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The Death of Ahab

Date: Mar. 22, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

1 Kings 22:1-53

Key Verse: 1 Kings 22:34

“But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.”

Judgment day has come for Ahab. In the past couple of weeks we have seen God’s great mercy towards Ahab which has even brought him to repentance. God had shown Ahab great victories. Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, had threatened to plunder and destroy Israel. He came to Samaria with an army of 127,000, while Israel only had 7,000 to defend themselves. God routed the Arameans and gave Israel an overwhelming victory so that they would know that he is the Lord. The next year Aram came again with and the armies were both the same size. The Lord again gave Aram into the hands of the king of Israel, and delivered them up on a silver platter. It was Israel’s best chance to put an end to the king of Aram, but Ahab let him go in a selfish act to increase his power and economic prosperity. God pronounced judgment on Ahab, now demanding his life for the life of Ben-Hadad. Some time later, Ahab had an innocent man killed in order to take his land from him, and God promised he would judge Ahab also judge Ahab to avenge Naboth. Ahab repented, so God extended his mercy, and for about three years time there was peace. However, God would still carry out his judgment, and in this passage we see that his time had come.

Look at v.1, “For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel.” God had delayed his judgment on Ahab, and there was peace between Aram and Israel after he had set Ben-Hadad free. There was even peace between Israel and Judah. Since the beginning of the split of Israel into two kingdoms, they had been fighting against one another. Rehoboam king of Judah fought against Jeroboam king of Israel. Judah’s King Asa and Israel’s king Baasha were at war throughout their reigns. There was at least 40 years of fighting between the two kingdoms, but here you see something interesting. In verse 2, Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was the son of Asa, and it was during his reign that he made peace with Israel. A symbol of this peace was the marriage of his son Jehoram to Ahab’s daughter Athaliah – so at this time, the king of Judah and the king of Israel were related by marriage. They were co-father in laws to one another. According to 2 Chron 18:2, when Jehoshaphat went down to see Ahab in Samaria, Ahab held a great banquet in his honor. Many sheep and cattle slaughtered and there was a great feast.

It was at this feast, or shortly after, that Ahab said to his officials, “Don’t you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?” So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?” Ramoth Gilead was a city to the west and slightly to the south of the Sea of Galilee. The king of Aram was supposed to give the city back as part of a treaty when Ahab spared his life, but after 3 years he did not give this city back, and Ahab wanted it.

Jehoshaphat replies in v.4, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” Jehoshaphat was all in, “Mi casa, su casa, my house, your house, my fridge, your fridge.” Before rushing into battle though, Jehoshaphat advised first to seek the counsel of the Lord. Jehoshaphat was commended for being a good king, doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord.   You can see the secret behind this, and quite often he sought the counsel of the Lord. It is a privilege to be able to come to God, the Creator and Provider for all life, and ask his wisdom in all matters in life.

Ahab brought together around 400 prophets, and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” The prophets answered, “Go, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand,” but Jehoshaphat smelled something fishy. Something was not right, a little off. They did not prophesy in the usual way that true prophets of the Lord speak. Usually a prophet begins with, “This is what the Lord says.” For example, in 1 Kings 20:13, an unnamed prophet tells Ahab: ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Now, I want you to notice something else. Look again at v.6 at how “the Lord” is spelled. It is with one capital letter. Now look at v.7, how is the Lord spelled? It is with 4 capital letters. This is significant, because when a prophet speaks, he will use the Lord’s proper name, Jehovah. When you see the 4 capital letters, it is referring to the Lord’s proper name. But in v.6, you only see 1 capital letter. This shows that the prophets were hesitant to use the Lord’s proper name.

Here’s the difference it makes. Suppose I say, “The pastor wants you to get coffee.” Ok, sure, that makes sense, I kind of know who that is. Now if I say, “Sh. Bob wants you to get coffee,” there’s a difference. There’s a little more weight to the statement, a little more authority. These prophets were trying to get away with “the Lord will give it into the king’s hand,” instead of “Jehovah will give it into the king’s hand.” Not a big difference for us regular folks who say, “the Lord” all the time, but this was huge – a prophet of God should be confident, if they were truly sent by God, to use the Lord’s proper name, but these prophets showed some hesitation, and that set off a red flag in Jehoshaphat’s mind. He asked, is there anyone else we can inquire of?

There was one other prophet that Ahab seemed to intentionally forget to call – “Oh yeah, that guy.” Ahab told Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” Ahab hates him because he never says anything good about him. Ahab instead has surrounded himself with “Yes” men, people who only tell him what his itching ears want to hear. Imagine the danger of that – you are a CEO of a company, and you just make terrible decisions. The company is bleeding money left and right. But everyone around you only says good things about you. They tell you, “You’re doing a great job boss,” even though your running the company into the ground. Eventually, you’ll be closed for business. We need people who can help guide us, correct us and warn us of danger, and we should value those who can be honest with our shortcomings and even our sin.

