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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

1 Kings 22

 

 

Verses 1-53

C.—Ahab’s expedition against the Syrians, undertaken with Jehoshaphat, and his death

1 Kings 22:1-40 ( 2 Chronicles 18:1-34)

1And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel 2 And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Jndah came down to the king of Israel 3 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? 4And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-gilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.

5And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord [Jehovah] to-day 6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred[FN1] men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver[FN2] it into the hand of the king 7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord [Jehovah] besides,[FN3] that we might inquire of him? 8And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one Prayer of Manasseh, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord [Jehovah]: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say Song of Solomon 9Then the king of Israel called an officer,[FN4] and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah 10 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 11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them 12 And all the prophets prophesied Song of Solomon, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper: for the Lord [Jehovah] shall deliver[FN5] it into the king’s hand.

13And 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,[FN6] I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good 14 And Micaiah said, As the Lord [Jehovah] liveth, what the Lord [Jehovah] saith unto me, that will 1 speak15So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the Lord [Jehovah] shall deliver it into the hand of the king 16 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 [Jehovah]? 17And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord [Jehovah] said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace 18 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? 19And he said, Hear thou therefore[FN7] the word of the Lord [Jehovah]: I saw the Lord [Jehovah][FN8] sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him[FN9] on his right hand and on his left 20 And the Lord [Jehovah] said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner 21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord22[Jehovah], and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord [Jehovah] 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 Song of Solomon 23Now therefore, behold, the Lord [Jehovah] hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord [Jehovah] hath spoken evil concerning thee 24 But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord [Jehovah] from me to speak unto thee? 25And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself 26 And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor[FN10] of the city, and to Joash the king’s son; 27and 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 28 And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord [Jehovah] hath not spoken by me.[FN11] And he said, Hearken, o people, every one of you.

29So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead 30 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 31 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 32 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 33 And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it34was 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,[FN12] and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded 35 And the battle increased[FN13] 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 36 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 37 So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in 38 Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armor [and the harlots washed[FN14]]; according unto the word of the Lord [Jehovah] which he spake 39 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? 40So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 22:1. And they continued, &c, i. e. Syria and Israel. The three years are those which had elapsed since the war mentioned in chap20, that Isaiah, since the release of Ben-hadad. In this interval fell the murder of Naboth. The 22 d chap. is a continuation of the 20 th, and is derived from the same original document. Chap 21 is from some other authority, but appears here in its proper chronological position. The ground of Jehosha-phat’s visit to Ahab, according to the parallel account in Chronicles, was the marriage relationship which had been formed between them, viz, Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, had become the wife of Jehoshaphat’s Song of Solomon, Jehoram. Chronicles also states that Ahab slaughtered a large number of sheep and oxen for Jehoshaphat and his numerous escort, i. e., he entertained them generously. Ahab profited by this opportunity, so soon as he had made sure of the support of his generals who had come to the entertainment, to persuade Jehoshaphat into making an expedition against the Syrians in alliance with him.—On Ramoth ( 1 Kings 22:3) see notes on 1 Kings 4:13. Ben-hadad, contrary to his promise ( 1 Kings 20:34), had not given up this stronghold, from which, as a base, he could easily make incursions into Israel, and Ahab became more and more uneasy as years passed by, and the promised surrender was not consummated. His words ( 1 Kings 22:3) mean: This important city belongs to Israel as of right, and besides that Ben-hadad has solemnly promised to give it up; yet he has not done this, but, on the contrary, menaces us on that side, while “we rest satisfied with this state of things, instead of taking what is ours by a double right” (Thenius).

1 Kings 22:4. And he said unto Jehoshaphat. Instead of וַיֹּאמֶר we find in Chronicles וַיסִיתֵהוּ, the same expression which is used in 1 Kings 21:25 in regard to Jezebel and her influence on Ahab; he seduced him (cf. Jeremiah 38:22; Deuteronomy 13:7). This shows that Jehoshaphat ought not to have agreed to the proposition. However, he did not enter into the plan “after dinner,” thoughtlessly (Richter), but because he wished to confirm the good understanding which had just been established between Judah and Israel, and because he also saw danger to himself in Ramoth, so long as it was in the hands of the Syrians. The horses are especially mentioned, because they formed the essential part of the military power.( Psalm 33:16-17; Proverbs 21:31).

1 Kings 22:5. And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel,. &c. Jehoshaphat had some scruples. He wished first to be certain that the undertaking was conformed to the will of Jehovah, a thing in regard to which no anxiety had entered Ahab’s mind. He ought to have considered this before giving his consent ( 1 Kings 22:4). The prophets whom Ahab summoned were not, as some of the old expositors inferred from the number four hundred, the Astarte-prophets who had not been upon Carmel ( 1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:22), for their chief, Zedekiah, affirmed that he had the spirit of Jehovah ( 1 Kings 22:24), and all the others unite in this assertion ( 1 Kings 22:12). Nevertheless, they wore not “certainly genuine Jehovah-prophets” (Clericus), nor “pretended” Jehovah-prophets (Schulz), nor prophet-disciples (Thenius), for the definite article does not refer to such as these, but to a definite class, different from these, the prophets of Ahab. Hence Junius and Tremellius translate correctly according to the sense: Ahab congregavit prophetas suos. So Micaiah designates them in 1 Kings 22:22-23, when he calls them “thy” or “his” prophets. Moreover, how could Ahab ever have brought himself to tolerate four hundred prophets, adherents of Elijah, in his immediate circle, when he had not been converted to Jehovah? No one will assert that they belonged to the number of those who wore the well-known penitential robe of the prophets, and went about in goat-skins or in hair-cloth ( Zechariah 13:4; Hebrews 11:37). It remains that we can think of them only as adherents of Jeroboam’s Jehovah-worship, that Isaiah, of the calf-worship. Hence Jehoshaphat did not recognize them as genuine Jehovah prophets. Although they all agree, yet he asks for another, a true worshipper of Jehovah; and Ahab calls for such a one, though with inward dissatisfaction. Since in 1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:22; 1 Kings 18:25; 1 Kings 18:40, the priests of Baal and Astarte are always called נְבִיאִים, the conjecture is suggested that these persons were priests of the calf-worship, who at the same time filled, like the Baal and Astarte priests, the functions of prophets. (See notes on 1 Kings 18:19.)

1 Kings 22:8. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, &c. Micaiah is called once only, in the parallel passage ( 2 Chronicles 18:14), Micha, and is certainly not, as Josephus and the rabbis assert, the man who is mentioned in 1 Kings 20:35 as a prophet-disciple. Ahab could not at the moment give the name of any other whom he could summon at short notice. It was very natural that he should not mention Elijah, even aside from the fact that he did not know where he was. Micaiah was in Samaria, and even, as it appears, on account of some previous prophecy which was unfavorable and displeasing to Ahab, in confinement; hence he could be at once brought forward—To the words, but evil, the chronicler adds: “all his days,” i. e, so long as he has filled the office of a prophet. Von Gerlach aptly remarks: We find in Ahab the same heathen conception of the relation between the prophet and Jehovah, as we find in the case of Balak ( Numbers 23:11). He ascribes to the seer some power over his God, and therefore makes him responsible for his unfavorable oracles. Agamemnon says to Calchas (Iliad i106), “Seer of evil ! how hast thou never foretold to me good! Thou prophesiest to me with pleasure only evil in thy trance, and hast never declared to me a favorable oracle.” Jehoshaphat’s answer: “Let not the king say so! refers to Ahab’s words: I hate him; I will not now listen to him. Jehoshaphat’s words, therefore, have not this sense: vaticinabitur prospere (Vatablus, Keil), but they are a reply to his remark, and contain such an encouragement as this: Let him come, though;—and this Ahab then does.

