1 KINGS CHAPTER 22.
War with the Syrians. - Reign of Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah.
THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE SYRIANS. — V. 1. And they continued three years, literally, “they rested,” they undertook no further campaigns, without war between Syria and Israel; so long the false friendship lasted. V. 2. And it came to pass in the third year that Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, came down to the king of Israel; his son having married a daughter of Ahab, he made a formal visit and was entertained most lavishly, 2 Chron. 18, 1 if. V. 3. And the king of Israel said unto his servants, at some time during Jehoshaphat’s visit, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead, an important fortified city in the country east of Jordan, is ours, both by right of original possession and by covenant with Benhadad, chap. 20, 34, and we be still, remain inactive in spite of this state of affairs, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria? V. 4. And he said unto Jehoshaphat, whom he intended to gain for his side, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-gilead? And Jehoshaphat, who should have kept out of this entangling alliance, said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses, he pledged himself and all his resources, his entire military power, to the support of Ahab’s project. V. 5. And Jehoshaphat, remembering at least some caution in time, said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord today; he wanted to he sure that the undertaking was in agreement with the will of Jehovah. V. 6. Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, not true prophets of Jehovah, but men who presumed upon the office for the sake of filthy gain, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they, who seem to have been at the same time priests of the calf-worship introduced by Jeroboam and therefore were anxious to please the king, whose purpose was so evident, said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. V. 7. And Jehoshaphat, not at all satisfied with this farce, said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, a true and genuine prophet of Jehovah, that we might enquire of him? V. 8. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, he was immediately available, as some commentators think because he had delivered an unfavorable prophecy to Ahab and had thereupon been placed in prison, by whom we may enquire of the Lord; but I hate him, just as Ahab hated everything else connected with the true worship of Jehovah; for he doth not prophecy good concerning me, but evil. Ahab evidently held the heathen idea that the prophet had some influence over the God whom he served and could be held responsible with his person for an unfavorable oracle. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so; he rebuked Allah for his alleged hatred and his consequent unwillingness to listen to Micaiah. V. 9. Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, Hasten hither Micaiah, the son of Imlah; he conceded this point for the sake of his scheme. V. 10. And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, clothed in all their royal finery, as was proper for such a solemn assembly, in a void place, in an open space which had been made level like a threshing-floor, in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets, those whom Ahab had summoned at first, prophesied before them. V. 11. And Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, made him horns of iron, probably in the form of large spikes which he held against his forehead, this being a symbolical action intended to remind his audience of Deut. 33, 17; and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, like a strong wild ox, until thou have consumed them. V. 12. And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper, sure of the victory even in advance; for the Lord shall deliver it into the king’s hand. V. 13. And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, in an effort to influence him and to shape his prophecy, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth, there was perfect agreement among them; let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. V. 14. And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak; as a faithful prophet of Jehovah he would not deviate so much as one inch from the path of his duty. V. 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. Either the prophet’s tone of voice or his face must have shown that he was speaking in holy irony, rebuking the king for his hypocritical question, as though he had said: Why the formality? Your mind is made up. Go ahead; march out into the battle-field; for all I may say will not change your mind. V. 16. And the king, in order to convince Jehoshaphat of a sincerity which he by no means felt, 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? It sounded like zeal for the truth, but was in reality another specimen of hypocrisy. V. 17. And he, ready now to describe the vision which Jehovah gave him, 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. The meaning was clear. Ahab would fall in battle, his soldiers would be scattered in the hills of Gilead, they would eventually return to their homes without being pursued. V. 18. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, in trying to blame this unfavorable prophecy on the personal enmity of Micaiah, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? V. 19. And he, Micaiah, said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord, an account of a second vision, which explained the attitude of the four hundred prophets: 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, God appearing here as the great, almighty Ruler of the world. V. 20. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, deceiving or seducing him, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? It is plain that the fall of Ahab was determined in the counsels of God. And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. V. 21. And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, evidently the spirit of prophecy represented as a person, and said, I will persuade him. V. 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, causing them to prophesy falsehoods. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. Since Ahab had sold himself into the service of sin and hardened his heart against all permanent good influences, therefore the Lord now deliberately gave him up to the destruction which he sought. V. 23. Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee. This explained the remarkable agreement among the false prophets of Ahab. V..24. But Zedekiab, the son of Chenaanah, who had heard this explanation, went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? He challenged Micaiah for evidence, being certain that he did not invent the saying which he had so confidently spoken before the king, but overlooking, at the same time, that the application of brute force was no way of establishing his claim. V. 25. And Micaiah, without resenting the blow inflicted by Zedekiah, said, Behold, thou shalt see In that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself, running from one room to another in the excess of his terror over the fulfillment of Micaiah’s prophecy. V. 26. And the king ot Israel said, Take Micaiah and carry him back unto Amon, the governor of the city, in whose care he had therefore been before, and to Joash, the king’s son, a prince of the blood, who, with the commandant of the city, had charge of the prisoners, v. 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, with rough prison fare, until I come in peace, for he boldly thought that he would be successful in his campaign. V. 28. And Micaiah, fully conscious of his divine office, 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! He called upon those present to be witnesses of his word, knowing that his prophecy would surely be fulfilled. Though the godless children of the world are full of hatred against the true servants of the Lord, the latter never hesitate in announcing God’s wrath and displeasure upon the children of unbelief, the purpose being to induce them to leave the path of unrighteousness.
