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Deeper Commentary

2Ch 18:1 Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance; and he joined affinity with Ahab-
The Chronicles record clearly shows that he was too close to Israel. His son married a daughter of Ahab, and his insistence on supporting Ahab was seen as loving those who hated Yahweh, and the wrath of God was upon him because of it  (2 Chron. 19:2). And yet he is commended for having peace with the kings of Israel (1 Kings 22:44), even though  that desire for peace with them led him into major sin. But he was judged as having a heart right with God (2 Chron. 19:3). We sense God weighting Jehoshaphat's sins with his relations with Israel against his genuine desire for peace within God's people. And overall, as he was judged on the state of his heart, his desire for unity and peace was judged as his dominant desire. We simply cannot factor in or weight all the dimensions in a man's heart. Only God can. And the reason we are not to judge is because in fact we cannot judge, in that we don't have access to human hearts.   

2Ch 18:2 After certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. Ahab killed sheep and cattle for him in abundance, and for the people who were with him, and moved him to go up with him to Ramoth Gilead-
Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram had wrongly married Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah; probably under some false mantra of 'unity amongst God's people'. The visit was likely in connection with this. Had Jehoshaphat not fraternized with wicked Ahab, the possibility of the doomed venture which follows wouldn't have arisen. And if Ahab had slain Benhadad as commanded, Ramoth Gilead would have been returned to Israel. And indeed if Benhadad kept his covenant, it should have been returned anyway (1 Kings 20:34).  

"Moved" is 'persuaded'. "Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead", just as Jezebel persuaded Ahab to do wickedness (1 Kings 21:25 Heb.). It is a story of sin leading to sin, and sinful attitudes and behaviour spreading through wrong and unwise associations.

2Ch 18:3 Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Will you go with me to Ramoth Gilead? He answered him, I am as you are, and my people as your people. We will be with you in the war-
We note they both have "horses", which were forbidden for the kings of Israel under the law of Moses. Jehoshaphat likely reasoned that a weak Syria on the east bank of Jordan was good for Judah, but he was also caught up in the false mantra of "unity" which had led his son to marry Ahab's daughter. 

2Ch 18:4 Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, Please inquire first for the word of Yahweh-
Ahab responded to the request for a word from Yahweh by summoning the group of 400 false prophets (:5). He had so mixed Yahweh worship with paganism that he considered their word to be that of Yahweh. And he gathered such a huge group in order to argue that the majority must surely be right. And the Bible consistently teaches that in these situations, the majority is usually wrong.

2Ch 18:5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, Shall we go to Ramoth Gilead to battle, or shall I desist?
Ahab had 400 false prophets earlier in his reign (1 Kings 18:19), who were slain on Carmel. So it seems that he didn't learn his lesson, and raised up another such group. This fits with the common theme of purges and repentances at the time of the kings needing to be repeated. For the purges were only surface level, despite all the evidence for them at the time. "Forbear" means 'to cease'. Ahab, like us at times, had already started the project without asking God's guidance, and his request for guidance in the project was compromised in integrity by the fact he had already begun it.

They said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the hand of the king-
This recalls the instant answer of Nathan when David enquired about building a temple for Yahweh. Too easily we assume we know the will of God, and speak and act as if we have His blessing on our endeavours already.

2Ch 18:6 But Jehoshaphat said, Isn’t there here a prophet of Yahweh besides, that we may inquire of him?-
Ahab had provided the 400 prophets of Baal in response to the request for a word from Yahweh. Jehoshaphat realized this; and ought to have immediately pulled out of working with someone who was presenting Baal worship as Yahweh worship. He means of course 'an old time, old school prophet of Yahweh who is not also a prophet of Baal and repudiates Baal'.

2Ch 18:7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of Yahweh-
The idea is, "one more man". He considered that the 400 prophets of Baal were also in touch with Yahweh (see on :5), and Micaiah was just one more who could do that, although he repudiated Baal worship.

