So you see, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has pronounced disaster against you."
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.
Jehoshaphat the King of Judah.2 Chronicles 17:1). He "joined affinity with Ahab" by marrying his son to Ahab's daughter (2 Kings 8:18). This was the first overture towards an alliance. Then, secondly, Jehoshaphat twice joined in a league of war with the King of Israel; first, in the expedition against Syria which we have been considering; and again, shortly after an attack upon the Moabites (2 Kings 3:7). Lastly, in the third place, Jehoshaphat consented, though reluctantly, in the close of his reign, to a commercial alliance of his people with the ten tribes. As to the sin itself with which Jehoshaphat is charged, and the probable reasons or motives of its commission, — we cannot suppose that, in forming an alliance with the. ungodly, Jehoshaphat was actuated by fondness for the crime, or by complacency in the criminal. We must seek an explanation of his conduct rather in mistaken views of policy than in any considerable indifference to the honour of God, or any leaning to the defections of apostasy and idolatry. For this end, let us consider the relative situation of the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and the feelings which their respective kings, with their subjects, mutually cherished towards one another. The first effect of Jeroboam's revolt with the ten tribes from the house of David, was a bitter and irreconcilable hostility between the two rival kingdoms of the ten, and of the two tribes. And, as if to widen and perpetuate the breach, each party in turn had recourse to the expedient of calling in foreign aid against the other. At the instigation probably of Jeroboam, Shishak, King of Egypt, who had formerly been his patron and protector, invaded Judah. And again, by way of retaliation, the King of Judah soon after invited the Syrians to ravage the territory of the hostile kingdom of Israel (2 Chronicles 12. and 16.). In course of time, however, when a generation or two passed away, something like a change, or a tendency to approximation, began to appear. The feelings of hostility had in some degree subsided, the memory of former union had revived, and the idea might again not unnaturally suggest itself to a wise and patriotic statesman, of consolidating once more into a powerful empire communities which, although recently estranged, had yet a common origin, a common history, a common name, and, till lately, a common faith, — whose old recollections and associations were all in common. The manifest folly, too, of exposing themselves, by intestine division, to foreign invasion, and even employing foreigners against each other, might prompt the desire of bringing the kingdoms to act harmoniously together, whether in peace or in war. Such might very reasonably be the views of an able, enlightened, and conscientious sovereign, pursuing simply, in a sense, the good of his country; and such, probably, were the views of Jehoshaphat. His favourite aim and design seems to have been, to conciliate the king and people of Israel; at least, he was always ready to listen to any proposals of conciliation. Nay, we may believe that this good man proposed, by the course which he adopted, to leaven them with the spirit of a better faith, and ultimately bring them back again to the legitimate dominion of the house of David, and the pure worship of the God of their fathers. If so, his object was certainly not unlawful; but in the pursuit of it, he was tempted to an unlawful compromise of principle. In his anxiety to pacify, to conciliate, and to reclaim, he was tempted to go a little too far, — even to the sacrificing of his own high integrity, and the apparent countenancing of other men's iniquities. And is not this the very sin of many good and serious Christians, who manifest to the world, its follies and its vices, a certain mild and tolerant spirit, and are disposed to treat the men of the world with a sort of easy and indulgent complacency; justifying or excusing such concessions to themselves by the fond persuasion, that they are but seeking, or at least that they are promoting, the world's reformation? No doubt, it is your duty to conciliate all men, if you can; but there is such a thing as conciliating, and conciliating, and conciliating, till you conciliate away all the distinctive characteristics of your faith.
1. Thus, as to the first point, Jehoshaphat, when he consented to an alliance with the King of Israel, no doubt contemplated the possibility of doing him some good. Such was his hope. How in point of fact was it realised? He has descended from his footing of unquestioned and uncompromised integrity, and involved himself irretrievably in the very course he should be rebuking. And so it must ever be. The very first step a good man takes from the eminence on which he stands apart, as the friend of God and the unflinching enemy of all ungodliness in the world, he compromises his authority, his influence, his right and power of bold remonstrance and unsparing testimony against the corrupt lusts and the angry passions of men. He gives up the point of principle, and as to any resistance that he may make in details, men see not what there is left to fight for. Is not this the natural, the necessary result of such a conciliatory course? If you condescend to flatter men in their vanities, will they listen to you when you gravely reprehend their sins? No; they will laugh you to scorn. If you countenance them in the beginning of their excess, will they patiently bear your authoritative denunciation of its end? No; they will contemptuously reject it as a fond folly, or indignantly resent it as an insult. If you go with them one mile, may they not almost expect you to go two? — at least, you have no right to take it very much amiss if they go the two miles themselves.
