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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.
Three years - These must be counted from the close of the second campaign of Ben-hadad 1 Kings 20:34. They were not full years, as is evident from the next verse. Probably the first year is that of Ben-hadad's dismissal after his defeat; the second is a year of actual peace; while the third is that in which Jehoshaphat paid his visit, and the Ramoth-Gilead expedition took place. The pause, here noticed, in the war between Israel and Syria was perhaps the result of a common danger. It was probably in the year following Ben-hadad's dismissal by Ahab, that the first great Assyrian expedition took place into these parts. Shalmaneser II relates that on his first invasion of southern Syria, he was met by the combined forces of Ben-hadad, Ahab, the king of Hamath, the kings of the Hittites, and others, who gave him battle, but suffered a defeat.
2And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.
This visit indicates an entire change in the relations which we have hitherto found subsisting between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The common danger to which the two kingdoms were exposed from the growing power of Syria had probably induced them to forget their differences. Jehoshaphat's eldest son, Jehoram, was married to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab: but apparently the bond between the two families had not hitherto led to any very close intimacy, much less to any joint military expeditions. Jehoshaphat seems to have taken no part in the former Syrian wars of Ahab, nor did he join in the great league against the Assyrians (1 Kings 22:1 note). His visit now was probably one of mere friendliness, without any political object. Ahab, however, turned the visit to political advantage. From this time until the displacement of Ahab's dynasty by Jehu, very intimate relations subsisted between the two kingdoms (1 Kings 22:49; 2 Kings 3:7; 2 Kings 8:28-29; 2 Chronicles 20:36, etc.).
3And the king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?
By the terms of Ahab's covenant with Ben-hadad, Ramoth in Gilead ought, long ere this, to have been restored 1 Kings 20:34. Hence, the claim "is ours," i. e., "it belongs to us of right though the Syrians still hold possession of it."
4And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramothgilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.
Ahab, well aware of the military strength of Syria, and feeling that he cannot now expect divine aid 1 Kings 20:42; 1 Kings 21:21, asks the aid of Jehoshaphat, whose military resources were very great 2 Chronicles 17:12-19. Jehoshaphat's answer is one of complete acquiescence, without reserve of any kind (compare 2 Chronicles 18:3). Jehoshaphat was afterward rebuked for thus consenting to "help the ungodly" 2 Chronicles 19:2. He probably acted not merely from complaisance, but from a belief that the interests of his own kingdom would be advanced by the step which he agreed to take. The power of Syria was at this time very menacing.
5And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
Jehoshaphat, with characteristic piety 1 Kings 22:43 takes advantage of his position as Ahab's friend and ally, to suggest inquiry of the Lord (Yahweh) before the expedition is undertaken. Lest Ahab should consent in word and put off the inquiry in act, he asks to have the prophets called in at once: "today."
6Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
The prophets - i. e., In all probability the prophets attached to the worship of the calves; not real prophets of Yahweh. This seems evident both from Jehoshaphat's dissatisfaction 1 Kings 22:7, and from the strong antagonism apparent between the true Yahweh-prophet Micaiah, and these self-styled "prophets of the Lord" 1 Kings 22:22-25.
The Lord shall deliver it - In the Hebrew the word here used for "Lord" is אדני 'ǎdonāy. Later (i. e., in 1 Kings 22:11-12) Lord or יהוה yehovâh is used. It would seem as if the idolatrous prophets shrank from employing the latter title until they found that Jehoshaphat insisted on learning the will of Yahweh in the matter.
7And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?
Jehoshaphat was dissatisfied. These men - creatures of Ahab, tainted with the worship of calves if not with Baal-worship - had promised victory, but not in the name of Yahweh. Jehoshaphat, therefore, asked, "Is there not here a true prophet of Yahweh besides these 400 professed prophets?"
8And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
There is yet one man, Micaiah - Elijah, it appears, had withdrawn again after the events of the last chapter, and there was no known prophet of Yahweh within reach of Samaria except Micaiah.
He doth not prophesy good concerning me but evil - Whether the tradition in 1 Kings 20:41 note be true or not, it is certain that Ahab had imprisoned him 1 Kings 22:26, and probable that the imprisonment was on account of threatening prophecies. Ahab suggests to Jehoshaphat that Micaiah is one who allows his private feelings to determine the utterances which he delivers as if from Yahweh. Hence, the force of Jehoshaphat's answer, "Let not the king say so;" i. e., "Let not the king suppose that a prophet would be guilty of such impiety," - an impiety from which even Balaam shrank Numbers 22:18.
9Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.
