1 Kings 22 – The Death of Ahab
A. God foretells Ahab’s doom.
1. (1-4) Ahab sets his eyes upon Ramoth-Gilead.
Now three years passed without war between Syria and Israel. Then it came to pass, in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went down to visit the king of Israel. And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, but we hesitate to take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” So he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight at Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
a. Do you know that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, but we hesitate to take it out of the hand of the king of Syria: Previously, the King of Syria promised to return certain cities to Israel (1 Kings 20:34) in exchange for leniency after defeat in battle. Apparently, this was a city that Ben-Hadad never returned to Israel and it was in a strategically important location.
b. Will you go with me to fight at Ramoth Gilead: King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah to help him in this dispute against Syria. This made some sense, because Ramoth-Gilead was only 40 miles from Jerusalem.
2. (5-9) Jehoshaphat proposes that they seek God in the matter.
Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.” Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth Gilead to fight, or shall I refrain?” So they said, “Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?” So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say such things!” Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, “Bring Micaiah the son of Imlah quickly!”
a. Please inquire for the word of the LORD today: Considering the generally adversarial relationship between Ahab and the prophets of Yahweh, this was a bold request for Jehoshaphat to ask of Ahab. It wasn’t surprising that Ahab picked prophets who would tell them what they wanted to hear.
b. Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king: When Ahab gathered the prophets, they were not faithful prophets of the LORD. These were prophets happy to please their kings, and to tell them what they wanted to hear. Jehoshaphat still wanted to hear from a prophet of Yahweh, the LORD (Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?).
c. I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil: Ahab hated the messenger because of the message. His real conflict was with God, but he focused his hatred against the prophet Micaiah. Yet he was willing to listen to the King of Judah when he advised that Ahab should listen to the Prophet Micaiah.
3. (10-12) An object lesson from the unfaithful prophets.
The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, having put on their robes, sat each on his throne, at a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made horns of iron for himself; and he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed.’” And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the king’s hand.”
a. Sat each on his throne, at a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria: This illustrates the ancient custom of holding court and making decisions at the gates of the city. There were even thrones for high officials to sit on at the gates of the city of Samaria.
b. Thus says the LORD: These unfaithful prophets (such as Zedekiah) prophesied in the name of the LORD, but they did not prophesy truthfully. Many commentators believe these prophets were pagan prophets, perhaps representatives of Asherah or other pagan gods or goddesses. Yet they clearly prophesied in the name of the LORD. It is best to regard these not as pagan prophets, but unfaithful prophets to the true God.
i. Perhaps these were true followers of Yahweh who were seduced by Ahab’s sincere but shallow repentance three years before (1 Kings 21:27-29). After that, they began to align with Ahab uncritically. Three years later, they were willing to prophesy lies to Ahab if that was what he wanted to hear.
c. With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed: Zedekiah used a familiar tool of ancient prophets – the object lesson. He used horns of iron to illustrate the thrust of two powerful forces, armies that would defeat the Syrians. Zedekiah had the agreement of 400 other prophets (all the prophets prophesied so).
i. This must have been a vivid and entertaining presentation. We can be certain that every eye was on Zedekiah when he used the horns of iron to powerfully illustrate the point. It was certainly persuasive to have 400 prophets speak in agreement on one issue. No matter how powerful and persuasive the presentation, their message was unfaithful.
4. (13-16) The prophecy of Micaiah, the faithful prophet.
Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Please, let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement.” And Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” Then he came to the king; and the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the hand of the king!” So the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
a. As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak: The assistants of King Ahab tried to persuade Micaiah to speak in agreement with the 400 other prophets. Micaiah assured him that he would simply repeat what God said to him.
i. This was a dramatic scene. Micaiah was brought out from prison (1 Kings 22:26 indicates that he came from prison). We see a prophet in rags and chains stand before two kings, ready to speak on behalf of the LORD.
ii. “This might have daunted the good prophet, but that he had lately seen the Lord sitting upon His throne with all the host of heaven standing by Him, and hence he so boldly looked in the face these two kings in their majesty; for he beheld them as so many mice.” (Trapp)
b. Go and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the hand of the king: When Micaiah said this, his tone was probably mocking and sarcastic. He said similar words to the 400 unfaithful prophets, but delivered a completely different message.
c. How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD: King Ahab recognized the mocking tone of Micaiah’s prophecy and knew it contradicted the message of the 400 prophets. He demanded that Micaiah tell nothing but the truth – which Ahab believed and hoped was the message of the 400 other prophets.
