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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Kings 22

Verse 6

1 Kings 22:6. The prophets together, about four hundred men It is clear enough, from the 7th and 23rd verses, that these were idolatrous and false prophets; most probably the worshippers of Baal, and the tools of Ahab and Jezebel. Some have thought, since the number so exactly hits, that these false prophets were the four hundred prophets of the groves, who were constantly fed at Jezebel's table, chap. 1 Kings 18:19. But it appears not likely that Ahab would presume to affront Jehoshaphat in so gross a manner, by bringing Jezebel's prophets (prophets probably of Astarte, and known idolaters) before him, and making them speak in the name of Jehovah the true God. Neither, on the other hand, does it appear at all probable, that they were such as had been bred up in the schools of the prophets, under Elijah, or any other true prophet of God. For, besides that one may reasonably suppose such to have been better men, Jezebel but a little before had made so great slaughter of them, that there could hardly be any such number as four hundred left, though some, indeed, might have been hid at that time, whom Elijah knew not of. It remains, therefore, that they might, very probably, be Ahab's own prophets, such as he had set up by rewards and promises, and who accordingly knew how to suit his humour, and to flatter his vanity, all agreeing to a man in the same fawning compliances, and the same treacherous counsels which pleased and tickled for the present, but proved fatal in the end.

Verse 11

1 Kings 22:11. Zedekiah—made him horns of iron It was by these actions that the prophets instructed the people in the will of God, and conversed with them in signs; but where God teaches the prophet, and, in compliance with the custom of the times, condescends to the same mode of instruction, then the significative action is generally changed into vision, either natural or extraordinary. The significative action, I say, was, in this case, generally changed into a vision, but not always. For as sometimes, where the instruction was for the people, the significative action was perhaps in vision: so sometimes again, though the information was only for the prophet, God would set him upon the real expressive action, whose obvious meaning conveyed the intelligence proposed or sought. Of this we have given a very illustrious instance in the case of Abraham's offering up his son Isaac. The excellent Maimonides, not attending to this primitive mode of information, is much scandalised at several of these actions, unbecoming, as he supposed, the dignity of the prophetic office; and is therefore for resolving them in general into supernatural visions impressed on the imagination of the prophet; and this, because some few of them may perhaps admit of such an interpretation. The actions of the prophets are delivered as realities; but he and some christian writers in conjunction with him represent them as mean, absurd, and fanatical. They gain nothing, however, by the expedient of asserting them to be visions: the charge of fanaticism will follow the prophet in his visions, as well as his waking actions; for if these actions were absurd and fanatical in the real representation, they must needs be so in the imaginary; the same turn of mind operating both asleep and awake. But we have already shown, that information by action was at this time and place a very familiar kind or mode of conversation; and having thence shewn that these actions were neither absurd nor fanatic, we have cleared this mode of instruction from objection, and opened a way not only for a true defence, but likewise for a true understanding of the prophetic writings. Div. Leg. vol. 3: p. 100, &c.; see ch. 1 Kings 11:19, &c.

REFLECTIONS.—Three years of peace, like the calm which ushers in the storm, bring Ahab's respite to an end, and hasten on the fatal day.

1. Ramoth-gilead was now in the hands of the Syrians, which Ahab resolves, with the assistance of his ally Jehoshaphat, to rescue from them; either repenting his former lenity to Ben-hadad, or provoked at his perfidy. Note; (1.) When by our neglect we lose the opportunity that God gives us, we afterwards struggle but in vain to recover it. (2.) Treaties are slender bands to hold perfidious princes.

2. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to accompany him in the expedition, to which the latter consents: he had made peace with Ahab, had confirmed it by marrying his son to Ahab's daughter, and now he has not the heart to deny him, though it brought him into a very dangerous and unsuccessful quarrel. Note; The wicked are often too worldly wise for God's children, and connections with them usually end in their infinite loss and damage.

3. Though Jehoshaphat consents to go, he is first for asking counsel of God: whereupon Ahab, who never thought of consulting God in the matter, sends for his court prophets, whose complaisance he well knew, to advise with. Their declarations are unanimous: "Go, and prosper," is all the cry; nay, one of them, as imitating the signs of a real prophet with horns of iron, emblems of majesty and strength, predicts that such shall be their power and success, that the Syrians shall be utterly destroyed; and, to engage Jehoshaphat's credit, prefaces his declaration with the name of Jehovah. Note; (1.) The false prophets in every age are a numerous body, and, with the vaunt of God's name in their mouth, more fatally lie in wait to deceive. (2.) Unity and multitude are neither proofs of a true church, nor a good cause.

