2 Chronicles 18

2 CHRONICLES CHAPTER 18

Jehoshaphat’s Alliance with Ahab

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The account of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab is taken with few changes from 1 Kings 22:1-40, but the additional comments in 2 Chron 18:1-2 and in 19:1-3 give it an altogether different significance. Jehoshaphat, rather than Ahab (and the divine punishment he received for spurning the prophetic word), is the focus here. The Chronicler is concerned to show that Jehoshaphat is equally subject to the prophetic word, but that by repentance and a conscientious return to God’s way, he may escape divine wrath. As with his father Asa (see 16:3), Jehoshaphat seeks an alliance with the northern kingdom that is based not on righteous grounds but on political expediency that may draw Judah into destruction. In his account of Hezekiah’s reign (chs 29-30), the Chronicler will indicate how a true and beneficial unity among the tribes of Israel can be achieved.”

      • Jehoshaphat was very wealthy and greatly respected. He made an alliance with Ahab through marriage, and some years later he went down to see Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered many sheep and cattle for Jehoshaphat and the people with him and he induced him to join an attack against Ramoth Gilead. Israel’s King Ahab said to Judah’s King Jehoshaphat, “Will you go to attack Ramoth Gilead with me?” Jehoshaphat replied, “You and I are as one, and my people are as your people. We will be with you in the battle.” Then he said further to the king of Israel, “First, inquire for the word of Yahweh.” So the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, 400 men, and asked them, “Should we attack Ramoth Gilead or not?” They answered, “March up, and God will hand it over to the king.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of Yahweh here anymore that we can inquire of?” The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of Yahweh, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad. He’s Imlah’s son Micaiah.” Jehoshaphat said, “The king should not say such things!”So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Imlah’s son Micaiah at once.”

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “The Chronicler’s introduction alludes to the marriage of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram to Ahab’s daughter Athaliah (see 21:6), some years before the battle Ahab initiated against Syria to recapture Ramoth-gilead. The statement that Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor is an indication of divine blessing on his reign and casts his alliance with Ahab into a yet more reprehensible light. The marriage between the royal houses was intended to seal peace between the kingdoms after 50 years of hostilities. Such an alliance, however, would require Jehoshaphat to ‘help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord’ (19:2). Ahab’s great feast for Jehoshaphat and his persuasive words induced (Hb sut) or enticed him to take part in the battle (see also 1 Chron 21:1; 2 Chron 32:11, 15). The same Hebrew word is found in 18:31 (‘God drew them away from him’) as the positive counterbalance to the evil into which Ahab draws Jehoshaphat.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “Ahab, son of Omri, was king of Israel from 874 to 853 BC…Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel from the time of Omri (1 Kings 16:24) to the fall of the northern kingdom under Hoshea (2 Kings 17). Ramoth Gilead (Tell er-Rumeith) is located 35 miles north of Amman, Jordan, in what was the territory of Gad. The Syrians captured it during the reign of Ben-hadad II (c 860-841 BC)…”

        • NET Bible points out, “Though Jehoshaphat had requested an oracle from ‘the Lord’ (…yhvah, ‘Yahweh’), the Israelite prophets stop short of actually using this name and substitute the title …(haʾelohim, ‘the God’). This ambiguity may explain in part Jehoshaphat’s hesitancy and caution (vv. 7-8). He seems to doubt that the 400 are genuine prophets of the Lord.”

        • ESV Study Bible continues, “Jehoshaphat (in contrast to Ahab) is at least concerned to seek the word of the Lord concerning the advisability of the mission…Ahab’s four hundred men were called prophets…but they were also government officials, probably connected with Baal and Asherah worship that Jezebel had introduced into the northern kingdom (see 1 Kings 18:19). Their words (2 Chron 18:5, 11) and symbolic actions (v. 10; see Jer 27:2-7) are unequivocal and exactly what Ahab wants to hear. Jehoshaphat, however, does not recognize them as prophets of Yahweh and also persists in his request (2 Chron 18:6). Michaiah the son of Imlah is one of the authentic prophets of Yahweh (in a kingdom where they had recently been persecuted; see 1 Kings 18:4)…”

Micaiah Prophesies against Ahab

      • Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Judah’s King Jehoshaphat were each sitting on a throne at the threshing floor near the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying in front of them. Kenaanah’s son Zedekiah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘You will gore the Syrians with these 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 prophets are in complete agreement that the king will succeed. Let your word agree with theirs and speak favorably.” But Micaiah answered, “As surely as Yahweh lives, I will say whatever my God says.”

        • Guzik remarks, “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.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “City gates and their adjoining plazas functioned not only as entrances and exits but also as business centers, courtrooms (Deut 22:15; Josh 20:4; Ruth 4:1, 11), assembly halls (2 Chron 32:6), news outlets (Ps 69:12), and places for prophetic consultation. Exvacations at Tel Dan in northern Israel revealed an Iron Age city gate and paved plaza. Just inside the gate, excavators found a stepped podium dating to the ninth century BC and flanked by decorated sockets. These sockets likely served as bases for poles to support a canopy under which a city ruler, judge, or king would sit on a throne.”

