The prophet Micaiah

Chapter 22

The prophet Micaiah

v1 There was peace between Syria and *Israel for almost three years. v2 In the third year Jehoshaphat, king of *Judah went down to see the king of *Israel. v3 The king of *Israel said to his officials, ‘I do not know why we have not done anything to get back Ramoth-Gilead from the king of Syria. It belongs to us!’ v4 So he asked Jehoshaphat if he would go to attack Ramoth-Gilead with him.

Jehoshaphat said that he, his army and his horses were ready and willing to join in. v5 But he also said to the king of *Israel, ‘Let us first ask the *Lord for advice.’

v6 So the king of *Israel called in 400 *prophets and he asked them, ‘Shall I go to attack Ramoth-Gilead or not?’

‘Go’, they replied. ‘The *Lord will give you success.’

v7 But Jehoshaphat replied, ‘Is there not another *prophet, a *prophet of the *Lord whom we can ask?’

v8 ‘There is one’, replied the king of *Israel. ‘He is Micaiah son of Imlah. We can ask the *Lord’s advice by means of him. But I hate him because he never *prophesies anything good about me. He always *prophesies what is bad.’

‘You should not say that’, replied Jehoshaphat.

v9 So the king of *Israel asked one of his officials to fetch Micaiah son of Imlah at once. v10 King Jehoshaphat of *Judah and the king of *Israel were both wearing their royal clothes. They were sitting on their royal seats at the yard by the gate of Samaria. All the *prophets were *prophesying in front of them.

v11 Zedekiah son of Chenaanah had made *horns of iron. And he declared, ‘This is what the *Lord says. “With these you will fight the soldiers from Syria and you will completely *destroy them.” ’

v12 All the other *prophets said the same. ‘Attack Ramoth-Gilead! You will be successful. The *Lord will give you success.’

v13 The man who had gone to get Micaiah said to him, ‘All the other *prophets have *prophesied success for the king. Let your words be like theirs. Say something favourable.’

v14 But Micaiah said, ‘I promise this, as surely as the *Lord lives. I will only speak what the *Lord tells me to say.’

In chapter 20, Ahab (the king of *Israel) made an agreement with the king of Syria. That agreement was the reason why there was peace for almost three years. When the kings made that agreement, the king of Syria promised to return certain cities to *Israel.

However, Syria still controlled Ramoth-Gilead. This was a large city that belonged to the *tribe of Levi. It was a special city of safety (Joshua 20:8).

Ahab discussed this matter with Jehoshaphat, who was the king of *Judah. Jehoshaphat was a good king, who was loyal to the *Lord. We do not know why Jehoshaphat chose to have a friendly relationship with Ahab’s family. Ahab was a very wicked king.

Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to help him to fight for Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed. His army would fight with Ahab’s army. It seems that both Jehoshaphat and Ahab considered Syria to be their enemy. But Jehoshaphat wanted the *prophets to give advice first. He wanted to know whether God approved of this plan.

Ahab asked 400 *prophets. We cannot be sure about the religion of these *prophets. They probably belonged to the religion that Jeroboam set up. So although they spoke about the *Lord, they were not really *prophets of the *Lord. In fact, they *worshipped *idols.

This was an impressive event. The kings wore their royal clothes. They sat on their royal seats by the city gates. This was the place where all public meetings happened. All 400 *prophets agreed that the battle would be successful. They spoke with great power. One *prophet called Zedekiah made *horns of iron. They represented the two kings in the fight against Syria.

Jehoshaphat listened to all these *prophets. But they could not convince him. He knew that they *worshipped *idols. And Jehoshaphat only *worshipped the *Lord. Jehoshaphat would not agree to go to war until he had heard the advice from a real *prophet of the *Lord.

