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THE EXPEDITION OF AHAB AND JEHOSHAPHAT AGAINST HRAMOTH-GILEAD. THE DEATH OF AHAB. THE REIGNS OF JEHOSHAPHAT AND AHAZIAH.
1 Kings 22:1
And they continued [rather, rested. Heb. sate, dwelt. Cf. Judges 5:17. The LXX. has ἐκάθισε, sing.] three years without war [The Hebrew explains the "rested"—there was not war, etc. See Ewald, 286 g. The three years (not full years, as the next verse shows) are to be counted from the second defeat of Ben-hadad; the history, that is to say, is resumed from 1 Kings 20:34-11.20.43. Rawlinson conjectures that it was during this period that the Assyrian invasion, under Shalmaneser II; took place. The Black Obelisk tells us that Ahab of Jezreel joined a league of kings, of whom Ben-hadad was one, against the Assyrians, furnishing a force of 10,000 footmen and 2000 chariots; see "Hist. Illust." pp. 113, 114. The common danger might well compel a cessation of hostilities] between Syria and Israel.
1 Kings 22:2
And it came to pass in the third year [Of the peace; not after the death of Naboth, as Stanley], that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down [The journey to Jerusalem being invariably described as a "going up," one from Jerusalem to the provinces would naturally be spoken of as a "going down"] to the king of Israel. [For aught that appears, this was the first time that the monarchs of the sister kingdoms had met, except in battle, since the disruption, though the marriage of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, with Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, had taken place some years before this date (2 Chronicles 18:1, 2 Chronicles 18:2). It is probable that it was the growing power of Syria had led to this affinity and alliance.]
1 Kings 22:3
And the king of Israel said unto his servants [During the visit. It seems likely that Jehoshaphat went down to Samaria by Ahab's invitation, and that the latter then had this campaign in view. The chronicler says that Ahab "incited," or "stirred him up" (same word as in 1 Kings 21:25) to go with him to battle. Ahab was unable to contend single-handed, and without Divine assistance—which he could not now look for—against Syria; and saw no means of compelling the execution of the treaty which Ben-hadad had made with him (1 Kings 20:34), and which he appears to have shamelessly broken, except by the help of Jehoshaphat, whose military organizetion at this time must have been great, and, indeed, complete (2 Chronicles 17:10-14.17.19). It is in favour of this view that Ahab entertained him and his large retinue with such profuse hospitality. The chronicler, who dwells on the number of sheep and oxen slain for the feast, intimates that it was this generous reception "persuaded" Jehoshaphat to join in the war], Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead [Generally, as below (1 Kings 22:4, 1 Kings 22:6, etc.), "Ramoth-Gilead," i.e; of Gilead. See note on 1 Kings 4:13. This "great frontier fortress was, in the hands of Syria, even after many reverses, a constant menace against Israel" (Stanley)] is ours [i.e; it was one of the cities which Ben-hadad had promised to restore (1 Kings 20:34). This shows that, as we might expect from a man of Ben-hadad's overbearing yet pusillanimous character, he had not kept good faith. Though so long a time had elapsed, it was still in his hands], and we be still [חָשָׁה is onomatopoetic, like our "hush." Marg. rightly, silent from taking it. The word conveys very expressively that they had been afraid of making any movement to assert their rights, lest they should attract the attention and anger of their powerful and incensed neighbour], and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria? [It is hardly likely that Ahab could have forgotten the warning of 1 Kings 20:42. It is probable that Ben-hadad's flagrant disregard of his treaty engagements determined him to run all risks, especially if he could secure the help of the then powerful king of Judah.]
1 Kings 22:4
And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-Gilead? [It is probable this question was asked with some misgivings. Such an alliance was altogether new, and Ahab might well wonder how the idea would strike a pious prince like Jehoshaphat. That the latter ought to have refused his help, we know from 2 Chronicles 19:2.] And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art [Heb. as I as thou], my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses. [From the ready and unreserved way in which he at once engages in this war, we may safely conclude that he, too, had reason to fear the power of Syria. Probably Ben-hadad, when he besieged Samaria (1 Kings 20:1), had formed the idea of reducing the whole of Palestine to subjection. And Jehoshaphat would remember that Ramoth-Gilead, where the Syrian king was still entrenched, was but forty miles distant from Jerusalem. Bähr holds that horses are specially mentioned "because they formed an essential part of the military power" (Psalms 33:16, Psalms 33:17; Proverbs 21:31). It is true that in a campaign against the Syrians they would be especially useful (see on 1 Kings 20:1.); but they receive no mention at the hands of the chronicler, who reads instead of this last clause, "And we (or I) will be with thee in the war."]
1 Kings 22:5
And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at [This word is redundant] the word of the Lord today. [כַּיוֹם hardly conveys that "he asks to have the prophets called in at once," "lest Ahab should consent in word and put off the inquiry in act" (Rawlinson); but rather means, "at this crisis," "under these circumstances." This request agrees well with what we learn elsewhere as to Jehoshaphat's piety (2 Chronicles 17:4-14.17.9; 2 Chronicles 19:5-14.19.7, etc.) And, remembering how Ahab's late victories had been foretold by a prophet, and had been won by the help of Jehovah, Jehoshaphat might well suppose that his new ally would be eager to know the word of the Lord.]
1 Kings 22:6
Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets [Called by Micaiah "his prophets" (1 Kings 22:22), and "thy prophets" (1 Kings 22:23)] together, about four hundred men [From the number (cf. 1 Kings 18:19) it has been concluded that these were "the prophets of the groves," i.e; of Astarte, who escaped the massacre of the Baal prophets (1 Kings 18:40). Others have supposed that they were prophets of Baal. But both these suppositions are negatived
(1) by the fact that Jehoshaphat asks Ahab to "inquire at the word of Jehovah," and
(2) that these prophets profess to speak in the name and by the Spirit of Jehovah (1 Kings 22:11, 1 Kings 22:12, 1 Kings 22:24). Moreover
(3) Ahab would hardly have insulted Jehoshaphat by bringing the prophets of Baal or Astarte before him (Waterland in Wordsworth).
And yet that they were not true prophets of the Lord, or of the" sons of the prophets," appears
(1) from 1 Kings 22:7, where Jehoshaphat asks for a "prophet of the Lord;" and
(2) from 1 Kings 22:20 sqq; where Micaiah disclaims them, and is found in direct opposition to them. The only conclusion open to us, consequently—and it is now generally adopted—is that they were the priests of the high places of Bethel and Dan, the successors of those whom Jeroboam had introduced into the priestly office. It need cause us no surprise to find these priests here described as "prophets" (of. Jeremiah 22:13; Ezekiel 13:1), and as claiming prophetic gifts, for the priests of Baal bore the same name (1Ki 18:19, 1 Kings 18:22, etc.), and apparently pretended to similar powers. "No ancient people considered any cultus complete without a class of men through whom the god might be questioned" (Bähr). The existence of so large a number of prophets of the calves proves that the inroads of idolatry had by no means destroyed the calf worship. If its priests were so many, its worshippers cannot have been few], and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-Gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord [אֲדֹנָי It is very significant that at first they hesitate to use the ineffable name. It was probably this circumstance excited Jehoshaphat's suspicions. It has been said that the reason why he was dissatisfied with this answer is unexplained; hut when we remember how careful the true prophet was to speak in the name of Jehovah (1 Kings 14:7; 1 Kings 17:1,1Ki 17:14; 1 Kings 20:13, 1 Kings 20:14, 1 Kings 20:28), we can hardly doubt that it was their mention of "Adonai "occasioned his misgivings. The chronicler gives the word as Elohim] shall deliver it [LXX. διδοὺς δώσει, shall surely give it] into the hand of the king.
1 Kings 22:7
And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord [Heb. Jehovah] besides [i.e; in addition to these soi-disant prophets. He hardly likes to say bluntly that he cannot regard them as inspired, but at the same time hints clearly that he cannot be satisfied as to their mission and authority], that we might inquire of him?
1 Kings 22:8
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man [Cf. 1 Kings 18:22], Micaiah [The name ( = Who is like Jehovah?) is as appropriate to the man who bore it as Elijah's name was to him (1 Kings 17:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:39). But it is not an uncommon name in the Old Testament—it is borne by eight different persons. Compare Michael, "Who is like God?"] the son of Imlah [The chronicler writes the name Imla, יִמְלָא], by whom we may inquire of the Lord [Ahab evidently had wished Jehoshaphat to understand that the prophets already consulted were prophets of Jehovah, as no doubt they claimed to be. One of them bore a name in which the sacred Jah formed a part]: but I hate [שְׂנֵאתִי (cf. odi), have learned to hate] him [Ahab had good reasons for not caring to consult a man whom he had put into prison (see 1 Kings 18:26, and compare Matthew 14:3), because of his reproofs or unwelcome predictions. Josephus, and Jewish writers generally, identify Micaiah with the nameless prophet of 1Ki 21:1-29 :42]; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil [The chronicler adds כָל־יָמָיו; i.e; persistently, throughout his whole career. Ahab insinuates that Micaiah is actuated by personal dislike. The commentators refer to Homer. I1. 4; 106-108.] And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. [He does not mean that the prophet cannot say just what he will, but suggests that Ahab is prejudiced against him. Perhaps he suspected that there might be a very different reason for Micaiah's sinister predictions.]
1 Kings 22:9
Then the king of Israel caned an officer [Heb. one eunuch. So the LXX; εὐνοῦχον ἕνα. So that Samuel's forebodings have been realized Probably, like Ebed Melech, the Ethiopian (Jeremiah 38:7), he was a foreigner; possibly a prisoner of war (Herod. 3:49; 6:32). Deuteronomy 23:1 suggests that even such a king as Ahab would hardly inflict this humiliation upon an Israelite. From 1 Chronicles 28:1, Hebrews, we gather that even David's court had its eunuchs, and we may be sure that Solomon's enormous harem could not be maintained without them. In later days we find them prominent in the history, and occupying important positions under the king (2Ki 8:6; 2 Kings 9:32; 2 Kings 23:11; 2 Kings 25:19; Jeremiah 29:2; Jeremiah 34:19; Jeremiah 52:25, etc. Cf. Genesis 37:36)], and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of.
1 Kings 22:10
And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne ["Oriental kings had portable thrones, which they took with them upon their journeys" Rawlinson], having put on their robes [As a council of state was to be held, the kings put on their official vestments. בְּגָדִים simply means "coverings," "clothes," but that the special royal dress is here intended is clear, as Bähr observes, from Le 1 Kings 21:10. This gathering of prophets and counsellors seems to have followed the banquet. When Jehoshaphat expressed his readiness to go to war, Ahab appears to have forthwith convened this assembly, in order that the matter might be put in train at once. Ewald says a review of the troops was designed, but of this the text knows nothing] in a void place [Heb. a threshing-floor. See note on 1 Kings 21:1. The "floor" implies not only a vacant space, but an exalted position. Ordinarily, it would not be enclosed within the city walls, nor does it appear that this floor was] in the entrance [The Hebrew has no preposition; simply פֶּתַח which would be more correctly rendered "at the entrance." The town gate was the great place of concourse (2 Kings 7:1). Here, too, justice was dispensed. See Ruth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2; 2 Samuel 19:8; Psalms 69:12; Psalms 127:5; Deuteronomy 21:19; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 23:10; Amos 5:12, Amos 5:15, etc.] of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. [They continued their prophesyings even whilst Micah was being summoned. Or the reference may be to the prophesyings of verse 6.
1 Kings 22:11
And Zedekiah [This name = "Justice of Jehovah," is one of the proofs that these cannot have been prophets of Baal, as Stanley and others suppose] the son of Chenaanah [= "Canaanitess." But we gather from 1 Chronicles 7:10 that this, like Shelomith, was a man's name. The Benjamite there mentioned may be identical with the father (or ancestor) of Zedekiah] made him [Rawlinson would translate, had made him," He says that the horns must have "been made previously, in expectation of some such occasion as that now afforded him." But it is quite conceivable that during the prophesyings, which clearly lasted some time, the idea occurred to Zedekiah, and it would not take long to put it into execution] horns of Iron [Thenius understands that these were iron spikes held on the forehead. But the reference is clearly to the horns of a bullock, and the appropriateness of the prophetic act is only manifest when we remember that Ephraim is compared to a bullock (Deuteronomy 33:17), and more, that Moses spake beforehand of the strength of his horns, and predicted that with them he should "push the people together to the ends of the earth." Not only, that is to say, was the horn a familiar Oriental symbol of power (1Sa 2:1, 1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 89:24; Psalms 92:10; Daniel 7:21; Daniel 8:8, etc.), but it was identified in a peculiar manner with the powerful tribe of Ephraim; in ether words, with the kingdom of Israel This symbolical act was not necessarily an imitation of the action of Ahijah (1 Kings 11:30). Such acted parables were not uncommon among the prophets (2 Kings 13:15; Isaiah 20:2; Jeremiah 13:1; Jeremiah 19:10; Jeremiah 32:9 sqq.; Ezekiel 4:5.; Acts 21:11)]: and he said, Thus saith the Lord [Heb. Jehovah. He now uses the sacred name; no doubt because of Jehoshaphat's demand, verse 7], With these shalt thou push [the word of Deuteronomy 33:17] the Syrians, until thou have consumed then.
1 Kings 22:12
And all the prophets prophesied [Heb. were prophesying] so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-Gilead, and prosper [a Hebraism for "thou wilt prosper." Gesenius, Gram. § 127. 2, cites parallels in Genesis 42:18; Proverbs 20:13; Psalms 37:27; Job 22:21; Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 29:9, and reminds us that in the Latin divide et impera we have the same idiom]: for the Lord tall speak in His name now, hoping thus to satisfy the king of Judah] shall deliver it into the king's hand.
1 Kings 22:13
And the messenger that was gone [or went] to call Micaiah, spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth [Heb. one mouth good to the king. The messenger may possibly have had instructions to seek to conciliate Micaiah. In any case he thinks it well to tell him of the unanimity of the prophets. His testimony, he suggests, will surely agree with theirs]: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good of the [Heb. speak good.]
