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1 KINGS 22
THE BATTLE OF RAMOTH-GILEAD AND THE END OF AHAB;
AHAB'S ALLIANCE WITH JEHOSHAPHAT
They continued three years without war between Syria and Israel
(1 Kings 22:1). Not long after Benhadad's second defeat by Ahab, which ended in that covenant between Ahab and Benhadad, Ahab fulfilled his part of the covenant by providing 2,000 chariots and 10,000 infantry for an allied battle led by Benhadad against the threatening army of Assyrians.F1 This encounter was known as the battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.). The three years mentioned here is a reference to the three years following the covenant. Benhadad, however, had not lived up to his part of the covenant, still retaining the cities he had promised to restore to Israel.
Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel
(1 Kings 22:2). It was a grave mistake for Jehoshaphat to do this. He disregarded the vast moral and religious gulf separating the two kingdoms, and made an alliance with Ahab.F2 This was the first time that a king of Judah (of the house of David) had visited one of the kings who had revolted from that dynasty.F3 Neither the alliance formed here nor the matrimonial alliance that further cemented the two royal families met with the Lord's approval (2 Chronicles 19:2).F4
Know ye not that Ramoth-gilead is ours, etc.?
(1 Kings 22:2). Yes, this was one of those cities Benhadad had falsely promised to restore. It was a walled city east of the Jordan, one of the cities of refuge, and had served as one of Solomon's provincial capitals.F5
I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses
(1 Kings 22:4). As for the reason why Jehoshaphat agreed to such a sinful and dangerous alliance, Hammond believed that was prompted, in part, by the fact that, The Syrian army was entrenched at Ramoth-gilead, only forty miles from Jerusalem.F6 Of course, the marriage of Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, thus sentimentally uniting the two families, might also have been a factor entering into Jehoshaphat's ready acceptance with Ahab's invitation. Whatever the reasons, the alliance was a mistake. Too intimate a relationship with evil people, Has brought many good people into a dangerous fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.F7
THE FALSE PROPHETS FAIL TO CONVINCE JEHOSHAPHAT
The king. gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men
(1 Kings 22:5). This writer rejects the common opinion among scholars that these were prophets of JEHOVAH.
(1) They are not introduced as prophets of Jehovah, but as "the prophets."
(2) Their message was not given in the name of Jehovah, but in that of [~'Adonay], a term that in that culture applied as well to Baal as to the covenant God of the Hebrews.
(3) Besides that, their message was as deceitful and crooked as any that ever came out of the pagan Oracle of Delphi. Strip the word "it" out of their crooked message (Note that it is italicized in the KJV), and what did they say? The Lord shall deliver into the hands of the king! "Deliver what? Ramoth-gilead ... or Israel? Into the hands of the king ... What king? Ahab or Benhadad? This is exactly the way the Delphian oracle replied to Pyrrhus: "Pyrrhus the Romans shall overcome; thou shalt go; thou shalt return never in war shalt thou perish."F8 Opposite meanings depending upon the punctuation are mingled.
(4) The fourth reason why these prophets must not be thought of as prophets of Jehovah is in the fact that Jehoshaphat requested that they consult "a prophet of Jehovah," which barely falls short of the declaration that the four hundred were not prophets of Jehovah, nor does the word besides in the text cancel that implication. In fact, Farrar affirmed that, "The word implies that Jehoshaphat did not believe that these were true prophets."F9 Cook affirmed that, "In all probability, these were not real prophets of Jehovah, as evident from Jehoshaphat's dissatisfaction with them, and from their strong antagonism against Micaiah."F10
(5) In addition to all this, we learn from the TRUE prophet Micaiah just exactly whose prophets those men were. They were not prophets of Jehovah. Micaiah called them, "His prophets (1 Kings 22:22) and thy prophets" (1 Kings 22:23); they were Ahab's prophets, not God's prophets!