But I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil-
Again we sense the pouting, spoilt kid characteristics of Ahab. His characterization in the records is absolutely consistent and credible, as we would expect of a Divinely inspired history. We have here a parade example of how men come to God's word having already decided what they want to hear. Indeed there is a tendency to have "itching ears", heaping up teachers to confirm us in our own desires, lusts and hunches (2 Tim. 4:3; maybe a reference to Ahab heaping up 400 such teachers to tell him what he wanted to hear). This is why there are so many different interpretations of the Bible. Because readers / hearers like to hear only what confirms that which they already had a hunch about. To achieve a second naivety as we come to God's word, to be a born again virgin, is hard indeed. Jehoshaphat realized what Ahab was doing, and asked him not to talk like that- but to accept Yahweh's word. The fact Jehoshaphat himself still went into battle shows how he himself perceived the truth of all this, but didn't do accordingly. The "evil" prophesied was presumably of Ahab's condemnation, confirming Elijah's words.

He is Micaiah the son of Imla. Jehoshaphat said, Don’t let the king say so-
Again we are introduced to a true prophet of Yahweh who existed at the time of Elijah. His claim to be the only prophet of Yahweh is continually demonstrated to be false. Presumably Elijah knew these other prophets, but considered that they had all gone wrong on this or that point of doctrine or practice. And perhaps they had, but God still counted them as His prophets, and used them as such. And it was Elijah who was removed from the prophetic ministry because of his arrogance in considering none of them genuine, and he alone being the true representative of Yahweh. Micaiah had previously spoken critical things to Ahab in Yahweh's Name, hence Ahab says that this prophet only says "evil" about him and he doesn't want to consult him. Elijah was quite wrong to discount all these brave prophets as somehow not genuine.  

2Ch 18:8 Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, Get Micaiah the son of Imla quickly-
"Who is like Yah?" was a direct challenge to the idea that Yahweh could be worshipped through Baal worship (see on :4). According to :26, Micaiah was imprisoned at this time. The 'quick' summoning from prison by an officer to speak God's word would have recalled to Micaiah the example of faithful Joseph.

2Ch 18:9 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, arrayed in their robes. They were sitting in an open place at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them-
This was an impressive sight, and the area had clearly been especially prepared so that so many prophets could prophesy together. It was designed to sway Jehoshaphat according to the false maxim that the majority must be right, and how could so many be wrong. See on Ez. 10:5

2Ch 18:10 Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron and said, Thus says Yahweh, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians, until they are consumed’-
Zedekiah, like a typical apostate, is mixing the truth of God out of context with wrong ideas. He alludes to Moses'  blessing of Joseph in Dt. 33:17 to the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh: “Buffalo horns are his (Joseph's) horns, with them he thrusts down nations”. But of course he overlooked the fact that the blessings of Moses were predicated upon obedience to the covenant. He probably made the horns and held them on his forehead. Micaiah's response is to also quote from the law of Moses, but about the judgment for disobedience to the covenant (:16). 

2Ch 18:11 All the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper; for Yahweh will deliver it into the hand of the king-
These 400 prophets of Baal [for they were the equivalent of the 400 executed on Mount Carmel] still used the name of Yahweh. Their position was that they conducted Yahweh worship through Baal worship. Perhaps their usage of the Hebrew word for "prosper" alluded to how the word is four times used of the prospering of Abraham's servant on his journey and mission (Gen. 24:21,40,42,56). And this is probably our most common temptation as believers; to mix the flesh and the spirit, to justify sin in the name of serving God. But Ahab had broken the covenant, and would not prosper (s.w. Dt. 28:29). Jehoshaphat later learnt this lesson, for he uses the word in saying that only those who hear Yahweh's prophets will "prosper" (2 Chron. 20:20).  

