I Kings 22

 

 

 

The Expedition of Ahab and Jehoshaphat against Ramoth-Gilead (vs. 1-33)

 

1  “And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel. 

2  And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of

Judah came down to the king of Israel.”  (Geographically speaking) -   It

seems that this was the first time these two monarchs 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. It is probable that it was the growing power of Syria had led

to this affinity and alliance.  3  And the king of Israel said unto his servants,”

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 ch. 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

Benhadad had made with him (ch. 20:34), and which he appears to have

shamelessly broken, except by the help of Jehoshaphat, whose military

organization at this time must have been great, and, indeed, complete

(II Chronicles 17:10-19). It is in favor 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 is ours, and we be still,” - 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 neighbor -  “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 ch. 20:42. It is probable that Benhadad’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.

4   “And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to

Ramothgilead?” - Jehoshaphat should have refused for the reason given

in II Chronicles 19:2 - “And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am

as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.”

5  “And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee,

at the word of the LORD to day.” This request agrees well with what we

learn elsewhere as to Jehoshaphat’s piety (II Chronicles 17:4-9; 19:5-7) 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.

 

6  “Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four

hundred men,” – that they were not true prophets of the Lord, or of the

“sons of the prophets,” appears from v. 7, where Jehoshaphat asks for a

“prophet of the Lord;” and from v. 20 sqq., where Micaiah disclaims them,

and is found in direct opposition to them.  Probably 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” (Ezekiel 13:1-10),

and as claiming prophetic gifts.  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

shall deliver it into the hand of the king.”  yn;doa} 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; but when

we remember how careful the true prophet was to speak in the name of

Jehovah (chps. 14:7; 17:1,14), we can hardly doubt that it was their mention

of “Adonai occasioned his misgivings.

 

7  “And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD

besides, that we might enquire of him?”  He doesn’t want to be blunt

but hints that he is not satisfied with their mission and authority.

 

8   “And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man,

Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD:

but I hate him;” - Ahab had good reasons for not caring to consult a man

whom he had put into prison because of his reproofs or unwelcome predictions.

Josephus, and Jewish writers generally, identify Micaiah with the nameless

prophet of ch. 20:42] “for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but

evil.”  The chronicler  (I Chronicles 18:7) adds wym;y;AlK;; i.e., persistently,

throughout his whole career. Ahab insinuates that Micaiah is actuated by

personal dislike.   “And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.”

 

9  “Then the king of Israel called an officer,  (Hebrew – one eunuch –

Samuel’s forebodings have been realized – I Samuel 8:15) – “And said,

Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.  10 And the king of Israel

and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put

on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria;

and all the prophets prophesied before them.”  - continued prophesying

while Micaiah was being summoned -  11 And Zedekiah the son of

Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the

LORD,” – (Hebrew -  Jehovah - Zedekiah now uses the sacred name; no doubt

because of Jehoshaphat’s demand in v. 7 - With these shalt thou push

the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.”

 

12  “And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead,

and prosper:” – the false prophets, as men-pleasers, said what they thought

the king wanted to hear – “for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand.

13  And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him,

saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king

with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them,

and speak that which is good.  14 And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth,

what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.  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? 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 v. 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. 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).

 

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? 

17  And he said, 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.”  There is a change of tone

to profound seriousness.  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). 

 

18  “And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee

that he would 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.

 

19  And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the

LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by

Him on His right hand and on His left.  20 And the LORD said, Who

shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead?”

 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 on that manner.

21  And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said,

I will persuade him.  22  And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And

he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his

prophets.  And he said, Thou shalt persude him, and prevail also: go forth,

and do so.” 

 

23  “Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in  the mouth

of all these thy prophets,” – A 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.” 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” (Ibid. v. 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. Ahab had chosen lying instead of truth: by lying — according to the

lex talionis (law of retribution) 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 hath spoken

evil concerning thee.”