1 Kings 22:14
And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. [We are forcibly reminded of the answer of Balaam, Numbers 22:18, Numbers 22:38. And we may see not only in the suggestion of this messenger, but also in Ahab's belief (Numbers 22:8), that Micaiah could prophesy at pleasure, a striking correspondence with the ideas of Balak (ib. Numbers 5:6, Numbers 5:17). Instead of regarding the prophet as being merely the mouthpiece of Deity, he was believed in that age to have a supernatural influence with God, and to be entrusted with magical powers to shape the future, as well as to foretell it.]
1 Kings 22:15
So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-Gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? [Same words as in 1 Kings 22:6. There is an apparent studied fairness in this repetition. It is as if Ahab said, "Despite his prejudice against me, I will not attempt to influence his mind. I only deal with him as with the rest."] And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. [As Ahab's inquiry is the echo of the question of 1 Kings 22:6, so is Micaiah's response identical with the answer of the prophets. He simply echoes their words, of which, perhaps, he has been informed by the eunuch. There was an exquisite propriety in this. The question was insincere; the reply was ironical (cf. 1 Kings 18:27). Ahab is answered "according to the multitude of his idols" (Ezekiel 14:4). He wishes to be deceived, and he is deceived. No doubt Micaiah's mocking tone showed that his words were ironical; but Ahab's hollow tone had already proved to Micaiah that he was insincere; that he did not care to know the will of the Lord, and wanted prophets who would speak to him smooth things and prophesy deceits (Isaiah 30:10).]
1 Kings 22:16
And the king said unto him How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord? [Rawlinson concludes from these words that "this mocking manner was familiar to Micaiah, who had used it in some former dealing with the Israelite monarch." But we must remember that Ahab's words were really addressed to Jehoshaphat. He is so manifestly playing a part, that we need not assume that he is strictly truthful. His great desire evidently is to discredit Micah's predictions, which he clearly perceives, from the bitter and ironical tone of the latter, will be adverse to him.]
1 Kings 22:17
And he said [We may imagine how entire was the change of tone. He now speaks with profound seriousness. Thenius sees in the peculiarity and originality of this vision a proof of the historical truth of this history. "We feel that we are gradually drawing nearer to the times of the later prophets. It is a vision which might rank amongst those of Isaiah or Ezekiel" (Stanley)], I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. [The last words are illustrated by the command of verse 31; compare verse 36. We may also picture the effect these words would have on the assembly at the city gate. For, however much they might be inclined to discredit Micaiah's words, and however much the reckless, unreasoning war spirit might possess them, there were none who did not understand that this vision portended the dispersion of the Israelite army and the death of its leader. King and people had been constantly represented under the figure of shepherd and sheep, and notably by Moses himself, who had used these very words, "sheep without a shepherd" (Numbers 27:17; cf. Psalms 78:70, Psalms 78:71; Isaiah 44:28; Jeremiah 23:1, Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:1-26.34.31, passim). It is observable that Micaiah's vision, like Zedekiah's parable, borrows the language of the Pentateuch. Coincidences of this remote character are the most powerful proofs that the Pentateuch was then written.]
1 Kings 22:18
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would [Heb. say to thee, He will, etc.] prophesy no good concerning me but evil? [It is clear that Ahab had understood perfectly the purport of Micaiah's words. He now appeals to them as a proof of the latter's malice.]
1 Kings 22:19
And he said, Hear thou [in 2 Chronicles 18:18, Hear ye] therefore [The LXX. has οὐχ οὕτως, whence it would almost appear that they had the text לא כֵן before them (Bähr). But לָכֵן is every way to be preferred. It is emphatic by position, and the meaning is, "Since you will have it that my words are prompted by malice, hear the message I have for you," etc.] the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord [It is not implied (Wordsworth) that he had any direct and objective vision of God, such as Moses (Exodus 34:5), Elijah, or St. Stephen. He here declares what he may have seen in dream or trance. (Cf. Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:1.) It was a real but inner vision (Keil). In its interpretation the caution of Peter Martyr is carefully to be borne in mind; Omnia haec dicuntur ἀνθρωποπαθῶς] sitting on his throne [It was natural for some of the commentators to see in these words a reference to the two kings then sitting in their royal apparel, each upon his throne. But it is very doubtful whether any such thought was present in the mind of the speaker, who, imply relates a vision of the past], and all the host of heaven [The celestial powers, cherubim, angels, archangels, who surround the Lord of glory. That there can be no reference to the sun, moon, and stars, notwithstanding that these are called "the host of heaven" in Deuteronomy 4:19, Deuteronomy 17:3, is clear from the next words. The expression is to be explained by Genesis 32:1, Genesis 32:2] standing by him [עָלָיו; for the meaning, see Genesis 18:8] on his right hand and on his left. [The resemblance of this vision to that of Isaiah (1 Kings 6:1-11.6.8) must not be overlooked.]
1 Kings 22:20
And the Lord said, Who shall persuade [Same word in Exodus 22:16, Hebrews; Judges 14:15; Judges 16:5; Proverbs 1:10, etc.; in all of which instances it is translated "entice." Compare with this question that of Isaiah 6:8.] Ahab, that he may go up and fan at Ramoth-Gilead? [The meaning is that Ahab's death in battle had been decreed in the counsels of God, and that the Divine Wisdom had devised means for accomplishing His purpose.] And one said on this manner, and another said [Heb. saying] on that manner. [Bähr again quotes from Peter Martyr: "Innuit varies providentiae Dei modos, quibus decreta sua ad exitum perducit," and adds that in this vision "inner and spiritual processes are regarded as real phenomena, nay, even as persons."]
1 Kings 22:21
And there came forth a spirit [Heb. the spirit. By some, especially of the earlier commentators, understood of the evil spirit. But the view now generally adopted (Thenius, Keil, Bähr) is that "the spirit of prophecy" is meant, "the power which, going forth from God and taking possession of a man, makes him a prophet (1 Samuel 10:6, 1Sa 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20, 1 Samuel 19:23). The נָביא is the אִישׁ הָרוּחַ (Hosea 9:7)" Bähr. This power is here personified], and stood before the Lord, and said, I [emphatic in the Hebrew] will persuade [or entice] him.
1 Kings 22:22
And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? [Heb. By what?] And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit [Heb. a spirit of a lie. Cf. Zechariah 13:2; 1 John 4:6] in the mouth of all his prophets. [His prophets, not God's. Cf. 2 Kings 3:13.] And he said, Thou shalt persuade him. and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
1 Kings 22:23
Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth Of all these thy [Cf. ὁ οἷκος ὑμῶν, Matthew 23:38] prophets [This statement, especially to those who have taken the narrative literally, and who have seen in "the spirit" either one of the angels of God, or Satan himself, has presented almost insuperable difficulties. The main difficulty lies in the fact that the Almighty and All Holy is here made to give His sanction to deceit and lying, for the purpose of tempting Ahab to his death. We have precisely the same difficulty, though, if possible, more directly expressed in Ezekiel 14:9 : "If the prophet be deceived… I the Lord have deceived that prophet." Cf. Jeremiah 20:7; 1 Samuel 16:15. But this difficulty vanishes if we remember that this is euthropopathic language, and is merely meant to convey that God had "taken the house of Israel in their own heart," because they were "estranged from Him through their idols" (Ezekiel 14:5). Ahab wished to be guided by false prophets, and the justice of God decreed that he should be guided by them to his ruin. Sin is punished by sin. "God proves His holiness most of all by this, that He punishes evil by evil, and destroys it by itself" (Bähr). Ahab had chosen lying instead of truth: by lying—according to the lex talionis—he should be destroyed. The difficulty, in fact, is that of the permission of evil in the world; of the use of existent evil by God to accomplish His purposes of good], and the Lord [not I alone, 1 Samuel 16:18] hath spoken [i.e; decreed] evil concerning thee.
1 Kings 22:24
But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah [Rawlinson holds that he was a sort of coryphaeus of the false prophets. It is more probable that, having put himself forward on a former occasion (1 Kings 22:11), he now feels specially aggrieved at Micaiah's blunt assertion, that he and the rest have been possessed by a spirit of lies] went near, and smote Micaiah [A thoroughly natural touch. But the whole narrative has every mark of naturalness and veracity. It is easy to see how enraged Zedekiah would be at the slight cast upon his prophetic powers. Apparently this gross indignity elicited no protest or word of displeasure from either of the kings. Micaiah, like Elijah, was left alone], on the cheek [cf. Job 16:10; Lamentations 3:30; Luke 6:29; and above all Matthew 26:67; Luke 22:64; Acts 23:2. Herein Micaiah had "the fellowship of sufferings" (Philippians 3:10) with our blessed Lord. Rawlinson thinks that his hands would be bound, but this is extremely improbable. In that case Ahab could hardly have asked him to prophesy (Acts 23:15), or if he did, Jehoshaphat would know beforehand what to expect], and said, Which way [Heb. What, or where. The chronicler supplies "way," thereby bringing the expression into unison with 1 Kings 13:12; 2 Kings 3:8; Job 38:24] went [Heb. passed, crossed, עָבַר] the Spirit of the Lord [These words are important, as showing that the speaker had not identified "the spirit" of verse 21 with the evil spirit: Job 1:6 sqq.] from me to speak unto thee? [It is pretty clear from these words, in connexion with verse 23, that Zedekiah had been conscious of an inspiration, of a spirit not his own, which impelled him to speak and act as he did. We must not attach too much import-ante to a taunting and passionate speech, but its meaning appears to be: I have spoken in the name and by the spirit of Jehovah. Thou claimest to have done the same. How is it that the Spirit of God speaks one thing by me, another by thee? Thou hast seen (Job 1:19) the secret counsels of Heaven. Tell us, then, which way, etc.
1 Kings 22:25
And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see [Keil understands, "that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from thee." But the meaning rather appears to be, "Thou shalt see which was a true prophet." He does not answer the insolent question, but says," Thou wilt alter thy mind in the day," etc. With this may be compared our Lord's words, Matthew 26:64. He also manifests our Lord's spirit (1 Peter 2:22 sqq.) "as if the Great Example had already appeared before him" (Bähr)] in that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber [see note on 1 Kings 20:30] to hide thyself. [When was this prediction fulfilled? Probably when the news of the defeat reached Samaria, or on the day after Ahab's death. Jezebel would almost certainly take summary vengeance upon the false prophets who were responsible for her husband's death and the reverses of the army. Or if she did not, the prophets had good reason to fear that she would, and would hide accordingly.
1 Kings 22:26
And the king of Israel said, Take [Sing. Take thou. This command was probably addressed to the eunuch mentioned in 1 Kings 22:9] Micaiah and carry him back [Heb. make him return. This shows clearly that he had come from prison] unto Amon the governor [שַׂר chief; same word in 1 Kings 4:2; 1 Kings 11:24; 1 Kings 16:9; Genesis 37:36; Genesis 40:9, Genesis 40:22, etc. The "chief of the city" is also mentioned 2 Kings 23:8; cf. Nehemiah 11:9] of the city [who would naturally have charge of the town prison. Probably the prison was in his house. Cf. Genesis 40:3; Jeremiah 37:20], and to Joash the king's son. [Thenius supposes that this prince had been entrusted to Amon for his military education, and refers to 2 Kings 10:1. But in that case he would hardly have been mentioned as associated with him in the charge of so important a prisoner. Whoever Joash was, he was a man in authority. It is curious that we find another prophet, Jeremiah, put into the prison of Malchiah, the son of the king (A.V. the son of Hammelech; same expression as here), Jeremiah 38:6; cf. Jeremiah 36:26. Some have seen in this designation a name of office, and Bähr thinks that "Joash was not probably a son of Ahab, but a prince of the blood." But when we remember what a number of sons Ahab had (2 Kings 10:1), no valid reason can be assigned why Joash should not have been one of them. He may have been billeted upon Amon, and yet associated with him in the government of the city.]
1 Kings 22:27
And say [Heb. thou shalt say], Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison [Heb. house of the prison. Bähr thinks that Micaiah had formerly been in arrest under Amon's charge, and now was to be committed to the prison proper. But more probably the words mean, "put him in the prison again." His superadded punishment was to be in the shape of prison diet. It is probable that it was owing to the presence of Jehoshaphat that Micaiah escaped with no severer sentence], and feed him with bread of affliction [or oppression, לָחַץ pressit; cf. Exodus 3:9; Numbers 22:25; 2 Kings 6:32], and with water of affliction [Josephus (Ant. 8.15. 4) relates that after Micaiah's prediction the king was in great suspense and fear, until Zedekiah deliberately smote him, in order to show that he was powerless to avenge an injury as the man of God did (1 Kings 13:4), and therefore no true prophet. This may be an "empty Rabbinical tradition" (Bähr), but we may be sure that Ahab did not hear Micaiah's words unmoved. He had had such convincing proofs of the foresight and powers of the Lord's prophets that he may well have trembled, even as he put on a bold front, and sent Micaiah back to the prison house], until I come in peace. [This looks like an effort to encourage himself and those around him. But it almost betrays his misgivings. He would have them think he had no fears.
1 Kings 22:28
And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people [Rather, O nations. Audite, populi crones, Vulgate. He appeals, so to speak, to the world], every one of you. [It is a curious circumstance that these same words are found at the beginning of the prophecy of Micah (1 Kings 1:2). The coincidence may be purely accidental, or the words may have been borrowed by the prophet, not, indeed, from our historian, but from some record, the substance of which is embodied in this history. Micah lived about a century and a half after Micaiah; about a century before the Book of Kings was given to the world.
