1 Kings 22
Clarke's Commentary
Jehoshaphat King of Judah, and Ahab King of Israel, unite against the Syrians, in order to recover Ramoth-gilead, 1 Kings 22:1-4. They inquire of false prophets, who promise them success. Micaiah, a true prophet, foretells the disasters of the war, 1 Kings 22:5-17. A lying spirit in the mouths of Ahab's prophets persuades Ahab to go up against Ramoth, 1 Kings 22:18-29. The confederate armies are routed, and the king of Israel slain, 1 Kings 22:30-36. Death and burial of Ahab, 1 Kings 22:37-40. Character of Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings 22:41-47. He makes a fleet in order to go to Ophir for gold, which is wrecked at Ezion-geber, 1 Kings 22:48. His death, 1 Kings 22:49. He is succeeded by his son Jehoram, 1 Kings 22:50. Ahaziah succeeds his father Ahab, and reigns wickedly, 1 Kings 22:51, 1 Kings 22:52.

And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.
Three years without war - That is, from the time that Ahab made the covenant with Ben-hadad, mentioned 1 Kings 20:34. And probably in that treaty it was stipulated that Ramoth-gilead should be restored to Israel; which not being done, Ahab formed a confederacy with Judah, and determined to take it by force.

And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.
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?
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.
Wilt thou go with me - We find that there was a good understanding between Jehoshaphat and Ahab, which no doubt was the consequence of a matrimonial alliance between the son of the former, Jehoram, and the daughter of the latter, Athaliah; see 2 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Kings 8:18. This coalition did not please God, and Jehoshaphat is severely reproved for it by Jehu the seer, 2 Chronicles 19:1-3.

And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
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.
About four hundred men - These were probably the prophets of Asherah or Venus, maintained by Jezebel, who were not present at the contention on Mount Carmel. See 1 Kings 18:19, etc.

And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire 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.
Micaiah the son of Imlah - The Jews suppose that it was this prophet who reproved Ahab for dismissing Ben-hadad, 1 Kings 20:35, etc. And that it was because of the judgments with which he had threatened him, that Ahab hated him: I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.

Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.
The king of Israel called an officer - סריס saris, literally a eunuch; probably a foreigner, for it was not lawful to disgrace an Israelite by reducing him to such a state.

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.
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.
Zedekiah - made him horns of iron - This was in imitation of that sort of prophecy which instructed by significative actions. This was frequent among the prophets of the Lord.

And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand.
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.
The words of the prophets declare good - What notion could these men have of prophecy, when they supposed it was in the power of the prophet to model the prediction as he pleased, and have the result accordingly?

And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.
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.
Go, and prosper - This was a strong irony; as if he had said, All your prophets have predicted success; you wish me to speak as they speak: Go, and prosper; for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king. These were the precise words of the false prophets, (see 1 Kings 22:6, 1 Kings 22:12), and were spoken by Micaiah in such a tone and manner as at once showed to Ahab that he did not believe them; hence the king adjures him, 1 Kings 22:16, that he would speak to him nothing but truth; and on this the prophet immediately relates to him the prophetic vision which pointed out the disasters which ensued.

It is worthy of remark that this prophecy of the king's prophets is couched in the same ambiguous terms by which the false prophets in the heathen world endeavored to maintain their credit, while they deluded their votaries. The reader will observe that the word it is not in the original: The Lord will deliver It into the hand of the king; and the words are so artfully constructed that they may be interpreted for or against; so that, be the event whatever it might, the juggling prophet could save his credit by saying he meant what had happened. Thus then the prophecy might have been understood: The Lord will deliver (Ramoth-gilead) into the king's (Ahab's) hand; or, The Lord will deliver (Israel) into the king's hand; i.e., into the hand of the king of Syria. And Micaiah repeats these words of uncertainty in order to ridicule them and expose their fallacy.

The following oracles among the heathens were of this same dubious nature, in order that the priests' credit might be saved, let the event turn out as it might. Thus the Delphic oracle spoke to Croesus words which are capable of a double meaning, and which he understood to his own destruction: -

Croesus, Halym penetrans, magnam subvertet opum vim,

Which says, in effect: -

"If you march against Cyrus, he will either overthrow you, or you will overthrow him."

He trusted in the latter, the former took place. He was deluded, and yet the oracle maintained its credit. So in the following: -

Aio te, Aeacida, Romanos vincere posse

Ibis redibis nunquam in bello peribis.

Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, understood by this that he should conquer the Romans, against whom he was then making war; but the oracle could be thus translated: "The Romans shall overcome thee." He trusted in the former, made unsuccessful war, and was overcome; and yet the juggling priest saved his credit. The latter line is capable of two opposite meanings: -

"Thou shalt go, thou shalt return, thou shalt never perish in war."


"Thou shalt go, thou shalt never return, thou shalt perish in war."