Ahab had such a *prophet available, but he did not want to call him. That *prophet was Micaiah. Verse 26 shows that Micaiah was probably already in prison. Ahab would have put Micaiah there because he was angry about his *prophecies. Ahab complained that Micaiah’s *prophecies were always bad. But the truth was that Ahab did not like Micaiah’s *prophecies. Micaiah would only tell the king what God told him to say. But Ahab did not want to obey God. So Ahab was angry with this loyal *prophet. The man who called Micaiah warned him about the situation. His words mean, ‘Tell the king what he wants to hear.’ But Micaiah refused. He would only say what the *Lord had told him. A genuine *prophet never changes the *Lord’s message. Such a *prophet speaks the truth, even if everyone opposes him.

v15 When Micaiah arrived, the king asked him a question. ‘Micaiah, shall we go and attack Ramoth-Gilead or not?’

‘Attack. You will win’, said Micaiah. ‘The *Lord will give you success.’

v16 The king replied, ‘When you speak in the name of the *Lord tell the truth! I have told you that so many times!’

v17 So Micaiah answered, ‘I saw all *Israel’s armies. The soldiers had scattered across the hills. They seemed like sheep that had nobody to look after them. And the *Lord said, “These men have no leader. Let them go home in peace.” ’

v18 Then the king of *Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I told you that he never *prophesies anything good about me. It is always something bad.’

v19 Micaiah continued. ‘Hear the word of the *Lord. I saw the *Lord. He was sitting on his royal seat. All the *angels were standing behind him. They were on both his right side and his left side. v20 The *Lord said, “Who will persuade Ahab to attack Ramoth-Gilead, so that he will die there?” One *angel said one thing and other *angels said something else. v21 Finally a *spirit came forward. That *spirit stood in front of the *Lord. “I will persuade him”, the *spirit said. v22 “How?” asked the *Lord. The *spirit replied, “I will go to Ahab’s *prophets. I will make them all tell lies.” The *Lord said, “You will succeed. Your plan will persuade him. So go, and do it!” v23 So now the *Lord has sent that lying *spirit. And that is why all these *prophets speak lies. The *Lord has said that you will suffer *disaster.’

v24 Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah slapped Micaiah’s face. Zedekiah asked Micaiah, ‘How do you suppose that the *spirit from the *Lord left me to speak to you?’

v25 Micaiah replied, ‘You will find out when you go into a back room to hide.’

v26 The king ordered his official to arrest Micaiah. He told the official to send him back to Amon, the ruler of the city, and to Joash, the king’s son. v27 ‘Tell them that the king says, “Put this man in prison and give him only bread and water. Do this until I return safely.” ’

v28 Micaiah said, ‘If you ever return safely then the *Lord has not spoken by me.’ Then he added, ‘Listen everybody, to what I have said.’

At the beginning, Micaiah repeated all that the other *prophets had said. Perhaps he was imitating them in order to show that their words disgusted him. Micaiah was saying the opposite of what he meant. Ahab realised this. He warned Micaiah not to laugh at him. Micaiah should only speak the message that the *Lord had given to him. The kings would not listen to anything else.

So Micaiah explained what the *Lord had shown to him. Unless someone looks after sheep, they wander. Unless someone leads an army, the soldiers scatter. God was not punishing the people. But he was punishing King Ahab, who was their leader. So Micaiah explained that the king would die. The army would return home without its leader. When Ahab was dead, there would be no reason to fight.

Then Micaiah described how God allowed the devil to make the people believe a lie. God allowed Micaiah to see a picture of what was happening in heaven. The event that Micaiah described was similar to the events in Job chapters 1 and 2.

Micaiah saw a very impressive scene. God was sitting on his royal seat. All the *angels were present. They stood behind him like a great army. God had arranged a meeting of his court because he had made an important decision about Ahab.

Ahab’s wicked rule over *Israel had continued for 22 years. During that period, God had sent several *prophets to warn Ahab about his behaviour. And God had been kind to Ahab. God even allowed Ahab to win battles against his enemies. But Ahab still continued his evil religion. And he still preferred the lies that his false *prophets told. Ahab had not turned to God. In fact, Ahab had become even more wicked.

