In this chapter we see - in pictures - the results of a compromise with the godly world. We also receive the lessons God wants to teach His people to prepare them for religious compromises.
1 - 3 Jehoshaphat’s Allies Himself with Ahab
1 Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor; and he allied himself by marriage with Ahab. 2 Some years later he went down to [visit] Ahab at Samaria. And Ahab slaughtered many sheep and oxen for him and the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. 3 Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me [against] Ramoth-gilead?” And he said to him, “I am as you are, and my people as your people, and [we will be] with you in the battle.”
When Jehoshaphat has wealth and honor in abundance (cf. 2Chr 17:5), he enters into marriage ties with the wicked Ahab (verse 1). Here Jehoshaphat leaves obedience to the Word, to which he owes his wealth and honor, and connects with the house of the wicked Ahab. His son Jehoram marries the daughter of Jezebel, Athaliah. In the eyes of some people this may be a great choice, but Jehoshaphat in arranging this he brings evil in his house and in Juda.
This is the first indication of a sinful trait with the God-fearing Jehoshaphat. That sinful trait is the making of an alliance with an unbeliever. He did so with Ahab, with Ahaziah, and with Jehoram, three wicked kings of the ten tribes realm. The fact that he does this up to three times seems to indicate that he is a slow learner at this point.
For us, this contains a serious lesson. That lesson is that we get entangled in evil again and again if we do not radically condemn it. God has forbidden His people to make an alliance with Syria or other God hostile surrounding peoples. Such alliances are causing great damage. However, an alliance with apostate Israel is an even greater evil. Israel is not just one of the pagan peoples. They know the LORD, but have turned their backs on Him. They serve the golden calves and imagine serving Him with them. This is a treacherous mixture. It is more than idolatry by those who do not know the LORD. Israel is a more dangerous enemy because of its wrong example, rather than its strength.
This is not an alliance with unbelievers in general – that is not allowed (2Cor 6:14) – but an alliance with nominal Christians. What Jehoshaphat does can be found in the ecumenical movement, where Christians find each other without any question of obedience to God’s Word. There is only one safe way we can go when we are faced with something that wrongly claims to be in touch with God and to acknowledge Him. That is, we keep ourselves completely separate with spiritual judgment from what pretends acknowledging God, while not taking His will into account, and regard it as an enemy.
There are about nine years between the marriage ties and Jehoshaphat’s visit to Ahab. Then the moment comes when the seed that has been laid (verse 1) grows into a common interest. Jehoshaphat visits Ahab (verse 2a) and thus enters a social environment from which he does not know how to escape (1Cor 15:33). Ahab is very honored with the visit Jehoshaphat brings him.
In 1 Kings 22, a chapter almost identical to this chapter, the case is viewed from the point of view of Ahab. There the emphasis is on the fact that it is smart of him to seek a connection with a man as God-fearing as Jehoshaphat. Here it is seen from the side of Jehoshaphat and then the connection he seeks with a man as wicked as Ahab is reprehensible. It is a big stain on his reign. In the previous chapter Jehoshaphat has strengthened his cities, but here it appears that he has not strengthened his heart.
The many sheep and oxen that Ahab slaughters for Jehoshaphat (verse 2b), are a bigger snare for Jehoshaphat than the armies of Ahab. What Jehoshaphat does, does not fit in with a walk in the ways of his father David, with what he pronounced in some psalms (Psa 26:5; 141:4). The feast Ahab is making in honor of Jehoshaphat is only meant to win him for his plans.
The kisses of the enemy are deceptive. The enemy never gives anything for nothing. The slaughter of sheep and oxen means sacrificing them. It represents a sacrificial meal. Thus, in our time an apostate church will go very far to agree with the faithful to keep or draw them into an alliance with itself.
Ahab has the plan to recapture Ramoth in Gilead from the king of Aram or Syria. For that he wants the help of Jehoshaphat (verses 2-3). The latter agrees. He does so with words that are almost unbelievable. He makes himself like Ahab, and also takes his whole people with him in this equation. He not only falls into the trap himself, but also leads others into it. With this he drags his people on the road down.
How often do we say to the world, ‘I am like you.’? Look at our participation in social life. Do we attend the same events; do we talk about the things of the world in the same way? If that happens, it is almost impossible to see the difference between the ‘Jehoshaphats’ and the ‘Ahabs’ in such situations. Only personal attachment to Christ will preserve us for identification with and absorption into the world.
Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel against Syria is no better than his father Asa’s alliance with Syria against Israel (2Chr 16:7-9). Of what Jehoshaphat does as a leader, others will say: ‘What kind of evil can there be in such a cooperation if a God-fearing man like Jehoshaphat participates in it? If there was something wrong in it, wouldn’t Jehoshaphat join in?’ This is also the way the Christian world is talking today. Many of them agree with Jehoshaphat’s attitude by saying that he is a broad-minded man.
