So Micaiah declared: "I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, 'These people have no master; let each one return home in peace.'"
Journal that when he was about twenty-two, before he knew by joyous experience the salvation of God, he read Thomas Kempis The Imitation of Christ Christian Pattern, and he began "to see that true religion was seated in the heart, and that God's law extended to all our thoughts, as well as words and actions." He says with brave frankness, "I was, however, very angry with Kempis for being so strict!" This is an illuminating sentence. The sense of guilt recoils in anger from that which exposes our sin.
I. THAT IT IS PREFACED WITH A SALLY OF IRONY.
1. He answers the king in the words of his prophets.
(1) Cf. vers. 6, 12, 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 26:3-5). Ahab was a man of this class. Witness the logic of his hatred (ver. 8). He felt the sting (ver. 16).
(2) These weapons are formidable in the hands of the Almighty (see Psalm 2:4, 5; Psalm 37:13; Proverbs 1:24-32; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Malachi 2:17 and Malachi 3:1; Romans 2:1-9).
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 (ver. 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 ver. 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 (vers. 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, 12; Revelation 20:7, 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. ver. 8 with vers. 26, 27). Let us give due heed to the more sure word of prophecy. - J.A.M.
Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth.I. A CERTAIN FEAR OF GOD IS MADE TO SERVE THE SELFISH ENDS OF WORLDLY MEN. Here is a wicked king, a pervert from the true faith, a patron of idolatry, a man whose actions were only evil continually, a man buckling on his armour for an unnecessary war, yet a man who will not move until he gets a sign that the gods will take his part. Ahab is a religious man, although a man of sin — a man who has his priests and prophets, as well as his warriors, and who in doing wrong likes to fortify himself by the assurance that the heavens are on his side. "Shall I go against Ramoth-Gilead to battle, or shall I forbear" said the king. In form that was an inquiry; in reality it was an attempt to blend religion with worldly designs, that thus he might the better compass their fulfilment. There is much of this incongruous mixture in the conduct of ungodly men among us now. There are few persons so worldly but that they have a vein of the religious running through them; and generally they are shrewd enough to somehow turn this element to their own advantage. Many persons going to church on Sunday is done to keep their conscience quiet through the week of questionable conduct. Religion is to some a refuge from uncomfortable thoughts, and as much a means of keeping a man in face with himself as with his neighbours. It is oftentimes a valuable auxiliary to a worldling's temporal progress, winning him the good opinion of his fellows as well as furnishing a basis of self-confidence.
II. THE WIDE PREVALENCE OF THE DEMAND FOR SMOOTH-SPEAKING PROPHETS. Ahab said to his assembled seers, "Shall I go, or shall I forbear?" There is always a demand for prophets who tell us what we like. There is a good deal of satisfaction to the man who all the week long is driving doubtful bargains, indulging in sharp practices, and living by the world's smart maxims rather than the principles of Scripture — it is most gratifying to such a person when he comes to church to find a man in the pulpit who dwells only on the brighter side of human conduct, who seldom mentions people's sins, who is too polite to speak of hell, and who in general seems in favour of a "downgrade" in morals as well as in theology. And this demand is always followed by an adequate supply. If the pew clamours for smooth-tongued prophets it will not have to wait many Sundays before one mounts the pulpit. The Christian Church has never been without such men. As a rule, they abound.
III. HOWEVER MUCH SMOOTH-SPEAKING MAY ABOUND, WE CAN NEVER GET AWAY ENTIRELY FROM THE INTERMINGLED VOICE OF TRUTH. Micaiah was not at first summoned into the royal presence. No; Ahab knew he had a rasping voice and an awkward honesty about him which would ill harmonise with the general concurrence he expected. But somehow Micaiah was fated to appear. This world of ours has never lacked true prophets, as it has never wanted false ones. Even in the most unfriendly times there have been more of them than the prophets themselves have thought. And, somehow, as in this case, bad men are obliged to hear the prophet of the Lord sometimes. The jarring note will break in upon the smooth current of man-pleasing doctrine. Despite men's evasions, the rousing voice makes itself heard above the sibilations of your religious parasites end sycophants; the pure light flashes convincingly into the dark places of the corrupt heart; and the word of the Lord moves right royally over men's cowering souls and crooked lives. In the providence of God it is always ordered that the truth shall speak to evil men, "whether they will hear or whether they will forbear." If it speaks but seldom it makes up for it by compensating emphasis.