So God had decided that Ahab’s opportunities to trust him had ended. The time was right for Ahab to die because of his *sins.

God had made his judgement. But God never does anything evil. He is perfect; he never carries out any evil deed. And he does not want anyone to suffer. The evil deeds that we see in the world are the work of the devil and his evil *spirits.

In the Book of Job, the devil was present at God’s court. But in this passage, an evil *spirit was present. Because this *spirit was evil, the *spirit wanted to make people tell lies. But God puts a limit on the power of evil things. So the *spirit could not act against Ahab until God allowed this.

That *spirit was the reason why so many *prophets told lies. And Ahab preferred to believe the false *prophets instead of the real message that came from God.

Zedekiah insulted Micaiah. He slapped him on the face. Zedekiah asked where Micaiah got the authority for his *prophecy. Micaiah did not give a proper reply. Instead, he gave a *prophecy about Zedekiah. Many people would have to hide after the army from Syria won the battle. They would be very afraid that they too might die. And Zedekiah would be among them. He would have to hide. And then he would know that Micaiah’s message really did come from God.

The king arrested Micaiah. He ordered people to feed him on just bread and water. Probably he intended to kill him as a punishment for a false *prophecy when he returned. But the king wanted Micaiah to see that he was wrong first.

The king’s words did not impress Micaiah. Micaiah knew that his message came from God. The king would not return alive from the battle. His death was certain. Only a false *prophet gave a message that was not true. The events during the battle would prove that Micaiah spoke by God’s power.

The death of King Ahab

v29 So the king of *Israel and Jehoshaphat king of *Judah went to attack Ramoth-Gilead. v30 The king of *Israel spoke to Jehoshaphat. ‘I will wear ordinary clothes as we go into battle. I do not want people to recognise me. But you should wear your royal clothes.’ So the king of *Israel wore the clothes of an ordinary soldier as he went into battle.

v31 Now the king of Syria gave an order to his 32 *chariot captains. They must not attack anyone except the king of *Israel. v32 When they saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, ‘Surely this is the king of *Israel.’ So they turned to attack him. Then he cried out. v33 They realised that he was not the king of *Israel. So they stopped their attack on him.

v34 But, by chance, someone shot an arrow. This hit the king of *Israel between the sections of his *armour. The king told his *chariot driver, ‘Somebody has hurt me. Turn round and leave the battle.’

v35 All day long the battle continued. They sat the king up in his *chariot. He was looking towards the soldiers from Syria. The blood from his injury ran onto the floor of the *chariot. That evening he died.v36 As the sun was setting, the order went out to all the *Israelites. ‘Every man should go back to his own country and city.’

v37 So the king died. They brought him to Samaria and they buried him there. v38 They washed the *chariot at a pool in Samaria. The people who sold their bodies for sex used to wash at that pool. And there, the dogs *licked Ahab’s blood as the *Lord had *prophesied.

v39 The History of the Kings of *Israel contains details of all that Ahab did. And it records the other events during his rule. It describes his palace that he made beautiful with ivory (a substance like bone). It also describes all the cities that he built. v40 Ahab died. And Ahaziah his son became king next.

It is surprising that Jehoshaphat continued to go with Ahab to battle. Micaiah had clearly warned Jehoshaphat that the battle would not be successful. But Micaiah only said that Ahab would die. So perhaps Jehoshaphat thought that he would be safe. Or perhaps Ahab was such an impressive person that Jehoshaphat did not want to disappoint him. Perhaps Jehoshaphat even felt that it would not be honourable to refuse to join in the battle. But, for whatever reason, Jehoshaphat went with Ahab to the battle. And Jehoshaphat seemed not to realise that he was taking a great risk. Ahab would even persuade Jehoshaphat to dress in a manner that would put him (Jehoshaphat) in great danger.

