1 Kings 22


Jehoshaphat and Ahab Make an Alliance

      • There was no war between Syria and Israel for 3 years. But in the 3rd year King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to see the king of Israel. The king of Israel said to his officials, “Do you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us, and yet we are hesitant to reclaim it from the king of Syria?” Then he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to attack Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat answered the king of Israel, “You and I are as one. My people are as your people, and my horses are as your horses.” Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first, inquire for the word of Yahweh.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The peace that followed the battle of Aphek (20:26-34) lasted three years. Even after such a crushing defeat, the king of Syria was able to hold on to the strategically important city of Ramoth-gilead in Transjordan, which was situated on a major trade route running from the Red Sea to Damascus. More about Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, will be revealed shortly (22:41-50), but from these verses two things are already apparent: he is at peace with Ahab (cf v. 44) after the long war described in 14:30; 15:6-7, 16-22; and he is a devout man (cf 22:43, 46), happy to go to war with Ahab to battle at Ramoth-gilead, but first wishing to inquire…for the word of the Lord.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “During this time, the repeated westward thrusts of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC) led to the Battle of Qarqar (853 BC). Shalmaneser’s records mention that he faced both Hadadezer (Ben-hadad) and Ahab at that battle. With the Assyrian king termporarily thwarted, old enmities between Aram and Israel flared up again. Jehoshaphat and Ahab were in-laws by the marriage of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah to Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram (2 Kgs 8:25-26). However cordial Jehoshaphat may have intended his visit to be, he quickly became involved in Ahab’s plan to occupy Ramoth-gilead…”

        • ESV Archaeology Bible adds, “Ramoth-gilead (Tell er-Rumeith) is located 35 miles north of Amman, Jordan, in what was the territory of Gad…It was a fortified Levitical city taken by the Arameans in the mid-ninth century BC, perhaps by Ben-hadad II during his campaign reported in ch. 20. Control of Ramoth-gilead would give Israel and Judah direct access to the lucrative trade routes between Arabia and Aram and west to the Jezreel Valley and the Mediterranean.”

      • So the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about 400 men, and asked them, “Should I go to war against Ramoth Gilead or not?” They replied, “March up, and the Lord will hand it over to the king.” But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of Yahweh here that we may inquire of?” The king of Israel replied, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of Yahweh- Imlah’s son Micaiah. But I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, only bad.” Jehoshaphat said, “The king should not say such a thing!” So the king of Israel summoned an official and said, “Bring Imlah’s son Micaiah at once.”

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes point out, “Though Jehoshaphat requested an oracle from ‘the Lord’ (Yahweh), they stop short of actually using this name and substitute the title…(’adonai, ‘lord; master’). This ambiguity may explain in part Jehoshaphat’s hesitancy and caution (vv. 7-8). He seems to doubt that the four hundred are genuine prophets of the Lord.”

        • Some hypothesize that these prophets were actually the 400 prophets of Asherah from 1 Kgs 18:19, whom they say did not actually come based on 18:22, 25. However, Pulpit Commentary rejects this theory for the following reasons:

          • …the fact that Jehoshaphat asks Ahab to ‘inquire at the word of Jehovah,’…these prophets profess to speak in the name and by the Spirit of Jehovah (vers. 11, 12, 24)…Ahab would hardly have insulted Jehoshaphat by bringing the prophets of Baal or Astarte before him…”

        • Instead, Pulpit Commentary provides this explanation, “And yet that they were not true prophets of the Lord, or of the ‘sons of the prophets,’ appears (1) from ver. 7, where Jehoshaphat asks for a ‘prophet of the Lord;’ and (2) from ver. 20 sqq., where Micaiah disclaims them, and is found in direct opposition to them. The only conclusion open to us, consequently – and it is now generally adopted – is that 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’ (cf. Jeremiah 22:13; Ezekiel 13:1), and as claiming prophetic gifts, for the priests of Baal bore the same name (1 Kings 18:19, 22, etc.), and apparently pretended to similar powers.”

        • Guzik adds, “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.”

Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab

      • Now the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were each sitting on a throne, dressed in their royal robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying in front of them. Zedekiah, Kenaanah’s son, had made himself iron horns and he declared, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘You will gore the Syrians with these horns until they are destroyed.’” All the prophets were prophesying the same, saying, “Attack Ramoth Gilead and succeed! Yahweh will hand it over to the king!” Now the messenger who went to get Micaiah instructed him, “Look, the words of the prophets are all unanimously in favor of the king. Let your word agree with theirs and speak favorably.” But Micaiah answered, “As surely as Yahweh lives, I will only say what Yahweh tells me to say.”

      • When he came before the king, the king asked him, “Micaiah, should we attack Ramoth Gilead or not?” Micaiah answered, “Attack and succeed. Yahweh will hand it over to the king.” The king replied, “How many times must I make you swear to speak nothing to me but the truth in the name of Yahweh?” So Micaiah said, “I saw all of Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep with no shepherd. And Yahweh said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one return home in peace.’” Then the king of Israel told Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad?” Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of Yahweh: I saw Yahweh sitting on His throne with all the host of heaven standing beside Him on His right and on His left. And Yahweh said, ‘Who will deceive Ahab so he will attack Ramoth Gilead and die there?’ So one was saying this and another one was saying that. Then a spirit stepped forward, stood before Yahweh, and said, ‘I will deceive him.’ Yahweh asked him, ‘How?’ He replied, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all of his prophets.’ Yahweh said, ‘You will deceive him and you will succeed. Go and do so.’ See now, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. Yahweh has decreed disaster for you.”

        • This is an absolutely fascinating passage. It’s also one that some find so unsettling that translators alter words (i.e., using “entice” or “persuade” in place of “deceive”) in order to make it more palatable. Barnes Notes on the Bible writes, “The difficulties which attach to this passage are considerable.” Others, like Dr. Michael Heiser see it as one of the most clear passages describing the Divine Council.

          • HCSB points out the difficulty of this passage in their notes, even though this translation opts for the word “entice”: “…there is a theological problem with God being a deceiver. Some try to moderate the tone by translating the verb deceive as ‘entice.’ This does not solve the problem. Both Jeremiah (Jr 20:7) and Ezekiel (Ezk 14:9) spoke of the Lord deceiving a prophet, using the exact same Hebrew word as here.”

        • From the outset, it’s interesting that when the messenger comes to get Micaiah and urges him to agree with the other prophets, Micaiah insists that he will only speak what Yahweh has told him to speak. Yet, he directly proceeds to agree with the other prophets. There are two explanations for this that I have found:

          • The first, which is by far the most common, is that Micaiah is clearly being sarcastic. The NLT translation even renders the verse, “Micaiah replied sarcastically…” even though they include a notation that “the word sarcastically does not occur in the Hebrew text.”

        • However, NET Bible’s notes offer an alternative, “One does not expect Micaiah, having just vowed to speak only what the Lord tells him, to agree with the other prophets and give the king an inaccurate prophecy. Micaiah’s actions became understandable later, when it is revealed that the Lord desires to deceive the king and lead him to his demise. The Lord even dispatches a lying spirit to deceive Ahab’s prophets. Micaiah can lie to the king because he realizes this lie is from the Lord. It is important to note that in v. 14 Micaiah only vows to speak the word of the Lord; he does not necessarily say he will tell the truth. In this case the Lord’s word itself is deceptive. Only when the king adjures him to tell the truth (v. 16), does Micaiah do so.”

        • In my opinion, Dr. Heiser presents the best summary of these events by just taking the text for what it says without attempting to shoehorn it into preconceived notions. Below I will include some very helpful excerpts from 3 of Heiser’s works:

          • The ‘hosts’ of Yahweh… is an umbrella term that includes the variety of categories of nonhuman beings who serve God.”

          • The following excerpts are from “The Unseen Realm,” pp 53-54:

          • This passage, specifically verses 19-22, describes a meeting between God and his divine council. Verse 20 tells us plainly that God had decided it was time for Ahab to die. God then asked the host of heaven standing in attendance how Ahab’s death should be accomplished. God had decreed Ahab was going to die at Ramoth-Gilead, but the means of his death was not decreed. The council debated the matter until one of the spiritual beings came forward with a proposition (vv. 21-22): ‘I will go out and I will be a false spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Upon hearing this, God said (paraphrasing), ‘Good. I know that will work- go get it done.’”