An officer - More properly, as in the margin, "a eunuch." Eunuchs seem to have been first introduced among the Israelites by David (1 Chronicles 28:1 note). They were a natural accompaniment of the seraglio of Solomon. The present passage is the first which shows that, after the separation of the kingdom, the kings of Israel employed them (compare 2 Kings 8:6; 2 Kings 9:32).
10And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.
Sat each on his throne - Or, "were sitting." They had removed from the banquet 2 Chronicles 18:2 to the void place, or empty space at the entrance of the gate Ruth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2, where Ahab daily sat to hear complaints and decide causes. Each was seated upon his throne, the Oriental kings having portable thrones, which they took with them upon their journeys.
11And 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.
Horns of iron - The horn in Scripture is the favorite symbol of power; and pushing with the horn is a common metaphor for attacking and conquering enemies (see Deuteronomy 33:17; Compare Psalm 44:5; Daniel 8:4). Zedekiah, in employing a symbolic action, was following the example of a former Israelite prophet 1 Kings 11:30.
Thus saith the Lord - Or, יהוה yehovâh. Zedekiah lays aside the unmeaningful "Lord" אדני 'ǎdonāy of the general company of Israelite prophets 1 Kings 22:6, and professes to have a direct message from Yahweh to Ahab. He may have believed his own words, for the "lying spirit" 1 Kings 22:22 may have seemed to him a messenger from Yahweh. All the rest followed his example 1 Kings 22:12.
12And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand.
13And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.
And the messenger spake unto him ... - There seems to have been a widespread notion among the irreligious and the half-religious of the ancient world, that their prophets were not the mere mouth-pieces of the god, but that they were persons who had power with the god, and could compel, or at least induce, Him to work their will (compare Numbers 24:10; Isaiah 30:10). They saw that the prophet's word was accomplished; they did not understand that if he falsified his message the accomplishment would no longer follow.
14And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.
Micaiah, as a true prophet of Yahweh, of course rejected the counsel offered him, which he felt to be at once wicked and foolish. Compare also the resolution of Balaam, marginal reference.
15So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
And he answered him ... - Micaiah speaks the exact words of the 400 in so mocking and ironical a tone, that the king cannot mistake his meaning, or regard his answer as serious. The king's rejoinder implies that this mocking manner was familiar to Micaiah, who had used it in some former dealings with the Israelite monarch. Hence, in part, the king's strong feeling of dislike (compare 1 Kings 22:8).
16And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?
17And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace.
Thus adjured, Micaiah wholly changes his tone. Ahab cannot possibly mistake the meaning of his vision, especially as the metaphor of "sheep and shepherd" for king and people was familiar to the Israelites from the prayer of Moses Numbers 27:17.
18And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?
See 1 Kings 22:8. Ahab implies that he believes Micaiah to have spoken out of pure malevolence, without any authority for his prediction from God. By implication he invites Jehoshaphat to disregard this pseudo-prophecy, and to put his trust in the unanimous declaration of the 400. Micaiah, therefore, proceeds to explain the contradiction between himself and the 400, by recounting another vision.
19And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
David's Psalms had familiarised the Israelites with Yahweh sitting upon a throne in the heavens (Psalm 9:7; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 45:6; Psalm 103:19, etc.); but to be allowed to see in vision the ineffable glory of the Almighty thus seated, was a rare favor. It was granted to Isaiah, to Daniel (marginal references), to Ezekiel EZechariah 1:26, and in Christian times to Stephen Acts 7:56, and John Rev 4:2.
20And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
21And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.
A spirit - "The spirit " - which some explain as "the evil spirit" - i. e. Satan; others as simply "the spirit" who should "persuade."
22And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
The difficulties which attach to this passage are considerable. On the one hand, it is hard to suppose one of the holy Angels a "lying spirit;" on the other, hard to find Satan, or an evil spirit, included among "the host of heaven" 1 Kings 22:19 and acting as the minister of God. Still, Job 1:6; Job 2:1, lend countenance to the latter point, and 2 Thessalonians 2:11 to the former. But it may be doubted whether we ought to take literally, and seek to interpret exactly, each statement of the present narrative. Visions of the invisible world can only be a sort of parables; revelations, not of the truth as it actually is, but of so much of the truth as can be shown through such a medium. The details of a vision, therefore, cannot safely be pressed, anymore than the details of a parable. Portions of each must be accommodations to human modes of thought, and may very inadequately express the realities which they are employed to shadow forth to us.
23Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
24But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?
Smote Micaiah on the cheek - As Micaiah had been brought from prison 1 Kings 22:26, it is probable that his hands were bound.