1 Kings 22:10. Sat each on his throne, &c. 1 Kings 22:10-12 carry out into detail that which had been hinted at briefly in 1 Kings 22:6. We must, therefore, think here of the same assemblage as there. It is now only described more fully in what a solemn manner this assemblage was held (see Bertheau on 2 Chronicles 18:9). That מְלֻבָּשִׁים בְּגָדִים means “in their official (royal) robes” is clear from Leviticus 21:10, where it is said of the high-priest: לבשׁ את־הבגדים, i. e, “clad in the official (priestly) garments.” יוֹשְׁבִים is repeated before בְּגֹרֶן in the parallel passage 2 Chronicles 18:9. It can, therefore, only mean: in areaגֹּרֶן means a “smooth open place” (Gesenius); hence a threshing-floor, which is such a smooth open place. However, “threshing-floor” is not the sole meaning, as Thenius asserts. He reads בְּרֻדִּים for בְּגֹרֶן (since the word for threshing-floor makes no sense) and joins it with בגדים, “particolored, that Isaiah, probably, vestes distinctœ, acu pictœ;” but this conjecture is as unnecessary as it is violent. Ewald also joins the word with בגדים, and says that it can from the connection (?), have here only the meaning, armor, war-dress, but there is no evidence to support this, for the ἔνοπλοι of the Sept. is not a translation of בגרן but of the words discussed above מל׳׳ בג׳׳.

1 Kings 22:11. And Zedekiah, the Song of Solomon, &c. Zedekiah, following the method of the true prophets, performs a symbolical action before the declaration of his oracle (see on 1 Kings 11:29). He intended thereby to show himself a prophet of the northern kingdom. He put on horns of iron, which would not break, for Deuteronomy 33:17 says of Ephraim: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns; with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth.” By a physical reference to this prophecy he intended to represent his present declaration as certain. However, he forgot that “the entire fulfilment of Moses’ blessing depended on the fidelity with which Israel adhered to the commandments, and to the Lord. But Ahab, least of all, had been careful to be thus faithful” (Keil). Of the two imperatives עֲלֶה וְהַצֵלַה, the first is a command and the second an encouragement, as in Genesis 42:18; Proverbs 20:13; Psalm 37:27; Job 22:21; Isaiah 36:16 (Gesen. Grammar § 127).

1 Kings 22:15. So he came to the king. “Ahab meant by his question to Micaiah to represent himself to Jehoshaphat as never having attempted to exert any influence upon the declarations of the prophet” (Thenius). He took up the attitude to Micaiah “of holding himself ready for any answer, and of demanding only to know the divine will, although ho had really made up his mind, and would be pleased only with one answer” (Jo. Lange). Hence we may understand the prophet’s answer, which is not irony (Keil), nor “spoken with ironical gestures and a sarcastic tone” (Richter),but certainly a reproof for the hypocritical question. The sense is: How camest thou to the idea of consulting me, whom thou dost not trust? Thy prophets have answered thee as thou desirest. Do, then, what they have approved. Try it. March out. Their oracles have far more weight with thee than mine. “Since Micaiah, who, in 1 Kings 22:14, had distinctly declared that he would not speak simply according to the king’s pleasure, nevertheless repeats almost exactly the words of the king’s prophets, he must have spoken in a tone which made it clear to Ahab that what he said was not in earnest” (Bertheau). Therefore Ahab adjured him to speak only the word of Jehovah, but did not promise to follow the counsel which ho should give him in the name of Jehovah. He was not in earnest to learn the truth, but only to convince Jehoshaphat that what he had said ( 1 Kings 22:8) about this prophet was true and just, and that no authority ought to be ascribed to him. Micaiah now refuses no longer, but makes known the vision which he has had ( 1 Kings 22:17). The meaning of this vision was clear. Ahab understood it. The king would fall, and Israel would be scattered without being pursued. Each one would take his own way home, and so the war would end. Perhaps Numbers 27:17 floated before the prophet’s mind, as Deuteronomy 33:17 was in the mind of Zedekiah in 1 Kings 22:11. Luther erroneously took the words of Jehovah לֹא־אֲדֹנִים לָאֵלָּה as a question. The sense is: Since these have no longer any master, let each return. Ahab now assures Jehoshaphat ( 1 Kings 22:18; cf. 1 Kings 21:20), in order that he may not be influenced by this oracle, that it springs from the malice which he had before declared this prophet to entertain. Then, in order to refute this imputation, Micaiah (ver19) states, by describing another vision, the reason why the four hundred prophets had prophesied falsely and deceitfully.

1 Kings 22:19. Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord.לָכֵן has here its regular signification: for this reason. (Keil: “Because thou thinkest [my declaration the result of mere malice], therefore”.) It is not, “according to the Sept, οὐχ οὕτως, equivalent to לֹא כֵן: veruntamen” (Thenius). The speech in 1 Kings 22:19-23 is indeed addressed to the king in the first instance, but evidently all around heard it and were intended to hear it. In Chronicles we find for שִׁמְעוּ,פְמַע, as in 1 Kings 22:28. .—I saw the Lord sitting on His throne. What Micaiah describes in 1 Kings 22:19-22 is not a mere parable invented by him, but a prophetic vision which he saw, and which, as the Berleburger Bibel says, represents God and His government and providence in an appropriate symbolical manner. Peter Martyr says: Omnia hœc dicunturἁνθρωποπαθῶς. The separate expressions are not, therefore, to be strained or interpreted in a “gross and materialistic manner” (Richter).—And all the host of heaven, &c. The old expositors, Peter Martyr, Jo. Lange, Starke and others suppose that the prophet described God seated on the throne of heaven and surrounded by the heavenly hosts, in contrast with the two kings sitting on their thrones surrounded by the band of false prophets. It appears, however, that this cannot be correct, for if it were correct, then Micaiah must have had his vision after he came to stand before the kings and to see how they were arrayed, but the Revelation, doubtless, came to him some time before this. He rather saw God as the ruler of all in heaven or earth, and as the judge in the full glory of His majesty, entirely independently of the two kings. The host of heaven are not, of course, here the stars, as in Deuteronomy 4:19, but all the higher heavenly powers who serve as His organs in the administration of the universe ( Hebrews 1:14; 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35). Some of the older expositors incorrectly say that those on the right were the good, and those on the left the bad. The latter are nowhere included in the “host of heaven.” All surround Him and wait for His commands.—The question in 1 Kings 22:20 : Who shall persuade [delude] Ahab? shows that the fall of Ahab, who had heaped sin upon sin, was determined in the counsels of God (cf. Isaiah 6:8). The only question which still remained open was as to the way in which his fall should be brought about. “Who is able to delude Ahab, so that he may march against Ramoth to his own destruction?” (Bertheau). And one said on this manner and another said on that manner. Peter Martyr says on these words: Innuit varios providentiœ Dei modos, quibus decreta sua ad exitum perducit. The dramatic-figurative form of representation corresponds fully to the character of the vision, in which inner and spiritual processes are regarded as real phenomena, nay even as persons.