2Ch 18:12 The messenger who went to call Micaiah spoke to him saying, Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one mouth. Let your word therefore, please be like one of theirs, and speak good-
We sense the build up of pressure upon Micaiah. He was imprisoned for having spoken God's word against Ahab (see on :8,25), and would be under huge pressure from the presence of the 400 prophets and the audience watching (:27 "all you people"). And as the officer led him from prison towards the huge crowd of people gathered before the two kings, he too added his pressure. The request of the officer was perhaps because he actually liked Micaiah and could foresee the death sentence being given if he again "spoke evil" and not "good" to Ahab, and he didn't want to have to carry that out. But he still totally fails to perceive that God's word cannot be changed or controlled by man. 

2Ch 18:13 Micaiah said, As Yahweh lives, what my God says, that will I speak-
If Micaiah was at that time imprisoned for prophesying evil against Ahab (see on :8,25), bearing in mind Naboth had been slain for allegedly cursing the king, he would have been sorely tempted to now buy his freedom by saying what Ahab wanted to hear. And despite his determination not to do so, I suggest on :14 that he did temporarily fail. The pressure on him was intense. Micaiah uses the words and ideas of Balaam when pressured to not say Yahweh's word. He was clearly a spiritually minded man who was deeply aware of Biblical precedent for his situation, as we ought to be.

2Ch 18:14 When he had come to the king, the king said to him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth Gilead to battle, or shall I desist? He said, Go up, and prosper. They shall be delivered into your hand-
It could be argued that by repeating the very words of the false prophets, Micaiah was just repeating them sarcastically, with the tone of his voice indicating that. But I prefer to conclude that this faithful man, who had gone to prison for his witness of God's word to Ahab, now faltered under the pressure of the presence of the 400 false prophets. He acted like Nathan when David enquired about building a temple for Yahweh, who gave the answer that his enquirer wanted to hear. Such failure of a moment would be absolutely true to human experience and would be psychologically and spiritually credible. See on :13.   

2Ch 18:15 The king said to him, How many times shall I adjure you that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of Yahweh?-
See on :14. We are left to speculate which singular "king" it was who said this, Ahab or Jehoshaphat. The Biblical record is intentionally open ended at some points, to encourage us to think ourselves into the situation. The king sensed that Micaiah was cowed by the situation, and really wanted to know what Yahweh thought. So we sense "the king" in view was Jehoshaphat.

2Ch 18:16 He said, I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. Yahweh said, These have no master. Let them return every man to his house in peace-
As explained on :10, Zedekiah had quoted Moses' blessings of the tribes as justification for a successful battle- which were conditional upon obedience to the covenant. Micaiah responds by quoting the curses for disobedience to the covenant (Num. 27:16,17). The removal of the master / shepherd implies that the shepherd or king of Israel is to be slain, and the sheep would return to their homes once the shepherd was slain. And that is just what happened when it was recognized that Ahab had been slain.

2Ch 18:17 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Didn’t I tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?-
Ahab intuitively sensed what Yahweh's true word was even before Micaiah pronounced it. His insistence on going ahead was therefore the more culpable. And God's word is often intuitively recognized as "truth" even by those who reject it, which is why they tend towards anger and other psychological reactions appropriate to denial.

2Ch 18:18 Micaiah said, Therefore hear the word of Yahweh-
There does not follow a "Thus says the Lord", but rather a description of the vision Micaiah had seen, a peek into the heavenly throne room, the court of heaven. Discerning the vision was perhaps the essential "word of Yahweh" which the kings were to "hear".

