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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Kings 22



Verses 6-8


‘Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?’ etc.

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. Ahab’s 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 true 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.

—Canon Liddon.


‘Ahab goes out to meet his fate, hoping against hope; determined to do his utmost to avoid his doom, and yet inwardly knowing he could not. Probably he went out to battle with the same feeling as that other who, haunted by the unquenchable remembrance of an evil life, met his doom saying—

“I ’gin to be a weary of the sun,

And wish the estate o’ the world were now undone,

Blow, wind! come wrack

At least we’ll die with harness on our back.”

The end of Ahab seems intended to show us how impossible it is for a man to evade his fate when his time has come.’

Verse 34


‘Carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.’

1 Kings 22:34

King Ahab appears here in the last act of his career, just as we have seen him always hitherto, devoid of religious or moral character. His penitence had, as we see from the story before us, borne no fruit.

I. His attitude toward Jehovah and His covenant remained the same.—There is not a sign of any change of heart. He is now enraged against Ben-hadad, whom, after the battle of Aphek, he called his “brother,” and suffered to depart out of weakness and vanity. He summons his chief soldiers to a war against Ben-hadad, and calls for Jehoshaphat’s aid also, in order to make sure of destroying him. He had either forgotten the words of the prophet (chap. 1 Kings 20:42), or else he cared nothing about them. As Jehoshaphat desired, before engaging on the expedition, to hear an oracle of Jehovah in regard to it, Ahab summoned only those in regard to whose declarations he could be sure that they would accord with his own wishes, and when Micaiah, being called at the express wish of Jehoshaphat, gives another prophetic declaration, Ahab explains this as the expression of personal malice. He allows Zedekiah to insult and abuse Micaiah, and even orders the latter into close confinement. But then again he becomes alarmed at the prophet’s words, though before he was passionate and excited. He cannot overcome the impression he has received, and so, contrary to military custom and order, he does not go into the battle like Jehoshaphat, clad in royal robes, but disguised. By this precaution, which testified to anything but heroism, he hoped to escape danger. It did not, however, avail. He was shot without being recognised. His command to be removed from the strife, that his wound might be cared for, could not be executed. He bled to death on his chariot. Some moderns have represented his end as heroic, starting from the erroneous exegesis that he caused his wounds to be bound up and returned to the fight. This view is certainly mistaken, since we may be sure that the author did not intend to glorify Ahab in this account of his death.

II. Ahab’s end was truly tragical.—It was brought about, not by a blind fate, but by a God Who is just in all His ways, and holy in all His works (Psalms 145:17), Whose judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out (Romans 11:33). The conflict which Ahab had sought, and which no warning could induce him to abandon, became his punishment. He fell in battle with that very enemy who had once been delivered into his hands, and whom he had released, out of vanity and weakness, to the harm of Israel, and so he made good just the words of the prophet in


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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