Verses 29–40

The matter in contest between God’s prophet and Ahab’s prophets is here soon determined, and it is made to appear which was in the right. Here,

I. The two kings march with their forces to Ramoth-Gilead, 1 Kgs. 22:29. That the king of Israel, who hated God’s prophet, should so far disbelieve his admonition as to persist in his resolution, notwithstanding, is not strange; but that Jehoshaphat, that pious prince, who had desired to enquire by a prophet of the Lord, as disrelishing and discrediting Ahab’s prophets, should yet proceed, after so fair a warning, is matter of astonishment. But by the easiness of his temper he was carried away with the delusion (as Barnabas was with the dissimulation, Gal. 2:13) of his friends. He gave too much heed to Ahab’s prophets, because they pretended to speak from God too, and in his country he had never been imposed upon by such cheats. He was ready to give his opinion with the majority, and to conclude that it was 400 to one but they should succeed. Micaiah had not forbidden them to go; nay, at first, he said, Go, and prosper. If it came to the worst, it was only Ahab’s fall that was foretold, and therefore Jehoshaphat hoped he might safely venture.

II. Ahab adopts a contrivance by which he hopes to secure himself and expose his friend (1 Kgs. 22:30): “I will disguise myself, and go in the habit of a common soldier, but let Jehoshaphat put on his robes, to appear in the dress of a general.” He pretended thereby to do honour to Jehoshaphat, and to compliment him with the sole command of the army in this action. He shall direct and give orders, and Ahab will serve as a soldier under him. But he intended, 1. To make a liar of a good prophet. Thus he hoped to elude the danger, and so to defeat the threatening, as if, by disguising himself, he could escape the divine cognizance and the judgments that pursued him. 2. To make a fool of a good king, whom he did not cordially love, because he was one that adhered to God and so condemned his apostasy. He knew that if any perished it must be the shepherd (so Micaiah had foretold); and perhaps he had intimation of the charge the enemy had to fight chiefly against the king of Israel, and therefore basely intended to betray Jehoshaphat to the danger, that he might secure himself. Ahab was marked for ruin; one would not have been in his coat for a great sum; yet he will over-persuade this godly king to muster for him. See what those get that join in affinity with vicious men, whose consciences are debauched, and who are lost to every thing that is honourable. How can it be expected that he should be true to his friend that has been false to his God?

III. Jehoshaphat, having more piety than policy, put himself into the post of honour, though it was the post of danger, and was thereby brought into the peril of his life, but God graciously delivered him. The king of Syria charged his captains to level their force, not against the king of Judah, for with him he had no quarrel, but against the king of Israel only (1 Kgs. 22:31), to aim at his person, as if against him he had a particular enmity. Now Ahab was justly repaid for sparing Ben-hadad, who, as the seed of the serpent commonly do, stung the bosom in which he was fostered and saved from perishing. Some think that he designed only to have him taken prisoner, that he might now give him as honourable a treatment as he had formerly received from him. Whatever was the reason, this charge the officers received, and endeavoured to oblige their prince in this matter; for, seeing Jehoshaphat in his royal habit, they took him for the king of Israel, and surrounded him. Now, 1. By his danger God let him know that he was displeased with him for joining in confederacy with Ahab. Jehoshaphat had said, in compliment to Ahab (1 Kgs. 22:4), I am as thou art; and now he was indeed taken for him. Those that associate with evil doers are in danger of sharing in their plagues. 2. By his deliverance God let him know that, though he was displeased with him, yet he had not deserted him. Some of the captains that knew him perceived their mistake, and so retired from the pursuit of him; but it is said (2 Chron. 18:31) that God moved them (for he has all hearts in his hand) to depart from him. To him he cried out, not in cowardice, but devotion, and from him his relief came: Ahab was in no care to succour him. God is a friend that will not fail us when other friends do.

IV. Ahab receives his mortal wound in the battle, notwithstanding his endeavours to secure himself in the habit of a private sentinel. Let no man think to hide himself from God’s judgment, no, not in masquerade. Thy hand shall find out all thy enemies, whatever disguise they are in, 1 Kgs. 22:34. The Syrian that shot him little thought of doing such a piece of service to God and his king; for he drew a bow at a venture, not aiming particularly at any man, yet God so directed the arrow that, 1. He hit the right person, the man that was marked for destruction, whom, if they had taken alive, as was designed, perhaps Ben-hadad would have spared. Those cannot escape with life whom God hath doomed to death. 2. He hit him in the right place, between the joints of the harness, the only place about him where this arrow of death could find entrance. No armour is of proof against the darts of divine vengeance. Case the criminal in steel, and it is all one, he that made him can make his sword to approach him. That which to us seems altogether casual is done by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God.

V. The army is dispersed by the enemy and sent home by the king. Either Jehoshaphat or Ahab ordered the retreat of the sheep, when the shepherd was smitten: Every man to his city, for it is to no purpose to attempt any thing more, 1 Kgs. 22:36. Ahab himself lived long enough to see that part of Micaiah’s prophecy accomplished that all Israel should be scattered upon the mountains of Gilead (1 Kgs. 22:17), and perhaps with his dying lips did himself give orders for it; for though he would be carried out of the army, to have his wounds dressed (1 Kgs. 22:34), yet he would be held up in his chariot, to see if his army were victorious. But, when he saw the battle increase against them, his spirits sunk, and he died, but his death was so lingering that he had time to feel himself die; and we may well imagine with what horror he now reflected upon the wickedness he had committed, the warnings he had slighted, Baal’s altars, Naboth’s vineyard, Micaiah’s imprisonment. Now he sees himself flattered into his own ruin, and Zedekiah’s horns of iron pushing, not the Syrians, but himself, into destruction. Thus is he brought to the king of terrors without hope in his death.

VI. The royal corpse is brought to Samaria and buried there (1 Kgs. 22:37), and hither are brought the bloody chariot and bloody armour in which he died, 1 Kgs. 22:38. One particular circumstance is taken notice of, because there was in it the accomplishment of a prophecy, that when they brought the chariot to the pool of Samaria, to be washed, the dogs (and swine, says the LXX.) gathered about it, and, as is usual, licked the blood, or, as some think, the water in which it was washed, with which the blood was mingled: the dogs made no difference between royal blood and other blood. Now Naboth’s blood was avenged (1 Kgs. 21:19), and that word of David, as well as Elijah’s word, was fulfilled (Ps. 68:23), That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thy enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same. The dogs licking the guilty blood was perhaps designed to represent the terrors that prey upon the guilty soul after death.

Lastly, The story of Ahab is here concluded in the usual form, 1 Kgs. 22:39, 40. Among his works mention is made of an ivory house which he built, so called because many parts of it were inlaid with ivory; perhaps it was intended to vie with the stately palace of the kings of Judah, which Solomon built.