2. But, in the second place, Jehoshaphat not only failed to arrest Ahab in his sinful course — he was himself involved in its sinfulness. Instead of reclaiming this wicked prince, he was himself betrayed into a participation in his wickedness he joined him in his unholy expedition. And be sure, we say to all professing Christians, that you too, if you try thus artfully to gain the advantage over the world, will find the world too much for you. For Satan, the god of this world, is far more than a match for you in this game of craft, and compromise, and conciliation. Beware how you step out of your own proper sphere, as a separate and peculiar people. Then go not along with them at all — no, not a single step: for a single step implies tampering, in so far, with your religious and conscientious scruples; and when these are once weakly or wilfully compromised, Satan's battle is gained. The rest is all a question of time and of degree. Stand fast, then, in your liberty. "All things are lawful unto you, but all things are not expedient." Be not yourselves "brought under the power of any"; and consider what may "edify" the Church and glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 10:23), Stand fast in your integrity.
3. For, thirdly, see what hazard Jehoshaphat ran. Not only did he sin with Ahab, but he was on the point of perishing with him in his sin. The King of Judah was saved himself, as by fire; but his ally, his confederate, was lost. And had he no hand, had he no concern, in the loss? Had he honestly remonstrated with him? Had he fearlessly protested against him, and sharply rebuked and withstood him? Oh! such wounds would have been kind and precious. But he had been too merciful; he had been pitiful, falsely pitiful, — what a thought is this, that, in making flattering advances to sinners, and dealing smoothly with their sins, you not only endanger your own peace, but you accelerate and promote their ruin! You may save yourselves by tardy yet, timely repentance; you may extricate yourselves ere it be too late; — but can you save, can you extricate those whom your example has encouraged, or your presence has authorised?
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
The King of IsraelI. THE KING'S WILFUL PURPOSE (vers. 1-6). Ahab's purpose is announced in the beginning of the chapter. We find him, after three years of peace, preparing to attack the Syrians. The Syrian king, whom Ahab had treated with such ill-timed lenity, and with whom he had made so sinful a compromise, has, as might have been anticipated, failed to fulfil the: stipulated terms of ransom, and to restore the cities of Israel. Ahab, provoked at his own simplicity in having suffered so favourable an opportunity to slip, through his fond trust in the honour of a perfidious prince, and stung by the recollection of the prophet's rebuke, conceives the design of retrieving his error, and compelling the fulfilment of the treaty, on the faith of which he had been weakly persuaded to liberate the enemy whom God had doomed. In this Ahab acts under the impulse of resentment and ambition. He burns with the desire of avenging a personal wrong and insult, rather than of fulfilling the decree of God. Had he consulted the will of God, he must have seen and felt that it was now too late for him to take the step proposed. He had let the time go past. When God gave him victory, and assured him of power over his enemy, then he should have used his opportunity. This he had failed to do; and for his failure he had been reproved by God, and warned by the prophet that his people and his life were forfeited. Certainly Ahab should have been the very last person to think of rousing and provoking the very foe who, by the Divine sentence and by his own compromise, had gained so sad and signal an advantage over him. But instead of following so wise a course, Ahab blindly rushes into the opposite extreme from his former fault; and because before he has been blamed for not going far enough, with God on his side, he is provoked to go too far now, though God has declared against him. He is not without his reasons, and they are very plausible reasons, to justify the step proposed.
1. In the first place, it is in itself an act of patriotism and of piety; at least it looks very like it, and may easily be so represented.
2. Secondly, it has received the countenance of a friend (ver. 4). And that friend is not a wicked man, but one fearing God, and acknowledged by God as righteous.
