CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter relates Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab (2Ch ); induced to go to Ram.-gil. (2Ch 18:4-11); Micaiah's adverse prediction (2Ch 18:12-17); continued reproof (2Ch 18:18-22); and sufferings (2Ch 18:23-28); the two kings enter battle with sad results (2Ch 18:28-34). With this chapter corresponds 1Ki 22:1-35.
2Ch .—Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab. Affinity. Joram, his son, married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2Ch 21:6). Years, in Jehoshaphat's seventeenth year, eight, after marriage. Killed, gave magnificent feast to influence him in favour of enterprise. Ramoth., heights of Gilead, in territory of Gad, to wrest from King of Syria. 2Ch 18:3. Jehoshaphat easily consents, without consulting God.
2Ch .—The consultations. Previous to declaration of war customary to consult prophets (1 Samuel 28). Ahab complied. 400 prophets, creatures of Ahab connected with calf-worship, encouraged the king. 2Ch 18:6. Jehoshaphat, dissatisfied, inquired for a true prophet; besides, in addition, or yet more. 2Ch 18:7. Micaiah, known only from this incident, sent for. Always evil, lit., all his days, wanting in Kings. 2Ch 18:8. Officers, eunuch or chamberlain. 2Ch 18:9. Graphic scene, void place (open space, Rev. Vers.). A large area for markets, courts, and business. Each king on his portable throne, clothed in royal garments, and spectators all around. 2Ch 18:10. Zed., more prominent than rest. Had made previously in anticipation of some such occasion as now given [Speak. Com.]. Horns, like candle extinguishers (often worn as military ornaments); iron, symbol of military power. Push, a common metaphor for attacking and overcoming enemies. Thus two heroes impersonated; Kings of Israel and Judah would triumph (Deu 33:17; Psa 44:5; Dan 8:4).
2Ch .—Micaiah's adverse prediction. The well-intentioned messenger tries to persuade Micaiah to agree with majority, predict success, and be released from prison and severer punishment. He rejects counsel, remains fearless and firm. 2Ch 18:14. Go up, the ironical answer of the 400, well understood by Ahab. Adjure, put on oath, he changes tone and becomes very serious. 2Ch 18:16. Saw, purport of this vision that Israel would be defeated, dispersed, and king destroyed.
2Ch .—Micaiah's reproof and sufferings. Saw in providence of God events in fuller detail. Therefore hear the Divine will. Sitting, in splendour and supremacy (Psa 9:7; Psa 11:4; Psa 46:6, &c.). Standing, about him on both sides. 2Ch 18:19. Entice, persuade or deceive (1Ki 22:20). 2Ch 18:20. A spirit, the spirit, i.e., "the evil spirit," Satan some; others, "the spirit of prophecy" in the 400, under the control and command of the Governor of the universe, at his direction and permission. 2Ch 18:21. Lying spirit, to mislead when consulted. "The details of a vision cannot safely be pressed any more than the details of a parable" [cf. Speak. Com.]. 2Ch 18:23. Zed., by this fearful disclosure, is vexed, presumed upon his favour with Ahab, smote Micaiah in contempt and scorn (Job 16:10; Jer 20:2; Lam 3:30; Mar 14:65); and insinuates that the spirit did not speak by him. 2Ch 18:24. The event would be a reply, when he would go from chamber to chamber, in some secret place. To hide himself in shame and fear of punishment for his false predictions. 2Ch 18:25. Micaiah sent back to prison, with scanty prison fare; submitted, courageously reproves the king; predicts his death, and appeals to the people, who should witness the result.
2Ch .—War undertaken. Ahab afraid, disguises himself, ungenerously advises Jehosh. to fight in royal attire. 2Ch 18:30. Command of King of Syria proves the prudence of Ahab's conduct. 2Ch 18:31. Jehosh. only king in field. Cried out, whether to followers or to enemy, not stated. Perceived, probably from his cry, and pursuit ceased. 2Ch 18:33. Venture, i.e., in his simplicity, without special aim or intention. Joints, parts where pieces of armour fitted together. Ahab wounded, notwithstanding his precaution; kept standing in his chariot during the day the battle raged, at sunset all over. The war-cry went through the host, every man returned to his city and to his country. But Ahab was carried dead to Samaria, and there buried.