Ahab encouraged Jehoshaphat to put on the clothes of an army leader. Perhaps Ahab hoped that Jehoshaphat would think this to be an honour. Ahab did not wear his royal clothes. He realised that the king of Syria would be very angry with him. Ahab was not obeying the peace agreement that he made in 1 Kings 20:34. So Ahab thought that he could confuse the enemy soldiers. And, at the start of the battle, Ahab’s scheme did confuse them. But God knows the truth about everyone. The things that Micaiah *prophesied would happen. Nobody can ever confuse God.

We can see how angry the king of Syria was, by his instructions to his captains. The king of Syria ordered his men to aim at King Ahab. At first, they thought that Jehoshaphat was Ahab. They were confused because only Jehoshaphat was wearing royal clothes. But then Jehoshaphat shouted his battle cry. From this they knew that he was not Ahab. One man shot an arrow. Tradition says that this man was Naaman from Syria (2 Kings chapter 5). We do not know. He did not have a particular purpose but the arrow hit Ahab.

At first, King Ahab left the battle. Then however, he stayed in his *chariot and he encouraged his men to attack. That evening he died and the *Israelite soldiers were without their leader. They had to escape to their homes.

Ahab’s officials buried the king in Samaria. So Ahab’s body had a proper grave, unlike the bodies of his *descendants (1 Kings 21:24; 21:29). Ahab’s officials washed the *chariot in a pool. But there was much blood on this *chariot. The blood attracted dogs. The dogs *licked the king’s blood. So Elijah’s *prophecy came true (1 Kings 21:19). Ahab’s death was in 853 *B.C.

Jehoshaphat’s rule as king of *Judah

v41 Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of *Judah. He began to rule in the 4th year of Ahab king of *Israel. v42 Jehoshaphat was 35 years old when he became king. And he ruled in Jerusalem for 25 years. His mother was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. v43 Like his father Asa, he did what the *Lord considered to be right. He did not turn away from it. But he did not remove the places of *worship on the high hills. People continued to offer *sacrifices there. And they burnt *incense there. v44 Jehoshaphat made an agreement of peace with the king of *Israel.

v45 The History of the Kings of *Judah describes all the other events during his rule. It describes what he did. And it describes all the battles that he fought. v46 He removed the rest of the males who sold their bodies for sex. His father Asa had not removed them.

v47 There was no king in Edom. The king of *Judah appointed the person who ruled it. v48 Jehoshaphat built a group of ships to go to Ophir for gold. But they never sailed. Storms destroyed them at Eziongeber. v49 King Ahaziah son of Ahab offered to let his men sail with Jehoshaphat’s men. But Jehoshaphat refused the offer.

v50 When Jehoshaphat died, his officials buried him in the city of David, his *ancestor. Afterwards, Jehoram his son became king.

Next, there is a short account of the rule of Jehoshaphat king of *Judah. He followed the good ways of his father Asa. He did not remove the places of *worship on the hills. But he removed the males who sold their bodies for sex in the *worship of *Baal.

There was no king in Edom because *Judah still controlled it. Eziongeber was in Edom. Jehoshaphat intended to use this port in a trading scheme that could make him very wealthy. Solomon had succeeded with a similar scheme (1 Kings 9:26-28). Jehoshaphat tried to work with Ahaziah, Ahab’s son. But Jehoshaphat’s scheme failed. A storm destroyed the ships.

2 Chronicles 20:35-37 contains more information about this event. God would not allow the plan to succeed. He did not want Jehoshaphat to have such a close relationship with Ahab’s family. When Ahaziah again invited Jehoshaphat to trade, Jehoshaphat refused. Jehoshaphat realised because of the storm that the *Lord did not want him to continue this agreement.

Ahaziah’s rule as king of *Israel

v51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab became king of *Israel. This was in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat’s rule over *Judah. Ahaziah ruled over *Israel in Samaria for two years. v52 He did what the *Lord considered to be evil. He was like his father and mother. He was also like Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who made *Israel *sin. v53 He *worshipped and served *Baal. He made the *Lord, the God of *Israel, very angry. His father had done this as well.

Ahaziah only ruled for two years. Like Ahab, Jezebel and Jeroboam, he was a very evil ruler. He made God very angry.

Word List

altar ~ a table on which people offer or burn gifts or *sacrifices to a god.

Amorite ~ one of a group of people who had lived in Canaan before the *Jews lived there.

ancestor ~ any person from the past from whom the families of your father or mother have come.

angel ~ a servant of God who is in heaven or who comes from heaven.

armour ~ a soldier’s clothing which he wears for protection.

B.C. ~ years before Christ was born.

Baal ~ a false god.

bless/blessing ~ God does good things and protects people; or, the good things that he does.

borrow ~ to take something that belongs to someone else. They permit you to use it and you intend to return it.

bow ~ to lower the head or the body; this action shows that you respect someone.

break a promise ~ not to do what you promised.

bull ~ the male animal that mates with a cow.

burden ~ a heavy thing to carry; or, a difficult duty.

burnt offering ~ a gift to God where people burnt a whole animal on the *altar.

Canaanites ~ the people who were the original inhabitants of the country that became *Israel.

capture ~ to take someone or something and keep it. Not to allow freedom.

captured ~ a description of someone who becomes a prisoner during a battle.

carve/carving ~ people cut away material from wood or stone.

cattle ~ cows and *bulls.

cedar ~ a tall tree whose leaves are always green. Or, the wood from this tree. This wood has a sweet smell.

celebrate/celebration ~ to praise a person and to give honour to that person. Or, to show great happiness at a special event.

challenge ~ to invite someone to fight; or to invite someone to prove something.

chariot ~ a cart with two wheels that soldiers used. Horses pulled it.

commandment ~ any of the laws that God gave to *Israel, especially the Ten Commandments.

conquer ~ to take control of a country or group of people by force.

courtyard ~ an open space with walls or fences round it.

covenant ~ an agreement between two people or groups. Or, especially, the agreement between God and his people. The ‘Covenant Box’ was the most sacred object in the *temple.

curse ~ words that somebody uses in order to hurt someone else.

decorate ~ to make something beautiful by means of a delicate or attractive design.

deer ~ an animal that is smaller than a cow.

descendants ~ people in your family who live after you.

destroy ~ to damage something so badly that it no longer works; or, to kill almost all the people in a group.

dew ~ small round balls of water which form on cool surfaces outdoors at night.

disaster ~ an event that makes people suffer. It can cause great damage and death.

everlasting ~ without beginning or end.

exile ~ to be away from one’s country as a punishment.

faith ~ trust; strong belief.

fellowship offering ~ an offering was a gift to God. People shared fellowship offerings and they ate food together.

festival ~ a *celebration that remembers a person or an event.

Festival of bread that would not rise ~ this reminded people about the time when the *Jews left Egypt. They had to leave quickly. So they had to bake their bread before it had time to rise.

Festival of Shelters ~ people built shelters to live in for a week. This reminded them of their *ancestors’ journey through the desert.

Festival of Weeks ~ when the *Israelites thanked God for the wheat harvest; it happened 7 weeks after the Passover (an annual ceremony to remember God’s rescue of the *Jews from Egypt).

forgiveness ~ when somebody decides to forgive a person who has done something wrong. The person who forgives is not still angry with that other person.

frame ~ a border of wood in which people fix a door or part of a piece of furniture.

gazelle ~ a small animal with *horns that runs fast.

glory ~ fame and honour.

grace ~ God’s *mercy and kindness which are free gifts to us.

grapes ~ green or purple soft fruits that people use to make wine.

hinge ~ a small piece of metal on which a door or gate turns as it opens.