          • There are other glimpses of this kind of divine decision making, where God’s decree and genuine participation on the part of the council are both evident.” (Here Heiser cites the example of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 in which “a watcher,” which is another term for “a divine being [a ‘holy one’]” decrees Nebuchadnezzar’s fate.)

          • The takeaway is that God rules over the heavenly realm and the earthly realm with the genuine assistance of his imager-representatives. He decrees and they carry out his commands. These points are clear. What is perhaps less clear is that the way God’s will is carried out and accomplished is open- imagers can make free decisions to accomplish God’s will. God decrees the ends, but the means can be (and apparently are at times) left up to the imagers.”

        • The following excerpts are from “Angels,” pp. 34-35, 37:

          • The members of the host of heaven are described as ‘standing’ (Hebrew, ‘amad…) in attendance to the seated King-Judge. This language is stock vocabulary for attending to a superior. ‘Standing’ in this setting is not a passive act. Rather, the posture speaks of being available, ready, and willing to carry out the superior’s commands.” He then cites Martens:

            • A more technical, somewhat idiomatic use of the vb…(‘amad)… relates to government, especially royalty, before whom persons ‘stand’ as messengers or ministers, prepared to take directives (Dan 1:4). As for God, King over all, he can deploy prophets, priests, and others who stand before Yahweh as his messengers. True prophets, for example, are privy to the decisions made in the divine council where they stand…(Jer 23:18, 22; cf 18:20). Elijah introduces himself as the prophet of Yahweh, ‘before whom I stand’ (1 Kgs 17:1; 18:15). God raises up prophets to serve him (‘stand before him,’ Deut 18:5, 7; cf Jer 15:1). Priests, Levites especially, are acknowledged ministers before the Lord (Deut 10:8; 18:7; Zech 3:1; cf 2 Chron 29:11) who ‘perform’ their service’… (1 Kgs 8:11 NIV; cf Ps 134:1; 135:2). In the heavenly court, hosts are at God’s right and left hand (2 Chron 18:18). To be in God’s service is a high honor.”

          • God approves (of the spirit’s suggested plan), knowing full well that the plan will succeed. Had the omniscient God of Israel known the proposition would fail, he would have heard another one or proceeded on his own account.”

          • The text presents us with a clear instance where God has sovereignly decided to act but allows his lesser, intelligent servants to participate in how his decision is carried out. God wasn’t searching for ideas, as though he couldn’t conceive of a plan. He allowed those who serve him the latitude to propose options. In other words, the members of his host were involved in the divine decree.” He then cites Miller:

            • The symbol of the divine council is a quite concrete if multi-faceted one. Yahweh is seen as seated upon his throne of kingship in a temple or palace surrounded by a nameless host of divine beings who are sometimes portrayed as present before or beside Yahweh (e.g., 1 Kgs 22:19-21) and elsewhere as coming in to take their position in the presence of Yahweh (Job 1:6; 2:1). The assembly, or members of it, whether the ‘divine ones’ or the ‘holy ones’ or particular groups withing the whole, for example, the seraphim, are sometimes depicted as serving or worshiping the Lord, a part of the holy array that gives God glory (Isa 6:1-3). At other times, they converse among themselves or the Lord converses with them, for example, in the prologue of the book of Job and in the vision of Micaiah in 1 Kgs 22:19-23. …The Lord takes council with the counsel with the council, commissions them with certain tasks. They sit as court or governmental body in which the Lord judges a case or utters a decree.”

          • There is no hint that the suggestion of the spirit being to deceive Ahab was preprogrammed. God was also not bound to it. Had a member of the heavenly host proposed an idea God in his omniscience knew would not succeed, he could have vetoed it. The criterion was simple: will it succeed? The omniscient God knew the suggestion would succeed and approved it.”

          • The council neither acts alone or without a Head. The members of the heavenly host partner with God in carrying out his will. They are not autonomous.”

      • Then Zedekiah, Kenaanah’s son, went up and slapped Michaiah in the face, and said, “Which way did Yahweh’s spirit go when he went from me to speak to you?” Micaiah replied, “You’ll find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.” The king of Israel said, “Seize Michaiah and take him back to Amnon, the city governor, and to my son Joash. Tell them: ‘The king says, “Put this man in prison and feed him only a little bread and water until I return safely.”’” And Michaiah said, “If you return safely, then Yahweh hasn’t spoken through me.” Then he added, “All you people, mark my words.”

