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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
1 Kings 22

 

 

Verses 1-28

Yahweh"s plan to terminate Ahab22:1-28

Another significant battle occurred between the battle of Ramoth-gilead that the writer recorded in chapter22 (853 B.C.) and the battles he recorded in chapter20. Ahab and his Aramean ally Ben-Hadad II (860-841 B.C.) defeated their mutual foe King Shalmaneser III of Assyria at Qarqar on the Orontes River in Aram (also in853 B.C.). [Note: William H. Shea, "A Note on the Date of the Battle of Qarqar," Journal of Cuneiform Studies29 (1977):240-42.] Assyrian records set the date for this battle making it one of the clear benchmarks in Old Testament chronology. [Note: R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p733. See the map "The Assyrian Empire" in Merrill, Kingdom of ..., p362.] The writers of Scripture did not refer to this battle, but a record of it that Shalmaneser wrote has survived and is now in the British Museum. [Note: See James Pritchard, ed, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp278-79 , for a translation of it.] Perhaps it was this victory that encouraged Ahab to challenge his ally at Ramoth-gilead.

King Jehoshaphat of Judah had come to Judah"s throne in873 B.C. and had formed an alliance by marriage with Ahab ( 2 Chronicles 18:1). He had undoubtedly come down from Jerusalem (topographically, and symbolically) to Samaria at Ahab"s invitation. 1 Kings 22:1-2 seem to introduce the events in 1 Kings 22:3-40 as they read in the text. However, several years passed between Jehoshaphat"s visit in 1 Kings 22:2 and Ahab"s invitation to him in 1 Kings 22:4 (cf. 2 Chronicles 18:1-2). [Note: Morgenstern, pp385-96.] Evidently the three years of peace mentioned in 1 Kings 22:1 followed the Battle of Aphek ( 1 Kings 20:26-30; 873 B.C.). Ahab"s invitation to Jehoshaphat to join him in battle against the Arameans at Ramoth-gilead ( 1 Kings 22:3-4) must have taken place in854or853 B.C.

Ramoth-gilead had been one of the chief cities in Gad, east of Jezreel about33miles, but the Arameans had captured it. Jehoshaphat was a devotee of Yahweh. It was typical of him to inquire concerning the Lord"s will ( 1 Kings 22:5), though Ahab could not have cared less to do so. The400 prophets Ahab assembled may have been apostate prophets of Yahweh since Baal prophets would probably have been unacceptable to Jehoshaphat ( 1 Kings 22:6; cf. 1 Kings 22:11-12; 1 Kings 22:24). We should therefore interpret Jehoshaphat"s request for a prophet of Yahweh ( 1 Kings 22:7) as a request for a faithful prophet. Ahab hated Micaiah because he always told the king the truth. Ahab wanted to feel good more than he wanted to know the truth. This is another evidence of Ahab"s continuing antagonism toward Yahweh and His representatives (cf. 1 Kings 21:20).

Like Elijah, Micaiah was willing to stand alone for God ( 1 Kings 22:14; cf. 1 Kings 18:22). Micaiah had stood before Ahab many times before ( 1 Kings 22:8). This time he told the king what he wanted to hear sarcastically ( 1 Kings 22:15). Ahab"s reply was also sarcastic ( 1 Kings 22:16); He had never had to tell Micaiah to speak the truth in Yahweh"s name. Micaiah"s vision of Israel was of defenseless sheep without a human shepherd, namely, Ahab. They would come home after the battle peacefully ( 1 Kings 22:17). The king responded to this prophecy of his death glibly ( 1 Kings 22:18). He could not have believed the Lord"s word and gone into battle. Saul had done the same thing ( 1 Samuel 28; 1 Samuel 31). Micaiah proceeded to explain that Ahab was the target of God"s plan. He would lure him into battle. Still Ahab remained unbelieving. God was Ahab"s real enemy, not Aram. [Note: On Micaiah"s heavenly vision in 1 Kings 22:19-22, see Allen McNicol, "The Heavenly Sanctuary in Judaism: A Model for Tracing the Origin of an Apocalypse," Journal of Religious Studies13:2 (1987):69-71.]

"Foolishly, Ahab thought Elijah and Micaiah were his enemies when, quite the contrary, they were his only links to a future worth living. Today"s readers of Scripture have the same option that was offered Ahab: they may hear and repent, or they may sulk and resent the messenger." [Note: House, p249. ]

Similarly, Saul regarded David as his enemy. The identity of the spirit that stood before the Lord and offered to entice Ahab ( 1 Kings 22:21, cf. 1 Kings 22:6) is problematic. This "spirit" may be the personified spirit of prophecy, or it may have been a demon or Satan. Saul also saw a spirit shortly before he died ( 1 Samuel 28; 1 Samuel 31).

". . . God Himself instigated and authorized the deception of Ahab, as indicated by the Lord"s initial question to the assembly ( 1 Kings 22:20), His commission to the spirit ( 1 Kings 22:22), and Micaiah"s willingness to prophesy a lie after he had vowed to speak only the word of the Lord ( 1 Kings 22:14-15). If the spirit of 1 Kings 22:20-23 can be identified with the divine spirit that energizes prophecy ( 1 Kings 22:24), this thesis is further corroborated. The introduction of the truth, rather than ameliorating the deception, shows how effective it was. Even when faced with the truth, Ahab insisted on charging into battle, for the lying spirit working through the prophetic majority had convinced him he would be victorious." [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jeremiah , "Does God Deceive?" Bibliotheca Sacra155:617 (January-March1998):16-17.]

". . . God is truthful in that He keeps His unconditional promises to His people and fulfills His sovereign decrees and oaths. God"s commitment to truthfulness, however, does not mean that He never uses deceit as a method of judgment on sinners. But He does so without compromising His truthful character and commitment to righteousness." [Note: Ibid, p12.]

