1 Kings 22:1-28: Micaiah the Prophet
Show me on the map where the Assyrian kingdom was, with its center at Nineveh, and its provinces reaching far on every side. Show me the smaller and nearer neighbor of Israel, Syria, and Damascus its great city. At the time of our story, there were now leagues of friendship, and now wars, among the three kingdoms, Israel, Judah, and Syria. There was the war of Asa, king of Judah, with Israel, in which he had the help of Ben-hadad, king of Syria. (1 Kings 15:16-20) Then there was the war in which Ben-hadad, a son of the other king of the same name, in the days of Ahab, besieged Samaria but was driven away. And again the Syrians came the following year and were defeated, but Ahab spared the king's life. (1 Kings 20)
After this, as we learn in our new lesson, there were three years without war between Syria and Israel. It would seem, however, that Ben-hadad had not fully kept his promise to Ahab, to return to him the cities which his father had taken from Israel (1 Kings 20:34), for we learn that he still held the city of Ramoth, in the land of Gilead, beyond Jordan, which was one of the cities belonging to the tribe of Gad. (Joshua 20:8) What other city of Gilead did we learn of in the days when Saul was king? (1 Sam. 11) You will find Jabesh marked on the map, to the north, and Ramoth to the south of the brook Jabbok, but the position of Ramoth is not surely known.
Peace had lasted three years when Ahab proposed to take back Ramoth from the Syrians. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was with him at the time, and he agreed to go with him to the war, with men and horses. Jehoshaphat was a good king. You see this in his wish to have a prophet of the Lord consulted before going to war. It is also said, in verse 43, that he walked in all the ways of Asa his father, doing right in the eyes of the Lord. Look back to 1 Kings 15:9-24, to see what is said of Asa. It makes us feel sorry, to see Jehoshaphat in league with Ahab and going to war with him; it is a good king in league with one not good.
As we read of four hundred prophets, we remember how a hundred prophets had been saved from Jezebel, hidden by fifty in a cave (1 Kings 18:13); and presently we hear again of companies of prophets in Bethel and Jericho. (2 Kings 2:1-7) The prophets told Ahab to go, and that he would succeed; but they spoke from a lying spirit. At last one prophet was brought, Micaiah, whom Ahab hated. (Why?) Even he at first said to Ahab, "Go, and prosper." But this was not his real message. When he spoke from the Spirit of the Lord, he said, "I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd." You can imagine what this prophecy meant, and in our next lesson we shall learn how it was fulfilled. With this warning sounding in their ears the kings set out to do what Ahab had set his heart on doing.
1. Who was Ahab? Who was Jehoshaphat? What did they attempt together?
2. What advice did the prophets give? Why?
3. Who spoke the true message? What was it?
Israel and Judah still represent the heavenly understanding and will; though now they represent these not in their beauty and strength, but weakened and perverted. Here a good king of Judah is in league with a bad king of Israel. So a good intention, a kind feeling, may be led astray by false understanding. (A. 4292, 4750; E. 433)
The nations outside the Holy Land represent natural, worldly faculties and states. Syria is among those which represent natural intellectual powers, powers of thinking and knowing. There is Egypt, the memory of knowledge; Phoenicia and Philistia, the power of reaching out to impart and to gather knowledge, usually with no desire to make it useful; and Assyria, the rational power of arranging knowledge in its logical relations. Syria has its place with these, and represents knowledge of what is good and true, but according to worldly, and it may be perverted standards, and not according to the sure standard of the Lord's Word. The meaning of Syria is explained in A. 1232, 1234, 4112. Two other numbers are especially full and helpful: A. 4720, which explains the story of the Syrian army sent to take Elisha, and smitten with blindness; and E. 475, which explains the story of Naaman and his healing.
The heavenly understanding is strong and able to resist the false standards of the world, in proportion to its faithful reliance upon the Lord's Word. It is weak and unable to cope with worldly learning, when its attitude toward the Lord's Word is such as Ahab's was toward the prophets. There is no strength in consulting the Lord's Word just to hear what we like to hear, and to find confirmation of our own ideas and purposes. We ought with open hearts to desire to hear the message just as the Lord would give it. The lying spirit which it is said the Lord sent to speak through the prophets, reminds us of the wonderful way in which the Lord permits His Word to be turned to confirm whatever one pleases to confirm; for this is a part of His providence to preserve our freedom, not violently preventing our thinking and doing what we are determined to think and do. (T. 260)
Micaiah saw the Lord sitting upon His throne and all the host of heaven on His right and left. Compare the appearance of the Lord to Isaiah (Isa. 6) and to John (Rev. 4). We are not to think that the Lord sits on a throne in heaven, like an earthly king. But the throne which the prophets saw represented the Lord's rule in the power of His Divine truth, especially His rule in heaven, where His truth is perfectly obeyed. (Isa. 66:1; Ps. 103:19) The host of heaven on His right hand and left are the angels as they live in the strength of love and truth from Him. More abstractly, they are all the activities of the Lord's love and wisdom in His providence over angels and human beings. (A. 5313)
The horns which one of the prophets made remind us how often some representative action was joined with the prophets' message. Horns, we know, represent the power of truth from the good within it, or the power of falsity from the evil that prompts it, which seems to be the meaning in the present case. (A.2832) See L. 15.