        • The following commentaries discuss Zedekiah’s words in v. 24:

        • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “The whole account intimates that Zedekiah conceived himself prompted by the divine spirit and thought that he was telling the truth to Ahab. He was moved by the spirit of prophecy but knew not that God had willed it to be to him a spirit of lies. The LXX. has rendered ‘what spirit of the Lord was it that has spoken in thee?’”

        • Pulpit Commentary: “and said, Which way [Heb. What, or where. The chronicler supplies ‘way,’ thereby bringing the expression into unison with 1 Kings 13:12; 2 Kings 3:8; Job 38:24] went [Heb. passed, crossed] the Spirit of the Lord [These words are important, as showing that the speaker had not identified ‘the spirit’ of ver. 21 with the evil spirit: Job 1:6 sqq.] from me to speak unto thee? [It is pretty clear from these words, in connexion with ver. 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 import-ante 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? Thou hast seen (ver. 19) the secret counsels of Heaven. Tell us, then, which way, etc.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “All will become clear, Micaiah claims, when the disaster that he is predicting eventually falls and Zedekiah is forced to hide away in the city inside someone’s home (the inner chamber was also Ben-hadad’s hiding place after the disaster at Aphek, 20:30. Amnon is evidently one of Ahab’s high officials, entrusted with control of city affairs in Samaria, while Joash the king’s son is responsible for the confinement of prisoners (see also Jer 36:26; 38:6)…”

The Death of Ahab

      • Then the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat, “I’ll disguise myself and go in to battle, but you wear your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “Ahab’s disguise is evidence of unclear thinking, for if Micaiah has truly been lying, there is no danger, and if he has been telling the truth, Ahab will die, whatever he does. The disguise is also a harbinger of disaster; it recalls the actions of both Saul and Jeroboam just before their deaths (cf 1 Sam 28:8; 1 Kgs 14:1-18). It is foolish to think that a mere disguise will hide someone from the Lord’s purpose.”

      • Now the king of Syria had ordered his 32 chariot commanders, “Don’t fight with anyone, either common soldiers or high-ranking officials, but only with the king of Israel.” When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat they thought, “Surely he is the king of Israel.” So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat called out, the chariot commanders realized he wasn’t the king of Israel and they turned away from chasing him. But an archer drew his bow, fired randomly, and it struck the king of Israel between the plates of his armor. So he ordered his chariot driver, “Turn around and take me out of the battle. I’m wounded.” While the battle raged throughout the day, the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians. He died that evening and the blood from his wound ran down into the bottom of the chariot. As the sun was setting, a cry went up through the camp, “Every man back to his city! Every man back to his land!”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Although Jehoshaphat alone is wearing royal robes, he is saved from death because his Judean shout (either its form or content) reveals that he is not the man Ben-hadad is determined to kill…The arrow shot at random flies unerringly to one of the few undefended spots on Ahab’s body, and thus fulfills what Micaiah had warned of in vv. 20-23. The king stays on the battlefield all day long, presumably to encourage his troops; but at sunset he dies.”

        • Guzik adds, “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. 2 Chronicles 18:31 makes it clear that the LORD heard Jehoshaphat’s cry and rescued him. 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).” On the arrow, Guzik continues, “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.”

      • So the king died and was taken to Samaria, where they buried him. They washed the chariot at the pool of Samaria, which is where the prostitutes bathed, and the dogs licked up his blood, according to the word of Yahweh, which He had spoken.

        • Guzik notes, “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. 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.”

      • The rest of the events of Ahab’s reign, including all of his accomplishments, the ivory house that he built, and all the cities that he built, are recorded in the book “Annals of the Kings of Israel.” Ahab rested with his ancestors and his son Ahaziah succeeded him as king.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Ahab’s palace was known for the vast quantities of ivory inlay used in its wall panels and furniture. Approximately 500 pieces of carved ivory were found in the excavations of the palace complex at Samaria. Their decorative motifs exhibit a strong Egyptian influence, mediated through Phoenician craftsmen who adapted them to create their own style.”