When prophecies and oracles were not delivered in this dubious way, they were generally couched in such intricate and dark terms that the assistance of the oracle was necessary to explain the oracle, and then it was ignotum per ignotius, a dark saying paraphrased by one yet more obscure.

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?
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.
These have no master - Here the prophet foretells the defeat of Israel, and the death of the king; they were as sheep that had not a shepherd, people that had no master, the political shepherd and master (Ahab) shall fall in battle.

And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?
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.
I saw the Lord sitting on his throne - This is a mere parable, and only tells in figurative language, what was in the womb of providence, the events which were shortly to take place, the agents employed in them, and the permission on the part of God for these agents to act. Micaiah did not choose to say before this angry and impious king, "Thy prophets are all liars; and the devil, the father of lies, dwells in them;" but he represents the whole by this parable, and says the same truths in language as forcible, but less offensive.

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.
And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.
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.
Go forth, and do so - This is no more than, "God has permitted the spirit of lying to influence the whole of thy prophets; and he now, by my mouth, apprises thee of this, that thou mayest not go and fall at Ramoth-gilead." Never was a man more circumstantially and fairly warned; he had counsels from the God of truth, and counsels from the spirit of falsity; he obstinately forsook the former and followed the latter. He was shown by this parable how every thing was going on, and that all was under the control and direction of God, and that still it was possible for him to make that God his friend whom by his continual transgressions he had made his enemy; but he would not: his blood was therefore upon his own head.

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.
The Lord hath put a lying spirit - He hath permitted or suffered a lying spirit to influence thy prophets. Is it requisite again to remind the reader that the Scriptures repeatedly represent God as doing what, in the course of his providence, he only permits or suffers to be done? Nothing can be done in heaven, in earth, or hell, but either by his immediate energy or permission. This is the reason why the Scripture speaks as above.

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?
Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me - This is an expression of as great insolence as the act was of brutal aggression. "Did the Spirit of the Lord, who rests solely upon me, condescend to inspire thee? Was it at this ear [where he smote him] that it entered, in order to hold communion with thee?" Josephus tells an idle rabbinical tale about this business, which is as unworthy of repetition as it is of credit. See his Antiq. of the Jews, book viii., c. 10.

And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
When thou shalt go into an inner chamber - It is probable that this refers to some Divine judgment which fell upon this deceiver. Hearing of the tragical result of the battle, he no doubt went into a secret place to hide himself from the resentment of Jezebel, and the Israelitish courtiers, and there it is probable he perished; but how, when, or where, is not mentioned.

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;
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.
Feed him with bread of affliction - Deprive him of all the conveniences and comforts of life; treat him severely; just keep him alive, that he may see my triumph.

And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramothgilead.
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.
I will disguise myself - Probably he had heard of the orders given by Ben-hadad to his thirty-two captains, to fight with the king of Israel only; that is, to make their most powerful attack where he commanded, in order to take him prisoner, that he might lead him captive whose captive he formerly was; and therefore he disguised himself that he might not be known.

But put thou on thy robes - What is meant by this? He could not mean, "Appear as the king of Judah, for they will not molest thee, as the matter of contention lies between them and me;" this is Jarchi's turn. For if Jehoshaphat aided Ahab, is it to be supposed that the Syrians would spare him in battle? A general in the civil wars of England, when he had brought his army in sight of their foes, thus addressed them: "Yonder are your enemies; if you do not kill them, they will kill you." So it might be said in the case of Jehoshaphat and the Syrians.

The Septuagint gives the clause a different and more intelligible turn: "I will cover (conceal) myself, and enter into the battle; και συ ενδυσαι τον ἱματισμον μου, but put thou on My robes." And does it not appear that he did put on Ahab's robes? And was it not this that caused the Syrians to mistake him for the king of Israel? 1 Kings 22:32.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Drew a bow at a venture - It is supposed that he shot, as the archers in general did, not aiming at any person in particular.

The word לתמו lethummo, which we translate in his simplicity, has been variously understood; in his integrity, his uprightness; in his perfection; i.e., to the utmost of his skill and strength. This is most probably the meaning; and may imply both aim and power, having his butt full in view.

In cases where the archers wished to do the greatest execution, they bent their bows, and pulled till the subtending string drew back the arrow up to its head. This they could not do always, because it required their whole strength; and they could not put forth their utmost effort each time and continue to discharge many shots. Our old national ballad of the Chevy-chace mentions the slaying of Sir Hugh Montgomery, who had slain Earl Percy, in nearly the same way that Ahab appears to have been shot: -

"And thus did both these nobles die,

Whose courage none could stain:

An English archer then perceived

His noble lord was slain,

Who had a bow bent in his hand

Made of a trusty tree;

An arrow, of a cloth-yard long,

Up to the head drew he; Against

Sir Hugh Montgomery then

So right his shaft he set,

The gray goose wing that was thereon

In his heart's blood was wet."