1 Kings 22:29
So the king of Israel and Jehoshapat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-Gilead to battle. ["By the very network of evil counsel which he has woven for himself is the king of Israel led to his ruin" (Stanley). We can hardly doubt that Jehoshaphat at least would have been well content to abandon the expedition. After the solicitude he had manifested for the sanction of one of the prophets of Jehovah, and after that the one who had been consulted had predicted the defeat of the army, the king of Judah must have had re,my misgivings. But it is not difficult to understand why, notwithstanding his fears, he did not draw back. For, in the first place, he had committed himself to the war by the rash and positive promise of 1 Kings 22:4. In the next place, he was Ahab's guest, and had been sumptuously entertained by him, and it would therefore require some moral courage to extricate himself from the toils in which he was entangled. Moreover he would have subjected himself to the imputation of cowardice had he deserted his ally because of a prophecy which threatened the latter with death. The people around him, again, including perhaps his own retinue, were possessed with the spirit of battle, and treated the prophecy of Micaiah with contempt, and it would be difficult for him to swim alone against the current. It is probable, too, that he discounted the portentous words of Micaiah on account of the long. standing quarrel between him and Ahab. And, finally, we must remember that his own interests were threatened by Syria, and he may well have feared trouble from that quarter in case this war were abandoned. Rawlinson suggests that he may have conceived a personal affection for Ahab; but 2 Chronicles 19:2 affords but slender ground for this conclusion.]
1 Kings 22:30
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoahaphat [At Ramoth-Gilead, on the eve of the battle], I will disguise himself." [same word 1 Kings 20:38] and enter [The margin," when he was to disguise himself," etc; is quite mistaken. The Hebrew has two infinitives; lit; to disguise oneself and enter; a construction which is frequently employed to indicate an absolute command. Cf. Genesis 17:10; Exodus 20:8; Isaiah 14:31; and see Ewald, 828 c. "The infinitive absolute is the plainest and simplest form of the voluntative for exclamations" (Bähr). It agrees well with the excitement under which Ahab was doubtless labouring] into the battle. [It is not necessary to suppose with Ewald, Rawlinson, el; that he had heard of Ben-hadad's command to his captain, (verse 81). It is hardly likely that such intelligence could be brought by spies, and there would be no deserters from the Syrian army to that of the Jews. It is enough to remember that Micaiah's words, "these have no master," could not fail to awaken come alarm in his bosom, especially when connected with the prophecy of 1 Kings 20:42. He will not betray his fear by keeping out of the fray—which, indeed, he could not do without abdicating one of the principal functions of the king (1 Samuel 8:20), and without exposing himself to the charge of cowardice; but under the circumstances he thinks it imprudent to take the lead of the army, as kings were wont to do (2 Samuel 1:10), in his royal robes. He hopes by his disguise to escape all clanger]: but put thou on thy robes [LXX. τὸν ἱματισμόν μου. "My robed" "We can neither imagine Ahab's asking nor Jehoshaphat's consenting to such a procedure. Jehoshaphat had his own royal robes with him, as appears from 1 Kings 20:10" (Rawlinson). If this LXX. interpretation could be maintained it would lend some colour to the supposition, otherwise destitute of basis, that Ahab by this arrangement was plotting the death of Jehoshaphat in order that he might incorporate Judah into his own kingdom. It is clear, however, that Ahab then had other work on his hands, and it is doubtful whether even he was capable of such a pitch of villainy. What he means is, either
(1) that the Syrians have a personal enmity against himself (verse 81), whereas they could have none against the king of Judah; or
(2) that Jehoshaphat's life had not been threatened as his own had. "These words וְאַתָּה לְּבשׁ are not to be taken as a command, but simply in this sense: Thou canst put on thy royal dress, since there is no necessity for thee to take any such precautions as I have to take" (Keil). Do they not rather mean that Jehoshaphat should be the recognized leader of the army in which Ahab would serve in a more private capacity?] And the king of Israel disguised himself and went into the battle.
1 Kings 22:31
But the king of Syria commanded [rather, had commanded. These words are of the nature of a parenthesis. "Now the king," etc. צִוָּה is so rendered in 2 Chronicles 18:30] his thirty and two captains [mentioned in 1 Kings 20:24. It does not follow, however (Wordsworth), that these very men had been spared by Ahab] that had rule over his chariots [Heb. chariotry. Another indication that the chariots were regarded as the most important arm of the Syrian service], saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel. [This Orientalism, translated into Western ideas, means, "Direct your weapons against the king." What Ahab had done to provoke such resentment is not quite clear. Rawlinson supposes that Ben-hadad's "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." But it is impossible to see in Ahab's generous conduct towards him a sufficient reason for the fierce hatred which these words disclose. It is much more probable that some affront had subsequently been offered to the Syrian monarch, possibly in the shape of the reproaches which Ahab may have addressed to him on account of his retention of Ramoth-Gilead, and the gross violation of the treaty of 1 Kings 20:34. It is also possible that he hoped that the death of Ahab would terminate the war (Bähr).]
1 Kings 22:32
And it came to pass when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely [אַךְ, not only (Bähr, Keil), but certainly; cf. Genesis 44:28; Judges 3:24; 2 Kings 24:3] it [Heb. he] is the king of Israel. And they turned aside [Cf. 1 Kings 20:39, same word. The Hebrew inserts עָלָיו. The chronicler reads יָסֹבוּ they surrounded him, instead of יָסֻרוּ; and the LXX. has ἐκύκλωσεν, in both places. But the Syrians can hardly have actually closed round the king, and the alteration might easily be made in the course of transcription] to fight against him [according to their instructions]: and Jehoshaphat cried out. [This cry has been very variously interpreted. According to some, it was his own name that he ejaculated, which is possible, if the command of 1 Kings 20:31 was known in the allied army. According to others, it was the battle cry of Judah, which, it is said, would be familiar to the Syrians, and which would rally his own soldiers round him. The Vulgate, no doubt influenced by the words of 2 Chronicles 18:31, "And the Lord helped him, and God moved them to depart from him," interprets, clamavit ad Dominum. That it was a cry for Divine help is the most probable, because it is almost an instinct, especially with a pious soul like Jehoshaphat, to cry to God in the moment of danger. That he had doubts as to whether the course he was pursuing was pleasing to God, would make him all the more ready to cry aloud for mercy the moment he found himself in peril. But it may have been merely a cry of terror. It must be carefully observed that the Scripture does not say that it was this cry led to his being recognized and spared.]
1 Kings 22:33
And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived [in what way we are not told. But Ahab would be known to some of them, 1Ki 20:1-43 :81] that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him
1 Kings 22:34
And a certain man [Heb. a man. It was natural for some of the Rabbins to identify this archer with Naaman—the tradition is found in Josephus. But it is directly contrary to the spirit of the narrative to attempt to identify him. As it was a chance arrow, so it was by an unknown archer] drew a bow at a venture [Heb. in his simplicity, i.e; with no intention of shooting Ahab: not knowing what he was doing. That this is the meaning is clear from the use of the words in 2 Samuel 15:11], and smote the king of Israel between the Joints of the harness [The marg; joints and the breastplate, comes nearer the Hebrew. But it is clear that the rendering joints, notwithstanding that it has the support of Gesenius and others, is a mistaken one. "In the joints" we can understand, but "between the joints and the coat of mail," gives no sense. It is obvious that הַדְּבָקִים like הַשִּׁרְיָן following, must signify, some portion of the armour, and the meaning of the verb דָבַק, adhaesit, leads us to conclude that "the hanging skirt of parallel metal plates—hence the plural"—(Bähr) is intended. The coat of mail only covered the breast and ribs. To this a fringe of movable plates of steel was attached or fastened, hence called דְבָקִים. So Luther, Zwischen den Panzer und Hengel. One is reminded here of the Parthian arrow which wrung from Julian the Apostate the dying confession, "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean." Cf. Psalms 7:13, Psalms 7:14]: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand [or, according to the Chethib, hands. The charioteers of Palestine, like those of Egypt and Assyria, or those of modern Russia, held a rein in each hand. Same expression 2 Kings 9:23. The meaning is "turn round"] and carry me Out of the host; for I am wounded, [Heb. made sick. The king probably felt his wound to be mortal, as a wound in such a part, the abdomen (cf. 2 Samuel 2:23; 2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 20:10), would be Vulgate, graviter vulneratus sum. How far an arrow in such a place could penetrate, we may gather from 2 Kings 9:24; cf. Job 16:13. And he was seemingly anxious that the army should not know it, lest would soon discover it if he remained with the host; he can fight no longer; his wound needs attention; hence this command. It is quite possible that the charioteer, in the din and confusion of battle, may not have observed that his master was wounded. The arrow had not struck any part of the armour.]
1 Kings 22:35
And the battle increased [Heb. went up. Marg. ascended. The tide of warfare rose higher and higher. Both Keil and Bähr think that the image is taken from a swelling river and cite Isaiah 8:7. The object of this verse is to explain how it was that the king's request was not complied with] that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot [Heb. made to stand. LXX. ἠν ἐστηκώς. He was supported in his chariot by some of his servants, and maintained in an erect posture. Chariots were destitute of seats. According to Thenius and Keil, he maintained himself erect, by his own strength. But the word is passive] against the Syrians [Heb. in the face of the Syrians. נֹכַח, coram. His back was not turned to them, as he had desired. The idea that he was in any way fighting against the Syrians is altogether foreign to the text. It is at first sight somewhat difficult to reconcile this statement with the direction given to the charioteer in the preceding verse, and some have been led, though without sufficient warrant, to conclude that Ahab left the field, had he wound bound up, and then returned to take his part in the battle. But the explanation is very simple. As the battle increased, it became impossible to comply with the king's desire. So thick was the fight that retreat was impossible. Hence the wounded king, who would otherwise have sunk down to the bottom of the chariot, had to be "stayed up in the presence of the Syrians." This circumstance may also account for the fact that he died at even. Had it been possible to remove him and staunch his wounds, he might have lingered for some time. As it was, he bled to death. It is not clear, therefore, that "his death was kingly" (Kitto), or that we must concede to Ahab "the credit of right princely fortitude on this occasion" (Rawlinson). He would have left the host could he have done so. It was his set-rants propped up the dying man in his chariot, to encourage the army. What a picture for an artist—the king with the pallor of death spreading over his face, the anxious faces of the attendants, the pool of blood, the sun sinking to the horizon, etc.], and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound [Heb. the blood of the wound poured] into the midst [Heb. bosom; LXX. κόλπον, the hollow part, or "well." The same word is used of the concave part of the altar] of the chariot.
1 Kings 22:36
And there went a proclamation throughout the host [Heb. And the shouting passed over in the camp. Gesenius will have it that רִנָּה must mean a "joyful cry," and would see the cause of joy in the cessation of hostilities and the permission to return home] about the going down of the sun [According to the chronicler (1 Kings 18:34), it was at sunset that the king died. It seems natural, therefore, to connect this shout with his death. But the approach of night would of itself put an end to the battle. It does not appear that Israel had been utterly defeated, or had suffered great loss. But "they had no master"], saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country [or land].
1 Kings 22:37
So the king died [The LXX. makes this to be a part of the proclamation ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν… γῆν ὅτι τέθνηκεν ὁ βασιλεύς, which involves a very slight change in the Hebrew text, כי מת המלךְ instead of וימת המלךְ and gives a better sense. It has already been stated that the king died. Such repetitions however are common in Hebrew, and this reading has almost the look of an emendation] and was brought [Heb. came. The A.V. is against the grammar. As "came" would be a strange word to use of a dead man, it is highly probable that instead of ויבזא we should read ויבואו with the LXX. καὶ ἧλθον] to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria ["with his father," 1 Kings 16:28].
1 Kings 22:38
And one washed the chariot in [or at; Heb. עַל] the pool of Samaria. [Nearly all Eastern cities had their tanks or pools, often outside the city gate. Jerusalem has several of these, and we read of one at Hebron (2 Samuel 14:12) and Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:13). Cf. Song of Solomon 7:4. The Hebrew word בְּרֵכָה is preserved in the modern Arabic Birkeh]; and the dogs [The LXX. has the swine and the dogs. The mention of swine is hardly likely to have been omitted, had it formed part of the original text] licked up his blood [cf. 1 Kings 21:19, note. According to Josephus, the chariot was washed "in the fountain of Jezreel." The alteration would appear to have been made to avoid the difficulty occasioned by the discrepancy between the statement of the text, and that of 1 Kings 21:19], and they washed his armour [So the Chaldaic and the Syriac. But this translation is now abandoned,
(1) because it is contrary .to the usage of the language to make זנֹוֹת the object; and
(2) because that word occurs in the Old Testament only in the sense of harlots (Bähr). The true meaning is that given by the LXX; καὶ αἱ πόρναι ἐλούσαντο. רָחַץdoes not require any object such as "chariot," or "corpse," for it is found in the sense of bathe (intrans.) in Exodus 2:5; Numbers 19:19; Rth 3:1-18 :21; 2 Kings 5:10. Bähr reminds us that harlots are elsewhere associated with dogs (Deuteronomy 23:19; Revelation 22:15). This fact is mentioned as a proof of the just judgment of God. Even if these harlots were not prostitutes devoted to the service of the Phoenician deities, whose cultus Ahab had sought to establish in Israel, still the result of his religious policy had been the spread of prostitution. It is a fine example of the lex tolionis. "He which is filthy, let him be filthy still"]; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake [the reference is to 1 Kings 21:19].
1 Kings 22:39
Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made [So called because it was adorned with ivory. See on 1 Kings 11:1-11.11.43.; and cf. Amos 3:15; Psalms 45:8; Song of Solomon 7:5. Rawlinson cites several passages from Greek and Latin authors to prove that ivory was anciently applied, not only to furniture, but to the doors and walls of houses], and an the cities that he built [Probably Jezreel was one, but we have no information concerning them. The fact that he did build cities, however, is one proof of Ahab's enterprize. He was not weak in all particulars], are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
1 Kings 22:40
So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah ["Whom Jehovah upholds." The name suggests that, notwithstanding his idolatries, Ahab cannot have completely abandoned the worship of the Lord] his son reigned in his stead.
Reign of Jehoshaphat.