Photo via Netours

      • When he went before the king, the king asked him, “Michaiah, should we attack Ramoth Gilead or not?” Micaiah replied, “Attack and succeed because they will be handed over to you.” But the king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to speak nothing to me but the truth in the name of Yahweh?” Micaiah answered, “I saw all of Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep with no shepherd. And Yahweh said, ‘They have no master. Let each one return home in peace.’”

        • NET Bible takes the following perspective, “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 we discover 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. 13 Micaiah only vows to speak the word of his God; he does not necessarily say he will tell the truth. In this case the Lord’s word is deliberately deceptive. Only when the king adjures him to tell the truth (v. 15), does Micaiah do so.”

        • Some commentators see Micaiah’s first prophesy as likely being delivered in a mocking tone. Guzik writes, “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. 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. 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.”

      • Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad? Then 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 Israel’s King Ahab so that he will attack Ramoth Gilead and die there?’ So one was saying this and another 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 his prophets.’ Yahweh said, ‘You will deceive him and you will succeed. Go and do and you have proposed.’ See now, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all of these prophets of yours. Yahweh has decreed disaster for you.”

        • As noted in the notes for the 1 Kings 22 parallel, this is an absolutely fascinating passage. The interested reader may refer to the notes for 1 Kings 22 for a much more in depth discussion of relevant points, including the tendency of so many translators to substitute the more palatable words “entice” or “persuade,” where the Biblical text clearly indicates “deceive,” as well as Dr. Michael Heiser’s explanation of various aspects of this very obvious “Divine Council” scene.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The assembly of angelic beings surrounding God’s throne as a divine court is mentioned is Ps. 8:5 (‘heavenly beings’) and perhaps in Ps 82:1, and they are likely the ones addressed in Gen 1:26 and 11:7 (‘let us’ in both cases). This same ‘host of heaven’ is mentioned in 1 Kings 22:19, Neh 9:6; Jer 33:22; and Dan 4:35 (cf Luke 2:13)…”

          • Note, many commentators understand the plural “us” in Gen 1:26 to be a reference to the Trinity. Heiser disagrees, taking the view explained in the commentary above.

        • NET Bible calls our attention to yet another facet of interest in this passage. Most translations read “a spirit” in v. 20. However, the Hebrew text actually contains the article “the” in reference to the spirit: “The significance of the article prefixed to…(ruakh) is uncertain, but it could contain a clue as to this spirit’s identity, especially when interpreted in light of verse 23. It is certainly possible, and probably even likely, that the article is used in a generic or dramatic sense and should be translated, ‘a spirit.’ In the latter case it would show that this spirit was vivid and definite in the mind of Micaiah the storyteller. However, if one insists that the article indicates a well-known or universally known spirit, the following context provides a likely referent. Verse 23 tells how Zedekiah slapped Micaiah in the face and then asked sarcastically, “Which way did the spirit from the Lord (… ruakh yhvah) go when he went from me to speak to you?” When the phrase ‘the spirit of the Lord’ refers to the divine spirit (rather than the divine breath or mind, as in Isa 40:7, 13) elsewhere, the spirit energizes an individual or group for special tasks or moves one to prophesy. This raises the possibility that the deceiving spirit of vv. 20-22 is the same as the divine spirit mentioned by Zedekiah in v. 23. This would explain why the article is used on…(ruakh); he can be called ‘the spirit’ because he is the well-known spirit who energizes the prophets.”

      • Then Kenaanah’s son Zedekiah went up and hit Micaiah in the face, and said, “Which way did Yahweh’s spirit go when he went from me to speak to you?” Micaiah answered, “You’ll find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.” Then the king of Israel ordered, “Sieze Micaiah and take him back to Amon, 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 Micaiah said, “If you return safely then Yahweh hasn’t spoken through me.” Then he added, “All you people, mark my words!”

        • Guzik says, “Zedekiah responded the way many do when they are defeated in argument – he responded with violence. King Ahab responded the way many tyrants do when they are confronted with the truth. Ahab wanted Micaiah imprisoned and deprived (feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction)…The prophet Micaiah made one final and ultimate appeal. He was willing to be judged by whether his prophecy came to pass or not. Since he knew his words were true, it was fitting for him to cry out as they dragged him back to prison, ‘Take heed, all you people!‘”

The Death of Ahab

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

        • Guzik says, “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.”

        • 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 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 Jehoshaphat cried out, and Yahweh helped him. God drew them away from him. When the chariot commanders realized he wasn’t the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him. But an archer drew his bow, fired randomly, and it struck the king of Israel between the plates of his armor. He ordered his charioteer, “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 until evening. Then he died at sunset.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “…His decision to disguise himself, while cynically directing Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes, indicates his dominant role in the alliance and perhaps also represents a contrived attempt to evade Micaiah’s word of doom. But events turned out the opposite of what Ahab had intended: Jehoshaphat is delivered in battle as a consequence of his desperate prayer (v. 31b, and the Lord helped him; God drew them away from him is the Chronicler’s own addition to the text…), while Ahab dies from an apparently random arrow…clear evidence of God’s sovereign direction of events.”

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