Ahab

(Brother of [his] father)

1 Kings 16:29—17:1; 18:1—22:40; 2 Chron. 18

Contemporary Prophets: Elijah; Micah son of Imlah.

“When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth; but the righteous shall see their fall.”—Proverbs 29:16

“And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.” Ahab was not the first to introduce Baal-worship in Israel: it had been known among them since their entrance into the land, but under his rule and the powerful influence of Jezebel, his wife, it became the established form of idolatry, as calf-worship was made under Jeroboam. Baal was the sun-god of the ancient inhabitants of the land (as of the Phenicians), and his worship was accompanied by the most obscene rites and impurities.

Dius and Menander, Tyrian historians, mention an Eithobalus of Ahab’s time, who was priest of Ashtoreth (female consort of Baal), who having murdered Pheles, became king of Tyre. See Josephus, c. apion, i. 18. This was, in all probability, Jezebel’s father. Her zeal for the spread and maintenance of the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth, or Astarte, is therefore easily accounted for; hence, also, her inveterate hatred of the holy worship of Jehovah, and her murderous designs against His prophets. Her name means chaste—Satan’s counterfeit or ridicule, as it were, of purity. Was it the hope of strengthening his kingdom, or her seductions, with the attractions of her painted face, that led Ahab into this alliance? Behind it all, we may be sure, Satan was seeking by this new move to utterly corrupt and destroy God’s people and His truth from the earth. “And Ahab made a grove”— Asherah—an image, or pavilion, to Astarte— “and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

“In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram (father of height) his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub (aloft), according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.” Jericho properly belonged to Judah, and Hiel, instead of remaining at Bethel, within his sovereign’s realm, presumed to fortify (for this is what “build” means here) the city for his master Ahab, that he might, it would seem, command the ford of Jordan; for which trespass and disregard of God’s word (see Josh. 6:26) the threatened judgment fell upon his first- and last-born sons. His name Hiel means, God liveth; and he, presumptuous man! discovered to his sorrow that Jehovah was the living God, whose word will stand, and none can transgress it with impunity. Every transgressor, and all “the sons of disobedience,” will find that He is always true to His word. “Hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). His word concerning Jericho, “spoken” to Joshua five hundred years before, was made good upon the house of Hiel.

But God, who did not wink at Ahab’s or the nation’s wickedness, would yet seek to turn them back from their folly by sore discipline, and sent to them His servant Elijah. “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Jehovah, not Baal, was Israel’s God, in spite of Jezebel’s seemingly successful attempt to foist her Canaanitish gods upon them; and Ahab should be made to know it. God uses a millennial form of discipline to teach him this. See Zech. 14:17. And for three and one half years the land lay under the divine interdict of drought and famine. This drought appears to have extended even to Gentile lands; for it is mentioned in the annals of the Greek historian Menander. See Josephus, Ant. viii. 13, §2.

“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor (steward, N. Tr.) of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.” Ahab, as some one has said, cared more for the beasts of his stables than for his poor, starving subjects.

One wonders how a man like Obadiah {worshiper of Jehovah) came to hold office under such an abandoned idolater as Ahab. But there were “saints” in Nero’s palace, whose salutations were considered worthy of apostolic mention; and godliness, as has been quaintly said, “is a hardy plant, that can live amidst the frosts of persecution and the relaxing warmth of a corrupt court, and not merely in the conservatory of a pious family.”

Elijah, “as Obadiah was in the way,” suddenly appeared before him, and gave him a terse message for his master:” Go, tell thy lord,” he says, “Behold, Elijah is here.” The poor lord-high-chamberlain, knowing well, no doubt, the murderous character of his master, trembles for his life. “What have I sinned,” he says, “that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me.” He evidently knew, dear man, that the husband of Jezebel set but slight value on any of his subjects’ lives, and in his present temper would not hesitate, on the least provocation or suspicion, to slay him without mercy.

Assured by the prophet that Ahab should find him, as he said, Obadiah delivered his message. “And Ahab went to meet Elijah. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” What impudence! “And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (or, the Baals).

