Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
JEHOSHAPHAT MAKES AFFINITY WITH AHAB, AND TAKES PART IN THE SYRIAN WAR AT RAMOTH-GLLEAD.
Comp. 1Kings 22:2-35. Only the introduction of the narrative (2Chronicles 18:1-2) differs from that of Kings—a change necessitated by the fact that the chronicler is writing the history, not of Ahab, but of Jehoshaphat.
Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.(1) Now Jehoshaphat had.—And Jehoshaphat got.
Riches and honour in abundance.—Repeated from 2Chronicles 17:5.
And joined affinity with Ahab.—He married his son Jehoram to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2Chronicles 21:6; 1Kings 18:8). The high degree of prosperity to which the king of Judah had attained is indicated by the fact that so powerful a monarch as Ahab entered into such an intimate connection with him. (The vav of the second clause is not adversative, as Zöckler asserts, but rather consecutive.)
And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramothgilead.(2) And after certain years.—See margin. 1Kings 22:2 has: “And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat went down,” &c.—a date which is relative to the three years’ truce between Syria and Israel mentioned in the preceding verse. From 1Kings 22:51 of the same chapter we learn that this visit took place in the sixteenth or seventeenth year of the reign of Jehoshaphat. The marriage of Jehoram and Athaliah preceded the visit by eight or nine years. (Syriac and Arabic, “and after two years.”)
And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance.—This royal hospitality is here represented as part of a deliberate plan for obtaining the co-operation of Jehoshaphat in the projected campaign.
And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramothgilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war.(3) And Ahab king of Israel.—This verse is essentially the same as 1Kings 22:4. From this point the two narratives practically coincide. (See the Notes on 1 Kings 22)
To Ramoth-gilead—i.e., Ramoth of, or in, Gilead. Ramoth (“heights”), or Ramath or Ramah (“height”), was a common name in such a hilly country as Palestine. Kings adds, to the war.
And my people . . . in the war—The symmetry of this part of the verse has been disregarded by the chronicler, in order to make Jehoshaphat express an apparently more definite assent to Ahab’s request. (Comp. Kings: “My people as thy people, my horses as thy horses” (kamônî kamôka, kĕ‘ammî kĕ‘ammbka, kĕsûsai kĕsûseika). The Syriac reads: “And my horses as thy horses; and I will go with thee to the war.” Similarly the Arabic: “My horsemen as thy horsemen.”
And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.(4) And Jehoshaphat.—So exactly 1Kings 22:5.
Enquire . . . at the word.—Seek the word.
Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand.(5) Therefore.—And.
Of prophets.—Rather, the prophets.
Four hundred.—Kings, “About four hundred.” Also’ Adonai (“the Lord”), instead of ha’elôhîm (“the [true] God”); and “I go against” for “we go to,” where the former is obviously more appropriate.
But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?(6) But—And. So 1Kings 22:7, literally.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.(7) He never prophesied good unto me, but always evil.—Literally, He is not prophesying to me for good, but all his days for evil. Kings: “He prophesieth not to me good but evil.” The chronicler has aggravated the idea of opposition, by adding “all his days;” i.e., throughout his prophetic career. (Comp. Homer, Iliad, i. 106.)
Micaiah.—Heb., Mîkâyĕhû, which presupposes an older Mîkăyăhû (“Who like Iahu?”). Iahu is in all probability the oldest form of the Divine Name, Iah being an abridgment of it. Syriac and Arabic, “Micah”—the form in 2Chronicles 18:14 (Heb.).
Imla.—He is full, or, he filleth; etymologically right.
Let not the king say so.—Jehoshaphat hears in the words a presentiment of evil, and deprecates the omen.
And the king of Israel called for one of his officers, and said, Fetch quickly Micaiah the son of Imla.(8) Called for one of his officers.—Literally, Called to a eunuch. (See on 1Chronicles 28:1.)
Micaiah—Hebrew text, Mîkāhû, a contracted form. The Hebrew margin substitutes the usual spelling.
And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah sat either of them on his throne, clothed in their robes, and they sat in a void place at the entering in of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.(9) And the king of Israel . . . sat either of them on his throne.—Rather, Now the king of Israel . . . were sitting each on his throne.
Clothed in their robes.—The pronoun, which is indispensable if this be the meaning, is wanting in the Hebrew. The Syriac has probably preserved the original reading: “Clothed in raiment spotted white and black.” (Vid. infr.)
And they sat.—Were sitting. Explanatory addition by chronicler.
A void place.—A threshingfloor. LXX., ἐν τῷ εὐρυχώρῳ, “in the open ground;” Vulg., “in a threshing. floor.” The word is probably corrupt, and may have originated out of bĕruddîm, “spotted,” i.e., perhaps embroidered; an epithet of robes.
Prophesied.—Were prophesying. “Vaticina-bantur,” Vulg.
And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith the LORD, With these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed.(10) Push.—Butt (Daniel 8:4). Figuratively, as here, Deuteronomy 33:17.
Until they be consumed.—Unto destroying them.
And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.(11) Prophesied.—Nibbĕ’îm, “were prophesying.” Vulg., “prophetabant.” In 2Chronicles 18:9 the synonym mith-nabbe’îm was used, which also signifies “mad, raving” Jeremiah 29:26). The root meaning of this word is probably visible in the Assyrian nabû, “to call, proclaim,” so that the nābî, or prophet, was the προφήτης or spokesman of God, the herald of heaven to earth. (Comp. the name of the god Nebo, Nabi’um, who answers in the Babylonian Pantheon to the Greek Hermes.)
And prosper—i.e., and thou shalt prosper. So LXX., καὶ εὐοδωθήσῃ. Vuig., “prosperaberis.” (Comp. “This do, and live;” and Genesis 20:7, “he shall pray for thee, and live thou!”)
And the messenger that went to call Micaiah spake to him, saying, Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one assent; let thy word therefore, I pray thee, be like one of theirs, and speak thou good.(12) The words of the prophets . . . one assent.—See margin, and comp. Joshua 9:2, “they assembled . . . to fight against Israel, one mouth “—i.e., with one consent.)
Probably instead of dibhrê, “words,” we should read dibbĕrû, “they said,” a far slighter change in Hebrew writing than in English: “Behold the prophets have with one mouth spoken good unto (or, of) the king.” So LXX.
Like one of their’s.—Literally, like one of them. Kings, like the word of one of them.
And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.(13) Even.—Nay, but whatsoever my God shall say.
My God.—Kings, Jehovah.
And when he was come to the king, the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And he said, Go ye up, and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.(14) Shall I forbear.—Kings, shall we forbear. (See Note on 2Chronicles 18:5.)
And he said, Go ye up . . . and they shall be delivered.—Kings repeats the words of 2Chronicles 18:11, “Go thou up, and prosper thou, and the Lord,” &c. The chronicler has substituted a reply, which states quite definitely that they (i.e., the Syrians) shall be delivered into the hands of the allied sovereigns. In 2Chronicles 18:11 the object of the verb “deliver” was not expressed. This rather reminds us of the Delphic oracle: “If Crœsus pass the Halys, a mighty empire will be overthrown,” though the words of Zedekiah in the preceding verse are plain enough.
And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the LORD?(15) And the king said.—1Kings 22:16 literatim.
I adjure thee.—Compare the words of the high priest to Christ (Matthew 26:63).
Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.(16) Upon the mountains.—Kings, “unto the mountains.”
As sheep.—Like the flock, both of sheep and goats.
And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil?(17) But evil.—So Kings. Heb., here as margin. (Comp. 2Chronicles 18:7.)
Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.(18) Again.—And.
Therefore.—LXX., not so, as if the Hebrew were lō’kēn instead of laken. Vulg. excellently, “at ille: idcirco ait audite verbum domini.”
Hear ye.—Kings, hear thou.
Standing on his right hand.—Literally, were standing. Kings, And all the host of heaven was standing by him, on his right hand and on his left. The chronicler has abridged.
And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.(19) And one spake, saying.—Literally, and one said (i.e., it was spoken), this one saying thus, and that one saying thus. The text is certainly right.
After this manner.—Kāhhāh. Kings, bĕkhōh. Kings has, and this one said in this wise, and that one was saying in that wise.
Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith?(20) Then there came out a spirit.—Rather, And the spirit came forth. LXX., καὶ ἐξῆλθεν τὸ πνεῦμα.
And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.(21) And be.—Become (wĕhāyîthî lĕ). Kings omits the particle.
A lying spirit.—A spirit of falsehood. (Comp. Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 19:14; Ezekiel 14:9 : “And the prophet, if he be deceived, and speak a word, it is I, Jehovah, who have deceived that prophet.” The verb “deceive” is that which is rendered “entice” here and in 2Chronicles 18:19, pittah. LXX., Ἀπατήσεις (See also 2Thessalonians 2:11.)
Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil against thee.(22) Now therefore.—And now.
Of these.—Kings, of all these. So some Hebrew MSS., Vulg., Syriac, Arabic, and one MS. of LXX.
Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?(23) Then.—And.
And smote.—Way-yak, a correction of way-yakkèh (Kings), such as the chronicler often makes.
which way.—Literally, where is the way the spirit of Jehovah passed. Kings, where passed the spirit, &c.
Unto thee.—With thee.
