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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 22

 

 

Verse 1

1 Kings 22:1. They continued three years — That is, three years were spent; without war between Syria and Israel — Computed from the last war and league wherewith it was concluded. Both Ahab and Ben-hadad were so weakened and broken by the late wars, that they needed and desired peace to recruit themselves, and repair their former losses.


Verse 2

1 Kings 22:2. The king of Judah came down to the king of Israel — Having now, as he supposed, made a firm peace with him, by the alliance contracted between Jehoram his son, and Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter, 2 Kings 8:18; 2 Chronicles 18:1. It is strange that so good a man would be so closely connected with a king revolted, from the worship of God! But he appears to have been of to easy a temper, which betrayed him to many inconveniences.


Verse 3

1 Kings 22:3. Know ye not that Ramoth in Gilead is ours? — Belongeth to us by right, both by God’s donation, and by our last agreement with Ben- hadad, 1 Kings 20:34. It is probable Ben-hadad had not made good his part of the covenant, to restore all the cities which the Syrians had taken from Israel, and that this was one which he refused to deliver up.


Verse 4

1 Kings 22:4. He said to Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go up with me, &c.? — It is not strange that Ahab should desire the assistance of so pious and prosperous a neighbour as Jehoshaphat, and should wish to draw him in to join him in this expedition for the recovery of Ramoth-Gilead. Even bad men have often coveted the friendship of the good; but it is strange that Jehoshaphat should go so entirely into Ahab’s interests as to say, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people — That is, I will heartily and effectually join with thee; and my forces shall be at thy service, as much as thine own.


Verse 5

1 Kings 22:5. Jehoshaphat said, Inquire, I pray thee, &c. — By some prophet; that we may know the mind of God in this matter, and what success we may expect. A good man, wherever he goes, will take God along with him, will acknowledge him in all his ways, and look to him for success: and, wherever he goes, he ought to take his religion along with him; and not be ashamed to own it, even among those who have no kindness for it.


Verse 6

1 Kings 22:6. The king of Israel gathered the prophets together — Doubtless his own false prophets, such as he had set up by rewards and promises, and who accordingly knew how to suit his humour, and flatter his vanity, and who yet gave in their answer in the name of Jehovah; either in compliance with Jehoshaphat, or by Ahab’s direction, that Jehoshaphat might be deceived by them into a good opinion of the war.


Verse 7-8

1 Kings 22:7-8. Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides? — Besides these who may seem to be such in your opinion, and by their own profession? He did not entirely reject these as no prophets of the Lord, though he had some doubt of their being divinely inspired with the certain knowledge of future events; and therefore he desired to know if there was any other from whom he might receive further satisfaction. There is yet one man, &c. — Namely, in this place, for whom I can speedily send; for there were also other prophets elsewhere in the kingdom, but these were not at hand. Micaiah the son of Imlah — Not the person whom we call Micah, one of the twelve minor prophets, for he lived a hundred and fifty years after this time, but another of that name. He doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil — He is always a messenger to me of evil tidings. This probably was true, but not a sufficient reason why he should hate him, because Micaiah only delivered the messages which God sent by him; and whatsoever evil he denounced, Ahab himself was the cause and procurer of it. Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so — Let us neither hate his person, nor despise his message; but first hear it, and then do as we see cause.


Verse 9-10

1 Kings 22:9-10. Hasten hither Micaiah — It seems he had imprisoned him; for, 1 Kings 22:26, he bids the officer carry him back, namely, to the place where he was before. Probably this was he that had reproved him for letting Ben-hadad go, 1 Kings 20:42 : and for that, had lain in prison three years. But this did not make him less confident, or less faithful in delivering his message. Having put on their robes — Their royal robes and ensigns of majesty. In a void place — In the place of judicature, which was in or nigh the gate of the city, and in the front of some void place, where either people stood to hear and see justice administered, or soldiers were placed for the defence of the city in time of war. And all the prophets prophesied before them — Continued to encourage them in their design; all agreeing, to a man, in the same fawning compliances with Ahab, and the same treacherous counsels, which pleased and tickled, for the present, but proved fatal in the end.