 

24  “But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah

on the cheek,” - 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 - “and said, Which way went

the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?”  It is pretty clear from

these words, in connection with v. 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 importance 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?

 

25  “And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou

shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.”  Micaiah does not answer

the insolent question, but says, “Thou wilt alter thy mind in the day,” - With this

may be compared our Lord’s words, Matthew 26:64. He also manifests our

Lord’s spirit (I Peter 2:22-23)  as if the Great Example had already appeared

before him.  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.

 

26  “And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto

Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;” – This shows

clearly that he had come from prison.

 

27  “And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed

him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction,” – 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.  It was probably owing to the presence of Jehoshaphat that Micaiah

escaped with no severer sentence  -“until I come in peace.”  This looks like

an effort to encourage himself and those around him. But it almost betrays Ahab’s

misgivings. He would have them think he had no fears.

 

28  “And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not

spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.”  It is a

curious circumstance that these same words are found at the beginning of the

prophecy of Micah (Micah 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.

 

29  “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to

Ramothgilead.”  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 many 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 v. 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.

 

30  “And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise

myself, and enter into the battle;” -  Remember that Micaiah’s words, “these

have no master” (v. 17),  could not fail to awaken some alarm in his bosom,

especially when connected with the prophecy of ch.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  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, in his royal robes. He hopes

by his disguise to escape all danger - “but put thou on thy robes. And the

king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle.”  (This is how

evil always does – it puts on a disguiseCY – 2011)

 

31   “But 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.  32  And it came to pass, when the captains of

the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel.

And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out.”

 This cry has been very variously interpreted. According to some, it was his

own name that he yelled, which is possible, if the command of v. 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 II 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.  33  “And it came to pass,

when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of

Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him. 

 

 

                                    The Death of Ahab (vs. 34-40)

 

34  And a certain man drew a bow at a venture,” (a chance arrow, an unknown

archer, but to God – the archer, with no intention of shooting Ahab and not knowing

who he would hit or miss, much like the American Indians lobbing random arrows)

and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore

he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of

the host; for I am wounded.”  The king, no doubt, felt his wound to be mortal.

He was seemingly anxious that the army should not know it, lest they be

discouraged.  They 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 armor.

 

35  “And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his

chariot against the Syrians, and died at even:” - 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 - “and the blood ran out of the

wound into the midst of the chariot.”

 

36  “And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going

down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to

his own country.”  According to II Chronicles 18:34 it was at sunset that King

Ahab 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.”

 

37  “ So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the

king in Samaria.  38  And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria;

and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armor; according

unto the word of the LORD which He spake(ch. 21:19).  39 Now the rest

of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made,

and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the

chronicles of the kings of Israel?  40 So Ahab slept with his fathers; and

Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.”

 

 

 

                        The Reign of Jehoshophat (vs. 41-50)

 

41  “And Jehoshaphat 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 ch.15:24, where the

accession of Jehoshaphat was mentioned. His reign, which is here described in the

briefest possible way, occupies chapters 17-20 of II Chronicles.  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.  43 And he walked in all 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 that which was

right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken

away;” – an effort was made to remove the high places, which was only partially

successful -  “for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.”

 

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

(II Chronicles 18:1). From the analogy  (Ibid. 19:2; 20:37;  I Kings 16:31;

II Kings 3:14, we should conclude that the marriage at any rate was ill advised and

displeasing to God.

 

45  “Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he

shewed, and how he warred, are they not written in the book of the

chronicles of the kings of Judah?”  (notice that the word “might” is not

used of Ahab, notwithstanding his wars and victories)

 

46  “And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of

his father Asa, he took out of the land.”  It appears hence that Asa’s removal

of the religious prostitutes (ch.15:12), like that of the high places, had been but

partial but that Jehoshaphat exterminated them out of the land, (thus showing

for all time that it can be done) – CY – 2011)

 

47  “There was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king.”  This implies

that this officer was appointed by the King of Judah  - this is how that

Jehoshaphat was able to have a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber in the territory

of Edom.  48  “ Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for

gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.”

