THE BOOK OF 1 KINGS
Lesson 9: Chapters 21-22
Part II: The Divided Kingdom
The Reign of Ahab and Jezebel in Israel
Injustice in the world has been part of the human condition ever since the Fall of our original parents. From that time, humans began to decide for themselves what was good and what was evil based on their own understanding, needs and desires. We shudder at what we see reported of injustice and violence by individuals and by nations, yet we know that while such actions may escape human justice those actions cannot escape Your divine justice. We pray for Your wisdom in combating such evils and, like the prophet Elijah, for the courage to call leaders and nations to account for their sins against humanity. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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In chapter 21 we will read that Elijah is not only the courageous and obedient prophet of Yahweh, opposing kings and false prophets, but he is also the champion of the rights of the poor and powerless. He called the Israelites to repentance in rejecting Baal worship and acknowledging Yahweh as the One True God, and he will seek justice for the death of an innocent and righteous man named Naboth. In this sense, he is a model prophet for all the prophets that will come after him, including the prophets who will become the inspired writers of the Books of the Prophets. "Elijah is the father of the prophets,' the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob' (Ps 24:6)" CCC 2582. It is for this reason that St. John the Baptist was chosen, from his mother's womb, to receive the power and spirit of the prophet Elijah (Lk 1:15-17) and like Elijah to preach a mission of repentance (Mal 3:23-24; Mt 3:1-2; Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3) in preparation for the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. It is also the prophet Elijah who will have the honor, along with Moses, of appearing with the glorified Christ on the Mt. of Transfiguration to discuss Jesus' "departure" [literally "exodus"] from Jerusalem (Lk 9:28-31; also see Mt 17:3 and Mk 9:4).
Chapter 21: Naboth's Vineyard
25:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and
said: 2 "Speak to the Israelites
and say to them: ... 18 The land will
not be sold absolutely, for the land belongs to me, and you are only strangers
and guests of mine."
Leviticus 25:1, 23
46:1 The Lord Yahweh says this: 46:18 "The prince may not take any part of the
people's hereditary portion, thus robbing them of what is theirs; he must
provide the patrimony of his sons out of his own property, so that no member of
my people is robbed of what is his!"
Ezekiel 46:1, 18
1 Kings 21:1-7 ~ Ahab covets Naboth's vineyard
1 This is what happened next: Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard close by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria, 2 and Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it adjoins my palace; I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money." 3 Naboth, however, said to Ahab, "Yahweh forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage!" 4 Ahab went home gloomy and out of temper at the words of Naboth of Jezreel, "I will not give you my heritage from my ancestors." He lay down on his bed and turned his face away and refused to eat. 5 His wife Jezebel came to him. "Why are you so dispirited," she said, "that you refuse to eat?" 6 He said, "I have been talking to Naboth of Jezreel; I said, Give me your vineyard either for money or, if you prefer, for another vineyard in exchange.' But he said, I will not give you my vineyard.'" 7 Then his wife Jezebel said, "Some king of Israel you make [rise and rule over Israel]! Get up, eat and take heart; I myself shall get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. I, page 961.
The story of the unjust death of Naboth is Part II of the Elijah cycle. Naboth is from the town of Jezreel, located in the Jezreel Valley. There is some confusion over which of the king's palaces was adjacent to the land owned by Naboth. The king's palace in Jezreel is another palace (18:45) and not the same as the palace in the capital city of Samaria (2 Kng 9:25-26). Naboth owns a vineyard near the king's palace that is part of his original ancestral lands allotted to his family in the conquest of Canaan.
Question: Which of the Ten Commandments has Ahab
violated in desiring Naboth's vineyard? Ex 20:17 and Dt 5:21.
Answer: He has violated the last of the Ten Commandments that forbids coveting any possession that belongs to someone else.
Question: Why did Naboth refuse to sell his land?
What was the Law concerning the land of Israel? See Lev 25:23 and Num 36:7.
Answer: The land belonged to Yahweh and the Israelites were only tenants on the land allotted to their tribes after the conquest.
Question: Why didn't Ahab simply confiscate Naboth's
vineyard? See Dt 17:14-20; Ez 46:18.
Answer: Pagan kings ruled with absolute power and authority, but Israel's kings were limited in their power. They were to serve as Yahweh's agent and the people's servant. The king was not above his "brothers", meaning his countrymen (Dt 17:20). Centuries later, the prophet Ezekiel commented that the ruler did not have the right to confiscate the people's lands. Despite the fact that the tribes of the Northern Kingdom had apostatized from Yahweh's covenant, the tribal elders still considered the power of their king to be limited.
4 Ahab went home
gloomy and out of temper at the words of Naboth of Jezreel, "I will not give
you my heritage from my ancestors."
The description of Ahab's demeanor is the same as in 20:43 after a prophet from the brotherhood of prophets pronounced God's judgment on Ahab for allowing Ben-Hadad to escape God's judgment. Ahab was to be God's instrument of judgment and instead he decided to treat the Aramaean king as an equal (20:33-34).