(6) Note also that their number was "four hundred," information that is totally irrelevant unless the narrator intended us to identify these false prophets with the "four hundred priests of the Ashera" (1 Kings 22:18-19) who avoided being slain by Elijah. Those were clearly the only "four hundred priests" supported by Ahab, and the fact of their being called "priests" does not mean that they were not also false prophets. There is no record that Ahab ever slew those "four hundred," and if now we must suppose that he had "four hundred" other religious pretenders in his employ, we would have to conclude that he was in the priest and prophet business, which supposition is antithetical to everything we know about Ahab.
(7) If these "four hundred" false prophets were, in any sense, prophets of Jehovah, why had not Jezebel slain them? Hammond concluded that, "They were the priests of Bethel and Dan, the successors to those appointed by Jeroboam."F11 However, this writer has never believed that Jeroboam's appointees were in any sense true servants of Jehovah. The fact that Jezebel had not killed them proves that they were prophets of Baal or the Ashera. We have read all that the commentators say in their attempt to deny the true identity of these false prophets, but none of them has said anything that compromises or refutes these seven reasons.
Two conflicting opinions of Jehoshaphat and Ahab regarding the institution of prophecy are visible in this episode. "Jehoshaphat regarded a prophet as an instrument of God to reveal God's will to a community, whereas Ahab regarded a prophet as an agent of the throne to influence God"!F12
AHAB RELUCTANTLY SENT FOR THE TRUE PROPHET, MICAIAH
The false prophets of Baal or Ashera knew what was coming when Ahab sent for Micaiah, so they changed some of their message. This time they actually invoked the name of Jehovah upon their crooked prophecy, but it was still the old Delphian oracle type of deceit and falsehood. Note he italicized "it". (See reason (3) under 1 Kings 22:5, above.)
We may be certain that Ahab called Micaiah reluctantly, and that while Micaiah was being summoned the false prophets redoubled their efforts in the hope of convincing Jehoshaphat. The occasion was a spectacular display of the kings on their thrones dressed in all their royal regalia at the gate of Samaria and those four hundred false prophets putting on a vigorous display of their false prophecies. "Oriental kings had portable thrones which they took with them on their journeys."F13 "It seems very likely that Micaiah was in prison when Ahab sent for him,"F14 This is indicated by the fact of his ready availability to Ahab and his being sent for by a eunuch, the type of officer usually in charge of the harem and of the prison, and likewise by the fact of Zedekiah's arrogant slap of the defenseless Micaiah.
Zedekiah made him horns. with these shalt thou push the Syrians
(1 Kings 22:11). This false prophet had a Jehovist name, which speaks not of his religion, but of that of his parents. And like his sponsor Jezebel, he had a knowledge of the Pentateuch. His use of horns here in his false prophecy is based upon Deut. 33:17 in which Ephraim is compared to a bullock.F15
MICAIAH WAS INSTRUCTED BY AHAB'S OFFICER ON HOW HE SHOULD PROPHESY
Look at that last clause which has that same crooked and deceitful prophecy that the false prophets had spoken with the meaning that, God will deliver (what? perhaps Ahab, perhaps Benhadad) into the hand of the king (what king?) Ahab to Benhadad, or Benhadad to Ahab? That, of course, along with Micaiah's sarcastic and ironical manner identified his words here as ironical sarcasm. Also, let it be noted that Micaiah did not say, "Thus saith Jehovah." Ahab instantly knew that he had not been given a true prophecy of Jehovah.
MICAIAH'S TRUE PROPHECY; ISRAEL'S DEFEAT; AHAB WAS SLAIN
How many times shall I adjure thee?
(1 Kings 22:16). Ahab was well acquainted with Micaiah. as indicated not only by this remark, but also by the fact that Ahab was familiar with other prophecies which he had heard from the mouth of Micaiah. For this reason, we hold the Jewish legend to be true that Micaiah here is exactly the same prophet Ahab had encountered upon those two other occasions (1 Kings 20:13,35), which would also account for the fact of Ahab having thrown him into prison. Note also that Ahab's charge that Micaiah never prophesied anything good concerning him was not true (See 1 Kings 20:13ff).
Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd
(1 Kings 22:17). These identical words concerning Israel were also used by Moses (Numbers 27:17). Such coincidences (for there are many examples of them) afford the most powerful proof that the Pentateuch was then written.F16 This was prior to the ninth century B.C. There was nothing ambiguous about this prophecy of the scattering of Israel and the loss (death) of their shepherd; because for generations, all Israel had been familiar with the true meaning of these words as first spoken by Moses.
MICAIAH CONTINUED HIS PROPHECY IN MORE DETAIL
Here we have a glimpse of the same divine method of dealing with willful and inveterate sinners that the apostle Paul spoke of, as follows:
"Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved ... for this cause, God sendeth them a working of error (strong delusion in the KJV), that they should believe a lie, that they all might be judged who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
Many of the comments of scholars on this paragraph are uninformed and inaccurate. "It is hard to suppose that one of the holy angels was a lying spirit."F17 The text does not say such a thing. It says THE spirit, which is doubtless a reference to one of the seven spirits before the throne of God, proposed, and later became the lying spirit in the false prophets. A little reflection will reveal, that whenever God decides to deceive a wicked, willful and inveterate sinner, he certainly will do so; and this passage tells how it is done. It is accomplished by a lying spirit; but the spirit involved in such an assignment is doing God's will and is therefore righteous! In many ways, this is similar, and perhaps identical with judicial hardening, a condition which, in one sense, is accomplished by the direct work of God.
In both of these, there are discernible three centers of responsibility: (1) the wicked, unrepentant, enemy of God, who is the subject; (2) the instrument who is a person, or persons, in the willing service of Satan; and (3) God Himself, who wills that the deception be achieved.
In the case of the deception of Ahab, he himself was to blame because he did not love the truth, but hated it, and any prophet who told him the truth. The instrument of his deception was his four hundred false prophets. God had hardened them, and that means that they were incapable of knowing the difference between truth and falsehood. Such hardening is also called "delusion," "darkening" or "blindness," which is a condition effected in the mind of the person who has irrevocably rejected God, a punishment effected by God Himself by means of a heavenly spirit sent to accomplish it.
"The statement here that the `lying spirit was from the Lord' fails to satisfy many modern minds, but it is consistent with other Scriptures."F18 Amen! See Paul's statement above. Also see 1 Sam. 16:14 which speaks of, "the evil spirit from the Lord" that tormented Saul. "The sending of the evil spirit from the Lord should be regarded as done by the permissive will of God,'"F19 and even then only at a time when the irrevocable nature of the sinner's rebellion against God is fully revealed. "Ahab had had ample chances to know the truth, first from Elijah, and later from Micaiah."F20
Matheney's allegation that, "Micaiah's belief that God inspired men to lie is one evidence for progressive revelation,"F21 is due to his failure to understand the doctrine of judicial hardening of sinners who are irrevocably committed to evil.
INSULTED BY ZEDEKIAH, AND AGAIN SENT TO PRISON, MICAIAH CALMLY SAID THAT AHAB WOULD DIE IN THE BATTLE
"Whether the prophets tell the truth or not, it is acknowledged that they are inspired of Jehovah."F22 Any such statement as this is untrue. It is the grossest kind of error to equate the ravings of some deluded false prophet with the sober pronouncements of one who is truly inspired. Falsehoods from a blinded, hardened and deluded false prophet are not inspired of Jehovah. It is true, of course, that Zedekiah himself believed that God had spoken to him; but with God's permission, Satan had deceived him. "Zedekiah knew that he had not invented his prophecy, and that enabled him to rise up in animosity and slap Micaiah; but that only proved that it was not the Spirit of God that inspired him. If he had truly been inspired of God, he would not have felt that he needed to support his words with violence, but he would have left the defense of his words quietly to the Lord, as did Micaiah."F23
Then Zedekiah. smote Micaiah on the cheek
(1 Kings 22:24). This holy prophet standing perhaps with his hands bound, bearing testimony to the truth of God, and yet sustaining that cruel and painful insult without either shame or anger is a worthy type of Our Lord before Caiaphas, suffering the same indignity.F24
Thou shalt see. on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself
(1 Kings 22:25). Cook gave the meaning of this: When the news of Ahab's death, caused by his following your false prophecy, reaches Samaria and you must hide yourself from the vengeance of Jezebel and Ahaziah ---in that day, you will know which of us is the false prophet.F25
Feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace
(1 Kings 22:27). Since it appears that Micaiah was already a prisoner, this amounted to an additional sentence of such a diet.