Ahab then requested his officials to bring Micaiah son of Imlah immediately. While they were waiting for Micaiah to arrive, the prophets seemed to double down their efforts. Perhaps they saw Jehoshaphat’s doubts in their prophesying, so they tried even harder to convince him. Zedekiah son of Kenaanah made iron horns and declared, “This is what the Lord says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.” Prophets used objects sometimes to illustrate what they are prophesying. In the book of Acts, Agabus bound himself with a belt and said that Paul would be bound in the same way (Acts 21:10). The false prophets were trying to imitate the true. Look closely again at v.11 and 12, and notice what you see for “Lord.” You see 4 capital letters, LORD! This time, they made sure they used the Lord’s proper name. It doesn’t really matter though, because their prophecies were false, so it is even worse now, because they are using the Lord’s name in vain.

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.” This is strange – the messenger is telling Micaiah what to prophesy. It makes you wonder, were all of the other prophets instructed to do likewise? This also shows you what the general attitude towards prophets and their prophecies was like in Israel. The officials seemed to be able to dictate what message a prophet should give. But Micaiah was not like the rest of them. He said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can only tell him what the Lord tells me.” Finally he arrives at the gathering by the entrance of the gate of Samaria. It was a threshing floor, a flat, wide open space – the kings of Israel and Judah were sitting there in their royal robes, surrounded by around 400 prophets. Ahab, the king of Israel, asks the exact same question, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?” His question was insincere, as if he was expecting Micaiah to prophesy just like the others. Perhaps the guard was instructed to tell Micaiah what to say, and Ahab was not looking for a “No.” Ahab wanted to hear a “Yes,” no matter what the Lord thinks.

So Micaiah responds in v.15, and I’ll try to interpret how he might have said it, “Attack and be victorious, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” He said exactly what the other prophets said, but Ahab was unimpressed. In fact, he was infuriated. The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” Ahab must have sensed that Micaiah was not telling the truth, perhaps by a sarcastic or mocking tone – mocking the other prophets, similar to how Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Either that, or Ahab has dealt with Micaiah many times before, and perhaps he does this all the time. It would seem that Ahab was interested in hearing the truth, but later we see he rejects Micaiah’s message. This whole time he may be putting on a show for Jehoshaphat, and now trying to discredit Micaiah. He says, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth…” as if saying, “Micaiah, you lie to me all the time.”

Ahab has now asked for the truth, and whether he was sincere or not, Micaiah will proceed to tell the truth. Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’” Notice in your Bibles Micaiah used the proper name of God, and he said, “the Lord said.” Without hesitation, he declared the clear message from God with authority. Israel would be scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd. It was clear to Ahab and to everyone else there this was a reference to him. Moses himself used those words to describe Israel, when he asked God to appoint a leader over his people (Num 27:17). Micaiah prophesied that Ahab would not win victory at Ramoth Gilead. After hearing these words, Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” Again Ahab tries to discredit Micaiah, suggesting that it’s personal, and maybe he simply just doesn’t like Ahab. His prophecies can’t be trusted, because they’re tainted by prejudice. The sad fact is, Micaiah is the only one telling Ahab the truth.

Micaiah goes on to reveal the whole revelation given to him by God. He describes a vision of the Lord, sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?” One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, “I will entice him.” “By what means?” the Lord asked. “I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,” he said. “You will succeed in enticing him,” said the Lord. “Go and do it.” What is going on here? Does the Lord need advice from spirits? Does the Lord approve of evil? The key to understanding this is to know that God is sovereign, he is Lord and ruler over all. God does not need advice from spirits, he has determined in advance what he wants to do. Ahab will die by Ben Hadad, and he will avenge what happened to Naboth. God also does not approve of evil, but he has complete control over those who do evil, whether they are spirits or human. Even Satan needs to receive permission from God to do what he wants.

