King Jeroboam’s pagan practices did not go unnoticed by God, in fact, God sent a prophet to deliver a personal message of judgment (1 Kings 13:1). Strangely though, the judgment would not come for another three hundred years (2 Kings 23:15-20). Instead, God wanted to get Jeroboam’s attention and see if he would repent.
God’s messenger remains nameless and is referred to only as “a man of God” (1 Kings 13:1). The term “man of God” is a common way of referring to a prophet, but I think it is interesting that in this particular situation the prophet’s name is withheld. After delivering his message to Jeroboam, the man reveals that he is not allowed to go home with Jeroboam. “So he went another way, and returned not by the way he came to Beth-el” (1 Kings 13:10).
The Hebrew word translated returned is shûwb (shoob). “The basic meaning of the verb is movement back to the point of departure” (7725), so it is clear that God did not want the prophet to go back to anyone’s home after delivering his message to king Jeroboam. It is possible that the prophet’s life might have been in danger, but more than likely, God was trying to prevent him from compromising his integrity with the people of Israel.
It says in 1 Kings 13:11 that an old prophet dwelt in Beth-el. The reason God did not use this man to deliver his message to Jeroboam was that he had become untrustworthy. The old prophet intercepted the man of God on his way out of Beth-el and invited him back to his home. “He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him” (1 Kings 13:18).
False prophets had probably become common place in Israel due to their pagan worship. The man of God’s message might have been ignored because of his disobedience, so God punished him for going to the old prophet’s house. “And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way and slew him: and his carcass was cast in the way” (1 Kings 13:24).