In this chapter, some account of the history of the kingdom of Judah, which hath not been taken notice of during the five preceding Chapter s is again revived. After a three years peace between Syria and Israel, war is sounded afresh, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, joins Ahab, king of Israel, in the battle at Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab is slain. Ahaziah succeeds him. Some account of Jehoshaphat's reign.
(1) В¶ And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel. (2) And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.
It is a little extraordinary that Jehoshaphat, whose conduct is said to have been right in the sight of the Lord, should visit so impious a prince as Habakkuk. Reader! depend upon it, the people of God can have no profitable society or fellowship with carnal men. That is an universal precept, and founded upon the soundest principles: 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
(3) And the king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria? (4) And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramothgilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.
We see here the consequence of the visit. The king of Judah is drawn into a battle. But how could Jehoshaphat wound his conscience so much, as to allow Israel and Judah, and himself and Ahab, to be so much alike? Surely he meant only in earthly concerns.
(5) And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD today.
I beg the Reader to admire Jehoshaphat's piety in this instance. Though he knew well the infamous idolatry of Ahab, yet he calls upon him to consult the Lord. Reader! it is always profitable to look up for guidance from heaven, before we undertake anything upon earth. That is a blessed maxim: Proverbs 3:5-6.
(6) Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
I think that these 400 men were the false prophets who were fed at Jezebel's table. By such the Lord never speaks. Though they used the Lord's name, yet they were not the Lord's servants. The Lord himself hath marked, in very plain terms, the character of such: His account of such will, for the most part, serve all ages of the church, as well now as then: see Jeremiah 23:21 to the end.
(7) And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him? (8) And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
What a delightful character, though undesignedly, doth Ahab here, give of Micaiah! Reader! mark it down for a standard, in some degree, to ascertain faithful ministers by, in the present hour. Do they deal faithfully between God and souls: then are they abused by the carnal? Depend upon it, faithful dealing must bring reproach.
(9) Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah. (10) And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. (11) And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the LORD, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them. (12) And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand. (13) And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. (14) And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak. (15) В¶ So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. (16) And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?
It is probable, that poor Micaiah is the same that spake to Ahab, as we read in 1Ki_20:35; 1Ki_20:42. In the opening his commission, though in the first reading of what he said, Go and prosper, it should seem as if he concurred with the other prophets; yet by the king's answer, it is plain that Ahab himself thought that he was only echoing their words in contempt, and that he thought otherwise. So that Micaiah was only hereby preparing both the king, and the people around him, to attend more particularly to his prophecy.
(17) And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. (18) And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? (19) And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. (20) And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. (21) And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. (22) And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. (23) Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
That Micaiah had been favoured with a divine vision, upon this occasion, is evident: for his prediction, and the event so exactly corresponding, plainly proved it. With respect to the lying spirit here spoken of, as influencing the prophets, to the destruction of Ahab: as this is an interesting part, and perhaps is not so generally understood; the pious Reader will not be displeased if I detain him with a few observations upon that subject. That there is at the head of our spiritual enemies, a leader, called Satan, who had a principal hand in the ruin of our nature at the fall; and who from that time, hath ruled, more or less, in the minds of the children of disobedience, is a doctrine, I take for granted, no wise person will venture to question, or deny. That the Son of God came to destroy his kingdom, is also an undoubted, and thoroughly allowed truth. That therefore, in this instance he had permission, by the mouths of the false prophets, to deceive Ahab; and that in numberless other instances, his power hath been, and still is, exerted (only limited as the wisdom of Jesus for blessed purposes allows) to influence the corrupt passions of men: scripture so decidedly shows, that it must argue great folly, as well as great wickedness, to dispute it. That the prophet Micaiah, therefore, should be taught this by the ministry of a vision, seems agreeable to the whole analogy of the divine word. And with respect both to the permission and success of his deception, when we consider what Job saith, and Paul confirms, the whole is most fully and satisfactorily explained. The former tells us, from inspired authority, that both the deceiver and deceived are his. And the latter, that in those that perish with the deceivableness of unrighteousness in the working of Satan, it is for this cause, God hath sent them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. See Job 12:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11. If the Reader would see more on this subject, I refer him to Job 2:1. Of Satan's power in putting into the heart, as in the case of Judas; John 13:2 : Of filling the heart, as in Ananias; Acts 5:3 : Of making the whole man full of subtilty, as in Elymas; Acts 13:9-10 : And of reigning and ruling in the children of disobedience at his will; see Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 1:18.
(24) But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee? (25) And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
In all ages false prophets have been the bitterest foes of God's faithful servants!
(26) And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; (27) And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. (28) And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, everyone of you.
Observe the cruelty of Habakkuk. Hard fare and coarse food, poor requitals for faithfulness. But how much sweeter to Micaiah all this than the rich fare of Jezebel's table with the impending ruin. Paul's prison must have been a blessed place when the Holy Ghost was so much with him as to enable him to send forth that charming Epistle to the church at Philippi, which he wrote in his confinement at Rome. See the Epistle to the Philippians. And John found cause to bless the hour of his banishment to Patmos, which brought him such a visitor as the Lord Jesus. See Revelation 1:1-20 etc.
(29) В¶ So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramothgilead.
It is not a wonder that Ahab should persist in going to battle, after Micaiah's prophecy; because he was given up to his ruin. But that Jehoshaphat, who desired counsel to be sought of the Lord upon the occasion, should have gone after what he had heard, is not so easily to be explained.