1 Kings 22:41
And Jehoahaphat ["Whom Jehovah judges"] the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. [The historian now resumes for a moment the history of Judah, which has dropped out of notice since 1 Kings 15:24, where the accession of Jehoshaphat was mentioned. His reign, which is here described in the briefest possible way, occupies four chapters (17-20.) of 2 Chronicles]
1 Kings 22:42
Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
1 Kings 22:43
And he walked in an the ways of Asa his father [Apart from his alliance with the house of Ahab, and the troubles in which it involved him, his reign was alike pious and prosperous. Like Asa's, it was distinguished by internal reforms, and By signal deliverances from foreign enemies]; he turned not aside from it [as Asa was tempted to do in his old age], doing [Heb. to do] that which was right in the eyes of the Lord: nevertheless the high places were not taken away [Heb. departed not, as in 1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chronicles 15:17; 2 Kings 12:4, Hebrews; 14:4, Hebrews But see 2 Chronicles 18:6. The discrepancy is the exact parallel of that between 1 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 14:3; or between this latter passage and 2 Chronicles 15:17. And the explanation is the same, viz; that an effort was made to remove the high places, which was partially, and only partially, successful]; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places [cf. 1 Kings 3:2].
1 Kings 22:44
And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel. [One great feature of his reign was this: that the hostility which had lasted, even if it sometimes slumbered, between the two kingdoms for seventy years, from the date of their separation to the time of Asa's death, gave way to peace and even alliance. Judah now recognized the division of the kingdom as an accomplished fact, and no longer treated Israel, even theoretically, as in rebellion. It is probable that the marriage of Jehoram and Athaliah was at once the fruit of, and was intended to cement, this good understanding (2 Chronicles 18:1). It is hardly likely (Bähr) that the peace was the result of the union of the two families. From the analogy of 2 Chronicles 19:2; 2 Chronicles 20:37; cf. 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 3:14, we should conclude that the marriage at any rate was ill advised and displeasing to God. Bähr sees in it a step on the part of Jehoshaphat towards realizing the union of the two kingdoms under the supremacy of Judah. He thinks that we cannot otherwise account for this complete change of front.]
1 Kings 22:45
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might [as in 1Ki 15:23, 1 Kings 16:27, etc. It is noticeable that this word is not used of Ahab, notwithstanding his wars and victories] that he showed [see 2 Kings 3:9 sqq.; 2 Chronicles 17:12 sqq. His judicial reforms are hardly referred to here], and how he warred [2 Chronicles 18:1-14.18.34; 2 Chronicles 20:1-14.20.37.], are they not written in the book of he chronicles of the kings of Judah?
1 Kings 22:46
And the remnant of the Sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa [It appears hence that Asa's removal of the religious prostitutes (1 Kings 15:12), like that of the high places, had been but partial], he took [Heb. exterminated] out of the land.
1 Kings 22:47
There was then no king in Edom: a deputy [נִצָב, same word as in 1 Kings 4:7. It is implied that this officer was appointed by the king of Judah (Wordsworth)] was king. [This fact is mentioned to show how it was that Jehoshaphat was able to build a fleet at Ezion-Geber, in the territory of Edom (1 Kings 9:26). That country would seem to have regained its independence very soon after Solomon's death (1 Kings 11:14), but would also appear from the text, and from 2 Kings 8:20, 2 Kings 8:22, to have been again made subject to Judah, probably by Jehoshaphat himself; see 2 Chronicles 17:10, 2 Chronicles 17:11.]
1 Kings 22:48
Jehoshaphat made [The Chethib has עשר ten, obviously a clerical error for עשה made] ships of Tharshish [see note on 1 Kings 10:22] to go to Ophir [In 2 Chronicles 20:36, Tharshish is read for Ophir. Wordsworth holds that two separate fleets are intended, but this is most improbable] for gold [Evidently the great prosperity of his reign had suggested to him the idea of emulating Solomon's naval exploits, and of reviving the commerce of his people with the East]: but they went not [Heb. it went not]: for the ships were broken [Probably they were dashed by a storm against the rocks which "lie in jagged ranges on each side," Stanley] at Ezion-Geber.
1 Kings 22:49
Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants In the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not. [But we are told in 2 Chronicles 20:37 that the ships were broken, according to a prophecy of Eliezer, the son of Dodavah, because Jehoshaphat had joined himself with Ahaziah. The explanation is that the fleet had been built by the two kings conjointly, and manned by the subjects of Jehoshaphat exclusively; and that, after the disaster, Ahaziah proposed either to repair the injured vessels, or to construct a second fleet, which should then be partly manned by sailors of the northern kingdom, "men probably accustomed to the sea, perhaps trained at Tyre" (Rawlinson). This proposal was declined by the king of Judah, not so much on account of the "reflection on his subjects' skill contained in it," as because of the prophecy of Eliezer, and the evidently judicial disaster which had befallen the fleet already built.]
1 Kings 22:50
And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead [2 Chronicles 21:1-14.21.20.]
Reign of Ahaziah.
1 Kings 22:51
Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. [Parts of two years; 2 Kings 3:1; and of. 2 Kings 1:17 and 2 Kings 8:16. It is suggested that Jehoram was associated with his father in the government of Judah from the date of the expedition against Ramoth-Gilead, and this is not improbable. But it has been already remarked that these chronological notices appear to have undergone a revision which has sometimes resulted in confusion.]
1 Kings 22:52
And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father [1 Kings 16:30-11.16.33; cf. 2 Kings 3:2] and in the way of his mother [The powerful influence of Jezebel, even after Ahab's death, is hinted at here. It was to her that idolatry owed its position in Israel], and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [the calf worship and idolatry existed side by side], who made Israel to sin.
1 Kings 22:53
For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger [or vexed] the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done. [The termination of this book at this point could hardly be more arbitrary if it had been made by accident. These verses are closely connected with 2 Kings 2 Kings 1:1-12.1.18. The division here obscures the connexion between the sin of Ahaziah and the judgments which it provoked.]
1 Kings 22:1-11.22.40
The Death of Ahab and the Defeat of Israel.
This chapter is almost entirely occupied with an account of the death of Ahab, and of the circumstances which preceded and attended it. The earlier portion of the chapter, which contains the prophesyings of the false prophets and the vision of Micaiah, is only recorded because of its bearing on the death of the king, and the dispersion of his army.
And the prominence accorded to Ahab's end only corresponds with the space assigned to his reign. That reign was so full of evil for Israel that it occupies a fourth part of this entire book. It was meet, therefore, that the death which avenged it should be recorded with proportionate detail. For the battle of Ramoth-Gilead was the final payment—so far as this world is concerned—for the sins of two and twenty years.
But it is to be observed in the first place that Ahab's repentance (1 Kings 21:29), as the penitence begotten of fear often is, was but shortlived. Had it lasted, we had not read of this tragical death. How soon the king shook off his impressions we know not, but we do know that—thanks to the natural weakness of his character, still further enfeebled by years of self indulgence and submission to a stronger will than his own; thanks to the evil genius (1 Kings 21:25) ever at his side to stifle good resolves and to steel his heart against the true religion; thanks to the impious system to which he found himself committed, and the toils of which he found it impossible to break, this unhappy king steadily lapsed into his old sins. It "happened unto him according to the true proverb, "The dog is turned to his vomit again" (2 Peter 2:22).
And it is also to be considered here that Israel had gone hand in hand with him in his downward course. Had the king's career been one of steadily increasing demoralization? so had that of the people. The death of Naboth affords sufficient proof of this. The ready compliance of the elders, the alacrity with which they perpetrated that judicial murder, shows to what a moral depth the example of the court and the idolatry around them had plunged the holy nation. No; king and queen had not sinned alone, and justice required they should not suffer alone. Nations and their rulers, as we have already seen, receive a reckoning in this life; how much more the covenant people and the Lord's anointed? Placed as they were under a direct law of temporal punishments and rewards, it would have been strange, indeed, if such a reign as this had gone unrecompensed. But so far from that, they have already received part reckoning for their sin. The three years drought, the famine, the terrible Syrian invasions, have avenged a part of their idolatries and immoralities; but there still remains a long score of guilt to be expiated in shame and suffering and blood.
And here it may be well to remind ourselves what were the sins which awaited a settlement under the walls of Ramoth-Gilead. They were five in number.
(1) The calf worship—the hereditary sin of the northern kingdom, the sin of Jeroboam;
(2) the worship of Baal with the prostitution which accompanied it—the sin primarily of Jezebel and her Phoenician following, but shared in by almost the entire nation;
(3) the determined persecution of the prophets and the virtual proscription of the ancient faith;
(4) the release of the Syrian king in disregard of God's will the sin of Ahab and his captains; and
(5) the murder of Naboth in defiance of all law—the sin of the rulers and elders. It may be thought that the two last were peculiarly Ahab's or Jezebel's sins, and that the people had no part in them; but this is a mistaken view. No doubt he and his infamous consort had by far the largest share in all the four, and therefore they received, as we shall see presently, by far the severer punishment. But just as the people worshipped at the shrines which the king supported, just as they practised the abominations which he had introduced, so had they approved his policy towards Ben-hadad—see the words of 1Ki 19:1-21 :42, "thy people for his people"—and the guilt of innocent blood, as we know (Numbers 35:33; Deuteronomy 21:7; 2 Samuel 21:1-10.21.22.) rested on the community until it had been cleansed in blood. It is clear, then, that at the time when this chapter opens, king and people, though in very different degrees, were chargeable with the sins of schism, of idolatry, of unfaithfulness to God, of murder. It is now for us to observe how these things were expiated.
Now there are two principles which underlie all God's retributive dealings with his ancient people. First, that sin is left, or made to bring its own penalties. Per quod quis peccat per idem quoque plectitur idem. Secondly, that the penalty is ever correspondent with the sin. This latter is what we commonly call the lex talionis. We have had instances of the working of both of these laws, but especially of the latter, in the earlier portions of this history. We shall find the same laws in operation here.
I. By what means Ahab was led to death and Israel to defeat.
II. By what instruments these punishments were inflicted.
III. In what way they were signalized as the chastisements of sin.
I. In considering the INFLUENCES which moved Ahab to war, and which led to his destruction, we must assign the first place to—
1. The perfidy of Ben-hadad. No doubt it rankled in Ahab's breast that, after he had dealt so magnanimously with a prostrate foe, after he had treated an insolent invader with unexampled generosity, and after a solemn covenant had been made betwixt them, it rankled in his soul that a Syrian garrison, in spits of all embassies and remonstrances, should hold the Jewish fortress of Ramoth-Gilead and thus offer a standing menace to Israel and Judah alike. But did it never occur to him that the conduct of Ben-hadad was but the counterpart of his own? He too had forgotten his benefactor and deliverer, to whom he was bound by solemn covenant; he still maintained a garrison of idolatrous priests in the heart of Immanuel's land. Ben-hadad's breach of faith was no greater than his own. Probably, he never thought of this when he debated whether he should go up against Ramoth-Gilead. He would remember, however, that he had only himself to blame for this act of perfidy, and he would devoutly wish he had dealt with the oppressor as he had deserved; he would perhaps think that it only served him right for his weakness and sin. We see, however, that he is paid back in his own coin, that the measure he has meted to God is measured to him again. The sin of three years before gave the first impulse to war and death.
2. The lies of the false prophets. It is hardly likely that Ahab would have engaged in this war but for the unanimous verdict of the four hundred prophets in its favour. We see in Micaiah's vision that a "lying spirit" was the principal means employed to procure his fall (verse 22). But what were these prophets, and how came they to prophesy thus? One thing is certain, that they were not prophets of Jehovah, and another thing is also clear, that whether they were prophets of Baal, or, as is most probable, prophets of the calves, the false system which Ahab had supported became through them a means of his destruction. The schism or the idolatry, as the case may be, is bearing its bitter fruit. He has sown to lies, he reaps to delusions. It is a conspicuous instance of the just judgment of heaven that Ahab is lured to his death by the impostors he had cherished and patronized. "He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies." The sin of the calves too brings its own retribution.
But how was it, it is worth asking, that these four hundred sycophants came to, counsel him thus? Was it not that they took their cue from him, and prophesied what they knew would please? They saw that the king had already made up his mind—for his resolution was taken before they were summoned (1 Kings 19:4, 1 Kings 19:5), and they thought it wisest to swim with the stream. It may be they were guided by other and inscrutable impulses (verse 23), and were constrained, they knew not how, to prophesy as they did; it may be they honestly mistook the vox populi for the vox Dei, but probably the working of their minds was this: "The king wishes it. Jehoshaphat assents to it. The people are set upon it. We should be going against common sense and our own interests to resist it."
And so the king was a second time paid in his own coin. Those martial prophecies had been minted in his own brain. He wished for lies and he had them. His own passions and pride were reflected, were echoed, in the voices of his four hundred soothsayers. It is the case of which both sacred and profane history supply so many examples, Homo vult decipi et decipiatur. It is thus God deals with deceivers still. He leaves them to be deceived, to be the prey of their own disordered fancies. It is notorious how men find in the Bible what they wish to find there; how all unsuspectingly they read their own meanings into the words of Scripture; how they interpret its injunctions by the rule of their own inclinations. "He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isaiah 44:20). "Ephraim is joined unto idols: let him alone" (Hosea 4:17).
3. The silence of the Lord's prophets. Why was it, we cannot help asking here, why was it that there were no true prophets present, at this crisis in the history of Israel, to step forth and warn the king against this undertaking? Why were the four hundred deceivers left to have their own way? We see here the fruit of persecution, the recompense of those fierce dragonnades which Jezebel had maintained against the prophetic order. Of the men who might have interposed to prevent this disastrous expedition, some were dead, others were banished; king and queen had wickedly silenced them. They now reap the fruit of those repressive measures. Their curses come home to roost. Elijah might have saved king and country, but he is hiding from the wrath of Jezebel, or is withdrawn by God from the arena of history. Micaiah the son of Imlah foresaw the end, but Ahab had imprisoned him, and could not brook to take his advice, and had persuaded himself that his admonitions were the outcome of personal enmity. It is true this prophet was not silent, but plainly foretold defeat and death; but Ahab was in a manner bound not to regard his warnings. He had told Jehoshaphat it would be so. It would look like cowardice to be influenced by his vaticinations. And so he is left to the prophets of his choice: no hand is raised to stop him: he goes straight into the jaws of death, the victim of his own folly and cruelty and sin.
