The Prophet Series: Micaiah
The Prophet Series: Micaiah
Some time after the departure of Elijah, Ahab, king of Israel found himself at war with Aram, which is Syria. Due to Syria's arrogance against Jehovah, they were defeated by Ahad. A prophet was sent to Ahab to inform him that the king of Aram would be delivered into his hand. Yet after the slaughter, the Aramean king asked Ahab to spare his life and not only did Ahab grant him life, but he befriended the pagan king. In response to this an unnamed prophet disguised himself and waited for Ahab to pass him on the road. He called to the king and proceeded to reveal that he had been commissioned to guard another man under the condition that if he lost that man then the penalty would be his own life, and behold, he had lost the man. The king agreed with this judgment and in so doing he judged himself.
1KI 20:38-43 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. And as the king passed by, he cried to the king and said, "Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and behold, a man turned aside and brought a man to me and said, 'Guard this man; if for any reason he is missing, then your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.' "And while your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." And the king of Israel said to him, "So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it." Then he hastily took the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him that he was of the prophets. And he said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.'" So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and vexed, and came to Samaria.
When Micaiah appears in chapter 22 we find that king Ahab has known him quite well. Further, king Ahab states that Micaiah always prophecies against him. Thus it is likely that the unnamed prophet in chapter 20 is Micaiah. His short appearance in the Bible is an interesting one.
Added to the prophecy from Micaiah in chapter 20, Elijah returns to Ahab to inform him that his evil has been judged by God and then prophesies that none of his house will survive and that at his death, Ahab's blood will be licked up by dogs, meaning that his body will not be cared for in death, but neglected. He was a very evil man, and although God allowed him to rule and allowed him some victories on the battlefield, eventually he reaped what he had sown as happens to all who oppose God.
It's been a while since we've discussed a king in Judah. In our blog concerning Hanani and Jehu we studied the kingship of Asa. Asa was succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat who was a very good king, but he made a mistake in judgment by agreeing to an alliance with the idolatrous king Ahab of Israel. Since Micaiah is a prophet in Israel, we need not discuss the reign of Jehoshaphat in this article. All we need to know is that after Ahab had defeated the Syrians, they did not return to him the land that they had taken previously, and Ahab was wanting to take it by force. This land was still inhabited by Syrian forces and so Ahab requested the assistance of Jehoshaphat and his army and he made the mistake of agreeing.
Jehoshaphat, being the man of God that he was, desired to request of the Lord before they dressed for battle to see if it was indeed His will. Ahab, in Ahab-like fashion, called his prophets, 400 of them in fact, who were not prophets of Jehovah. Only wanting to please the king and not caring that they only fake getting messages from Jehovah, the fake prophets bid the king to go to battle, telling him that he will attain a great victory.
1KI 22:6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.
Jehoshaphat did not recognize them as prophets of Jehovah.
1KI 22:7-8 But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not yet a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of him?" And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah."
"Well, yeah, sure there is a prophet of Jehovah, but he never says anything I like, so I'd rather we ignore him." Does he not hear himself speak? Ahab has become so apostate that his reason for not calling God's actual prophet makes sense to him. Yet, at Jehoshaphat's request Micaiah is called. While they wait for his arrival, the 400 prophets keep at doing whatever fake prophets do to make it look like they're true prophets, and one of them, Zedekiah (same name as the last king of Judah who was also a fraud) decides to go a step further and get symbolic. He makes a set of iron horns and presents them to the king while testifying that the Lord spoke that with them Ahab would gore the Syrians. This is appropriate for Zed since these prophets likely worshipped under the two golden calves instituted by Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, 1KI 12:28. I think that Zedekiah was looking to be the teacher's pet by pulling out the arts and crafts.
1KI 22:8-12 But Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so." Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, "Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah." Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, "Thus says the Lord, 'With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are consumed.'" And all the prophets were prophesying thus, saying, "Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king."
The messenger who had fetched Micaiah pleaded with the prophet to speak the same as the false prophets. One wonders why this man would speak so boldly to a prophet of God, in essence telling him what to say. I would imagine that when Ahab got mad, everyone in the palace suffered his wrath. The messenger likely knows that if this prophet speaks the usual things to Ahab, as he has done before, then the messenger will have to live through the hell of a furious, agitated king, brooding around the palace, kicking the dog and yelling at the help. Micaiah responds like the true prophet that he is.
1KI 22:13-14 Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, "Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably." But Micaiah said, "As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak."
Micaiah seems quite relaxed and at peace in front of the king, just as we saw in Elijah. The prophet also shows that he's not above a little sarcasm.
1KI 22:15-16 When he came to the king, the king said to him, "Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?" And he answered him, "Go up and succeed, and the Lord will give it into the hand of the king." Then the king said to him, "How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?"
Did the king know that Micaiah was supposed to say and know that this wasn't it? There is no way that the king could know God's message to the prophet, but the king knows that the prophet is being sarcastic. We can only assume that Micaiah spoke with such an inflection of voice, possibly accompanied by a certain body language, that made it obvious he was just saying what the king wanted him to say, just like all the fake prophets and just as the messenger had asked him to. The king sees his open mockery and bids him to tell the truth.
1KI 22:12 So he said,
That is to say, Ahab would fall in the war, and his army scatter itself without a leader upon the mountains of Gilead, and then everyone would return home, without being pursued and slain by the enemy. The sheep would be without a shepherd, even a bad shepherd.
Ahab responds from his base desire and immaturity:
1KI 22:18 Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?"
Like a child: "Told ya! Told ya!" Mastery of the flesh over a person's life halts the maturity process at the level of a young teenager. Only with God does a man mature in thinking and reason and bring under control his emotions. In the church, in the full knowledge of Christ and His love, we mature to the measure of His stature, and that is a man or woman who can control his thinking as well as his emotions under divine holiness.
Immediately Micaiah describes the vision granted him by God in which God met with His angels in such a way that stands uniquely alone in God's revelation.
1KI 22:19-23 And Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. And the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, 'I will entice him.' "And the Lord said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.' "Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you."
As you can imagine, commentators have had quite a bit of trouble interpreting this unique scene, and there are several suggestions. The vision of heaven is no doubt one of God sitting on His throne surrounded by His angels. God has finally decided to bring Ahab's judgment upon him, and the question put forth to the assembly is who will go and entice Ahab to go into battle so as to die. Then suggestions were made and then one volunteered. As odd as this seems, we would have to assume that this vision is a picture in the form of a parable, and it is not the real picture of how God conducts His business in heaven. In a parable, the pictures refer to a reality, but are not themselves a reality; like the gospel in the parable of the sower is not an actual seed, nor is the kingdom of God an actual pearl. What Micaiah sees and describes is a vision of a parable.
As Ahab sat on his throne surrounded by false prophets who only told him what he wants to hear, so Jehovah is pictured as sitting on his throne surrounded by His true host who also offer Him suggestions or counsel. Now, we know that God doesn't need counsel and so this isn't a reality, but it is meant to convey a message to Ahab and his false prophets, and it is actually a message of mercy since it will be made clear that if Ahab goes to war he will die, which leaves the door slightly open for him to repent.
The one who volunteers is titled "the deceiving spirit". The Hebrew uses the definite article as identifying "the" spirit of deception. This is not an actual angel, but the spirit of deception that pervades the whole world of fallen man. It is not Satan or sent by Satan, but rather it would refer to God's permissive will that allows men who reject the truth to be deceived. After hearing this, couldn't Ahab and the false prophets have repented of their lies and chosen the truth of Jehovah? They could have, but they have chosen lies for almost all their lives and when God sends "the lying spirit" they gobble it up. And even though the true prophet tells them the truth and testifies of the existence of the lying spirit and where it came from, they still gobble it up! They alone are culpable.
After hearing this, the teacher's pet strikes Micaiah across the face. The irony of his action is that this only further shows that Zed was not a prophet of God.
1KI 22:24-25 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, "How did the Spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?" And Micaiah said, "Behold, you shall see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself."
Micaiah's calm and merciful response, showing himself to be the true prophet, is that all of these prophets will soon have to hide themselves. Nothing of their future is given to us in the scripture, but I think we can safely assume that after Ahab dies, when they all predicted that he would be victorious, Jezebel will pass the sentence of their execution.
Micaiah is returned to prison. From the passage it seems that Micaiah was already in prison when he was first summoned, though we can't say for sure. However, it would not have been very odd that had been since other prophets of Israel have found themselves in prison as well.
1KI 22:26 -28 Then the king of Israel said, "Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; and say,' Thus says the king, "Put this man in prison, and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely."'" And Micaiah said, "If you indeed return safely the Lord has not spoken by me." And he said, "Listen, all you
In his last recorded words Micaiah summons all the nations [not "people"] to hear him. Judgment will befall all who reject God, but that God will speak to them and reveal to them the consequences of their rejection. The pursuit of power, wealth, pleasure, and approbation at the cost of faith in God will only attain gods that cannot speak or hear or give. The prophet suffers chains because of this, but this does not stop him from saying what the Lord tells him to say. The reward of the prophet awaits him and judgment awaits the one who rejects his words.
In honor of the work of our Lord,