1 Kings 22 Study Notes


22:1-3 For parts of three years there were no hostilities with Ben-hadad (ca 854-852 BC). During this time a successful defense against Assyria took place at the battle of Qarqar (853 BC). Then, within a year of that success, Ahab decided to retake Ramoth-gilead. This city should have already been returned under the terms of the informal treaty made in Ahab’s chariot (see note at 20:31-34). The exact location of this city is disputed, but it had a history of serving as an important administrative center for Israelite holdings in Transjordan. The best explanation for the statement that Jehoshaphat went to visit the king of Israel was that he was reporting for duty as a loyal servant—as a vassal of Ahab.

22:4-5 Jehoshaphat’s words in these two verses reflect the two different roles he was playing. In v. 4, his words show that he was a faithful vassal of Ahab; but in v. 5, Jehoshaphat, the pious king of Judah, wanted to consult a legitimate prophet of the Lord.

22:6-7 Since these prophets came in response to Jehoshaphat’s request, one might expect them to be followers of the Lord, but Jehoshaphat had to persist in asking for a real prophet of the Lord.

22:8 Ahab’s attitude toward prophets was pragmatic and agnostic, and it was determined by political expediency. He did not care what truth was. Prophets were tools for the king’s political purposes.

22:9-10 A scene of competition between Micaiah and the pagan prophets is set up that reminds us of the scene at Mount Carmel—including the number of false prophets (v. 6).

22:11-12 Prophets could communicate their message through pantomime (see the pantomime involving Jeremiah and the false prophet Hananiah, Jr 28). Horns were symbols of power; iron horns represented an even more unbreakable and unyielding power, and they gave King Ahab exactly the message he wanted to hear. Ahab’s superiority in chariot warfare supported this confidence in Israel’s victory.

22:13-14 Expediency was the theme of the advice given to Micaiah by the messenger sent by the king, but Micaiah’s response was a statement of faithfulness and truth.

22:15-18 Micaiah was so sarcastic that the king recognized his irony. He demanded that the prophet tell him the truth. Micaiah then gave Ahab a message from the Lord—a vision of sheep without a shepherd. This should have recalled the king’s role as shepherd, but Ahab rejected this clear warning.

22:19-23 Some see a disconnect and an abrupt change in topic between vv. 18 and 19, but the transition is consistent with the same man in the same context, engaging in rhetorical piling-on to make his point. How literally accurate is this presentation of God and his heavenly court (cp. Jb 1-2)? Probably as accurate as human language could ever be when describing eternal, heavenly realities that are beyond our customary experiences. A more difficult issue is God’s usage of a lying spirit to accomplish his purposes. Similarly, God’s anger “stirred up” David (2Sm 24:1) to sin by permitting Satan to incite David to sin (1Ch 21:1). Without pretending to answer all the questions about this issue, we can say that God, at the least, permitted a lying spirit to mislead Ahab for a time. Note too that the deceit was given to prophets who were already presenting false witness. In the end, the true prophet told Ahab the truth—he would die if he went to battle.

22:24-28 The remainder of this scene hardened the hostile positions toward the prophet Micaiah that had already been taken by the king.

22:29-30 Some critics find a discrepancy and a second literary source in Ahab’s instructions for Jehoshaphat to put on his royal attire when he already had it on in v. 10. However, it is reasonable to suggest that Jehoshaphat had changed out of these for the trip to battle at Ramoth-gilead. Both kings probably arrived at the site of battle in war armor rather than royal clothes. It might have seemed prudent to the vassal king to accept the strategy that ordered him to go into battle in royal robes, for this would typically draw heat away from Ahab, the superior king.

22:31-36 If, as the Assyrian report of the battle of Qarqar indicated, Ahab was stronger in chariotry than Ben-hadad, it was poor strategy to meet Ahab in a direct chariot battle. Perhaps concentrating his chariots on Ahab himself was a good alternate strategy for Ben-hadad. Ahab’s counter strategy, having Jehoshaphat serve as the bait for such an attack, seemed to neutralize Ben-hadad’s tactics. But God accomplished what human cunning could neither bring about nor prevent by ordaining the flight of a randomly shot arrow.

22:37-38 The Bible writers, at this point, were able to live with partial fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy about Ahab’s death. One part was fulfilled when the dogs licked up his blood, though Ahab did not die at the place the prophecy indicated (see note at 21:19-24). Later, dogs licked up the blood of one of Ahab’s sons in Jezreel when Joram’s body was dumped there (2Kg 9:24-26). Possibly this later event marks the complete fulfillment of the prophecy from 1Kg 21:19-24 since a fate pronounced over a father can be representatively fulfilled in his son and since, according to ancient understanding, the blood of a father courses through the veins of his son.

22:39 Ahab’s ivory palace was probably a palace decorated with paneling containing ivory inlay.

22:40 Some interpreters argue that the statement that Ahab rested with his fathers is proof that the king died in peace and the text is a fictional recension. This conclusion is suggested by the fact that this statement is missing from the closers of other kings who died violently. However, to give this much weight to an irregularity in the formal closer opens the question of what to do with the fact that Ahab had no formulaic burial statement. Does this then prove that Ahab was never buried (see v. 37)? Of course not.

22:41-44 More is said about King Jehoshaphat in the record of Ahab than is said about him in his own record. The formal statements are ordinary. The evaluative part tells us that Jehoshaphat was a good king, but the fact that he made peace with the king of Israel may contain a veiled criticism (2Ch 19:1)—particularly since making peace with Israel meant accepting a vassal role to the king of Israel.

22:45-50 Despite Asa’s good intentions, his reforms left some work undone. His son Jehoshaphat had to remove the remaining male cult prostitutes. Edom seems to have been controlled by Jehoshaphat through the agency of a deputy. But the most noteworthy event may have been the failed effort to revive the sea trade to Africa for gold. After one failed attempt, Jehoshaphat compromised his loyalty to the house of Ahab in refusing to cooperate with Ahaziah in another attempt at restoring that trade. Again, we cannot realize the importance of this refusal unless we know that Jehoshaphat was a vassal king to Israel.

22:51-53 The account of Ahaziah is contained at the end of 1 Kings and the beginning of 2 Kings. The assessment of his reign is simple: He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight in that he supported the worship of Baal (Baal-melkart; see note at 16:25).