II. The INSTRUMENTS of retribution were—
1. The king whom Ahab had wickedly spared. We have already seen in what the sin of sparing the tyrant Ben-hadad consisted. It is now for us to observe that this foolish and impious deed brought its own peculiar Nemesis. It was Ben-hadad himself who said, "Fight neither with small nor great, but with the king of Israel only." Ahab's ill-advised clemency procures his own destruction. With base natures, it only needs that we should put them under obligations which they cannot possibly discharge, in order to provoke their bitter enmity. But it is much more material to observe here that in Ben-hadad's conduct we may see a parable of the cruel revenge which a cherished sin will often take on those who have once conquered and then trifled with it. The devil that was cast out returns bringing with him seven other devils more wicked than himself (Matthew 12:45). We are constantly as tender to the sins which tyrannized over us as was Ahab to Ben-hadad. Instead of slaying them—hewing them in pieces before the Lord—we leave the roots of bitterness in the heart's soil, and they spring up and trouble us. It is like that peasant of whom we have all read, who found a viper in the field, benumbed with the winter's cold, and put the venomous beast into his bosom to warm it back into life. The first use it made of its restored power was to wound and destroy its benefactor. How dearly have we often paid for our pleasant vices!
2. The Syrians who were once subjects of Israel. It is well to remember here that these enemies who gave Ahab his death wound at Ramoth were once under the heel of Israel (2 Samuel 8:6). Now we see their relations reversed. Syria has now become the standing oppressor of the chosen people. We have already pointed out some of the steps which led to this result. The sin of Solomon and the unfaithfulness of Asa alike were factors in the change. But the most influential reason was the godlessness of Ahab. But three years ago Syria lay at his mercy; its power was completely broken. But Ahab, so far from learning that the Lord was God (1 Kings 20:13, 1 Kings 20:28), had ignored the Lord, and acted as if his own might had gotten him the victory. How fitting that these same Syrians should be the instruments to scourge him.
3. An unknown, unconscious archer. The arrow that pierced Ahab's corselet was shot "in simplicity," without deliberate aim, with no thought of striking the king. It was an unseen Hand that guided that chance shaft to its destination. It was truly "the arrow of the Lord's vengeance." (Cf. 2 Kings 12:17.) It would be deeply instructive could we know the thoughts of that unhappy king, as with the arrow in his side, and the blood draining from his wound, and forming a sickening pool in the well of the chariot, he was stayed up those wretched weary, hours until the sunset against the Syrians. Surely he knew at last that "the Lord was God" (1Ki 18:39; 1 Kings 20:13, 1 Kings 20:28). His cry would now be, "Thou hast found me, O my enemy." He would think, it may be, of Elijah's and Micaiah's prophecies; he would think of Naboth's bleeding and mangled corpse; he would think, above all, that his sin had found him out, and that Jehovah had conquered. He had fought all his life for Baal, but it was in vain; he had been kicking against the pricks; he had been wrestling not with flesh and blood, but with an Invisible, Irresistible, Omnipotent God, and now he is thrown, east down never to rise again.
III. It now only remains for us to consider the CIRCUMSTANCES of Ahab's death. These were of so portentous and exceptional a character as to mark it—
1. As a direct visitation of God. The army, that clay defeated, the contingent of Judah, the citizens of Samaria, the subjects of both kingdoms, could not think that a mere chance had happened to Ahab when they remembered
(1) That this death had been distinctly foretold. Not once or twice, but three times had a prophetic voice foreshadowed for him a sudden and shameful end (1 Kings 20:42; 1Ki 21:19; 1 Kings 22:17, 1 Kings 22:28). Moreover Micaiah, the last of these monitors, had staked his reputation as God's prophet on the fulfilment of his prediction of disaster. And his oracle had not been spoken in secret; he had appealed to the entire assembly gathered round the two kings—and the flower of Israel and Judah alike were there—and even to neighbouring nations (verse 28, Hebrews), to be witnesses of his words, and those words were fresh in their memories.
(2) How the king met his death. For it was of course known to the army that Ahab had disguised himself, whilst Jehoshaphat had put on his robes. After the sinister prophecy of Micaiah, we may be sure that the allied armies would watch, with the gravest anxiety, for the issue. They would perceive that the king himself was not without his fears; they would wonder whether his disguise would procure his escape. And when at the end of the day they learnt that Jehoshaphat who had been arrayed like a king, and who on that account had been exposed to imminent peril, had escaped unhurt, whilst their king, who had never been recognized, had been pierced by a chance arrow between the joints of his harness and mortally wounded, was there one but would see the finger of God in this death? Surely if the Psalmist's words were then written, they would occur to their minds, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit, and whither shall I flee from thy presence?" etc. (Psalms 139:9-19.139.12), or that other Psalm, "God shall shoot at them with a swift arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded" (Psalms 64:7), and the result would be that all men would fear and declare the work of God (ib. 1 Kings 19:9), and confess that this was His doing. The fugitives who stole away in the dark and black night to their homes, like sheep without a shepherd, would have learnt one lesson at least that clay, viz; that there was a God that judgeth in the earth."
2. As God's appropriate recompense for the sins of that age. We have already seen how this history puts its stamp of reprobation on
(1) the calf worship, inasmuch as by the prophets of the calves the king was beguiled into this enterprize. But the sin of Jeroboam was not the special sin of Ahab's reign. On the contrary, the calf worship was rather overshadowed and eclipsed by the frightful idolatries, which had so much greater fascination for the evil heart of unbelief. It was the characteristic of that reign that the unclean rites of Baal and Astarte, the abominations of the Amorites, were re-established in the land. We see in Ahab's death
(2) the requital of his share in that sin (1 Kings 16:31, 1 Kings 16:32). The idolatry which had desolated the church was avenged by a horde of idolaters ravaging the land and slaying the arch-idolater in battle. There is a rough lex talionis here. (Cf. Jeremiah 5:19.) If they would have idolatry they should taste the tender mercies of idolaters. On that field were the predictions of Moses (Deuteronomy 28:25), Samuel (1 Samuel 12:25), and Solomon (1 Kings 8:33) fulfilled.
(3) But a recompense still more exact and conspicuous attended the impurities which Ahab had practised under the name of religion. He had filled the land with prostitutes. What a proof of the just judgment of God it was that these infamous persons added dishonour to his death! He had maintained them through life: he should be associated with them in his end. The harlots bathed in the pool that was reddened with his blood (verses 38, Hebrews)
(4) Nor was the connexion of Ahab's death with the sin of releasing Ben-hadad any less conspicuous. What meant that strange malignant command, "Fight… only with the king of Israel?" Was it not that the Syrian king, on whom Ahab would not execute vengeance, had become, in the counsels of God, an instrument of vengeance, a minister to execute wrath, against the anointed of the Lord? "Thy life shall go for his life"—it was thus that every religious mind would interpret so singular and, considering the circumstances (1 Kings 20:1-11.20.43.), so otherwise inexplicable a word of command. It was as if Ben-hadad had proclaimed that his mission primarily was to settle the long arrearages of justice with that wicked Ahab.
(5) How the murder of Naboth was avenged that shameful day, it is hardly necessary to point out. There was a strict retaliation—wound for wound, stripe for stripe, blood for blood, dishonour for dishonour. There were many, besides Jehu and Bidkar, who would recall the fierce threatening of the Tishbite (1 Kings 21:19); many, besides priests and prophets, would remember the axiom of their law, "blood defileth the land," etc. (Numbers 35:33), or would think on that day of the so-called "precept of Noah," "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6). The elders of Jezreel, yes, and Jezebel herself, understood that Naboth's blood had cried from the ground, and that the cry had come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. It was His foot that was dipped in the blood of His enemies (Psalms 68:28).
And this ignominious death—in what sharp contrast it stands with the indolent, luxurious, sensual life! "The ivory house that he made," what an irony we may see in those words! "Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar ....
He shall be buried with the burial of an ass," etc. (Jeremiah 22:15, Jeremiah 22:19). The cities he built, the victories he won, how poor and empty do these exploits seem as we stand by the pool of Samaria, and see the livid, blood-stained corpse dragged from the chariot! The Latin poet asks what all his pleasures, travels, knowledge, can avail a man who has to die after all; but the question presents itself with tenfold force when life's fitful fever is followed by such a sleep, by such a dream, as Ahab's. "It had been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24).
And the death of Ahab was followed by the dispersion of his army. When the proclamation rang through the host, "Every man to his country," and when the sensed ranks precipitately broke up, and horseman and footman fled for his life, then the share of Israel in the sins of Ahab and Jezebel was in part expiated. There was not a man but knew why "the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies." "There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel." (Joshua 7:12, Joshua 7:13). Baal had troubled them, had made of the heights of Ramoth very valley of Achor.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
1 Kings 22:1-11.22.8
According to the order of the chapters in the LXX; which is probably the original or true order, 1 Kings 20:1-11.20.43. should immediately precede this. Then, after the history of the war between Ahab and Ben-hadad, this chapter opens naturally: "And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel." In the third year of this peace Jehoshaphat visited Ahab; and from this visit arose serious events, which are admonitory to us that we should avoid the company of the wicked.
I. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES CHARACTER.
1. It injures morals.
(1) The earlier career of Jehoshaphat was faultless. He is highly commended for his faithfulness to God and zeal against idolatry (2 Chronicles 17:1-14.17.6).
(2) His first fault was sanctioning the marriage of his son Jehoram with Athaliah the daughter of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18, 2 Kings 8:26).
(3) This led the way to the further fault of that friendly visit to Ahab mentioned here, for which he was rebuked by "Jehu the son of Hanani the seer" (2 Chronicles 19:2).
(4) Yet once again we find him falling into a similar snare. He agreed with Ahaziah the son of Ahab, a wicked scion of wicked house, jointly to equip a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Bed Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. In this also he incurred the anger of the Lord and suffered the loss of his fleet (verse 48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-14.20.37). Note: A fault is like a seed, fruitful "after its kind." A fault once committed prepares the way for a repetition.
2. It damages reputation.
(1) Reputation is character as estimated by men. This estimate may or may not be just; for men may judge wrongly through ignorance of circumstances which would put a new complexion upon conduct. Therefore judgments should be charitable, and not too hastily formed.
(2) But it is a maxim among men, generally true, that "you may know a man by his friends." Friendships involve sympathies. It had been better for Jehoshaphat's reputation had he never made affinity with the wicked house of Ahab.
(3) This principle will apply to books. Hence the kindred maxim, "You may see a man in his library." It is bad enough when the newspaper shuts up the Bible; it is worse when the Bible is neglected through preference for sensational fictitious literature.
3. It impairs influence.
(1) This follows. Character is influence. Reputation is influence. Advice will be readily received from a genuine man, which coming from an artificial character would be spurned.
(2) What a power for good or evil is moral influence! See the evil exemplified in Israel under Ahab and Jezebel. See the good in Judah under Jehoshaphat. Lessons: Let your character be true. Jealously guard your reputation. Look to these for the sake of your influence.
II. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES HAPPINESS. Because—
1. Happiness is involved in character.
(1) This truth is abundantly illustrated in sacred history. Examples are furnished in the text. Secular history teaches this truth. Everyday experience evinces it.
(2) Yet is it difficult so to convince individuals of this as to lead them to abandon sin and throw their energies wholly into the blessed service of God. Happiness is proportionate to the completeness of consecration. This consecration cannot be reconciled with the friendship of the world (James 4:4).
2. Goodness is grieved in it.
(1) Jehoshaphat was not long in the company of Ahab before his ear was offended by horrible words. "I hate him." Whom did Ahab hate? Micaiah, the faithful prophet of the Lord. Does not this look like a declaration of hatred against the Lord? (See Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Zechariah 2:8.)
(2) Why does Ahab hate Micaiah? "For he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." Because he does not falsify the truth of God to flatter me. Because he does not play the devil to please me, as these four hundred do! Note: Hatred to God means love to Satan.
(3) Such sentiments were distressing to the feelings of Jehoshaphat. To the revulsion of his righteous soul he gave expression (but too feeble) in the remonstrance, "Let not the king say so." The conversation of such as are in sympathy with evil will offend the good in proportion to their pureness.
3. It leads the most wary into trouble. For the persuasions of the wicked are subtle.
(1) In presence of Jehoshaphat "The king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?" It was a considerable city in the tribe of Gad on the other side Jordan, and one of the cities of refuge. It was one of the cities which Ben-hadad, by the letter of his covenant, was bound to restore (see 1 Kings 20:34). The cause of Israel was obviously just.
(2) Then turning to Jehoshaphat, Ahab said, "Wilt thou go with me to battle at Ramoth-Gilead?" To which, carried away with the obvious justice of the cause, Jehoshaphat responded, "I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses." This was too strong a compliment to Ahab and his people, and the response was too ready. We may not champion every just cause. It may be wrong to champion a good cause in wicked company.
(3) Bethinking himself, as a godly man should do, "Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord." A good man seeks to take God with him, and so long as he abides in this holy company he is safe. But let him beware that he be not persuaded by the wicked to forsake it.
(4) Ahab was equal to the occasion. He had four hundred prophets ready with one mouth to pronounce for the war, and that, too, in the name of the Lord. This hireling company, however, did not satisfy Jehoshaphat, yet he fell into their snare. He should have availed himself of the opportunity to withdraw given him in the prophecy of Micaiah; but, under the spell of Ahab's evil influence, he went to the battle and got into trouble. There is no safety in the company of the wicked.
4. It provokes judgments of God.
(1) The good partake in the plagues of their wicked associates. Jehoshaphat barely escaped, through the mercy of God, with his life; and he suffered the loss of many of his people (see Revelation 18:4). The fly that keeps aloof is not entangled in the spider's web.
(2) The good incur Divine judgments for their own sin. The sin of friendship with the enemies of God. The sin such friendship must infallibly occasion. Such was the experience of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chronicles 19:2). Such will be yours. Avoid it.—J.A.M.
1 Kings 22:9-11.22.14
The False and the True.
