In 1 Kings 13 we have the story of a nameless prophet who is very much like the prophets we are going to meet throughout the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. This nameless prophet comes from Judah, instructed by the word of the Lord, to speak against the altar that Jeroboam has established in Bethel. After the nameless prophet states his prophecy about Josiah to come and the altar being torn down, King Jeroboam stretches out his hand saying, “Seize him!” Jeroboam’s hand withers and so the king asks the prophet to pray for him, which he does, and Jeroboam’s hand is restored. Jeroboam invites the prophet to his home for dinner, but the prophet refuses. He has been instructed by the Lord to return home immediately after delivering his prophecy.
Now here is the really strange thing…. Another prophet, living in Bethel goes after the prophet from Judah and tells him that an angel has instructed him to invite the prophet into his house for dinner. This time the prophet from Judah relents, but he gets in trouble with the Lord for giving in, and is struck down on his way home. I guess the point of this is that a prophet must be careful to do only what the Lord tells him to do, not veering to the right or to the left. Still, the prophet from Bethel thinks that the prophet from Judah is such a good man, he asks his children to bury him with the prophet of Judah when he dies.
Even after all of this, Jeroboam does not repent. He allows anyone who wishes to be a priest to serve the various altars on the high places in Israel.
In chapter 14 we read of Abijah, son of Jeroboam, becoming ill. Jeroboam sends his wife to inquire of the prophet Ahijah in Shiloh about what will happen. The word he receives is very bad. Not only is Abijah going to die, but every male in Jeroboam's household will be cut off because of the king's sin in departing from the Lord.
Here, and throughout the ensuing narrative, the kings of Israel and Judah are all judged in comparison to David who we know was not perfect. Nonetheless, the author/editors of 1 Kings say that David did only that which was right in the Lord’s sight (1 Kings 14:8) except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5).
Just so you can keep score, here is a list of the kings of Israel and Judah we have learned about so far….
Jeroboam (22 years, evil) Rehoboam (17 years, evil)
Nadab (2 years, evil) Abijam (3 years, evil)
Baasha (24 years, evil) Asa (41 years, good)
Elah (2 years, evil) Jehoshaphat (25 years, good)
Zimri (7 days, evil)
Omri (12 years, evil)
Ahab (22 years, evil)
As we can see clearly from this list, the predominant trend among the kings of Israel was for evil, whereas Judah had two evil kings followed by two good kings who reigned for a long time. Of course, what we may be seeing here is an account written many years later, explaining why the northern tribes never returned from exile and why Judah did.
One of the good acts of one of the good kings of Judah, namely Asa, was to put away the male temple prostitutes who had been established under the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:24; 15:12). It would be interesting to know, but hard to prove, if there was any connection between the establishment of male temple prostitutes in 1 Kings and the prohibition against male homosexuality in Leviticus. What I mean to say is: was the priestly author of Leviticus writing at the time that there were male temple prostitutes in Jerusalem, and is that why he wrote against male homosexual practice in Leviticus? We do not know, but it is certainly a possibility.
The evil kings of Israel all prepare the way for one of the most evil kings of all, Ahab. As we shall soon see, Ahab will be opposed by, perhaps, the greatest prophet to arise in Israel, namely Elijah the Tishbite who we will read about beginning in 1 Kings 17. Just as Moses is representative of the Law in the Hebrew Scriptures, so Elijah will become the representative of the prophets in the Old Testament. From the perspective of the New Testament, both of these figures pointed forward to Christ who was to come. (See Mark 9.)