The prophet then proposed to test publicly on mount Carmel whether Jehovah or Baal were God. To this the king accedes. “So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.” The test was accordingly made, to the utter discomfiture of the Baal prophets. “Je- hovah, He is God! Jehovah, He is God!” all the people cried; and at Elijah’s command the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal are led down to the brook Kishon, and slain there. See 1 Kings 18.

The people again acknowledging Jehovah as God, and the prophets of Baal destroyed, the purpose of the drought was accomplished. “And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.”

Here the prophet’s intercessory prayer is given us, to which James calls our attention: “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth…and he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain.”(Jas. 5:17, 18). A cloud, “like a man’s hand” at first, soon fills the whole sky: the prayer is answered, and in the power of the Spirit of faith Elijah sends the word by his servant, “Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind,” and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.”

Jezebel’s indomitable will is now stirred to passion. Enraged, she threatens with an oath to make Elijah’s life like that of her slaughtered favorites, and he in fear flees from the kingdom. She was evidently the real ruler in Israel, for Ahab, so far as Scripture informs us, did not make even the mildest kind of protest against her murderous threat.

Ahab’s weakness is further made manifest by his servile answer to the besieging king of Syria: “And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host to- gether: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.” And when the messengers returned with more insolent demands, the king would probably have submitted to the humiliating conditions proposed, had not his more spirited and patriotic subjects advised otherwise, saying, “Harken not unto him, nor consent.” A wicked man is never really anything but a weak man. It is only “the righteous” who is, as saith the proverb, “bold as a lion.” When Ahab does refuse the king of Syria his unsoldierly demand, he says, half apologetically, “This thing I may not do.” He does not use the bold, intensive “ will not” of the three Hebrew children under more helpless circumstances, and to a more powerful king (Dan. 3:18). Angered at even this meekly-put refusal, “Ben-hadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.” Then, more nobly, poor Ahab answers: “Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.” Provoked at this reply, Ben-hadad, under the influence of drink, gave the mad order for instant attack upon the city.

But God’s time for the humiliation of insolent Ben-hadad had come: “And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thy hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord. And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Even by the young men (servants, Heb.) of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou.” God would humiliate Ben-hadad, not by any show of strength, as by the seven thousand soldiers left to Ahab, but by the servants of the princes of the provinces, who numbered two hundred and thirty-two. “And they went out at noon. But Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings”—the thirty and two kings that helped him.

“And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first; and Ben-hadad sent out, and they told him, saying, There are men come out of Samaria. And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive. So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them. And they slew every one his man: and the Syrians fled; and Israel pursued them: and Ben-hadad the king of Syria escaped on a horse with the horsemen. And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.”

The expression “The king of Israel went out,” coming, as it does, after the account of the going forth and victory of the young men and the small army, seems to imply that though, according to the prophet’s word, he should order (or command) the battle, he remained cautiously behind, until the rout of the besiegers had begun: then, when danger is past, he comes forth from his place of security within the city walls, and assists in slaughtering an already defeated foe. God gave his army victory, that he might have another proof, in addition to that already offered on mount Carmel—so condescending and gracious is He—that He was Jehovah, the unchanging One. He would in this way too encourage and foster any little faith that might, as a result of the recent demonstration on mount Carmel, have sprung up in the hearts of the nearly apostate nation. Trust in Him He calls “precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1), so highly does He value it. In how many ways does God seek to gain and hold the confidence of men, for their everlasting good and glory! Reader, “hast thou faith?”

“And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee.” What patient, marvelous grace is God’s! His goodness would lead men to repentance. So He sends His prophet, even to Ahab, to warn him of what the Syrians will do. “And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Ben-hadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel.” This Aphek lay about six miles east of the sea of Galilee, on the direct road between the land of Israel and Damascus, and was a common battlefield of the Syrian kings. See 2 Kings 13:17. “And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country. And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thy hand, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah”—another demonstration that Jehovah was the God of Israel.