THE DANGER OF WORLDLY FRIENDSHIP.—2Ch
Jehoshaphat displeased God by his choice of friends, and began a downward course, marked by gradual steps.
I. Friendship beginning with family affinity. Jehoshaphat "joined affinity with Ahab" by uniting his son with Ahab's daughter. Perhaps proud, for he "had riches and honour in abundance," and did not want Jehoram "to marry beneath him." Nothing but marriage with a royal house would satisfy—perhaps to conciliate Israel and bring them back to Jehovah. Evil cannot be conciliated. This might be considered good policy, but morally wrong; disobedient to God's command, and brought the kingdom and royal house to verge of destruction. Unsuitable marriages to preserve name, property in family circle. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."
II. Friendship leading to social visits. "After certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria." What more natural and needful to improve acquaintance and inquire about welfare! Received in royal style, but corrupted in moral character. Joins in converse with ungodly, can bear their company, and dwell in their house (Lot in Sodom). He becomes weaker, more complaisant, and exposed to risk. "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people." "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? &c."
III. Friendship ending in alliance for war. "He persuaded him to go up." Feasted so splendidly, friendship so close, extrication difficult. The height of incivility, most unreasonable to refuse! Evil wrought on his mind, spiritual constitution not proof against bad atmosphere. He lost power to testify; censure lost its energy; his presence no longer a restraint on folly, and impossible to assume high tone and faithful attitude. "Let not the king say so," the only mild rebuke. Difficult to walk wisely, faithfully, and surely in these days of compromise and fashion. But God looks for entire separation from the world in character, purpose, and conduct. "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?"
THE IMPORTANT QUESTION: WAR OR NO WAR?—2Ch
Ahab, tired of waiting for peaceful restoration of Ram.-gil., determined to recover it from the Syrians by force. Aware of the military strength of the Syrian king (1Ki ), he takes advantage of visit and friendship of Jehoshaphat, whose resources are great, and who suggests an immediate inquiry of the Lord before expedition.
I. The tribunal before which to decide. Picture the open space (2Ch ). The kings robed in splendour; the prophets in their imposing ranks and display, confident and insolent in their lying message; the one true prophet, hated by Ahab, uncared for by spectators, yet calm, brave, and true! Luther before the Diet of Worms.
II. The judgments given. Two kinds from two parties.
1. From false prophets. "Ahab gathered his prophets together, about 400 men." Every great enterprise seeks the sanction of God and to clothe itself with Divine authority. Right and wrong of actions felt to be determined by One higher than man. If Heaven's signature not gained often forged. Ahab multiplied pagan prophets as Julian multiplied pagan sacrifices. A band ready to interpret divine decrees in favour of the king they serve. Think of their number, office, and unanimity! With one consent they say, Go!
2. From the true prophet. Jehoshaphat not satisfied; saw from their manner they were not truthful, not Jehovah-prophets; asks for "a prophet, of the Lord, that he might inquire of him." The vox populi not always the vox Dei. Micaiah sent for, appears, determines to speak the truth fearless of consequences. "Athanasius against the world." In terms of irony, in visions of splendour, when adjured by the king and in appealing to the people. Smitten by the priests and threatened with the prison, the same answer given.
III. War foolishly undertaken. Ahab bent on war, Jehoshaphat unable to check him. "And they went to the battle" (2Ch ).
1. Reluctantly by Jehoshaphat. Ventured too much and gone too far; ensnared and drawn along. "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men."
2. Timidly by Ahab. Desired to falsify prediction, and disguised himself. What a cowardly act! What friendship to preserve your own life at the expense of another! "A good cause makes a stout heart." A soldier conscious of right, accompanied by God, will stand fearless and victorious on the field of battle.
IV. War ending in disasters. Death to Ahab. To Jehoshaphat danger in the field, deserved rebuke from God's servant (2Ch ), invasion of the kingdom, and almost total extinction of the family (2Ch 22:10). Ever dangerous to fight against God. Enterprises opposed to his will can never prosper. Inquire, Shall I go or shall I not? When decision known, submit, and escape the ruin.