Another view is that Satan initiated and superintended demonic activity, which God permitted (cf. 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:13-22; Job 2:7; Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 12:24; John 8:44). [Note: See Richard L. Mayhue, "False Prophets and the Deceiving Spirit," Master"s Seminary Journal4:2 (Fall1993):135-63 , who evaluated six possible identifications of this spirit. See also Howard, p196.]

Striking on the cheek ( 1 Kings 22:24) was a much greater insult then than it is now. Zedekiah was bluffing to the very end. Ahab proved to be hard to the point of insensibility instead of repenting at this prophetic word of judgment, as he had previously done ( 1 Kings 22:26-27; cf. 1 Kings 21:27). Time would tell that Micaiah"s words were from the Lord ( 1 Kings 22:28).

"The comment in 1 Kings 22:25-26 [about Ahab"s wickedness] certainly makes Ahab to be the worst of all twenty kings of Israel." [Note: Wiseman, p184.]

"The king"s function was to be immersed in the Law of the Lord and to lead his people in obedience to it ( Deuteronomy 17:18-20), not to be leading them in Baal worship ( 1 Kings 18) or in listening to innumerable false prophets (chap22)." [Note: Howard, p195.]


Verses 29-40

Ahab"s death22:29-40

Ahab probably disguised himself ( 1 Kings 22:30) since he was Ben-Hadad"s primary target. He had broken their treaty ( 1 Kings 22:31). However, his plan to thwart God"s will failed. He could not fool or beat Yahweh. One arrow providentially guided was all God needed ( 1 Kings 22:34). Wounded Ahab watched the battle from his chariot until he died that evening ( 1 Kings 22:35). Israel lost the battle ( 1 Kings 22:36; cf. 1 Kings 22:17). Ahab became the source of much discipline rather than a source of great blessing to Israel because he disregarded God"s word and will (cf. Saul).

The fact that the Israelites buried Ahab at all is a tribute to God"s grace. All the same, he suffered the ignominy of having the dogs lick his blood, and that at the pool where the despised and unclean prostitutes bathed ( 1 Kings 22:38). Perhaps this was fitting since Hebrews , too, had sold himself.

Ahab was really a capable ruler in spite of his gross spiritual idolatry, which the writer of Kings emphasized. He was generally successful militarily because of the native abilities God had given him and because God showed mercy to Israel. Saul, too, had the potential to be a good king of Israel. Ahab"s alliance with Jehoshaphat began the period of peace between Israel and Judah that lasted33years. Archaeologists have discovered more than200 ivory figures, bowls, and plaques in only one storeroom of Ahab"s Samaria palace, a tribute to the wealth he enjoyed (cf. 1 Kings 22:39). He also fortified several cities in Israel ( 1 Kings 22:39). However, in spite of all his positive contributions, his setting up of Baal worship as the official religion of the nation weakened Israel as never before. His reign took the Northern Kingdom to new depths of depravity. Because he did not acknowledge Yahweh as Israel"s King and did not submit to Him, Ahab"s personal life ended in tragedy, even a violent death (cf. Saul; 1 Samuel 31). Furthermore, the nation he represented experienced God"s chastening instead of His blessing. Agricultural infertility and military defeat marked Ahab"s reign as we read of it in1Kings.


Verses 41-50

2. Jehoshaphat"s good reign in Judah22:41-50

Jehoshaphat began ruling over Judah as coregent with his father Asa (873-870 B.C.). When Asa died, he reigned alone for17 more years (870-853 B.C.). He concluded his25-year reign with another period of coregency with his son Jehoram that lasted eight years (853-848 B.C.). For all but Jehoshaphat"s first year on Judah"s throne, Ahab ruled over Israel. Jehoshaphat became Judah"s sole ruler in Ahab"s fourth year ( 1 Kings 22:41).

Jehoshaphat was one of the eight good kings of Judah and one of the four reforming kings. He was better than his father Asa but not as highly acclaimed by the writers of Scripture as Hezekiah and Josiah, the other reforming kings who followed him years later. Especially in his earlier years Jehoshaphat walked with Yahweh. He removed idolatry from Judah ( 1 Kings 22:46) except for the high places ( 1 Kings 22:43). Evidently earlier in his reign he removed these ( 2 Chronicles 17:6), but when the people rebuilt them he let them stand ( 2 Chronicles 20:33).

The peace that existed between Israel and Judah ( 1 Kings 22:44) gained strength through the marriage of Jehoshaphat"s Song of Solomon , Jehoram, and Ahab"s daughter, Athaliah ( 2 Kings 11). A prophet rebuked Jehoshaphat for his alliance with Israel ( 2 Chronicles 19:2).

Edom ( 1 Kings 22:47) had been under Judah"s control but revolted during Jehoshaphat"s reign. It may well have been the Edomites who destroyed his ships at Edom"s port of Ezion-geber ( 1 Kings 22:48). [Note: John Bartlett, "The Moabites and Edomites," in Peoples of Old Testament Times, p236.] For Jehoshaphat"s other achievements, see2Chronicles17-20.

Jehoshaphat submitted to Yahweh"s sovereignty, but he relied on human wisdom and resources at crucial moments in his life. This resulted in mixed blessing and discipline for both himself and Israel.


Verse 51

3. Ahaziah"s evil reign in Israel1Kings22:51-2Kings1:18

A short summary of Ahaziah"s two-year term as king (853-852 B.C.) concludes1Kings. The events of his reign follow in2Kings1. Ahaziah was the elder son of Ahab and Jezebel.

This unusual breaking place between1,2Kings was due to the need to divide this long book into two parts, each of which could fit on a standard scroll.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-kings-22.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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