4 - 11 The Message of the False Prophets
4 Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.” 5 Then the king of Israel assembled the prophets, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for God will give [it] into the hand of the king.” 6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?” 7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me but always evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imla.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” 8 Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah, Imla’s son.” 9 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in [their] robes, and [they] were sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 10 Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are consumed.’” 11 All the prophets were prophesying thus, saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and succeed, for the LORD will give [it] into the hand of the king.”
Yet Jehoshaphat does not simply agree with Ahab’s proposal. It is as if his conscience tells him to consult the LORD first (verse 4). That is what he says to “the king of Israel”, that is to say to the man who reigns over God’s people. It illustrates the tragedy and the apostacy of Israel and its leader. It’s nice that Jehoshaphat suggests it, but it’s too late. He has already promised his cooperation to this expedition. If the LORD nevertheless answers such a request, the answer can only be judgmental because of the situation.
Ahab first calls his own prophets together (verse 5). These are prophets he has gathered himself and who caress his hearing, just as we encounter them in our days, the last days of Christianity, and for which we are warned (2Tim 4:3-4). When Ahab asks them whether they will go to war, these false prophets boldly take the Name of God in their mouths and guarantee a prosperous way in His Name. They are prophets who speak what people like to hear, and that certainly is not the truth (Isa 30:10; Eze 13:7; Mt 7:22-23). However, Jehoshaphat will not let himself be fooled (verse 6). Although the four hundred prophets have made a unanimous statement, he asks if there is not “yet” a prophet of the LORD.
With this question Jehoshaphat can mean two things. He can ask if there is yet another prophet besides these four hundred prophets, but then of the same kind, giving the impression that he also sees these four hundred prophets as prophets of the LORD. He can also mean, and this seems to be more the case, that he wants to hear another prophet of the LORD, a real prophet, by which he indicates in veiled terms that those four-hundred are for him no real prophets of the LORD. He is already so entangled in the trap that Ahab opened for him, that he can no longer give clear testimony. It is foolish to ask the LORD’s guidance if we have already made our decision.
Ahab cannot ignore Jehoshaphat’s question (verse 7). He must let Micaiah come, the man he sees as a prophet of doom. Ahab knows that Micaiah is a real prophet. This we also see with King Zedekiah in relation to Jeremiah (Jer 37:17) and with Herod in relation to John the baptist (Mk 6:20a). Ahab hates Micaiah. That man is connected for him to doom, and not to the fact that he speaks the word of the LORD.
It is absurd to hate Micaiah and want to kill him because he tells him the truth about future things. It is as foolish as it is for a resident of a house to kill his dog who keeps barking to warn him of a burglar. Thus the Bible, the preacher and also the church are hated for the same reason. They have no hopeful message for the future of the world, but announce the judgment over it.
Ahab’s condemnation of the prophet Micaiah goes too far for Jehoshaphat. He tells Ahab not to speak like this. Here we see that the new life indeed is present in Jehoshaphat. It is a testimony, although a weak testimony.
Ahab does what Jehoshaphat wants. He calls an officer and gives him the order to summon Micaiah, Imla’s son (verse 8). Jehoshaphat’s question to get a real prophet and his reprimand of Ahab change nothing to his ambivalent attitude. He stays where he is, with Ahab. Both Ahab and he sit on a throne and both are arrayed in their robes (verse 9). They are at the threshing floor. The threshing floor is a picture of purifying judgment. It is the place where the chaff is separated from the wheat. This separation will happen in a moment.
While the messenger is on his way to bring Micaiah, the prophets of Ahab continue to perform. The prophet Zedekiah takes the words “thus says the LORD” (verse 10) in the mouth and predicts a great victory. Today also many so-called prophets take the words ‘thus says the Lord’ in their mouths (verse 11). They always talk about prosperity. However, they are false prophets, with a mouth “smoother than butter” and words “softer than oil” (Psa 55:22).
12 - 27 The Message of Micaiah
12 Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, “Behold, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. So please let your word be like one of them and speak favorably.”
13 But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak.”
14 When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?” He said, “Go up and succeed, for they will be given into your hand.”
15 Then the king said to him, “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
16 So he said,
“I saw all Israel
Scattered on the mountains,
Like sheep which have no shepherd;
And the LORD said,
‘These have no master.
Let each of them return to his house in peace.’”
17 Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” 18 Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. 19 The LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘How?’ 21 He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice [him] and prevail also. Go and do so.’ 22 Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.” 23 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?” 24 Micaiah said, “Behold, you will see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself.” 25 Then the king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; 26 and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this [man] in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.”‘“ 27 Micaiah said, “If you indeed return safely, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Listen, all you people.”
The messenger warns Micaiah to watch out for what he says because the four hundred prophets have all said the same thing (verse 12). But Micaiah is not impressed. He will only speak what his God says (verse 13). This is the hallmark of the true servant. Micaiah is a prisoner for God (cf. Eph 3:1; 4:1), while Jehoshaphat is a ruler and also an ally and therefore a prisoner of a wicked man.
When Ahab asks Micaiah the question whether or not he will go up, he receives an answer (verse 14). In that answer Micaiah is joking the king by saying the same thing that the prophets have already said. Ahab feels this, he doesn’t know Micaiah speaking that way, and says that Micaiah will speak the truth that he is so afraid of (verse 15). Ahab also realizes that the four hundred have only said what he wants to hear.
If we make a comparison with church history, it is clear that the church is not moving in the right direction. Yet we see that a gospel is being preached that it will all become more beautiful and better: ‘There will be a revival, there will be this happening and that will happen’. It is proposed to enter into dialogue with the world and to participate in bearing a common responsibility to make Christianity an influential power on earth.
There are indeed some ‘doomsayers’ who go against this. Of them is said what Ahab says of Micaiah: ‘Did I not tell you? They preach nothing but evil and disappointments and that the world will be worse and that what I say and want is not good.’ They try to justify their vision, but eventually it will become clear who is ‘the prophet of God’.
Micaiah let the word of the LORD be heard (verse 16). Ahab understands that the word of the LORD is judgment. He turns to Jehoshaphat to remind him that he predicted that this would be the case (verse 17). Jehoshaphat hears it and does nothing with it, because he is imprisoned in the snare of his alliance with the wicked Ahab.
Micaiah has a message not only for Ahab, but also for the four hundred prophets (verses 18-22). He has seen in a vision what has happened in heaven. What is happening in heaven, only men of God have seen as Isaiah and Ezekiel and here also Micaiah. Micaiah tells Ahab and his prophets what he has seen and heard. – What he has seen and heard, will have encouraged him enormously in his lonesome performance opposite the mass of false prophets. – He has seen angels around God on His throne. He describes how the LORD entered into dialogue with His court (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1).
There is no dividing line between good and evil angels. Angels can be sent out for good, but also for evil. With Saul there is an evil spirit of the LORD who frightens him (1Sam 16:14). It teaches us that God disposes of all powers, good and evil. This spirit is used in God’s hand to mislead the prophets.
The prophets of Ahab are driven by demons, while behind them is a spirit appointed by the LORD to let the demons do their work in those prophets. After all, it is not a battle between two armies, an army of God and an army of Satan, as if it were two equal forces. God is above all and uses everything for His purpose. The false spirits in the mouths of false prophets cannot go beyond God’s permission.
Zedekiah is furious and strikes Micaiah on the cheek (verse 23). He feels his honor is affected. Micaiah will not argue to prove that he spoke the words of God (verse 24). Its truth will be evident in its fulfillment. For Zedekiah there is a separate prophecy. He will flee from room to room and also see from this that Micaiah has spoken the truth (cf. Deu 18:22).
Micaiah is taken away (verse 25). What will have passed through Jehoshaphat when he sees what happens to a faithful prophet of the LORD?
28 - 34 Death of Ahab
28 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. 29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you put on your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. 30 Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, saying, “Do not fight with small or great, but with the king of Israel alone.” 31 So when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is the king of Israel,” and they turned aside to fight against him. But Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him, and God diverted them from him. 32 When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 33 A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of the chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the fight, for I am severely wounded.” 34 The battle raged that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot in front of the Arameans until the evening; and at sunset he died.
Despite the clear prophecy of Micaiah Jehoshaphat goes along in the battle (verse 28). Jehoshaphat is so entangled that even on the advice of Ahab he goes into battle recognizably as king, while Ahab disguises himself (verse 29). With this Jehoshaphat indicates that he is like the king of Israel. He reveals his own identity and is for the people of the ‘world’ the king of Israel. Therefore the enemy focuses on him. The king of Aram or Syria has ordered to worry about nothing and nobody but only about the king of Israel (verse 30). He is the target of the fight. When then they see Jehoshaphat, they think he is the king of Israel (verse 31a). They turn aside to fight against him.
Then two miracles happen. The first is that Jehoshaphat is miraculously saved and the second is that Ahab is miraculously killed. Jehoshaphat is saved because he cries out to the LORD to come to his aid (verse 31b). Emergency learns to pray. The LORD helps him and turns the enemy away from him by showing them that he is not the king of Israel (verse 32). Jehoshaphat is delivered by pure grace. David has experienced the same thing. He is also once delivered by the LORD from a snare in which he went into himself in his flight from Saul (1Sam 27:1-3; 29:9-11).
Ahab dies, as God has said. His disguise has, of course, not benefited. A man shoots his arrow at Ahab without realizing that he is pointing his arrow at Ahab (verse 33). It is not right to assume that the man shoots at random. A soldier does not do anything like that. His shooting at random is that he has no idea he has chosen Ahab as the target of his arrow. The arrow “strikes the king of Israel in a joint of the armor”.
Jehoshaphat is saved despite his striking royal dress that has made him the target white of the enemy; Ahab dies despite his inconspicuous armor, which led him to believe he could escape the enemy’s attention. Who can do evil to those who are protected by God? And who or what can protect those whom God will kill?
Ahab realizes his situation and orders to take him out of battle to take care of his wound. However, this does not seem to succeed because of the ongoing struggle (verse 34). He is forced to stay in battle and slowly bleeds to death. By the time the sun goes down, his life goes down and he dies. Ahab is not mentioned hereafter. It is about Jehoshaphat.