The Character of Ahab
1 Kings 22:2-50
And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.…

I. THE KING'S WILFUL PURPOSE (vers. 1-6). Ahab's purpose is announced in the beginning of the chapter. We find him, after three years of peace, preparing to attack the Syrians. The Syrian king, whom Ahab had treated with such ill-timed lenity, and with whom he had made so sinful a compromise, has, as might have been anticipated, failed to fulfil the: stipulated terms of ransom, and to restore the cities of Israel. Ahab, provoked at his own simplicity in having suffered so favourable an opportunity to slip, through his fond trust in the honour of a perfidious prince, and stung by the recollection of the prophet's rebuke, conceives the design of retrieving his error, and compelling the fulfilment of the treaty, on the faith of which he had been weakly persuaded to liberate the enemy whom God had doomed. In this Ahab acts under the impulse of resentment and ambition. He burns with the desire of avenging a personal wrong and insult, rather than of fulfilling the decree of God. Had he consulted the will of God, he must have seen and felt that it was now too late for him to take the step proposed. He had let the time go past. When God gave him victory, and assured him of power over his enemy, then he should have used his opportunity. This he had failed to do; and for his failure he had been reproved by God, and warned by the prophet that his people and his life were forfeited. Certainly Ahab should have been the very last person to think of rousing and provoking the very foe who, by the Divine sentence and by his own compromise, had gained so sad and signal an advantage over him. But instead of following so wise a course, Ahab blindly rushes into the opposite extreme from his former fault; and because before he has been blamed for not going far enough, with God on his side, he is provoked to go too far now, though God has declared against him. He is not without his reasons, and they are very plausible reasons, to justify the step proposed.

1. In the first place, it is in itself an act of patriotism and of piety; at least it looks very like it, and may easily be so represented.

2. Secondly, it has received the countenance of a friend (ver. 4). And that friend is not a wicked man, but one fearing God, and acknowledged by God as righteous.

3. And, thirdly, it has obtained the sanction of four hundred prophets (ver. 6). And these are not prophets of Baal. Looking, then, at the act itself as an act of patriotic and pious zeal, encouraged by the consent of his friend and the concurrence of the prophets, Ahab, we may think, might well be misled. And we might pity and excuse him too, as one misled, did we not see him so willing to be so. Is he not all the while deceiving himself, and that too almost wilfully and consciously? O beware, ye pilgrims in an evil world, ye soldiers in an arduous fight, beware of your own rash wilfulness, of the weakness of compliant friends, and of the flattering counsels of evil men and seducers, who in the last times — in the last and critical stage of individual experience, as well as of the world's history — are sure to wax worse and worse! There is no design, no device, no desire of your hearts, which you may not find some specious arguments to justify, some friends to countenance, ay, and some prophets, too, to sanction.

II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS OPPOSITION (vers. 7-23). The King of Israel is satisfied with the oracular answer of the prophets. Not so, however, the King of Judah. He suspects something wrong, missing probably among the four hundred some one of whom he has heard. This Micaiah is supposed to be the prophet who reproved Ahab formerly, on the occasion of his compromise with the Syrian king; and it was probably his boldness on that occasion that caused him to be imprisoned. And is not this the spirit in which good advice is too often asked, and the word of God consulted, — when it is too late, — when a man's mind is already all but made up? You go when your conscience will not otherwise let you alone, or when the remonstrances of pious friends trouble you; you go to some man of God, to God Himself, by prayer and the searching of His word: — for what? what is it that you want? — light for duty, however self-denying? or light to justify your doubtful course? He stands before the princes, undaunted by their royal state. First of all, he rebukes the prejudice of Ahab, by seeming to flatter it (ver. 15). The irony conveys a cutting reproof, and a merited one; and with this the holy prophet might have left the prince to believe his own and his flatterers' lie. But the mercy of God and the sin of Ahab are to be yet more signally brought out. Even to the last, in judgment God remembers mercy. The very scene of judgment which the prophet discloses does not imply any fixed and irrevocable design of wrath against Ahab; — with such a design, indeed, the disclosure of the scene would be incompatible and inconsistent. The sentence of final infatuation does not come without previous intimation. However you may be deceived, or maybe deceiving yourselves, is there not a voice of truth, or a prophetic warning, which you feel might keep you right — if you wore but willing to be kept right?

III. THE ISSUE OF THE CONTEST (vers. 29-38). And here, in the first place, let the expedient by which Ahab consults his own safety be observed. For he does not feel entirely comfortable and secure; he cannot rid himself of the uneasy apprehension which the prophet's word has suggested. There is danger. Ahab, knowing the hazard, cunningly proposes to resign the post of honour to his ally: "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" (ver. 30). And what are we to expect but that, false to his God, a man will be false to his friend also. Let none trust the fidelity of him who is not faithful to his best, his kindest, his most generous benefactor, — his Saviour, his God. Consult your own conscience.

1. Beware of the beginning of Ahab's evil course-his fatal compromise with the enemy of his peace. See that you enter into no terms with any sin, and that you be not hardened through its deceitfulness. When God in Christ gives you the victory, delivering you from condemnation by His free grace, and upholding you by His free Spirit; when, justified and accepted in the Beloved, you see every sin of yours prostrate beneath your feet, stripped of all its power to slay or to enslave you — be sure that you make thorough work in following out the advantage you have gained — that you listen to no plausible proposals of concession — that you suffer no iniquity to escape — that you mortify every lust.

2. Beware of provoking a slumbering foe. If there be any enemy of your peace to whom, by former compliances or concessions, you have given an advantage over you, beware of invading his territories again. Be on your guard against the very first beginnings of evil — of any evil especially that you have ever, in all your past lives, tolerated, or flattered or fondled in your bosoms, when you should have been nailing it, without pity, to your Saviour's cross.

3. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin. The wiles of the devil are not unknown to you. In a doubtful case, where you are hesitating, it is easy for him to insinuate and suggest reasons enough to make the worse appear the better cause. Generally you may detect his sophistry by its complex character. Truth is simple; the word of God is plain.

4. Beware of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Beware of a judicial hardening of your hearts, or of your being given over to believe a lie.

(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.

WEB: It happened in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.

Character of Jehoshaphat
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