1 Kings 22:1-36 . AHAB SLAIN AT RAMOTH-GILEAD.
1. continued three years without war between Syria and Israel--The disastrous defeat of Ben-hadad had so destroyed his army and exhausted the resources of his country, that, however eager, he was unable to recommence active hostilities against Israel. But that his hereditary enmity remained unsubdued, was manifest by his breach of faith concerning the treaty by which he had engaged to restore all the cities which his father had seized ( 1 Kings 20:34 ).
2. Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel--It was singular that a friendly league between the sovereigns of Israel and Judah should, for the first time, have been formed by princes of such opposite characters --the one pious, the other wicked. Neither this league nor the matrimonial alliance by which the union of the royal families was more closely cemented, met the Lord's approval ( 2 Chronicles 19:2 ). It led, however, to a visit by Jehoshaphat, whose reception in Samaria was distinguished by the most lavish hospitality ( 2 Chronicles 18:2 ). The opportunity of this visit was taken advantage of, to push an object on which Ahab's heart was much set.
3-8. Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours--a Levitical and free town on the north border of Gad ( Deuteronomy 4:43 , Joshua 21:38 ), on the site of the present Salt Lake, in the province of Belka. It lay within the territories of the Israelitish monarch, and was unjustly alienated; but whether it was one of the cities usurped by the first Ben-hadad, which his son had promised to restore, or was retained for some other reasons, the sacred historian has not mentioned. In the expedition which Ahab meditated for the recovery of this town, the aid of Jehoshaphat was asked and promised (see 2 Chronicles 18:3 ). Previous to declaring hostilities, it was customary to consult the prophets desire to know the Lord's will concerning this war, Ahab assembled four hundred of his prophets. These could not be either the prophets of Baal or of Ashteroth ( 1 Kings 18:19 ), but seem ( 1 Kings 22:12 ) to have been false prophets, who conformed to the symbolic calf-worship of Jehovah. Being the creatures of Ahab, they unanimously predicted a prosperous issue to the war. But dissatisfied with them, Jehoshaphat inquired if there was any true prophet of the Lord. Ahab agreed, with great reluctance, to allow Micaiah to be summoned. He was the only true prophet then to be found residing in Samaria, and he had to be brought out of prison ( 1 Kings 22:26 ), into which, according to JOSEPHUS, he had been cast on account of his rebuke to Ahab for sparing the king of Syria.
10. a void place--literally, "a threshing-floor," formed at the gate of Samaria.
11. Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron--Small projections, of the size and form of our candle extinguishers (worn in many parts of the East as military ornaments), were worn by the Syrians of that time, and probably by the Israelite warriors also. Zedekiah, by assuming two horns, personated two heroes, and, pretending to be a prophet, wished in this manner to represent the kings of Israel and Judah in a military triumph. It was a symbolic action, to impart greater force to his language (see Deuteronomy 33:17 ); but it was little more than a flourish with a spontoon [CALMET, Fragments].
14-17. what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak--On the way the messenger who conducted [Micaiah] to the royal presence informed him of the tenor of the prophecies already given and recommended him to agree with the rest, no doubt from the kindly motive of seeing him released from imprisonment. But Micaiah, inflexibly faithful to his divine mission as a prophet, announced his purpose to proclaim honestly whatever God should bid him. On being asked by the king, "Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I forbear?" the prophet gave precisely the same answer as the previous oracles that had been consulted; but it must have been given in a sarcastic tone and in ironical mockery of their way of speaking. Being solemnly urged to give a serious and truthful answer, Micaiah then declared the visionary scene the Spirit had revealed to him;--
17. I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd--The purport of this was that the army of Israel would be defeated and dispersed; that Ahab would fall in the battle, and the people return without either being pursued or destroyed by the enemy.
18-23. Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?--Since Ahab was disposed to trace this unwelcome truth to personal enmity, Micaiah proceeded fearlessly to tell the incensed monarch in full detail what had been revealed to him. The Hebrew prophets, borrowing their symbolic pictures from earthly scenes, described God in heaven as a king in His kingdom. And as earthly princes do nothing of importance without asking the advice of their counsellors, God is represented as consulting about the fate of Ahab. This prophetic language must not be interpreted literally, and the command must be viewed as only a permission to the lying spirit ( Romans 11:34 ) [CALMET].
24, 25. Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek--The insolence of this man, the leader of the false prophets, seems to have been provoked by jealousy at Micaiah's assumed monopoly of the spirit of inspiration. This mode of smiting, usually with a shoe, is both severe and ignominious. The calm reply of the Lord's prophet consisted in announcing the fate of the false prophets who suffered as the advisers of the disastrous expedition.
26-28. Take Micaiah, . . . Put this fellow in prison--Ahab, under the impulse of vehement resentment, remands the prophet until his return.
27, 28. bread of affliction, water of affliction--that is, the poorest prison fare. Micaiah submitted, but reiterated aloud, in the presence of all, that the issue of the war would be fatal to Ahab.
29-38. went up to Ramoth-gilead--The king of Israel, bent on this expedition, marched, accompanied by his ally, with all his forces to the siege; but on approaching the scene of action, his courage failed, and, hoping to evade the force of Micaiah's prophecy by a secret stratagem, he assumed the uniform of a subaltern, while he advised Jehoshaphat to fight in his royal attire. The Syrian king, with a view either to put the speediest end to the war, or perhaps to wipe out the stain of his own humiliation ( 1 Kings 20:31 ), had given special instructions to his generals to single out Ahab, and to take or kill him, as the author of the war. The officers at first directed their assault on Jehoshaphat, but, becoming aware of their mistake, desisted. Ahab was wounded by a random arrow, which, being probably poisoned, and the state of the weather increasing the virulence of the poison, he died at sunset. The corpse was conveyed to Samaria; and, as the chariot which brought it was being washed, in a pool near the city, from the blood that had profusely oozed from the wound, the dogs, in conformity with Elijah's prophecy, came and licked it [ 1 Kings 21:19 ]. Ahab was succeeded by his son Ahaziah [ 1 Kings 22:40 ].