The Word Made Fresh
1For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. 2In the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah came to visit the king of Israel. 3The king of Israel was telling his attendants, “You know that Ramoth-Gilead belongs to us, but we have done nothing to take it back from the king of Aram.” 4Then he turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “Will you go with me to take back Ramoth-Gilead?”
Jehoshaphat said, “I’m with you. My men and my horses are yours.” 5Then he added, “But first, let us seek advice from the LORD.”
6Then the king of Israel summoned the prophets, four hundred of them, and asked them, “Should I attack Ramoth-Gilead, or not?”
They said, “Go! The LORD will give it to you.”
7Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no other prophet of the LORD here we can ask?”
8The king of Israel replied, “There is one other – Micaiah son of Imlah, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good for me. With him it’s always disaster.”
“The king shouldn’t dismiss him so quickly,” Jehoshaphat replied.
9So, the king of Israel summoned a guard and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah. Hurry!”
The two kings were sitting on their thrones in their royal robes at the threshing floor near the gate of Samaria, while the prophets were making their pronouncements in front of them. 11Zedekiah son of Chenaanah had made iron horns, and he called out, “This is the word of the LORD: With these horns you shall gore the Arameans until they are defeated!” 12All the other prophets were giving the same advice, saying, “Go to Ramoth-Gilead and be triumphant! The LORD will hand it over to the king!”
13The guard who had gone to get Micaiah told him, “All the prophets are in favor of the king. Make sure you prophesy favorably as well.”
14Micaiah replied, “The LORD lives, and whatever the LORD tells me to say I will say.”
15When Micaiah stood before the king, the king said, “Micaiah, shall we attack Ramoth-Gilead, or not?”
Micaiah said, “By all means, go up and be victorious. The LORD will hand it over to you.”
16But the king replied, “How many times have I made you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
17Then Micaiah said, “I saw all the Israelites scattered over the hills like sheep without a shepherd. I heard the LORD say, ‘They have no shepherd. Let them go home in peace.’”
18The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “See? I told you he never has anything good to say about me. It’s always bad news with him.”
19Then Micaiah said, “This is the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD on the throne with all the angels of heaven standing beside it on the right and on the left. 20I heard the LORD say, ‘Who will encourage Ahab to go up to Ramoth-Gilead, so that he will be killed there?’ They offered one idea after another 21until a certain spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ 22The LORD asked how, and the spirit said, ‘I will go down and cause all his prophets to lie to him.’ The LORD said, ‘You are the one to encourage him, then; go and do it.’ 23So,” Micaiah said, “you see for yourself that the LORD has made all these prophets lie to you. The LORD has determined that disaster will overtake you.”
24Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah came up and slapped Micaiah’s face and said, “What route did the LORD’s word take to leave me and go to you?”
25Micaiah said, “You’ll know when you have to go and hide in an inner room.”
26Then the king of Israel ordered them to seize Micaiah. “Take him to Amon, the mayor of the city, and tell him and the king’s son Joash 27that I have ordered this man to be jailed. Tell them to feed him nothing but bread and water until I return victorious.”
28Micaiah said, “If you return victorious the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he called out, “Remember this, you people! All of you!”
29Then the king of Israel and king Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth-Gilead. 30The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat as they began their attack, “I’m going to disguise myself, but you can wear your royal garments.”
31The king of Aram told his thirty-one chariot officers, “Don’t waste time fighting just anybody, but go after the king of Israel.” 32When they saw Jehoshaphat they thought he must surely be the king of Israel, so they went at him, but Jehoshaphat cried out, 33and when they realized he was not the king of Israel they left off chasing him. 34But one of them drew his bow and shot at random, and his arrow struck the king of Israel between the plates of his armor. He said to his driver, “I’ve been wounded! Turn around and carry me away from the battle!”
35The battle was fierce that day. The king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans until he died in the evening with his blood covering the chariot floor. 36As the sun was setting someone cried out, “Retreat! Every man back to his country and to his city!”
37So, the king was dead. They brought his body back to Samaria and buried him there. 38They washed his chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs lapped his blood while the prostitutes bathed themselves, just as the LORD had said would happen.
39The rest of the deeds of Ahab, the plans for his ivory house, and all the cities he built are recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Israel. 40Ahab joined his ancestors in death, and his son Ahaziah was king after him.
41Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of king Ahab of Israel. 42He was thirty-five years old when his reign began, and he ruled for twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 43He did everything as his father Asa had done and did not stray from it; he did what was right in the LORD’s sight. But the hilltop shrines were not destroyed, and the people still took their sacrifices there and burned incense at those places. 44Jehoshaphat also made peace with Israel.
45The record of his reign, his strength and his wars, are written in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Judah. 46He did away with the male temple prostitutes who were still around after his father Asa died.
47There was no king in Edom at that time, but was ruled by an appointed governor. 48Jehoshaphat had sea-going ships built and planned to send them to Ophir for gold, but they were wrecked at Ezion-Geber. 49Ahaziah son of Ahab had said to Jehoshaphat, “Let some of my men go with yours on the ships,” but Jehoshaphat declined the offer.
50Jehoshaphat died and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David. He was succeeded by his son Jehoram.
51In the seventeenth year of king Jehoshaphat of Judah, Ahaziah son of Ahab began his reign over Israel in Samaria. His rule lasted two years. 52He did evil in the LORD’s sight, following the ways of his father and mother and the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat who led Israel to sin. 53He was a servant of Baal, and worshiped him, provoking the LORD’s anger, just as his father had done.
1-4: Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, visits Ahab, king of Israel. Good to see the two are getting along these days. Israel’s running battle with Aram has been dormant for the last three years, but Ahab laments to his courtiers that Ramoth-Gilead, an Israelite town, has been left in the hands of Aram. He asks Jehoshaphat if he will be an ally in a war against Aram. Jehoshaphat says he will.
5-12: But perhaps Jehoshaphat has second thoughts, and insists that they seek guidance from the LORD. Ahab gathers his royal prophets, and they make a big show of support, which I suspect is what they are paid to do. Note that there are 400 of them; could they be the four hundred ‘prophets of Asherah’ left after Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel? Jehoshaphat wants to hear from a “prophet of the LORD,” though, and Ahab says that there is one, Micaiah son of Imlah, but he never has anything good to say concerning the king of Israel. I wonder why. Upon hearing that, Jehoshaphat insists on calling him, which gives you the impression that Jehoshaphat might be looking for a way out of his commitment. While they’re waiting for Micaiah, one of Ahab’s prophets, Zedekiah, puts on a show. What a way to run a kingdom.
13-14: The messenger warns Micaiah to go along with the program, but Micaiah insists on his prophetic integrity.
15-18: Micaiah comes in and is asked if they should go to battle, and to our surprise he seems to give an enthusiastic endorsement of the plan. But Ahab knows better and insists that Micaiah tell them what he really thinks God’s counsel to be. Now Micaiah paints a bleak picture of defeated, scattered and leaderless troops. Ahab says to Jehoshaphat, “See!”
19-23: Micaiah isn’t quite finished, though. He tells how the LORD has gone about seeing to it that Ahab gets bad advice so that he will be killed in battle. God, he says, has used Ahab’s prophets to entice him into the trap.
24-28: Zedekiah, the guy who charged around with iron horns a little while ago, slaps Micaiah and claims that he is the one who has the spirit of the LORD. Micaiah calmly replies that the day will come soon when Zedekiah will find it necessary to hide. Ahab steps between them then and orders that Micaiah be put under house arrest. Keep him there, he says, until I come in peace; to which Micaiah replies that if that actually happens he has not spoken the word of the LORD.
29-36: For some reason Jehoshaphat, after all that has happened, decides to go into battle with Ahab. Not only that, but Ahab tells him that he is going to wear a disguise, but Jehoshaphat is to wear his royal garb, and Jehoshaphat agrees! The only plausible explanation is that Jehoshaphat is subordinate to Ahab in a way that has not been explained to us. Meanwhile, the king of Aram tells his soldiers to attack the enemy’s king. Naturally, they mistake Jehoshaphat for the king of Israel and make for him. Jehoshaphat cries out and they leave off the pursuit. The text doesn’t say what Jehoshaphat cries, but it may have been something like, “No, no, I’m not Ahab! Ahab is over there; third row, fifth man from the left!” In any case, another soldier shoots an arrow willy-nilly, and it mortally wounds Ahab. Like Stonewall Jackson, he is cut down by a random projectile. Ahab is still alive, though, and tells his chariot driver to take him out of the battle. He watches until evening and dies right there in his chariot. Word spreads through his army and they abandon the battle. “Let’s go home!” they cry.
37-40: They bring Ahab’s body back to Samaria where he is given a royal funeral. The dogs in the streets lap up the blood-stained water used to wash out his chariot. Ahab is eulogized and remembered for his building projects, and his son Ahaziah is crowned king, fulfilling the word of Elijah in the last chapter.
41-44: Jehoshaphat’s reign is summarized now. He is judged to have been a good king like his father Asa. He rules for 25 years, and it is noted that he makes peace with Ahab, king of Israel. After the way Ahab treats him, though, we wonder at what cost that peace was attained for Judah.
45-46: His reign is also marked by the elimination of the male temple prostitutes left in the land when he was crowned.
47-50: Jehoshaphat eventually holds sway over Edom, placing a deputy in charge there. He attempts to expand trade to the south through the Red Sea passage to Ophir, and builds a fleet of long-range ships like the kind Solomon used to send to Tarshish on the coast of Spain (see 10:22), but the fleet is destroyed in port, probably by a storm. Some attempt is made by Ahaziah, now the king of Israel, to turn the navy into a joint venture, but by this time Jehoshaphat is secure enough not to be drawn into a disadvantageous arrangement with Israel, and refuses the suggestion.
51-53: In Israel, meanwhile, Ahaziah rules only 2 years. The commentary on his rule is not complimentary.
Ahab was the most notable of the kings of Israel, but his faith in the LORD was compromised by his support of pagan worship of the kind his wife Jezebel imported. After his death Israel will decline quickly. Judah will survive longer, and we will follow their history, and Israel’s, in 2 Kings. Yes, you have completed 1 Kings! We have now read 11 (6%) of the 66 books of the Bible, which represents 26% of the chapters. We’re a quarter of the way through! Don’t stop now!