Hittite ~ one of a group of people who had lived in Canaan before the *Jews lived there.

holy ~ morally good; something people consider very important in their religion.

horn ~ a growth on heads of *cattle or *deer.

idol ~ the image of a god to whom people give honour.

incense ~ a substance that people use in *religious *celebrations. It has a pleasant smell.

Israel ~ the country or nation of people who are *descendants of Jacob; the northern part of that country after it divided.

Israelite ~ someone who lives in *Israel; or, a *descendant of Jacob.

Jew ~ a person who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children; an *Israelite.

Judah ~ one of the *tribes of *Israel. The southern part of the *Jewish *kingdom after it divided.

keep a promise ~ do what you promised to do.

kingdom ~ a country or nation that a king or a queen rules.

Levite ~ a member of the *tribe of Levi; a servant in the *temple.

lick ~ to taste with the tongue.

Lord ~ the name of God. It can translate either of two words in Hebrew, which is the original language of this book. The word ‘Yahweh’ is God’s most holy name, and means ‘God always’. The word ‘Adonai’ means ‘master’.

majesty ~ a word that people use in order to give great honour to a king.

mercy ~ kindness or *forgiveness instead of punishment.

miracle ~ a wonderful work that God does by his power and which human knowledge cannot explain.

Mount ~ a short word for mountain; small mountain.

mule ~ an animal that is born after a horse mates with a similar animal called a donkey. A mule can carry heavy *burdens.

offerings ~ *religious gifts.

olive/olive oil ~ a bitter green or black fruit; oil from this fruit.

ox (oxen ) ~ a strong farm animal that can pull the plough.

panel ~ wood that covers a door, wall or other structure. It is usually higher or lower than the area round it.

peace ~ the absence of war; friendship between people and groups.

pine ~ tree that grows on mountains; or the wood from it.

pomegranate ~ a large fruit with many seeds.

presence ~ the place where somebody is.

prophecy ~ what people say when they *prophesy.

prophesy ~ to speak God’s word; or, to say what will happen in the future.

prophet ~ a person who *prophesies.

rebellion/rebel ~ fight against authority; someone who does this.

rectangular ~ a shape with four sides, two of which are longer than the other two.

reject ~ to refuse to accept someone or something.

religious ~ about religion.

rod ~ a thin straight piece of wood or metal.

sacrifice ~ something valuable that people offered to a god.

scorpion ~ a dangerous small animal that stings people.

shield ~ something that soldiers carry to protect their body from attack.

sign ~ a thing or event that has a special meaning. It shows that somebody or something is present; or it shows that something will happen.

sin/sinful ~ an action that is wrong or wicked. It is against a *religious or moral law.

sorrow ~ sad feelings.

soul ~ the *spiritual part of a person that exists after death.

spices ~ substances with a strong taste or smell; people take them from plants and they use them to cook with.

spiral ~ something that moves in a continuous curve round a central point.

spirit ~ the part of a person that is alive, which we cannot see. Also, there are spirits that we cannot see; such spirits can be good or bad. The word may also refer to God’s *Holy Spirit.

spiritual ~ about man’s *spirit or *soul, not physical things.

temple ~ the central place of *worship that Solomon built in Jerusalem; or, a place where people *worship a false god.

talent ~ measurement of weight equal to 75 pounds or 34 *kilograms. But some students say that a talent was sometimes twice as heavy as that.

trial ~ something that will show whether a person has done something wrong or not.

tribe ~ a group of people; a family or people that have the same *ancestors; family from one man. *Israel came from the 12 sons of Jacob. These 12 families formed the 12 tribes of *Israel.

trumpet ~ an instrument that people blow in order to play.

vineyard ~ an area where people grow *grapes.

weapons ~ tools of war, for example swords, which people use to cause pain, injury and death.

worship ~ to praise God and to give thanks to him; to show honour to God; to say that we love him very much. But some people worship false gods instead of the real God.