Michael S. Heiser
Few characters in the Bible are as maligned for their wickedness as King Ahab of Israel. While Ahab’s predecessors “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” Ahab had an agenda: “[He] did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kgs 16:33). 1
Ahab’s rule includes Baal worship, forbidden foreign covenants (Syria) and foreign alliances (Jezebel), and the murder of Naboth. In 1 Kings 22, the prophet Micaiah warns Ahab of his impending fate. This isn’t run-of-the-mill prophecy. It’s mixed with a vision of how God came to the final details of His decision: a divine boardroom discussion.
Yes-Men and Yahweh’s Man
The 12 tribes of Israel had been split into two kingdoms for a century by the time Ahab took the throne (ca. 869 BC). Ahab ruled the northern kingdom (called Israel, or Ephraim), which often fought with the southern kingdom, Judah. After peace reigned between Israel and Judah for three years (22:1), Ahab decided he wanted to capture the city of Ramoth in Gilead from the Arameans. He asked Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, for military assistance.
Jehoshaphat agreed to the battle for political reasons, but he wanted assurance that God was in the endeavor (22:5). The 400 prophetic yes-men Ahab consulted endorsed the idea, but Jehoshaphat wanted another opinion (22:6, 11–12). Ahab agreed to summon Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh, though he openly admitted to hating him (22:8). The real prophet of Yahweh never had anything positive to say about the ungodly Ahab and his rule.
At first Micaiah told Ahab that God loved the plan, but Ahab saw through his mockery. Apparently this was not the first time: “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” (22:16). Micaiah proceeded to tell Ahab he was about to meet his Maker, so chances are good he wanted Ahab to go through with the battle, knowing the end result.
Rebuked by Ahab, Micaiah holds nothing back, revealing to Ahab and to us the inner workings of God’s counsel:
“I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you” (22:20–23).
The vision-prophecy shows God had decreed it was time for Ahab to die, but He allows the members of the divine assembly to weigh in on Ahab’s death. Nothing in the passage compels us to conclude that the omniscient God needed input. Ahab’s death was fixed and determined, but the Lord allowed the divine beings in His presence to decide on his mode of departure. This is consistent with other passages, such as Daniel 4:17–26, where a decision from heaven is described as both the decree of the Most High and a decree of the watchers, the holy ones who work for God.
Despite Micaiah’s warning, Ahab and Jehoshaphat go into battle. Ahab opts to disguise himself as an ordinary soldier, but his ruse fails. He is killed by an arrow from a “certain man [who] drew his bow at random” (1 Kgs 22:34). In the larger scheme—it’s not random at all.
1. All biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).↩