By way of background information to aid us in our understanding of the text, consider that three years after making his peace agreement with King Ben-hadad of Syria, Ahab broke it. He saw the chance to retake the border town of Ramoth-gilead, and persuaded Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to help him (1 Kings 22:1-4). (Jehoshaphat had previously made an alliance with Ahab by having his son Jehoram marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah; note 2 Kings 8:16-18; 8:25-26; and 2 Chronicles 18:1.)
The “professional” prophets (never mind that they were dishonest and untruthful) in Ahab’s court were more concerned with pleasing Ahab than with telling him God’s will. Jehoshaphat was not impressed with them and asked Ahab to send for another prophet, Micaiah (5-12). (Flemming) Thank God for the “Jehoshaphat-minded” public officials! Personally, I call them “truth-seekers.” Men and women leadership who seek and strive for honesty and integrity as they serve others.
Adam Clarke, in his commentary, noted that this prophecy of the king’s prophets is couched in the same ambiguous terms by which the false prophets in the heathen world endeavored to maintain their credit, while they deluded their devotees. The reader will observe that the word “it” is not in the original: The Lord will deliver “it” into the hand of the king; and the words are so artfully constructed that they may be interpreted for or against; so that, be that the event, whatever the outcome it might, the juggling prophet could save his credit by saying he meant what had happened.
Thusly, the prophecy might have been understood: “The Lord will deliver (Ramoth-gilead) into the king’s (Ahab’s) hand” or “The Lord will deliver (Israel) into the king’s hand” specifically “into the hand of the king of Syria.”
And Micaiah repeats these words of uncertainty in order to ridicule the opposing prophets and expose their fallacy.
Bible scholar Thomas Coke noted that the prophets who came to Ahab were not the Lord’s prophets, but Ahab’s. They spoke only those things that they presumed would please him. Thus, a spirit of lying was upon them all, because they purposefully chose to flatter the king’s humor, to either funnel to their personal gain or were simply afraid to do otherwise. This is the short and true account of the whole matter, and is what Micaiah sets forth in his parable. Instead of bluntly telling the king that these prophets were all deceivers, he takes up his parable, as prophets were used to do (specifically note the prophet Nathan’s rebuke of King David, 2 Samuel, chapter 12). Choosing this method as a means of declaring what he had seen in a prophetic vision. (Note the 17th verse, Micaiah says, “I saw all Israel scattered,” which would seem to indicate what he saw in a prophetic vision; pre-signifying the real fact which should follow. The moral or meaning of the whole was that, as Ahab loved to be cajoled and flattered. (Sound like anything similarly in today’s political climate?). And so it was that God permitted those 400 men pretending to be prophets to abuse and impose upon him, which in conclusion would prove fatal to the king.
And so it was that after Micaiah had reported his vision at full length, he briefly explained and applied it to Ahab, (verse 23).
“Now, therefore, the Lord,” is frequent in holy Scripture to call that the Lord’s doing, which he only permits to be done because he has the supreme direction of all things and governs the event. Wicked devices proceed from wicked men, but that they prevail and take effect is owing to the hand of God directing and ordering where they shall light, and what shall be the issue of them. As to the text that we are now upon, the words of the original will bear to be translated, the Lord hath permitted or suffered a lying spirit in the mouth.
To conclude this historical account in the Bible, Alexander Maclaren commented, “Ahab was told in plain words by Micaiah, before the interview closed, that he would never come back again in peace. Just the same, he ordered the bold prophet into prison, and rode away gaily, no doubt, to his campaign. Weak men are very often obstinate because they are not strong enough to rise to the height of changing a purpose when reason condemns it. This weak man was always obstinate in the wrong place, as so many of us are. So away he went, down from Samaria, across the plain, down to the fords of the Jordan. But when he had crossed to the other side and was coming near his objective point, the memories of Micaiah in prison at Samaria began to sit heavy on his soul.”
Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.