The prophet, thus standing before the great ones of the earth, bound and helpless, bearing testimony to the truth, and for his testimony smitten on the face by an underling, whose blow he receives without either shame or anger, is a notable type of our Lord before Caiaphas suffering the same indignity.
Which way ... - Zedekiah's meaning may perhaps be expounded as follows:
"The Spirit of Yahweh certainly came to me, and inspired me with the answer which I gave. If He afterward went to thee, as thou sayest that He did, perhaps thou canst tell us - as all the secrets of the invisible world are, thou pretendest, open to thee - which way He took."
25And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
Micaiah addresses himself not so much to Zedekiah's question, as to the main point which lies in dispute - which of them, namely, is a true prophet. "When the news, i. e., of Ahab's death, caused by his following thy counsels, reaches Samaria, and thou hast to hide thyself from the vengeance of Ahaziah or Jezebel, then, in that day, thou wilt know whether I or thou be the true prophet."
26And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;
Carry him back - literally, "cause him to return." Micaiah had been in custody before, and was brought by Ahab's messenger from his prison.
The governor of the city - This is one out of several notices respecting what may be called the "constitution" of the Israelite kingdom. The king consulted on important matters a Council of elders 1 Kings 20:7-8. The general administration was carried on by means of the governors of provinces 1 Kings 20:14 and of cities 2 Kings 10:5. The governors of cities, like the monarch, were assisted and checked by councils of elders, the wise men of the several towns 1 Kings 21:8-12; 2 Kings 10:5. Thus Samaria, as we see from the present passage, was under a special governor, who, among his other duties, had the control of the public prison, and directed the treatment of the prisoners.
The king's son - The phrase seems to designate a state office, rather than relationship to the sovereign. Compare 2 Chronicles 28:7.
27And 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 come in peace.
Feed him with bread of affliction ... - Micaiah is to be once more put in prison, but, in order to punish him for his uncomplying spirit, upon a poorer and scantier diet than he had been previously allowed. This is to continue until Ahab returns in peace. Ahab introduces this expression purposely, in order to show his entire disbelief of Micaiah's prophecy.
28And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.
29So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramothgilead.
It might have been expected that Jehoshaphat would have withdrawn from the expedition when he heard Micaiah denounce it. He had, however, rashly committed himself to take part in the war by a solemn promise, before he bethought himself of inquiring what was the will of God in the matter. Now he was ashamed to draw back, especially as Ahab, whom the prophecy chiefly threatened, was resolved to brave it. He may also have had a personal affection for Ahab, and so have been loth to desert him in his need. Compare 2 Chronicles 19:2.
30And 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.
I will disguise myself - Ahab had probably heard of Ben-hadad's order to his captains 1 Kings 22:31.
31But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.
Commanded - "Had commanded." Ben-hadad delivers his order in the hyperbolical style common in the East. His meaning is, "Make it your chief object to kill or take the king of Israel." Apparently, his own defeat and captivity were still rankling in his mind, and he wished to retaliate on Ahab, the humiliation which he considered himself to have suffered. He shows small appreciation of the generosity which had spared his life and restored him to his kingdom.
32And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel. And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out.
Surely it is the king of Israel - This was a natural supposition, as Jehoshaphat alone wore royal robes.
And Jehoshaphat cried out - Jehoshaphat called to his men for help, using perhaps his own special battle-cry, which would be distinct from that of Ahab, and would probably be known to the Syrians.
33And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.
34And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
At a venture - literally, as in the margin, i. e. without intent to kill the king.
Between the joints of the harness - literally, as in the margin. The "joints" were probably pieces of armor which attached the breast-plate to the helmet or to the greaves. The arrow entered between the breastplate and one of these "joints." breastplates made of metal scales were common both in Egypt and Assyria.
Turn thine hand - literally, "turn thy hands." The driver of a chariot, both in Egypt and Assyria, held the reins with his two hands.
35And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot.
The battle increased - See the margin; i. e. the tide of battle rose higher. Compare Isaiah 8:7-8.
The king was stayed up in his chariot - The king's wound made it impossible for him to remain standing without help; he therefore had himself supported in his chariot by attendants, in order that his soldiers might not lose heart, as they would be sure to do, if they knew of his peril. Ahab must not be denied the credit of right princely fortitude on this occasion.
The midst of the chariot - literally, as in the margin. The "bosom" of the chariot is the rounded front, with the portion of the standing board that adjoined it. Here the blood would naturally collect, forming a pool, in which the king and his charioteer must have stood.
36And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country.
About the going down of the sun - i. e. as soon as Ahab was dead. The abandonment of the expedition and dispersion of the army on the death of the king is thoroughly Oriental.
The Septuagint version reads 1 Kings 22:36-37, "Every man to his city, and every man to his own country, for the king is dead: And they came to Samaria," etc.
37So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria.
38And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.
They washed his armour - Rather, "the harlots bathed in it." The "pool of Samaria," which was stained with Ahab's blood by the washing of his chariot in it, was, according to Josephus, the usual bathing-place of the Samaritan harlots. A large tank or reservoir, probably identical with this pool, still remains on the slope of the hill of Samaria, immediately outside the walls.
39Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
The ivory house - So called from the character of its ornamentation. Ivory was largely used in the ancient world as a covering of wood-work, and seems to have been applied, not only to furniture, but to the doors and walls of houses.
Nothing is known of the cities built by Ahab; but the fact is important as indicating the general prosperity of the country in his time, and his own activity as a ruler. Prosperity, it is plain, may for a while co-exist with causes - such as, the decay of religions - which are sapping the vital power of a nation, and leading it surely, if slowly, to destruction.
The book of the chronicles ... - See above, 1 Kings 14:19; 1 Kings 15:31; 1 Kings 16:5, 1 Kings 16:14, 1 Kings 16:20, 1 Kings 16:27.
40So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.
41And Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.
The writer returns to the history of the kingdom of Judah (connect this verse with 1 Kings 15:24), sketching briefly a reign much more fully given by the writer of Chronicles 2 Chronicles 17-20. Compare also the marginal references.
42Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
43And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.
On the general piety of Asa, see above, 1 Kings 15:11-15 and references. Jehoshaphat seems to have been a still better king, for he did not, like Asa, fall away in his old age 2 Chronicles 16:2-12.
The high places were not taken away - This seems to contradict 2 Chronicles 17:6. Probably the writer of Chronicles refers to the desire and intention of the monarch, while the author of Kings records the practical failure of his efforts.
44And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel.
This refers probably to an early period in Jehoshaphat's reign - about his eighth or his ninth year - when he closed the long series of wars between the two kingdoms by a formal peace, perhaps at once cemented by a marriage between Jehoram and Athaliah (1 Kings 22:2 note).
45Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he shewed, and how he warred, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
The book of the chronicles ... - Compare 1 Kings 22:39 note. The biographer of Jehoshaphat appears to have been Jehu, the son of Hanani 2 Chronicles 20:34.
46And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.
See the marginal references notes.
47There was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king.
In the time of Solomon, Hadad 1 Kings 11:14, according to the Septuagint, "reigned over Edom." It appears by the present passage that the country had been again reduced either by Jehoshaphat, or by an earlier king, and was dependent on the kingdom of Judah, being governed by a "deputy" or viceroy, who, however, was allowed the royal title (compare 2 Kings 3:9, 2 Kings 3:12, 2 Kings 3:26). This government of dependencies by means of subject-kings was the all but universal practice in the East down to the time of Cyrus (the 1 Kings 4:21 note).
48Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
The expression, "ships of Tharshish," probably designates ships of a particular class, ships (i. e.) like those with which the Phoenicians used to trade to Tharshish (Tartessus, 1 Kings 10:22 note). Compare the use of "India-man" for a vessel of a certain class. Jehoshaphat's fleet was constructed at Ezion-Gaber, on the Red Sea 2 Chronicles 20:36, where Solomon had previously built a navy 1 Kings 9:26. Being lord-paramount of Edom, Jehoshaphat had the right of using this harbor.
49Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not.
2 Chronicles 20:35-36, explains that the two kings conjointly built the fleet with which the Ophir trade (1 Kings 9:28 note) was to be re-opened. Ahaziah had thus an interest in the ships; and when they were wrecked, attributing, as it would seem, the calamity to the unskillfulness of his ally's mariners, he proposed that the fleet should be manned in part by Israelite sailors - men probably accustomed to the sea, perhaps trained at Tyre. This proposal Jehoshaphat refused, either offended at the reflection on his subjects' skill, or accepting the wreck of the ships, which Eliezer had prophesied, as a proof that God was against the entire undertaking.
50And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.
51Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel.
Two years - According to our reckoning, not much more than a twelve-month year.
52And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin:
In the way of his mother - In this phrase, which does not occur anywhere else, we see the strong feeling of the writer as to the influence of Jezebel (compare 1 Kings 16:31).
Verses 1 Kings 22:51-53. It would be of advantage if these verses were transferred to the Second Book of Kings, which would thus open with the commencement of Ahaziah's reign. The division of the books does not proceed from the author. See the introduction to the Book of Kings
53For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.