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Monday, October 2nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 22

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Three years - These must be counted from the close of the second campaign of Ben-hadad 1 Kings 20:34. They were not full years, as is evident from the next verse. Probably the first year is that of Ben-hadad’s dismissal after his defeat; the second is a year of actual peace; while the third is that in which Jehoshaphat paid his visit, and the Ramoth-Gilead expedition took place. The pause, here noticed, in the war between Israel and Syria was perhaps the result of a common danger. It was probably in the year following Ben-hadad’s dismissal by Ahab, that the first great Assyrian expedition took place into these parts. Shalmaneser II relates that on his first invasion of southern Syria, he was met by the combined forces of Ben-hadad, Ahab, the king of Hamath, the kings of the Hittites, and others, who gave him battle, but suffered a defeat.

Verse 2

This visit indicates an entire change in the relations which we have hitherto found subsisting between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The common danger to which the two kingdoms were exposed from the growing power of Syria had probably induced them to forget their differences. Jehoshaphat’s eldest son, Jehoram, was married to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab: but apparently the bond between the two families had not hitherto led to any very close intimacy, much less to any joint military expeditions. Jehoshaphat seems to have taken no part in the former Syrian wars of Ahab, nor did he join in the great league against the Assyrians (1 Kings 22:1 note). His visit now was probably one of mere friendliness, without any political object. Ahab, however, turned the visit to political advantage. From this time until the displacement of Ahab’s dynasty by Jehu, very intimate relations subsisted between the two kingdoms (1 Kings 22:49; 2 Kings 3:7; 2 Kings 8:28-29; 2 Chronicles 20:36, etc.).

Verse 3

By the terms of Ahab’s covenant with Ben-hadad, Ramoth in Gilead ought, long ere this, to have been restored 1 Kings 20:34. Hence, the claim “is ours,” i. e., “it belongs to us of right though the Syrians still hold possession of it.”

Verse 4

Ahab, well aware of the military strength of Syria, and feeling that he cannot now expect divine aid 1 Kings 20:42; 1 Kings 21:21, asks the aid of Jehoshaphat, whose military resources were very great 2 Chronicles 17:12-19. Jehoshaphat’s answer is one of complete acquiescence, without reserve of any kind (compare 2 Chronicles 18:3). Jehoshaphat was afterward rebuked for thus consenting to “help the ungodly” 2 Chronicles 19:2. He probably acted not merely from complaisance, but from a belief that the interests of his own kingdom would be advanced by the step which he agreed to take. The power of Syria was at this time very menacing.

Verse 5

Jehoshaphat, with characteristic piety 1 Kings 22:43 takes advantage of his position as Ahab’s friend and ally, to suggest inquiry of the Lord (Yahweh) before the expedition is undertaken. Lest Ahab should consent in word and put off the inquiry in act, he asks to have the prophets called in at once: “today.”

Verse 6

The prophets - i. e., In all probability the prophets attached to the worship of the calves; not real prophets of Yahweh. This seems evident both from Jehoshaphat’s dissatisfaction 1 Kings 22:7, and from the strong antagonism apparent between the true Yahweh-prophet Micaiah, and these self-styled “prophets of the Lord” 1 Kings 22:22-25.

The Lord shall deliver it - In the Hebrew the word here used for “Lord” is אדני 'ǎdonāy. Later (i. e., in 1 Kings 22:11-12) Lord or יהוה yehovâh is used. It would seem as if the idolatrous prophets shrank from employing the latter title until they found that Jehoshaphat insisted on learning the will of Yahweh in the matter.

Verse 7

Jehoshaphat was dissatisfied. These men - creatures of Ahab, tainted with the worship of calves if not with Baal-worship - had promised victory, but not in the name of Yahweh. Jehoshaphat, therefore, asked, “Is there not here a true prophet of Yahweh besides these 400 professed prophets?”

Verse 8

There is yet one man, Micaiah - Elijah, it appears, had withdrawn again after the events of the last chapter, and there was no known prophet of Yahweh within reach of Samaria except Micaiah.

He doth not prophesy good concerning me but evil - Whether the tradition in 1 Kings 20:41 note be true or not, it is certain that Ahab had imprisoned him 1 Kings 22:26, and probable that the imprisonment was on account of threatening prophecies. Ahab suggests to Jehoshaphat that Micaiah is one who allows his private feelings to determine the utterances which he delivers as if from Yahweh. Hence, the force of Jehoshaphat’s answer, “Let not the king say so;” i. e., “Let not the king suppose that a prophet would be guilty of such impiety,” - an impiety from which even Balaam shrank Numbers 22:18.

