (see Genesis 22:11-12).
  • The man of God in 1 Kings 13 did not hear any countervailing word directly from the Lord or from the angel of the Lord, but from a human being who claimed to be speaking for an angel of the Lord (see 1 Kings 13:18).

The error of the man of God in 1 Kings 13 was that he listened to a human being instead of listening to God.

The man of God knew very clearly what the Lord's instructions to him were. In 1 Kings 13:7-10 he had already refused to stay and eat with the king despite the king's offer of a gift. His words to the king on that occasion were:

Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: "You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came." (1 Kings 13:8-9)

But when the old prophet spoke to him and contradicted what the Lord had said to him, he listened to the prophet rather than listening to and obeying the Lord's direct command.

The old prophet who had lied to him also pronounced the reason for the sentence of death by lion:

When the prophet who had brought him back from his journey heard of it, he said, "It is the man of God who defied the word of the Lord. The Lord has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the Lord had warned him." (1 Kings 13:26, my italics)

Quite simply, the man of God was punished because he had disobeyed God's direct command.



But the burden of being a prophet of God was not to be taken lightly, and those were brutal times. God twice tested the man of God as to whether he would obey God's command not to eat bread or drink water while he was on his mission. He passed the first test. He failed the second. Because of that failure, he could no longer be God's prophet, and his life was forfeit.

To answer the question directly: When faced with the old prophet's lie, the man of God in 1 Kings 13 should have ignored the old prophet and obeyed God's direct orders instead.

  • Thanks for your concise clarification, Lee. So just to clarify one more point: Am I right in saying that if the command to go and dine with the old prophet did indeed come from God, He should have spoken directly to the man of God instead? And that the man of God should have known that the old prophet spoke a lie because God did not directly speak to him?
    – James
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 13:08
  • And just to stretch it a bit more into our modern spiritual lives: If someone were to give me a word from God, and especially if it comes from someone known to be a prophet or someone reputable spiritually in the church, should I take it at face value or should I do something more to confirm the word? And if so, what would be the best thing to do? Particularly since many of us might not actually hear an audible voice from God like the man of God in 1 Kings 13.
    – James
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 13:18
  • @James Yes, if God had wanted the man of God to do something different, he would have told him so. It doesn't really matter whether the man of God thought the old prophet was lying or not. He had his orders directly from God. That was what mattered. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 22:05
  • @James About your other comment, from what I understand, that goes beyond what these comments are for. But if you want to take it up in a chat room here, we could talk about it further there. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 22:07
  • It seems like a difficulty with this view is that it is possible in principle for an angel to lie. Hence Paul says, "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one you have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1). Further, if an ordinary man failed to listen to the words of a true prophet, he would have been judged for it as those were who ignored the the warnings of the various good prophets. Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 16:12

The Mormon perspective on this makes it much easier to understand. True prophets obey the word of God; false prophets do not. In this story are two prophets, one pictured as lying and the other pictured as disobeying God’s instructions. Ellis T. Rasmussen wrote:

“There are some problems in this story of the man of God who came from Judah to warn the king of northern Israel and lost his life in the mission. Some help is available in the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 18, which indicates that the old prophet said, ‘Bring him back … that I may prove him; and he lied not unto him.’ Also there is a change in verse 26, in which the last part reads: ‘… 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 me.’ These make the account more understandable. The young prophet should have obeyed God.” (An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings)

It's a great advantage to have a prophet (speaking both of the story in 1 Kings and of the Mormons in the latter days) to both convey to us the word of God and to help us to understand that word.


I will address Abraham as you have addressed the "man of God"

I believe the issue you are having comes from your interpretation. I don’t have the NKJV myself, but the KJV uses the word “Offer” in Genesis 22, not the word for Sacrifice. This is consistent with the Hebrew at least. I find both versions lack a comprehensive representation of the original Languages. That is my opinion of course on the KJV in general.

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham:and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

If God said “Sacrifice Your Son” which he did not, then we would have a problem. He said ”offer”. This is similar to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” The words would have significantly different exegesis if it said “For God so loved the world, that he Sacrificed his only begotten Son” Which it does not say or even elude to as it is his Son speaking about the incarnation and explaining the importance and significance of Baptism to enter into the restored Davidic kingdom of Heaven which is his Church.

Abraham completely and fully fallowed Gods instructions stopping only after the knife was lifted to slay his son, in the mind of Abraham, and so seen by God, The offering was made and Gods command fallowed.

This is one of the richest passages of Scripture foreshadowing the Cross. It is interesting to note that Abraham names the place “Jehovahjireh” (another problem with KJV, as the word means, “The Lord will Provide” and is not stressed in the KJV. The lord did provide a Ram, Abraham did not name the place, “The lorde has Provided” as this foreshadows the future, the lamb of God who takes away the Sins of the world, an offering made to God by God, right on that very same hill in Moriah.

I love the Catholic Church. (opinion again)

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