1 King 20:35 By the word of the Lord one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.

36So the prophet said, “Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.” And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

37The prophet found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him.

38Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. 39As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent b of silver.’ 40While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.”

“That is your sentence,” the king of Israel said. “You have pronounced it yourself.”

41Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. 42He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. c Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’ ” 43Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.

Could the prophet not achieve the same goal without being struck?

If you take out 1 King 20:35-37 completely, how would that affect the plot of the story? It seems to me that it does not make any difference to Ahab at all and it would have saved one prophet from being killed by a lion. Ahab has no knowledge of the strike or the lion. So why does God require that strange preamble to the story? What is the point of it?

Why did the prophet not tell Ahab about the lesson of the what happened to his companion and the lion?

  • Link.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


First, about your side remark that a prophet could have been spared: a prophet who doesn't completely obey God (and can't tell when someone is speaking God's message - cmp. John 10.4,5) isn't a good servant, and God did punish others similarly in similar situations (1 Kings 13.15-24).

But to your main question - why did the prophet "need" to be struck?

Several times in the Old Testament we find God asking prophets to support His messages with physical illustration - see for instance Jer 27.2, Ezek 4.1-12, or 1 Kings 22.11 (though this last one wasn't a genuine message from God, it helps us infer that the illustration practice was commonly employed by prophets).

In our case, the hint is in the story the prophet tells Ahab later: "Your servant went into the thick of the battle". If the prophet is actually injured, it makes it that much more credible to Ahab that he actually came from the thick of the battle. This way, Ahab can focus on delivering correct judgement for the scenario instead of pondering on story inconsistencies.

(Speculatively, to the "need" part, we could theorize that God not only wanted to strengthen the story, but perhaps knew that Ahab would not believe the story at all if no injury was visible to support it.)


This is an excellent question. To understand this story and several the story throughout the Old Testament, you must recognize one of the main principles of the Old Testament. The children of Israel suffer from 2 significant sins. The first sin was idolatry. The Second Great sin was a lack of Obedience to the Word of God. Even modern-day Christians today struggle with the requirement of Obedience to be a faithful follower of God and Christ.

This concept is best summarized 1 Samual 15:22

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

In other words, Obedience is better than sacrifice.

Saul was commanded by Samuel the Prophet to destroy everything in the city, including all the people and animals. But Saul chose to spare the king and thought it was better to keep the animals for sacrifice.

Saul thought that it would please the Lord if he offered all these animals as a sacrifice in the Temple. In Saul’s mind, this was a good thing. Samuel the Prophet explained to Saul that Obedience is better than sacrifice, to heed God’s word was more important. King Arab made the same mistake.

The Companion of the Prophet also made the same mistake. Verse 35 states that “By the word of the Lord,” the Companion was asked to strike the Prophet. But the Companion refused. The Companion made the same mistakes that Saul and Ahab made. They did not follow the word of the Lord.

This is one of the critical messages of the Old Testament. Obeying the word of the Lord is more important than what we think is best. Saul thought that all these animals would be a great sacrifice to the Lord, but that is not what God had commanded. Ahab thought that it would be better to spare this king, but that was not what God had commanded.

And last, the word of the Lord came to the Prophet and commanded the Companion that he should strike the Prophet. The Companion thought it would be wrong to hit a prophet of God, but that is not what the word of the Lord had commanded this man to do.

Often we think we know better than God. Too often, we listen to what think is best and not what the word of the Lord is saying. One of the main messages we should learn from the Old Testament is… Obedience to the word of God is more important then what we think.

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    It looks to me as though you are trying to 'teach' (from a presumed fund of knowledge and ability) rather than hermeneutically analyse. That is my own impression.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 16:10

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