Verse 9

An officer - More properly, as in the margin, “a eunuch.” Eunuchs seem to have been first introduced among the Israelites by David (1 Chronicles 28:1 note). They were a natural accompaniment of the seraglio of Solomon. The present passage is the first which shows that, after the separation of the kingdom, the kings of Israel employed them (compare 2 Kings 8:6; 2 Kings 9:32).

Verse 10

Sat each on his throne - Or, “were sitting.” They had removed from the banquet 2 Chronicles 18:2 to the void place, or empty space at the entrance of the gate Ruth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2, where Ahab daily sat to hear complaints and decide causes. Each was seated upon his throne, the Oriental kings having portable thrones, which they took with them upon their journeys.

Verse 11

Horns of iron - The horn in Scripture is the favorite symbol of power; and pushing with the horn is a common metaphor for attacking and conquering enemies (see Deuteronomy 33:17; Compare Psalms 44:5; Daniel 8:4). Zedekiah, in employing a symbolic action, was following the example of a former Israelite prophet 1 Kings 11:30.

Thus saith the Lord - Or, יהוה yehovâh. Zedekiah lays aside the unmeaningful “Lord” אדני 'ǎdonāy of the general company of Israelite prophets 1 Kings 22:6, and professes to have a direct message from Yahweh to Ahab. He may have believed his own words, for the “lying spirit” 1 Kings 22:22 may have seemed to him a messenger from Yahweh. All the rest followed his example 1 Kings 22:12.

Verse 13

And the messenger spake unto him ... - There seems to have been a widespread notion among the irreligious and the half-religious of the ancient world, that their prophets were not the mere mouth-pieces of the god, but that they were persons who had power with the god, and could compel, or at least induce, Him to work their will (compare Numbers 24:10; Isaiah 30:10). They saw that the prophet’s word was accomplished; they did not understand that if he falsified his message the accomplishment would no longer follow.

Verse 14

Micaiah, as a true prophet of Yahweh, of course rejected the counsel offered him, which he felt to be at once wicked and foolish. Compare also the resolution of Balaam, marginal reference.

Verse 15

And he answered him ... - Micaiah speaks the exact words of the 400 in so mocking and ironical a tone, that the king cannot mistake his meaning, or regard his answer as serious. The king’s rejoinder implies that this mocking manner was familiar to Micaiah, who had used it in some former dealings with the Israelite monarch. Hence, in part, the king’s strong feeling of dislike (compare 1 Kings 22:8).

Verse 17

Thus adjured, Micaiah wholly changes his tone. Ahab cannot possibly mistake the meaning of his vision, especially as the metaphor of “sheep and shepherd” for king and people was familiar to the Israelites from the prayer of Moses Numbers 27:17.

Verse 18

See 1 Kings 22:8. Ahab implies that he believes Micaiah to have spoken out of pure malevolence, without any authority for his prediction from God. By implication he invites Jehoshaphat to disregard this pseudo-prophecy, and to put his trust in the unanimous declaration of the 400. Micaiah, therefore, proceeds to explain the contradiction between himself and the 400, by recounting another vision.

Verse 19

David’s Psalms had familiarised the Israelites with Yahweh sitting upon a throne in the heavens (Psalms 9:7; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 45:6; Psalms 103:19, etc.); but to be allowed to see in vision the ineffable glory of the Almighty thus seated, was a rare favor. It was granted to Isaiah, to Daniel (marginal references), to Ezekiel Ezekiel 1:26, and in Christian times to Stephen Acts 7:56, and John Revelation 4:2.

Verse 21

A spirit - “The spirit “ - which some explain as “the evil spirit” - i. e. Satan; others as simply “the spirit” who should “persuade.”

Verse 22

The difficulties which attach to this passage are considerable. On the one hand, it is hard to suppose one of the holy Angels a “lying spirit;” on the other, hard to find Satan, or an evil spirit, included among “the host of heaven” 1 Kings 22:19 and acting as the minister of God. Still, Job 1:6; Job 2:1, lend countenance to the latter point, and 2 Thessalonians 2:11 to the former. But it may be doubted whether we ought to take literally, and seek to interpret exactly, each statement of the present narrative. Visions of the invisible world can only be a sort of parables; revelations, not of the truth as it actually is, but of so much of the truth as can be shown through such a medium. The details of a vision, therefore, cannot safely be pressed, anymore than the details of a parable. Portions of each must be accommodations to human modes of thought, and may very inadequately express the realities which they are employed to shadow forth to us.

Verse 24

Smote Micaiah on the cheek - As Micaiah had been brought from prison 1 Kings 22:26, it is probable that his hands were bound.