"We leap at stars, and fasten in the mud,
At glory grasp, and sink in infamy" [Young].
THE FAITHFUL PROPHET.—2Ch
I. The estimation in which he was held. "I hate him." Counted like Elijah as an enemy by Ahab. Micaiah consistent in veracity, courage, and reproof. The king offended, and imputed all to evil disposition, personal grudge. Hatred, inveterate and strong, often the reward of fidelity. "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?"
II. The stand which he takes. "What my God saith, that will I speak" (2Ch ).
1. Dependence upon God. In God's hands, not Ahab's. "So help me God," cried Luther. "Fear him who can destroy both body and soul."
2. Expectation of God's help. Assured that God would say something, teach him, and reveal light. Disciples before councils (Mat ).
3. Determination to utter God's word. "That will I speak." Balaam could make no compromise. Reverent attention to divine truth, and determination to die rather than withhold or betray it, the mark of a true prophet.
III. The pleas urged to move him from this stand. The messenger in kindness warned and advised.
1. The opinion of the majority. 400 prophets unanimous in decision! Think of their power and position! Why be singular and foolish in opposing? Agree with the multitude. Unity built on truth, better than unity built on men.
2. The difficulty of judging who is right. "Which way went the spirit of the Lord from me to thee?" Zedekiah assumed to possess the spirit alone, ridiculed in scorn the idea of Micaiah having it. Circumstances make it difficult to judge who is right among many claimants. But there is a divine word; man can understand and receive it, must judge and decide for himself. Know by results. False prophets assume authority, take fulfilment of truth in their own hands, despise and persecute others. True prophets receive and utter the word, leave it with God to verify and vindicate it.
3. The employment of physical force. This is a tyrant's weapon. The screw, the prison, and the stake, bonds, persecution, and martyrdom in vain. Micaiah calm in suffering, as bold in action, immovable as a rock, honoured and exalted in Israel as independent and true, when prophets of Ahab are confounded and scattered in shame and disgrace.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2Ch . Went down. The royal visit.
1. The object for which made.
2. Results to which led. "The bond between the two families dates, therefore, at least from this time, but apparently it 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 with the great league against the Assyrians. From this time till the displacement of Ahab's dynasty by Jehu, very intimate relations subsisted between the two kingdoms (cf. 1Ki ; 2Ki 3:7; 2Ki 8:28; 2Ch 20:36) [Speak. Com.].
2Ch . Enquire. God, forgotten in men's undertakings, should always be sought, and sought without delay. "Enquire to-day." Ahab never thought of this. God not in his thoughts (Psa 10:4). If Scipio went first to the capital, and then to the senate; if the Romans consulted gods and offered sacrifices before war, should we not enquire, &c.?
2Ch . I hate him. A picture of present time.
1. Men love to be flattered. Ahab, satisfied with his prophets, thought they were inspired and would listen to no one else.
2. Men speak lies to flatter their superiors, servants their masters, courtiers their sovereigns. Thus the very fountains of life corrupt. Prophets, priests, and judges encourage falsehood. "A wonderful and horrible thing (astonishment and filthiness) is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means (lit., according to their hands, i.e., under their guidance and power), and my people love to have it so" (Jer ). (Populus vult decipi, et decipiatur).
3. In speaking lies they are influenced by supernatural powers. Such powers exist and mysteriously influence the minds of men. Lying spirits are subtle, wise, and numerous; have easy access to men and deceive. Seek to hear not what is palatable to our corrupt hearts, but what is true, needful, and profitable to our souls.
"Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies!
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies.
And he that will be cheated to the last,
Delusions, strong as hell, shall bind him fast" [Cowper].
2Ch . A performance at court. Picture place, kings on their separate thrones, spectators and performance, Zed. in employing a symbolic action was following the example of a former Israelite prophet, whose "acted parable" could never be forgotten in Israel (cf. 1Ki 11:30) [Speak. Com.].
2Ch . A faithful ministry.