Between the joints of the harness - "Between the cuirass and the lower part of the helmet;" and then the arrow must pass through the neck, just above the breast: or "between the cuirass and the cuissarts;" and then the arrow must pass through the abdomen, or just where the armor of the thighs joins to that which covers the breast and belly.

The Vulgate has Inter pulmonem et stomachum; "Between the lungs and the stomach;" consequently, in the region of the heart.

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.
The king was stayed up - He did not wish his misfortune should be known, lest his troops should be discouraged.

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.
Every man to his city - It appears that the Israelites and Jews maintained the fight the whole of the day; but when at evening the king died, and this was known, there was a proclamation made, probably with the consent of both Syrians and Israelites, that the war was over. Ahab being dead, his subjects did not choose to contend for Ramoth-gilead; so the Israelites went to their own cities, and the Syrians to their own country.

So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria.
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.
The dogs licked up his blood - Some of the rabbins think that this was in the very place where Naboth was stoned; see on 1 Kings 21:19 (note). The Septuagint translates this verse strangely: "And the swine and the dogs licked his blood, and the whores bathed themselves in his blood, according to the word of the Lord." It is certain that the Hebrew words, הזנות רחצו hazzonoth rachatsu, "washed his armor," might be translated as the Septuagint have done; "and the whores (or public women) washed," etc. And so the rabbins seem to have understood the words; but then they suppose that Jezebel had made him two images of prostitutes, which he had with him in the chariot. It is not worth inquiring into the use for which they say these images were made. See Kimchi and Jarchi.

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?
Ivory house - A royal palace which he built in Samaria, decorated with ivory, and hence called the ivory house. Amos the prophet speaks against this luxury, Amos 3:15.

So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.
And Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.
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.
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.
The high places were not taken away - In 2 Chronicles 17:6, it is expressly said, that he did take away the high places. Allowing that the text is right in 2 Chron., the two places may be easily reconciled. There were two kinds of high places in the land:

1. Those used for idolatrous purposes.

2. Those that were consecrated to God, and were used before the temple was built. The former he did take away; the latter he did not.

But some think the parallel place in 2 Chronicles 17:6 is corrupted, and that, instead of ועוד הסיר veod hesir, "and moreover he took away," we should read, ולא הסיר velo hesir, "and he did Not take away."

And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel.
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?
And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.
The remnant of the sodomites - הקדש of the consecrated persons; or it may rather apply here to the system of pollution, effeminacy, and debauch. He destroyed the thing itself; the abominations of Priapus, and the rites of Venus, Baal, and Ashtaroth. No more of that impure worship was to be found in Judea.

There was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king.
There was no king in Edom - It is plain that the compiler of this book lived after the days of Jehoshaphat, in whose time the Edomites revolted; see 2 Kings 8:22. David had conquered the Edomites, and they continued to be governed by deputies, appointed by the kings of Judah, till they recovered their liberty, as above. This note is introduced by the writer to account for Jehoshaphat's building ships at Ezion-geber, which was in the territory of the Edomites, and which showed them to be at that time under the Jewish yoke.

Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
Ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold - In the parallel place (2 Chronicles 20:36) it is said that Jehoshaphat joined himself to Ahaziah, to make ships to go to Tharshish; and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. Concerning these places, and the voyage thither, see the notes on 1 Kings 9:26-28 (note); 1 Kings 10:11 (note), 1 Kings 10:22 (note). Some translate, instead of ships of Tharshish, ships of burden. See Houbigant, who expresses himself doubtful as to the meaning of the word.

Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not.
But Jehoshaphat would not - It appears from the above cited place in Chronicles that Jehoshaphat did join in making and sending ships to Tharshish, and it is possible that what is here said is spoken of a second expedition, in which Jehoshaphat would not join Ahaziah. But instead of ולא אבה velo abah, "he would not," perhaps we should read ולו אבה velo abah, "he consented to him;" two words pronounced exactly in the same way, and differing but in one letter, viz., an א aleph for a ו vau. This reading, however, is not supported by any MS. or version; but the emendation seems just; for there are several places in these historical books in which there are mistakes of transcribers which nothing but violent criticism can restore, and to this it is dangerous to resort, but in cases of the last necessity. Critics have recommended the 48th and 49th verses to be read thus: "Jehoshaphat had built ships of burden at Ezion-geber, to go to Ophir for gold. 49. And Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, had said to Jehoshaphat, Let my servants, I pray thee, go with thy servants in the ships: to which Jehoshaphat consented. But the ships went not thither; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber." This is Houbigant's translation, who contends that "the words of the 48th verse, but they went not, should be placed at the end of the 49th verse, for who can believe that the sacred writer should first relate that the ships were broken, and then that Ahaziah requested of Jehoshaphat that his servants might embark with the servants of Jehoshaphat?" This bold critic, who understood the Hebrew language better than any man in Europe, has, by happy conjectures, since verified by the testimony of MSS., removed the blots of many careless transcribers from the sacred volume.

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.
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.
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:
For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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