I saw Yahweh sitting on His throne, and all the army of heaven standing on His right hand and on His left-
It seems there are two groups of Angels- Angels of evil (Ps. 78:49) and of good. Thus God creates both good and evil- and Isaiah 45:5-7 emphasizes that He makes a distinct creation of both- using these separate groups of Angels. However we stress that the Angels of evil are not sinful Angels. We think of the Angel called "the destroyer" at Passover time, who was restrained by the Passover Angel from destroying the Israelite firstborn. And so one wonders whether "the destroyer" was one of those on the left hand side, and the Passover Angel one of those on the right hand. This division is perhaps hinted at here, where "all the host of Heaven" are seen standing around the throne of God himself "on His right and on His left". The exact way in which these two groups of Angels work is unclear, and this perhaps explains the difficulty all Bible students face in understanding the undefined "power of darkness", hints of which lurk throughout Scripture (e.g. evil spirits, the forces of evil unleashed at the end of Revelation etc.), and also in defining the apparently super-human power of righteousness which the Psalms and New Testament especially speak of. At  present  these  topics seem to defy close definition- until we appreciate the Angelic basis behind them?

The visions of Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4 also show God seated on a throne with Angels before Him, bringing information and requests to Him and departing with commands to obey; the idea of a council in Heaven is clearly hinted at in Job 1; Gen. 1:26; Ps. 89:7. God sitting on a throne implies that each request or piece of information presented is 'judged' and an appropriate decision made. The 'case' of the adversaries to God is presented by a 'satan' Angel in Job.

We have here perhaps the most detailed picture of the Heavenly council. God told them His desire- for Ahab to die at Ramoth-Gilead. He then asked which Angel wanted to effect this. We thus learn that like us, on hearing God's desire the elohim all have different ways of trying to fulfil it. One "Spirit" (Angel) suggested that He would put a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets, and this was the suggestion chosen and enabled by God. This shows that the Angels do not all automatically know the best way of bringing about God's purpose, and therefore they need to seek His advice and perhaps discuss things amongst themselves first before acting. Note that "all the host of Heaven" were there around the throne of God participating in this decision. And so all the Angels are involved in the decisions God and the Angels make about us. Lk. 15:6 implies the same. 

2Ch 18:19 Yahweh said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? One spoke saying this way, and another saying that way-
"Entice" is the word elsewhere translated 'deceive'. Clearly God does deceive; for He confirms men in the mental path in which they themselves wish to go. Ez. 14:9 uses the word very clearly in this connection (see commentary there); and the teaching is confirmed in 2 Thess. 2:11. 

In Revelation we see the incense of human prayers arising into Heaven, resulting in Angels coming to earth, pouring out bowls, blowing trumpets, and major events happening on earth (Rev. 5:8; 8:3). Prayer is noticed; it brings forth quite out of proportion responses. The Angels discuss their plans for us in the court of Heaven, coming up with various possibilities of how to act in our lives, discussing them with God (1 Kings 22:20-22). They play some part in the whole process of our prayers. When we read that “Surely the Lord does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Am. 3:7), we might tend to take that as a statement of absolute principle that is obvious to all the Angels. But we find an Angel discussing with others: “Shall I hide from Abraham [who was a prophet] what I am about to do?” (Gen. 18:17). The Angels have more debate, expend more mental and physical energy than we surely realize, in order to operationalize things which we might consider to be standard and automatic in God’s work with men. In our context, what this means is that when men reject the machinations and schemings of God’s love, they reject an awful lot; and it grieves and disappoints Him, and appears tragic to those like the prophets who see things from His viewpoint.

2Ch 18:20 A spirit-
God makes His Angels "spirits" (Ps. 104:4), and Angels are in view here. But the word 'spirit' has a wide range of meaning. It can refer to power, but also to the thought which is then expressed through the power of action. The Angel is here called a "spirit" because the idea was to place a thought in the mind or spirit of the false prophets, and thereby Ahab. 

Came out-
This is the same word as in :21 "I will go forth". The Angel was as it were demonstrating how he intended acting.

Stood before Yahweh and said-
It was the true prophets who stood before Yahweh (1 Kings 17:1). The connection is to show that the true prophets were represented by the Angels in the court of heaven, and this Angel was as it were on their side.

I will entice him. Yahweh said to him, How?-
Ahab had been persuaded or enticed to do evil by Jezebel, and had enticed or persuaded Jehoshaphat to go to battle. But this was because he had himself been persuaded or enticed by God.

