1 Kings 22:9-14
Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten here Micaiah the son of Imlah.…
There would be no counterfeit coin if there were no sterling; so neither would there be false prophets if there were no true. Because there are both, their qualities have to be tested, that we may refuse the spurious and value the genuine (see Jeremiah 23:38). To this end let us consider -
I. TESTS WHICH MAY NOT BE TRUSTED.
1. The test of profession.
(1) Ahab's prophets "prophesied." That is to say
(a) They used modes usual with prophets to procure information from Heaven. These were sacrifice, prayer, music (see 1 Samuel 10:5, 6; 2 Kings 3:15), and, when time permitted, fasting.
(b) They used modes usual with prophets to communicate the information when received. "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" (cf. Jeremiah 27:2; Jeremiah 28:18). The "horn" was the symbol of a king (see Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12). These were "two," to represent Ahab and Jehoshaphat, Israel and Judah. They were of "iron" to express strength (see Daniel 2:40). The prophecy was that, aided by Jehoshaphat, Ahab should push the Syrians to destruction.
(2) They prophesied "in the name of the Lord." Some think because their number corresponded to that of the prophets of Ashere (1 Kings 18:19) these were the same, having escaped when the prophets of Baal were slain at the brook Kishon (1 Kings 18:40). If so, then their profession on this occasion was designed to deceive Jehoshaphat (see Jeremiah 23:30).
(3) Anyhow there was profession enough, but it was hollow, and proved conclusively that profession must not be taken as a test of truth.
2. The test of numbers.
(1) Here were "four hundred" who prophesied professedly in the name of the Lord. Against this number Micaiah the son of Imlah stands alone; yet the truth of God is with him against the multitude. "Truth is not always to be determined by the poll. It is net numbers, but weight, that must carry it in the council of prophets" (Bishop Hall).
(2) This instance does not stand alone. The majority was in the wrong against Noah. Elijah was in the minority on Carmel, but he was right. Jesus had the whole Jewish Church against Him, though He was Truth itself.
3. The test of unanimity.
(1) The four hundred were united against Micaiah. Sometimes there is unanimity of this kind against a common object, where otherwise there is little agreement. Herod and Pilate made friends in opposition to Jesus.
(2) But these prophets were agreed among themselves. They all seem to have followed the leadership of Zedekiah. "And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-Gilead, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hand."
4. How does this argument bear upon the authority of the Church?
(1) It is pleaded that the Church, which is practically understood to be the clergy in council, has authority to bind the conscience in matters of faith. The arguments relied upon to sustain this view are generally based upon claims of profession, numbers, and agreement.
(2) On the other hand, the. definition of the Church is questioned, and the claims are refused as insufficient for their purpose, since by them Ahab's prophets might prove themselves true!
II. TESTS WHICH MAY BE TRUSTED.
1. The witnesses should be honest.
(1) Ahab's prophets were interested in their testimony. They enjoyed the patronage of the king, and they said what they knew would gratify him. Their testimony, therefore, is open to suspicion.
(2) Micaiah, on the contrary, had nothing to gain, but everything to lose, in taking his course. He knew the temper of the king. He was importuned by the king's messenger to concur with the king's prophets. He had already suffered for his faithfulness, for he seems to have been brought from the custody of Amen, in whose prison he had probably lain for three years. By flattering Ahab he might now obtain release, but by taking an opposite course he could only expect to go back to jail. Probabilities also were against him, for in the last two battles, Ahab, without the aid of Jehoshaphat, worsted the Syrians. Should the king of Israel now "return in peace" what may Micaiah expect?
(3) Nothing but the consciousness that he was uttering the truth of God could account for the son of Imlah deliberately encountering all this. And only upon this ground could he hope for any favour from God. Suspicion, therefore, as to the honesty of Micaiah is out of the question.
(4) But can it be pleaded that the honesty of the ecclesiastics who framed the decrees of councils is beyond suspicion? In decreeing the infallibility of the bishop of Rome, e.g., were they disinterested, when they knew how pleasing to him would be the reputation of such an attribute, and when they knew what patronage and power to injure were vested in his hands?
2. They should have miraculous athentication.
(1) It is easy to say, "Thus saith the Lord," but not so espy to evince it. The four hundred could say it, but they could show no miracle to prove that they spoke from God.
(2) It was otherwise with Micaiah. For, with the Jews, we presume he was that prophet who "prophesied evil concerning Ahab," and authenticated his message by the sign of the lion destroying his fellow for disobedience (cf. ver. 8 with 1 Kings 20:35-43).
(3) Clergy in council may claim Divine authority for their decrees, but unless they can verify their claim by adequate signs they presume when they impose.
3. Their testimony should be agreeable to the word of God.
(1) "Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. The one question for us in these days is this: Is the testimony agreeable to the Bible? This we know by infallible proofs to be the word of God. "But," it is objected, "the Bible needs authoritative interpretation, and who is to interpret but the Church?" To which we may answer, And the Church still more needs authoritative interpretation, and who is to interpret bus the Bible? The authority of the Bible is admitted; that of the Church is in question.
(2) The right of private judgment must be maintained. For the exercise of this right we shall every one of us give account of himself unto God. That ill-defined thing, the Church, cannot release us from this obligation. We cannot put our judgment and conscience into commission. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.