THE DEATH OF AHAB. — V. 29. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, went up to Ramoth-gilead, the latter apparently being unwilling to take back his promise, since Ahab had declared Micaiah to be his personal opponent. V. 30. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, in his anxiety to safeguard his own life, I will disguise myself and enter into the battle, contrary to the custom according to which the king preceded his troops clothed in royal garments; but put thou on thy robes, for in his case the enemies would have no special reason to single him out and put him to death. And the king of Israel disguised himself’ and went into the battle. V. 31. But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains, chap. 20, 24, that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel; they were to concentrate their efforts on the killing of Ahab, for the end of Ahab would mean the end of the war and victory for the Syrian forces. V. 32. And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, who was immediately distinguishable by his royal costume, that they said, Surely it Is the king of Israel. And. they turned aside to fight against him, they turned their chariots in his direction; and Jehoshaphat cried out, either calling his name or shouting to his own soldiers to come to his aid. V. 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, for their orders were to take or kill Ahab. V. 34. And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, without being conscious of the fact that the man he aimed at, who wore the clothing of an ordinary soldier, was the king of Israel, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness, in the narrow opening between the skirt and the breastplate of his armor; wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, guiding the horses away from the battle-line, and carry me out of the host, for I am wounded, no longer able to take part in the conflict, forced to retire from the fight. V. 35. And the battle increased that day, it was waged with great bitterness on both sides. And the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, unable to reach a place of shelter on account of the bitterness of the encounter, and died at even; and the blood ran out of the wound, which could not be dressed, into the midst of the chariot, collecting in pools in the rounded part of the chariot-floor. V. 36. And there went a proclamation throughout the host, evidently started by the discouraged soldiers themselves, about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city and every man to his own country! They abandoned the field and scattered to their homes. V. 37. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria, coming not as a victor, but as a corpse; and they buried the king in Samaria. V. 38. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria, for this city, like others, had its reservoir; and the dogs licked up his blood, as it flowed out of the chariot, mingled with water. And they washed his armor, literally, “the harlots were bathing,” they used this polluted water in their evening washing, thus bringing more shame upon the memory of Ahab, according unto the word of the Lord which He spake, chap. 21, 19. V. 39. Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made, the palace richly decorated with ivory, either in Jezreel or in Samaria, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? V. 40. So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahasiah, his son, reigned in his stead. Such was the terrible and disgraceful end of the proud king. And in like manner, eternal shame and disgrace is the end of all those who rebel against the Lord of heaven.
JEHOSHAPHAT IN JUDAH, AHAZIAH IN ISREAL. — V. 41. And Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab, king of Israel. Cp. 2 Chron. 17-21. V. 42. Jehoshaphat, of whose reign only a very brief summary is here given, 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, mentioned, as usual, on account of the obvious great influence of the mother in Oriental harems, was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. V. 43. And he walked in all the ways of Asa, his father, keeping the covenant of Jehovah; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord; nevertheless, the high places, those devoted to Jehovah worship, against the real purpose of the Lord, were not taken away; for the people offered and burned incense yet in the high places, they did not confine their worship to the Temple at Jerusalem, as the Lord had ordered. V. 44. And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel, a state of war having existed between the two kingdoms for about seventy years. V. 45. Now, the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he showed, especially in building fortresses and in increasing the military forces of the country, and how he warred, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? V. 46. And the remnant of the sodomites, the male prostitutes, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land, his rule being notable also for that reason. V. 47. There was then no king in Edom, for the Edomites, who had been conquered by David, had either not succeeded in regaining their independence, or they had not been able to keep it; a deputy was king, acting as governor under the overlordship of the king of Judah. V. 48. Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish, ocean-going vessels such as were used for the trade with Spain, to go to Ophir for gold; but they went not, for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber, the harbor at the head of the Elanitic Gulf, a storm destroying them at God’s command, 2 Chron. 20, 37. V. 49. Then said Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not, he refused to make a second attempt, after the Lord had so plainly shown his disapproval of the undertaking. V. 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. V. 51. Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, whose accession to the throne was noted v. 40, began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. V. 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, in extreme idolatry, and in the way of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, by introducing idolatry when he erected the golden calves; v. 53. for he served Baal, and worshiped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done. The terrible end of his father had not taught this idolater the lesson which he should have learned. It is due to men’s own deliberate blindness that they meet with misfortune and are condemned.