Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.
Verse 1. - The purport of the verse is to let us into the secret that the riches and honour in abundance of Jehoshaphat were, in fact, the snare by which he was led to entangle himself with one who, probably only on that account, was willing to be entangled by affinity with him (2 Chronicles 21:6; 2 Chronicles 22:2-4; 2 Kings 8:25-29). It is not hard to see how they would both lead him, if not always out of big and patronizing thoughts, to seek and also lay him open to be sought. When this verse says Jehoshaphat joined affinity, etc., it means that he had done so. to wit, not fewer than nine years before, in promoting or allowing, whichever it was, the marriage of his son Jehoram with Ahab's and Jezebel's daughter Athaliah. For the issue of this marriage, Ahaziah, took the throne at the age of twenty-two years, thirteen years hence from this seventeenth year of his grandfather Jehoshaphat's reign, the year of Ahab's death. But as we are told that Ahaziah was the youngest son of Jehoram and Athaliah (for explanation of which see 2 Chronicles 21:17), the "joining affinity" must have been something earlier than nine years, and very probably came yet nearer the prosperity of the earlier years of Jehoshaphat's reign, with which would agree well the keynote touched again significantly here from our 2 Chronicles 17:5. Comp. 2 Kings 8:17, 26; 2 Chronicles 21:20; 2 Chronicles 22:2 (which needs the correction of twenty-two to forty-two). Although it is certain that the act of Jehoshaphat was wrong in principle, disastrous in practice (2 Chronicles 19:2, 3), and threatened fatal consequences to himself (2 Chronicles 18:31, 32), yet it is not impossible to suppose his motives were for the most part good, and he may naturally have thought that the sunshine of his own peace and abundance might be the set time to win influence in and over Israel, rather than strengthen Israel in its ungodly independence. On the other hand, nothing could justify Jehoshaphat risking such intimacy of relationship with such a family, heedless of consequences, looking towards idolatry, which he should have known were overwhelmingly probable.
And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramothgilead.
Verse 2. - After certain years he went down. In lieu of the italic type "certain" here, the English idiom, "years after," would aptly reproduce the facts of the case. This journey to Samaria to see Ahab was made in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat's reign (1 Kings 22:51; comp. 2 Chronicles 20:35 and 2 Kings 3:1). What were the precise antecedent circumstances of this visit of Jehoshaphat to Ahab it is interesting to surmise - whether it were the fruit of an invitation direct from Ahab, who had his own designs, or whether it were for diplomatic reasons, that worked in the mind of Jehoshaphat as well as of Ahab, in view of Syria. It is evident that Ahab promptly determined to improve this conference of kings. Persuaded him; i.e. he took steps to induce him. This is the uniform signification of the word here used in the eighteen times of its occurrence, and mostly in doubtful, or worse than doubtful, matter. The form is the hiph. of סוּת, in which conjugation only the verb occurs. The Revised Version renders "moved." The visiting and cooperating of Jehoshaphat and Ahab made a novel departure in the history of the rended kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and continued till the time of Jehu. Ramoth-Gilead. This important city of Gad (Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:38), in Palestine beyond Jordan, comes into question as one not surrendered to the king-dora of Israel in good faith, according to the promise of Benhadad (1 Kings 20:34; comp. 1, 4, 7, 11, 20, 30, 33), Benhadad's father having taken it from Omri, father of Ahab. For "all the might that he showed," and presumably in conflicts with Syria, Omri was evidently a heavy loser. Ramoth-Gilead means "the heights of Gilead."
And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramothgilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war.
Verse 3. - I am as thou, etc. The same unqualified kind of language was used By Jehoshaphat on another occasion (2 Kings 3:7), two years later, when Jehoram, son of the deceased Ahab, also asked his help against Moab. Whether on the one occasion or the other, it is quite possible that Jehoshaphat thought he was serving common interests, and the cause of his own kingdom, as well as of Israel; nevertheless "Jehu the son of Hanani the seer" ignores the supposed justification (2 Chronicles 19:2).
And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
Verse 4. - The wording of this verse is identical with that of the parallel (1 Kings 22:5). Jehoshaphat, if even not quite conscious of it, is throwing some sop to his conscience in essaying to become, and posing as, the godly counsellor of "the ungodly" (2 Chronicles 19:2). At any rate, his counsel is right, even to the point of urging to-day, and significantly deprecating procrastination. It is not, however, so clear that he was, in the first instance, as decided in respect of the necessity of inquiring the will of the Lord at the mouth of a true prophet, in distinction from a prophet merely of Israel, though they should be "four hundred" in number! Compare the following two verses, however, which show as though he was holding himself quite prepared and on the look-out for the expected occasion of having to rein Ahab up!
Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand.
Verse 5. - These four hundred prophets, as Keil justly notes, were not prophets of Ashe-rah, nor of Baal, but strictly of Israel, i.e. of the images of the calf (1 Kings 12:26-33). Their word speedily showed itself not the word of the Lord, but the word that was made up to order of the king, and to suit his known wish at any time.
But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?
Verse 6. - The Revised Version well at-ranges the words of this verse, "Is there not here besides a prophet of the Lord?" The conscience of Ahab successfully made a coward of him, that he took so quietly this pronounced slight put on his kingdom s prophets (prophetae vitulorum) by his brother-king Jehoshaphat!
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
Verse 7. - The same is Micaiah. This true prophet of the Lord is known only here in recorded history, but it is evident he was otherwise well known to his generation and to Ahab (ver. 25). The outspokenness of Ahab and the sustained courtesy of Jehoshaphat are alike agreeable to notice in this verse.
And the king of Israel called for one of his officers, and said, Fetch quickly Micaiah the son of Imla.
And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah sat either of them on his throne, clothed in their robes, and they sat in a void place at the entering in of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.
Verse 9. - The contents of this and the following two verses narrate either what had already taken place, or the continuation of the scene that had not come to its end, but had been interrupted in order to carry out fully the urgent exhortation of Jehoshaphat "to-day," so that Ahab sent at once there and then a messenger for Micaiah. Any way, the unreal prophets have their full opportunity and their say at least twice over, as also Micaiah below (vers. 14, 16, 18-22, 27). A void place; i.e. a level floor; Revised Version, an open place. The Hebrew word designates often just a "threshing-floor," גּרֶן; but quite possibly here, a recognized court at the gate of the city, used for judgment, is intended.
And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith the LORD, With these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed.
Verse 10. - Zedekiah (named son of Chenaanah to distinguish him from some now unknown contemporary, or, perhaps, because the father was in some way distinguished) was one of those who knew the truth, nor feared to put it on his lips at the very time that his life. did not incorporate it (Deuteronomy 33:17). For other particulars of him, borrowed from the doubtfulness of Josephus, Bee Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 3:1836. Had made him horns of iron. It would seem as though Zedekiah had made these "horns of iron" at some previous time, or, perhaps, now simulated some very rough presentation of horns of an impromptu kind. The horns were the symbol of power, and the iron of a power invincible.
And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
And the messenger that went to call Micaiah spake to him, saying, Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one assent; let thy word therefore, I pray thee, be like one of theirs, and speak thou good.
Verse 12. - This verse bespeaks very clearly the rotten condition of Church and state, prophets and king and "officers" (ver. 8).
And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.
And when he was come to the king, the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And he said, Go ye up, and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.
Verse 14. - This first reply of Micaiah, given in the latter haft of the verse, does not stand for untruth or deceit, but for very thinly veiled, very thinly disguised, very keen taunt and reproof. It has been well described as the ironical echo of the language of the unreal prophets. Micaiah begins by answering a fool according to his folly, i.e. according to his own heart's desire. He had just come from some place of imprisonment or punishment (ver. 25). And he so spoke or so looked that the king should know he had not spoken his last word in answer to the inquiry addressed to him.
And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the LORD?
Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.
Verse 16. - The brief parable smote the very heart of Ahab (Numbers 27:17); and Ahab felt it, like "the sentence of death" in him; in a way all different, indeed, from that in which an apostle of many a century afterward felt it.
And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil?
Verse 17. - Ahab's language in this verso shows that, though he had adjured Micaiah, he did not wish to seem to believe that he could speak anything but his own temper.
Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.
Verse 19. - Who shall entice, etc.? Hebrew piel future פָתָח. This and the following three verses must have told, manifestly did tell, with fearful force of faithful preaching, upon the unreal prophets and the wicked king. How it was that their contents did not avail with Jehoshaphat to throw full energy again into his conscience, and to enable him to break at once with Ahab and his expedition, is inexplicable (and the more as it was his own pressing suggestion that the true prophet should be summoned), except as another illustration of the fearful difficulty that lies so often to human weakness, in the way of retracing a false step. Both these visions (vers. 16, 18-22) well illustrate how God revealed his truth, will and specific messages to his true prophets in vision. The vision of the throne, grand in all the majesty of its simplicity, of the psalmists (9, 11, 45, 103.), of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-5), of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:26), of Daniel (Daniel 7:9), of Stephen (Acts 7:56), of St. John (Revelation 4:2), is part of heaven's own stamp of authentication of the Bible.
Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith?
And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil against thee.
Verse 22. - The vision culminating as regards its practical object in this verse is Micaiah's bold explanation of how it comes to pass that he has to boar the brunt of Ahab's "hate," on account of the uniformly unfavourable character of his answers to him, instead of four hundred other men sharing it with him. He declares, on the authority of his rapt vision, that it is because they are possessed by a lying spirit (Romans 1:25, 28; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). And, like the true prophet of all time, he declares it at all hazards and at all cost.
Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?
Verse 23. - Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? This question of Zedekiah, and Micaiah's answer to him in the following verse, arc both obscure and of doubtful interpretation, but their drift not at all so. Keil and Bertheau correctly say, - in that Zedekiah used the force and the language that he did, it is not a bad sign that he was under a spirit's influence, but in that it was physical force which he used in a moral subject, this was a conclusive sign of the character of the spirit that he was amenable to. Among many possible suggestions as to the exact meaning of the question, "Which way," etc.? it is possible that a sceptical taunt best explains Zedekiah's words, and that he meant that he did not believe the Spirit of the Lord went any way to Micaiah. He will not yield to a doubt or to a suspicion thrown upon it that the Spirit had been with himself, and he will fain throw great doubt, whether he had proceeded from him to Micaiah!
And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
Verse 24. - So also, probably, this verse would purport to tell us beforehand distinctly what is not told after the issue of the battle and Ahab's death, that Zedekiah and his co-prophets did what they could, however vainly, to hide and to elude the vengeance of Jezebel (1 Kings 20:30; 1 Kings 22:25; 2 Kings 9:2).
Then the king of Israel said, Take ye Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;
Verse 25. - Carry him back. The last of these three words tells, of course, its own tale, of what had already been the treatment accorded to Micaiah. Amon the governor... Joash the king's son. This latter person is found only here and in the parallel, and the designation given him probably does not intend a personal relationship to the king, but an official; so see again 2 Chronicles 28:7; and note the conjunction again of the governor of the house, in the next clause. The Vulgate translates the Hebrew for "the king's," as though it were a proper name, "Amelech." See also Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' under the name "Maaseiah" 17. Nor is Amon the governor known elsewhere except in the parallel (1 Kings 22:26), but these designations, as through some chinks, throw a little scanty light into the subject of the internal administration at this time of the kingdom of Israel. In this kingdom subsequent to the separation, decentralization seems to have been carried to a further point than in Judah, and considering its greater extent, its far inferior metropolitan force, its double place of worship and sacrifice, these largely idolatrous, and in all this the undoubted degraded authority of its central government, this is very explainable. It is true that in both kingdoms history speaks equally of such offices and officers as were distinctly military or looked that way, but it can scarcely be without a reason that for the numerous allusions in Israel (1 Kings 16:8-10; 1 Kings 18:3; 1 Kings 20:7; 1 Kings 21:7-13; 2 Kings 1:8-17; 2 Kings 3:6; 2 Kings 10:5) to councils of elders (well known before the disruption), and governors of palaces, of cities, of houses, and of provinces, there is scarcely one in the records of Judah. Here possibly enough the executive would be more vigorous, more compact, and more direct and close in its action from headquarters, while in both divisions of what should have been the one kingdom, royalty was by profession constitutional, and in its devolution hereditary.
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 return in peace.
Verse 26. - Only the slightest differences are noticeable between this verse and the parallel, this latter using the sign of the objective case (which in this instance would probably lend some contemptuousness of expression), and using the word "come" instead of return.
And Micaiah said, If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the LORD spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people.
Verse 27. - The courage and fidelity of Micaiah, in not deserting either his prophet-message or his prophet-Master, are admirable, and for his determined appeal to all the people, which was made in the very face of the king or kings, see again Micah 1:2.
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramothgilead.
Verse 28. - It must remain doubtful which of the kings carried with him the uneasier heart. What Jehoshaphat might have gained in less element of personal and physical fear, he by rights should have lost in sensitiveness of conscience.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and will go to the battle; but put thou on thy robes. So the king of Israel disguised himself; and they went to the battle.