Verse 11

1 Kings 22:11. Zedekiah made him horns of iron — Fit emblems of the power and victory of these two kings. The devil is God’s ape, and the false prophets imitated the true, who, when they declared God’s mind by words, did also sometimes confirm it by sensible signs, Isaiah 20:2; Jeremiah 27:2. Thus saith the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah, in whose name he pretends to speak, to gain the more credit and countenance to his words.


Verse 13-14

1 Kings 22:13-14. Speak that which is good — This was a most absurd request: for if Micaiah was a true prophet, he could say nothing but what was suggested to him by divine inspiration, and if he were not, why should he speak at all? Of what use could his prophesying be unless to deceive? What the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak — What answer the Lord shall put into my mind and mouth. He resolves as became one who had an eye to a greater king than either of these. He seems, as yet, to have had no revelation about the matter. But when the question was put to him, God taught him what to answer.


Verse 15-16

1 Kings 22:15-16. He answered him, Go, and prosper — He gave the very same answer, and in the same words, which the other prophets had done; but spake them in such a manner, that Ahab plainly discerned he derided and mocked him: his meaning being evidently this: Because thou dost not seek to know the truth, but only to please thyself, go to the battle, as all thy prophets advise thee, and try the truth of their prediction by thy own experience. The king said, How many times shall I adjure thee? — He had not adjured him before, but now he does; as, probably, observing something in the countenance and gesture of Micaiah, which persuaded him that what he said was rather ironical than the real sentiments of his mind.


Verse 17

1 Kings 22:17. And he said, I saw — Namely, in the Spirit, or in a vision; all Israel scattered upon the hills — Upon the mountains of Gilead, where they lay encamped by Ahab’s order, or to which they fled from the enemy. As sheep that have no shepherd — As people that have lost their king. The Lord said, These have no master; let them return, &c. — Discharged from the war. This was fulfilled, 1 Kings 22:36.


Verse 18

1 Kings 22:18. The king of Israel said, Did not I tell thee, &c. — Now thou seest my words verified, and how this man shows his hatred by his malignant and treasonable prophecy, and how little regard is to be paid to his words. Which crafty insinuation seems to have had too great an influence on good Jehoshaphat, otherwise he would not have gone to the battle. That he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil — Nay, but what evil was it to tell him what would be the event if he proceeded in his expedition, while it was in his own power whether he would proceed or not? The greatest kindness we can do to one that is walking in a dangerous way is to tell him of his danger.


Verse 19

1 Kings 22:19. And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord — Because thou givest credit to thy false prophets, and disbelievest my words, as if they were but the suggestions of my own fancy, and of hatred to thy person, I will give thee a distinct and true account of the whole matter in God’s name and presence. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne — Not with his bodily eyes certainly, for with them he could not see God, but with the eyes of his mind, or rather in a vision. For we must by no means look upon what follows as the relation of an affair really transacted, but merely as an account of a symbolical vision, like that of Peter, (Acts 10.,) when he saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him; whereby Micaiah was informed how it came to pass that so many prophets prophesied falsely, or contrary to what the event of things would prove; which was, that these prophets were influenced, not by the Spirit of God, which is the spirit of truth, but by an evil spirit, a spirit of error and falsehood, of flattery and dissimulation. For we should form most unjust ideas of the truth and holiness of God, if we supposed he would really send a spirit of lying into any of his prophets, which they could not distinguish from true inspiration; for this would be to confound false prophecy with true, and to make God the author of moral evil, which he can in no way or manner ever be. It would have been to overturn the whole authority of prophecy; for, if the true prophets had been once actuated by a false spirit, there would have been an end of placing any dependance on them for the future. The whole foundation of their authority would have been overthrown.


Verses 20-22

1 Kings 22:20-22. The Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, &c. — This is not to be understood grossly, as if God were at a loss to find out an expedient to accomplish his own designs; nor is it to be supposed that there was really any such consultation, before the Divine Majesty, as who should be employed to persuade Ahab to undo himself. But this is a symbolical representation, to signify that the Lord resolved to suffer Ahab to be deceived and perish at Ramoth-Gilead rather than in any other place; in order that he, who sinfully suffered Ben-hadad to escape, might be punished by Ben-hadad. And there came forth a spirit — An evil one; and stood before the Lord — This is not to be taken literally. There are, however, evil spirits who are very forward to entice men to their own destruction, and have power so to do, if the Lord do not hinder them. He said, I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets — I will suggest to them that which will deceive them. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also — I will give them up into thy hands, and leave them to their own ignorance and wickedness. Go forth, and do so — This is not a command, but only a permission. If we suppose this to be any thing more than a symbolical vision, we must say God permitted this evil spirit to follow his own inclinations, which he knew would have success, and prevail with Ahab to believe he should prosper in this war, wherein God intended he should perish. Ahab’s prophets had observed how prosperous he had been in former wars with the king of Syria, and that made them forward to promise him the same success in this also. And Ahab was as forward to believe as they were to promise.


Verse 23

1 Kings 22:23. Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put, &c. — It is frequent in the Holy Scriptures to call that the Lord’s doing which he only permits to be done; because he has the supreme direction of all things, and governs the event. Wicked devices proceed from wicked men and wicked spirits: but, that they prevail and take effect, is owing to the hand of God directing and ordering when and where they shall light, and what shall be the issue of them. Hath put a lying spirit into the mouth, &c. — Hath permitted a lying spirit to influence these men. Hath spoken evil concerning thee — Hath decreed that thou shalt perish in this war. It may not be amiss to observe here, that “the evil being, named Satan, was little known to the Jewish people till their captivity; and then this history was taught openly as a security against the doctrine of the two principles. The Jewish lawgiver, where he so frequently enumerates and warns the Israelites of the snares and temptations which would draw them to transgress the law of God, never mentions this capital enemy of heaven. Nay, when the form of that sacred history which Moses composed obliged him to treat of Satan’s first grand machination against mankind, he entirely hides this wicked spirit under the animal which he made his instrument; but, as the fulness of time drew near, they were made more and more acquainted with this their capital enemy. When Ahab, for the crimes and follies of the people, was suffered to be infatuated, we have the account in the words of Micaiah above. Satan is not here recorded by name; and so we must conclude the people were yet to know little of his history: however, this undertaking sufficiently declared his nature.” Div. Leg., vol. 4. p. 279.


Verse 24-25

1 Kings 22:24-25. But Zedekiah went near — The chief of the false prophets, who was much in the king’s favour. Which way went the Spirit of the Lord, &c. — In what manner went it? Contemptuous language as well as behaviour: as much as to say, How dare you prophesy directly contrary to what I have done, who have the Spirit of the Lord! Behold, thou shalt go into an inner chamber — Into a secret place; to hide thyself — For fear of being seized and punished as a false prophet, and as the great author and abetter of this pernicious war, and of Ahab’s destruction. Probably he went with Ahab to the battle, after which he was glad to shelter himself where he could.


Verse 26-27

1 Kings 22:26-27. Take Micaiah, and carry him back — Namely, into prison, where, it seems, he was before shut up; for so the Lord’s prophets were treated by Ahab. Feed him with bread of affliction, &c. — With very coarse and spare diet, whereby he may be only supported to endure his torment. Until I come in peace — Until I return in triumph, which I doubt not I shall, in spite of all his malicious suggestions to the contrary; and then I shall call him to an account for all his lies and impudence. Hard usage for one that would have prevented his ruin! We see here how confident Ahab was of success! He questions not but he should return in peace, forgetting what he himself had said to Ben-hadad, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast: but there was little likelihood of his returning in peace when he left one of God’s prophets behind him in prison.