(30) And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle. (31) But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel. (32) And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel. And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out. (33) And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.
There seems to have been a good deal of art in Ahab's thus disguising himself, and advising Jehoshaphat to go in his robes. It is probable that he had heard of the king of Syria's command to his generals, to fight only with the king of Israel. And as the person of Ahab was not known to those generals, it is very probable that Ahab pleased himself with the idea that the robes of Jehoshaphat would expose him, and his own disguise conceal himself. So that Ahab, if so, was as defective in friendship to Jehoshaphat, as in duty to the Lord. And no doubt, he that is false to God can never be true to man. The danger of Jehoshaphat, no doubt, taught him that he was out of the path of duty. In the parallel history in the Book of the Chronicles, we are told somewhat more particularly of this situation and conduct of the king of Judah. For there it is said that when the Syrians compassed him around to kill him, and he cried out, the Lord helped him, and God moved them to depart from him. And that when Jehoshaphat returned to his own home after the battle, the son of Hanani, the seer, who went out to meet him, reproved him for having gone to the help of the ungodly; and that therefore the wrath of the Lord was upon him. See 2Ch_18:31; 2Ch_19:1-2.
(34) And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
A certain man is a very decisive expression in the word of God. In this place it was the very man commissioned of the Lord; for the Lord both strung the bow, directed to the mark, and found out Ahab amidst all his disguise, and away to his heart in spite of all his armour. Alas! how could he think to escape when God pronounced his sentence?
(35) And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. (36) And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. (37) So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria.
Think, Reader! what an awful death this was, amidst the horrors of Naboth's blood calling for vengeance; and the God of Israel's altars, which he had caused to be deserted for Baal's, calling for judgment.
(38) And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake. (39) Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? (40) So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.
The Holy Ghost is particular in causing to be related the circumstance of dogs licking his blood, by way of fulfilling his servant the Prophet's word, showing with what contempt his death was followed. And thus ended the life of this worthless, unprincipled man!
(41) В¶ And Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. (42) Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. (43) And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places. (44) And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel. (45) Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he shewed, and how he warred, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (46) And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land. (47) There was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king. (48) Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber. (49) Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not. (50) And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.
The subject in those verses turns to the history of the other kingdom of Judah, and honourable mention is made of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah. The account of this prince is but short in the book of the Kings; but it is more largely dwelt upon in the book of the Chronicles. He seems to have fallen under the divine displeasure in consequence of his forming an alliance with Ahab and his son Ahaziah. And his want of success upon those occasions at length taught him to withdraw his connections. But it appears; upon the whole, that he was a good king, and Judah flourished under his government. See 2 Chronicles 17:19.
(51) Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. (52) And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: (53) For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.
This is but the beginning of the short reign of Ahaziah. But short as it was, it was too long in evil. Alas! what a melancholy account, for the most part, is the statement given of the reigns of such men. The relation generally runs in the same words; He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father. O Lord what is the sum total of man's history, but of man's sinfulness, and thy grace. Doth not every act of thine speak in language like thine, O Lord, by the Prophet; I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger: I will not return to destroy Israel: for I am God, and not man: the Holy One in the midst of thee. Hosea 11:9.
READER! let us not close this first book of the Kings without taking with it into our minds the many gracious lessons the great author of it evidently intended that the church in all ages should gather from the records contained in it. In passing over the lives, the actions, and pursuits of the several successive monarchs it holds forth to view, we behold, though diversified by various characters, one general subject, though here and there it may be a page a little less stained with evil, of the dreadful effects of pride and ambition. In general a total departure from God. The form indeed with some kept up, but the power of godliness wanting. For though we make some exceptions, as in the instance of Solomon in the former part of his reign, yet after all allowances to soften the shades of the history, what is the whole picture but a perspective of fallen man exercising the long-suffering and patience of a most gracious covenant God.
In the lives of the few faithful servants and prophets of the Lord, raised up to minister in holy things amidst the general corruption, how delightful it is to read that the Lord hath not, and will not, cast away his people whom he foreknew. The period promised shall come. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. Successive ministers in his church shall arise to keep alive the remembrance of this great event. And with an eye to him, in whom all nations of the earth shall be blessed, the Lord will have his heart engaged for Israel, from one end of the year even to the other end of the year.
Blessed Jesus! thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Stedfastly would I fix my eye on thee while passing through the several ages, and the reigns of those monarchs in Israel and Judah. And when I behold thy church oppressed, thy worship despised; idols desecrating thine altars, and impious men profaning thy sanctuary; I would be consoling myself with the assurance that in the worst of times thou hast a seed that serve thee; and while thy faithful ones are discouraged, as if none were left to call thee blessed, many a thousand yet thine eyes regard, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. The glorious Lord therefore will be unto his people at all times a place, of broad rivers, and streams wherein shall go no galley with oars; neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge! the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us!
Hail! then, thou blessed Lord God, Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! the gracious almighty covenanters in redemption. All scripture joins issue in this, and all the faithful rest secured in the mercy, that the Lord is bringing home his church through the wilderness of this world to glory; and whether evil men, or devils, rise up in confederacy against it, or whether by terrible things in righteousness the Lord is pleased to work, that period is ripening, and will unfold its blessed fruit in the very moment already appointed; The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. - Amen.