4. Jehoshaphat is little satisfied with these pretenders; and, though unwilling to affront Ahab by suggesting his real sentiments, asks if there was no other prophet of the Lord beside these, to consult with. Ahab mentions one more, Micaiah, a prophet indeed of God; but he hated him for his ill-boding tongue (never prophesying good concerning him); and it seems he was now in prison, see 1Ki 22:26 probably for the message delivered, chap. 1 Kings 20:39. Jehoshaphat gently reproves the wicked king, who merited a more severe rebuke; and Ahab, not to disoblige his ally, consents that Micaiah shall be brought, while they, seated on thrones in their royal robes, surrounded with their courtiers and prophets, waited his arrival. Note; (1.) We must not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God; and false prophets are of no difficult detection. (2.) They who do ill must not expect to hear from God's prophets visions of peace. (3.) There is no surer proof of a false teacher, than his prophesying smooth things, and suffering the careless and the hypocrite to sleep in their sins.

5. Ahab knew where Micaiah lay fast bound, and therefore his officer soon finds him. By the way, he fails not to acquaint him with the unanimity of the other prophets, and to advise him to conform to them, as the king's pleasure was well known, and his dissent from them might bring him into still greater trouble and suffering. But Micaiah with solemn indignation rejects such pusillanimous and wretched counsel. He sought not to please men; he served a greater master than these who sat on tottering thrones; and as he feared not their faces, whether it please or displease, he must and will speak as God commands. Note; (1.) No worldly fear or hope can intimidate the faithful minister: he will hazard the loss of men's favour, rather than be false to their souls. (2.) When deluding teachers abound, we must be singular, if we would be faithful.

Verse 15

1 Kings 22:15. Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver, &c.— Supposing Micaiah had spoken in earnest, his answer does not at all contradict the other prophets: but the words, it is most likely, were spoken ironically, and in mockery to the equivocal promises which the other prophets made to Ahab. Accordingly, we may observe by Ahab's reply, that he suspected Micaiah's sincerity, and gathered, either from his gesture or manner of speaking, that his meaning was to ridicule and traduce these false prophets for their answers: so that Micaiah's answer is in effect as if he had said, "Since thou dost not seek to know the truth, but only to please thyself, go to the battle, as all thy prophets advise thee; expect the success which they promise thee, and try the truth of their predictions by thy dear-bought experience."

Verses 19-23

1 Kings 22:19-11.22.23. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, &c.— The following passage must be considered as a lively and affecting parable. The prophets who came to Ahab were not the LORD'S prophets, but Ahab's. They spake at all adventures what they presumed would please him, like fawning parasites and flattering sycophants; a spirit of lying was upon them all, because they were disposed to flatter the king's humour, found their gain in it, or were afraid to do otherwise. This is the short and true account of the whole matter, and is what Micaiah sets forth in his present parable. Instead of bluntly telling the king that these prophets were all deceivers, he takes up his parable, as prophets were used to do, declaring what he had seen in prophetic vision, which was the way that God had made choice of for disclosing the whole matter to him. In the 17th verse Micaiah says, I saw all Israel scattered, &c. which can be understood only of what he saw in prophetic vision; pre-signifying the real fact which should follow after. Micaiah, therefore, saw what he there relates, just as St. Peter saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him; not any thing of what St. Peter saw was real, excepting that such ideas or such appearances were really wrought or formed upon his mind, as he lay in a trance. The like representation was made to Micaiah in a vision; signifying what was doing in the matter of Ahab, and what the event would be. The moral or meaning of the whole was, that, as Ahab loved to be cajoled and flattered, so God had permitted those four hundred men, pretending to be prophets, to abuse and impose upon him; which in conclusion would prove fatal to him. After Micaiah had reported his vision at full length, he briefly explained and applied it to Ahab, 1 Kings 22:23. Now, therefore, the Lord, &c. It is frequent in holy Scripture to call that the Lord's doing, which he only permits to be done; because he has the supreme direction of all things, and governs the event. Wicked devices proceed from wicked men; but that they prevail and take effect, is owing to the hand of God directing and ordering where they shall light, and what shall be the issue of them. As to the text that we are now upon, the words of the original will bear to be translated, the Lord hath permitted or suffered a lying spirit in the mouth, &c. Accordingly, our translators in other places often render the word נתן natan, by suffer or let, in the sense of permitting; Genesis 20:6. Exodus 12:23.Psalms 16:0; Psalms 16:0 l0. And it may be observed also of the words of God to the lying spirit, as represented in the parable, 1 Kings 22:22. Go forth, and do so, that they are to be understood, not in the commanding but permissive sense; for the imperative is so used more than once in other places of Scripture; there is therefore no room left for charging God, as the author of any deception brought upon Ahab by the sins of men. Houbigant observes, that as all this is said in parable, it is absurd to inquire whether God would encourage evil angels to deceive the human mind, unless any one would also choose to inquire whether animals could speak, because they are often introduced speaking in fables.