If thou return at all in peace, Jehovah hath not spoken by me
(1 Kings 22:28). This was a flat declaration that Ahab would die at Ramoth-gilead, and in such an announcement, which he called all of the people to hear, Micaiah accepted the test of all true prophecy, namely, that it will come to pass (Deut. 18:20-22; Jer. 28:9).F26
AHAB'S PITIFUL EFFORTS TO PREVENT MICAIAH'S PROPHECY FROM COMING TRUE
But put thou on thy robes
(1 Kings 22:30). What a dunce was Jehoshaphat for allowing himself to be deceived into accepting such an arrangement as this. It almost resulted in his death. The purpose of Ahab's disguise was not treachery against Jehoshaphat, but for the avoidance of fate,F27 as we would say it, to avoid the fulfillment of Micaiah's prophecy. He was actually trying to hide from God.
And Jehoshaphat cried out
(1 Kings 22:32). This was not a prayer to God, but his battle-cry.F28 It is this writer's view that it was indeed a cry to God.
A RANDOM ARROW FINDS ITS MARK AND SLAYS AHAB
A certain man. smote the king ... between the joints of the armor
(1 Kings 22:34). Jewish writers, following the opinion of Josephus, attempt to identify this certain man as Naaman; But it is directly contrary to the spirit of the narrative to attempt an identification. As it was a chance arrow, it was also by an unknown archer.F30
Between the joints of the armor
(1 Kings 22:34). I have seen specimens of the type of armor used in those days on display in the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and from Montgomery's inspection of those exhibits, he concluded that, The arrow struck Ahab between the metal scales that covered the mobile upper legs and joints, and the solid metal breastplate above.F31 This would mean that he was struck in the upper thigh, or groin.
FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF AHAB; WASHING THE BLOOD OUT OF THE CHARIOT; BURIAL IN SAMARIA; SUCCESSION OF AHAZIAH
So the king died. and they buried him in Samaria
(1 Kings 22:37). Jezebel was to be eaten by dogs; but Ahab, because of his temporary repentance, was allowed honorable burial. To a Jew the worst punishment that could befall a man was NOT to be buried.F32
And the dogs licked up his blood
(1 Kings 22:38). The critics who reject this as a fulfillment of Elijah's prophecy (1 Kings 21:23) betray themselves as unrealistic nitpickers. The basis upon which some deny the fulfillment is that the same place mentioned in the prophecy is diverse from the facts of Naboth having died in Jezreel and Ahab's blood having been licked at the pool of Samaria, but BOTH places were in the one place called Samaria (the kingdom); BOTH were Ahab's places of residence; and they were less than seven miles apart! Our text here says that this licking of the blood at the pool of Samaria was according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake (1 Kings 22:38), all of the nit-pickers to the contrary notwithstanding! Such critical scholars are of the same identity with those whom our Lord identified as straining out gnats and swallowing camels! It should also be remembered in this connection that the repentance of Ahab also resulted in some changes in what God had prophesied regarding his death.