The prophet, thus standing before the great ones of the earth, bound and helpless, bearing testimony to the truth, and for his testimony smitten on the face by an underling, whose blow he receives without either shame or anger, is a notable type of our Lord before Caiaphas suffering the same indignity.

Which way ... - Zedekiah’s meaning may perhaps be expounded as follows:

“The Spirit of Yahweh certainly came to me, and inspired me with the answer which I gave. If He afterward went to thee, as thou sayest that He did, perhaps thou canst tell us - as all the secrets of the invisible world are, thou pretendest, open to thee - which way He took.”

Verse 25

Micaiah addresses himself not so much to Zedekiah’s question, as to the main point which lies in dispute - which of them, namely, is a true prophet. “When the news, i. e., of Ahab’s death, caused by his following thy counsels, reaches Samaria, and thou hast to hide thyself from the vengeance of Ahaziah or Jezebel, then, in that day, thou wilt know whether I or thou be the true prophet.”

Verse 26

Carry him back - literally, “cause him to return.” Micaiah had been in custody before, and was brought by Ahab’s messenger from his prison.

The governor of the city - This is one out of several notices respecting what may be called the “constitution” of the Israelite kingdom. The king consulted on important matters a Council of elders 1 Kings 20:7-8. The general administration was carried on by means of the governors of provinces 1 Kings 20:14 and of cities 2 Kings 10:5. The governors of cities, like the monarch, were assisted and checked by councils of elders, the wise men of the several towns 1 Kings 21:8-12; 2 Kings 10:5. Thus Samaria, as we see from the present passage, was under a special governor, who, among his other duties, had the control of the public prison, and directed the treatment of the prisoners.

The king’s son - The phrase seems to designate a state office, rather than relationship to the sovereign. Compare 2 Chronicles 28:7.

Verse 27

Feed him with bread of affliction ... - Micaiah is to be once more put in prison, but, in order to punish him for his uncomplying spirit, upon a poorer and scantier diet than he had been previously allowed. This is to continue until Ahab returns in peace. Ahab introduces this expression purposely, in order to show his entire disbelief of Micaiah’s prophecy.

Verse 29

It might have been expected that Jehoshaphat would have withdrawn from the expedition when he heard Micaiah denounce it. He had, however, rashly committed himself to take part in the war by a solemn promise, before he bethought himself of inquiring what was the will of God in the matter. Now he was ashamed to draw back, especially as Ahab, whom the prophecy chiefly threatened, was resolved to brave it. He may also have had a personal affection for Ahab, and so have been loth to desert him in his need. Compare 2 Chronicles 19:2.

Verse 30

I will disguise myself - Ahab had probably heard of Ben-hadad’s order to his captains 1 Kings 22:31.

Verse 31

Commanded - “Had commanded.” Ben-hadad delivers his order in the hyperbolical style common in the East. His meaning is, “Make it your chief object to kill or take the king of Israel.” Apparently, his own defeat and captivity were still rankling in his mind, and he wished to retaliate on Ahab, the humiliation which he considered himself to have suffered. He shows small appreciation of the generosity which had spared his life and restored him to his kingdom.

Verse 32

Surely it is the king of Israel - This was a natural supposition, as Jehoshaphat alone wore royal robes.

And Jehoshaphat cried out - Jehoshaphat called to his men for help, using perhaps his own special battle-cry, which would be distinct from that of Ahab, and would probably be known to the Syrians.

Verse 34

At a venture - literally, as in the margin, i. e. without intent to kill the king.

Between the joints of the harness - literally, as in the margin. The “joints” were probably pieces of armor which attached the breast-plate to the helmet or to the greaves. The arrow entered between the breastplate and one of these “joints.” breastplates made of metal scales were common both in Egypt and Assyria.

Turn thine hand - literally, “turn thy hands.” The driver of a chariot, both in Egypt and Assyria, held the reins with his two hands.

Verse 35

The battle increased - See the margin; i. e. the tide of battle rose higher. Compare Isaiah 8:7-8.

The king was stayed up in his chariot - The king’s wound made it impossible for him to remain standing without help; he therefore had himself supported in his chariot by attendants, in order that his soldiers might not lose heart, as they would be sure to do, if they knew of his peril. Ahab must not be denied the credit of right princely fortitude on this occasion.

The midst of the chariot - literally, as in the margin. The “bosom” of the chariot is the rounded front, with the portion of the standing board that adjoined it. Here the blood would naturally collect, forming a pool, in which the king and his charioteer must have stood.

Verse 36

About the going down of the sun - i. e. as soon as Ahab was dead. The abandonment of the expedition and dispersion of the army on the death of the king is thoroughly Oriental.