In II Chronicles 20:35-37, the reason is given because of Jehoshaphat’s

alliance with the wicked king of Israel, Ahaziah.

 

49  “Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my

servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would

not.”  We are told in II 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. 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.

 

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.”  (See II Chronicles 21)

 

 

                                    The Reign of Ahaziah (vs. 51-53)

 

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.  52  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked

in the way of his father, 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 the idolatry existed side by side –

“who made Israel to sin:  53 For he served Baal, and worshipped him,

and provoked to anger 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 ch. 1. The division here obscures the connection

between the sin of Ahaziah and the judgments which it provoked.

 

 

            ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE DEATH OF AHAB

                                                AND

                        THE DEFEAT OF ISRAEL (vs. 1-40)

 

 

The reign of Ahab 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 twenty-two years.

 

But it is to be observed in the first place that Ahab’s repentance (ch. 21:29), as the

penitence begotten of fear often is, was but short-lived.  Had it lasted, we had

not read of this tragic 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 (Jezebel);  thanks to the evil genius (ch. 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, (the chains of habit are too light to be felt until

they are too strong to be broken) 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” (II Peter 2:22).

 

And it is also to be considered here that Israel had gone hand in hand with

him in his downward course (Jeremiah 5:31).  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.  (Consider what has happened to the United States

 in the last sixty years – CY – 2011).  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 Lords anointed? (For the time is come that judgment

must begin at the house of God:  and if it first begin at us, what shall the

end be of them that obey not the gospel of God.” – I Peter 5:17)  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.  (Spiritual

compound interest, if you please? – CY – 2011)

 

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:

 

  • The calf worship — the hereditary sin of the northern kingdom, the sin

            of Jeroboam;

 

  • 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;  (If HBO had been in existence then, I should

            imagine its subscriptions and the toll of its effects – CY – 2011)

 

  • The determined persecution of the prophets and the virtual proscription

            of the ancient faith;

 

  • The release of the Syrian king in disregard of God’s will  and the sin of

      Ahab and his captains; and

 

  • 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

practiced the abominations which he had introduced, so had they approved his

policy towards Benhadad — see the words of ch.19:42, “thy people for his

 people” — and the guilt of innocent blood, as we know (Numbers 35:33;

Deuteronomy 21:7; II Samuel ch. 21) 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.

Secondly, that the penalty is ever correspondent with the sin. This latter is what we

commonly call the lex talionis (law of retaliation). 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. For consider: 

 

 

  • By what means Ahab was led to death and Israel to defeat.  In

      considering the INFLUENCES which moved Ahab to war, and which

      led to his destruction, we must assign the first place to:

 

ü      The treachery  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 spite 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 treachery, 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.

 

ü      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 favor. We see in Micaiah’s vision that a

      “lying spirit” was the principal means employed to procure his

      fall (v. 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.  (Contrast the working of God in the last days

                        for the earth – “for this cause God shall send them strong

                        delusion, that they should believe a lie” – [II Thessalonians

                        2:11] – CY – 2011)  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 (vs. 4-5), and

                        they thought it wisest to swim with the stream.  It may be they were

                        guided by other and inscrutable impulses (v. 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.  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; (I can remember 20 years ago of a given, educated

                        man in our town reading from very I Kings, a text citing “pisseth

                        against the wall” – (ch. 14:10; 19:21) - as a hypocritical reason to

                        ban vulgar books in the English curriculum of the two high schools

                        in Christian County – to compare the language in the halls then with

                        that of today is very eye opening – we too have reaped what we

                        have sown – one of the local high schools was deemed one of the

                        ten worst in academics in the state of Kentucky - CY – 2011)  -

                        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).

 

ü      The silence of the Lords 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 (a personality conflict, in modern psychological

                        literature – compare Proverbs 7:23 - CY – 2011).  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 prophecies. 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, cruelty and sin.