1 Kings 22:21. And there came forth a spirit.הָרוּחַ, i. e, not a spirit (Luther, and E. V, following the Sept.), but the spirit, a definite one, and it can be, according to the entire connection, none other than the spirit of prophecy (Thenius; Keil), the power which, going forth from God, and taking possession of a Prayer of Manasseh, makes him a prophet ( 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 19:23). The נָבִיא is the אִיש הָרוּחַ ( Hosea 9:7). This spirit offered itself to fulfil the divine decree. It is a feature in the dramatic-figurative form of representation, that as all the powers of God are represented as persons, so also this power is personified. It steps forth from the ranks of the divine powers and declares its readiness to fulfil the divine will: “I (אֲנִי with emphasis) will persuade him” The question in 1 Kings 22:22, Wherewith? adds to the liveliness of the delineation. The meaning of the answer: “I will go forth and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets” is this: The prophets of Ahab shall prophesy to him what he desires to hear, and thus delude him until he shall bring about his own ruin through his own plans. As this view was already decided on in the divine counsels, the Lord answers to the spirit: Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also. Go forth and do so. Because Ahab, who had abandoned God and hardened his heart, desired to use prophecy for his own purposes, it is determined that he shall be led to his ruin by prophecy. As God often used the heathen nations as the rod of his wrath for the chastisement of Israel ( Isaiah 10:5), so now he uses Ahab’s false prophets to bring upon Ahab the judgment which Elijah had foretold against him. We have to compare the passage Isaiah 6:8-9, where the prophet, who has just been cleansed from sin and consecrated to the prophetic office, answers to the Lord’s question: “Who shall I send,”—“Send me,” and then the command is given to him: “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed.” From this we see that the רוּחַ שֶׁקֶר ( 1 Kings 22:22) is not, as most of the old expositors declared, Satan, who does not belong to the “heavenly host” ( 1 Kings 22:19), and Isaiah, moreover, nowhere called simply הָרוּחַ ( 1 Kings 22:21). Keil indeed admits that “neither Satan nor any other evil spirit is meant,” but he adds that the spirit of prophecy, in so far as it Isaiah, by God’s will, a רוּחֹ השׁקר “stands under the influence of Satan.” But the vision has nothing at all to do with Satan. The circumstances are entirely different from those in Job 1:6, which are often compared. It expresses an act in God’s government and judicial administration, in which Satan is neither directly nor indirectly involved. In 1 Kings 22:23 Micaiah states the result of what precedes: Now see; the prophets have prophesied to thee pleasant things, but they are deluded and they delude thee. If therefore I have prophesied otherwise, it is not, as thou hast said ( 1 Kings 22:18), out of hate towards thee, but the Lord has thus spoken to me, and has thus determined in regard to thee.

1 Kings 22:24. Zedekiah.… went near. This leader of the other party felt himself especially insulted, as he had confirmed his prophecy by a symbolical act ( 1 Kings 22:11). The blow on the cheek was intended as an insult ( Job 16:10; Lamentations 3:30). We may see from this how Zedekiah stood in Ahab’s favor, and how unesteemed Micaiah was. Chronicles supplies הַדֶּרֶךְ which is wanting with אֵי־זֶה ( 1 Kings 13:12; 2 Kings 3:8; Job 38:24). The sense is: How dost thou dare to say that the spirit of prophecy has turned aside from me and gone only to thee? Zedekiah had not, therefore, knowingly prophesied falsely, but his insolence was far from being a proof that he had the spirit of the Lord. On חֶדֶר בְּחֶדֶר see notes on 1 Kings 20:30. The story of Zedekiah’s end is wanting both in Kings and Chronicles, but this does not prove that the original document contained much more than now appears in our books (Thenius, Ewald). As Ahab fell, and Zedekiah’s definite prediction was startlingly falsified, we may be sure that he did not fail to be persecuted.

1 Kings 22:26. And the king of Israel said: Take Micaiah, &c. Josephus narrates that Ahab was disturbed by Micaiah’s speech, but when he saw that Zedekiah’s hand did not wither as Jeroboam’s did ( 1 Kings 13:4), and that Micaiah inflicted no punishment, that he took courage and went on to the war. This is an empty rabbinical tradition. Zedekiah’s insolence was influential in encouraging Ahab in the determination which he had formed. The latter caused Micaiah to be taken back to Amon the governor of the city, not to his own house (Thenius). He had probably been previously in arrest under this man’s charge, but now he was to be put in prison on the bread and water “of affliction.” Joash, son of the king, was not, probably, a son of Ahab, but a prince of the blood, who, together with the commandant of the city, had charge of the prisoners. If he had been, as Thenius supposes, a young prince who had been intrusted to Amon for his military education ( 2 Kings 10:1), one does not see why he should be mentioned here. In the last words of 1 Kings 22:28 Micaiah calls “all people” to be witnesses of his declaration, i. e, not “all the world,” or “people generally” (Keil), but all the people who, besides the two kings and the four hundred prophets, were collected on this solemn occasion. The prophet Micah begins his prophecy ( 1 Kings 1:2) with the words שִׁמְעוּ עַמִּים כֻּלָם, but we may not infer from this, as Bleek does, that the author confused Micaiah with the much younger prophet Micah, nor, as Hitzig does, that the words in this passage are borrowed from that place. It would be more natural to suppose that Micah borrowed the words from the original document of this author. However, the exclamation is so general that it might occur in the independent works of different prophets. It is remarkable that the pious king Jehoshaphat does not interfere to prevent the maltreatment of Micaiah; and that, in spite of the opposition of that prophet, he goes on the expedition. Peter Martyr says: Affinitas cum impiis contracta sanctitatem plurimum imminuit. It appears that he was not willing to take back the promise which he had given ( 1 Kings 22:4) on account of a prophet whom Ahab declared to be his personal opponent.

1 Kings 22:30. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat. The Vulgate and Luther mistakenly take the infinitives הִתְחַפֵּשׁ וָבֹא (disguise and come) as imperatives addressed to Jehoshaphat. וְאַתָּה, which immediately follows by way of contrast, shows that this is wrong. The infinitive absolute is the plainest and simplest form of the voluntative for exclamations, and is used when the speaker is excited and filled with the idea (Ewald, § 328). It is to he remembered, in connection with Ahab’s attempt to disguise himself, that the ordinary custom was for the king to lead the army into battle in full royal costume ( 2 Samuel 1:10). Hence he was conspicuous not only to his own army, but also to that of the enemy, who then directed their attack upon him. The words of Micaiah, especially these: “These have no master,” had caused Ahab great secret anxiety. Moreover, he might well suppose that the Syrians would be more eager to attack him than Jehoshaphat. Though he knew nothing of Ben-hadad’s command ( 1 Kings 22:21), yet he desired to frustrate the prophet’s prediction. The sense of his words to Jehoshaphat Isaiah, therefore, this: I have every reason to make myself unrecognizable in this war, but thou, against whom the Syrians have no especial hate, mayst go forward in thy royal apparel.—When thus taken, Ahab’s words contain a sort of justification and excuse of his purpose. Jehoshaphat, therefore, agreed to it without objection. There is no ground for the idea that Ahab had planned cunningly that Jehoshaphat might be killed, in order that he might inherit Judah (Schulz, Maurer, and others). Ahab was anxious to save his own life, not to secure Jehoshaphat’s death.

1 Kings 22:31. But the king of Syria, &c. Perhaps he had learned that the expedition had originated with Ahab, who had proposed it to his generals, persuaded Jehoshaphat, and pushed forward the plan perseveringly. He hoped that Ahab’s end would be the end of the war. Hence the command which he gave to the thirty-two chariot-captains, who are also mentioned in 1 Kings 20:24. They were the leaders, they made known the command to their men. Neither with small nor great,i. e, do not spend time in conflict with any one else, but all press forward against the king of Israel. אַךְ in 1 Kings 22:32 does not mean certainly (De Wette, Bunsen), but only. They need not be in doubt, since he alone wore royal dress. Instead of וַיָּסֻרוּ the chronicler has וַיָּסֹבּוּ, and the Sept. has, in both places. ἐκύκλωσαν. Bertheau and Thenius regard the latter as the correct reading. But the Syrians certainly had not yet surrounded him; they were pressing forward towards him, but turned aside when they saw that they were mistaken in the person ( 1 Kings 22:33). The Vulg. has: impetu facto pugnabant contra eum. סוּר means, to turn from the way and go towards something. When they saw the king, they turned towards him. Jehoshaphat cried out, and, as they recognized him, it seems that he must have called out his own name, not, however, in order to make himself known to them, but in order to call his own people to his aid. It may be, also, that his people called to him and uttered his name. In Chronicles it is added: “And the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him.” This can hardly have been borrowed from the original document. The cry was understood [by later readers] as a cry to God (Vulg, clamavit ad Dominum), and the rescue as a divine interposition. If this pair of sentences had been in the original, it is inexplicable how they should have been omitted in the text before us.