There would be no counterfeit coin if there were no sterling; so neither would there be false prophets if there were no true. Because there are both, their qualities have to be tested, that we may refuse the spurious and value the genuine (see Jeremiah 23:38). To this end let us consider—
I. TESTS WHICH MAY NOT BE TRUSTED.
1. The test of profession.
(1) Ahab's prophets "prophesied." That is to say
(a) They used modes usual with prophets to procure information from Heaven. These were sacrifice, prayer, music (see 1Sa 10:5, 1 Samuel 10:6; 2 Kings 3:15), and, when time permitted, fasting.
(b) They used modes usual with prophets to communicate the information when received. "Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them" (cf. Jeremiah 27:2; Jer 28:1-17 :18). The "horn" was the symbol of a king (see Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12). These were "two," to represent Ahab and Jehoshaphat, Israel and Judah. They were of "iron" to express strength (see Daniel 2:40). The prophecy was that, aided by Jehoshaphat, Ahab should push the Syrians to destruction.
(2) They prophesied "in the name of the Lord." Some think because their number corresponded to that of the prophets of Ashere (1 Kings 18:19) these were the same, having escaped when the prophets of Baal were slain at the brook Kishon (1 Kings 18:40). If so, then their profession on this occasion was designed to deceive Jehoshaphat (see Jeremiah 23:30).
(3) Anyhow there was profession enough, but it was hollow, and proved conclusively that profession must not be taken as a test of truth.
2. The test of numbers.
(1) Here were "four hundred" who prophesied professedly in the name of the Lord. Against this number Micaiah the son of Imlah stands alone; yet the truth of God is with him against the multitude. "Truth is not always to be determined by the poll. It is net numbers, but weight, that must carry it in the council of prophets" (Bishop Hall).
(2) This instance does not stand alone. The majority was in the wrong against Noah. Elijah was in the minority on Carmel, but he was right. Jesus had the whole Jewish Church against Him, though He was Truth itself.
3. The test of unanimity.
(1) The four hundred were united against Micaiah. Sometimes there is unanimity of this kind against a common object, where otherwise there is little agreement. Herod and Pilate made friends in opposition to Jesus.
(2) But these prophets were agreed among themselves. They all seem to have followed the leadership of Zedekiah. "And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-Gilead, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hand."
4. How does this argument bear upon the authority of the Church?
(1) It is pleaded that the Church, which is practically understood to be the clergy in council, has authority to bind the conscience in matters of faith. The arguments relied upon to sustain this view are generally based upon claims of profession, numbers, and agreement.
(2) On the other hand, the. definition of the Church is questioned, and the claims are refused as insufficient for their purpose, since by them Ahab's prophets might prove themselves true!
II. TESTS WHICH MAY BE TRUSTED.
1. The witnesses should be honest.
(1) Ahab's prophets were interested in their testimony. They enjoyed the patronage of the king, and they said what they knew would gratify him. Their testimony, therefore, is open to suspicion.
(2) Micaiah, on the contrary, had nothing to gain, but everything to lose, in taking his course. He knew the temper of the king. He was importuned by the king's messenger to concur with the king's prophets. He had already suffered for his faithfulness, for he seems to have been brought from the custody of Amen, in whose prison he had probably lain for three years. By flattering Ahab he might now obtain release, but by taking an opposite course he could only expect to go back to jail. Probabilities also were against him, for in the last two battles, Ahab, without the aid of Jehoshaphat, worsted the Syrians. Should the king of Israel now "return in peace" what may Micaiah expect?
(3) Nothing but the consciousness that he was uttering the truth of God could account for the son of Imlah deliberately encountering all this. And only upon this ground could he hope for any favour from God. Suspicion, therefore, as to the honesty of Micaiah is out of the question.
(4) But can it be pleaded that the honesty of the ecclesiastics who framed the decrees of councils is beyond suspicion? In decreeing the infallibility of the bishop of Rome, e.g; were they disinterested, when they knew how pleasing to him would be the reputation of such an attribute, and when they knew what patronage and power to injure were vested in his hands?
2. They should have miraculous athentication.
(1) It is easy to say, "Thus saith the Lord," but not so espy to evince it. The four hundred could say it, hut they could show no miracle to prove that they spoke from God.
(2) It was otherwise with Micaiah. For, with the Jews, we presume he was that prophet who "prophesied evil concerning Ahab," and authenticated his message by the sign of the lion destroying his fellow for disobedience (cf. 1 Kings 22:8 with 1 Kings 20:35-11.20.43).
(3) Clergy in council may claim Divine authority for their decrees, but unless they can verify their claim by adequate signs they presume when they impose.
3. Their testimony should be agreeable to the word of God.
(1) "Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. The one question for us in these days is this: Is the testimony agreeable to the Bible? This we know by infallible proofs to be the word of God. "But," it is objected, "the Bible needs authoritative interpretation, and who is to interpret but the Church?" To which we may answer, And the Church still more needs authoritative interpretation, and who is to interpret bus the Bible? The authority of the Bible is admitted; that of the Church is in question.
(2) The right of private judgment must be maintained. For the exercise of this right we shall every one of us give account of himself unto God. That ill-defined thing, the Church, cannot release us from this obligation. We cannot put our judgment and conscience into commission.—J.A.M.
1 Kings 22:15-11.22.23
It is evident from the text and from 1 Kings 22:8 that this was not the first time Ahab and Micaiah had met. The Jews suppose, apparently with reason, that Micaiah was that prophet who, when Ahab sent Ben-hadad away with a covenant, said to the king of Israel, "Thus saith the Lord: Because thou hast let go out of thine hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people" (see 1 Kings 20:35-11.20.43). In considering the prophecy of Micaiah now before us, we notice—
I. THAT IT IS PREFACED WITH A SALLY OF IRONY.
1. He answers the king in the words of his prophets.
(1) Cf. 1 Kings 22:6, 1Ki 22:12, 1 Kings 22:15.
(2) These words are equivocal. "The Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king." What king? "The king" may mean either Ahab or Ben-hadad. What? This is not clear; for the word "it" is supplied. Is it Ramoth-Gilead or something else that is to be delivered into the hand of the king (of Israel)? or is it the king of Israel or something else to be delivered into the hand of the king (of Syria)? What kind of prophecy is this?
(3) The utterance of these prophets resembles those of the heathen oracles, the following appropriate samples of which are given by A. Clarke: "The Delphic oracle spoke thus of Croesus, which he understood to his own destruction: 'Croesus, Halym penetrans, magnum subverter opum vim;' which is to say, ' If you march against Cyrus, he will overthrow you,' or 'you will overthrow him.' He trusted in the latter, the former took place. He was deluded, yet the oracle maintained its credit. So in the following: 'Aio te, AEacida, Romanos vincere posse. Ibis redibis hnunquam in bello peribis.' Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, understood by this that he should conquer the Romans, against whom he was making war; but the oracle could be thus translated: 'The Romans shall overcome thee.' He trusted in the former, made unsuccessful war, and was overcome; and yet the juggling priest saved his credit. The latter line is capable of two opposite meanings: 'Thou shalt go, thou shalt return, thou shalt never perish in war,' or, 'Thou shalt go, thou shalt never return, thou shalt perish in war.'"
2. But he repeats those words with significant expression.
(1) The bare repetition, with proper emphasis, of the equivocal words of the false prophets would be a fine stroke of irony. But when to emphasis were added tone, gesture, play of feature, the irony would become very keen.
(2) This sarcasm of Micaiah is worthy to compare with that of Elijah (see 1 Kings 18:27). "Go and prosper." This assurance of thy prophets is vague enough to encourage the confidence of a simpleton!
3. God uses terrible rhetoric in His wrath.
(1) Irony and sarcasm are fitting weapons to be wielded against those who have neither conscience nor reason (see Proverbs 26:3-20.26.5). Ahab was a man of this class. Witness the logic of his hatred (verse 8). He felt the sting (verse 16).
(2) These weapons are formidable in the hands of the Almighty (see Psalms 2:4, Psalms 2:5; Psalms 37:13; Proverbs 1:24-20.1.32; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Malachi 2:17 and Malachi 3:1; Romans 2:1-45.2.9).
II. THAT IT COMPARES FAVOURABLY WITH THAT OF HIS COMPETITORS.
1. Its burden is the reverse of equivocal.
(1) There is in sacred prophecy a double sense, but the sound is certain. It is not a dubiousness but a manifoldness of meaning, a development, an evolution, such as we find in a seed that opens first into the blade, then into the ear, and eventually into the full corn in the ear.
(2) This prophecy of Micaiah gave a distinct answer to the question of Ahab (verse 13). The advice was to forbear. These "sheep." The sheep is not a creature fitted for battle. They have "no shepherd." Their king, deserted by the Spirit of God, has not the qualities of a shepherd. Therefore "Let them return every man to his house in peace."
(3) But the advice contains a prophecy. It is to this effect: their king who ought to be their shepherd, shall fall at Ramoth-Gilead, and his people shall be like sheep, "scattered upon the mountains" by the power of the enemy (compare Zechariah 13:7).
2. The vision shows that all worlds are under Divine control.
(1) "I saw the Lord sitting on his throne." Here was a comparison with the scene before him, described verse 10. Ahab and Jehoshaphat are enthroned as kings on the earth; but there is a King in the heavens immeasurably above them.
(2) "And all the host of heaven standing by him on the right hand and on the, left." The host of heaven stood while Jehovah sat. They awaited His commands. Those on His "right hand" probably to render services of benevolence; those on His "left," services of judgment.
(3) Then comes in another kind of agency (verses 20-23). This scene is analogous to that described in the Book of Job (see Job 1:6; Job 2:7). Things in heaven, things in earth, things under the earth, all serve the purposes of Divine Providence (see Job 12:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:11,2 Thessalonians 2:12; Revelation 20:7, Revelation 20:8).
(4) The waywardness of Ahab showed how fully he was under the control of the spirit of falsehood. This is seen in his senseless resentment against Micaiah. Turning to Jehoshaphat, he said, "Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?" as if Micaiah's own utterances could control the providence of God. Then turning to his officers he had Micaiah marched back to the prison where Ahab knew he could find him (cf. verse 8 with verses 26, 27). Let us give due heed to the more sure word of prophecy.—J.A.M.
1 Kings 22:24-11.22.29
The Argument of Wickedness.
The Bible is a book of texts because it is a book of types. It does not profess to give full histories, but refers to public records for these (see Jos 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18; 1 Kings 11:41; 1 Chronicles 9:1). Inspiration selects from histories typical or representative incidents to bring out the principles of the grace and truth of God. In the scene before us we have types of wickedness in Zedekiah and Ahab, the one ecclesiastical, the other civil, which may be profitably studied in the arguments they use contending with Micaiah, the representative of the truth of God. These arguments are—
I. RAGE AGAINST THE TRUTH. The reason is obvious, viz; because the truth is the worst that can be said of the wicked.
1. It is the worst that can be said of their character.
(1) It shows up their selfishness. The one object of Ahab was that "good" might be prophesied for him. To gain this he sold himself to his four hundred liars. These liars, to gain the patronage of Ahab, sold their consciences. Because Ahab could not gain flattery from Micaiah, he hated him.
(2) It shows up their folly. For what was the selfishness of Ahab but self-deception? The patronage of liars could not convert falsehood into truth, neither could the persecution of a true man convert truth into falsehood. Zedekiah, in deceiving Ahab, deceived his own soul. All sin is folly.
(3) It evinces their degradation, for it proves them to be the dupes and serfs of infernal spirits. Can degradation go lower?
2. It is the worst that can be said of their doom.
(1) The wicked are to be destroyed in time. Ahab in particular was to fall at Ramoth-Gilead. From that battle he was "not to return in peace." Zedekiah was to "go into an inner chamber to hide himself," as Ben-hadad had done (1 Kings 20:30), and there to meet his fate. While to the righteous death is an entrance to glory, it is the "king of terrors" to the wicked (see 1 Corinthians 15:55-46.15.57). The sting is here:
(2) The wicked are to be destroyed in eternity. The alarm with which the ancients received predictions of maltreatment to their corpses arose from their apprehension that it presaged a posthumous retribution upon the soul. The dogs licking the blood of Ahab would suggest that devils would not only be the instigators but also the instruments of his ruin.
(3) Who can estimate the horrors of damnation? The truth will prove to be the worst that can be said of the lost. Is it wonderful, then, that the wicked should abhor the truth?
3. They are therefore constrained to hypocrisy.
(1) For their own sakes they have to play the hypocrite. They conceal their selfishness and affect generosity, conscious that were their base soul hunger to come honestly to the day, they would become odious. They hide their folly and affect wisdom lest they should suffer contempt.
(2) For the sake of society wicked men are hypocrites. Were they to be honestly known to each other, respect and confidence would be at an end; in fact, society would be impossible. There are no friendships in hell.
II. THE RESENTMENT OF VIOLENCE.
1. The logic of the wicked is weak.
(1) Zedekiah's speech was pertinacious: "Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?" He assumed what Micaiah had not conceded, that he ever had the Spirit of the Lord. Micaiah had declared him, on the contrary, to have been influenced by a "spirit" of a very different description. Zedekiah also denied what he should have disproved, viz; that Micaiah had the Spirit of the Lord.
(2) Ahab wanted a prophet of the God of truth to tell lies to please him. He found four hundred to tell him lies, professedly in the name of the Lord. But the one honest man who told him the truth he imprisoned, because the truth did not please him. Yet the truth was what he adjured him to tell. What reason is there in all this?
(3) What sinner is there in our day who can clear himself of folly? (See Pro 13:19; 1 Corinthians 3:19.)
2. The strength of the wicked is tyranny.
(1) The reason of Zedekiah was in his fist (1 Kings 22:24). "Which way?" From the fist to the cheek? The coward us d this argument with a council of four hundred ecclesiastics about him, and the civil power in reserve. So was Jesus insulted (see Matthew 26:57-40.26.68). So were the Protestant confessors. False prophets have ever been the worst enemies of the true. Micaiah did not return the blow, but referred the decision to God. True prophets wield other than carnal weapons.
(2) The reason of Ahab was in his bribes and prisons. Micaiah could not be cajoled as the four hundred were, therefore "the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, carry him back unto Amen the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son, and say, Thus saith the king, put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction, and with water of affliction, until I come in peace."