Verse 28

1 Kings 22:28. Micaiah said, If thou return, &c., the Lord hath not spoken by me — Let me incur the reproach and punishment of a false prophet; and he — Namely, Micaiah; said, Hearken, O people, every one of you — Knowing in whom he had believed, and being fully assured of the truth of his prophecy, he calls all the people to be witnesses of it.


Verse 29

1 Kings 22:29. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat — went up, &c. — Notwithstanding the declaration Micaiah had made of God’s decree, Jehoshaphat was persuaded by Ahab and other prophets to go on this expedition; partly because Micaiah was a person unknown to him, and both he and the other prophets professing to speak from God, it seemed difficult to him to determine the controversy between them, which, he probably thought, only the event could decide: and partly because the war was just and lawful, being undertaken to recover Ahab’s rights, which the Syrian king unjustly detained from him.


Verse 30

1 Kings 22:30. The king of Israel said, I will disguise myself — Put off my imperial habit, and appear as a private man, that the Syrians may not know me, and direct their main force against me. This he judged they would do, as knowing him to be the principal author of this war, and that it was likely to die with him. But put thou on thy robes — Thy royal robes, which thou mayest do without danger, because thou art not the object of the rage of the Syrians, nor of this false prophecy. Thus, while he pretended to do honour to Jehoshaphat, and compliment him with the sole command of the army in this action, he hoped to elude the danger, and so defeat the threatening, as if by disguising himself he could escape the divine cognizance, and the judgments that pursued him.


Verse 31

1 Kings 22:31. Fight only with the king of Israel — This he ordered, truly supposing this to be the best way to put an end to the war; and by the providence of God, which disposeth the hearts of kings as he pleaseth, and which inclined them to this course, that they might, though ignorantly, accomplish his counsel. Perhaps Ben-hadad only designed to have taken him prisoner, that he might now give him as honourable a treatment as he had formerly received from him.


Verse 32-33

1 Kings 22:32-33. When the captains — saw Jehoshaphat, they said, Surely, &c. — They saw no other but him in a royal habit, and hence concluded he must be the king of Israel, whom they believed to be present in the battle, and to be the commander of the Israelitish army. They turned aside to fight against him — They drew their forces from their several quarters toward him. And Jehoshaphat cried out — By his danger God now let him know that he was displeased with him, for joining in confederacy with Ahab. They that associate with evil doers are in danger of sharing in their plagues. When the captains — perceived it was not the king of Israel — This they would easily perceive, either by the words which he spake, when he cried out, or by the difference of his form and countenance from those of Ahab, whom, probably, many of them had seen, and knew well. They turned back from pursuing him — Thus, by his deliverance, God showed him that, though he was displeased with him, he had not deserted him. To him he cried out, not in cowardice, but devotion, and from him his relief came. For God, who has the hearts of all men in his hand, moved them to depart from him, 2 Chronicles 18:31. In the mean time Ahab, who brought him into this danger, seems to have been in no care to succour him. God is a friend who will not fail us when other friends do.


Verse 34

1 Kings 22:34. A certain man drew a bow at a venture — Shot at a venture among the army, without care, or choice, or any design of reaching Ahab, or any particular person; and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness — Where the several parts of his armour were joined together; the only place about him where this arrow of death could find entrance. No armour is proof against the darts of divine vengeance. Case the criminal in steel, and it is all one; he that made him can make his sword approach him. And that which to us seems altogether casual, comes by the determined counsel of God.


Verse 35-36

1 Kings 22:35-36. The battle increased that day — There was a sharp fight after this; insomuch that the king, for fear his soldiers should give way, would return into the field, notwithstanding his wounds, and be supported in his chariot, to encourage his army. And died at even — Finding, too late, the truth of Micaiah’s words; and Zedekiah’s horns of iron pushing, not the Syrians, but himself into destruction. And there went a proclamation throughout the host — Probably by Jehoshaphat’s order, with the consent of the chief captains of Israel. Saying, Every man to his city, &c. — It is to no purpose to attempt any thing more: the king is dead, and the battle ended; and therefore every man has liberty to return to his own city and habitation. The Syrians also, it is likely, were content to be gone, having slain their capital enemy. By this proclamation the prediction of Micaiah was exactly fulfilled, according to his vision, 1 Kings 22:17.