                        (In closing, I cannot help but foresee the impotence of the

                        American Civil Liberties Union, their supporters and the people

                        of America “who love to have it so” or have condoned it, to

                        remedy the situation in America that will happen along the lines

                        of what happened to Israel, Ahab and Jezebel.  They too, like

                        Zedikiah will know when they “go into an inner chamber to hide”

                        themselves  (v. 25) – CY – 2011)

                       

 

  • By what instruments these punishments were inflicted.  The

      INSTRUMENTS of retribution were: 

 

ü      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” (v. 31).  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 it and then

                        trifled with it again. 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!

 

ü      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 (II Samuel 8:6).

      (Even Syria today is an enemy of Israel – CY – 2011) 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 (ch. 20:13, 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.

 

ü      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, the arrow of the Lord’s vengeance.

                        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 life, 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” (ch. 18:39). His cry would now be, “Thou hast found

                        me, O my enemy” (I Corinthians 15:26). 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, cast down never to

                         rise again.

 

  • In what way they were signalized as the chastisements of sin.  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:

 

ü      As a direct visitation of God. The army, that day 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

 

Ø      That Ahab’s death had been distinctly foretold. Not once or

      twice, but three times had a prophetic voice foreshadowed

      for him a sudden and shameful end (ch. 20:42; 21:19;

      22:17, 28). Moreover Micaiah, the last of these monitors,

      had staked his reputation as God’s prophet on the

                                    fulfillment 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

                                    neighboring nations (Hebrew of v. 28), to be witnesses of

                                    his words, and those words were fresh in their memories.

 

Ø      How Ahab 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

                                    learned 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?”

                                    (Psalm 139:7), or that other Psalm, “God shall shoot at

                                     them with a swift arrow; suddenly shall they be

                                     wounded” (Psalm 64:7), and the result would be that all

                                    men would fear and declare the work of God (ib. ver. 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

                                    day, that there was a God that judgeth in the earth!

 

ü      As Gods appropriate recompense for the sins of that age. We

      have already seen how this history puts its stamp of reprobation on:

 

Ø      The calf worship - inasmuch as by the prophets of the calves

      he king was beguiled into this enterprise. 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 reestablished

                                    in the land. We see in Ahab’s death:

 

Ø      The requital of his share in that sin (ch. 16:31-32). 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.

      (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

                                    (I Samuel 12:25), and Solomon (ch. 8:33) fulfilled.

 

Ø      But a recompense still more exact and conspicuous attended

      the impurities which Ahab had practiced 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 dishonor 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 (Hebrew of v. 38).

 

Ø      Nor was the connection of Ahab’s death with the sin of

      releasing Benhadad 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

      (ch. 20.), so otherwise inexplicable a word of command. It

                                    was as if Ben-hadad had proclaimed that his mission

                                    primarily was to settle the long overdue of justice with

                                    that wicked Ahab.

 

Ø      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, dishonor for dishonor. There were many, besides

      Jehu and Bidkar, who would recall the fierce threatening of

                                    the Tishbite (ch. 21:19); many, besides priests and prophets,

                                    would remember the axiom of their law, “blood defileth

                                    the land:  and the land cannot be cleansed of the

                                    blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him

                                    that shed it” (Numbers 35:33), [Can you imagine the

                                    judgment that awaits America’s liberal attitude of unbelief

                                    of this text? – CY – 2011] - 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 for in the

                                    image of God made He man” -  (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

                                    (Psalm 68:23). 

 

And this ignominious death — in what sharp contrast it stands with the indolent,

luxurious, sensual life!  “The ivory house that he made” (v. 39),  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, - (Jeremiah 22:15,19).  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, bloodstained 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” (v. 36),

and when the serried 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 7:12-13). Baal had troubled them, had

made of the heights of Ramoth the very “valley of Achor(Ibid. vs. 24-26).

 

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