(3) But truth is not vanquished thus. How confident was Ahab that he should "come in peace"! And this is that Ahab who three or four years before so sagaciously said to Ben-hadad, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." Persistency in sin does not sharpen men's wits. Time vindicates truth. To this vindicator Micaiah called the attention of the people (1 Kings 22:29).
(4) But where was Jehoshaphat? He was silent when he should have spoken for the prophet of God. See the influence of bad company. "So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-Gilead." Alas, Jehoshaphat!—J.A.M.
1 Kings 22:30-11.22.38
Lessons of the Battle.
After disposing of Micaiah by sending him to prison with hard fare as the reward of his faithfulness, Ahab and Jehoshaphat gathered their forces and set out together to fight for the recovery of Ramoth-Gilead. The events of the day show—
I. THAT PROPHECY MAY TEND TO ITS OWN FULFILMENT.
1. Micaiah's words influenced Ahab's conduct.
(1) Though Ahab had imprisoned the prophet he could not shake off the influence of his prophecy. So with a view to obviating its effect he proposed to disguise himself. He speaks of himself in the third person (1 Kings 22:30), thus (אדנים), "He will [strip] disguise himself'—a form of speech, perhaps, considered suitable to an action in which he was to appear as a third person. To complete the deception, if we follow the LXX; he induced Jehoshaphat to put on his (Ahab's) robes.
(a) Note the subtlety of the wicked. Ahab's proposal to Jehoshaphat was ostensibly to give him the post of honour in commanding the army. This, too, may have suggested the use of the third person in speaking of himself. Ahab's real purpose was to divert from himself the fury of the battle; and probably he hoped Jehoshaphat might be slain. In that case his son-in-law would succeed to the throne of Judah, and he might be able so to manage him as to serve his own purposes.
(b) In all this we see the danger of bad company. We see it likewise in the sad fact that Jehoshaphat should become a party to a contrivance to falsify the word of God!
(2) But how useless are disguises when the providence of Omniscience is concerned! Ahab might hide himself from the Syrians, but he could not hide himself from God. Neither could he hide himself from angels and devils, who are instruments of Divine Providence, ever influencing men, and even natural laws, or forces of nature. Note: No disguise will avail to evade the scrutiny and retributions of the judgment day.
(3) Yet by his disguise Ahab, unwittingly, helped the prophecy. "The king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel." Suppose Ahab had been in Jehoshaphat's place, and had fallen into the hands of the captains, what would have become of the words of Elijah? (See 1 Kings 21:19.) But as things worked out these words became literally true.
2. They also influenced the conduct of the Syrians.
(1) The Syrians would be aware of the prophecy of Micaiah dooming Ahab to fall at Ramoth-Gilead. For in a country about the size of North Wales, Samaria being distant from Ramoth-Gilead only thirty miles, the news of this public meeting of kings and contest of prophets could not be a secret. Ahab would facilitate the publication of the encouragement he had from the four hundred, to strike terror into the Syrians; but where the news of his encouragement went the words of Micaiah also would travel.
(2) Probably this intelligence determined the Syrians to "fight only against the king of Israel," in which they would have the God of Israel with them, the formidableness of whose hostility they had experienced in the last two battles (compare 2 Chronicles 35:21, 2 Chronicles 35:22). To this Jehoshaphat probably was indebted for the sparing of his life, for "God moved the Syrians to depart from him" (see 2 Chronicles 18:31). And probably they were influenced by it to agree to the proclamation to disband, when the death of Ahab became known (cf. 1 Kings 22:17, 1 Kings 22:36).
3. Note a remarkable illustration of this principle in the zeal of Jehu in exterminating the house of Ahab (see 2 Kings 9:25, 2 Kings 9:26; 2Ki 10:10, 2 Kings 10:11, 2 Kings 10:16, 2 Kings 10:17). Those who are "looking for," are thereby "hastening the coming of the day of God" (see 2 Peter 3:12).
II. THAT NEVERTHELESS THE HAND OF GOD IS IN IT.
1. This was evident in the case of Ahab. The purpose of Ben-hadad, should Ahab have fallen into his hands, is not recorded. Would he return Ahab's compliment of releasing him with a covenant? Would he show Ahab how he ought to have treated him?
(2) But God had other means than the captains of Ben-hadad to accomplish His purpose. A man drew a bow at a venture (marg. "in his simplicity") and smote the king of Israel between the joints and harness." A simpleton brings clown a king! (See Proverbs 1:32.) God guided the arrow to the opening in the joints of the armour, as He guided the pebble from the sling of David into the frontals of Goliath. No armour is proof against the shafts of Divine vengeance.
(3) The hand of God also was seen in the sequel. The prophecies of Elijah and Micaiah seem to be in conflict. The one speaks of the dogs licking the blood of Ahab at" Samaria;" the other of Ahab falling at "Ramoth-Gilead." Who but God could so order events that there should be no conflict here? "The blood ran out of the wound into the midst (Heb. bosom) of the chariot;" perhaps more correctly, "into the bosom of the charioteer," on which the king leaned. "And one washed the chariot;" or rather, "And the driver washed himself in the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked his blood" i.e; the blood of Ahab which fell from the bosom of the driver. "And the things they washed." For זנות denotes the several kinds of things, being derived from זן, a kind or species. Before the person and things defiled with blood were permitted to enter the city, they were to be washed; and the dogs licked up the blood that fell from the driver's bosom, and off the things, as they lay to be washed (see Psalms 68:28).
(4) But were not the words of Elijah "In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth" (viz; Jezreel) "shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine '? But in the context there, the vineyard of Naboth is said to be in Samaria (see 1 Kings 21:18, 1 Kings 21:19), because Jezreel, like Bethel, was one of the "cities of Samaria" (see 1 Kings 13:32). In the very vineyard of Naboth did the blood of Ahab flow from the veins of his son (see 2 Kings 9:25, 2 Kings 9:26). The providence that accomplished is no less admirable than the omniscience that predicted.
2. This was also evident in the case of Jehoshaphat.
(1) Micaiah did not say that the king of Judah should fall at Ramoth-Gilead; but his prophecy did intimate that he would be of little use to the army. The word (אדנים) in 1 Kings 22:17 rendered "master" is plural, and evidently associates Jehoshaphat with Ahab. When Ahab was wounded to death and Jehoshaphat had fled for his life, the people had "no masters," so the proclamation soon followed which determined "every man to his house in peace."
(2) Jehoshaphat's danger lay in his being assimilated to Ahab. He should never have said, "I am as thou art" (1 Kings 22:4), then would he not have been persuaded to don Ahab's robes. By the influence of his company Jehoshaphat was becoming morally like him, and therefore was in danger of sharing his miserable fate (see Proverbs 13:20).
(3) To avoid this danger he had to become himself again. "He cried out" [to Jehovah] (see 2Ch 18:1-34 :81); and thus was discovered to the captains, who would expect to hear Ahab cry rather to Baal. The hand of God was evident in his deliverance; and this he might read as a parable assuring him that his future safety must lie in his renouncing evil companions and returning to the piety of his earlier years.—J.A.M.
1 Kings 22:39, 1 Kings 22:40, 1 Kings 22:51-11.22.53
After the account of Ahab's death and burial, and of the manner in which the dogs of Samaria fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah, the earlier verses of our text follow. In the first of these the reader is referred to the archives of the nation for an account of the "rest of the Ac" and works of this monarch, viz; those to which inspiration was not here specially directed. In the second, the succession of Ahaziah is mentioned. With these verses, because of the unity of the subject, we associate the three verses referring to the reign of Ahaziah, with which the chapter closes. Taking the latter first in order, we see—
I. THAT AHAB SURVIVED IN AHAZIAH.
1. This was legally true.
(1) "So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead." In law, a man is said to "live in his heirs." He is never legally dead while he has an heir. There is a good reason for this. Ahaziah would never have mounted the throne of Israel unless his father had been there before him. He reigned in the posthumous influence of Ahab. His representative.
(2) When a man is what is called "the architect of his own fortune," he is said to have had "no father." But in this language the fact is ignored that, under Providence, this "architect" is indebted to his ancestry for his existence, for his faculties, and for the circumstances which he may have seized and moulded into this "fortune."
2. It was also morally true.
(1) In Ahaziah the vices of Ahab were reproduced. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father." The bad example of his father wrought its influence into his character, and thus Ahab survived in Ahaziah.
(2) The record descends to particulars. "He walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother." Here not only is Jezebel reproduced in Ahaziah, but Ahab's sin in marrying Jezebel also survives. "And in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." Here is not only the posthumous influence of Jeroboam, but also of the sin of Ahab in perpetuating it. "For he served Baal, and worshipped him." The establishment of this Canaanitish abomination was due to Ahab and Jezebel, and they infamously survive in its perpetuation.
(a) A Church is not the more true for being established. Here were two State Churches which were, in the Biblical sense, atheistic.
(b) For concurrent endowment, whatever may be said for its expediency, there can be no moral defence.
3. But there was no necessity for this.
(1) Legal representation is an accident over which we have no control. It is a notable truth that men have influences in spite of themselves, and that these also are posthumous.
(2) But moral representation is in a different category. Ahaziah might have reigned in Ahab's stead without imitating his vices. "Jehoram the son of Ahab," e.g; "wrought evil in the sight of the Lord; but not like his father, and like his mother; for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made" (2 Kings 3:2).
(3) Ahaziah should have been admonished by the history of the judgments of God upon the house of Jeroboam. He should have taken the warning given in the judgments of God on the sins of his father. His guilt, therefore, was upon his own head, and he suffered accordingly. He reigned two years. God makes short work with some sinners. His death was provoked by his perversity (see 2 Kings 1:3, 2 Kings 1:4). We see further—
II. THAT AHAB SURVIVES IN HISTORY.
1. He survived in secular history. His acts and works were written in the chronicles of his nation.
(1) Amongst these were mentioned "all the cities that he built." Perhaps this building of cities simply meant the construction of fortifications for their defence. Whether they reflected credit or discredit upon his memory we cannot pronounce. A man may do a great deal of work to very little profit.
(2) The chronicles mentioned "the ivory house which he made." This palace had its description probably from the quantity of that valuable substance used in its ornamentation. But this does not seem to have been to his honour. A kingdom impoverished through famines, wars, and idolatries was in no position to bear the cost of such a piece of luxurious and selfish vanity. Amos accordingly denounces this work of pride (Amos 3:15).
(3) The survival of Ahab in secular history was a consequence of his social position. The masons and carpenters, whose skill brought the works of Ahab to perfection, had no mention there. Social status is a talent from God, for the right use of which men are accountable.
2. He survives in sacred history.
(1) The sacred history consists of selections from the secular under the guiding influence of Divine inspiration, with a view to illustrating the principles of the providence, truth, and grace of God. To illustrate such principles is the noblest end of writing. So of reading. What quantities of trash, in which the claims of God are ignored, is both written and read!
(2) In these selections the notices of the wicked are generally brief. Perhaps no wicked man has a larger share of the sacred writings occupied with his acts than Ahab. Such acts are not agreeable to the Spirit of God. But in the hands of inspiration they are made an influence for good. They are recorded, apparently, because of their relation to the actions of prophets and good men. They are made to serve as a dark background to show up to admiration virtuous qualities, and to be made themselves odious in the contrast. The principles of the wicked should only be studied to be shunned. So God brings good out of evil.
(3) The sacred records have survived the secular. "The book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" has long since perished. The sacred records have come down to our times. In these, after a lapse of nearly thirty centuries, Ahab survives. But for these his name would not be known. Note
(a) the Providence which has preserved the Scriptures evinces their Divine authenticity.
(b) Things are permanent as they stand related to the everlasting God.
(c) The posthumous influence points to the immortality of man.—J.A.M.
1 Kings 22:41-11.22.50
These words give a summary of the life of this king of Judah, and faithfully record, as the Scriptures do to admiration, the good and the bad, as these will be considered in the judgment of the great day. Consider—
I. THE PRAISE OF JEHOSHAPHAT.
1. He came of a good stock.
(1) He was "of the house and lineage of David." The traditions of that house were in many respects a glorious inheritance. David was a "man after God's own heart." In no instance was he found inclining to idolatry.
(2) He was the son of Asa. Of his mother we have this significant mention: "And his mother's name was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in the ways of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord." This suggests the healthiness of his mothers moral influence. The reference here to Asa, too, is highly honourable.
(3) The blessing of pious parents is inestimable. It works beneficially in example, in precept, in solicitude. This last is most effectual in prayer to God. Those who are favoured with godly parents should praise God evermore. Wicked children of pious parents are doubly culpable.
2. He improved his advantages.
(1) He "walked in the ways of Asa his father." These were ways of righteousness. Let the children of godly parents now ask themselves whether they walk in the good ways of their ancestors.
(2) He "turned not aside from it. He showed no favour to idolatry. The note which follows is no impeachment of the truth of this statement: "Nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places." The high places that Jehoshaphat spared were those in which the true God was worshipped in accordance with the usage of patriarchal times (see 2 Chronicles 33:17).
(3) He went farther than Asa in the work of reformation:—"The remnant of the Sodomites which remained in the days of Asa his father he took out of the land." The parallel place to this in the Chronicles is: "And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and the groves (אשרים) out of Judah" (2 Chronicles 17:6; 2 Chronicles 19:8). By removing the Sodomites we understand that he demolished their shrines, their Asherim, their instruments of pollution. When the nests are destroyed the rooks fly.
3. This was to his praise.
(1) Others, similarly placed, failed to make this good use of their advantages. Jehoram, his own son, may be mentioned in sad contrast to him. Several of his ancestors had scandalously departed from the godly ways of their father David. Men will be justified or condemned in the light of such comparisons in the last great day (see Luke 11:31, Luke 11:32).