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes add, “Beginning with 22:43b, the verse numbers through 22:53 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), because 22:43b in the English Bible = 22:44 in the Hebrew text. The remaining verses in the chapter differ by one, with 22:44-53 ET = 22:45-54 HT.

Jehoshaphat’s Reign in Judah (22:41-50)

    • In the 4th year of King Ahab’s rule over Israel, Asa’s son Jehoshaphat became king over Judah. Jehoshaphat was 35 years old when he became king and he ruled for 25 years in Jerusalem. His mother was Azubah, who was Shilhi’s daughter. He followed in all of the ways of his father Asa and didn’t turn aside from them. He did what was right in Yahweh’s eyes. However, the high places weren’t removed and the people continued to sacrifice and burn incense there. Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.

      • HCSB writes, “The narrative now shifts its focus from the northern kingdom of Israel to the southern kingdom of Judah, and this continues into 2 Kg. The ‘fourth year’ of Ahab was 869 BC, after a co-regency with Asa. Jehoshaphat reigned twenty-five years, until 848 BC. This number includes a three-year co-regency with Asa.”

      • ESV Study Bible notes, “Jehoshaphat’s religious policy is the same as Asa’s. He does what is right in the sight of the Lord…and he will have nothing to do with cult prostitutes (15:12), even if the high places have still not been taken away (15:14). Jehoshaphat is a good king, and he is even at peace with the king of Israel, which Asa was not (15:16, 32).”

    • The rest of the events of Jehoshaphat’s reign, including the power he showed and how he waged war, are recorded in the book “Annals of the Kings of Judah.” He removed any male cultic prostitutes from the land that had managed to remain from the days of his father Asa. There was no king in Edom at this time, only a governor ruled. Jehoshaphat built a fleet of merchant ships to travel to Ophir for gold, but they never made the voyage because they were shipwrecked at Ezion Geber. Then Ahab’s son Ahaziah said to Jehoshaphat, “Let my servants join yours in the ships.” But Jehoshaphat refused. Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of his ancestor David. His son Jehoram succeeded him as king.

      • ESV Study Bible notes, “The Hebrew word for ‘deputy’ [rendered ‘governor’ above as in the NET translation] is otherwise used in 1-2 Kings only of Solomon’s various officials (1 Kgs 4:5, 27; 5:16; 9:23); Jehoshaphat controls Edom as Solomon had controlled his various districts, which is why the ‘king’ of Edom turns up in alliance with Judah in 2 Kings 3 in a noticeably supporting role. Judah’s control of Edom was not challenged until the reign of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram (2 Kgs 8:20-22). Because Jehoshaphat rules over Edom, just as Solomon had, he is able like Solomon to built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber (near Elath in Edom, cf 9:26-28), but he does not benefit from them. These turn out not to be days of glory for the house of David but days of humbling (cf 11:39). Solomon’s Israel was truly unified, but the current peace between Israel and Judah…is little more than the absence of hostility. Whereas Solomon took Sidonians on board his ships (9:27) , Jehoshaphat refuses to even have Israelites along. (As 2 Chron 20:35 tells it, Jehoshaphat was originally willing to cooperate with Ahaziah to build the merchant ships. But after Eliezer prophesied against Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahaziah [2 Chron 20:37], Jehoshaphat changed his mind, which is the situation described here in 1 Kings.) Jehoshaphat will reappear in 2 Kings 3, in what must be regarded as a ‘flashback’ to the earlier part (i.e., the first seven years) of Jehoram of Israel’s reign, when Jehoshaphat was still on the throne of Judah (cf 1 Kgs 22:42; 2 Kgs 3:1).”

Ahaziah’s Reign in Israel (22:51-53)

    • In the 17th year of King Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah, Ahab’s son Ahaziah became king over Israel in Samaria, and he ruled Israel for 2 years. He did what was evil in Yahweh’s eyes, and followed in the ways of his father, his mother, and Nebat’s son Jeroboam, who had caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal, and provoked Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger in all the ways that his father had.

      • HCSB writes, “The ”seventeenth year’ was 853 BC. Ahaziah reigned for two years, until 852 BC.”