1 Kings 22:34. And a certain man drew a bow, &c. לְתֻמּוֹ does not mean “at a venture” (Luther, E. V.), nor in incertum (Vulg.), but, as 2 Samuel 15:11 shows, “without knowing why he aimed particularly at that individual whom he had in his eye” (Thenius). According to Josephus this man’s name was Aman; according to Jarchi it was Naaman. In the text, however, emphasis is laid on the fact that it was an unknown man. Gesenius and De Wette translate הַדְּבָקִים by joints or grooves, but what joints can be referred to? The stem דָבַק means only to hang on or depend from. דֶבֶק, therefore, means that which depends or hangs down, but not a Joint, nor yet the soft parts or flanks (Ewald). Luther, correctly: Zwischen den Panzer und Hengel [between the corselet and the tunic]. The corselet covered the body down as far as below the ribs. The lower part of the body was protected by a hanging skirt of parallel plates (hence the plural דְבָקִים). The arrow penetrated between this skirt and the corselet, where the connection was not close or perfect, and penetrated the “lower abdomen” (Thenius). This wound was of course, a very severe one, if not a fatal one. We may perceive how far such weapons penetrated, by the instance, for example, of the arrow with which Jehu shot king Jehoram, which entered his body between the arms from behind, and came out obliquely through the heart in front ( 2 Kings 9:24; Lament. 1 Kings 3:13; Job 16:13). Hereupon Ahab commanded his charioteer to turn and drive out of the midst of the contending armies, for I am wounded,i. e, I am no longer fit to fight, and must retire from the conflict. Evidently הָחֳלֵיתִי means, in this connection, I am wounded (cf. 1 Samuel 31:3); Sept, τετραυμάτισμαι; Vulg. graviter vulneratus sum). Thenius, translates, “I am not well,” and observes: “He desired to be quickly rid of the arrow, and not to let any one know that he was wounded.” Similarly Bertheau: “For I am unwell. The charioteer cannot have observed that Ahab had been wounded by an arrow.” But a fatal wound in the abdomen, from which blood flowed into the chariot, cannot have passed unobserved, and it is impossible that Ahab should have removed the arrow himself; at least such action is not mentioned in the text. It is certain that he felt so unwell that he asked to be removed from the conflict, and it is difficult to understand how Thenius can say, on the words Against the Syrians ( 1 Kings 22:35), that “he kept his face towards them and did not retire from the place of battle.” Ewald’s assertion that he “had to be carried from the field,” contradicts the words of the text; also there is nothing in the text of Ewald’s further statement, that “when his wound had been bound up Ahab returned into the battle, and fell bravely fighting to the last.” Only so much is certain, that he was removed from the battle in his chariot, but not that he returned to it, as has been erroneously inferred from 1 Kings 22:35.

1 Kings 22:35. And the battle increased,i. e, the battle became more violent. The figure is taken. from a swelling river ( Isaiah 8:7). Thenius explains the following words, הָיָה מָעֳמָד: “He was standing upright, i. e, through his own strength. He forced himself in order that he might support the courage of his followers.” But he had given orders ( 1 Kings 22:34) that his charioteer should remove him as incapacitated for further fighting, and it does not show in the text that he caused his wound to be bound up and then returned into the fight; this must be invented and added arbitrarily. The sentence: the battle increased, is a subordinate clause to explain how it came about that Ahab remained standing in the chariot and died at evening. The Calwer Bibel states the connection of thought very correctly as follows: “Ahab’s charioteer could not escape from the crush of the battle because the fight became more and more violent, and Ahab was obliged to remain standing on the chariot on which he was until towards evening. His wound could not, therefore, be bound up, and he bled to death. When finally, at sunset, the Israelites turned away from the field of battle, it was too late to save the king.” נֹכַח אֲרָם does not mean “presenting front to the Syrians” (Thenius), but in the face of the Syrians (coram, Judges 18:6; Jeremiah 17:16; Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 14:7; Proverbs 5:21). The Syrians, however, did not recognize him, because he was disguised. It is once more stated that the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot, on account of the incident to be narrated in 1 Kings 22:38. In Chronicles these words are wanting, as also the following verses36–38. The story ends there with the words: “and about the time of the sun going down he died,” because it is not the history of Ahab which is there the prominent interest, but that of Jehoshaphat.

1 Kings 22:38. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria. As in the case of other cities ( 2 Samuel 2:13; 2 Samuel 4:12; Song Song of Solomon 7:4), so also at Samaria, there was a pool near the city which served for purposes of washing and bathing. The dogs licked up the water which was mixed with the blood washed from the chariot. The words וְהַוֹּנוֹת רָחָצוּ cannot be translated as in the Syriac and Chaldaic versions, arma laverunt, or, as in the Vulg, habenas laverunt, in the first place because it is contrary to the usage of the language to make זֹנוֹת the object, and in the second place, because this word occurs in the Old Testament only in the signification harlots. Maurer and Von Gerlach supply, as object of רָחָצוּ, the chariot, but then this clause would only repeat the previous one: “they washed the chariot.” Bunsen supplies arbitrarily: the corpse. רחץ means here, as in Exodus 2:5; Ruth 3:31, to bathe. Harlots are also elsewhere mentioned together with dogs, though, it is true, in the figurative use ( Deuteronomy 23:19; Revelation 22:15), because both were regarded as impure and contemptible. Theodoret remarks that the harlots bathed in the evening, according to custom. They did not intend to wash in the blood, but the water was mixed with it. Probably the women were the temple-prostitutes, so that the blood of Ahab was not only licked up by dogs, but also came in contact with persons who were impure, and prostituted in the service of Baal and Astarte; a double mark of the shameful ruin which had been foretold for him. Peter Martyr: Sordes suas miscebant cum sanguine Ahabi, quœ fuit maxima ignominia. Thenius’ proceeding is very arbitrary when he declares that 1 Kings 22:38 is an addition of the redactor, who desired to bring the event into full accord with the, prophecy in 1 Kings 21:19. We have no further information in regard to Ahab’s buildings mentioned in 1 Kings 22:39. The ivory house was a house which was richly decorated within with ivory. Cf. Amos 3:15; Psalm 45:8; Song of Solomon 7:5; Homer’s Odys4:72.