(2) God rewarded him with prosperity (2 Chronicles 17:4, 2 Chronicles 17:5). He had an army—probably an enrolled militia—of 1,100,000 men. The Philistines, Arabians, and Edomites were subject to him. The note here, that "there was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king," which prefaces the account of his fleet at Ezion-Geber, was designed to explain how Jehoshaphat was able to have a fleet at a port which belonged to Edom (see 1 Kings 9:26), viz; because he appointed the viceroy in Edom which was tributary to him (see Genesis 27:29, Genesis 27:37; 2 Samuel 8:14).
II. THE BLAME OF JEHOSHAPHAT. This seems all to have been connected with the "peace" which he made "with the king of Israel." It appears to have commenced with—
1. The marriage of his son.
(1) Jehoram, the eldest son of Jehoshaphat, and with his consent, took Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, to be his wife. Jehoshaphat's heart was lifted up with the abundance of his "riches and honour," and "joined affinity with Ahab" (see 2 Chronicles 18:1). tie became too great to be content with an humble match for his son, and sacrificed godliness to grandeur. He has many imitators in this.
(2) Unequal yoking has ever been prolific in mischief. Athaliah inherited the evil spirit of both her parents, and she led away the heart of Jehoram from God to his ruin. The object of this marriage was to build up the house of Jehoshaphat, but it well-nigh proved its ruin (see 2 Chronicles 22:10, 2 Chronicles 22:11). God is the builder of families (see 2 Samuel 7:11, 2Sa 7:27; 1 Kings 2:24; 1 Kings 11:38; Psalms 127:1).
2. His friendship with Ahab.
(1) This evil grew out of the marriage. The peace between Israel and Judah, which in the abstract was a benefit, was probably a condition of the marriage. But the friendship between Jehoshaphat and Ahab which followed, was too intimate for the good of the king of Judah's soul
(2) Evils beget evils. This friendship led to Jehosha. plat helping Ahab in his war against Syria, and had nearly cost Jehoshaphat his life. It also sullied his reputation, for he was persuaded into it by Ahab against the voice of Micaiah. This friendship exposed Jehoshaphat to the reproof of the prophet Jehu (2 Chronicles 19:2).
3. His friendship with Ahaziah.
(1) This son of Ahab was no more a companion fit for Jehoshaphat than Ahab. For Ahaziah "walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done."
(2) Yet Jehoshaphat formed a trade alliance with Ahaziah. They jointly fitted out a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Red Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. But for this God rebuked him, and "the ships were broken" in the port (see 2 Chronicles 20:35-14.20.37). Let no money consideration, no gold of Ophir, induce godly young men to enter into trade partnerships with the ungodly.
(3) This judgment of God had a salutary effect upon Jehoshaphat. For when Ahaziah would renew the attempt at Ezion-Geber, Jehoshaphat declined (1 Kings 22:49). Let us be careful never to repeat a blunder.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
1 Kings 22:1-11.22.28
Crime brings its own punishment.
I. THE WICKED RUSH UPON DESTRUCTION.
1. Ahab provokes the war in which he himself will perish. The peace which had lasted so long might have continued. Every day it was prolonged was a day placed between him and death; and yet with his own hand he brings to an end the period of grace. How often are the calamities of the wicked invoked by themselves, and are the fruit of their own rashness!
2. It came as the prompting of the deepest wisdom. Jehoshaphat's presence afforded the opportunity of forming a league to which success seemed certain. The selfish cunning of the sinful becomes a snare to them.
3. He closes his ear against God's deterring counsel.
(1) When asked to inquire of God, he brings those only who will speak the things that accord with his own determination. The false prophets are called, but not the true.
(2) When compelled to bring Micaiah from the prison (see 1 Kings 22:26, "carry him back unto Amon," etc.), he endeavours to prevent Jehoshaphat being moved by his words. Micaiah is his enemy, therefore a prophecy of good is not to be expected from him.
(3) When warned he will not be hindered, but defies God, who would save him, by insulting and persecuting His servant (1 Kings 22:27).
II. THE FALSE PROPHETS.
1. They bind the cords which are leading a sinful soul to death. The word which they profess to speak for God is a word which it pleases the king to hear. It is the echo of his own desires (1 Kings 22:6). There are those who by voice and pen proclaim a new gospel It is no longer sought to lead up the world to God and thus reconcile it to Him. It is boldly declared that the reconciliation is already effected. God has come down to it. There is no anger and no threatening and no terrible shadow of judgment. There is nothing but goodness and love. They are the false prophets of today, and these do for the men of their generation what those did for Ahab.
2. Their blasphemy. When a prophet of Jehovah was asked for (1 Kings 22:7), they who have hitherto spoken only of Adonai do not scruple to take the name of the Highest into their lips (1 Kings 22:11, 1 Kings 22:12). We do not escape the false prophets when we appeal from their speech concerning the God of nature to His revealed will, the word of the Lord. They meet us there. It is in vain we seek to rest upon the plainest words; they are explained away. Hell is a superstitious dream, and the cross of the disciples of Christ a mere figure of speech, with no hard, stern reality behind it.
3. They are possessed by a spirit of falsehood (1 Kings 22:21-11.22.23). Their position is more a punishment of past sin than conscious transgression. They speak with honesty of a sort, but it is out of their heart's darkness. They were willing to be deceived, and they have been deceived. They did not wish to know God as He is, and they have been left with the god of their own imagination. In which school are we, that of the false prophets, or of the true?
4. They smite the true servants of God. Zedekiah's blow preceded the king's judgment. It proved nothing but his own soul's distance from God. It was the act of a man provoked by zeal for his own honour. He who had been moved by zeal for God's honour would have stood in silent awe of that terrible but certain judgment which the man was braving.
III. THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD.
1. In a corrupt court his is no welcome presence (1 Kings 22:8). The distance between Ahab and God was reflected in that which separated him from the speaker of God's word. Continued faithfulness, if it may not win, must be repelled and hated. "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you; for so," etc.
2. The necessity laid on him to declare the whole counsel of God (1 Kings 22:14). He cannot turn to the right hand or the left; the world's wealth cannot bribe him, its power and cruelty cannot terrify him. What king or people desire to hear, or courtly prophets or current creeds have said, weighs nothing with him. He cannot speak in God's name aught save what God has said.
3. His message. He speaks first in easily discerned irony (1 Kings 22:15, 1 Kings 22:16). It was an intimation to the king that he desired to hear no prophecy that would run counter to his inclinations. Then, when he is solemnly appealed to, a picture is presented (1 Kings 22:17) of the smitten, shepherdless people, which might well have touched even Ahab's heart. Next king and people are led up to the throne of God. The servant and his words are forgotten in the revelation of his Master. Even the false prophet's utterances are turned to account; they and the reliance which the king is placing on them are part fulfilment of the Divine vengeance. There was deeper tenderness and truer love for Ahab in that one breast than in all the four hundred.
4. The greatness of all true service for God. There is a glory about that despised, persecuted man before which that of both kings pales. It is a glory which nothing can tear from the loyal heart, and which shines the brighter amid the world's darkening hate. It is a glory which may be our own.—U.
1 Kings 22:29-11.22.40
The Certainty of God's Threatenings.
I. AHAB'S ATTEMPT TO ELUDE THE DIVINE VENGEANCE.
1. His apprehension of coming evil. If Micaiah's words were not the words of God, why should he take precautions? His heart gives the lie to his own unbelief; the words cling to him. The bold refusal to listen to God's word is no assurance that the soul will not afterwards be shaken by a fearful looking for of judgment.
2. His ungenerousness (1 Kings 22:30). "I will disguise myself; but put thou on thy robes." The effect of the counsel was necessarily to concentrate the enemy's attention upon Jehoshaphat. Sin not only makes a man a coward, it robs him of nobleness.
3. The immediate effect of Ahab's stratagem. Ben-hadad's arrangements for the capture or slaughter of Ahab were rendered of no avail. The captains could not find the man they sought. A momentary success often attends the plans of those who endeavour to flee from God.
4. The chance shot. The success of Ahab's device only served to make the blow come more plainly from the hand of God. Ben-hadad's purpose could be baffled, but not His. There is no escape from God.
II. THE FULFILMENT OF GOD'S WORD.
1. He fell at Ramoth Gilead (1 Kings 22:20).
2. "Israel was scattered upon the hills," and the command was given to return (1 Kings 22:17, 1 Kings 22:36).
3. The dogs licked Ahab's blood (1 Kings 21:19), not in Jezreel, indeed, because the judgment then pronounced was that of the overthrow of the dynasty. This was delayed on account of Ahab's repentance, and happened, as predicted, "is his son's days" (1 Kings 21:29). But the personal part of the prediction, "The dogs shall lick thy blood, even thine," was not revoked. There are prophecies both of evil and of good, within the range of which we set ourselves. God's words are touching us, and will likewise be literally fulfilled.—U.
1 Kings 22:41-11.22.53
Two Life Stories.
1. He prolonged the good influence of his father's reign. Judah's thought was still kept under the light of truth, and its life more fully led into the ways of God: he completed his father's reforms (1 Kings 22:46). The continuance of God s work anywhere is as important as the origination of it.
2. He was consistent. "He turned not aside from it." He did not merely begin well; over his whole reign there rested the Divine approval; he did "that which was right in the eyes of the Lord." The life which is ever sinning, repenting, forgetting, achieves nothing. It is like a plant uprooted and planted again, to be again uprooted, etc; and which, even should its life be preserved, will never bear fruit. It is like "a backsliding heifer," and with such a life the great Husbandman's work cannot be carried on.
3. There was failure as well as success in his career. "Nevertheless the high places were not taken away." tie had endeavoured to remove them (2 Chronicles 17:6). But "the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places." The mightiest efforts in the great warfare with darkness leave something for other hands to do, and must till He come who alone can perfect all things.
4. He sought to be at peace with his brethren (1 Kings 22:44). He went further in this, indeed, than he ought to have done (2 Chronicles 19:2), but the desire for peace was laudable.
5. He humbled himself under God's rebuke (compare 1 Kings 22:48, 1 Kings 22:49 with 2 Chronicles 20:35-14.20.37). At first he had been beguiled into.fellowship with the idolatrous king of Israel without reflecting upon the danger which lay in it for himself and his people. But when God had manifested His displeasure, nothing could make him renew the confederacy. The judgment might mistake, but the heart was loyal to God.
1. A sinful life. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord." With such a life there was no possibility of blessing for his people. The roots of his usefulness were destroyed. To do, we must first of all become. Our work cannot rise above the level of our life.
2. A disastrous policy (1 Kings 22:52, 1 Kings 22:53). He continued the work of Israel's destruction. The departure made by Jeroboam and perfected by Ahab and Jezebel, he accepted in its full rejection of Jehovah. He did not go beyond them, he simply did "according to all that his father had done," but in doing this his sin was of the deepest dye. His father had been judged, but God was still braved, and Israel was led still nearer to destruction. We may only continue what others have begun; but if we pay no heed to the proofs of God's anger, and take no thought of the inevitable results of the policy we pursue, our persistence may be one of the deepest crimes against God and man.—U.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
1 Kings 22:34
The Pierced Armour.
This occurred during the third campaign of Ben-hadad against Israel. Micaiah had forewarned Ahab against the danger he incurred, and was cast into prison for his pains. The warning was, however, taken sufficiently to heart to induce the king to disguise himself. Describe the expedient adopted, and its remarkable failure. Ahab was in many respects a typical sinner. He was an idolater, a persecutor, impenitent, though sometimes touched; and in the plenitude of power he fell. We see here—
I. A MAN ARMED AGAINST GOD. True he was fighting against the Syrians, but as he girded on his armour he remembered and defied the words of the prophet. His ominous prophecy should not be fulfilled, he would yet come back safe and victorious to put Macaiah to death, and with this determination he put Jehoshaphat in command, and clad himself with proof armour. In spirit, therefore, he was fighting not only against the hosts of Syria, but against the word of God. Hence let us depict one who is armed against God. Reverse the description St. Paul gives (Ephesians 6:1-49.6.24.) of one armed by God. The impenitent sinner represented by Ahab defends himself.
1. By false hopes (Deuteronomy 29:19, Deuteronomy 29:20). These constitute his "helmet," which wards off true thoughts of self and sin. He blindly trusts in Divine mercy, while sin is unrepented, forgetting that "a God all mercy is a God unjust" (Young). "There is none other name given under heaven whereby we may be saved," etc. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
2. By a hardened heart. This is his "breastplate." A man impenitent is a man lost. Some are;' past feeling," their consciences are "seared as with a hot iron," and God gives them over to their "hardness of heart," and to an "impenitent mind." "Who has hardened himself against God, and prospered?" We may become "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
3. By defiant words. There is a tongue which is set on fire of hell Adduce examples. Ahab defied Micaiah.
4. By an unbelieving mind. The king questioned the truth of the prophet's message. He had more confidence in his own past success and in his military skill than in the declaration of a man who knew something of God but nothing of war. Unbelief ever prevents the inflowing of Divine goodness. Jesus "could do no mighty works because of their unbelief."
5. By a dumb spirit. No asking for pardon, no cry for mercy rose from Ahab's heart, or it would not have proved too late; for the Lord is "not willing that any should perish."
II. A MAN STRICKEN BY GOD. The chance arrow of the Syrian archer fulfilled the Divine purpose.
1. By the arrow of conviction. God's word is sharp and powerful, and pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(1) It may be shot unwittingly, as the archer drew at a venture not knowing what he might hit. Let our words for God be pointed, and be winged by faith, and He will see that they hit the mark.
(2) It may touch the one vulnerable spot. That arrow pierced "between the joints of armour" otherwise proof. So David's stone would have fallen powerless on the greaves or the breastplate of the giant of Garb. God, who knows our hearts, tries every avenue. Through our reason, through our affections, through our conscience, His word seeks to find its way.
2. By the arrow of judgment.
(1) It was foretold (1 Kings 22:28). Ahab ran the risk. So do they who continue in sin after hearing of" a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devout-the adversaries."
(2) It was inevitable. All disguise and precaution were unavailing. The justice of God sooner or later reaches the right man.
(3) It was terrible. The weak, sensuous man, whose promise had sometimes been so fair, fell in a moment from kingship, from life, and from hope. "lie that being reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without often remedy."—A.R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent