Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES CHARACTER.
1. It injures morals.
(1) The earlier career of Jehoshaphat was faultless. He is highly commended for his faithfulness to God and zeal against idolatry (2 Chronicles 17:1-6).
(2) His first fault was sanctioning the marriage of his son Jehoram with Athaliah the daughter of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18, 26).
(3) This led the way to the further fault of that friendly visit to Ahab mentioned here, for which he was rebuked by "Jehu the son of Hanani the seer" (2 Chronicles 19:2).
(4) Yet once again we find him falling into a similar snare. He agreed with Ahaziah the son of Ahab, a wicked scion of wicked house, jointly to equip a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Bed Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. In this also he incurred the anger of the Lord and suffered the loss of his fleet (ver. 48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Note: A fault is like a seed, fruitful "after its kind." A fault once committed prepares the way for a repetition.
2. It damages reputation.
(1) Reputation is character as estimated by men. This estimate may or may not be just; for men may judge wrongly through ignorance of circumstances which would put a new complexion upon conduct. Therefore judgments should be charitable, and not too hastily formed.
(2) But it is a maxim among men, generally true, that "you may know a man by his friends." Friendships involve sympathies. It had been better for Jehoshaphat's reputation had he never made affinity with the wicked house of Ahab.
(3) This principle will apply to books. Hence the kindred maxim, "You may see a man in his library." It is bad enough when the newspaper shuts up the Bible; it is worse when the Bible is neglected through preference for sensational fictitious literature.
3. It impairs influence.
(1) This follows. Character is influence. Reputation is influence. Advice will be readily received from a genuine man, which coming from an artificial character would be spurned.
(2) What a power for good or evil is moral influence! See the evil exemplified in Israel under Ahab and Jezebel. See the good in Judah under Jehoshaphat. Lessons: Let your character be true. Jealously guard your reputation. Look to these for the sake of your influence.
II. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES HAPPINESS. Because -
1. Happiness is involved in character.
(1) This truth is abundantly illustrated in sacred history. Examples are furnished in the text. Secular history teaches this truth. Everyday experience evinces it.
(2) Yet is it difficult so to convince individuals of this as to lead them to abandon sin and throw their energies wholly into the blessed service of God. Happiness is proportionate to the completeness of consecration. This consecration cannot be reconciled with the friendship of the world (James 4:4).
2. Goodness is grieved in it.
(1) Jehoshaphat was not long in the company of Ahab before his ear was offended by horrible words. "I hate him." Whom did Ahab hate? Micaiah, the faithful prophet of the Lord. Does not this look like a declaration of hatred against the Lord? (See Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Zechariah 2:8.)
(2) Why does Ahab hate Micaiah? "For he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." Because he does not falsify the truth of God to flatter me. Because he does not play the devil to please me, as these four hundred do! Note: Hatred to God means love to Satan.
(3) Such sentiments were distressing to the feelings of Jehoshaphat. To the revulsion of his righteous soul he gave expression (but too feeble) in the remonstrance, "Let not the king say so." The conversation of such as are in sympathy with evil will offend the good in proportion to their pureness.
3. It leads the most wary into trouble. For the persuasions of the wicked are subtle.
(1) In presence of Jehoshaphat "The king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?" It was a considerable city in the tribe of Gad on the other side Jordan, and one of the cities of refuge. It was one of the cities which Ben-hadad, by the letter of his covenant, was bound to restore (see 1 Kings 20:34). The cause of Israel was obviously just.
(2) Then turning to Jehoshaphat, Ahab said, "Wilt thou go with me to battle at Ramoth-Gilead?" To which, carried away with the obvious justice of the cause, Jehoshaphat responded, "I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses." This was too strong a compliment to Ahab and his people, and the response was too ready. We may not champion every just cause. It may be wrong to champion a good cause in wicked company.
(3) Bethinking himself, as a godly man should do, "Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord." A good man seeks to take God with him, and so long as he abides in this holy company he is safe. But let him beware that he be not persuaded by the wicked to forsake it.
(4) Ahab was equal to the occasion. He had four hundred prophets ready with one mouth to pronounce for the war, and that, too, in the name of the Lord. This hireling company, however, did not satisfy Jehoshaphat, yet he fell into their snare. He should have availed himself of the opportunity to withdraw given him in the prophecy of Micaiah; but, under the spell of Ahab's evil influence, he went to the battle and got into trouble. There is no safety in the company of the wicked.
4. It provokes judgments of God.
(1) The good partake in the plagues of their wicked associates. Jehoshaphat barely escaped, through the mercy of God, with his life; and he suffered the loss of many of his people (see Revelation 18:4). The fly that keeps aloof is not entangled in the spider's web.
(2) The good incur Divine judgments for their own sin. The sin of friendship with the enemies of God. The sin such friendship must infallibly occasion. Such was the experience of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chronicles 19:2). Such will be yours. Avoid it. - J.A.M.
I. THE WICKED RUSH UPON DESTRUCTION.
1. Ahab provokes the war in which he himself will perish. The peace which had lasted so long might have continued. Every day it was prolonged was a day placed between him and death; and yet with his own hand he brings to an end the period of grace. How often are the calamities of the wicked invoked by themselves, and are the fruit of their own rashness!
2. It came as the prompting of the deepest wisdom. Jehoshaphat's presence afforded the opportunity of forming a league to which success seemed certain. The selfish cunning of the sinful becomes a snare to them.
3. He closes his ear against God's deterring counsel.
(1) When asked to inquire of God, he brings those only who will speak the things that accord with his own determination. The false prophets are called, but not the true.
(2) When compelled to bring Micaiah from the prison (see ver. 26, "carry him back unto Amon," etc.), he endeavours to prevent Jehoshaphat being moved by his words. Micaiah is his enemy, therefore a prophecy of good is not to be expected from him.
(3) When warned he will not be hindered, but defies God, who would save him, by insulting and persecuting His servant (ver. 27).
II. THE FALSE PROPHETS.
1. They bind the cords which are leading a sinful soul to death. The word which they profess to speak for God is a word which it pleases the king to hear. It is the echo of his own desires (ver. 6). There are those who by voice and pen proclaim a new gospel It is no longer sought to lead up the world to God and thus reconcile it to Him. It is boldly declared that the reconciliation is already effected. God has come down to it. There is no anger and no threatening and no terrible shadow of judgment. There is nothing but goodness and love. They are the false prophets of today, and these do for the men of their generation what those did for Ahab.
2. Their blasphemy. When a prophet of Jehovah was asked for (ver. 7), they who have hitherto spoken only of Adonai do not scruple to take the name of the Highest into their lips (vers. 11, 12). We do not escape the false prophets when we appeal from their speech concerning the God of nature to His revealed will, the word of the Lord. They meet us there. It is in vain we seek to rest upon the plainest words; they are explained away. Hell is a superstitious dream, and the cross of the disciples of Christ a mere figure of speech, with no hard, stern reality behind it.
3. They are possessed by a spirit of falsehood (vers. 21-23). Their position is more a punishment of past sin than conscious transgression. They speak with honesty of a sort, but it is out of their heart's darkness. They were willing to be deceived, and they have been deceived. They did not wish to know God as He is, and they have been left with the god of their own imagination. In which school are we, that of the false prophets, or of the true?
4. They smite the true servants of God. Zedekiah's blow preceded the king's judgment. It proved nothing but his own soul's distance from God. It was the act of a man provoked by zeal for his own honour. He who had been moved by zeal for God's honour would have stood in silent awe of that terrible but certain judgment which the man was braving.
III. THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD.
1. In a corrupt court his is no welcome presence (ver. 8). The distance between Ahab and God was reflected in that which separated him from the speaker of God's word. Continued faithfulness, if it may not win, must be repelled and hated. "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you; for so," etc.
2. The necessity laid on him to declare the whole counsel of God (ver. 14). He cannot turn to the right hand or the left; the world's wealth cannot bribe him, its power and cruelty cannot terrify him. What king or people desire to hear, or courtly prophets or current creeds have said, weighs nothing with him. He cannot speak in God's name aught save what God has said.
3. His message. He speaks first in easily discerned irony (vers. 15, 16). It was an intimation to the king that he desired to hear no prophecy that would run counter to his inclinations. Then, when he is solemnly appealed to, a picture is presented (ver. 17) of the smitten, shepherdless people, which might well have touched even Ahab's heart. Next king and people are led up to the throne of God. The servant and his words are forgotten in the revelation of his Master. Even the false prophet's utterances are turned to account; they and the reliance which the king is placing on them are part fulfilment of the Divine vengeance. There was deeper tenderness and truer love for Ahab in that one breast than in all the four hundred.
4. The greatness of all true service for God. There is a glory about that despised, persecuted man before which that of both kings pales. It is a glory which nothing can tear from the loyal heart, and which shines the brighter amid the world's darkening hate. It is a glory which may be our own. - U.
Jeremiah 23:38). To this end let us consider -
I. TESTS WHICH MAY NOT BE TRUSTED.
1. The test of profession.
(1) Ahab's prophets "prophesied." That is to say
(b) They used modes usual with prophets to communicate the information when received. "Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them" (cf. Jeremiah 27:2; Jeremiah 28:18). The "horn" was the symbol of a king (see Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12). These were "two," to represent Ahab and Jehoshaphat, Israel and Judah. They were of "iron" to express strength (see Daniel 2:40). The prophecy was that, aided by Jehoshaphat, Ahab should push the Syrians to destruction.
(2) They prophesied "in the name of the Lord." Some think because their number corresponded to that of the prophets of Ashere (1 Kings 18:19) these were the same, having escaped when the prophets of Baal were slain at the brook Kishon (1 Kings 18:40). If so, then their profession on this occasion was designed to deceive Jehoshaphat (see Jeremiah 23:30).
(3) Anyhow there was profession enough, but it was hollow, and proved conclusively that profession must not be taken as a test of truth.
2. The test of numbers.
(1) Here were "four hundred" who prophesied professedly in the name of the Lord. Against this number Micaiah the son of Imlah stands alone; yet the truth of God is with him against the multitude. "Truth is not always to be determined by the poll. It is net numbers, but weight, that must carry it in the council of prophets" (Bishop Hall).
(2) This instance does not stand alone. The majority was in the wrong against Noah. Elijah was in the minority on Carmel, but he was right. Jesus had the whole Jewish Church against Him, though He was Truth itself.
3. The test of unanimity.
(1) The four hundred were united against Micaiah. Sometimes there is unanimity of this kind against a common object, where otherwise there is little agreement. Herod and Pilate made friends in opposition to Jesus.
(2) But these prophets were agreed among themselves. They all seem to have followed the leadership of Zedekiah. "And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-Gilead, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hand."
4. How does this argument bear upon the authority of the Church?
(1) It is pleaded that the Church, which is practically understood to be the clergy in council, has authority to bind the conscience in matters of faith. The arguments relied upon to sustain this view are generally based upon claims of profession, numbers, and agreement.
(2) On the other hand, the. definition of the Church is questioned, and the claims are refused as insufficient for their purpose, since by them Ahab's prophets might prove themselves true!
II. TESTS WHICH MAY BE TRUSTED.
1. The witnesses should be honest.
(1) Ahab's prophets were interested in their testimony. They enjoyed the patronage of the king, and they said what they knew would gratify him. Their testimony, therefore, is open to suspicion.
(2) Micaiah, on the contrary, had nothing to gain, but everything to lose, in taking his course. He knew the temper of the king. He was importuned by the king's messenger to concur with the king's prophets. He had already suffered for his faithfulness, for he seems to have been brought from the custody of Amen, in whose prison he had probably lain for three years. By flattering Ahab he might now obtain release, but by taking an opposite course he could only expect to go back to jail. Probabilities also were against him, for in the last two battles, Ahab, without the aid of Jehoshaphat, worsted the Syrians. Should the king of Israel now "return in peace" what may Micaiah expect?
(3) Nothing but the consciousness that he was uttering the truth of God could account for the son of Imlah deliberately encountering all this. And only upon this ground could he hope for any favour from God. Suspicion, therefore, as to the honesty of Micaiah is out of the question.
(4) But can it be pleaded that the honesty of the ecclesiastics who framed the decrees of councils is beyond suspicion? In decreeing the infallibility of the bishop of Rome, e.g., were they disinterested, when they knew how pleasing to him would be the reputation of such an attribute, and when they knew what patronage and power to injure were vested in his hands?
2. They should have miraculous athentication.
(1) It is easy to say, "Thus saith the Lord," but not so espy to evince it. The four hundred could say it, but they could show no miracle to prove that they spoke from God.
(2) It was otherwise with Micaiah. For, with the Jews, we presume he was that prophet who "prophesied evil concerning Ahab," and authenticated his message by the sign of the lion destroying his fellow for disobedience (cf. ver. 8 with 1 Kings 20:35-43).
(3) Clergy in council may claim Divine authority for their decrees, but unless they can verify their claim by adequate signs they presume when they impose.
3. Their testimony should be agreeable to the word of God.
(1) "Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. The one question for us in these days is this: Is the testimony agreeable to the Bible? This we know by infallible proofs to be the word of God. "But," it is objected, "the Bible needs authoritative interpretation, and who is to interpret but the Church?" To which we may answer, And the Church still more needs authoritative interpretation, and who is to interpret bus the Bible? The authority of the Bible is admitted; that of the Church is in question.
(2) The right of private judgment must be maintained. For the exercise of this right we shall every one of us give account of himself unto God. That ill-defined thing, the Church, cannot release us from this obligation. We cannot put our judgment and conscience into commission. - J.A.M.
1 Kings 20:35-43). In considering the prophecy of Micaiah now before us, we notice -
I. THAT IT IS PREFACED WITH A SALLY OF IRONY.
1. He answers the king in the words of his prophets.
(1) Cf. vers. 6, 12, 15.
(2) These words are equivocal. "The Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king." What king? "The king" may mean either Ahab or Ben-hadad. What? This is not clear; for the word "it" is supplied. Is it Ramoth-Gilead or something else that is to be delivered into the hand of the king (of Israel)? or is it the king of Israel or something else to be delivered into the hand of the king (of Syria)? What kind of prophecy is this?
(3) The utterance of these prophets resembles those of the heathen oracles, the following appropriate samples of which are given by A. Clarke: "The Delphic oracle spoke thus of Croesus, which he understood to his own destruction: 'Croesus, Halym penetrans, magnum subverter opum vim;' which is to say, ' If you march against Cyrus, he will overthrow you,' or 'you will overthrow him.' He trusted in the latter, the former took place. He was deluded, yet the oracle maintained its credit. So in the following: 'Aio te, AEacida, Romanos vincere posse. Ibis redibis hnunquam in bello peribis.' Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, understood by this that he should conquer the Romans, against whom he was making war; but the oracle could be thus translated: 'The Romans shall overcome thee.' He trusted in the former, made unsuccessful war, and was overcome; and yet the juggling priest saved his credit. The latter line is capable of two opposite meanings: 'Thou shalt go, thou shalt return, thou shalt never perish in war,' or, 'Thou shalt go, thou shalt never return, thou shalt perish in war.'"
2. But he repeats those words with significant expression.
(1) The bare repetition, with proper emphasis, of the equivocal words of the false prophets would be a fine stroke of irony. But when to emphasis were added tone, gesture, play of feature, the irony would become very keen.
(2) This sarcasm of Micaiah is worthy to compare with that of Elijah (see 1 Kings 18:27). "Go and prosper." This assurance of thy prophets is vague enough to encourage the confidence of a simpleton!
3. God uses terrible rhetoric in His wrath.
(1) Irony and sarcasm are fitting weapons to be wielded against those who have neither conscience nor reason (see Proverbs 26:3-5). Ahab was a man of this class. Witness the logic of his hatred (ver. 8). He felt the sting (ver. 16).
II. THAT IT COMPARES FAVOURABLY WITH THAT OF HIS COMPETITORS.
1. Its burden is the reverse of equivocal.
(1) There is in sacred prophecy a double sense, but the sound is certain. It is not a dubiousness but a manifoldness of meaning, a development, an evolution, such as we find in a seed that opens first into the blade, then into the ear, and eventually into the full corn in the ear.
(2) This prophecy of Micaiah gave a distinct answer to the question of Ahab (ver. 13). The advice was to forbear. These "sheep." The sheep is not a creature fitted for battle. They have "no shepherd." Their king, deserted by the Spirit of God, has not the qualities of a shepherd. Therefore "Let them return every man to his house in peace."
(3) But the advice contains a prophecy. It is to this effect: their king who ought to be their shepherd, shall fall at Ramoth-Gilead, and his people shall be like sheep, "scattered upon the mountains" by the power of the enemy (compare Zechariah 13:7).
2. The vision shows that all worlds are under Divine control.
(1) "I saw the Lord sitting on his throne." Here was a comparison with the scene before him, described ver. 10. Ahab and Jehoshaphat are enthroned as kings on the earth; but there is a King in the heavens immeasurably above them.
(2) "And all the host of heaven standing by him on the right hand and on the, left." The host of heaven stood while Jehovah sat. They awaited His commands. Those on His "right hand" probably to render services of benevolence; those on His "left," services of judgment.
(3) Then comes in another kind of agency (vers. 20-23). This scene is analogous to that described in the Book of Job (see Job 1:6; Job 2:7). Things in heaven, things in earth, things under the earth, all serve the purposes of Divine Providence (see Job 12:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; Revelation 20:7, 8).
(4) The waywardness of Ahab showed how fully he was under the control of the spirit of falsehood. This is seen in his senseless resentment against Micaiah. Turning to Jehoshaphat, he said, "Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?" as if Micaiah's own utterances could control the providence of God. Then turning to his officers he had Micaiah marched back to the prison where Ahab knew he could find him (cf. ver. 8 with vers. 26, 27). Let us give due heed to the more sure word of prophecy. - J.A.M.
Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18; 1 Kings 11:41; 1 Chronicles 9:1). Inspiration selects from histories typical or representative incidents to bring out the principles of the grace and truth of God. In the scene before us we have types of wickedness in Zedekiah and Ahab, the one ecclesiastical, the other civil, which may be profitably studied in the arguments they use contending with Micaiah, the representative of the truth of God. These arguments are -
I. RAGE AGAINST THE TRUTH. The reason is obvious, viz., because the truth is the worst that can be said of the wicked.
1. It is the worst that can be said of their character.
(1) It shows up their selfishness. The one object of Ahab was that "good" might be prophesied for him. To gain this he sold himself to his four hundred liars. These liars, to gain the patronage of Ahab, sold their consciences. Because Ahab could not gain flattery from Micaiah, he hated him.
(2) It shows up their folly. For what was the selfishness of Ahab but self-deception? The patronage of liars could not convert falsehood into truth, neither could the persecution of a true man convert truth into falsehood. Zedekiah, in deceiving Ahab, deceived his own soul. All sin is folly.
(3) It evinces their degradation, for it proves them to be the dupes and serfs of infernal spirits. Can degradation go lower?
2. It is the worst that can be said of their doom.
(1) The wicked are to be destroyed in time. Ahab in particular was to fall at Ramoth-Gilead. From that battle he was "not to return in peace." Zedekiah was to "go into an inner chamber to hide himself," as Ben-hadad had done (1 Kings 20:30), and there to meet his fate. While to the righteous death is an entrance to glory, it is the "king of terrors" to the wicked (see 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). The sting is here:
(2) The wicked are to be destroyed in eternity. The alarm with which the ancients received predictions of maltreatment to their corpses arose from their apprehension that it presaged a posthumous retribution upon the soul. The dogs licking the blood of Ahab would suggest that devils would not only be the instigators but also the instruments of his ruin.
(3) Who can estimate the horrors of damnation? The truth will prove to be the worst that can be said of the lost. Is it wonderful, then, that the wicked should abhor the truth?
3. They are therefore constrained to hypocrisy.
(1) For their own sakes they have to play the hypocrite. They conceal their selfishness and affect generosity, conscious that were their base soul hunger to come honestly to the day, they would become odious. They hide their folly and affect wisdom lest they should suffer contempt.
(2) For the sake of society wicked men are hypocrites. Were they to be honestly known to each other, respect and confidence would be at an end; in fact, society would be impossible. There are no friendships in hell.
II. THE RESENTMENT OF VIOLENCE.
1. The logic of the wicked is weak.
(1) Zedekiah's speech was pertinacious: "Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?" He assumed what Micaiah had not conceded, that he ever had the Spirit of the Lord. Micaiah had declared him, on the contrary, to have been influenced by a "spirit" of a very different description. Zedekiah also denied what he should have disproved, viz., that Micaiah had the Spirit of the Lord.
(2) Ahab wanted a prophet of the God of truth to tell lies to please him. He found four hundred to tell him lies, professedly in the name of the Lord. But the one honest man who told him the truth he imprisoned, because the truth did not please him. Yet the truth was what he adjured him to tell. What reason is there in all this?
2. The strength of the wicked is tyranny.
(1) The reason of Zedekiah was in his fist (ver. 24). "Which way?" From the fist to the cheek? The coward us d this argument with a council of four hundred ecclesiastics about him, and the civil power in reserve. So was Jesus insulted (see Matthew 26:57-68). So were the Protestant confessors. False prophets have ever been the worst enemies of the true. Micaiah did not return the blow, but referred the decision to God. True prophets wield other than carnal weapons.
(2) The reason of Ahab was in his bribes and prisons. Micaiah could not be cajoled as the four hundred were, therefore "the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, carry him back unto Amen the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son, and say, Thus saith the king, put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction, and with water of affliction, until I come in peace."
(3) But truth is not vanquished thus. How confident was Ahab that he should "come in peace"! And this is that Ahab who three or four years before so sagaciously said to Ben-hadad, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." Persistency in sin does not sharpen men's wits. Time vindicates truth. To this vindicator Micaiah called the attention of the people (ver. 29).
(4) But where was Jehoshaphat? He was silent when he should have spoken for the prophet of God. See the influence of bad company. "So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-Gilead." Alas, Jehoshaphat! - J.A.M.
I. AHAB'S ATTEMPT TO ELUDE THE DIVINE VENGEANCE.
1. His apprehension of coming evil. If Micaiah's words were not the words of God, why should he take precautions? His heart gives the lie to his own unbelief; the words cling to him. The bold refusal to listen to God's word is no assurance that the soul will not afterwards be shaken by a fearful looking for of judgment.
2. His ungenerousness (ver. 30). "I will disguise myself; but put thou on thy robes." The effect of the counsel was necessarily to concentrate the enemy's attention upon Jehoshaphat. Sin not only makes a man a coward, it robs him of nobleness.
3. The immediate effect of Ahab's stratagem. Ben-hadad's arrangements for the capture or slaughter of Ahab were rendered of no avail. The captains could not find the man they sought. A momentary success often attends the plans of those who endeavour to flee from God.
4. The chance shot. The success of Ahab's device only served to make the blow come more plainly from the hand of God. Ben-hadad's purpose could be baffled, but not His. There is no escape from God.
II. THE FULFILMENT OF GOD'S WORD.
1. He fell at Ramoth Gilead (ver. 20).
2. "Israel was scattered upon the hills," and the command was given to return (vers. 17, 86).
3. The dogs licked Ahab's blood (1 Kings 21:19), not in Jezreel, indeed, because the judgment then pronounced was that of the overthrow of the dynasty. This was delayed on account of Ahab's repentance, and happened, as predicted, "is his son's days" (1 Kings 21:29). But the personal part of the prediction, "The dogs shall lick thy blood, even thine," was not revoked. There are prophecies both of evil and of good, within the range of which we set ourselves. God's words are touching us, and will likewise be literally fulfilled. - U.
I. THAT PROPHECY MAY TEND TO ITS OWN FULFILMENT.
1. Micaiah's words influenced Ahab's conduct.
(1) Though Ahab had imprisoned the prophet he could not shake off the influence of his prophecy. So with a view to obviating its effect he proposed to disguise himself. He speaks of himself in the third person (ver. 30), thus (אדנים), "He will [strip] disguise himself' - a form of speech, perhaps, considered suitable to an action in which he was to appear as a third person. To complete the deception, if we follow the LXX., he induced Jehoshaphat to put on his (Ahab's) robes.
(a) Note the subtlety of the wicked. Ahab's proposal to Jehoshaphat was ostensibly to give him the post of honour in commanding the army. This, too, may have suggested the use of the third person in speaking of himself. Ahab's real purpose was to divert from himself the fury of the battle; and probably he hoped Jehoshaphat might be slain. In that case his son-in-law would succeed to the throne of Judah, and he might be able so to manage him as to serve his own purposes.
(b) In all this we see the danger of bad company. We see it likewise in the sad fact that Jehoshaphat should become a party to a contrivance to falsify the word of God!
(2) But how useless are disguises when the providence of Omniscience is concerned! Ahab might hide himself from the Syrians, but he could not hide himself from God. Neither could he hide himself from angels and devils, who are instruments of Divine Providence, ever influencing men, and even natural laws, or forces of nature. Note: No disguise will avail to evade the scrutiny and retributions of the judgment day.
(3) Yet by his disguise Ahab, unwittingly, helped the prophecy. "The king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel." Suppose Ahab had been in Jehoshaphat's place, and had fallen into the hands of the captains, what would have become of the words of Elijah? (See 1 Kings 21:19.) But as things worked out these words became literally true.
2. They also influenced the conduct of the Syrians.
(1) The Syrians would be aware of the prophecy of Micaiah dooming Ahab to fall at Ramoth-Gilead. For in a country about the size of North Wales, Samaria being distant from Ramoth-Gilead only thirty miles, the news of this public meeting of kings and contest of prophets could not be a secret. Ahab would facilitate the publication of the encouragement he had from the four hundred, to strike terror into the Syrians; but where the news of his encouragement went the words of Micaiah also would travel.
(2) Probably this intelligence determined the Syrians to "fight only against the king of Israel," in which they would have the God of Israel with them, the formidableness of whose hostility they had experienced in the last two battles (compare 2 Chronicles 35:21, 22). To this Jehoshaphat probably was indebted for the sparing of his life, for "God moved the Syrians to depart from him" (see 2 Chronicles 18:31). And probably they were influenced by it to agree to the proclamation to disband, when the death of Ahab became known (cf. vers. 17, 36).
3. Note a remarkable illustration of this principle in the zeal of Jehu in exterminating the house of Ahab (see 2 Kings 9:25, 26; 2 Kings 10:10, 11, 16, 17). Those who are "looking for," are thereby "hastening the coming of the day of God" (see 2 Peter 3:12).
II. THAT NEVERTHELESS THE HAND OF GOD IS IN IT.
1. This was evident in the case of Ahab. The purpose of Ben-hadad, should Ahab have fallen into his hands, is not recorded. Would he return Ahab's compliment of releasing him with a covenant? Would he show Ahab how he ought to have treated him?
(2) But God had other means than the captains of Ben-hadad to accomplish His purpose. A man drew a bow at a venture (marg. "in his simplicity") and smote the king of Israel between the joints and harness." A simpleton brings clown a king! (See Proverbs 1:32.) God guided the arrow to the opening in the joints of the armour, as He guided the pebble from the sling of David into the frontals of Goliath. No armour is proof against the shafts of Divine vengeance.
(3) The hand of God also was seen in the sequel. The prophecies of Elijah and Micaiah seem to be in conflict. The one speaks of the dogs licking the blood of Ahab at" Samaria;" the other of Ahab falling at "Ramoth-Gilead." Who but God could so order events that there should be no conflict here? "The blood ran out of the wound into the midst (Heb. bosom) of the chariot;" perhaps more correctly, "into the bosom of the charioteer," on which the king leaned. "And one washed the chariot;" or rather, "And the driver washed himself in the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked his blood" i.e., the blood of Ahab which fell from the bosom of the driver. "And the things they washed." For זנות denotes the several kinds of things, being derived from זן, a kind or species. Before the person and things defiled with blood were permitted to enter the city, they were to be washed; and the dogs licked up the blood that fell from the driver's bosom, and off the things, as they lay to be washed (see Psalm 68:28).
(4) But were not the words of Elijah "In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth" (viz., Jezreel) "shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine '? But in the context there, the vineyard of Naboth is said to be in Samaria (see 1 Kings 21:18, 19), because Jezreel, like Bethel, was one of the "cities of Samaria" (see 1 Kings 13:32). In the very vineyard of Naboth did the blood of Ahab flow from the veins of his son (see 2 Kings 9:25, 26). The providence that accomplished is no less admirable than the omniscience that predicted.
2. This was also evident in the case of Jehoshaphat.
(1) Micaiah did not say that the king of Judah should fall at Ramoth-Gilead; but his prophecy did intimate that he would be of little use to the army. The word (אדנים) in ver. 17 rendered "master" is plural, and evidently associates Jehoshaphat with Ahab. When Ahab was wounded to death and Jehoshaphat had fled for his life, the people had "no masters," so the proclamation soon followed which determined "every man to his house in peace."
(2) Jehoshaphat's danger lay in his being assimilated to Ahab. He should never have said, "I am as thou art" (ver. 4), then would he not have been persuaded to don Ahab's robes. By the influence of his company Jehoshaphat was becoming morally like him, and therefore was in danger of sharing his miserable fate (see Proverbs 13:20).
(3) To avoid this danger he had to become himself again. "He cried out" [to Jehovah] (see 2 Chronicles 18:81); and thus was discovered to the captains, who would expect to hear Ahab cry rather to Baal. The hand of God was evident in his deliverance; and this he might read as a parable assuring him that his future safety must lie in his renouncing evil companions and returning to the piety of his earlier years. - J.A.M.
I. A MAN ARMED AGAINST GOD. True he was fighting against the Syrians, but as he girded on his armour he remembered and defied the words of the prophet. His ominous prophecy should not be fulfilled, he would yet come back safe and victorious to put Macaiah to death, and with this determination he put Jehoshaphat in command, and clad himself with proof armour. In spirit, therefore, he was fighting not only against the hosts of Syria, but against the word of God. Hence let us depict one who is armed against God. Reverse the description St. Paul gives (Ephesians 6.) of one armed by God. The impenitent sinner represented by Ahab defends himself.
1. By false hopes (Deuteronomy 29:19, 20). These constitute his "helmet," which wards off true thoughts of self and sin. He blindly trusts in Divine mercy, while sin is unrepented, forgetting that "a God all mercy is a God unjust" (Young). "There is none other name given under heaven whereby we may be saved," etc. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
2. By a hardened heart. This is his "breastplate." A man impenitent is a man lost. Some are;' past feeling," their consciences are "seared as with a hot iron," and God gives them over to their "hardness of heart," and to an "impenitent mind." "Who has hardened himself against God, and prospered?" We may become "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
3. By defiant words. There is a tongue which is set on fire of hell Adduce examples. Ahab defied Micaiah.
4. By an unbelieving mind. The king questioned the truth of the prophet's message. He had more confidence in his own past success and in his military skill than in the declaration of a man who knew something of God but nothing of war. Unbelief ever prevents the inflowing of Divine goodness. Jesus "could do no mighty works because of their unbelief."
5. By a dumb spirit. No asking for pardon, no cry for mercy rose from Ahab's heart, or it would not have proved too late; for the Lord is "not willing that any should perish."
II. A MAN STRICKEN BY GOD. The chance arrow of the Syrian archer fulfilled the Divine purpose.
1. By the arrow of conviction. God's word is sharp and powerful, and pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(1) It may be shot unwittingly, as the archer drew at a venture not knowing what he might hit. Let our words for God be pointed, and be winged by faith, and He will see that they hit the mark.
(2) It may touch the one vulnerable spot. That arrow pierced "between the joints of armour" otherwise proof. So David's stone would have fallen powerless on the greaves or the breastplate of the giant of Garb. God, who knows our hearts, tries every avenue. Through our reason, through our affections, through our conscience, His word seeks to find its way.
2. By the arrow of judgment.
(1) It was foretold (ver. 28). Ahab ran the risk. So do they who continue in sin after hearing of" a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devout-the adversaries."
(2) It was inevitable. All disguise and precaution were unavailing. The justice of God sooner or later reaches the right man.
(3) It was terrible. The weak, sensuous man, whose promise had sometimes been so fair, fell in a moment from kingship, from life, and from hope. "lie that being reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without often remedy." - A.R.