When Ahab told his wife, Queen Jezebel, why he was so out-of-sorts, her response was to tell him to get up and act like a king! She came from a royal family where the rule of the king was absolute, and she offered to take matters into her own hands to secure the vineyard for her husband.
1 Kings 21:8-10 ~ Jezebel's plan to take Naboth's vineyard
8 So she wrote a letter in Ahab's name and sealed it with his seal, sending the letter to the elders and notables of the city where Naboth lived. 9 In the letter, she wrote, "Proclaim a fast, and put Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 There confront him with a couple of scoundrels who will accuse him as follows, You have cursed God and the king.' Then take him outside and stone him to death."
Jezebel understands that according to the Law her husband does not have the power to confiscate Naboth's land without threatening his throne, and so she devises a plan to manipulate the Law to bring about the death of an innocent man and secure his property for her husband. She uses her husband's official royal seal in the letter she sent to the elders of Naboth's city. The seal makes the command official and has the force of the king behind it.(1)
In ancient times seals were not only used on documents but also to place a mark on slaves who were branded with their owner's names or on soldiers who were marked with their unit's seal. A seal also authenticated a juridical act or document. Jesus declared that He was marked with His Father's seal (Jn 6:27), and all those who have come to Christ in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation carry the "seal" of Jesus Christ on their souls. Baptized and Confirmed Christians are indelibly marked by the Holy Spirit as totally belonging to Christ, are commissioned by Him for service, and have the promise of divine protection in the Final Judgment (see 1 Cor 9:2; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Tim 2:19, Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ez 9:4-6; and CCC 1295-1296).
Question: What law will she use to have Naboth
killed? See Ex 22:27 and Lev 24:16.
Answer: Under the law it was forbidden to curse/blaspheme the name of God or His appointed ruler. The penalty for blaspheming God was death by stoning.
Question: Who does Jezebel seek to make
accomplices in her evil plan?
Answer: She makes the elders and important men in Naboth's city her accomplices.
Question: Why does she tell the elders to place
Naboth between two men who will falsely denounce him? What does this suggest
about Jezebel? See Num 35:30 and Dt 17:6.
Answer: She has obviously carefully researched the Law of Moses to achieve her objective. According to the Law a person cannot be executed for a capital crime unless there are at least two witnesses.
Her actions show her contempt for Yahweh's Law. If the Law will not allow her husband to behave with the rightful powers of a king, then she will abuse the Law and manipulate it to her advantage. Her statement by her actions is that she is a "law unto herself". It is the same sin committed by all men and women who believe that are above the laws of God and men.
1 Kings 21:11-16 ~ The murder of Naboth
11 The men of Naboth's city, the elders and notables living in his city, did what Jezebel ordered, as was written in the letter which she had sent him. 12 They proclaimed a fast and put Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 The two scoundrels then came and confronted him, and the scoundrels then publicly accused Naboth as follows, "Naboth has cursed God and the king." He was then taken outside the city and s toned to death. 14 They then sent word to Jezebel, "Naboth has been stoned to death." 15 When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, "Get up! Take possession of the vineyard which Naboth of Jezreel refused to sell you, for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead." 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel and take possession of it.
Question: Why did the village elders and prominent
men obey Jezebel's letter and cooperate in Naboth's unjust death?
Answer: Either they feared Jezebel's retribution if the failed to cooperate or they hoped to receive some royal compensation or both factors motivated them to commit this grave sin.
Question: In carrying out Naboth's death sentence
what other of the Ten Commandments have Jezebel and the village elders broken?
See Ex 20:13, 16 and
Dt 5:17, 20.
Answer: The sin of coveting another's property has escalated into sins in violation of the commandments against taking innocent life and giving false testimony.
Naboth is unjustly accused of blasphemy and unjustly executed. It is a travesty of justice carried out by Queen Jezebel and the rulers of his city. Naboth of Jezreel can be seen as a "Biblical type" of Jesus of Nazareth. A "Biblical type" is: "a person, thing, action, or event that foreshadows new truths, new actions, or new events. In the In the Old Testament, Melchizedech and Jonah are types of Jesus Christ. A likeness must exist between the type and the archetype, but the latter is always greater. Both are independent of each other. God's call for the return of the Israelites from Pharaoh's bondage typifies the return of Jesus Christ from his flight into Egypt. In the New Testament, the destruction of Jerusalem, foretold by Christ, was the antitype of the end of the world" (Catholic Dictionary, John H. Hardon, S.J., page 441-42). Studying Biblical typology reveals to the student of Sacred Scripture the newness of God's message in Christ on the basis of the figures/types which announce Him in the deeds, words, and symbols found in the Old Testament and revealing that "The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New", as St. Augustine taught. For example, Noah's flood and the ark in which eight people were saved prefigured salvation by Baptism, just as the manna in children of Israel ate in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, "the true bread come down from heaven" (Jn 6:32; 1 Cor 10:1-6); also see CCC 128, 130, 1094.
Question: How is Naboth a "Biblical type" of Jesus and how many comparisons do you see between Naboth's unjust death and Jesus Christ?
|Naboth of Jezreel||Jesus of Nazareth|
|A conspiracy was formed against Naboth because the king envied Naboth's possession of a vineyard (1 Kng 21:1-7).||The religious leaders wanted to put Jesus to death because of their envy of Jesus' influence over the "vineyard" that was Israel (Is 5:7; Mt 27:18).|
|Witnesses were called to give false testimony against Naboth (1 Kng 21:10, 13a).||Witnesses were called to give false testimony against Jesus (Mt 26:59-61).|
|Naboth was charged with the sin of blasphemy by the village elders and was condemned to death (1 Kng 21:10, 13).||Jesus was charged with the sin of blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and was condemned to death (Mt 26:65-66).|
|Naboth was innocent (2 Kng 21:8-14).||Jesus was innocent (Jn 18:38, 19:4, 6).|
|Naboth was executed outside the city (2 Kng 21:8-13).||Jesus was executed outside the city (Jn 19:20).|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Question: The killing of Ahab's "brother"/kinsman
Naboth because of his jealousy recalls the story of what other murder in the
very beginning of salvation history? How is that murder related to every other
murder? See Gen 4:1-8.
Answer: It recalls Cain's conspiracy in murdering his brother Abel. Every murder in salvation history since the first murder is brother against brother in the human family.
15 When Jezebel
heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, "Get up! Take
possession of the vineyard which Naboth of Jezreel refused to sell you, for
Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead." 16
When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the
vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel and take possession of it.
Jezebel's plan was successful and her husband gives his approval by taking possession of Naboth's vineyard, thereby becoming a co-conspirator and accomplice in Naboth's murder.(2)
1 Kings 21:17-26 ~ Elijah pronounces God's judgment
against Ahab and Jezebel
17 Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite, 18 "Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth's vineyard; he has gone down to take possession of it. 19 You are to say this to him, Yahweh says this: You have committed murder and now you usurp as well. For this "and Yahweh says this "in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too.'" 20 Ahab said to Elijah, "So you have caught me, O my enemy!" Elijah answered, "I have caught you! For your double dealing, and since you have done what is displeasing to Yahweh, 21 I shall now bring disaster down on you; I shall sweep away your descendants and wipe out every manjack of the House of Ahab, fettered or free in Israel. 22 I shall treat your House as I treated the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah, for provoking my anger and leading Israel into sin. 23 Against Jezebel too Yahweh spoke these words, The dogs will eat Jezebel in the Field of Jezreel." 24 Those of Ahab's family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat." 25 And indeed there never was anyone like Ahab for double dealing and for doing what is displeasing to Yahweh, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the most abominable way, adhering to idols, just as the Amorites had, whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites.
It is interesting that Ahab didn't even try to deny his
part in Naboth death when confronted by Elijah.
Question: What did we learn in verse 19 that was not revealed previously about Naboth's death?
Answer: He was even denied a proper burial.
Elijah's prophecy of Ahab's death in verses 19-20 and the prophecy of the dogs licking of his blood is fulfilled in 1 Kings 22:37-38 and takes place in Samaria. Jezebel will die in Jezreel in 2 Kings 11:30-37.
1 Kings 21:27-29 ~ Ahab repents
27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put sackcloth next to his skin and fasted; he slept in the sackcloth; he walked with slow steps. 28 Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite, 29 "Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I shall not bring the disaster in his days; I shall bring the disaster down on his House in his son's days."
By this time Ahab has had enough evidence of Elijah's prophecies to
believe that the judgment he has pronounced will come to pass and so he
demonstrated the repentance of his sins by his actions. Yahweh brings Ahab's
acts of repentance to the attention of His prophet and pronounces a reprieve in
His judgment against the House of Omri.
Question: How could Yahweh so easily extend His mercy to King Ahab?
Answer: It was because God judged his repentance to be sincere; however, God has not withdrawn His judgment on the penalty Ahab must pay for the murder of Naboth.
No sin is too great that it cannot be forgiven. Yahweh's acknowledge of Ahab's repentance is another sign of God's mercy to a repentant sinner. However, God is both merciful and just. Ahab must still atone for the murder of Naboth "this is justice for Naboth. Ahab's dynasty has been spared because of his repentance, but not his life. Because of Ahab's repentance, God will grant his son the opportunity not to follow in his father's footsteps. However, if his son fails to make use of God's mercy, he will pay the full price of the judgment in the loss of the Omride dynasty.
Chapter 22: Another War with Aram
Although Jehoshaphat enjoyed great
wealth and honor, he allied himself by marriage to Ahab. After some years he
paid a visit to Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered an immense number of sheep
and oxen for him and his retinue, to induce him to attack Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab
king of Israel then said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, "Will you come with me
to Ramoth-Gilead? He replied, "I will share in battle with you, my men with
2 Chronicles 18:1-3
1 Kings 22:1-4 ~ The King of Judah visits King Ahab in Samaria
1 There was a lull of three years, with no fighting between Aram and Israel. 2 Then, in the third year, Jehoshaphat king of Judah paid a visit [came down] to the king of Israel. 3 The king of Israel said to his officers, "You are aware that Ramoth in Gilead belongs to us? And yet we do nothing to wrest it away from the king of Aram." 4 He said to Jehoshaphat, "Will you come with me to attack Ramoth in Gilead?" Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, "I will be as you, my men with yours, my horses with yours." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 964.
See 2 Chronicles 18:2-34 for the parallel passages to this chapter. Jehoshaphat of Judah was the son of King Asa and the great-great-great grandson of the David, king of the United Kingdom of Israel. He succeeded his father (good king Asa) as king of Judah in 870 BC; it was four years after Ahab became king of Israel. Ever since the division of the Kingdom of Israel in 930 BC, there had been intermittent fighting between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. For the first time since the division of the kingdoms, there was peace between the two kingdoms and an alliance was made that was sealed by a royal marriage: Ahab and Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah, married Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram. It was a marriage that was to have dire consequences for the Kingdom of Judah.
The peace that was established with the Aramaeans of Damascus, after the army of the Northern Kingdom beat the Aramaeans at Aphek (1 Kng 20:26-34) and after Ahab released Ben-Hadad II, lasted three years. In the third year, in c. 853 BC, Jehoshaphat of Judah paid a visit to King Ahab in Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom. Jehoshaphat "came down" to Ahab in verse 2 because he came from the elevation of Jerusalem (c. 2400 feet above sea level) and then traveled north to Samaria. During that visit, King Ahab suggested a military alliance to take back the lands confiscated by the Aramaeans on the east side of the Jordan River, principally Ramoth-Gilead in the Transjordan, and the king of Judah agreed. It is evidently an alliance that will serve both kingdoms by retrieving lost territory and in weakening a common enemy.
King David had defeated several Aramaeans kingdoms and made them his vassals (2 Sam 8:3-12; 10:6-19), but after the weakened state of the divided kingdom, the Aramaean kingdoms broke free of their treaties with Israel, and the Northern Kingdom had already fought off the Aramaeans in at least three wars. However, after Ahab's victory in the last war, Ben-Hadad II had promised to return all Israelite lands taken by his father (1 Kng 20:34). Apparently Ben-Hadad II, once back in Damascus, reneged on his promise to return the Israelite city of Ramoth-Gilead in the Transjordan.
3 The king of Israel
said to his officers, "You are aware that Ramoth in Gilead belongs to us? And
yet we do nothing to wrest it away from the king of Aram." 4 He said to Jehoshaphat, "Will you come
with me to attack Ramoth in Gilead?"
Ramoth-Gilead was a Levitical city of the tribe of Gad and also a city of refuge (Dt 4:43; Josh 20:8; 21:38; 1 Chr 6:80). The city was located east of the Jordan River in a region that later became the shifting border between Syria and Israel. Today the ruins are located on the border between Syria and the nation of Jordan (a nation created in 1947).
Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, "I will be as you, my men
with yours, my horses with yours."
Jehoshaphat agreed to a military alliance against the Aramaeans; perhaps because he believed if nothing is done the Aramaeans will bring war to both kingdoms in the near future.
1 Kings 22:5-12 ~ False prophets predict success
5 Jehoshaphat, however, said to the king of Israel, "First, please enquire what the word of Yahweh is." 6 The king of Israel then called the prophets together, about four hundred of them. "Should I go and attack Ramoth in Gilead," he asked, "or should I hold back?" "Go ahead," they replied, "for Yahweh has already given it to the king." 7 Jehoshaphat, however, said, "Is there no other prophet of Yahweh here so that we can enquire through him?" 8 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is one more man through whom we can consult Yahweh, but I hate him because he never has a favorable prophecy for me, only unfavorable ones; he is Micaiah son of Imlah." "I hope the king's words are unjustified," said Jehoshaphat. 9 The king of Israel then summoned a court official and said, "Bring Micaiah son of Imlah immediately." 10 The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, wearing their robes, in an open space [threshing floor] just outside the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets in a state of ecstasy before them. 11 Zedekiah son of Kenaanah, who had made himself some iron horns, said, Yahweh says, With horns like these you will gore the Aramaeans till you make an end of them.'" 12 And all the prophets cried ecstatically in the same vein, saying, "March on Ramoth in Gilead! Success is sure, for Yahweh has already given it to the king!" [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 965.
Before he agreed to a military alliance, King Jehoshaphat requested that they consult Yahweh. It was a common practice for kings to inquire of their prophets concerning the future, especially concerning military ventures (e.g., 2 Sam 2:1-2). Notice that the number of Ahab's court prophets is the same number as that given for the prophets of Baal that Elijah mentioned in 1 Kings 18:19. These court prophets are men who claim a prophetic gift in general (consulting many gods). It is unlikely that they were from among the 100 men of the brotherhood of prophets of Yahweh rescued by Obadiah (1 Kng 18:4, 13), but it is probably one of the prophets of the brotherhood, like the prophet in 20:35-43, will figure later in the story (1 Kng 22:8, 13-28).
After the court prophets gave their prediction of success, the king of Judah must have been uncomfortable as to whether they really spoke for Yahweh and requested another prophet (verse 7). Ahab then suggested Micaiah, who he admitted he "hates" because the prophet never has any good news for him, but he sent a messenger to bring the prophet.(3)
Question: What was the Law concerning the test for a true
prophet of Yahweh? Dt 13:1-6; 18:20-22.
Answer: The only true prophet is one who speaks the words of Yahweh. He is always 100% accurate because God is all knowing. If he claims to speak for Yahweh and speaks falsely, the penalty was death.
10 The king of Israel
and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, wearing their
robes, in an open space [threshing floor] just outside the gate of Samaria,
with all the prophets in a state of ecstasy before them.
The kings are holding court in the open area of the threshing floor just outside the city gates. It was common to have the communal threshing floor located outside the city walls since it was an open space and an ideal site for a large gathering. It should be noted that in Scripture the harvesting of gain and the activity at a threshing floor are often used as a symbols of judgment, and this will be the case for Ahab (e.g., Ps 1:4-5; Jer 51:33; Dan 2:35; Mt 13:30, 39b-43).
son of Kenaanah, who had made himself some iron horns, said, Yahweh says, With
horns like these you will gore the Aramaeans till you make an end of them.'" 12 And all the prophets cried
ecstatically in the same vein, saying, "March on Ramoth in Gilead! Success is
sure, for Yahweh has already given it to the king!"
One of the court prophets made some iron horns in advance for the gathering to give greater symbolic meaning to his prophecy. Horns were held as a symbol of strength and power in the ancient Near East (Jer 27:2). The court prophets danced and cried out like the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (1 Kng 19:26-29)
1 Kings 22:13-17 ~ The message of the prophet Micaiah
13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, "Look, here, what the prophets are saying is uniformly favorable to the king. I hope you will say the same as they do and speak favorably." 14 Micaiah said, "As Yahweh lives, I shall speak as Yahweh tells me!" 15 When he came to the king, the king said, "Micaiah, should we go and attack Ramoth in Gilead, or should we hold back?" He replied, "Go ahead! Success is sure, for Yahweh has already given it to the king!" 16 The king then said, "How often must I put you on oath to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of Yahweh?" 17 Then he spoke out: "I see all Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep without a shepherd. And Yahweh said, These have no master, let them all go safely home!'"
At the same time the events are taking place at the threshing floor, Ahab's messenger has arrived at the house of Micaiah. The king's messenger may be giving the prophet advice in verse 13 or it may be a threat that he had better be in agreement with the court prophets. Micaiah's reply is that he can only say what Yahweh tells him "the mark of a true prophet.
15 When he came to the
king, the king said, "Micaiah, should we go and attack Ramoth in Gilead, or
should we hold back?" He replied, "Go ahead! Success is sure, for Yahweh has
already given it to the king!" 16 The
king then said, "How often must I put you on oath to tell me nothing but the
truth in the name of Yahweh?"
Micaiah ridicules the king by giving the favorable prophecy the messenger instructed him to give, but it was obvious to Ahab, perhaps from his tone, that the prophet was not giving his true prophecy.
17 Then he spoke out: "I
see all Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep without a shepherd. And
Yahweh said, These have no master, let them all go safely home!'"
Question: Who are the sheep and who is their shepherd? What does the prophecy mean?
Answer: In his prophecy, the "sheep" are the men of the army of Israel and the missing "shepherd" is Ahab. Yahweh's command that they return to their homes is because the battle is lost and Ahab is dead.
Question: Is this the first prophecy of Ahab's death? See 1 Kng 20:38-43; 21:19-20.
Answer: This is the third prophecy of his death. The first was made by one of the members of the brotherhood of prophets after Ahab released Ben-Hadad II from Yahweh's curse of destruction, and the second prophecy was delivered by Elijah after Naboth's murder.
1 Kings 22:18-23 ~ The second part of the prophecy
18 At this the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you that he never gives me favorable prophecies, but only unfavorable ones?" 19 Micaiah went on, "Now listen to the word of Yahweh. I saw Yahweh seated on his throne with the whole array of heaven standing by him, on his right and on his left. 20 Yahweh said, Who will entice Ahab into marching to his death at Ramoth in Gilead?" At which some answered one way, and some another. 21 A spirit then came forward and stood before Yahweh and said, I will entice him.' 22 How?' Yahweh asked. He replied, I shall go and be a deceptive spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.' Yahweh said, You will succeed in enticing him. Go and do it.' 23 And now, you see, Yahweh has put a deceptive spirit into the mouths of all your prophets here, for in fact Yahweh has pronounced disaster on you."
Ahab asked Jehoshaphat a rhetorical question to which he did not respond (verse 18), but his question shows that he has understood the prophecy as a prediction of the loss of the battle and a prophecy of his death.
In verses 19-22 the prophet describes his vision of the heavenly court. In the vision, God has made His judgment of Ahab known and asks for a volunteer to help to bring it about by encouraging Ahab to initiate the war with Aram. An unnamed "spirit" offers to encourage the prophets to give a false prophecy of victory. Notice the comparison of the two Israelite kings on their thrones in the company of their courtiers and God on His throne in the heavenly court surrounded by a host of angels.
There are divided opinions on Micaiah's vision in 1 Kings 22:19-23:
The scene is somewhat similar to the events that took place in the heavenly court in the Book of Job 1:6-12, although we do not know if the "spirit" is good or evil like the evil spirit of Satan in Job. In any event, the false prophets don't realize it, but they are also instruments of God who has already judged Ahab and decreed that he should die.
1 Kings 22:24-28 ~ The reaction of Micaiah's prophecy
24 Zedekiah son of Chenaanah then came up, struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, "Which way did Yahweh's spirit leave me, to speak to you?" 25 "That is what you will find out," Micaiah retorted, "the day you go from room to room, trying to hide." 26 The king of Israel said, "Seize Micaiah and hand him over to Amon, governor of the city, and Joash, the king's son, 27 and say, These are the king's orders: Put this man in prison and feed him on nothing but bread and water until I am safely home.'" 29 Micaiah said, "If you ever do get home safely, Yahweh has not spoken through me."
The same prophet who made the iron horns (22:21) struck Micaiah and challenged the prophecy that is contrary to his own (probably just as Micaiah feared). King Ahab ordered for Micaiah to be imprisoned and fed a merger diet of bread and water. God's prophet, surrounded by four hundred false prophets, and the two kings and their courtiers, suffered both humiliation and physical abuse. It is the fate of all true prophets who are a Biblical "type" of Jesus Christ, God's supreme prophet, who will also suffer every kind of humiliation and abuse at His Passion.
Question: How does Micaiah defend his prophecy to Zedekiah?
Answer: The events themselves will prove or disprove the truthfulness of his prophecy and that he has spoken with the authority of God.
The Battle at Ramoth-Gilead
Now the king of Aram had given his
chariot commanders the following order, "Do not attack anyone of whatever rank,
except the king of Israel." So, when the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat,
they thought, "That is the king of Israel," and surrounded him to attack. But
when Jehoshaphat shouted his war cry, Yahweh came to his help, God drew them
away from him, for the chariot commanders, realizing that he was not the king
of Israel, broke off their pursuit.
2 Chronicles 18:31
1 Kings 22:29-38 ~ Ahab's death at Ramoth-Gilead
29 The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah marched on Ramoth in Gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "I shall disguise myself to go into battle, but you put on your robes." So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. 31 Now, the king of Aram had given his chariot commanders the following order, "Do not attack anyone of whatever rank, except the king of Israel." 32 So when the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, "This is obviously the king of Israel," and surrounded him to attack. But when Jehoshaphat shouted his war cry 33 the chariot commanders, realizing that he was not the king of Israel, broke off their pursuit. 34 Someone, however, drawing his bow without any special aim, shot the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. "Turn about!" said the king to his charioteer. "Get me out of the fighting; I am collapsing." 35 But the battle grew fiercer as the day went on and the king had to be held upright in his chariot facing the Aramaeans, the blood from the wound running into the bottom of the chariot, until in the evening he died. 36 At sundown a shout ran through the ranks, "Every man back to his town, every man back to his country! 37 The king is dead." He was taken to Samaria and in Samaria the king was buried. 38 They washed the chariot at the Pool of Samaria; the dogs licked up the blood, and the prostitutes washed in it, in accordance with the word which Yahweh had spoken.
Unfortunately the king of Judah was not impressed with Micaiah's prophecy of disaster and decided to go into battle against the Aramaeans with the king of Israel based on the prophecy for success by the four hundred court prophets.
Question: Why did Ahab suggest that Jehoshaphat wear his kingly
robes while he dressed as a common soldier? There are two possible reasons.
Or perhaps the answer is the possible success of both plans occurred to Ahab. Jehoshaphat apparently didn't realize the danger for him in Ahab's plan.
31 Now, the king of Aram
had given his chariot commanders the following order, "Do not attack anyone of
whatever rank, except the king of Israel."
The unnamed king of Aram is probably Ben-Haddad II.
Question: Why might the king of Aram give the order to specifically kill Ahab? See 1 Kng 20:34.
Answer: Since Ahab made a peace treaty with the Aramaeans after the battle of Aphek, the Aramaean king may have felt that Ahab betrayed the oath he made in the treaty and must pay the price for his treachery with his death.
But when Jehoshaphat shouted his war cry the chariot commanders,
realizing that he was not the king of Israel, broke off their pursuit.
The Aramaeans went after the king of Judah because he was dressed as a king and they thought he was Ahab, but when he gave the war cry to rally his men to his defense, they broke off the attack. The Judeans evidently had a distinctive war cry, like American southern soldiers' "rebel yell" during the War Between the States (Civil War). In 2 Chronicles 18:31, the inspired writer records that Yahweh heard his war cry and came immediately to his protection.
Question: How was God's judgment and Micaiah's prophecy
Answer: A common soldier randomly shot an arrow without any definite target and hit Ahab. Israel's "shepherd" was dead.
Ahab was struck by the arrow in a small gap between the pieces of his scale armor. Realizing that he was wounded, Ahab commanded his chariot driver to retreat, but the battle was raging so fiercely that the driver couldn't turn the chariot around and withdraw. The driver or a third man in the chariot held Ahab up so the soldiers wouldn't realize he had been wounded and become discouraged (war chariots held two and three man teams). As the battle continued, Ahab bled to death.
36 At sundown a shout
ran through the ranks, "Every man back to his town, every man back to his
country! 37 The king is
Micaiah's prophecy is fulfilled to the letter: the Israelite and Judean soldiers are scattered like "sheep without a shepherd" because Ahab is dead, and the two armies retreat back to Israel and Judah.
He was taken to Samaria and in Samaria the king was buried. 38 They washed the chariot at the Pool of
Samaria; the dogs licked up the blood, and the prostitutes washed in it, in
accordance with the word which Yahweh had spoken.
Question: Which of the three prophecies of Ahab's death is fulfilled in verse 38? See 1 Kng 20:38-43; 21:19-20; and 22:17.
Answer: Elijah's prophecy is fulfilled in the judgment for the death of Naboth: "in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick your blood too" (1 Kng 21:18-21:19b).
When the blood was washed out of the floor of the chariot into the pool, the dogs licked up the blood in the water and the unclean cult prostitutes bathed in his blood. Dogs were unclean scavengers and the cult prostitutes were considered an abomination (Lev 18:22/19; Dt 23:18-19:17-18). These double indignities were God's judgment on Ahab in atonement for his sins. God forgave Ahab when he repented the murder of Naboth in 21:29, but forgiveness is one thing and atonement for those sins for which one has been forgiven is another matter altogether. God is merciful but He is also just (see 2 Sam 12:13-15).
The Book of 2 Chronicles records what happened to Jehoshaphat after the defeat by the Aramaeans: Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned home safely, however, to Jerusalem. Jehu son of Hanani the seer went to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, "Should a man give help to the wicked? Should you love those who hate Yahweh and so bring his retribution on yourself? All the same, there are good things to your credit, since you have removed the sacred poles from the country and have set your heart on seeking God" (2 Chr 19:1-3). Jehu the prophet condemned the alliance with Ahab and the foolish decision to go to war despite the prophecy of defeat by a true prophet. Yet, the fact that Jehoshaphat was loyal to Yahweh and His covenant counted to his credit. God let the consequences of his military defeat be his punishment for his alliance with Ahab.
1 Kings 22:39-40 ~ Summary statement of Ahab's reign
39 The rest of the history of Ahab, his entire career, the ivory house he erected, all the towns he built, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? When Ahab fell asleep with his ancestors, his son Ahaziah succeeded him.
The year of Ahab's death is c. 853 BC. The story of Ahab ends with the same formula statement as the other kings of Israel in 1 Kings. The story of Ahab's son will continue in 2 Kings 8:25-29. Ahab's son Ahaziah was the son-in-law of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. The "ivory house" does not mean his palace was made of ivory but that it had costly ivory embellishments and furniture inlaid with ivory.
1 Kings 22:41-51 ~ The reign of Jehoshaphat in Judah (870-848)
41 Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. 42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 43 In every way he followed the example of his father Asa undeviatingly, doing what is pleasing to Yahweh. 44 The high places, however, were not abolished; the people still offered sacrifice and incense on the high places. 45 Jehoshaphat was at peace with the king of Israel. 46 The rest of the history of Jehoshaphat, the valor he showed, the wars he waged, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 47 The few male prostitutes left over from the days of his father Asa, he expelled from the country. 48 At the time, Edom had no king, and King 49 Jehoshaphat built ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they never made the voyage since the ships were wrecked at Ezion-Geber. 50 Ahaziah son of Ahab then proposed to Jehoshaphat, "Let my men go to sea with yours." But Jehoshaphat would not agree. 51 When Jehoshaphat fell asleep with his ancestors he was buried in the City of his ancestor, David; his son Jehoram succeeded him.
The same formula summary of the reign of Jehoshaphat is given as for
other Davidic kings except with the notice that, like his father Asa, he was a
righteous king in God's eyes.
Question: What one failure is mentioned?
Answer: He did not abolish worship in the form of sacrifice and incense at the "high places."
This does not necessarily mean idol worship. Yahweh commanded that right worship could only be offered on His one, holy altar (Dt 12:1-14), and the people may have been erecting their own altars to Yahweh on hills and offering their own form of worship. It is another indication that right worship can only be offered at the Temple by Yahweh's ordained priesthood, and any other form of worship, even in the name of Yahweh, is illicit worship and forbidden.