2Ch 18:21 He said, I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. He said, You will entice him, and will prevail also-
God deceived prophets to speak things in His Name which were actually false (1 Kings 22:20-22; Ez. 14:9). He chose Israel's delusions by making their idols answer them (Is. 66:3,4). Jeremiah feared God had deceived him (Jer. 20:7)- showing he knew such a thing was possible. Dt. 13:1-3 warns Israel not to believe prophets whose prophecies came true although they taught false doctrines, because they may have been raised up to test their obedience. God deceived Israel by telling them about the peace which would come on Jerusalem in the future Kingdom; they didn't consider the other prophecies which were given at the same time concerning their imminent judgment, and therefore they thought that God was pleased with them and was about to establish the Messianic Kingdom; when actually the very opposite was about to happen (Jer.  4:10). This is why the Bible is confusing to those who aren’t humble to God’s word.

Go forth, and do so-
This describes the Angels being sent out from the court of Heaven to do God’s word. So when we read of God sending lions (2 Kings 17:25,26), sending wild beasts and famine (Lev. 26:22; Ez. 5:17; Dt. 32:24), sending locusts (Joel 2:25), it would seem that Angels are sent forth from God’s throne in order to command animals to obey God’s word. And moreover, He sends an evil spirit between men (Jud. 9:23) and stubborn hearts are also sent from God (Ps. 81:13). The same Angels who are sent to control the animals can also therefore work to give men certain attitudes of mind.

2Ch 18:22 Now therefore, behold, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; and Yahweh has spoken evil concerning you-
This was exactly what Micaiah had said before about Ahab, and Ahab intuitively knew that this was coming.

2Ch 18:23 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way did the spirit of Yahweh go from me to speak to you?-
"Cheek" can be "ear". The idea was that Zedekiah implied Micaiah was saying that the spirit had left him and entered Micaiah through his ear. And so he smote that ear. To strike on the cheek was the punishment for a heretic, and was applied to the Lord Jesus (Mic. 5:1).

2Ch 18:24 Micaiah said, Behold, you shall see on that day, when you shall go into an inner room to hide yourself-
When Ahab was defeated and slain, everyone in Samaria would be looking for the false prophets to kill them. Not least Jezebel. For the defeat would have been blamed upon them. So Zedekiah would have hid from shame and fear of being killed. There is a connection between Benhadad going into an inner room to hide when Ahab was given victory against him (1 Kings 20:30), and the false prophet Zedekiah going into an inner room to hide when Ahab was defeated (1 Kings 22:25). The same Hebrew words are used, and the connection becomes more apparent if we accept that 1 Kings 20 and 21 should be placed the other way around, as in LXX. This would mean that the hiding of Benhadad is recorded just a short time before that of Zedekiah. The connection would be to show that the false prophets were in fact bracketed together by God with Israel's enemies; whereas they had claimed that they were nationalists on Israel's side, proclaiming Israel's certain victory against their enemies. God sees not as man sees, and the real spiritual realities are often the very opposite of what appears.    

2Ch 18:25 The king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son-
These men were those who ran the prison, for "carry him back" means Micaiah was already in prison. See on :8. Again we see how wrong Elijah had been to claim that no prophet of Yahweh existed apart from himself. Micaiah had gone to prison for speaking God's word to Ahab. But Elijah presumably considered there was some curious point of theology or matter of legal practice which enabled Elijah to rubbish Micaiah as not sincere and not a true prophet. It reminds us of how truly committed Christians who have gone to jail or even death for their witness... are trashed by others as somehow not the real Christians. And only they the critics are in fellowship with God. They really need to learn the lesson of Elijah. For he was ejected from his ministry because of those attitudes.

2Ch 18:26 Say, ‘Thus says the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I return in peace’-
I suggest on :8,25 that he was already in prison for his faithful witness against Ahab. So the idea here seems to be that he was to be put in the inner prison and given a very tough regime.