5. (17-18) Micaiah speaks the true prophecy from the LORD.
Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
a. I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: Micaiah was challenged to tell the truth, and now he changed his tone from mocking to serious. He said that not only would Israel be defeated, but also that their leader (shepherd) would perish.
b. Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil: King Ahab said that he wanted the truth – but he couldn’t handle the truth. What he didn’t consider was that though Micaiah prophesied evil towards Ahab, he prophesied truth.
i. “Ahab knew in his heart that Micaiah would not fear or flatter him, but only declare the word of Jehovah. This he construed into personal hatred… Hatred of the messenger of God is clear evidence of willful wickedness.” (Morgan)
6. (19-23) Micaiah reveals the inspiration behind the 400 prophets.
Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”
a. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by: King Ahab and others at the court found it hard to explain how one prophet could be right and 400 prophets could be wrong. Here, Micaiah explained the message of the 400 prophets. It is possible that this was just a parable, but it is more likely that Micaiah had an accurate prophetic glimpse into the heavenly drama behind these events.
b. On His right hand and on His left: Since the right hand was the place of favor, this may indicate that God spoke to the combined host of heaven, both faithful and fallen angelic beings.
i. Some people forget that Satan and his fellow fallen angels have access to heaven (Job 1:6, Revelation 12:10). There is a well-intentioned but mistaken teaching that God can allow no evil in His presence, meaning that Satan and other fallen angels could not be in His presence. These passages show that God can allow evil in His presence, though He can have no fellowship with evil and one day all evil will be removed from His presence (Revelation 20:14-15).
c. Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead: God wanted to bring judgment against Ahab, so He asked this group of the host of heaven for a volunteer to lead Ahab into battle.
d. I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets: Apparently, one of the fallen angels volunteered for this task. Since Ahab wanted to be deceived, God would give him what He wanted, using a willing fallen angel who worked through willing unfaithful prophets.
i. “It is rather a personified spirit of prophecy (Zechariah 13:2; 1 John 4:6), for even the false prophets may be governed by supernatural or spiritual forces rather than merely human reason. It represents the power of a lie in the mouth of someone opposed to the truth and speaking for his own ends.” (Wiseman)
7. (24-28) The reaction of the false prophets and Ahab.
Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go from me to speak to you?” And Micaiah said, “Indeed, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide!” So the king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; and say, ‘Thus says the king: “Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I come in peace.”’” But Micaiah said, “If you ever return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Take heed, all you people!”
a. Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and struck Micaiah: Zedekiah responded the way many do when they are defeated in argument – he responded with violence.
b. Put this fellow in prison: King Ahab responded the way many tyrants do when they are confronted with the truth. Ahab wanted Micaiah imprisoned and deprived (feed him with the bread of affliction and water of affliction).
i. Take Micaiah, and return him tells us that they took Micaiah from the prison to speak to these kings.
ii. “The phrase ‘bread of affliction and water of affliction’ may be translated ‘bread and water of scant measure.’” (Dilday)
c. If you ever return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me: The prophet Micaiah made one final and ultimate appeal. He was willing to be judged by whether his prophecy came to pass or not.
B. Ahab dies in battle.
1. (29-30) Jehoshaphat and Ahab go into battle.
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle; but you put on your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.
a. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead: It is easy to understand why King Ahab of Israel went to this battle; he didn’t want to believe that Micaiah’s prophecy was true and wanted to courageously oppose it. It is less easy to understand why King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to this battle with Ahab. He should have believed the prophecy of Micaiah and known that the battle would end in disaster and the death of at least Ahab.
i. It may be that Jehoshaphat had a fatalistic attitude towards the will of God, figuring that if it all was God’s will, then there was nothing he or anyone else could do about it.
b. I will disguise myself and go into battle; but you put on your robes: Going into the battle, Ahab did not want to be identified as a king and therefore be a special target. He thought this would help protect him against Micaiah’s prophecy of doom. It is more difficult to explain why Jehoshaphat agreed to go into the battle as the only clearly identified king. Perhaps he was either not very smart or he had very great faith.