Verse 38

1 Kings 22:38. The dogs licked up his blood — Together with the water wherewith it was mixed. This circumstance is noticed because it was the accomplishment of one part of Elijah’s prophecy concerning him. Now Naboth’s blood was avenged!


Verse 39

1 Kings 22:39. The ivory house which he made — Not that it was wholly made of solid ivory, but the other materials used in building it were covered, or intermixed, or adorned with ivory. It appears by this short history that Ahab would have had some noble qualities in him, if he had not been incurably addicted to idolatry, and other sins and vices.


Verse 42

1 Kings 22:42. Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old, &c. — The intention of the writer of this book was principally to give us the history of the kings of the house of David, with which he begins, and then interweaves with it some account of the kings of Israel. Thus having finished the history of Asa, king of Judah, he recounts the affairs of Israel under Ahab; who being dead, he returns to the history of the kings of Judah, who were the chief objects of his attention.


Verse 43

1 Kings 22:43. He walked in all the ways of Asa — He took the same care for the government of his kingdom, and especially for the reformation of religion, which Asa did. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away Not fully, or not in the beginning of his reign. For that he did take them away, at least in part, and probably all those which were erected for the worship of idols, appears from 2 Chronicles 17:9. The people offered incense yet in the high places — Old corruptions are not eradicated without difficulty, especially when they have formerly had the patronage of those that were good, as the high places had of Samuel, Solomon, and some others. Indeed this error was so deeply rooted, that the best of their kings, till Hezekiah’s time, connived at it.


Verses 44-46

1 Kings 22:44-46. Jehoshaphat made peace, &c. With Ahab first, and then with his son. This is noted as a blemish in his government, 2 Chronicles 19:2; and proved of most mischievous consequence to his posterity. The remnant of the sodomites — he took out of the land — He made a more narrow search after them than his father had done, who is said to have removed them; but, it appears, some still remained, though without his knowledge.


Verse 47

1 Kings 22:47. A deputy was king — Sent and set over them by the kings of Judah, whose viceroy he was, as we now speak. This kind of government continued in Edom from the days of David, who began it, until the time of Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son, who lost this authority.


Verse 48

1 Kings 22:48. Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish — These ships were not to go to Tharshish, but Ophir. But, it appears, they were called ships of Tharshish from their form, being made after the model of the ships which traded to that place. And all such ships, wheresoever they were built, were called ships of Tharshish. The ships were broken at Ezion-geber —

Probably by a storm.


Verse 49

1 Kings 22:49. Jehoshaphat would not — He had contracted an amity with this king, and engaged himself so far, as to permit him to join with him in this navy, 2 Chronicles 20:35. But, being chastised, and better instructed by his ill success, and the breaking of the ships, and being reproved for his sin in joining with him, by a prophet, he would not be persuaded to repeat it, or to continue this league with him.


Verse 51-52

1 Kings 22:51-52. And reigned two years over Israel — Not complete, as appears from 2 Kings 3:1; but part of two years; for he died before his second year was ended. He walked in the way of his father — Followed the wicked example he had set, especially in worshipping Baal. And in the way of his mother — Jezebel, who was still living; acting according to her wicked counsel. And in the way of Jeroboam — Kept up his idolatry in worshipping the calves. Though he had heard of the ruin of Jeroboam’s family, and had seen his own father drawn to his own destruction by the prophets of Baal, who had been often proved to be false prophets, yet he received no instruction, took no warning, but pursued their wicked courses, not in the least amended by all that had befallen them. And provoked the Lord, according to all that his father had done — Most unhappy parents, that thus help to damn their own children’s souls! We see by all this, how little the example of parents or ancestors is to be valued, where it is opposed to the word and will of God!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-22.html. 1857.

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