Verses 15–28

Here Micaiah does well, but, as is common, suffers ill for so doing.

I. We are told how faithfully he delivered his message, as one that was more solicitous to please God than to humour either the great or the many. In three ways he delivers his message, and all displeasing to Ahab:—

1. He spoke as the rest of the prophets had spoken, but ironically: Go, and prosper, 1 Kgs. 22:15. Ahab put the same question to him that he had put to his own prophets (Shall we go, or shall we forbear?) seeming desirous to know God’s mind, when, like Balaam, he was strongly bent to do his own, which Micaiah plainly took notice of when he bade him go, but with such an air and pronunciation as plainly showed he spoke it by way of derision; as if he had said, “I know you are determined to go, and I hear your own prophets are unanimous in assuring you of success; go then and take what follows. They say, The Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king; but I do not tell thee that thus saith the Lord; no, he saith otherwise.” Note, Those deserve to be bantered that love to be flattered; and it is just with God to give up those to their own counsels that give up themselves to their own lusts. Eccl. 11:9. In answer to this Ahab adjured him to tell him the truth, and not to jest with him (1 Kgs. 22:16), as if he sincerely desired to know both what God would have him to do and what he would do with him, yet intending to represent the prophet as a perverse ill-humoured man, that would not tell him the truth till he was thus put to his oath, or adjured to do it.

2. Being thus pressed, he plainly foretold that the king would be cut off in this expedition, and his army scattered, 1 Kgs. 22:17. He saw them in a vision, or in a dream, dispersed upon the mountains, as sheep that had no one to guide them. Smite the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, Zech. 13:7. This intimates, (1.) That Israel should be deprived of their king, who was their shepherd. God took notice of it, These have no master. (2.) That they would be obliged to retire re infecta—without accomplishing their object. He does not foresee any great slaughter in the army, but that they should make a dishonorable retreat. Let them return every man to his house in peace, put into disorder indeed for the present, but no great losers by the death of their king; he shall fall in war, but they shall go home in peace. Thus Micaiah, in his prophecy, testified what he had seen and heard (let them take it how they pleased), while the others prophesied merely out of their own hearts; see Jer. 23:28. “The prophet that has a dream let him tell that, and so quote his authority; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully, and not his own; for what is the chaff to the wheat?” Now Ahab finds himself aggrieved, turns to Jehoshaphat, and appeals to him whether Micaiah had not manifestly a spite against him, 1 Kgs. 22:18. Those that bear malice to others are generally willing to believe that others bear malice to them, though they have no cause for it, and therefore to put the worst constructions upon all they say. What evil did Micaiah prophesy to Ahab in telling him that, if he proceeded in this expedition, it would be fatal to him, while he might choose whether he would proceed in it or no? The greatest kindness we can do to one that is going a dangerous way is to tell him of his danger.

3. He informed the king how it was that all his prophets encouraged him to proceed, that God permitted Satan by them to deceive him into his ruin, and he by vision knew of it; it was represented to him, and he represented it to Ahab, that the God of heaven had determined he should fall at Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kgs. 22:19, 20), that the favour he had wickedly shown to Ben-hadad might be punished by him and his Syrians, and that he being in some doubt whether he should go to Ramoth-Gilead or no, and resolving to be advised by his prophets, they should persuade him to it and prevail (1 Kgs. 22:21, 22); and hence it was that they encouraged him with so much assurance (1 Kgs. 22:23); it was a lie from the father of lies, but by divine permission. This matter is here represented after the manner of men. We are not to imagine that God is ever put upon new counsels, or is ever at a loss for means whereby to effect his purposes, nor that he needs to consult with angels, or any creature, about the methods he should take, nor that he is the author of sin or the cause of any man’s either telling or believing a lie; but, besides what was intended by this with reference to Ahab himself, it is to teach us, (1.) That God is a great king above all kings, and has a throne above all the thrones of earthly princes. “You have your thrones,” said Micaiah to these two kings, “and you think you may do what you will, and we must all say as you would have us; but I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and every man’s judgment proceeding from him, and therefore I must say as he says; he is not a man, as you are.” (2.) That he is continually attended and served by an innumerable company of angels, those heavenly hosts, who stand by him, ready to go where he sends them and to do what he bids them, messengers of mercy on his right hand, of wrath on his left hand. (3.) That he not only takes cognizance of, but presides over, all the affairs of this lower world, and overrules them according to the counsel of his own will. The rise and fall of princes, the issues of war, and all the great affairs of state, which are the subject of the consultations of wise and great men, are no more above God’s direction than the meanest concerns of the poorest cottages are below his notice. (4.) That God has many ways of bringing about his own counsels, particularly concerning the fall of sinners when they are ripe for ruin; he can do it either in this manner or in that manner. (5.) That there are malicious and lying spirits which go about continually seeking to devour, and, in order to that, seeking to deceive, and especially to put lies into the mouths of prophets, by them to entice many to their destruction. (6.) It is not without the divine permission that the devil deceives men, and even thereby God serves his own purposes. With him are strength and wisdom, the deceived and the deceivers are his, Job 12:16. When he pleases, for the punishment of those who receive not the truth in the love of it, he not only lets Satan loose to deceive them (Rev. 20:7, 8), but gives men up to strong delusions to believe him, 2 Thess. 2:11, 12. (7.) Those are manifestly marked for ruin that are thus given up. God has certainly spoken evil concerning those whom he had given up to be imposed upon by lying prophets. Thus Micaiah gave Ahab fair warning, not only of the danger of proceeding in this war, but of the danger of believing those that encouraged him to proceed. Thus we are warned to beware of false prophets, and to try the spirits; the lying spirit never deceives so fatally as in the mouth of prophets.

II. We are told how he was abused for delivering his message thus faithfully, thus plainly, in a way so very proper both to convince and to affect. 1. Zedekiah, a wicked prophet, impudently insulted him in the face of the court, smote him on the cheek, to reproach him, to silence him and stop his mouth, and to express his indignation at him (thus was our blessed Saviour abused, Matt. 26:67; that Judge of Israel, Mic. 5:1); and as if he not only had the spirit of the Lord, but the monopoly of this Spirit, that he might not go without his leave, he asks, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak to thee? 1 Kgs. 22:24. The false prophets were always the worst enemies the true prophets had, and not only stirred up the government against them, but were themselves abusive to them 6629 , as Zedekiah here. To strike within the verge of the court, especially in the king’s presence, is looked upon by our law as a high misdemeanour; yet this wicked prophet gives this abuse to a prophet of the Lord, and is not reprimanded nor bound to his good behaviour for it. Ahab was pleased with it, and Jehoshaphat had not courage to appear for the injured prophet, pretending it was out of his jurisdiction; but Micaiah, though he returns not his blow (God’s prophets are not strikers nor persecutors, dare not avenge themselves, render blow for blow, or be in any way accessory to the breach of the peace), yet, since he boasted so much of the Spirit, as those commonly do that know least of his operations, he leaves him to be convinced of his error by the event: Thou shalt know when thou hidest thyself in an inner chamber, 1 Kgs. 22:25. It is likely Zedekiah went with Ahab to the battle, and took his horns of iron with him to encourage the soldiers, to see with pleasure the accomplishment of his prophecy, and return in triumph with the king; but, the army being routed, he fled among the rest from the sword of the enemy, sheltered himself as Ben-hadad had done in a chamber within a chamber (1 Kgs. 20:30), lest he should perish, as he knew he deserved to do, with those whom he had deluded, as Balaam did (Num. 31:8), and lest the blind prophet should fall into the ditch with the blinded prince whom he had misled. Note, Those that will not have their mistakes rectified in time by the word of God will be undeceived, when it is too late, by the judgments of God. 2. Ahab, that wicked king, committed him to prison (1 Kgs. 22:27), not only ordered him to be taken into custody, or remitted to the prison whence he came, but to be fed with bread and water, coarse bread and puddle-water, till he should return, not doubting but that he should return a conqueror, and then he would put him to death for a false prophet (1 Kgs. 22:27)-- hard usage for one that would have prevented his ruin! But by this it appeared that God had determined to destroy him, as 2 Chron. 25:16. How confident is Ahab of success. He doubts not but he shall return in peace, forgetting what he himself had reminded Ben-hadad of, Let not him that girdeth on the harness boast; but there was little likelihood of his coming home in peace when he left one of God’s prophets behind him in prison. Micaiah put it upon the issue, and called all the people to be witnesses that he did so: “If thou return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me, 1 Kgs. 22:28. Let me incur the reproach and punishment of a false prophet, if the king come home alive.” He ran no hazard by this appeal, for he knew whom he had believed; he that is terrible to the kings of the earth, and treads upon princes as mortar, will rather let thousands of them fall to the ground than one jot or tittle of his own word; he will not fail to confirm the word of his servants, Isa. 44:26.