1. The necessity imposed on faithful ministers to speak the truth. God requires it, needful to the welfare of the people, and consequences of neglect fearful.
2. The results of speaking truth. Hated by those in authority, ridiculed and opposed by rivals, treated with indifference, cruelty, and death.
"So spake the seraph Abdiel, faithful found
Among the faithless, faithful only he"
THE PROPHETIC VISIONS.—2Ch
Solemnly urged to give a serious answer, Micaiah declared the visions revealed to him by the spirit of God.
I. The shepherdless people. "I did see all Israel scattered," &c. (2Ch ).
1. The death of the king. Ministers and kings shepherds of the people to feed, govern, and protect. Ahab fell in battle, and Israel deprived of ruler. "These have no master."
2. The defeat of the army. "All Israel scattered," in broken ranks and helpless condition. A picture of society away from God and divided from one another; inadequately supplied with helpers, and needing a compassionate Saviour (Mat ).
II. The parabolic Providence. "It may be doubted whether we ought to take literally, and interpret exactly, each statement of the narrative. Visions of the invisible can only be a sort of parables: revelations not of truth as it actually is, but of so much of truth as can be shown through such a medium. The details of a vision, therefore, cannot safely be pressed, any more 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" [Speak. Com.].
1. A picture of God's supremacy. "The Lord sitting upon his throne," supreme in authority, wisdom, and splendour (Isa ).
2. An insight into supernatural ministry. "All the host of heaven" ready to serve. "Satan walks to and fro in the earth" in restless activity to do mischief to God's people (Job ). Other spirits sent on divine errands (Zec 1:10; Dan 7:10).
3. An interpretation of the events of history. Why does this happen? God orders or permits it. Sometimes heaven is opened to shadow forth events on earth. God's seers only can interpret and apply the vision—a privilege to them and a warning to us.
LYING SPIRITS IN THE PROPHETS.—2Ch
This chapter gives an insight into the meaning of the awful word "temptation." Yet comforting, for it shows how God is long-suffering and merciful to the most hardened sinner; how to the last he puts before him good and evil, and warns him of his choice and the ruin to which it leads. I. What warning more awful, yet more plain, than that of the text? Ahab, told that he was listening to a lie, had free choice to follow that lie or not, and did follow it. After imprisonment of Micaiah for speaking the truth to him, he went to Ram. gilead; yet felt that he was not safe. He went into battle disguised, hoping to escape from evil by these means. But God's vengeance not checked by paltry cunning. II. This chapter tells us not merely how Ahab was tempted, but how we are tempted in these very days. By every wilful sin we commit we give room to the devil. By every wrong step we take knowingly, we give a handle to some evil spirit to lead us seven steps further wrong. Yet in every temptation God gives us a fair chance, sends his prophets, as he sent Micaiah to Ahab, to tell us that the wages of sin is death, to set before us good and evil at every turn, that we may choose between them and live and die according to choice. The Bible is a prophet to us. Every man a prophet to himself. The still small voice in the heart, the voice of God within us; the spirit of God striving with our spirits, whether we will hear or forbear, setting before us what is righteous, noble, pure, and godlike, to see whether we will obey that voice, or obey our own selfish lusts, which tempt us to please ourselves [C. Kingsley, "Village Sermons"].
DIVINE TRUTH AND ITS TYPICAL RECEPTION
Bible full of human nature. Humanity in varied aspects its excellence and chief feature. A book for the world. Its biographies. "Representative men." Here four types of human conduct in relation to divine truth.
I. Those who seek the truth. Micaiah believed in its existence, prayed for its teaching, and determined to follow its leading. Sought truth under impression of its reality, from the right source, in order to render homage to it. "Lead me by thy truth and teach me."
II. Those who are opposed to the truth. The priests assumed to be its only depositories, denied the claims of others, ridiculed and opposed its representative. None so slow to believe in a Divine spirit as those accustomed to speak Divine words, but in whose hearts is no Divine life. A lifeless church always bitterest enemy to inquiry, reform, and independency. "Ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth."