2Ch 18:27 Micaiah said, If you return at all in peace, Yahweh has not spoken by me. He said, Listen, you peoples, all of you!-
If I were Micaiah, I think I would have just shrugged and remained silent, fearing the harsh regime of punishment in :26 could easily be changed into the death sentence. For Naboth had been slain for 'cursing the king'. But Micaiah bravely invites the large audience to listen and take note, because he seeks their conversion. 

2Ch 18:28 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead-
The record is intentionally silent about the utter folly of Jehoshaphat in going ahead with this. He was keenly interested to 'know the truth' from God's word, and didn't want to hear false teaching. But when the truth was presented, he didn't follow it. We can take a huge lesson from this. He allowed the intense pressure of the crowd of prophets, and his family relationship with Ahab as the in-law of his son, to lead him to walk right against the 'truth' he had sought. And there are many who seem to rejoice more in 'searching for the truth' than in actually following it when they are find it or have it presented to them.

2Ch 18:29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and go into the battle; but you put on your robes. So the king of Israel disguised himself; and they went into the battle-
LXX even suggests that Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to wear Ahab's robes. The next verse describes why this was; Ahab was aware of the king of Syria's desire to resolve the issue by capturing or killing Ahab. The incident is a parade example of 'bad friends'. We marvel at Jehoshaphat's stupidity in agreeing. For surely he must have foreseen what could happen. This was the pressure he felt from Ahab and Jezebel, the in-laws of his son. And so often family pressure leads otherwise solid believers into uncharacteristic actions, seriously unwise behaviour and positions which are utterly the opposite of all they stand for. Because quite simply, they do not really commit to following God's word, even if they stand with their backs to the world.

2Ch 18:30 Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of his chariots saying, Fight neither with small nor great, except only with the king of Israel-
Only three years previously (see on 1 Kings 22:1), the king of Syria had been foolishly spared by Ahab. Perhaps he couldn't live down that humiliation, and wanted to kill the man who had shown him so much mercy. That again is absolutely true to observed human experience, and the record time and again is absolutely psychologically credible.

2Ch 18:31 It happened that when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, It is the king of Israel! Therefore they turned around to fight against him. But Jehoshaphat cried out, and Yahweh helped him; and God moved them to depart from him-
The Hebrew implies that they surrounded him. He was clearly "lucky" to escape with his life. It was only by Divine grace that he did. His 'crying out' was surely to God to save him from his foolishness; "and Yahweh helped him". We note that God's grace was shown through His acting directly upon the hearts of men to "move" them to an otherwise unnatural course of action. And so the grace of His Spirit works upon human hearts today.

2Ch 18:32 It happened, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him-
This was in response to his crying out to God for salvation in :31. And yet he was strongly rebuked by God in 2 Chron. 19:2. His actions provoked "the wrath of Yahweh", but God saved a man by grace whilst at the same time having great wrath against him. This is so different to human wrath and attempts to show grace, which seem usually to be displayed without any other pole of feeling in mind. But God had both in perfect balance at the same time. This is the wonder of His Name, which includes all these poles of feeling toward men within His personality.

2Ch 18:33 A certain man drew his bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of the armour. Therefore he said to the driver of the chariot, Turn your hand, and carry me out of the army; for I am severely wounded-
The gaps in armour around vital organs would have been relatively small. This is evidence for all time that there is no such thing as "random". This was so clearly of God. 

2Ch 18:34 The battle increased that day. However the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the evening. About the time of the going down of the sun, he died
The weak minded Ahab genuinely wanted to do the best for his troops, and therefore remained in his chariot, propped up. Presumably Israelite soldiers knew where and who he was. It was this policy of not being removed from his chariot which resulted in the blood accumulating within it, which was required for the fulfilment of the prophecies about his blood (see on 1 Kings 22:38).