Verse 29. - Ahab does not seem disposed to lose anything again for want of asking, and even vouchsafing apparently (but it is exceedingly likely that this arises from our failing to appreciate exactly the force of the Hebrew forms in the text) to use the tone of directing, to his brother-king of the better part and kingdom. It must be presumed that there was something to relieve Ahab's language of the barefaced disregard for the safety of Jehoshaphat and regard for his own, which lie on the surface of the words he uses. Quite possibly, for instance, both knew that Ahab was to be the mark of the shooters. Also Ahab's disguise may have meant a heavy price to pay to his pride, while Jehoshaphat's dignity was saved intact. So, too, Ahab may have merely purported to say, "You can, without any special risk, wear your royal apparel; but I," etc,
Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of the chariots that were with him, saying, Fight ye not with small or great, save only with the king of Israel.
Verse 30. - Our had commanded stands rendered in the parallel not so explicitly "commanded," but in both cases the Hebrew text is the same (צִוָּה). Therefore, if the place of vers. 29, 30 were inverted, what reads like the cool suggestion of Ahab in ver. 29 would seem more tolerable. Mean. time, Benhadad's command argues the intensity of his resentment towards Ahab, and not less ungrateful forgetfulness for the ultimate consideration that Ahab had allowed to him (1 Kings 20:31-34).
And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; and God moved them to depart from him.
Verse 31. - Comparing this and following verse minutely with the parallel (1 Kings 22:32, 33), the exact correspondence of the latter of each pair of verses only the more clearly points the significance belonging to the two clauses of foreign matter interposed so characteristically by the writer of Chronicles for his own unvarying special objects, viz. the Lord helped him; and God moved them. What the cry of Jehoshaphat was remains uncertain; whether a cry to his own bodyguard and soldiers, or a cry to those who were beginning "to compass him about as bees," to let them know at any rate that he was not the king they sought, or whether most improbably, a cry to the Lord is meant. The cry fulfilled its purpose, and if Jehoshaphat had a sneaking love for Ahab (see the significant "love them," etc., of Jehu in second verse of next chapter), he evidently had not any idea of needlessly dying for him. The happy distinction of perceiving in next verse, as compared with seeing in this verse, is not warranted by the Hebrew text (in both cases כִּרְאות), though it is by the gist of the connection and English idiom,
For it came to pass, that, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back again 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: therefore he said to his chariot man, Turn thine hand, that thou mayest carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
Verse 33. - At a venture; Hebrew, לְתֻמּו; i.e. "in his innocence." The root is the familiar root expressive of uprightness, perfectness, simplicity, and the meaning here is that the shooter was innocent of what a distinguished deed he was doing, of the personality of the man at whom he aimed (for it is not necessary to suppose his shot was quite at random), and of the skill that gave the arrow to reach its ultimate destiny. Between the joints of the harness; literally, between the joints and the harness, i.e. that part called the breastplate. The arrow went through, or by the side of one of the actual articulations of the armour-mail worn. Ahab's direction to the chariot-driver at the spur of the first wounded moment to turn and carry him out of the host, was evidently qualified, when he found that the wound was not immediately fatal. As the heat of the battle grew, and victory did not at once turn one way or the other, he was the more anxious to give the moral support of his presence to the last to his army, and, unable to stand by himself, he was supported by his own orders (so our rendering is not inconsistent with that in the parallel "was stayed" (1 Kings 22:35) in the chariot till he died in the evening. Although the spirit of Ahab, and his fidelity to his own army, kingdom, and self, cannot but appear to advantage in these last incidents of his unworthy life, yet it is probable that they find their record here for the sake of giving clear statement to the fact, that in the chariot his life-bleed collected according to the saying of the parallel (ver. 35 compared with ver. 38). Note, therefore, particularly the truncated history of the writer of Chronicles in this instance. He, no doubt, consciously omitted, and with a purpose, his own usual purpose; but light is lost, and the cross light tends rather to misleading, except for that only correct user of Scripture, which teaches us to compare one Scripture with another, and balance one part against another - a thing easy to do in matters of fact, but too often forgotten in the weightier matter of doctrine. Here our eighteenth chapter closes, less the mention of the proclamation for the self-disbanding of Ahab's army (ver. 36 of the parallel chapter) which should fulfil the prophecy of our ver. 16, and less any mention of Ahab's burial, of the washing of his chariot in the pool of Samaria, of the dogs licking up of the blood there, and of his ivory house, etc. (vers. 37-40 of the parallel chapter). All of which omittings accord well with the one clear ecclesiastical and religious intent of the Chronicles, in place of the pursuit of matters of general and merely graphic historic interest, however charged with instruction they too might be.
And the battle increased that day: howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even: and about the time of the sun going down he died.