The Septuagint version reads 1 Kings 22:36-37, “Every man to his city, and every man to his own country, for the king is dead: And they came to Samaria,” etc.

Verse 38

They washed his armour - Rather, “the harlots bathed in it.” The “pool of Samaria,” which was stained with Ahab’s blood by the washing of his chariot in it, was, according to Josephus, the usual bathing-place of the Samaritan harlots. A large tank or reservoir, probably identical with this pool, still remains on the slope of the hill of Samaria, immediately outside the walls.

Verse 39

The ivory house - So called from the character of its ornamentation. Ivory was largely used in the ancient world as a covering of wood-work, and seems to have been applied, not only to furniture, but to the doors and walls of houses.

Nothing is known of the cities built by Ahab; but the fact is important as indicating the general prosperity of the country in his time, and his own activity as a ruler. Prosperity, it is plain, may for a while co-exist with causes - such as, the decay of religions - which are sapping the vital power of a nation, and leading it surely, if slowly, to destruction.

The book of the chronicles ... - See above, 1 Kings 14:19; 1Ki 15:31; 1 Kings 16:5, 1 Kings 16:14, 1Ki 16:20, 1 Kings 16:27.

Verse 41

The writer returns to the history of the kingdom of Judah (connect this verse with 1 Kings 15:24), sketching briefly a reign much more fully given by the writer of Chronicles 2 Chr. 17–20. Compare also the marginal references.

Verse 43

On the general piety of Asa, see above, 1 Kings 15:11-15 and references. Jehoshaphat seems to have been a still better king, for he did not, like Asa, fall away in his old age 2 Chronicles 16:2-12.

The high places were not taken away - This seems to contradict 2 Chronicles 17:6. Probably the writer of Chronicles refers to the desire and intention of the monarch, while the author of Kings records the practical failure of his efforts.

Verse 44

This refers probably to an early period in Jehoshaphat’s reign - about his eighth or his ninth year - when he closed the long series of wars between the two kingdoms by a formal peace, perhaps at once cemented by a marriage between Jehoram and Athaliah (1 Kings 22:2 note).

Verse 45

The book of the chronicles ... - Compare 1 Kings 22:39 note. The biographer of Jehoshaphat appears to have been Jehu, the son of Hanani 2 Chronicles 20:34.

Verse 46

See the marginal references notes.

Verse 47

In the time of Solomon, Hadad 1 Kings 11:14, according to the Septuagint, “reigned over Edom.” It appears by the present passage that the country had been again reduced either by Jehoshaphat, or by an earlier king, and was dependent on the kingdom of Judah, being governed by a “deputy” or viceroy, who, however, was allowed the royal title (compare 2 Kings 3:9, 2 Kings 3:12, 2 Kings 3:26). This government of dependencies by means of subject-kings was the all but universal practice in the East down to the time of Cyrus (the 1 Kings 4:21 note).

Verse 48

The expression, “ships of Tharshish,” probably designates ships of a particular class, ships (i. e.) like those with which the Phoenicians used to trade to Tharshish (Tartessus, 1 Kings 10:22 note). Compare the use of “India-man” for a vessel of a certain class. Jehoshaphat’s fleet was constructed at Ezion-Gaber, on the Red Sea 2 Chronicles 20:36, where Solomon had previously built a navy 1 Kings 9:26. Being lord-paramount of Edom, Jehoshaphat had the right of using this harbor.

Verse 49

2 Chronicles 20:35-36, explains that the two kings conjointly built the fleet with which the Ophir trade (1 Kings 9:28 note) was to be re-opened. Ahaziah had thus an interest in the ships; and when they were wrecked, attributing, as it would seem, the calamity to the unskillfulness of his ally’s mariners, he proposed that the fleet should be manned in part by Israelite sailors - men probably accustomed to the sea, perhaps trained at Tyre. This proposal Jehoshaphat refused, either offended at the reflection on his subjects’ skill, or accepting the wreck of the ships, which Eliezer had prophesied, as a proof that God was against the entire undertaking.

Verse 51

Two years - According to our reckoning, not much more than a twelve-month year.

Verse 52

In the way of his mother - In this phrase, which does not occur anywhere else, we see the strong feeling of the writer as to the influence of Jezebel (compare 1 Kings 16:31).

Verses 1 Kings 22:51-53. It would be of advantage if these verses were transferred to the Second Book of Kings, which would thus open with the commencement of Ahaziah’s reign. The division of the books does not proceed from the author. See the introduction to the Book of Kings

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-22.html. 1870.
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