Historical and Ethical

1. Jehoshaphat’s journey to Samaria is an important incident in the development of the history of the two kingdoms, for this reason: Ever since the division of the kingdom (seventy years) the two parts had been hostile to each other, but Jehoshaphat’s visit was meant to confirm a peace between them, which had already been brought about by the intermarriage of the prince of Judah and the princess of Israel. A period of peace now began. This new state of things was brought about by Jehoshaphat and not by Ahab, as we see clearly from the account in Chronicles, where also we may learn what considerations induced the pious king of Judah to seek friendship and alliance with Ahab. He had raised the comparatively weak kingdom of Judah to a pitch of prosperity, both internal and external, such as it had not enjoyed since the time of Solomon. Especially against the neighboring nations he had been so successful that all brought him tribute, and no one any longer dared to oppose him ( 2 Chronicles 17:10). Since now he had attained to great wealth and renown ( 2 Chronicles 18:1), the wish must naturally arise in his heart, to put an end to the long hostility of the two brother-kingdoms, of which, probably, each was weary. This could not be accomplished by force, for experience had proved that neither kingdom could subjugate the other. Jehoshaphat therefore attempted the peaceful means of a family alliance, and Ahab met him willingly, since he could expect from such an alliance nothing but advantage. It appears, however, that Jehoshaphat aimed at something more than a mere friendly relation between the two kingdoms. When we reflect that Hebrews, the faithful adherent of Jehovah, made an alliance between his son and heir and the daughter of the fanatical idolater, Jezebel; that he then went himself in great state to Samaria; that he entered into a military expedition with Ahab in spite of the warning of a prophet of Jehovah; that he afterwards entered into an alliance with Ahab’s successor in spite of the warning of the prophet Jehu not to enter into fellowship with apostates ( 2 Chronicles 19:1); then we cannot understand all this save on the supposition that he aimed to unite once more the two kingdoms under Judah’s supremacy. However glorious the aim was, it could never be attained in the way upon which he had entered. The real cause of the division of the kingdom was Israel’s revolt from the chief command of the covenant with Jehovah. This cause could not be removed by external means such as Jehoshaphat sought to use. The friendship which he sought to establish by intermarriage and by political measures, ignoring the true ground of division, and even setting it aside by denying some features of the theocratic constitution, was a friendship which had no root, and enjoyed no divine blessing, out of which rather mischief arose for Judah. For, far from tending to root up Jeroboam’s cultus in Israel, this intermarriage helped to transplant it to Judah, and brought that kingdom to the brink of ruin. After seventy or eighty years, in the time of Amaziah, the hostility between the two kingdoms broke out afresh, and was never entirely allayed again until the Assyrians took Israel into captivity.

2. 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, which seemed so earnest, and which certainly falls in the period immediately preceding the renewed war with the Syrians ( 1 Kings 21:27), had, as we see from the story before us, borne no fruit. 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 ( 1 Kings 20:42), or else he cared nothing about them. To “be still” ( 1 Kings 22:3) did not suit him. 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, as he had once done in regard to Elijah’s declarations (chap 1 Kings 21:20). 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 Song of Solomon, contrary to military custom and order, he does not go into the battle like Jehoshaphat, clad in royal robes, but disguised. This precaution, which testified to anything but heroism (Eisenlohr says justly: “He hoped in this way to escape danger”), did not, however, avail. He was shot without being recognized. 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 (see Exeg. on 1 Kings 22:34-35). “He had his wound bound up, returned to the battle, and held himself erect in his chariot, though his blood flowed down on its floor until the evening” (Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums I. s. 1 Kings 212:—following Ewald). Thenius even says: “If Ahab held himself erect through the whole day with the purpose already mentioned (to encourage his men), then he possessed, aside from the qualities manifested in 1 Kings 20:7; 1 Kings 20:14; 1 Kings 20:32; 1 Kings 20:34, a character whose general features were grand.” 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. It is so far from his intention to say anything in his honor, that he even expressly narrates how Ahab after his death met with involuntary disgrace ( 1 Kings 22:38). In mentioning the end of Asa, Baasha, and Omri their “heroism” (גְּבוּרָה) is mentioned, but when Ahab’s death and burial are mentioned, there is no reference to his valor. Moreover, it is impossible to speak of this king as having “a character whose general features were grand,” seeing that he was ruled by his wicked wife, that he went to bed and would see no one, and neither eat nor drink, because he could not at once obtain a garden which he wanted, and that he did not recover his spirits until he had obtained the garden by a judicial murder.

3. The congregation of not less than four hundred prophets, who claimed to be prophets of Jehovah, but were not such, is a phenomenon which has no parallel either in the earlier or later history of Israel, and which, for various reasons, deserves attention. In the first place, it appears from this that, although the Baal-cultus had been formally introduced, it had not entirely superseded the Jehovah-cultus; on the contrary, that it existed by the side of that (perhaps as a consequence of Elijah’s work), and that, as we may infer from the number of the prophets who were assembled, a great portion of the people must still have been well disposed towards the national cultus. Secondly, it appears that there was in Israel, besides the class of prophets of whom Elijah and Elisha and their pupils were the leaders ( 2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 2:7; 2 Kings 2:16; 2 Kings 6:1), also another class of prophets, who did not oppose the cultus of Jeroboam or the idolatrous dynasty, but rather joined hands with these, and sought a compromise with them. This latter class was no doubt, for the most part, identical with the priests of Jeroboam’s cultus, and formed the official privileged class of prophets. The union of the priestly and the prophetic offices occurred in the Baal-religion (chap18). No ancient people considered any cultus complete without a class of men through whom the god might be questioned. This class was naturally identified, in the first place, with the priesthood, through whom all dealings with the gods must be brought about. The calf-worship of Jeroboam must, therefore, have prophets in order to be a complete religious system, and its priests became its born prophets. Since, however, this cultus, with its priesthood, was not a legitimate outgrowth of the national constitution and the divine covenant, but a creation of political policy ( 1 Kings 12:31-32; 1 Kings 13:33), the prophecy also, which was connected with it, did not stand upon the covenant with Jehovah, and the spirit which animated this prophecy could not be the “spirit of Jehovah.” It was a lying spirit, since the whole existence of this class of persons was rooted in apostasy and in revolt from the theocratic constitution. These “prophets of Samaria” ( Jeremiah 23:13; Ezekiel 13:1) were false prophets. They were not “servants of Jehovah” or “men of God,” but creatures of Jeroboam’s royal power, court prophets, who stood ready for the service of the king. This is the character in which they here appear. Ahab knew that they would prophesy “good” concerning him; hence he called them and would not listen to Micaiah. It is not necessary to consider them conscious and intentional deceivers, but, though they may have believed in their own oracles, yet they were deceitful prophets, since the “spirit of Jehovah” was not in them.

4. The prophet Micaiah, of whom we know nothing more than is to be learned from this chapter, unites, in contrast with the prophets of Ahab, all the chief features of a genuine Jehovah-prophet in a manner in which they are not to be found in a single appearance of any other prophet. We are first struck by the fulfilment of his prediction. He announces, on the authority of a vision, the fall of Ahab as a thing settled in the counsels of God, and does this in such a clear and definite way that Ahab and all the others who were present at once understood what was predicted, and there was no place for a “dim misgiving of the defeat which was to be suffered” (Ewald). According to human foresight, a great defeat was the less to be expected on this occasion, since Ahab’s army was considerably strengthened by the addition of Jehoshaphat’s, and the only thing sought was the capture of one city. Hence the four hundred prophets unanimously promised victory. The passage is certainly historical: according to Thenius, the vision of Micaiah “is to be regarded as a proof of the historical truth of the passage on account of its peculiarity and originality;” we have here, therefore, a definite prediction, which can have proceeded only from divine Revelation, from which Micaiah expressly asserts that he received it. Then with this gift of prediction Micaiah unites also the heroic courage which marked all the true prophets. He steps forth in the face of the king and his four hundred prophets, as once Elijah stepped forth in the face of the same king and the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. Though he came from captivity, and had now an opportunity to receive the royal favor, and although the attendant begged him, as he came, to “prophesy good,” yet he speaks only what God has revealed to him, and fears neither the wrath of the king, nor the outcry and rage of the four hundred. He recognizes no fear of men and no desire to please men. The word of his God is more to him than all else, and with that he stands firm, no matter what may threaten him. To this heroic courage he adds, finally, the patient endurance of insult and abuse which he is called to endure for the sake of truth. He does not repay Zedekiah in kind, but refers him to the experience which awaits him. When the enraged king orders him into close confinement on the “bread of affliction,” he does not murmur, but calls on all present to remember his prediction, and submits to his lot, leaving judgment to Him who judges righteously. So this servant of God appears as a forerunner of Him in whose mouth no deceit was found, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, and did not threaten when he suffered ( 1 Peter 2:22 sq.), as if the great example had already appeared before him, and he had only followed in His footsteps.

5. The vision of the prophet Micaiah ( 1 Kings 22:19-22) is original and peculiar. It has no parallel in the Old Testament. In meaning it corresponds most nearly to Isaiah 19:14 sq. It is very important for the elucidation of the idea of God as contained in the Old Testament. In so far as it proceeds upon the supposition that the deceitful prophecy of the four hundred prophets had its source in God, it seems to stand upon a religious idea which is not reconcilable with the holiness of God. In order to escape the offence which is involved in this view, the action of God has been described as a mere “permission.” Theodoret, for instance, whom nearly all the ancient expositors follow, says of this vision: προσωποποιΐα τις, διδάσκουδσ τὴν θείαν συγ χώρησιν. But this is clearly a case in which Jehovah himself appears ordering and regulating independently and spontaneously, not merely permissively. We must bear in mind that the vision represents an executive or judicial act of God. As Judges, God stands to evil not in the attitude of permission, but in one of punishment. Since evil does not come from God, but from Prayer of Manasseh, who rebels against God, chooses evil, and opposes it to God, so punishment comes upon man through evil. God proves His holiness most of all by this, that He punishes evil by evil, and destroys it by itself. It is an essential feature in the divine government of the world that the evil which springs up in the world is made an instrument in the hand of the Holy One for neutralizing and destroying itself, and that it becomes a means of ruin to him who chooses it, and brings it into being. The idea of holiness as applied to God excludes all idea of His indifference as between good and evil, and therefore forbids us to think of Him as “permitting” evil. The theory of permission does not therefore reconcile this incident with God’s holiness, but rather is directly inconsistent with God’s holiness. Hence it has been abandoned in modern theology (cf. Rothe, Ethik, II. s. 204–210). It is also entirely foreign to Holy Scripture (cf. Hengstenberg, Beiträge, III. s. 462 sq.). The notion that God punishes evil by evil, which forms the basis of Micaiah’s vision, runs through all the Scriptures, and is not at all, as Thenius says, “an outgrowth of the opinions of the time.” Thenius is even inclined to regard its close conformity to the prevalent notions of the time as “an especial proof of the historical character of the passage.” But this general notion is found in the writings of the greatest prophet of the Old Testament ( Isaiah 19:14), and in those of the greatest Apostle of the New Testament ( 2 Thessalonians 2:11; Romans 1:24-28; Romans 9:17). The saying, frivolous in itself, Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur, may be applied to Ahab, at least in this sense: He who seeks and chooses falsehood will be ruined by falsehood, against his choice ( Psalm 18:27).

6 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 ( Psalm 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 1 Kings 20:42. He thought that a disguise would render him secure from the Syrian leaders who sought to find him out, and he did indeed escape them; but an unknown Prayer of Manasseh, who did not know him, and had no intention against him, shot him, while Jehoshaphat, though undisguised, escaped unharmed. The arrow which struck him was not warded off by his corselet, but just struck the narrow opening between the corselet and the skirt, where it could penetrate and inflict a fatal wound. Every one, therefore, who does not regard all incidents as accidents, must recognize the hand which guided this shaft. The words of the Psalmist held true: “If he will not turn, he will whet his sword, he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors” ( Psalm 7:12-13). Finally, Ahab did not die at once, but at evening, in consequence of the loss of blood. His blood flowed down in the chariot, which was so besmeared by it that it had to be washed. It was washed at the pool before the city, where dogs drank and harlots bathed. So it came to pass, although he was buried with all honor, that he was marked in his death as one condemned by God, and Elijah’s word ( 1 Kings 21:19) was fulfilled.

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 22:1-38. Ahab’s last undertaking, (a) What led him to it ( 1 Kings 22:1-4); (b) the question which he put to the prophets in regard to it ( 1 Kings 22:6-28); (c) how it resulted ( 1 Kings 22:29-38)

1 Kings 22:1-4. The coalition of the two kings, (a) It is proposed by Ahab. (He aims to bring about the war under an apparently just pretext, whereas he was himself to blame for the loss of Ramoth, because he let Benhadad go. Song of Solomon, often, strife is stirred up under the pretext of a just occasion, when the real cause is an evil and godless feeling. Instead of using the time, of peace for peaceful industry the restless man begs for Jehoshaphat’s help in a new war. He was willing to borrow Jehoshaphat’s aid for such an undertaking, but did not care to borrow anything of his piety. [He cunningly proposed the war to recover Ramoth at a time when Jehoshaphat was on a visit to him, and was most anxious to please him.]) (b) Jehoshaphat agrees to it (without due consideration. He was bribed by Ahab’s friendly reception and hospitality. He thus brought himself into great danger, 1 Kings 22:32. We must not enter into alliances with men like Ahab, who are given over to do evil. Still less ought we to form relationships with them, for we are thus liable to be led into ways which are displeasing to God and lead to ruin. 2 Chronicles 19:2. We ought to be at peace with all men, but to enter into alliances and relationships only with those who stand on the same ground with us as regards the highest interests)

1 Kings 22:1. Starke: God gives time and place for repentance even to the greatest sinners. If they will not repent he will whet his sword ( Psalm 7:12-13)

1 Kings 22:3. Würt. Summ.: It is a misfortune when great men have a fondness for war. They are not satisfied when they must be still, but seek war without necessity and imperil their country.—Pfaff’sche Bibel: Do ye not know that heaven is ours, yet we be still! So should those cry out to their hearers who are charged with the cure of souls, and should encourage them to take the kingdom of heaven by force ( Matthew 11:12).

1 Kings 22:5. Würt. Summ.: We should undertake nothing without God’s approval, for how can a thing prosper in which God does not help? Hence we ought to seek counsel of God in his word and in prayer, and, when the word of God does not counsel us to proceed with the undertaking we should give it up, satisfied that it would not succeed. It is well to ask God’s will, but do it always before, not after thou hast asked or promised.—J. Lange: It often happens thus, a man determines on something displeasing to God, following his own notion, and then convinces himself that it is according to God’s will. Question the word of God! the best counsellor (a) for all who seek truth and are tossed about by doubts, 2 Peter 1:19; Psalm 19:8 sq.; (b) for all who seek consolation and peace for the soul, Psalm 119:82; Psalm 119:92; Psalm 119:105; Jeremiah 15:16.

1 Kings 22:6-12. The congregation of prophets, (a) The question which Ahab submitted to them. (He did not ask in the simple desire to learn the truth and submit to it, but to obtain divine approval before the world for that which he had already determined on. If any one prophesies to him in any other manner he becomes angry with him. The world demands prophets, but calls only those “good preachers” whose words please its ears, 2 Timothy 4:3, and whose words are not a hammer to break the rock, but a cradle-song to lure to sleep in the midst of vain folly.) (b) The answer which the assembled prophets gave to Ahab. (The answer did not proceed from the spirit of truth any more than the question, for these prophets did not stand on the ground of the divine word. He who has abandoned God’s word may speak as finely as he will; he is a false prophet. [This holds true as well of the dogmatist as of the rationalist] Ahab’s prophets say to him: Go and prosper! He goes and falls into hell. So also now the false prophets promise salvation to all who walk in the broad way, Ezekiel 13:18. Therefore, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits,” &c, 1 John 4:1)

1 Kings 22:7-8. In many a city and country where there are preachers enough, one is still obliged to ask, as Jehoshaphat did: “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides?” Is there not one who proclaims the word of God simply and purely, without fear or favor of men, and who can say what Paul says: Galatians 1:10? There was indeed one other prophet of the Lord in Samaria, but he was in prison, and the king was hostile to him. Starke: Pious people esteem a single genuine prophet or preacher more than four hundred false ones.—Let not the king say so. When a servant of God touches thy conscience, say not: I will go to that church no more; I do not like that preacher—Starke: A Christian should not keep silence when the godless speak sinfully, but interrupt and rebuke them. The Lord did so on the cross ( Luke 23:39)

1 Kings 22:10-12. Pfaff. Bibel: There is nothing which is more sinful and worthy of punishment than to flatter the great, who need to hear the truth. This is more sinful, however, in the clergy than in others.—Berleb. Bibel: Who is not disgusted by those who fashion their words by popular favor? Yet he who would go on smoothly and easily and prosperously must do this. Then he will not meet with opposition, nor lose his place at Jezebel’s table ( 1 Kings 18:19), nor his other emoluments. All the four hundred agreed unanimously, and yet their prophecy was false. In matters of divine truth it matters not how many agree. Here voices ought to be weighed, not counted. The number of the unbelieving or the superstitious was always greater than that of the believers, for men agree in error or falsehood much more easily than in truth. Be not deceived, though thousands may think and say the same thing, and though the greatest and most learned may be amongst them, but cling thou to the word of Him who has said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.”—Starke: Unanimity of opinion, even in the largest congregations of theologians, is not always a proof of truth, for a great company may err.

1 Kings 22:12-28. Würt. Summ.: Here we see the marks of the true and false prophets. The false teachers say what is popular, so as to enjoy rewards; they rely upon their number; they say that they have God’s word, though they have it not and claim to be in all things equal to the true teachers; they dispute more with blows and screams than with proofs from the word of God; they are held in high esteem. On the contrary, true teachers do not speak to please anybody, but they preach fearlessly the truth of God’s word, letting it strike whom it will, refusing to be turned aside, and submitting to persecution. Micaiah, the type of a true prophet (see Histor. § 4).

Vers, 13,14Micaiah on his way to the king, (a) How he was tempted. (The witnesses to the truth often have to withstand the strongest temptations from those who appear to be their sincere friends. They are begged for their own sakes, and for the sake of those who depend on them, not to oppose the great and mighty, and not to declare other teachers false prophets. They are told that their declarations will do no good, but will only excite enmity against them, and deprive them of bread and of respect. Cf. Mark 8:32 sq.) (b) How he repels the temptation. (Neither allurements nor threats can turn aside a faithful servant of God from the word of the Lord. That is the rock on which he takes his stand, the sword and shield with which he fights. What he has already suffered has not made him submissive; what yet a waits him cannot turn him aside. All other considerations must yield to the duty of saying what the Lord gives him to say. Acts 4:20.)

1 Kings 22:13. Hall: Those who offer earthly good as an inducement think that every one worships their idol

1 Kings 22:14. Starke: We ought to be firm against allurements and not let ourselves be drawn from the truth by favor or disfavor. What the Lord saith unto me that will I speak ought to be the vow of every preacher when he enters on his office, (a) What pertains to the fulfilment of this vow? (Knowledge of the truth, power from above, prayer for the gifts of the spirit. 2 Timothy 4:2 sq.) (b) What is promised to one who makes, such a vow? ( Jeremiah 1:8 sq.; Luke 12:12; Matthew 10:10; Daniel 12:3; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4.) 1 Kings 22:15-16. Berleb. Bibel: This is a wonderful thing. People demand certain ones to speak the truth, to them, yet when the truth is spoken they are displeased by it. How many demand the truth, yet are angry when they hear it—Cramer: The godless often ask about the truth, not in order to make themselves better, but in order to spend their malice on the pious ( Matthew 2:3 sq.; Matthew 26:63).—Hypocritical questions deserve no earnest answer, but only such a one as may put the questioner to shame—Starke: It is not wrong to sometimes answer the fool according to his folly, but with wit, in order to make him better ( Proverbs 26:5)

1 Kings 22:17-27. Micaiah’s prediction, (a) Its contents, in their reference to the king ( 1 Kings 22:17), and to the four hundred prophets ( 1 Kings 22:19-23). (b) Its reception by the prophets ( 1 Kings 22:24) and by the king ( 1 Kings 22:26-28)

1 Kings 22:17. Kings should be the shepherds of the people. Israel had in Ahab a master, but not a shepherd. He led the people not in the right path, but astray ( Jeremiah 2:13). It is the greatest misfortune for a people when it has no leader who is a true shepherd

1 Kings 22:18. Cramer: The godless murmur against preachers, saying that they can do nothing but scold, but they do not murmur against their own sins ( Lamentations 3:39).

1 Kings 22:19-23. The truths which are presented to us by the prophet’s vision, (a) The Lord in heaven stands above all earthly thrones. He appoints and deposes kings, and has power over all kingdoms ( Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:14; 1 Samuel 2:7). Therefore let all the earth fear him, &c. ( Psalm 33:8). (b) The Lord is pure to the pure, and perverse to the perverse. He gives over the perverse and hard-hearted to the judgment of obstinate error; he sends mighty errors to inthrall those who resist the truth ( John 12:40; 2 Thessalonians 2:11; Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:8). Therefore “harden not your hearts,” &c. ( Hebrews 3:8)

1 Kings 22:21. Pfaff: It is a great judgment of God upon a country when he allows false prophets to lead it astray, and to put on the mask of true prophets. It Isaiah, however, a judgment which the world does not recognize as such.

1 Kings 22:22. Kyburz: He who seduces others is himself seduced as a just punishment. Ahab led the people from God to Baal, therefore he is here led by a false oracle to march out upon his own scaffold. That, however, is the mightiest seduction which is brought about through those who ordinarily stand highest in authority,—the prophets.

1 Kings 22:24-28. Micaiah’s suffering for the truth, (a) He is publicly insulted by Zedekiah the chief of the prophets ( Matthew 5:11). (b) He is throw into prison by the godless king Ahab ( 1 Peter 2:19). (c) He is left unprotected by the pious king Jehoshaphat ( Matthew 26:56).

1 Kings 22:24. Kyburz: When the disputants cannot oppose anything to the truth, they turn to blows instead of arguments, or the controversy ends in scolding, and calumny, and blasphemy. Those are the weapons which are forged in hell against the truth Let every one who intends to speak and write the naked truth make up his mind that he will be attacked by these if he disregards the favor of men. This salt [the truth] has lost nothing of its savor; it bites to-day as it did3,000 years ago.—Berleb. Bibel: A false light makes men self-willed; they become like those who stand in a mist. Each one sees an open light space about himself, but seems to see that every other is enveloped in mist.—Hall: None boast more of having the spirit of God than those who have it not at all. Vessels which are full give only a light sound or none at all. In vituperation and abuse clerical disputants, to whom it is least becoming, are unfortunately often most vigorous. By their sensitive vanity, which can endure no contradiction, their envy, their arrogance, and their anger, they show plainly that they have not the spirit of God, which does not dwell in an arrogant and quarrelsome and self-willed heart, but in a humble one, and its fruits are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, &c. ( Galatians 5:22). “The Lord resisteth the proud.” 1 Kings 22:25. Cramer: Those who are boldest in prosperity generally become the most timid when their affairs begin to decline ( Judges 9:38).

1 Kings 22:26-28. Ahab’s conduct towards the witness of the Truth, (a) It was tyrannical. (There is no greater, tyranny than to suppress by force the divine word and the truth.) (b) It was foolish. (We cannot accomplish anything against the truth, 2 Corinthians 13:8. We can put the advocates of it in prison, but not the truth. It cannot be bound in chains, nor starved. It escapes and spreads, and only gains in glory by our attempts to oppress it.)

1 Kings 22:28. Starke: Threats of death or of imprisonment may not frighten a true servant of God from confessing the truth ( Acts 5:25-29).—He who makes a good confession can without fear call all the world to witness it ( Matthew 10:14). Such a confession always leaves a sting behind, which one can never again get rid of ( 1 Kings 22:30).

1 Kings 22:29-38. The war with the Syrians, (a) A war which was undertaken without, nay, even against, God’s will, and therefore with no good conscience, (b) An unfortunate war, which resulted in danger to Jehoshaphat, death to Ahab, and rout to the army.—The two kings before, in, and after the battle.

1 Kings 22:29. So. We should expect: “So” the two kings abandoned the war. However they went, one out of self-will, the other out of weakness.—Calw. Bib.: Men do far too readily what they want to do, although it is contrary to God’s will, putting aside God’s word, or the warnings of others, or the voice of conscience. The event is never good. How often men ask for advice, yet follow their own will only. Kyburz: Jehoshaphat’s example ought to make us shy of the society of the wicked. The sun of grace in his heart became gradually dimmed. At first he had courage to remonstrate with Ahab, but gradually he comes to silence and indifference, even while Micaiah is abused and remanded to prison. In the end this evil companionship would have cost him his life, if God had not wonderfully interposed.

1 Kings 22:30. Unbelief, in Ahab, joined hands with superstition. The king despises and rejects the word of God which is announced to him, and yet he is frightened, and seeks to escape the threatened dangers by disguising himself. This stratagem was intended to prove the prophet false. Neither cunning nor might avails against God’s will. Thou mayest disguise thyself as thou wilt, God will find thee when and where no man recognizes thee ( Psalm 139:7-12). Multi ad fatum venere suum, dum fata timent.

1 Kings 22:32. Cramer: God sometimes lets his children come into distress and danger when they have formed companionship with the wicked, but he saves them again through His goodness and might, that they may be the more careful another time. Into what distress and danger one is thrown by a careless promise ( 1 Kings 22:4), an ill-timed concession, and the false shame of taking back one’s promise!

1 Kings 22:34-35. If not a sparrow falls, nor a hair, without His will, how much less can an arrow or a ball strike thee unless His hand guides it.—Berleb. Bib. The less of the human there is in those things which we commonly call accidents, the more there is of the divine. The weal or woe of whole nations often depends on those things which are called accidents.

1 Kings 22:36. Whatever any men, though they were kings, have brought together and set up, without God’s approval, that is certain to fall to pieces and perish again.

1 Kings 22:37-38. Ahab’s end (see Histor. § 6). (a) It was sudden ( 1 Samuel 20:3; Luke 12:20. From sudden death, good Lord, deliver us). (b) It was unrepentant (without conviction of sin, or repentance for it, or longing for grace and pardon). (c) It was shameful. (He was indeed buried with honor, like the rich Prayer of Manasseh,, Luke 16, but the dogs lick his blood, and his memory does not remain in honor, Psalm 73:19. Therefore, Psalm 90:12; Psalm 39:5.)—Starke: As he lived, so he died; as he died, so he was judged. The death of Ahab is a testimony to Romans 11:33; Galatians 6:7; Isaiah 40:8.

1 Kings 22:39-40. What is the profit of leaving behind a great and grand house, if one has not set one’s house in order ( Isaiah 38:1; 1 John 2:17)?

Footnotes:

FN#1 - 1 Kings 22:6.—[The Alex. Sept. reduces the number to three hundred.

FN#2 - 1 Kings 22:6.—[The Sept. emphasizes the assurance of the prophets: καὶ διδοὺς δώσει κύριος = the Lord will surely deliver, &c. It is noticeable that the prophets do not say יְהוָֹה, but אֲדֹנָי.

FN#3 - 1 Kings 22:7.—[The Sept, by neglecting the word עוֹד (besides, yet) here and In 1 Kings 22:8, makes it evident that they understood by the other prophets men who were not really prophets of the Lord. In 1 Kings 22:8, however, the Alex. Sept. has ἔτι. The Vulg. also: non est hic propheta Domini quispiam. The other VV. follow the Heb. very exactly.

FN#4 - 1 Kings 22:9.—[The Sept. has εὐνοῦχον ἕνα, but whether because it was known in the time of the translators that such persons were officers under Ahab, or whether simply because they were usual in the courts of their own time, does not appear.

FN#5 - 1 Kings 22:12.—[The Sept. changes the last clause of 1 Kings 22:12 into “Shall deliver into thy hands even the king of Syria” (Alex, omits the word Syria), as if Zedekiah would promise Ahab a repetition of his formerly neglected opportunity.

FN#6 - 1 Kings 22:13.—The singular, which Chronicles, the k’ri, and many MSS. have, is to be preferred to the k’tib. [All the VV, except the Sept, which has, another construction, follow the k’ri.

FN#7 - 1 Kings 22:19.—[The author (Exeg. Com.) considers the οὐχ οὕτως of the Sept. here as a mistranslation of the Heb. לָכֵן taken for לֹא כֵן, The same expression, however, is introduced by it into 1 Kings 22:17, καὶ εἶπεν οὐχ οὕτως· ἑώρακα κ. τ. λ., and the full reading here is καὶ εἶπε Μιχαίας οὐχ οὕτως, οὐκ ἐγώ· ἄκουε ρῆμα κ. τ. λ.

FN#8 - 1 Kings 22:19.—[Sept. = the God (Alex, the Lord God) of Israel.

FN#9 - 1 Kings 22:19.—[עָלָיו the primary idea of עַל above, seems to be here purposely preserved; “the ministers standing behind or even beside, their sitting Lord are raised above him, and thus appear to the beholder as standing over him. Isaiah 6:2; Genesis 18:8,” Keil.

FN#10 - 1 Kings 22:26.—[For “Amon the governor” the Vat. Sept. has “Semer the king.”

FN#11 - 1 Kings 22:28.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the latter part of 1 Kings 22:28.

FN#12 - 1 Kings 22:34.—[The A. V, like the Vulg, follows the singular of the k’ri in preference to the plural of the k’tib, which is adhered to by the Vat. Sept.

FN#13 - 1 Kings 22:35.—[וַהַּ‍ֽעֲלֶח הַמִּלְחָמָה, lit “the battle rose,” perhaps, as Keil suggests, a figure from the rising of a river, growing more rapid as it swells. The expression of increase by words of the general sense of rising Isaiah, however, very common in many languages.

FN#14 - 1 Kings 22:36.—[וְהַוֹנוֹת רָחָצוּ. The A. V. Is here certainly wrong, although following the Chald. and Syr. Not less erroneous is the Vulg. habenas laverunt. הַזֹּנוֹת must be the subject of the verb, and can only mean harlots, The Sept. has here translated rightly, but has unwarrantably inserted the same words also in the prediction ( 1 Kings 20:42) of which this is the fulfilment. Here, as there, they associate αἱ ὕες with οἱ κύνες What these harlots washed—whether themselves, or the chariot, or clothes—has been much questioned, nor is its determination at all necessary to the translation. רָהַץ like the English wash, may be either transitive or intransitive.—F. G.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/1-kings-22.html. 1857-84.

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