(J. J. Ingram.)
Homiletic Magazine.I. A MAN MAY DELIBERATELY SET HIMSELF AGAINST GOD. This may appear an improbable thing, as there must be an apprehension that the only clear issue to such conduct is the defeat of the man, and the triumph of God.
II. A MAN MAY TURN THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD INTO A PERSONAL. GRIEVANCE. This evidently Ahab did; and also the men of Christ's day, who, resenting the plainness of His speech, became His bitter adversaries. To be reproved when wrong is meditated or pursued should be regarded as an advantage. Warning is an indication of interest in one's well-being when uttered by a friend, and ought never to be thought of other than as a kindness.
III. A MAY COME TO REGARD WHAT IS TRUTH AS EVIL INSTEAD OF ITS BEING GOOD. A man must have had his way for a long time before such a verdict may be announced; but selfishness is not long indulged before he is upon this track.
IV. A MAN MAY NEVER BE TAUGHT BY EXPERIENCE, BUT EVER RUSH ON TO DESTRUCTION, WELL KNOWING WHAT IS BEFORE HIM. It was so with Ahab. No amount of teaching or experience — and his life had not been without instruction — sufficed to turn him from his set purpose and awaken him to the danger in which by his conduct he was placed.
PeopleAhab, Ahaziah, Amon, Aram, Asa, Azubah, Chenaanah, David, Geber, Imlah, Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, Jeroboam, Joash, Micah, Micaiah, Nebat, Ophir, Shilhi, Sodomites, Syrians, Tarshish, Tharshish, Zedekiah
PlacesEdom, Ezion-geber, Jerusalem, Ophir, Ramoth-gilead, Samaria, Syria, Tarshish
TopicsHills, Home, Keeper, Master, Mountains, Peace, Return, Scattered, Sheep, Shepherd, Turn, Wandering
Outline1. Ahab, seduced by false prophets, by Michaiah's word, is slain at Ramoth Gilead
37. The dogs lick up his blood, and Ahaziah succeeds him
41. Jehoshaphat's good reign
45. His acts
46. Jehoram succeeds him
51. Ahaziah's evil reign
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 22:17
1429 prophecy, OT fulfilment
'And 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?'--1 KINGS xxii. 3. This city of Ramoth in Gilead was an important fortified place on the eastern side of the Jordan, and had, many years before the date of our text, been captured by its northern neighbours in the kingdom of Syria. A treaty had subsequently been concluded and broken a war followed thereafter, in which Ben-hadad, King of Syria, …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Ahab and Micaiah
The Prophet Micah.
The Poetical Books (Including Also Ecclesiastes and Canticles).
The Assyrian Revival and the Struggle for Syria
Use to be Made of the Doctrine of Providence.
The Shepherd of Our Souls.
Of Councils and their Authority.
That the Employing Of, and Associating with the Malignant Party, According as is Contained in the Public Resolutions, is Sinful and Unlawful.
Of Passages from the Holy Scriptures, and from the Apocrypha, which are Quoted, or Incidentally Illustrated, in the Institutes.
He Does Battle for the Faith; He Restores Peace among those who were at Variance; He Takes in Hand to Build a Stone Church.
Sovereignty of God in Administration
Tit. 2:06 Thoughts for Young Men
General Principles of Interpretation. 1 Since the Bible Addresses Men in Human Language...
The Figurative Language of Scripture.
Instruction for the Ignorant:
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