Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
3 Kings (1 Kings) 22:1
Allied Campaign of Ahab and Jehoshaphat against the Syrians at Ramoth, and Death of Ahab (compare 2 Chron 18:2-34). - Kg1 22:1. "And they rested three years; there was no war between Aram and Israel," ישׁב here is to keep quiet, to undertake nothing, as in Jdg 5:17, etc. The subject to ויּשׁבוּ is Aram and Israel mentioned in the second clause. The length of time given here points back to the end of the war described in 1 Kings 20.
In the third year (not necessarily "towards the end of it," as Thenius supposes, for Jehoshaphat's visit preceded the renewal of the war) Jehoshaphat visited the king of Israel, with whom he had already formed a marriage alliance by marrying his son to Ahab's daughter (Ch2 18:1; Kg2 8:18). Ahab then said to his servants that the king of Syria had kept the city of Ramoth in Gilead (probably situated on the site of the present Szalt: see at Deu 4:43), which he ought to have given up, according to the conditions of the peace in Kg1 20:34, and asked Jehoshaphat whether he would go with him to the war against Ramoth, which the latter promised to do. "I as thou, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses;" i.e., I am at thy service with the whole of my military power. In the place of the last words we have therefore in the Chronicles ועמך בּמּלחמה, "I am with thee in the war," i.e., I will assist thee in the war.
But as Jehoshaphat wished also to inquire the word of the Lord concerning the war, Ahab gathered together about 400 prophets, who all predicted as out of one mouth a prosperous result to the campaign. These 400 prophets are neither the 400 prophets of Asherah who had not appeared upon Carmel when Elijah was there (Kg1 18:19-20), nor prophets of Baal, as some of the earlier commentators supposed, since Ahab could not inquire of them את־דּבר יהוה. On the other hand, they were not "true prophets of Jehovah and disciples of the prophets" (Cler., Then.), but prophets of Jehovah worshipped under the image of an ox, who practised prophesying as a trade without any call from God, and even if they were not in the pay of the idolatrous kings of Israel, were at any rate in their service. For Jehoshaphat did not recognise them as genuine prophets of Jehovah, but inquired whether there was not such a prophet still in existence (Kg1 22:7), that they might inquire the will of the Lord of him (מאותו).
Ahab then named to him one, but one whom he hated, because he never prophesied good concerning him, but only evil,
(Note: Just as Agamemnon says to Calchas in Il. iv. 106: μάντι κακῶν, ου ̓ πώποτέ μοι τὸ κρήγουν εἶπας, κ.τ.λ.)
namely, Micah the son of Jimlah. Josephus and the Rabbins suppose him to have been the prophet, whose name is not given, who had condemned Ahab in the previous war for setting Benhadad at liberty (Kg1 20:35.). But there is no foundation for this, and it is mere conjecture. At any rate, Ahab had already come to know Micah as a prophet of evil, and, as is evident from Kg1 22:26, had had him imprisoned on account of an unwelcome prophecy. Ahab's dislike to this prophet had its root in the belief, which was connected with heathen notions of prophecy and conjuring, that the prophets stood in such a relation to the Deity that the latter necessarily fulfilled their will; a belief which had arisen from the fact that the predictions of true prophets always came to pass (see at Num 22:6 and Num 22:17).
By Jehoshaphat's desire, Ahab nevertheless sent a chamberlain (סריס; see at Sa1 8:15 and Gen 37:36) to fetch Micah (מהרה, bring quickly).
In the meantime the prophets of the calves continued to prophesy success before the two kings, who sat upon thrones "clothed in robes," i.e., in royal attire, upon a floor in front of the gate of Samaria. גּרן, a threshing-floor, i.e., a levelled place in the open air. In order to give greater effect to their announcement, one of them, named Zedekiyah the son of Cnaanah, made himself iron horns, probably iron spikes held upon the head (Thenius), and said, "With these wilt thou thrust down Aram even to destruction." This symbolical action was an embodiment of the figure used by Moses in the blessing of Joseph (Deu 33:17): "Buffalo horns are his (Joseph's) horns, with them he thrusts down nations" (vid., Hengstenberg, Beitrr. ii. p. 131), and was intended to transfer to Ahab in the case before them that splendid promise which applied to the tribe of Ephraim. But the pseudo-prophet overlooked the fact that the fulfilment of the whole of the blessing of Moses was dependent upon fidelity to the Lord. All the rest of the prophets adopted the same tone, saying, "Go to Ramoth, and prosper," i.e., and thou wilt prosper. (On this use of two imperatives see Ges. 130, 2).
The messenger who fetched Micah tried on the way to persuade him to prophesy success to the king as the other prophets had done; but Micah replied with a solemn oath, that he would only speak what Jehovah said to him.
Micah's prophecy concerning the war, and his testimony against the lying prophets. - Kg1 22:15, Kg1 22:16. When Micah had come into the presence of the king, he replied to his question, "Shall we go against Ramoth?" etc., in just the same words as the pseudo-prophets, to show the king how he would speak if he were merely guided by personal considerations, as the others were. From the verbal agreement in his reply, and probably also from the tone in which he spoke, Ahab perceived that his words were ironical, and adjured him to speak only truth in the name of Jehovah. Micah then told him what he had seen in the spirit (Kg1 22:17): "I saw all Israel scatter itself upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd;" and then added the word of the Lord: "These have no master; let them return every one to his house in peace." That is to say, Ahab would fall in the war against Ramoth in Gilead, and his army scatter itself without a leader upon the mountains of Gilead, and then every one would return home, without being pursued and slain by the enemy. Whilst Zedekiyah attempted to give greater emphasis to his prophecy by symbolically transferring to Ahab's enterprise the success predicted by Moses, Micah, on the other hand, showed to the king out of the law that would really take place in the intended war, namely, that very state of things which Moses before his departure sought to avert from Israel, by the prayer that the Lord would set a man over the congregation to lead them out and in, that the congregation might not become as sheep that have no shepherd (Num 27:16-17).
But although Ahab had asked for a true word of the Lord, yet he endeavoured to attribute the unfavourable prophecy to Micah's persona enmity, saying to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell thee that he prophesies nothing good concerning me, but only evil (misfortune)?"
Micah was not led astray, however, by this, but disclosed to him by a further revelation the hidden ground of the false prophecy of his 400 prophets. וגו שׁמע לכן, "therefore, sc. because thou thinkest so, hear the word of Jehovah: I saw the Lord sit upon His throne, and all the army of heaven stand around him (עליו עמד as in Gen 18:8, etc.) on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, Who will persuade Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth in Gilead? and one spake so, the other so; and the spirit came forth (from the ranks of the rest), stood before Jehovah, and said, I will persuade him...I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And He (Jehovah) said, Persuade, and thou wilt also be able; go forth and do so. And now Jehovah has put a lying spirit into the mouth of all his prophets; but Jehovah (Himself) has spoken evil (through me) concerning thee." The vision described by Micah was not merely a subjective drapery introduced by the prophet, but a simple communication of the real inward vision by which the fact had been revealed to him, that the prophecy of those 400 prophets was inspired by a lying spirit. The spirit (הרוּח) which inspired these prophets as a lying spirit is neither Satan, nor any evil spirit whatever, but, as the definite article and the whole of the context show, the personified spirit of prophecy, which is only so far a πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον τῆς πλάνης (Zac 13:2; Jo1 4:6) and under the influence of Satan as it works as שׁקר רוּח in accordance with the will of God. For even the predictions of the false prophets, as we may see from the passage before us, and also from Zac 13:2 and the scriptural teaching in other passages concerning the spiritual principle of evil, were not mere inventions of human reason and fancy; but the false prophets as well as the true were governed by a supernatural spiritual principle, and, according to divine appointment, were under the influence of the evil spirit in the service of falsehood, just as the true prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit in the service of the Lord. The manner in which the supernatural influence of the lying spirit upon the false prophets is brought out in Micah's vision is, that the spirit of prophecy (רוח הנבואה) offers itself to deceive Ahab as שׁקר רוּח in the false prophets. Jehovah sends this spirit, inasmuch as the deception of Ahab has been inflicted upon him as a judgment of God for his unbelief. But there is no statement here to the effect that this lying spirit proceeded from Satan, because the object of the prophet was simply to bring out the working of God in the deception practised upon Ahab by his prophets. - The words of Jehovah, "Persuade Ahab, thou wilt be able," and "Jehovah has put a lying spirit," etc., are not to be understood as merely expressing the permission of God, as the fathers and the earlier theologians suppose. According to the Scriptures, God does work evil, but without therefore willing it and bringing forth sin. The prophet's view is founded upon this thought: Jehovah has ordained that Ahab, being led astray by a prediction of his prophets inspired by the spirit of lies, shall enter upon the war, that he may find therein the punishment of his ungodliness. As he would not listen to the word of the Lord in the mouth of His true servants, God had given him up (παρέδωκεν, Rom 1:24, Rom 1:26, Rom 1:28) in his unbelief to the working of the spirits of lying. But that this did not destroy the freedom of the human will is evident from the expression תּפתּה, "thou canst persuade him," and still more clearly from תּוּכל גּם, "thou wilt also be able," since they both presuppose the possibility of resistance to temptation on the part of man.
Zedekiah was so enraged at this unveiling of the spirit of lying by which the pseudo-prophets were impelled, that he smote Micah upon the cheek, and said (Kg1 22:24): "Where did the Spirit of Jehovah depart from me, to speak to thee?" To אי־זה the Chronicles add as an explanation, הדּרך: "by what way had he gone from me?" (cf. Kg2 3:8, and Ewald, 326, a.) Zedekiah was conscious that he had not invented his prophecy himself, and therefore it was that he rose up with such audacity against Micah; but he only proved that it was not the Spirit of God which inspired him. If he had been inspired by the Spirit of the Lord, he would not have thought it necessary to try and give effect to his words by rude force, but he would have left the defence of his cause quietly to the Lord, as Micah did, who calmly replied to the zealot thus (Kg1 22:25): "Thou wilt see it (that the Spirit of Jehovah had departed from thee) on the day when thou shalt go from chamber to chamber to hide thyself" (החבה for החבא, see Ges. 75, Anm. 21). This was probably fulfilled at the close of the war, when Jezebel or the friends of Ahab made the pseudo-prophets suffer for the calamitous result; although there is nothing said about this in our history, which confines itself to the main facts.
But Ahab had Micah taken back to Amon the commander of the city, and to Joash the king's son, with the command to put him in prison and to feed him with bread and water of affliction, till he came safe back (בּשׁלום) from the war. From the expression השׁיבהוּ, "lead him back," it evidently follows that Micah had been fetched from the commander of the city, who had no doubt kept him in custody, as the city-prison was probably in his house. The opposite cannot be inferred from the words "put him into the prison;" for this command, when taken in connection with what follows, simply enjoins a more severe imprisonment.
In his consciousness of the divine truth of his announcement, Micah left the king with these words: "If thou come back safe, Jehovah has not spoken by me. Hear it, all ye nations." עמּים does not mean people, for it is only in the antique language of the Pentateuch that the word has this meaning, but nations; and Micah thereby invokes not only the persons present as witnesses of the truth of his words, but the nations generally, Israel and the surrounding nations, who were to discern the truth of his word from the events which would follow (see at Mic 1:2).
The issue of the war, and death of Ahab. - Kg1 22:29. Ahab, disregarding Micah's prophecy, went on with the expedition, and was even joined by Jehoshaphat, of whom we should have thought that, after what had occurred, he at any rate would have drawn back. He was probably deterred by false shame, however, from retracting the unconditional promise of help which he had given to Ahab, merely in consequence of a prophetic utterance, which Ahab had brought against his own person from Micah's subjective dislike. But Jehoshaphat narrowly escaped paying the penalty for it with his life (v. 32), and on his fortunate return to Jerusalem had to listen to a severe reproof from the prophet Jehu in consequence (Ch2 19:2).
And even Ahab could not throw off a certain fear of the fulfilment of Micah's prophecy. He therefore resolved to go to the battle in disguise, that he might not be recognised by the enemy. ובא התהפּשׂ ("disguise myself and go into the battle," i.e., I will go into the battle in disguise): an infin. absol., - a broken but strong form of expression, which is frequently used for the imperative, but very rarely for the first person of the voluntative (cf. Ewald, 328, c.), and which is probably employed here to express the anxiety that impelled Ahab to take so much trouble to ensure his own safety. (Luther has missed the meaning in his version; in the Chronicles, on the contrary, it is correctly given.) לבשׁ ואתּה, "but do thou put on thy clothes." These words are not to be taken as a command, but simply in this sense: "thou mayest (canst) put on thy (royal) dress, since there is no necessity for thee to take any such precautions as I have to take." There is no ground for detecting any cunning, vafrities, on the part of Ahab in these words, as some of the older commentators have done, as though he wished thereby to divert the predicted evil from himself to Jehoshaphat. but we may see very clearly that Ahab had good reason to be anxious about his life, from the command of the Syrian king to the captains of his war-chariots (Kg1 22:31) to fight chiefly against the king of Israel. We cannot infer from this, however, that Ahab was aware of the command. The measure adopted by him may be sufficiently accounted for from his fear of the fulfilment of Micah's evil prophecy, to which there may possibly have been added some personal offence that had been given on his part to the Syrian king in connection with the negotiations concerning the surrender of Ramoth, which had no doubt preceded the war. The thirty-two commanders of the war-chariots and cavalry are, no doubt, the commanders who had taken the place of the thirty-two kings (Kg1 21:24). "Fight not against small and great, but against the king of Israel only," i.e., endeavour above all others to fight against the king of Israel and to slay him.
And when the leaders of the war-chariots saw Jehoshaphat in the battle in his royal clothes, they took him for the king of Israel (Ahab), and pressed upon him. Then Jehoshaphat cried out; and from this they perceived that he was not the king of Israel, and turned away from him. וגו אך אמרוּ והמּה, "and they thought, it is only (i.e., no other than) the king of Israel." עליו יסרוּ, "they bent upon him." Instead of this we have in the Chronicles עליו יסבּוּ, "they surrounded him," and Thenius proposes to alter our text to this; but there is no necessity for doing so, as סוּר also occurs in a similar sense and connection in Kg1 20:39. How far Jehoshaphat was saved by his crying out, is not precisely stated. He probably cried out to his followers to come to his aid, from which the Syrians discovered that he was not the king of Israel, whom they were in search of. The chronicler adds (Kg1 2:18, Kg1 2:31): "and the Lord helped him and turned them off from him;" thus believingly tracing the rescue of the king to its higher causality, though without our having any right to infer from this that Jehoshaphat cried aloud to God for help, which is not implied in the words of the Chronicles.
But notwithstanding the precaution he had taken, Ahab did not escape the judgment of God. "A man drew his bow in his simplicity" (לתמּו as in Sa2 15:11), i.e., without trying to hit any particular man, "and shot the king of Israel between the skirts and the coat of mail." דּבקים are "joints by which the iron thorax was attached to the hanging skirt, which covered the abdomen" (Cler.). The true coat of mail covered only the breast, to somewhere about the last rib; and below this it had an appendage (skirts) consisting of moveable joints. Between this appendage and the true coat of mail there was a groove through which the arrow passed, and, entering the abdomen, inflicted upon the king a mortal would; so that he said to his charioteer: ידיך הפך, verte manus tuas, i.e., turn round (cf. Kg2 9:23). The Chethb ידיך (plural) is the only correct reading, since the driver held the reins in both his hands. החליתי כּי: for I am wounded.
"And the conflict ascended," i.e., became more violent. The use of the verb עלה in this sense may be accounted for on the supposition that it is founded upon the figure of a rising stream, which becomes more and more impetuous the higher it rises (vid., Isa 8:7). "And the king was stationed (i.e., remained or kept himself in an upright posture) upon the chariot before the Syrians," that he might not dishearten his soldiers, "and died in the evening, and poured the blood of the wounds in the middle hollow (חיק) of the chariot."
Towards sunset the cry went through the army (המּחנה, the army drawn up in battle array), "Every one into his city and into his land!" - In Kg1 22:37 the historian shows how the word of the Lord was fulfilled in the case of Ahab. "Thus the king died and came to Samaria:" equivalent to, thus the king reached Samaria dead; and he was buried there.
When they washed the chariot at the pool of Samaria, the dogs licked his blood, while the harlots were bathing (in the pool). והזּנות רחצוּ is a circumstantial clause, and רחץ means to bathe, as in Exo 2:5. This explanation, which is sustained by the grammar and is the only tenable one, disposes of the several arbitrary interpretations of these words, together with the emendations of the text of which Thenius is so fond. In this way was the word of the Lord through Elijah (Kg1 21:19) and the unknown prophet (Kg1 20:42) fulfilled; also the prediction of Micah (Kg1 22:17). Ahab had paid the penalty with his own life for sparing the life of Benhadad (Kg1 20:42), and his blood was licked up by the dogs (Kg1 21:19). The fact that the dogs licked up the blood and the harlots were bathing in the pool, when the chariot that was stained with the blood of Ahab was being washed, is mentioned as a sign of the ignominious contempt which was heaped upon him at his death.
Close of Ahab's history. We have no further account of his buildings. "The ivory palace," i.e., the palace inlaid with ivory, he had probably built in his capital Samaria (cf. Amo 3:15).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 22:41
Reign of Jehoshaphat of Judah. - The account of this in the books before us is a very condensed one. Beside the two campaigns in which he joined with Ahab and Joram of Israel against the Syrians and Moabites, and which are described in the history of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 22:1-35 and 2 Kings 3), we have simply a short notice of his attempt to restore the trade with Ophir, and a general statement of the spirit of his reign; whereas we learn from the extract preserved in the Chronicles from the annals of the kings, that he also carried on a victorious war against the Edomites and Ammonites (2 Chron 20), and did a great deal to promote the spread of the knowledge of the law among his people, and to carry out the restoration of a better administration of justice, and to improve the condition of the army (Ch2 16:1-14 and Ch2 19:1-11).
Kg1 22:41-44, which give the age of Jehoshaphat when he ascended the throne, and the duration and character of his reign, are also found with slight deviations in Ch2 20:31-33, in the closing summary of the history of his reign.
"He walked entirely in the way of his father Asa and departed not from it, to do what was well-pleasing to the Lord," whereas Asa's heart had become more estranged from the Lord in the last years of his reign (see Kg1 15:18.). - On the worship of the high places (Kg1 22:43), see at Kg1 15:14.
He maintained peace with the king of Israel, i.e., with every one of the Israelitish kings who were contemporaneous with him, viz., Ahab, Ahaziah, and Joram, whereas hitherto the two kingdoms had assumed an attitude of hostility towards each other. Even if this friendly bearing towards Israel was laudable in itself, Jehoshaphat went beyond the bounds of what was allowable, since he formed a marriage alliance with the house of Ahab, by letting his son Joram marry a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (Ch2 18:1).
The brave deeds (הגּבוּרה) which he performed include both his efforts to strengthen his kingdom, partly by raising fortifications and organizing the military force, and partly by instructing the people in the law and improving the administration of justice (Ch2 17:7-19 and Ch2 19:4-11), and also the wars which he waged, viz., the expeditions already mentioned. - For Kg1 22:46 see Kg1 15:12.
"There was (then) no (real) king in Edom; a vicegerent was king," i.e., governed the country. This remark is introduced here merely on account of what follows, namely, to show how it was that Jehoshaphat was able to attempt to restore the maritime trade with Ophir. If we observe this connection between the verse before us and what follows, we cannot infer from it, as Ewald does (Gesch. iii. pp. 464 and 474ff.), that the Edomites with Egyptian help had forced from Rehoboam both their liberty and also their right to have a king of their own blood, and had remained in this situation till Jehoshaphat completely subjugated them again. (See the remarks on Kg1 11:21-22.) All that can be gathered from 2 Chron 20 is, that the Edomites, in league with the Ammonites and other desert tribes, made an incursion into Judah, and therefore tried to throw off the supremacy of Judah, but did not succeed in their attempt.
The brief notice concerning Jehoshaphat's attempt to build Tarshish ships (for the word, see pp. 105f) for the voyage to Ophir is expanded in Ch2 20:36-37, where we learn that Jehoshaphat had allied himself with Ahaziah of Israel for this purpose, and that the prophet Eliezer predicted the destruction of his ships on account of this alliance. When the ships had been broken in pieces in Eziongeber, no doubt by a storm, Ahaziah made this fresh proposal to him: "Let my people sail with thy people;" but Jehoshaphat would not. Ahaziah evidently wanted to persuade Jehoshaphat to make another attempt, after the destruction of the ships which were first built; but Jehoshaphat did not agree to it any more, because it was impossible for him, after the fulfilment of Eliezer's prediction, to expect a more favourable result. Thus the two accounts can be harmonized in a very simple manner, with the exception of the words "to go to Tarshish," which we find in the Chronicles in the place of "to go to Ophir," the reading in our text, and which sprang from an erroneous interpretation of the expression "ships of Tarshish" (see above, pp. 105f). The Chethb עשׂר is an error of the pen for עשׂה (Keri); but נשׁבּרה (Chethb) is not to be altered into נשׁבּרוּ, since the construction of a singular verb with the subject following in the plural is by no means rare (vid., Ewald, 317, a.). On Eziongeber and Ophir, see at Kg1 9:26 and Kg1 9:28.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 22:51
Reign of Ahaziah of Israel. - Kg1 22:51. For the datum "in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat," see at Kg2 1:17.
Ahaziah walked in the way of his father and his mother, who had introduced the worship of Baal into the kingdom, and in the way of Jeroboam, who had set up the calves (cf. Kg1 16:30-33). - In Kg1 22:53 it is again expressly added, that he adored and worshipped Baal, as in Kg1 16:31. - With this general description of his character not only is the chapter brought to a close, but the first book of Kings also, - very unsuitably, however, since the further account of Ahaziah's reign and of his death is given in 2 Kings 1 of the following book. It would have been incomparably more suitable to commence a fresh chapter with Kg1 22:52, and indeed to commence the second book there also.