3. And, thirdly, it has obtained the sanction of four hundred prophets (ver. 6). And these are not prophets of Baal. Looking, then, at the act itself as an act of patriotic and pious zeal, encouraged by the consent of his friend and the concurrence of the prophets, Ahab, we may think, might well be misled. And we might pity and excuse him too, as one misled, did we not see him so willing to be so. Is he not all the while deceiving himself, and that too almost wilfully and consciously? O beware, ye pilgrims in an evil world, ye soldiers in an arduous fight, beware of your own rash wilfulness, of the weakness of compliant friends, and of the flattering counsels of evil men and seducers, who in the last times — in the last and critical stage of individual experience, as well as of the world's history — are sure to wax worse and worse! There is no design, no device, no desire of your hearts, which you may not find some specious arguments to justify, some friends to countenance, ay, and some prophets, too, to sanction.
II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS OPPOSITION (vers. 7-23). The King of Israel is satisfied with the oracular answer of the prophets. Not so, however, the King of Judah. He suspects something wrong, missing probably among the four hundred some one of whom he has heard. This Micaiah is supposed to be the prophet who reproved Ahab formerly, on the occasion of his compromise with the Syrian king; and it was probably his boldness on that occasion that caused him to be imprisoned. And is not this the spirit in which good advice is too often asked, and the word of God consulted, — when it is too late, — when a man's mind is already all but made up? You go when your conscience will not otherwise let you alone, or when the remonstrances of pious friends trouble you; you go to some man of God, to God Himself, by prayer and the searching of His word: — for what? what is it that you want? — light for duty, however self-denying? or light to justify your doubtful course? He stands before the princes, undaunted by their royal state. First of all, he rebukes the prejudice of Ahab, by seeming to flatter it (ver. 15). The irony conveys a cutting reproof, and a merited one; and with this the holy prophet might have left the prince to believe his own and his flatterers' lie. But the mercy of God and the sin of Ahab are to be yet more signally brought out. Even to the last, in judgment God remembers mercy. The very scene of judgment which the prophet discloses does not imply any fixed and irrevocable design of wrath against Ahab; — with such a design, indeed, the disclosure of the scene would be incompatible and inconsistent. The sentence of final infatuation does not come without previous intimation. However you may be deceived, or maybe deceiving yourselves, is there not a voice of truth, or a prophetic warning, which you feel might keep you right — if you wore but willing to be kept right?
III. THE ISSUE OF THE CONTEST (vers. 29-38). And here, in the first place, let the expedient by which Ahab consults his own safety be observed. For he does not feel entirely comfortable and secure; he cannot rid himself of the uneasy apprehension which the prophet's word has suggested. There is danger. Ahab, knowing the hazard, cunningly proposes to resign the post of honour to his ally: "And the King of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the King of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle" (ver. 30). And what are we to expect but that, false to his God, a man will be false to his friend also. Let none trust the fidelity of him who is not faithful to his best, his kindest, his most generous benefactor, — his Saviour, his God. Consult your own conscience.
1. Beware of the beginning of Ahab's evil course-his fatal compromise with the enemy of his peace. See that you enter into no terms with any sin, and that you be not hardened through its deceitfulness. When God in Christ gives you the victory, delivering you from condemnation by His free grace, and upholding you by His free Spirit; when, justified and accepted in the Beloved, you see every sin of yours prostrate beneath your feet, stripped of all its power to slay or to enslave you — be sure that you make thorough work in following out the advantage you have gained — that you listen to no plausible proposals of concession — that you suffer no iniquity to escape — that you mortify every lust.
2. Beware of provoking a slumbering foe. If there be any enemy of your peace to whom, by former compliances or concessions, you have given an advantage over you, beware of invading his territories again. Be on your guard against the very first beginnings of evil — of any evil especially that you have ever, in all your past lives, tolerated, or flattered or fondled in your bosoms, when you should have been nailing it, without pity, to your Saviour's cross.
3. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin. The wiles of the devil are not unknown to you. In a doubtful case, where you are hesitating, it is easy for him to insinuate and suggest reasons enough to make the worse appear the better cause. Generally you may detect his sophistry by its complex character. Truth is simple; the word of God is plain.
4. Beware of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Beware of a judicial hardening of your hearts, or of your being given over to believe a lie.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
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
TopicsBehold, Deceit, Deceiving, Decreed, Disaster, Evil, Falsehood, Lying, Mouth, Mouths, Proclaimed, Prophets, Spirit, Spoken, Yours
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 22:23
'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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