Now the harlots washed themselves there
(1 Kings 22:38). It is of interest that, A large tank or reservoir, probably identical with this pool, still remains on the slope of the hill of Samaria outside the walls.F33
The ivory house which he built
(1 Kings 22:39). Archaeologists have brought to light Ahab's ivory palace. The remains of the structure reveal that the walls were faced with white marble, giving the appearance of ivory; and there were numerous plaques, panels, and pieces of furniture decorated with ivory. In a double sense his palace was called an ivory house.F34
AN EVALUATION OF THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT
Jehoshaphat is here credited with being a righteous king, doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but this is not a blanket endorsement of everything that he did. His failure to close down the high places is mentioned specifically, and also his making peace with Ahab. "He was in almost all respects a godly man, his main mistake being that alliance with Ahab."F35
"In these verses, the narrator returns to the history of the kingdom of Judah, giving a brief sketch of the reign of Jehoshaphat, which is more covered completely in 2 Chr. 17--20."F36
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT
The book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah
(1 Kings 22:45). From 2 Chr. 20:24, we may conclude that the history of Jehoshaphat's reign was written by Jehu the son of Hanani.
The remnant of the sodomites. he put away out of the land
(1 Kings 22:46). The divine disapproval of this shameful vice is everywhere apparent in the Word of God. In no sense whatever is homosexuality approved of God as an acceptable life-style; and an apostle of Jesus Christ flatly declared that, They (certain sinners including sodomites) shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). It is mentioned here that the king's removal from the land of Judah of all of the practitioners of this type of debauchery was a God-approved act of Jehoshaphat.
And there was no king in Edom
(1 Kings 22:47). It is implied here that the deputy who ruled in Edom was appointed by Jehoshaphat. This is mentioned here in order to explain how it was that Jehoshaphat could have built a fleet at Ezion-geber.F37
Ships of Tarshish
(1 Kings 22:48). This is a reference to a certain type of ships used in the commercial trade of those days.
The ships were broken at Ezion-geber
(1 Kings 22:48). We may only guess as to what happened at this seaport lying at the northern extremity of the Gulf of Aqaba, where Solomon had once launched his navy. Some scholars believe that Jehoshaphat's incompetent mariners destroyed the ships, but it might have been an untimely storm, a disastrous fire or some other calamity.
Ahaziah the son of Ahab said, Let my servants go with thy servants. But Jehoshaphat would not
(1 Kings 22:49). There is an excellent explanation of Jehoshaphat's refusal in 2 Chr. 20:37. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Maresha prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, Jehovah destroyed thy works. And the ships were broken, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish. Thus Jehoshaphat might have decided that God was opposed to the enterprise; and, as Montgomery noted, He feared the intrusion of his Northern neighbors into his affairs in Judah.F38 Also, the extreme wickedness of Ahaziah might have influenced Jehoshahat's decision to have no more to do with him. Ahaziah the king of Israel. did very wickedly (2 Chronicles 20:35).
Jehoram his son reigned in his stead
(1 Kings 22:50). This concludes the record of Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings; but it is discussed much more fully in 2 Chr. 17--20.
AN INTRODUCTION OF THE REIGN OF AHAB'S SON, AHAZIAH
"These three verses are closely connected with 2 Kings 1. The division here obscures the connection between the sin of Ahaziah and the judgment which it provoked."F39
Ahaziah. began to reign ... in Samaria ... and he reigned two years in Israel
(1 Kings 22:51). The Jewish method of counting years by including portions as whole years, in this instance, increases this evil ruler's tenure on the throne of Israel. As Cook noted, He ruled not much more than a twelfth month.F40
Ahaziah. walked in the way of his mother
(1 Kings 22:52). This is the only place in the Bible where we find this expression.F41 This stresses the continuing influence of Jezebel even after the death of Ahab. It was to that evil woman alone, or at least in the principal part, that the cause of the retrogression of Israel into idolatry must be assigned.
The ending of 1 Kings here results from the arbitrary division of the one Book of Kings into two parts by the translators of the Septuagint (LXX) who found the roll upon which both books were written too cumbersome and simply divided into two rolls. Our English Bible has followed that division.
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.