The Prophet from Beit El


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A Tale of Two Prophets

The story of the Man of God from Yehuda and the Prophet from Beit El described in Melakhim I 13 ranks high on the list of the most enigmatic tales in Tanakh. The chapter describes how the Man of God (אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים) relays a prophecy of destruction against the altar in Beit El and its priests.  He is then offered, but declines, an invitation to eat by the king, explaining that he is Divinely prohibited from dining in the city.  Yet, not long afterwards, he is persuaded by another prophet (הַנָּבִיא הַזָּקֵן מבֵּית אֵל) to do exactly that, transgressing his own word.  Though it is the Prophet from Beit El who deceives the Man of God, it is only the latter who is punished. 

Almost every aspect of the story raises questions:

Reaffirmation of Prophecy

After telling of the death of the Man of God, the chapter describes at length the various actions undertaken by the נָבִיא הַזָּקֵן in response.  He troubles himself to retrieve the body, announces to all the reason for the death, buries the Man of God in his own grave and eulogizes him.  Afterwards, he reaffirms the original prophecy of the Man of God, requesting to be buried alongside him since he is certain that his words are to be fulfilled:  "הָיֹה יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר קָרָא בִּדְבַר י"י עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ אֲשֶׁר בְּבֵית אֵל". How are all these actions to be understood?

Purpose of the Story

A final question relates to the role of this story in the larger Yerovam narratives. Why was it necessary for Sefer Melakhim to include the interaction between the Man of God and Prophet from Beit E at all?  What message is the reader supposed to take from it?
In the Approaches section, we will explore these issues, using the question of the character and motives of the Prophet from Beit El as our starting point.