III. Those who believe yet disobey the truth. J. believed the prophet Micaiah, mildly defended his character, yet would not withdraw from Ahab. He sinned against light and better judgment. Risky thus to act. "Holding (i.e., keeping down, obscuring, overbearing) the truth in (a course of) unrightousness" is the way to bring down the judgment of God (Rom ), to lose the ability to perceive it, and the power to embrace and practise it.
"Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill,
Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will;
And with a clear and shining lamp supplied,
First put it out, then take it for a guide" [Cowper].
IV. Those who are alarmed at truth. Ahab roused in conscience, afraid of results, and tried to escape by stratagem. The dupe of his own fears. The child whom Herod sought to destroy lived, grew, and rose to sovereignty of the universe. The prediction of Micaiah fulfilled, terror struck into hearts of soldiers, and the king died in blood-stained chariot.
I. The hearts of the unsaved are encased in harness. The harness of
(4) religious formality. II. Having these harnessed hearts for a mark, the gospel bow must be drawn. At some must be shot the arrows, of
(1) Divine goodness,
(2) Divine threatenings,
(3) Divine love [R. Berry]
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2Ch . Lying spirits.
1. A doctrine of Scripture (Jud ; Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Eze 14:9; Joh 8:44; Rev 12:9).
2. A fact in experience. Eve seduced. Many now under strong delusion (error energising and effectual) that they should believe a lie (2Th ).
3. A mystery of providence. The problem of human character, of human life and destiny insolvable on any other hypothesis. Inscrutable providence!
2Ch . Jehoshaphat's cry.
1. Danger the result of warning unheeded.
2. God interfering to deliver. God may be displeased, never deserts when we cry unto him. Ahab cared not to succour. God moved them to depart from him.
3. Lesson, associate with evil-doers, then in danger of sharing their calamities. "A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good."
Learn from the whole—
1. That the contrivances of the wicked are cruel (Pro ; Pro 12:10).
2. That in carrying out these contrivances they are greatly alarmed. Conscience makes them cowards (Pro ).
3. That in the end their fears are realised. In attempt to ensnare others ensnared themselves (Pro ; Pro 24:15-16; Pro 26:27); expectations of good disappointed (Pro 10:2-28; Pro 24:19-20), and their iniquity becomes their punishment (Pro 5:22; Pro 11:3; Pro 14:32).
2Ch . Accidents of Providence. I. The end certain. Bow did its work. Darts of judgment, designs of Providence, never miss the mark. II. The method of accomplishing the end apparently accidental. At a venture, casual shot. The hand strengthened, shaft levelled with unerring eye. What we term chance, casualty, really Providence accomplishing deliberate designs, but interposition concealed.
1. A comfort to godly in trouble, sorrow, and peril.
2. A warning to ungodly, who are not safe, exposed everywhere. Most common occurrences, those from which we suspect no harm, may prove destructive to life.
"The all-surrounding heav'n, the vital air,
Is big with death."
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 18
2Ch . Friendship. It is good discretion not to make too much of any man at the first, because one cannot hold out that proportion [Bacon].
2Ch . Lying spirits. Compare Elijah's tone (1Ki 18:27). "In the vision which he describes we feel that we are gradually drawing nearer to the times of the later prophets. It is a vision which might rank with those of Isaiah or Ezekiel" [Stanley]. Not by any stroke of vengeance, but by the very network of evil counsel which he has woven for himself, is the King of Israel to be led to his ruin [Ibid.].
2Ch . Disguised. As knowledge without justice ought to be called cunning rather than wisdom, so a mind prepared to meet danger, if excited by its own eagerness and not the public good, deserves the name of audacity rather than of courage [Plato].
2Ch . Bow at a venture. It is marvellous to note on what small contingencies depends our life. An accidental blow, an unexpected fall, a mistake in drinking out of the wrong cup, a misstep in the dark, a fly, a fishbone, the smallest things often occasion its termination. This fact is serious enough to cool ambition, make us thoughtful in merriest moods, and watchful against any surprise that death may have in reserve for us. Died—"The truth cannot be burned, beheaded, or crucified. A lie on the throne is a lie still, and truth in a dungeon is still truth; and the lie on the throne is on the way to defeat, and the truth in the dungeon is on the way to victory."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 18". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany