And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.
1 Kings 22:6-8
As against Benhadad, Ahab was in the right when he sought to capture Ramoth-gilead. But he had also to reckon with God. Face to face with God, Ahab's real position at this period of his life was that of a condemned criminal, and he therefore was not in a moral position to represent and act on behalf of the rights of Israel.
The four hundred prophets whom Ahab consulted would seem to have been prophets of Jehovah, worshipped illegally under the symbol of a calf, an order of men who had arisen in the reign of Jeroboam, who practised prophecy as a trade without any true call from God, and who at the present time were in the pay, or at least under the influence, of the court of Samaria. Ahab's tragical fate was the immediate consequence of preferring his own will, backed up by the advice of the four hundred, to the revelations of Micaiah. His mind at this the last crisis of his sad and eventful life is seen in two respects: in his willingness to consult the prophets of the calves; in his prejudice against Micaiah. They are the two sides of a disposition towards religion which in its principle is one and the same. It is not downright, contemptuous, bitter opposition; still less is it the loyalty of faith and love. It is a willingness to welcome religion if religion will only sanction the views, projects, and passions of its patrons.
Ahab welcomed the four hundred because he knew exactly what the four hundred would say. He disobeyed a voice which he could not silence, which willingly he would not have heard. He took his own way, and his tragical end was the consequence of his doing so.
Let us learn two lessons from this story.
I. The first is a principle of Church polity: the importance of making religious teachers, if you can, independent of those whom they have to teach. The clergyman who, with a number of children depending on him, has to think from the first day of the year about the collection that will be made for him at the end of it, must be heroic if he never yields to the softening down of a truth which will be unwelcome to his paymasters or the extenuating a fault which is notoriously popular among them. It is the laity who suffer much more by a dependent clergy than the clergy themselves.
II. Notice here a lesson of religious practice. They who do not seek false teachers may yet take only so much of true teaching as falls in with their own inclinations. If God will only say what His creature approves of, His creature will be well content; but if the Gospel or the Creed, like Micaiah of old, has its warning clauses, so much the worse for Creed or Gospel when Ahab has made up his mind, come what may, to go to Ramoth-gilead. In the last contest with death, which is before every one of us, we shall know that He who spoke by Micaiah was surely right.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 598 (see also Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 401).
References: 1 Kings 22:8.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 132; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 78; C. Girdlestone, Course of Sermons for the Year, vol. ii., p. 237; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 196; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 428; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 24.
1 Kings 22:14God's truth is broader than any human statement of it, or than any systems which men, in perfect honesty of heart, may build on their conceptions of it; hence the existence of godly non conformity in every age of the world. In the region of political as well as spiritual life, the great impulses which have been the commencement of a vital expansion and progress have mostly come from men outside the established order of things, from men dissatisfied with it, and who saw something more true, more fair, in their visions, which they would not resign the hope of seeing established visibly in our world.
Micaiah, son of Imlah, is a nonconformist of the grandest type. Ahab had his regular college of prophets. Zedekiah prophesied in the name of the Lord, and was familiar, at any rate, with His Spirit as the agent of inspiration. He may have believed that he and his fellows were the recognised organs of the Divine voice, and that what they uttered had the sanction of the Divine name. The pious king of Judah did not venture to question their title to the name "prophet," but he felt that they were blind guides, more perilous in that they were masked by a sacred name. Ahab recognised Micaiah, too, as a prophet. He does not recognise any formal official distinction between him and the rest. The difference was within and vital. To stand well with the "powers that be" was the glory of Zedekiah; to stand well with the heavenly powers, to hear the Lord's "Well done," was the glory of Micaiah. A supreme loyalty to truth was the essential element of Micaiah's position, as the nonconformist prophet in Israel; and this is the one vital element in all nonconformity which has been worth anything to, or done anything in, our world.
J. Baldwin Brown, Christian' World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 406.
References: 1 Kings 22:15, 1 Kings 22:16.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 353. 1 Kings 22:20-22.—H. Melvill, 2he Golden Lectures, 1854 (Penny Pulpit, No. 2194); J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 200.
1 Kings 22:23This chapter gives us an insight into the meaning of that most awful and terrible word "temptation." And yet it is a most comforting chapter, for it shows us how God is longsuffering and merciful even to the most hardened sinner; how to the last He puts before him good and evil, to choose between them, and warns him to the last of his path and the ruin to which it leads.
I. What warning could be more awful and yet more plain than that of the text? Ahab was told that he was listening to a lie. He had free choice to follow that lie or not, and he did follow it. After having put Micaiah into prison for speaking the truth to him, he went up to Ramoth-gilead; and yet he felt he was not safe. He went into the battle and disguised himself, hoping that by this means he should keep himself safe from evil. But God's vengeance was not checked by his paltry cunning.
II. This chapter tells us not merely how Ahab was tempted, but it tells us how we are tempted in these very days. By every wilful sin that we commit we give room to the devil. By every wrong step that we take knowingly we give a handle to some evil spirit to lead us seven steps further wrong. And yet in every temptation God gives us a fair chance. He sends His prophets to us, as He sent Micaiah to Ahab, to tell us that the wages of sin is death, to set before us at every turn good and evil, that we may choose between them, and live and die according to our choice. The Bible is a prophet to us. Every man is a prophet to himself. The still small voice in a man's heart is the voice of God within us; it is the Spirit of God striving with our spirits, whether we will hear or whether we will forbear, setting before us what is righteous, and noble, and pure, and Godlike, to see whether we will obey that voice, or whether we will obey our own selfish lusts, which tempt us to please ourselves.
C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 59.
References: 1 Kings 22:23.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 85; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 101.
1 Kings 22:34I. There is a singular analogy between the present state of knowledge and of piety; in this age literature and religion fare much alike. In the Dark Ages literature was the monopoly of the few; gross ignorance was the condition of the many. Now every one knows a little, few know much, and fewer still know profoundly. Is it not the same with piety? The tendency of modern times has been to diffuse among the many the piety which was once concentrated in the few. The public are religious as a public, but in individuals the salt has lost its savour. If any remedy is to be applied to this state of things, we must first set ourselves to inquire into its causes.
II. Is there any flaw in our ministry which may in some measure account for the low standard of personal religion prevalent among us? We fear there is. We believe that the Christian ministry having by God's design and constitution two arms wherewith to do its work, one of these arms has become paralysed by inactivity. The office of the ministry as regards the word of God is twofold, to rouse consciences and to guide them, and for a long time past ministers have contented themselves with rousing, while they have scarcely done anything to guide, them. The sermon is thrown every Sunday into the midst of the people, very much as the arrow which found out King Ahab was darted into the host of Israel, to take its chance amid the thousand arrows which on that day were winging their flight to and fro. There is in our exercise of the ministry no systematic plan on which people are taught and brought on gradually towards "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." The Apostolical Epistles are the great model of what Christian teaching in a Christian country should be. Our Lord bids His disciples "teach" first as a preliminary to baptism, teach with a view of making disciples, and subsequently to baptism "teach" the converts so made to "observe all things, whatsoever He had commanded." The object of the one was to arouse the conscience of the heathen; the object of the other was to direct the conscience of the Christian.
E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 1.
Reference: G. Moberly, Sermons in Winchester College, 2nd series, p. 63.
1 Kings 22:37-39I. Such glimpses of Ahab's life as we have in ver. 39 reveal him to us in a very different character from that which appears on the face of the Bible history. He would seem to have been one who encouraged arts and industry, one who did a great deal for the temporal improvement of his people, and one concerning whom a flattering historian might have said many things which would tend to raise our thoughts of him as a useful king. We have here an awful commentary on such godless lives as his. His ivory palace and the cities which he built have passed away, together with that book of chronicles which contained their history; but what has remained, and will remain for evermore, is the fearful testimony that neither before nor since was there ever any king in Israel like Ahab, who gave himself up so completely and unreservedly to work evil in the sight of the Lord. We see here a commentary upon this truth, that the question of lasting importance to each man is this: whether he has set himself with all his heart to serve the Lord, or whether he has determined to be rebellious; and that lasting praise belongs, not to him who builds cities and ivory palaces, but to him who fears the Lord and walks in His ways.
II. Let us lay this well to heart, that we too may possibly be walking in a vain show; we may possibly be judging ourselves, and may be judged by others, differently from the judgment of God. "The fashion of the world passeth away"—its cities and its ivory houses—"but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd series, p. 33.
1 Kings 22:48I. Notice first the disaster to Jehoshaphat's shipping. The eastern arm of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Akabah, is much deeper than the western; indeed, it is a narrow, deep ravine, with steep and rocky sides, the valley of which it forms part stretching far away to the north, till where it holds in its trough the waters of the Dead Sea. Down through the mountain gorge swept the mad hurricane with resistless might, shattering the ships of Jehoshaphat to pieces, and leaving the grey morning to look upon only pitiful wreckage all along the shore.
II. Notice the cause of this disaster. It was a judgment from Heaven. The grand mistake and sin of Jehoshaphat lay in associating himself with the enemies of God. This was the signal error of his life. If he had been an openly wicked man or a mere man of the world, probably this great shipping disaster would not have occurred, but God would not allow one of His own servants to prosper in such an undertaking.
III. The lesson which the disaster teaches is this: Do not choose your associates amongst those who fear not the Lord. It is always safest to keep under Christian influences. A man is rarely better than the company he keeps. Jehoshaphat may hope to bring Ahaziah up to his own level; but Ahaziah is much more likely to bring Jehoshaphat down. The lesson of the text bears also, and with peculiar point, upon all business alliances. You will do well even to sacrifice a measure of financial interest and worldly prospect rather than be associated in business with a man who is out of all sympathy with you in religion.
J. Thain Davidson, Forewarned—Forearmed, p. 191.
References: 1 Kings 22:48.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 13; T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 28. 1Ki 22—R. S. Candlish, Scripture Characters, p. 28; Parker, vol. viii., p. 59.
And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.
And 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?
And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramothgilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.
And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.
And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.
And 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.
And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand.
And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.
And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.
So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead 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.
And the king 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?
And he 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.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?
And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: 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.
And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.
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. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
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.
But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?
And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;
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 come in peace.
And Micaiah 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.
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramothgilead.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle.
But 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.
And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel. And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out.
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.
And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot.
And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country.
So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria.
And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.
Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.
And Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.
Jehoshaphat 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 was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.
And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he shewed, and how he warred, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.
There was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king.
Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not.
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.
Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel.
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, 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.