Verse 21

1 Kings 22:21. There came forth a spirit That evil being, named Satan, was little known to the Jewish people till their captivity; and then this history was taught openly as a security against the doctrine of the two principles.

The Jewish law-giver, where he so frequently enumerates and warns the Israelites of the snares and temptations which would draw them to transgress the law of God, never mentions this chief foe of heaven. Nay, when the form of that sacred history which Moses composed, obliged him to treat of Satan's first grand machination against mankind, he entirely hides this wicked spirit under the animal which he made his instrument; but as the fulness of time drew near, they were made more and more acquainted with this their arch-enemy. When Ahab, for the crimes and follies of the people, was suffered to be infatuated, we have the account in the words of Micaiah above. Satan is not here recorded by name; and so we must conclude the people were yet permitted to know little of his history: however, this undertaking sufficiently declared his nature.

REFLECTIONS.—Micaiah now appears before the kings and courtiers, alone, indeed, but not unsupported; God was with him, therefore could he not be moved.

1. Ahab puts the same question to him that he had before put to his own prophets; and Micaiah, who had heard their answer, and knew the king's mind, answered him in their very words; but with such a tone and gesture, as evidently bespoke contempt of his prophets, and the vanity of their prophecy. Note; It is folly which deserves to be ridiculed, to ask advice of others, when you are determined to follow your own opinion.

2. Ahab, perceiving the irony of his answer, conjures him, without further delay, to speak his mind; and this he does freely and boldly. He saw all Israel scattered like sheep on the hills near Ramoth-gilead, and their shepherd wanting; intimating, that Ahab should fall in the battle, and Israel be defeated. Note; Sinners cannot be too plainly warned of their danger.

3. Exasperated at such a declaration, which he interpreted only as the prophet's malice and ill-will against him, he turns to the too credulous Jehoshaphat, to divert him from attending to such a prophecy. But Micaiah confirms it by the vision, wherein he describes Ahab's determined ruin. Note; (1.) The greatest kindness shewn in faithful rebuke to men's souls, is often perversely misinterpreted into selfish anger, or dislike of their persons. (2.) God ruleth over all: the greatest are but worms of earth; and, however men spurn at it, his counsel must stand. (3.) God does, without impeachment of his glory, permit Satan to tempt sinners, and sometimes gives them up to be led captive by him at his will. (4.) The sinner abandoned of God rushes on his ruin, as the horse rusheth into the battle.

4. Zedekiah cannot bear such a keen reflection, and with insolent effrontary, in the king's presence, strikes Micaiah over the face, and treats with contempt his prophecy, as if himself alone had the spirit, who could not contradict his own inspirations. Note; (1.) The bitterest enemies of God's true prophets are the teachers of lies. These, to support their own credit with the people, seek by every base suggestion and oppression, to prevent the influence of the truth, lest the shame of their nakedness should appear. (2.) Confusion will shortly cover the wicked, and those who will not take God's warning must feel his wrath.

5. Ahab seconds his prophet's abuse, commits the innocent Micaiah to prison, and bids him be hardly treated till his return in peace, which he speaks of with confidence; designing then to execute him for a false prophet. Micaiah is very ready to rest his life on this issue; and they part thus, never to meet again. Note; (1.) The career of persecutors is often stopped short. (2.) They have little reason to promise themselves peace, who are declaring war against God in the person of his prophet.

Verse 31

1 Kings 22:31. Fight neither with small nor great Ben-hadad might give this order, either in policy, supposing this to be the best and readiest way to put an end to the war, or with a design to take Ahab prisoner, that thereby he might wipe out the stain of his own captivity, and recover the honour and advantages which he then lost. We shall have occasion in the second book of Chronicles to speak concerning Jehoshaphat.

Verse 47

1 Kings 22:47. There was then no king in Edom; a deputy was king This is inserted to give us the reason why Jehoshaphat might build ships in the port of Ezion-geber, which was in the territories of the Edomites; namely, that there were no kings in Edom from the time that David had conquered the Edomites, but that the kings of Judah sent thither deputies or vice-roys. Instead of ships of Tharshish, 1 Kings 22:48. Houbigant reads, ships of burden. Others say, that ships of Tharshish means such as were made after the model of those built at Tharshish.

Verse 49

1 Kings 22:49. But Jehoshaphat would not In the parallel place, 2 Chronicles 20:36-14.20.37. Jehoshaphat is blamed by the prophet for having joined himself with Ahaziah in building ships. Commentators endeavour by various methods to solve this difficulty. Houbigant reads it, אבה ולו velo abah, he consented. Or, rather we might say, that Jehoshaphat at first consented; but afterwards, being warned by a prophet, he corrected his error, 1 Kings 22:49.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.