I. THAT AHAB SURVIVED IN AHAZIAH.
1. This was legally true.
(1) "So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead." In law, a man is said to "live in his heirs." He is never legally dead while he has an heir. There is a good reason for this. Ahaziah would never have mounted the throne of Israel unless his father had been there before him. He reigned in the posthumous influence of Ahab. His representative.
(2) When a man is what is called "the architect of his own fortune," he is said to have had "no father." But in this language the fact is ignored that, under Providence, this "architect" is indebted to his ancestry for his existence, for his faculties, and for the circumstances which he may have seized and moulded into this "fortune."
2. It was also morally true.
(1) In Ahaziah the vices of Ahab were reproduced. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father." The bad example of his father wrought its influence into his character, and thus Ahab survived in Ahaziah.
(2) The record descends to particulars. "He walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother." Here not only is Jezebel reproduced in Ahaziah, but Ahab's sin in marrying Jezebel also survives. "And in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." Here is not only the posthumous influence of Jeroboam, but also of the sin of Ahab in perpetuating it. "For he served Baal, and worshipped him." The establishment of this Canaanitish abomination was due to Ahab and Jezebel, and they infamously survive in its perpetuation.
(a) A Church is not the more true for being established. Here were two State Churches which were, in the Biblical sense, atheistic.
(b) For concurrent endowment, whatever may be said for its expediency, there can be no moral defence.
3. But there was no necessity for this.
(1) Legal representation is an accident over which we have no control. It is a notable truth that men have influences in spite of themselves, and that these also are posthumous.
(2) But moral representation is in a different category. Ahaziah might have reigned in Ahab's stead without imitating his vices. "Jehoram the son of Ahab," e.g., "wrought evil in the sight of the Lord; but not like his father, and like his mother; for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made" (2 Kings 3:2).
(3) Ahaziah should have been admonished by the history of the judgments of God upon the house of Jeroboam. He should have taken the warning given in the judgments of God on the sins of his father. His guilt, therefore, was upon his own head, and he suffered accordingly. He reigned two years. God makes short work with some sinners. His death was provoked by his perversity (see 2 Kings 1:3, 4). We see further -
II. THAT AHAB SURVIVES IN HISTORY.
1. He survived in secular history. His acts and works were written in the chronicles of his nation.
(1) Amongst these were mentioned "all the cities that he built." Perhaps this building of cities simply meant the construction of fortifications for their defence. Whether they reflected credit or discredit upon his memory we cannot pronounce. A man may do a great deal of work to very little profit.
(2) The chronicles mentioned "the ivory house which he made." This palace had its description probably from the quantity of that valuable substance used in its ornamentation. But this does not seem to have been to his honour. A kingdom impoverished through famines, wars, and idolatries was in no position to bear the cost of such a piece of luxurious and selfish vanity. Amos accordingly denounces this work of pride (Amos 3:15).
(3) The survival of Ahab in secular history was a consequence of his social position. The masons and carpenters, whose skill brought the works of Ahab to perfection, had no mention there. Social status is a talent from God, for the right use of which men are accountable.
2. He survives in sacred history.
(1) The sacred history consists of selections from the secular under the guiding influence of Divine inspiration, with a view to illustrating the principles of the providence, truth, and grace of God. To illustrate such principles is the noblest end of writing. So of reading. What quantities of trash, in which the claims of God are ignored, is both written and read!
(2) In these selections the notices of the wicked are generally brief. Perhaps no wicked man has a larger share of the sacred writings occupied with his acts than Ahab. Such acts are not agreeable to the Spirit of God. But in the hands of inspiration they are made an influence for good. They are recorded, apparently, because of their relation to the actions of prophets and good men. They are made to serve as a dark background to show up to admiration virtuous qualities, and to be made themselves odious in the contrast. The principles of the wicked should only be studied to be shunned. So God brings good out of evil.
(3) The sacred records have survived the secular. "The book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" has long since perished. The sacred records have come down to our times. In these, after a lapse of nearly thirty centuries, Ahab survives. But for these his name would not be known. Note
(a) the Providence which has preserved the Scriptures evinces their Divine authenticity.
(b) Things are permanent as they stand related to the everlasting God.
(c) The posthumous influence points to the immortality of man. - J.A.M.
I. THE PRAISE OF JEHOSHAPHAT.
1. He came of a good stock.
(1) He was "of the house and lineage of David." The traditions of that house were in many respects a glorious inheritance. David was a "man after God's own heart." In no instance was he found inclining to idolatry.
(2) He was the son of Asa. Of his mother we have this significant mention: "And his mother's name was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in the ways of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord." This suggests the healthiness of his mothers moral influence. The reference here to Asa, too, is highly honourable.
(3) The blessing of pious parents is inestimable. It works beneficially in example, in precept, in solicitude. This last is most effectual in prayer to God. Those who are favoured with godly parents should praise God evermore. Wicked children of pious parents are doubly culpable.
2. He improved his advantages.
(1) He "walked in the ways of Asa his father." These were ways of righteousness. Let the children of godly parents now ask themselves whether they walk in the good ways of their ancestors.
(2) He "turned not aside from it. He showed no favour to idolatry. The note which follows is no impeachment of the truth of this statement: "Nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places." The high places that Jehoshaphat spared were those in which the true God was worshipped in accordance with the usage of patriarchal times (see 2 Chronicles 33:17).