Question: What specific accomplishment is mentioned?
Answer: He drove out the male cult prostitutes.
Prostitution was forbidden under the laws of the covenant: There must be no sacred prostitute among the women of Israel, and no sacred prostitute among the men of Israel. You must not bring the wages of a prostitute or the earnings of a "dog" to the house of Yahweh your God, whatever vow you may have made: both are detestable to Yahweh your God (Dt 23:18-19; 17-18; also see Lev 18:22/19). "Sacred prostitution" was a feature of Canaanite religion and an abomination to Yahweh. In verse 19 "dog" is an opprobrious term for a male prostitute. The wages of a prostitute were profane and could not be accepted at the Temple; such a practice could be misunderstood as acceptance of a life-style that God found detestable.
48 At the time, Edom had
no king, and King 49 Jehoshaphat
built ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they never made the voyage
since the ships were wrecked at Ezion-Geber.
Edom had been a vassal state since David conquered the Edomites and imposed rule by a royal governor (1 Sam 8:13-14; 1 Chr 18:12). While the Northern Kingdom lost the vassal states of the Aramaeans won by David, the Southern Kingdom of Judah still retained the vassal states of Edom and Moab (2 Chr 18:2, 12). King Solomon had established a port and a fleet of ships at Ezion-Geber near modern Aqaba; it was a port at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba (eastern arm of the Red Sea): King Solomon equipped a fleet at Ezion-Geber, which is near Elath on the shores of the Red Sea, in Edom ... (1 Kng 9:26-28). From this port trade expeditions were sent to the land of Ophir (1 Kng 9:28; 10:11). The people of this land were descendants of Noah's righteous son Shem (see Gen 10:29; 1 Chr 1:23), and it was a famous source of gold (Job 22:24; 28:16; Ps 45:9; Is 13:12). The location of Ophir has never been positively identified, but suggestions have ranged from Africa to India and Arabia. The country could be reached most easily by ship (1 Kng 9:28; 10:11). The king built ships in the Tarshish style for an expedition to Ophir, but the ships were apparently wrecked by a storm while still at the port.
50 Ahaziah son of Ahab
then proposed to Jehoshaphat, "Let my men go to sea with yours." But
Jehoshaphat would not agree. 51 When
Jehoshaphat fell asleep with his ancestors he was buried in the City of his
ancestor, David; his son Jehoram succeeded him.
Solomon's sailors and ship captains were assisted by Phoenician sailors and ship builders (1 Kng 9:27) who had more experience than the land-bound nation of Judah. However, Jehoshaphat refused the offer of a partnership with his son's brother-in-law, King Ahaziah of Israel, who also had experienced sailors from Israel's coastal cities and ties with the Phoenicians.
Question: Why might Jehoshaphat have refused the offer of the man who is King Ahab and Jezebel's son? See 2 Chr 19:1-3
Answer: Perhaps the warning of the prophet Jehu concerning God's displeasure in Jehoshaphat's past alliance with "those who hate" Yahweh has caused him to reject the offer.
1 Kings 22:52-54 ~ King Ahaziah of Israel (853-852)
52 Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned over Israel for two years. 53 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, by following the example of his father and mother, and of Jeroboam son of Nebat who had let Israel into sin. 54 He served Baal and worshipped him, and provoked the anger of Yahweh God of Israel just as his father had done.
Another formula summary is given for Ahaziah son of Ahab and Jezebel. He ruled for two years as the ancients counted with 853 counting as "year #1 and 852 as year #2. He is also compared to Jerobaom who first led Israel into the sin of idol worship. Ahaziah followed the sinful examples of his father and mother. His story will be continued in chapter 1 of 2 Kings in the third part of the Elijah cycle.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
How much impact do the actions, for good or for evil, of parents have on their children? What is the importance of "learned behavior" in the life of a child? What are some examples of good "learned behavior" and what are some examples of bad "learned behavior" that may affect the eternal salvation of children in a family? Was Ahaziah still responsible to God for doing the evil that he had learned from his mother and father?
1. Several royal seals or bullae (the seal impression) have been discovered, among them the seals of kings Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah, and a possible, although contested, seal with the name "Jezebel."
2. The Christian lady Egeria, traveling to the Holy Land in the fourth century AD, visited Jezreel and reported that the story of righteous Naboth is remembered by the pilgrims and "The tomb of Jezebel is stoned by everyone to this very day" (Diary of a Pilgrim).
3. Micaiah has the same name as the shortened form of the name of the prophet Micah who will bear God's prophetic word to Judah during the reigns of kings Jotham (c. 740-736 BC), Ahaz (c. 736-716BC) and Hezekiah (716-687 BC) of Judah; he is numbered among the twelve "minor" literary prophets. The only difference in their names is that the suffix "iah, denoting "Yahweh" is missing from the later prophet's name. The name Micaiah can be male or female (2 Chr 13:2)
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