1 Kings 22:1-28 (NIV)
Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab
1 For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel.
According to Assyrian sources, Ahab joined a coalition of thirteen kings against Shalmaneser III of Assyria, who planned to conquer territories west of the Euphrates. Shalmaneser’s Monolith Inscription, which covers his early western campaigns, notes that Ahab’s contribution of 2,000 chariots and 10,000 infantrymen comprised the largest single contingent. At the battle of Qarqar, near the Orontes River, in 853 BCE, the coalition successfully halted Assyria’s advance into western Asia. The author of Kings makes no mention of Ahab’s crucial role or of his success at Qarqar. Since the Arameans faced a continual threat from Assyria to their northeast, Ahab may have thought that the circumstances afforded him a unique opportunity to reassert his authority easily in territories to which he had claim.
—The Jewish Study Bible
2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. 3 Ahab king of Israel had 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?”
4 So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”
So Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom Israel, asks Jehoshaphat, king of the Southern Kingdom Judah, to go to war with him to regain a city. Ramoth Gilead was less than 50 miles from Jerusalem. It had history: it was a central city in one of Solomon’s prefectures (1 Kings 4:13), a Levitical city (Joshua 21:38), and a city of refuge (Deuteronomy 4:43).
Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 5 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”
6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”
“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
These were not faithful prophets of the God of Israel! Rather, these men held the job of “prophet” and told the king what the king wanted to hear.
7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”
8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
Micaiah is a prophet not because it is his job, but because the Lord has called him to deliver His word.
“The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.
9 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.”
10 Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. 11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’”
12 All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”
13 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.”
14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”
15 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?”
“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”
16 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?”
Evidently Micaiah’s tone of voice was so sarcastic and mocking that the king recognized his complete disrespect for the message of the other prophets.
17 Then 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.’”
Now he tells the truth. Israel will be defeated and the king will die.
18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”
Oh, Ahab. Like Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth!” (from A Few Good Men, 1992)
19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
22 “‘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.’
23 “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.”
24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked.
25 Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.”
26 The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son 27 and say, ‘This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.’”
28 Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”
Again we see that to be a prophet for the True God is a demanding position!
HERE is a hymn about Truth: “Once to Every Man and Nation.” It was written by James Russell Lowell in 1845. Lowell, 1819-1891, was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts; graduated from Harvard College and Law School; and was called to the Bar in 1840. He became a Professor of Modern Languages and Literature (succeeding the Poet Longfellow) in Harvard, 1855. Years later he became the American Minister to Spain. He was editor of the Atlantic Monthly, from 1857 to 1862; and of the North American Review from 1863 to 1872. Professor Lowell is the most intellectual of American poets, and first of her art critics and humorists. He has written much admirable moral and sacred poetry.