2. (31-36) Jehoshaphat is saved and Ahab dies in battle.
Now the king of Syria had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, saying, “Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.” So it was, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, “Surely it is the king of Israel!” Therefore they turned aside to fight against him, and Jehoshaphat cried out. And it happened, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him. Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” The battle increased that day; and the king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening. The blood ran out from the wound onto the floor of the chariot. Then, as the sun was going down, a shout went throughout the army, saying, “Every man to his city, and every man to his own country!”
a. Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel: Ahab’s previous mercy to Ben-Hadad did not win any lasting favor with the rulers of Syria. This strategy of the Syrian army made Ahab’s counter-strategy of disguising himself in battle seem very wise.
i. “Thus doth the unthankful infidel repay the mercy of his late victory… but God had a holy hand in it.” (Trapp)
b. Jehoshaphat cried out: Finding himself as the only identifiable king in the battle, Jehoshaphat found himself quickly in danger. He cried out unto the LORD and was rescued when they turned back from pursuing him.
i. 2 Chronicles 18:31 makes it clear that the LORD heard Jehoshaphat’s cry and rescued him.
ii. After the close escape at Ramoth Gilead, Jehoshaphat rededicated himself to the spiritual reform of Judah: he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the mountains of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD God of their fathers (2 Chronicles 19:4).
c. Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel: This seemed to be pure chance. It was a certain man, and he pulled his bow at random – but it struck as if it were a sin-seeking missile. God orchestrated the unintended actions of man to result in an exercise of His judgment.
i. “And now what joy could Ahab’s black soul, ready to depart, have of his ivory house? Who had not rather be a Micaiah in the jail than Ahab in the chariot? Wicked men have the advantage of the way, godly men of the end.” (Trapp)
d. The king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening: Ahab faced the end of his life bravely, dying propped up in his chariot to inspire his troops. When his death became known, the battle was over.
i. “It appears that the Israelites and Jews maintained the fight the whole of the day; but when at evening the king died, and this was known, there was a proclamation made, probably with the consent of both Syrians and Israelites, that the war was over.” (Clarke)
3. (37-40) God’s word to Ahab is fulfilled.
So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria. Then someone washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken. Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, the ivory house which he built and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Ahab rested with his fathers. Then Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.
a. So the king died: The word through the prophet Micaiah proved true. King Ahab never returned to Samaria or Israel in peace.
b. The dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed: This was an almost fulfillment of God’s word through Elijah in 1 Kings 21:19, where Elijah prophesied that dogs would lick the blood of Ahab. This proved true, but not in the place Elijah said it would happen. God relented from His original judgment against Ahab announced in 1 Kings 21, but because of Ahab’s false repentance and continued sin, a very similar judgment came upon him.
c. According to the word of the LORD which He had spoken: There was another prophecy fulfilled in the death of Ahab. It was the word from the anonymous prophet of 1 Kings 20:42, that Ahab spared Ben-Hadad’s life at the expense of his own.
d. The ivory house which he built and all the cities that he built: By material standards, the reign of Ahab was a success. He was generally militarily successful and enjoyed a generally prosperous economy. Yet spiritually his reign was a disaster, one of the worst ever for Israel.
C. The reigns of Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah.
1. (41-50) Summary of the reign of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat the son of Asa had become king over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD. Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for the people offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. Also Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, the might that he showed, and how he made war, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And the rest of the perverted persons, who remained in the days of his father Asa, he banished from the land. There was then no king in Edom, only a deputy of the king. Jehoshaphat made merchant ships to go to Ophir for gold; but they never sailed, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion Geber. Then Ahaziah the son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Let my servants go with your servants in the ships.” But Jehoshaphat would not. And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place.
a. Jehoshaphat the son of Asa: Asa was a good king and Jehoshaphat his son followed in his footsteps and did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.
i. The writer of 1 Kings actually summarized many of the remarkable accomplishments of Jehoshaphat, who was one of the better kings of Judah. From 2 Chronicles we learn many of Jehoshaphat’s other accomplishments.