For a whole week the two hostile armies lay encamped one over against the other—Israel’s poor little army “like two little flocks of kids,” but with God on its side—and when they join battle on the seventh day, the “two little flocks of kids” destroy a host of a hundred thousand men. And the remnant of the defeated army, numbering twenty-seven thousand, that escaped being slaughtered by those whose land they had without provocation invaded, fled into the city of Aphek, where a wall fell upon them. Means were nothing with Israel’s God, Jehovah, who is called “the God of battles”; He can save by many or by few; and what a mere handful (a few thousand) does not destroy of a vast army, He can shake down a wall upon the rest, and thus complete its deserved destruction.

This was the third occasion, within a short space of time, on which God would convince the king of Israel, and his people, that He was what His prophets proclaimed Him to be—Jehovah, the God of Israel. He insists that, among men, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses,” every word shall be established; and He will not Himself use an easier rule in His dealings with the sons of men. Ahab had this threefold testimony given him, but, alas, he entirely failed to profit by it. He is ensnared by Ben-hadad’s guile, after God had placed him in his power; he not only let him live, but said, “He is my brother.It was the beginning of his final downfall.

A prophet now, by skilful artifice, brings before Ahab what he had done. Having induced a fellow-prophet to smite him, so that in smiting he wounded him, he then disguised himself, and hailed the king as he was passing by. “And he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” Ahab probably thought he had appealed to him as a suppliant, in reference to his forfeited life, or the ruinous fine; and he, like David before, pronounces his own sentence: “And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it. And he (the prophet) hasted, and took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets. And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased [sullen and vexed, N. Tr.], and came to Samaria.” He made the same fatal mistake that king Saul made when he spared Agag. His calling the enemy of Israel “my brother,” and taking him up into his chariot, may have sounded well and looked liberal to men like himself, who would applaud his conduct as magnanimous; but in God’s eyes it was unpardonable disobedience, for which he and the nation would be made to suffer. Men might praise him, but of what worth are human plaudits to the man whose conduct God condemns? Ahab was not the last of that generation who love “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

From that time Ahab appears to be given up of God: first, to covetousness and murder, and then to make war with and be slain by that nation whose blaspheming king he had called “my brother,” and permitted to escape.

The first, his coveting of Naboth’s vineyard, and the false accusation and murder of that righteous man, form one of the most painful and soul-stirring chapters in human history, whether secular or inspired. “And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.” This Ahab, who could “brother” and spare a wicked Gentile king whom divine justice had doomed to destruction, can now, for the sake of gardening and enlarging the grounds about his palace, set about to murder a true brother. Though king, his offer to his neighbor Na- both is fearlessly refused. “And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” This was not obstinacy on Naboth’s part, as some have supposed; nor yet a stubborn refusal to surrender his legal rights to do his king a favor. He was contending, not for his own rights (which scarcely becomes one who owes his all to God’s free grace), but for God’s, and those of his successors. “The land shall not be sold forever,” God had said. Merciful provision was made in the law for a man who might have become reduced to extreme poverty. He was permitted to sell the land, but only to the year of jubilee, when it was to revert back to the original owner, or his heirs. Naboth could not plead poverty, so had no excuse to sell his vineyard, even to the king. There was also a law relating to property within a city’s walls, which, if sold, must be redeemed within a year, or remain the possession of the purchaser forever. See Lev. 25. If Naboth’s vineyard, adjoining Ahab’s palace, lay within the city walls, it would, if sold, pass for all time out of the hands of Naboth’s heirs.16 Be that as it may, his firm refusal to sell out to his royal neighbor was a matter of conscience. Araunah’s sale of his threshing-floor to David, and Omri’s purchase of the hill of Samaria, cannot be called parallel cases. In the first instance Araunah, though a Jebusite (a Gentile), seemed fully to enter into David’s purpose, and have fellowship with it. It was there- fore surrendering and offering his property to the Lord Himself. In the second, the moral condition of the nation was such that Shemer, an Israelite, was probably unconcerned as to what God had said concerning the disposal of His land. Naboth was right, both toward God and toward his family ties, whatever his critics may be disposed to say to the contrary; but his resolute adherence to the right cost him both his good name and his life.

“And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.” His petulant conduct ill became a man—much less a king; it was rather that of a spoiled child, peevish and in ill humor, because crossed in his desire by one of his subjects. “But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?” Informed as to the cause of his dejection, her daring spirit finds a ready way out of Ahab’s difficulty. “And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?” Alas, was it not she that governed it really, with more daring ungodliness than Ahab, her puppet husband? “Arise,” says she, “and eat bread, and let thy heart be merry. I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” Herself the daughter of a Gentile king, she was thoroughly schooled in court methods of disposing of refractory subjects. She had not learned, as David, in God’s school, that kings should be the shepherds of the people. Might made right in the kingdoms of the nations, and she should show to her Hebrew husband how quickly Naboth’s objections to the king’s demands could be overcome, in spite of anything, or everything, written in the Mosaic code. “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people: and set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.” How base could such men be, to lend themselves as willing tools to her perfidious designs, and carry out her instructions to the letter! Yet, public conscience might rebel at open murder; and some appearance of justice had to be given her act therefore. The moral effect on the nation of what had happened on mount Carmel had, besides, probably not passed away; and this nefarious patron of Baal had to proceed with a measure of caution, in her wickedness. “And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.” Naboth was accordingly accused, taken out of the city, and there stoned to death. “Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.” All had succeeded but too well. “And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.”

Jezebel had had her will, but oh, the dreadfulness of using God’s institution to carry out the will of the flesh! She knew the penalty for blasphemy against Jehovah was death (Lev. 24:16). She would find associates to prove Naboth guilty of this, and thus avenge herself upon the man who had dared to say No to the desire of power. But, according to Jewish doctors, if found guilty of blasphemy alone, his property would fall to his heirs the same as if he had died under ordinary, or natural, circumstances. To secure the vineyard, a further charge, of treason, therefore must be trumped up against him; as in such a case the estate of the condemned man went to the royal exchequer. So Naboth was accused of blasphemy both against “God and the king.” See Ex. 22:28. And when the dark deed was done, the instigator of it could coolly send to her husband, saying, “Naboth is not alive, but dead.”

But Naboth’s God was not dead; He was still the God “that liveth and seeth,” as Ahab was soon to know. “And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.” Like most wicked men when reproved, Ahab looked upon the fearless messenger of God as an enemy. “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” he asks. “Is it thou, the troubler of Israel?” he had asked the faithful prophet on a former occasion (1 Kings 18:17, N. Tr.). Here, when he can no longer link the nation with himself in his guilt, he acknowledges the personal character of the prophet’s ministry, and calls him his (not the nation’s) enemy. “And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast, sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked Me to anger, and made Israel to sin.” Judgment upon Jezebel also is then pronounced. “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” Ahab is really affected, though superficially, no doubt, by the prophet’s declaration; and God, who ever approves even the slightest indication of repentance in transgressors, says to Elijah, “Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me? because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.”

We have now the closing incident in the life of this king of Israel, who “did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.”

“And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.” In the third year, Jehoshaphat king of Judah (now linked to the house of Ahab by the marriage of his son and heir-apparent to the throne, to Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter) came down on a friendly visit to the Israelitish capital. Ahab saw in the presence of so powerful an ally a splendid opportunity to use him to the extension of his kingdom. So he says to his servants, “Know ye not that Ra-moth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?” Ramoth-gilead was an important fortress, directly east of Samaria, and about twenty miles back from the Jordan. It was occupied during Solomon’s magnificent reign by Ben-Geber, one of his twelve commissariat officers (1 Kings 4:13). Ben-hadad I had taken it from Omri, according to Josephus (Ant. viii., 15 §4). On Ahab’s proposing to jointly recover this place to their family (now one, alas), Jehoshaphat at once acceded, saying, “I am as thou art,” etc. (See Jehoshaphat.) The four hundred court prophets all declared the success of the expedition a foregone conclusion. “Go up,” they said, unanimously; “for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.”(2 Chron. 18:5 has “God,” instead of “the Lord,” as here: see Author’s Introduction.) Ahab’s ally did not appear entirely satisfied with such offhand, emphatic prophecies of good fortune; he had evidently some misgivings of conscience, and was suspicious of this crowd of state-paid “peace-and-safety” preachers. So he cautiously asked if there was not another of Jehovah’s prophets within call, of whom they might further inquire. “There is yet one man,” answered Ahab, “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 the good-natured king of Judah, ever willing to put the best construction possible on others’ deeds, or words, replied, “Let not the king say so.” “Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah,” Ahab commanded his officer; and the unpopular prophet was unceremoniously brought into the presence of the consulting kings. The two ill-matched kings sat each on his throne, arrayed in his robes of state, in an open space at the entrance of the gate of Samaria. Before them were gathered all the pseudo-prophets, prophesying their lies before their royal master and his uneasy confederate. One of the deceivers, striving after dramatic effect, had made iron horns, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.” “Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper,” they all with one voice said: “for the Lord shall deliver it into the king’s hand.”

Now Jehovah’s prophet is brought, and in ironical agreement with what the time-serving four hundred had been saying, he also says, “Go, and prosper!” Ahab was quick to understand his irony, and adjured him (put him under oath) in Jehovah’s name, to tell him nothing but that which was true. “And 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.” “Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?”said Ahab to Je-hoshaphat, on hearing this solemn announcement. Jehovah’s prophet now sets before them his vision of a scene in heaven: the lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets to allure him to his death. But this is more than Ahab can bear, and he orders at once that Micaiah be thrust into prison, and to be fed with the bread and water of affliction, till he returned from his expedition in peace. “And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Harken, O people, every one of you.”

Could all this take place in the presence of Jehoshaphat, and he not protest? We know not. Scripture is silent here. But, alas, what may not even a child of God stoop to, away from God, in evil company!

The two kings now proceed to Ramoth-gilead, and Ahab’s treachery and cowardice again appear. He artfully disguises himself, while inducing the unsuspecting Jehoshaphat to appear in battle in his royal robes. Base and contemptible trickery!

He protects his own person at the probable sacrifice of his generous friend. But “the unjust knoweth no shame,” and living for self destroys all nobleness of character. The unhappy monarch had also been under Jezebel’s influence too long to have any uprightness remaining in him. Besides, he probably feared Micaiah’s prophecy more than he believed his own prophets. Alas, his merited end had come. The Syrians crowded close upon poor Jehoshaphat for a time; but God delivered him, and they perceived their mistake. “And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness [or, armor]: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thy hand, and carry me out of the host: for I am wounded.” And at even, at the time of the going down of the sun, he died; “and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot.” The day was lost to Israel, and the humiliated army returned leaderless from the ill-fated campaign.

“So the king died, and was brought to Samaria: and they buried the king in Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according to the word of the Lord which He spake.” God’s arrow found him, in spite of his disguise; and his colleague, though for a time a conspicuous target for every archer in the Syrian army, escaped. How true the couplet,

      “Not a single shaft can hit,

      Till our all-wise God sees fit.”

None who make God their trust need ever fear “the arrow that flieth by day” (Ps. 91:5).

“Now 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?” He was evidently a man of luxurious tastes, which appears to have been also characteristic of his successors. (See Amos 3:15). His moral character, as given in the parenthetic passage of 1 Kings 21:25, 26, is a fearfully black one. “But (or surely) there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up (urged on, Heb.) And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” He was a true brother (or friend) of his father Omri, in his excessive wickedness.

The Moabite stone mentions Omri’s son; his name also appears on the Assyrian Black Obelisk as “Ahab of Jezreel.”

“So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.”

16 Dwelling houses only were subject to this law (see Levit. 25:29), and a vineyard could hardly be within city walls. 2 Kings 9:21 and 31 indicate it was without the city. [Ed.