The Word Made Fresh
1Jehoshaphat was wealthy and well-known. He made a marriage alliance with Ahab. 2Some years passed, and he went to visit Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered a lot of sheep and oxen for him and his entourage and prompted him to join him against Ramoth-Gilead. 3He said, “Will you go with me?”
Jehoshaphat answered, “I’m with you. My people are yours. We’ll go together.” 4But then he added, “First, though, let us seek the LORD’s word.”
5So, the king of Israel gathered his four hundred prophets and asked them, “Should we attack Ramoth-Gilead?”
They said, “Go. God will give Ramoth-Gilead into the king’s hands!”
6But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no other prophet of the LORD here we can consult?”
7The king of Israel retorted, “Sure, there is one other – Michaiah son of Imlah. But I hate him. He never prophesies anything good about me; only doom and disaster.”
Jehoshaphat replied, “The king shouldn’t say such things.”
8So, the king of Israel summoned an officer and ordered him to bring Micaiah son of Imlah. “Hurry,” he said.
9The king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting on their thrones, dressed in their royal garments. They were at the threshing floor at the gate of Samaria with all the prophets making predictions for them. 10Zedekiah son of Chenaanah had made a pair of iron horns and he called out, “The LORD says you will use these to gore the Arameans until they are finished!” 11All the other prophets agreed. They were saying, “Go triumph over Ramoth-Gilead. The LORD will give it into the king’s hands.”
12The officer who had been sent for Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are saying the same thing. Make sure your advice agrees with theirs.”
13“Whatever the LORD tells me to say I will say,” Micaiah replied.
14When he stood before the king, the king said, “Micaiah, shall we attack Ramoth-Gilead, or not?”
He answered, “Of course! Go there and be victorious!”
15The king responded, “How many times have I made you promise to tell me nothing but the truth in the LORD’s name?”
16Micaiah replied, “I saw Israel scattered on the hills like sheep with no shepherd. I heard the LORD say, ‘They have no shepherd. Let them go home in peace.’”
17Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you he never prophesies anything favorable about me? It’s always disaster with him.”
18Then Micaiah said, “Here is what the LORD has instructed me to say: I saw the LORD on the throne with all the inhabitants of heaven standing on either side. 19The LORD said, ‘Who will encourage king Ahab of Israel so that he will make war and be killed at Ramoth-Gilead?’ Different ones said this and that, 20until one of them approached and said, ‘I can do it.’ The LORD asked, ‘How?’ 21The spirit answered, ‘I will be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of his prophets.’ Then the LORD said, “Do that. You will succeed. Go and do it now.’ 22So,” Micaiah continued, “the LORD has put deceit in the mouths of your prophets, but the LORD has decided disaster will befall you.”
23Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah slapped Micaiah’s face and said, “What direction did the LORD take to go from me to you?”
24You’ll know the answer,” Micaiah said, “on the day you try to hide in an inner room.”
25“Take Micaiah back to Amon the mayor of the city and to my son Joash!” the king of Israel ordered. 26“Tell them to put this man in prison and give him nothing but a little bread and water until I return victorious.”
27Micaiah said, “If you return victorious, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he called out, “Hear, people! All of you!”
28Then the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah attacked Ramoth-Gilead. 29The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal garments. “I’ll go in disguise,” he said. He put on his disguise and off they went into battle.
30The king of Aram had ordered his chariot captains to fight with no one but the king of Israel. 31When they saw Jehoshaphat they thought he was the king of Israel and turned to attack him. But Jehoshaphat cried out and the LORD rescued him and drew them away, 32and when they saw he was not the king of Israel they turned back. 33But one of the Arameans drew his bow and by chance struck the king of Israel. The arrow sank between the scales of his armor and his breastplate. He told his chariot driver, “Turn around, carry me off the battlefield. I’ve been wounded!”
34The battle raged. The king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot, watching the Arameans until evening. At sunset he died.
The story of the battle alliance between Jehoshaphat of Judah and Ahab of Israel to make war against the Arameans at Ramoth-Gilead is told in 1 Kings 22. The two accounts are very similar.
1-3: Jehoshaphat makes an alliance with King Ahab of Israel by marrying one of his daughters, a detail not mentioned in 1 Kings. He goes to visit Ahab in Samaria. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat if he will be an ally in a war against Aram and go with him to try and recapture Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat says he will.
4-11: But Jehoshaphat insists that they first seek guidance from the LORD. Ahab gathers his royal prophets, and they make a big show of support for the endeavor, which is what they are paid to do. We notice that they are referred to simply as “prophets.” Jehoshaphat wants to hear from a “prophet of the LORD.” Ahab says that there is one, Micaiah son of Imlah, but he never has anything good to say concerning the king of Israel. 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 demonstration to show how they will win the battle.
12-13: The messenger sent to summon Micaiah warns him to go along with the others, but Micaiah insists he will only speak what the LORD tells him.
14-17: Still, he gives 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? I told you he wouldn’t have anything good to say!”
18-22: Micaiah, though, continues to tell them how the LORD has gone about seeing to it that Ahab gets bad advice from his “prophets” so that he will be killed in battle.
23-27: 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 in an inner chamber. At this point Ahab steps between them and orders Micaiah be placed under arrest and fed bread and water until the battle is won and he returns victorious. Micaiah replies that if that actually happens, he has not spoken the word of the LORD.
28-34: 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 common clothes, 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, and yet the whole sense of his reign from the chronicler’s account seems to lean in the other direction, unlike the narrative in 1 Kings. The king of Aram, of course, tells his soldiers to gun for his primary enemy, the king of Israel, Ahab. Naturally, they mistake Jehoshaphat for the king of Israel and come after him. Jehoshaphat cries out and they leave off the pursuit, but in the mayhem an Aramean archer shoots an arrow, and it mortally wounds Ahab. Ahab tells his chariot driver to take him out of the battle. He watches from a safe vantage point until evening, and then dies.
A treaty between two nations for the sole purpose of joining together in attacking another nation is almost never a wise idea.