And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.(24) Thou shalt see.—Thou art to see, or, destined to see, on that day when thou shalt enter a chamber in a chamber to hide thyself (lĕhēchābēh”, correctly. Kings, lĕhēchābēh). Zedekiah’s further history is not recorded—an indication, as Ewald justly observes, that the original narrative contained much more than the present extract from it.
Then the king of Israel said, Take ye Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;(25) Take ye . . . carry him.—Kings, Take thou . . . carry thou, addressed to some single officer.
Governor.—Sar, “prefect.” LXX., ἄρχοντα. Syriact shallit.
Carry back—i.e., convey back. Literally, make him return.
And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I return in peace.(26) Bread of affliction, and with water of affliction.—In the Hebrew the second word (làhats) is not a genitive but an accusative, “bread with stint,” “water with stint.” Literally, squeezing. Vulg., “panis modicum et aquae pauxillum.” Syriac, “bread (enough) to keep life, and water (enough) to keep life.” (Comp. Isaiah 30:20.)
Until I return.—A correction of until I come (Kings).
And Micaiah said, If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the LORD spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people.(27) And Micaiah said.—Literally as 1Kings 22:28.
If thou certainly return.—“If thou dost return.”
And he said—i.e., Micaiah said, turning to the crowd of bystanders, and making them witnesses to his prediction.
Hearken, all ye people.—Rather, Hearken ye, O peoples all! Literally, all of them. The book of the prophet Micah opens with these very words (Micah 1:2). Hitzig thinks they were taken from that passage, and Nöldeke, that they “must be and denote an abbreviation of the entire book.” (!) Thenius, on the other hand, justly argues that the whole section before us bears indubitable marks of historical truth, and is probably an extract from the history of Jehoshaphat written by Jehu the son of Hanani (2Chronicles 20:34).
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and will go to the battle; but put thou on thy robes. So the king of Israel disguised himself; and they went to the battle.(29) I will disguise myself, and will go.—Literally, disguising myself and entering! A hurried exclamatory mode of speaking.
They went.—Kings, he (Ahab) went into the battle. So some Hebrew MSS., LXX., Syriac, Vulg., Arabic, and Targum.
Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of the chariots that were with him, saying, Fight ye not with small or great, save only with the king of Israel.(30) That were with him.—Kings adds, “thirty and two,” referring to what is related in 1Kings 20:16; 1Kings 20:24, a matter which the chronicler has not noticed. The Syriac and Arabic supply the number here.
With small or great.—So Kings. Our text is literally, with the small or the great.
They compassed about him.—Or, came round against him. Kings, wrongly, “turned aside against him.” In Hebrew the difference turns on half a letter.
But Jehoshaphat cried out.—Probably to bring his followers to the rescue. (1Kings 22:32 ends with these words.)
And the Lord helped him; and God moved (literally, incited, “persuaded,” 2Chronicles 18:1) them . . . from him.—Drove them away from him. This addition is evidently from the pen of the chronicler himself. It appears that he understood the verb “cried out” in the sense of a cry to God for help, a sense which it often bears, e.g., Psalm 22:6.
How God “drove them off” is explained in the next verse. The captains discovered their mistake and retired.
This perfectly natural event is regarded by the chronicler as providential, and rightly so. Hebrew faith “knows nothing of an order of the world which can be separated even in thought from the constant personal activity of Jehovah.”
And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: therefore he said to his chariot man, Turn thine hand, that thou mayest carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.(33) Drew a bow.—With the bow.
At a venture.—See margin, and comp. 2Samuel 15:11, where a similar phrase occurs, which Gesenius interprets “without thought of evil design.” The LXX. εὐστόχως, “with good aim,” is a bad guess. Syriac, “innocently straight before him.” But the explanation of Rashi seems best: “without knowing why he chose that particular man to shoot at.”
And smote.—See on 2Chronicles 18:23.
Between the joints of the harness.—Or, breastplate. So Syriac, “between the division of his mail”; the LXX. has “in the midst of the lungs and breast:; Vulgate, “between the neck and shoulders”; both mere guesses.
That thou mayst carry (literally, bring) me out.—Kings, and bring me out.
And the battle increased that day: howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even: and about the time of the sun going down he died.(34) Increased.—Literally, went up, grew. (Comp. Genesis 40:10; Amos 7, the growth of grass.)
Howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot.—Literally, and the king of Israel was (or, continued) holding himself up in the chariot, facing Aram, until the evening. 1Kings 22:35 reads: was held up in the chariot, &c, and he died in the evening. The reading of Chronicles is preferable, the sense being that Ahab bravely bore up against the pain of his wound, in order not to discourage his own side by retiring from the field. The rest of the narrative which tells of the return of the army and the washing of Ahab’s chariot at the pool of Samaria (1Kings 22:36-38) is omitted here, because Jehoshaphat was not concerned in it, and perhaps because the chronicler had a true perception of the real climax of this vivid story of the olden time.