Micaiah concludes his prophecy with a very clear and direct revelation to Ahab, “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. He asked, “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” Zedekiah mocked Micaiah. He may have been deeply offended when Micaiah said it was a deceiving spirit. Perhaps Zedekiah did feel something, perhaps he was moved, and inspired, and received words. Maybe that’s why he felt so convicted and so moved – but he had no discernment. He could not tell, and did not want to believe that the spirit he had was a lying spirit. We cannot trust our impressions, and not all inspiration is from God. How can we discern truth? We discern truth by measuring it against the word of God. That’s why it’s important to understand our Bibles properly, so that we can know what is truth. The standard was the same in Micaiah’s day – prophets are true when the word they speak come true. There are approximately 2,500 prophecies in the Bible, and 2,000 of them have been fulfilled 100%, to the letter. The remaining 500 reach into the future, and have yet to be fulfilled; they have not been proven false. All of Scripture and the prophets testify about Jesus, and Jesus fulfilled most of the prophecies. In Genesis, he is the one who would have his heel struck, but would crush the serpent’s head. In Psalms he is riding on a colt. In Isaiah he was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem, and the suffering servant who would be pierced for our iniquities, and wounded for our healing. There are types and shadows of Christ all over the Bible: Abraham, Melchizedek, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, King David; the Temple, the Feasts, the Passover, the Tabernacles: all of these point to Christ. Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is the message of the Bible. True prophets don’t make mistakes, unlike these 400 prophets of Ahab. They must have a 100% success rate.

This was the standard Micaiah applied to himself. When Zedekiah slapped him, he challenged Micaiah, “Which way did the spirit of the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.” Micaiah was saying, “I’m right, it’ll happen, you’ll see, and then you’ll know.” Why might Zedekiah hide? He may be hiding because he would have heard of Israel’s defeat. He might also hide because when Ahab dies, Jezebel may want to find out who was responsible for sending her husband into battle to his death. Now the king of Israel steps in and orders that Micaiah be put in prison. He tells the officials, “Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.” Clearly Ahab had rejected Micaiah’s prophecy and vision and says, “until I return safely.” He was successfully deceived by the prophets. So Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Micaiah set the standard, that if it comes true, and Ahab is killed, then the Lord has indeed spoken through him. He added, “Mark my words, all you people!” Telling them to remember, because these things will happen, and they will then know the Lord spoke, and they did not listen.

Look at v.29, “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.” It looks as though Jehoshaphat did not listen to Micaiah either, and joined Ahab to fight against Aram.   What had happened? Wasn’t Jehoshaphat the one to ask for a true prophet of the Lord? There could be many reasons why he went. He committed to Ahab earlier, when he said, “I am as you are, my people as your people.” There was also the great feast held for him in Samaria, how could he not return such gracious hospitality? He might also be considered a coward if he did back out, especially after an alliance with Ahab. Ahab may have successfully discredited Micaiah as well. Jehoshaphat may have also had an interest in removing Aram from Ramoth Gilead, because they may have posed a threat to Jerusalem, being less than 80 miles away. All of these things considered, it may have been hard for Jehoshaphat to refuse, even if he did believe Micaiah.

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. What a friend Ahab was. He basically said to Jehoshaphat, “you be the target.” Micaiah’s prophecy had an effect on Ahab. Though he rejected it, he considered the possibility that it could happen. He tried to take precautions to ensure that it would not happen, so he disguised himself to look like an ordinary soldier, instead of a king. It was because of the prophecy, Jehoshaphat might agree that Ahab should go to the battle in disguise, to be safe. Ahab himself could not back out of the battle at this point – he was the one who committed Israel and Judah to it. If he wanted his men to fight, he would have to go in the fight too.

The king of Aram ordered his 32 chariot commanders, “Do not fight with anyone small or great, except the king of Israel.” This is the gratitude that Ahab gets for letting Ben-Hadad go. Now Ben-Hadad wants to kill him. The chariot commanders spotted Jehoshaphat, who was wearing the king’s robe, and turned to attack him. Jehoshaphat cried out, and the chariot commanders saw that he was not Ahab, and stopped pursuing him. In 2 Chron 19:30-31 we see that Jehoshaphat cried out to God, “When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, ‘This is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to attack him, but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him.” Behind the scenes in 1 Kings is the hand of God that delivered Jehoshaphat, and saved him. He cried out to God, and God heard. Though the alliance with Ahab truly displeased God, and going into this battle displeased God, God never abandoned Jehoshaphat. This gives great comfort to us, to know, that there will be things we do that displease the Lord, but the Lord will never abandon his people.

Can we all please read v.34, “But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, ‘Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.’” Despite trying to outsmart God or the prophet, the arrow found its way to Ahab. Someone drew the bow at random – he was not aiming for Ahab, the person had no idea what was going on. He was not Legolas from Lord of the Rings, a master bowman. He was not Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games. He was not Hawkeye, from the Avengers movie, who can shoot at several targets while falling down in midair, from any angle and any direction. He was just a random guy, drawing a random bow, that somehow found its way to the king of Israel, and found an opening between the armor, probably not wider than a few inches, and inflicted a mortal wound. It was no accident, however. The arrow was directed by God, and God had declared that Ahab would go to his death at the battle at Ramoth Gilead.