(3) He went farther than Asa in the work of reformation: - "The remnant of the Sodomites which remained in the days of Asa his father he took out of the land." The parallel place to this in the Chronicles is: "And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and the groves (אשׁרים) out of Judah" (2 Chronicles 17:6; 2 Chronicles 19:8). By removing the Sodomites we understand that he demolished their shrines, their Asherim, their instruments of pollution. When the nests are destroyed the rooks fly.
3. This was to his praise.
(1) Others, similarly placed, failed to make this good use of their advantages. Jehoram, his own son, may be mentioned in sad contrast to him. Several of his ancestors had scandalously departed from the godly ways of their father David. Men will be justified or condemned in the light of such comparisons in the last great day (see Luke 11:31, 32).
(2) God rewarded him with prosperity (2 Chronicles 17:4, 5). He had an army - probably an enrolled militia - of 1,100,000 men. The Philistines, Arabians, and Edomites were subject to him. The note here, that "there was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king," which prefaces the account of his fleet at Ezion-Geber, was designed to explain how Jehoshaphat was able to have a fleet at a port which belonged to Edom (see 1 Kings 9:26), viz., because he appointed the viceroy in Edom which was tributary to him (see Genesis 27:29, 37; 2 Samuel 8:14).
II. THE BLAME OF JEHOSHAPHAT. This seems all to have been connected with the "peace" which he made "with the king of Israel." It appears to have commenced with -
1. The marriage of his son.
(1) Jehoram, the eldest son of Jehoshaphat, and with his consent, took Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, to be his wife. Jehoshaphat's heart was lifted up with the abundance of his "riches and honour," and "joined affinity with Ahab" (see 2 Chronicles 18:1). He became too great to be content with an humble match for his son, and sacrificed godliness to grandeur. He has many imitators in this.
(2) Unequal yoking has ever been prolific in mischief. Athaliah inherited the evil spirit of both her parents, and she led away the heart of Jehoram from God to his ruin. The object of this marriage was to build up the house of Jehoshaphat, but it well-nigh proved its ruin (see 2 Chronicles 22:10, 11). God is the builder of families (see 2 Samuel 7:11, 27; 1 Kings 2:24; 1 Kings 11:38; Psalm 127:1).
2. His friendship with Ahab.
(1) This evil grew out of the marriage. The peace between Israel and Judah, which in the abstract was a benefit, was probably a condition of the marriage. But the friendship between Jehoshaphat and Ahab which followed, was too intimate for the good of the king of Judah's soul
(2) Evils beget evils. This friendship led to Jehosha. plat helping Ahab in his war against Syria, and had nearly cost Jehoshaphat his life. It also sullied his reputation, for he was persuaded into it by Ahab against the voice of Micaiah. This friendship exposed Jehoshaphat to the reproof of the prophet Jehu (2 Chronicles 19:2).
3. His friendship with Ahaziah.
(1) This son of Ahab was no more a companion fit for Jehoshaphat than Ahab. For Ahaziah "walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done."
(2) Yet Jehoshaphat formed a trade alliance with Ahaziah. They jointly fitted out a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Red Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. But for this God rebuked him, and "the ships were broken" in the port (see 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Let no money consideration, no gold of Ophir, induce godly young men to enter into trade partnerships with the ungodly.
(3) This judgment of God had a salutary effect upon Jehoshaphat. For when Ahaziah would renew the attempt at Ezion-Geber, Jehoshaphat declined (ver. 49). Let us be careful never to repeat a blunder. - J.A.M.
1. He prolonged the good influence of his father's reign. Judah's thought was still kept under the light of truth, and its life more fully led into the ways of God: he completed his father's reforms (ver. 46). The continuance of God's work anywhere is as important as the origination of it.
2. He was consistent. "He turned not aside from it." He did not merely begin well; over his whole reign there rested the Divine approval; he did "that which was right in the eyes of the Lord." The life which is ever sinning, repenting, forgetting, achieves nothing. It is like a plant uprooted and planted again, to be again uprooted, etc., and which, even should its life be preserved, will never bear fruit. It is like "a backsliding heifer," and with such a life the great Husbandman's work cannot be carried on.
3. There was failure as well as success in his career. "Nevertheless the high places were not taken away." tie had endeavoured to remove them (2 Chronicles 17:6). But "the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places." The mightiest efforts in the great warfare with darkness leave something for other hands to do, and must till He come who alone can perfect all things.
4. He sought to be at peace with his brethren (ver. 44). He went further in this, indeed, than he ought to have done (2 Chronicles 19:2), but the desire for peace was laudable.
5. He humbled himself under God's rebuke (compare vers. 48, 49 with 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). At first he had been beguiled into.fellowship with the idolatrous king of Israel without reflecting upon the danger which lay in it for himself and his people. But when God had manifested His displeasure, nothing could make him renew the confederacy. The judgment might mistake, but the heart was loyal to God.
1. A sinful life. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord." With such a life there was no possibility of blessing for his people. The roots of his usefulness were destroyed. To do, we must first of all become. Our work cannot rise above the level of our life.
2. A disastrous policy (vers. 52, 53). He continued the work of Israel's destruction. The departure made by Jeroboam and perfected by Ahab and Jezebel, he accepted in its full rejection of Jehovah. He did not go beyond them, he simply did "according to all that his father had done," but in doing this his sin was of the deepest dye. His father had been judged, but God was still braved, and Israel was led still nearer to destruction. We may only continue what others have begun; but if we pay no heed to the proofs of God's anger, and take no thought of the inevitable results of the policy we pursue, our persistence may be one of the deepest crimes against God and man. - U.