Bible Commentaries

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1 Kings 22

Verses 6-8

1 Kings 22:6-8

As against Benhadad, Ahab was in the right when he sought to capture Ramoth-gilead. But he had also to reckon with God. Face to face with God, Ahab's real position at this period of his life was that of a condemned criminal, and he therefore was not in a moral position to represent and act on behalf of the rights of Israel.

The four hundred prophets whom Ahab consulted would seem to have been prophets of Jehovah, worshipped illegally under the symbol of a calf, an order of men who had arisen in the reign of Jeroboam, who practised prophecy as a trade without any true call from God, and who at the present time were in the pay, or at least under the influence, of the court of Samaria. Ahab's tragical fate was the immediate consequence of preferring his own will, backed up by the advice of the four hundred, to the revelations of Micaiah. His mind at this the last crisis of his sad and eventful life is seen in two respects: in his willingness to consult the prophets of the calves; in his prejudice against Micaiah. They are the two sides of a disposition towards religion which in its principle is one and the same. It is not downright, contemptuous, bitter opposition; still less is it the loyalty of faith and love. It is a willingness to welcome religion if religion will only sanction the views, projects, and passions of its patrons.

Ahab welcomed the four hundred because he knew exactly what the four hundred would say. He disobeyed a voice which he could not silence, which willingly he would not have heard. He took his own way, and his tragical end was the consequence of his doing so.

Let us learn two lessons from this story.

I. The first is a principle of Church polity: the importance of making religious teachers, if you can, independent of those whom they have to teach. The clergyman who, with a number of children depending on him, has to think from the first day of the year about the collection that will be made for him at the end of it, must be heroic if he never yields to the softening down of a truth which will be unwelcome to his paymasters or the extenuating a fault which is notoriously popular among them. It is the laity who suffer much more by a dependent clergy than the clergy themselves.

II. Notice here a lesson of religious practice. They who do not seek false teachers may yet take only so much of true teaching as falls in with their own inclinations. If God will only say what His creature approves of, His creature will be well content; but if the Gospel or the Creed, like Micaiah of old, has its warning clauses, so much the worse for Creed or Gospel when Ahab has made up his mind, come what may, to go to Ramoth-gilead. In the last contest with death, which is before every one of us, we shall know that He who spoke by Micaiah was surely right.

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 598 (see also Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 401).

References: 1 Kings 22:8 . J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 132; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 78; C. Girdlestone, Course of Sermons for the Year, vol. ii., p. 237; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times, " vol. i., p. 196; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 428; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 24.

Verse 14

1 Kings 22:14

God's truth is broader than any human statement of it, or than any systems which men, in perfect honesty of heart, may build on their conceptions of it; hence the existence of godly non conformity in every age of the world. In the region of political as well as spiritual life, the great impulses which have been the commencement of a vital expansion and progress have mostly come from men outside the established order of things, from men dissatisfied with it, and who saw something more true, more fair, in their visions, which they would not resign the hope of seeing established visibly in our world.

Micaiah, son of Imlah, is a nonconformist of the grandest type. Ahab had his regular college of prophets. Zedekiah prophesied in the name of the Lord, and was familiar, at any rate, with His Spirit as the agent of inspiration. He may have believed that he and his fellows were the recognised organs of the Divine voice, and that what they uttered had the sanction of the Divine name. The pious king of Judah did not venture to question their title to the name "prophet," but he felt that they were blind guides, more perilous in that they were masked by a sacred name. Ahab recognised Micaiah, too, as a prophet. He does not recognise any formal official distinction between him and the rest. The difference was within and vital. To stand well with the "powers that be" was the glory of Zedekiah; to stand well with the heavenly powers, to hear the Lord's "Well done," was the glory of Micaiah. A supreme loyalty to truth was the essential element of Micaiah's position, as the nonconformist prophet in Israel; and this is the one vital element in all nonconformity which has been worth anything to, or done anything in, our world.

J. Baldwin Brown, Christian' World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 406.

References: 1 Kings 22:15 , 1 Kings 22:16 . J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 353. 1 Kings 22:20-22 . H. Melvill, 2he Golden Lectures, 1854 ( Penny Pulpit, No. 2194); J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 200.

Verse 23

1 Kings 22:23

This chapter gives us an insight into the meaning of that most awful and terrible word "temptation." And yet it is a most comforting chapter, for it shows us how God is longsuffering and merciful even to the most hardened sinner; how to the last He puts before him good and evil, to choose between them, and warns him to the last of his path and the ruin to which it leads.

I. What warning could be more awful and yet more plain than that of the text? Ahab was told that he was listening to a lie. He had free choice to follow that lie or not, and he did follow it. After having put Micaiah into prison for speaking the truth to him, he went up to Ramoth-gilead; and yet he felt he was not safe. He went into the battle and disguised himself, hoping that by this means he should keep himself safe from evil. But God's vengeance was not checked by his paltry cunning.

II. This chapter tells us not merely how Ahab was tempted, but it tells us how we are tempted in these very days. By every wilful sin that we commit we give room to the devil. By every wrong step that we take knowingly we give a handle to some evil spirit to lead us seven steps further wrong. And yet in every temptation God gives us a fair chance. He sends His prophets to us, as He sent Micaiah to Ahab, to tell us that the wages of sin is death, to set before us at every turn good and evil, that we may choose between them, and live and die according to our choice. The Bible is a prophet to us. Every man is a prophet to himself. The still small voice in a man's heart is the voice of God within us; it is the Spirit of God striving with our spirits, whether we will hear or whether we will forbear, setting before us what is righteous, and noble, and pure, and Godlike, to see whether we will obey that voice, or whether we will obey our own selfish lusts, which tempt us to please ourselves.

C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 59.

References: 1 Kings 22:23 . T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 85; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 101.

Verse 34

1 Kings 22:34

I. There is a singular analogy between the present state of knowledge and of piety; in this age literature and religion fare much alike. In the Dark Ages literature was the monopoly of the few; gross ignorance was the condition of the many. Now every one knows a little, few know much, and fewer still know profoundly. Is it not the same with piety? The tendency of modern times has been to diffuse among the many the piety which was once concentrated in the few. The public are religious as a public, but in individuals the salt has lost its savour. If any remedy is to be applied to this state of things, we must first set ourselves to inquire into its causes.

II. Is there any flaw in our ministry which may in some measure account for the low standard of personal religion prevalent among us? We fear there is. We believe that the Christian ministry having by God's design and constitution two arms wherewith to do its work, one of these arms has become paralysed by inactivity. The office of the ministry as regards the word of God is twofold, to rouse consciences and to guide them, and for a long time past ministers have contented themselves with rousing, while they have scarcely done anything to guide, them. The sermon is thrown every Sunday into the midst of the people, very much as the arrow which found out King Ahab was darted into the host of Israel, to take its chance amid the thousand arrows which on that day were winging their flight to and fro. There is in our exercise of the ministry no systematic plan on which people are taught and brought on gradually towards "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." The Apostolical Epistles are the great model of what Christian teaching in a Christian country should be. Our Lord bids His disciples "teach" first as a preliminary to baptism, teach with a view of making disciples, and subsequently to baptism "teach" the converts so made to "observe all things, whatsoever He had commanded." The object of the one was to arouse the conscience of the heathen; the object of the other was to direct the conscience of the Christian.

E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 1.

Reference: G. Moberly, Sermons in Winchester College, 2nd series, p. 63.

Verses 37-39

1 Kings 22:37-39

I. Such glimpses of Ahab's life as we have in ver. 39 reveal him to us in a very different character from that which appears on the face of the Bible history. He would seem to have been one who encouraged arts and industry, one who did a great deal for the temporal improvement of his people, and one concerning whom a flattering historian might have said many things which would tend to raise our thoughts of him as a useful king. We have here an awful commentary on such godless lives as his. His ivory palace and the cities which he built have passed away, together with that book of chronicles which contained their history; but what has remained, and will remain for evermore, is the fearful testimony that neither before nor since was there ever any king in Israel like Ahab, who gave himself up so completely and unreservedly to work evil in the sight of the Lord. We see here a commentary upon this truth, that the question of lasting importance to each man is this: whether he has set himself with all his heart to serve the Lord, or whether he has determined to be rebellious; and that lasting praise belongs, not to him who builds cities and ivory palaces, but to him who fears the Lord and walks in His ways.

II. Let us lay this well to heart, that we too may possibly be walking in a vain show; we may possibly be judging ourselves, and may be judged by others, differently from the judgment of God. "The fashion of the world passeth away" its cities and its ivory houses "but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd series, p. 33.

Verse 48

1 Kings 22:48

I. Notice first the disaster to Jehoshaphat's shipping. The eastern arm of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Akabah, is much deeper than the western; indeed, it is a narrow, deep ravine, with steep and rocky sides, the valley of which it forms part stretching far away to the north, till where it holds in its trough the waters of the Dead Sea. Down through the mountain gorge swept the mad hurricane with resistless might, shattering the ships of Jehoshaphat to pieces, and leaving the grey morning to look upon only pitiful wreckage all along the shore.

II. Notice the cause of this disaster. It was a judgment from Heaven. The grand mistake and sin of Jehoshaphat lay in associating himself with the enemies of God. This was the signal error of his life. If he had been an openly wicked man or a mere man of the world, probably this great shipping disaster would not have occurred, but God would not allow one of His own servants to prosper in such an undertaking.

III. The lesson which the disaster teaches is this: Do not choose your associates amongst those who fear not the Lord. It is always safest to keep under Christian influences. A man is rarely better than the company he keeps. Jehoshaphat may hope to bring Ahaziah up to his own level; but Ahaziah is much more likely to bring Jehoshaphat down. The lesson of the text bears also, and with peculiar point, upon all business alliances. You will do well even to sacrifice a measure of financial interest and worldly prospect rather than be associated in business with a man who is out of all sympathy with you in religion.

J. Thain Davidson, Forewarned Forearmed, p. 191.

References: 1 Kings 22:48 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 13; T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 28. 1 Kings 22:0 R. S. Candlish, Scripture Characters, p. 28; Parker, vol. viii., p. 59.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22". "Sermon Bible Commentary".