Ahab shouted, “I’ve been wounded!” He was wounded by the arrow, but really he was wounded because of God’s judgment. Next week, in the upcoming Easter Retreat, our theme is “Wounded.” There, we’ll explore more about how our sins wound us. Here today, we’re looking at a different perspective of wounded, where we see how God wounded Ahab. It was judgment for allowing Ben-Hadad to escape, and judgment to avenge the death of Naboth. Just as the arrow found Ahab, God’s arrow of judgment will find us; there is no place for us to hide. But just as God did not abandon Jehoshaphat, God did not abandon us. God knows that our hearts are evil, and that they are desperately wicked beyond cure. God knows the arrows of his righteousness would be like heat seeking missiles directed at our sinful hearts, so God sent his Son to take the arrows for us. The arrows were coming right at us, but Jesus stepped in the way, and took the hits in our place. The Son of God came down from heaven and bore the wrath of God for our sins. He died, in order that we may live. The arrows of God are headed your way. The charioteers are coming to get you: but like Jehoshaphat, cry out to God. Turn to God, and believe in what Jesus Christ has done for you, and you will be saved.

This is the message the prophets are trying to tell. This is the good news that we must believe: that Jesus Christ came to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. If we believe in him, we will be clothed with a robe of righteousness, otherwise, we will be pierced with the arrow of judgment. If you don’t believe now, you will be a believer at the judgment of God. By then, it will be too late. Ahab did not believe the word of the Lord, and he was pierced, though he disguised himself. The battle raged on, and he could not be wheeled out. He was propped up in his chariot, made to witness the truth with his own eyes. He died in the evening. As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army, “Every man to his town, Every man to his land!” The battle ended, the shepherd was slain, and the sheep scattered, every man to his own home, as Micaiah said. They buried Ahab in Samaria with his ancestors, and washed his chariot in a pool, where the dogs licked up his blood, just as Elijah prophesied after the death of Naboth.   Both men are confirmed, bonafide, prophets of the Lord.

Jehoshaphat returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, but was rebuked sharply by Jehu the seer (2 Chron 19). He repented, and continued reforms of Judah, and later had military victories against Moab and Ammon. God had prospered Jehoshaphat and Judah, and gave his kingdom peace after that. Toward the end of his reign, he formed an alliance with Ahaziah, who was Ahab’s son. Ahaziah was as wicked as his father, and only reigned over Israel 2 years. He carried on the worship of Baal and the golden calves set up by Jeroboam. Jehoshaphat wanted to construct a fleet of trading ships with Ahaziah to go to Ophir for gold, but God through the prophet Eliezer rebuked him (2 Chron 20:37) and destroyed the ships. Ahaziah wanted to continue the venture, and try to rebuild, but Jehoshaphat refused. He seemed to have learned a valuable lesson about forming alliances with wicked kings.

The death of Ahab teaches us to trust God and his word – not to reject, ignore or hear what we want to hear. Some people don’t want to believe they are sinners. A friend of mine told me about a time someone he knew was witnessing a visiting a salesperson. After business was done, he asked the young man, “Do you think you’re a good person?” The young man said yes. Then he said, ok, I wanted to give you a test, it’s not hard, actually everyone in my family has failed it too, so I’m not trying to get you. So he went backwards through the 10 commandments – and the salesman learned he had broken them all. The man asked him, “What would your verdict be before a judge?” He said, “Not guilty.” Eventually the man had repented, but initially, you see the rejection of the truth. Some reject that Jesus is the only way to be saved – but if there was any other way, why did Jesus have to come down to suffer and to die, according to the Scriptures? To drink for us the cup of God’s wrath and to experience utter rejection by God. Only Jesus did this for us, because it was necessary. To say there’s another way to God, is an insult to what Jesus had done. All the prophecies and types and shadows pointed to Jesus – again, there are the sacrifices, the Passover feast, Abraham, Joshua, Joseph, David. All the best of the Bible is but a shadow of the best: the reality: Jesus Christ. Is there any other way to salvation? No, only through Jesus can we be saved.  The death of Ahab teaches us to worship God and him only. All of the troubles Ahab went through, and all the troubles that came upon Israel were due to idolatry. In Jehoshaphat we see a contrasting picture – of peace, security, rest, even prosperity because he set his heart on seeking the Lord. Finally, the death of Ahab teaches us to believe before it’s too late. Ahab was deceived, and did not correct his mistakes, even though he was given so many opportunities, but, just as Matthew Henry says, he was undeceived by the judgments of God. Christ will come again, and all unbelievers will see the truth, if only then they be “undeceived,” then it will be too late. The message of the word of God is clear: repent and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will be saved. God’s judgment is coming, but there is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

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