Though Ahab continued under guilt and wrath, and the dominion of the lusts to which he had sold himself, yet, as a reward for his professions of repentance and humiliation, though the time drew near when he should descend into battle and perish, yet we have him blessed with a three years’ peace (1 Kgs. 22:1) and an honourable visit made him by Jehoshaphat king of Judah, 1 Kgs. 22:2. The Jews have a fabulous conceit, that when Ahab humbled himself for his sin, and lay in sackcloth, he sent for Jehoshaphat to come to him, to chastise him; and that he staid with him for some time, and gave him so many stripes every day. This is a groundless tradition. He came now, it is probable, to consult him about the affairs of their kingdoms. It is strange that so great a man as Jehoshaphat would pay so much respect to a kingdom revolted from the house of David, and that so good a man should show so much kindness to a king revolted from the worship of God. But, though he was a godly man, his temper was too easy, which betrayed him into snares and inconveniences. The Syrians durst not give Ahab any disturbance. But,
I. Ahab here meditates a war against the Syrians, and advises concerning it with those about him, 1 Kgs. 22:3. The king of Syria gave him the provocation; when he lay at his mercy, he promised to restore him his cities (1 Kgs. 20:34), and Ahab foolishly took his word, when he ought not to have dismissed him till the cities were put into his possession. But now he knows by experience, what he ought before to have considered, that as the kisses, so the promises, of an enemy are deceitful, and there is no confidence to be put in leagues extorted by distress. Benhadad is one of those princes that think themselves bound by their word no further and no longer than it is for their interest. Whether any other cities were restored we do not find, but Ramoth-Gilead was not, a considerable city in the tribe of Gad, on the other side Jordan, a Levites’ city, and one of the cities of refuge. Ahab blames himself, and his people, that they did not bestir themselves to recover it out of the hands of the Syrians, and to chastise Ben-hadad’s violation of his league; and resolves to let that ungrateful perfidious prince know that as he had given him peace he could give him trouble. Ahab has a good cause, yet succeeds not. Equity is not to be judged of by prosperity.
II. He engages Jehoshaphat, and draws him in, to join with him in this expedition, for the recovery of Ramoth-Gilead, 1 Kgs. 22:4. And here I do not wonder that Ahab should desire the assistance of so pious and prosperous a neighbour. Even bad men have often coveted the friendship of the good. It is desirable to have an interest in those that have an interest in heaven, and to have those with us that have God with them. But it is strange that Jehoshaphat will go so entirely into Ahab’s interests as to say, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people. I hope not; Jehoshaphat and his people are not so wicked and corrupt as Ahab and his people. Too great a complaisance to evildoers has brought many good people, through unwariness, into a dangerous fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Jehoshaphat had like to have paid dearly for his compliment when, in battle, he was taken for Ahab. Yet some observe that in joining with Israel against Syria he atoned for his father’s fault in joining with Syria against Israel, 1 Kgs. 15:19, 20.
III. At the special instance and request of Jehoshaphat, he asks counsel of the prophets concerning this expedition. Ahab thought it enough to consult with his statesmen, but Jehoshaphat moves that they should enquire of the word of the Lord, 1 Kgs. 22:5. Note, 1. Whithersoever a good man goes he desires to take God along with him, and will acknowledge him in all his ways, ask leave of him, and look up to him for success. 2. Whithersoever a good man goes he ought to take his religion along with him, and not be ashamed to own it, no, not when he is with those who have no kindness for it. Jehoshaphat has not left behind him, at Jerusalem, his affection, his veneration, for the word of the Lord, but both avows it and endeavours to introduce it into Ahab’s court. If Ahab drew him into his wars, he will draw Ahab into his devotions.
IV. Ahab’s 400 prophets, the standing regiment he had of them (prophets of the groves they called them), agreed to encourage him in this expedition and to assure him of success, 1 Kgs. 22:6. He put the question to them with a seeming fairness: Shall I go or shall I forbear? But they knew which way his inclination was and designed only to humour the two kings. To please Jehoshaphat, they made use of the name Jehovah: He shall deliver it into the hand of the king; they stole the word from the true prophets (Jer. 23:30) and spoke their language. To please Ahab they said, Go up. They had indeed probabilities on their side: Ahab had, not long since, beaten the Syrians twice; he had now a good cause, and was much strengthened by his alliance with Jehoshaphat. But they pretended to speak by prophecy, not by rational conjecture, by divine, not human, foresight: “Thou shalt certainly recover Ramoth-Gilead.” Zedekiah, a leading man among these prophets, in imitation of the true prophets, illustrated his false prophecy with a sign, 1 Kgs. 22:11. He made himself a pair of iron horns, representing the two kings, and their honour and power (both of which were signified by horns, exaltation and force), and with these the Syrians must be pushed. All the prophets agreed, as one man, that Ahab should return from this expedition a conqueror, 1 Kgs. 22:12. Unity is not always the mark of a true church and a true ministry. Here were 400 men that prophesied with one mind and one mouth, and yet all in an error.
V. Jehoshaphat cannot relish this sort of preaching; it is not like what he was used to. The false prophets cannot so mimic the true but that he who had spiritual senses exercised could discern the fallacy, and therefore he enquired for a prophet of the Lord besides, 1 Kgs. 22:7. He is too much of a courtier to say any thing by way of reflection on the king’s chaplains, but he waits to see a prophet of the Lord, intimating that he could not look upon these to be so. They seemed to be somewhat (whatever they were, it made no matter to him), but, in conference, they added nothing to him, they gave him no satisfaction, Gal. 2:6. One faithful prophet of the Lord was worth them all.
VI. Ahab has another, but one he hates, Micaiah by name, and, to please Jehoshaphat, he is willing to have him sent for, 1 Kgs. 22:8-10. Ahab owned that they might enquire of the Lord by him, that he was a true prophet, and one that knew God’s mind. And yet, 1. He hated him, and was not ashamed to own to the king of Judah that he did so, and to give this for a reason. He doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And whose fault was that? If Ahab had done well, he would have heard nothing but good from heaven; if he do ill, he may thank himself for all the uneasiness which the reproofs and threats of God’s word gave him. Note, Those are wretchedly hardened in sin, and are ripening apace for ruin, who hate God’s ministers because they deal plainly with them and faithfully warn them of their misery and danger by reason of sin, and reckon those their enemies that tell them the truth. 2. He had (it should seem) imprisoned him; for, when he committed him (1 Kgs. 22:26), he bade the officer carry him back, namely, to the place whence he came. We may suppose that this was he that reproved him for his clemency to Ben-hadad (1 Kgs. 20:38-43) and for so doing was cast into prison, where he had lain these three years. This was the reason why Ahab knew where to find him so readily, 1 Kgs. 22:9. But his imprisonment had not excluded him for divine visits: the spirit of prophecy continued with him there. He was bound, but the word of the Lord was not. Nor did it in the lease abate his courage, nor make him less confident or faithful in delivering his message. Jehoshaphat gave too gentle a reproof to Ahab for expressing his indignation against a faithful prophet: Let not the king say so, 1 Kgs. 22:8. He should have said, “Thou art unjust to the prophet, unkind to thyself, and puttest an affront upon his Lord and thine, in saying so.” Such sinners as Ahab must be rebuked sharply. However he so far yielded to the reproof that, for fear of provoking Jehoshaphat to break off from his alliance with him, he orders Micaiah to be sent for with all speed, 1 Kgs. 22:9. The two kings sat each in their robes and chairs of state, in the gate of Samaria, ready to receive this poor prophet, and to hear what he had to say; for many will give God’s word the hearing that will not lend it an obedient ear. They were attended with a crowd of flattering prophets, that could not think of prophesying any thing but what was very sweet and very smooth to two such glorious princes now in confederacy. Those that love to be flattered shall not want flatterers.
VII. Micaiah is pressed by the officer that fetches him to follow the cry, 1 Kgs. 22:13. That officer was unworthy the name of an Israelite who pretended to prescribe to a prophet; but he thought him altogether such a one as the rest, who studied to please men and not God. He told Micaiah how unanimous the other prophets were in foretelling the king’s good success, how agreeable it was to the king, intimating that it was his interest to say as they said—he might thereby gain, not only enlargement, but preferment. Those that dote upon worldly things themselves think every body else should do so too, and true or false, right or wrong, speak and act for their secular interest only. He intimated likewise that it would be to no purpose to contradict such a numerous and unanimous vote; he would be ridiculed, as affecting a foolish singularity, if he should. But Micaiah, who knows better things, protests, and backs his protestation with an oath, that he will deliver his message from God with all faithfulness, whether it be pleasing or displeasing to his prince (1 Kgs. 22:14): “What the Lord saith to me, that will I speak, without addition, diminution, or alteration.” This was nobly resolved, and as became one who had his eye to a greater King than either of these, arrayed with brighter robes, and sitting on a higher throne.