· He sent teachers of God’s Word out to his entire kingdom (2 Chronicles 17:7-10). “By this little band of princes, Levites and priests, sixteen in all, Jehoshaphat did more toward impressing the surrounding nations with a sense of his power than the largest and best-equipped standing army could have secured to him” (Knapp).
· He established a permanent military garrison along the northern frontier (2 Chronicles 17:1-2, 12).
· He trained and equipped a sizeable army (2 Chronicles 17:14-19) that was able to quell a Transjordan invasion (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).
· He placed Edom under Judean control, controlling an important caravan route to the south (2 Kings 3:8-27; 2 Chronicles 20:36).
· God blessed his reign so much that the fear of the LORD came upon neighboring nations so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:10).
· Jehoshaphat was also an able administrator, implementing judicial reforms (2 Chronicles 19:5-11) and religious reforms (2 Chronicles 17:3-9).
· Jehoshaphat was also the king connected to the famous incident when the army of Judah saw a great victory won as the Levites led the battle with praise (2 Chronicles 20:15-23).
b. Nevertheless the high places were not taken away: Jehoshaphat did not do everything he should have as a king. Yet he reformed Israel even more deeply than Asa did (the rest of the perverted persons, who remained in the days of his father Asa, he banished from the land).
i. “In 2 Chronicles 17:6, it is expressly said, that he did take way the high places. Allowing that the text is right in 2 Chronicles the two places may be easily recognized. There were two kinds of high places in the land: 1. Those used for idolatrous purposes. 2. Those that were consecrated to God, and were used before the temple was built. The former he did take away, the latter he did not.” (Clarke)
c. There was then no king in Edom: “This note is introduced by the writer to account for Jehoshaphat’s building ships at Ezion-geber, which was in the territory of the Edomites, and which showed them to be at that time under the Jewish yoke.” (Clarke)
d. Let my servants go with your servants in the ships: After a disastrous shipping venture, Jehoshaphat was tempted to make an alliance with Israel, but Jehoshaphat would not. This was to his credit. He learned the lesson of not entering a partnership with the ungodly.
i. 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 tells us more about this shipping venture with Israel. It tells us that Jehoshaphat did make an alliance with Ahaziah and it ended in disaster. The LORD told Jehoshaphat why: Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works (2 Chronicles 20:37). It was after this word of the LORD that Jehoshaphat turned down the offer of a continued alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel.
d. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place: Jehoshaphat gave his son Jehoram to Athaliah in marriage, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2 Chronicles 18:1). This was a serious error because the reign of Ahaziah was a spiritual and national disaster for Judah because Jehoram walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife (2 Chronicles 21:6). The ill effects of this were felt even to the next generation, because Ahaziah the son of Jehoram was also a bad king for Judah (2 Chronicles 22:2-4).
2. (51-53) The evil reign of King Ahaziah of Israel, the son of Ahab.
Ahaziah the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and 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 had made Israel sin; for he served Baal and worshiped him, and provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger, according to all that his father had done.
a. He reigned two years over Israel: Ahab reigned 22 years, but his son only reigned two years. Though his repentance was shallow, when Ahab repented after an announcement of judgment in 1 Kings 21, God relented from the immediate judgment and promised to bring judgment in the days of Ahab’s son. Ahaziah’s short reign was a fulfillment of this prophecy in 1 Kings 21:29.
i. “By comparing this verse with verse 41, it appears that Ahaziah was made king by his father, and reigned in conjunction with him, a year or two before Ahab’s death.” (Poole)
b. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam: Considering the sinful ways of Jeroboam, Ahab, and Jezebel, there is hardly anything worse that could be said of a king.
i. “It is a dark catalogue of iniquity, yet only what might be expected of the offspring of such a couple as Ahab and Jezebel.” (Knapp)
ii. With this, the Book of 1 Kings ends on a low note. It began with the promise of the twilight of Israel’s greatest king, David. It ends with the sad reign of one of the most wicked kings over one of the kingdoms coming from the divided tribes of Israel.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission