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Yahweh’s plan to terminate Ahab 22:1-28

Another significant battle occurred between the battle of Ramoth-gilead that the writer recorded in chapter 22 (853 B.C.) and the battles he recorded in chapter 20. Ahab and his Aramean ally Ben-Hadad II (860-841 B.C.) defeated their mutual foe King Shalmaneser III of Assyria at Qarqar on the Orontes River in Aram (also in 853 B.C.). [Note: William H. Shea, "A Note on the Date of the Battle of Qarqar," Journal of Cuneiform Studies 29 (1977):240-42.] Assyrian records set the date for this battle making it one of the clear benchmarks in Old Testament chronology. [Note: R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 733. See the map "The Assyrian Empire" in Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 362.] The writers of Scripture did not refer to this battle, but a record of it that Shalmaneser wrote has survived and is now in the British Museum. [Note: See James Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 278-79, for a translation of it.] Perhaps it was this victory that encouraged Ahab to challenge his ally at Ramoth-gilead.

King Jehoshaphat of Judah had come to Judah’s throne in 873 B.C. and had formed an alliance by marriage with Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:1). He had undoubtedly come down from Jerusalem (topographically, and symbolically) to Samaria at Ahab’s invitation. 1 Kings 22:1-2 seem to introduce the events in 1 Kings 22:3-40 as they read in the text. However, several years passed between Jehoshaphat’s visit in 1 Kings 22:2 and Ahab’s invitation to him in 1 Kings 22:4 (cf. 2 Chronicles 18:1-2). [Note: Morgenstern, pp. 385-96.] Evidently the three years of peace mentioned in 1 Kings 22:1 followed the Battle of Aphek (1 Kings 20:26-30; 873 B.C.). Ahab’s invitation to Jehoshaphat to join him in battle against the Arameans at Ramoth-gilead (1 Kings 22:3-4) must have taken place in 854 or 853 B.C.

Ramoth-gilead had been one of the chief cities in Gad, east of Jezreel about 33 miles, but the Arameans had captured it. Jehoshaphat was a devotee of Yahweh. It was typical of him to inquire concerning the Lord’s will (1 Kings 22:5), though Ahab could not have cared less to do so. The 400 prophets Ahab assembled may have been apostate prophets of Yahweh since Baal prophets would probably have been unacceptable to Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:6; cf. 1 Kings 22:11-12; 1 Kings 22:24). We should therefore interpret Jehoshaphat’s request for a prophet of Yahweh (1 Kings 22:7) as a request for a faithful prophet. Ahab hated Micaiah because he always told the king the truth. Ahab wanted to feel good more than he wanted to know the truth. This is another evidence of Ahab’s continuing antagonism toward Yahweh and His representatives (cf. 1 Kings 21:20).

Like Elijah, Micaiah was willing to stand alone for God (1 Kings 22:14; cf. 1 Kings 18:22). Micaiah had stood before Ahab many times before (1 Kings 22:8). This time he told the king what he wanted to hear sarcastically (1 Kings 22:15). Ahab’s reply was also sarcastic (1 Kings 22:16); He had never had to tell Micaiah to speak the truth in Yahweh’s name. Micaiah’s vision of Israel was of defenseless sheep without a human shepherd, namely, Ahab. They would come home after the battle peacefully (1 Kings 22:17). The king responded to this prophecy of his death glibly (1 Kings 22:18). He could not have believed the Lord’s word and gone into battle. Saul had done the same thing (1 Samuel 28; 1 Samuel 31). Micaiah proceeded to explain that Ahab was the target of God’s plan. He would lure him into battle. Still Ahab remained unbelieving. God was Ahab’s real enemy, not Aram. [Note: On Micaiah’s heavenly vision in 1 Kings 22:19-22, see Allen McNicol, "The Heavenly Sanctuary in Judaism: A Model for Tracing the Origin of an Apocalypse," Journal of Religious Studies 13:2 (1987):69-71.]

"Foolishly, Ahab thought Elijah and Micaiah were his enemies when, quite the contrary, they were his only links to a future worth living. Today’s readers of Scripture have the same option that was offered Ahab: they may hear and repent, or they may sulk and resent the messenger." [Note: House, p. 249. ]

Similarly, Saul regarded David as his enemy. The identity of the spirit that stood before the Lord and offered to entice Ahab (1 Kings 22:21, cf. 1 Kings 22:6) is problematic. This "spirit" may be the personified spirit of prophecy, or it may have been a demon or Satan. Saul also saw a spirit shortly before he died (1 Samuel 28; 1 Samuel 31).

". . . God Himself instigated and authorized the deception of Ahab, as indicated by the Lord’s initial question to the assembly (1 Kings 22:20), His commission to the spirit (1 Kings 22:22), and Micaiah’s willingness to prophesy a lie after he had vowed to speak only the word of the Lord (1 Kings 22:14-15). If the spirit of 1 Kings 22:20-23 can be identified with the divine spirit that energizes prophecy (1 Kings 22:24), this thesis is further corroborated. The introduction of the truth, rather than ameliorating the deception, shows how effective it was. Even when faced with the truth, Ahab insisted on charging into battle, for the lying spirit working through the prophetic majority had convinced him he would be victorious." [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Does God Deceive?" Bibliotheca Sacra 155:617 (January-March 1998):16-17.]

". . . God is truthful in that He keeps His unconditional promises to His people and fulfills His sovereign decrees and oaths. God’s commitment to truthfulness, however, does not mean that He never uses deceit as a method of judgment on sinners. But He does so without compromising His truthful character and commitment to righteousness." [Note: Ibid., p. 12.]

Another view is that Satan initiated and superintended demonic activity, which God permitted (cf. 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:13-22; Job 2:7; Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 12:24; John 8:44). [Note: See Richard L. Mayhue, "False Prophets and the Deceiving Spirit," Master’s Seminary Journal 4:2 (Fall 1993):135-63, who evaluated six possible identifications of this spirit. See also Howard, p. 196.]

Striking on the cheek (1 Kings 22:24) was a much greater insult then than it is now. Zedekiah was bluffing to the very end. Ahab proved to be hard to the point of insensibility instead of repenting at this prophetic word of judgment, as he had previously done (1 Kings 22:26-27; cf. 1 Kings 21:27). Time would tell that Micaiah’s words were from the Lord (1 Kings 22:28).

"The comment in 1 Kings 22:25-26 [about Ahab’s wickedness] certainly makes Ahab to be the worst of all twenty kings of Israel." [Note: Wiseman, p. 184.]

"The king’s function was to be immersed in the Law of the Lord and to lead his people in obedience to it (Deuteronomy 17:18-20), not to be leading them in Baal worship (1 Kings 18) or in listening to innumerable false prophets (chap. 22)." [Note: Howard, p. 195.]

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