Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 26 2019 - 1 Kings 22:1-40 – The death of Ahab

You will remember that after the death of Solomon, the kingdom of God's people split in two. The larger northern kingdom (confusingly called Israel), had separated from the smaller southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. Both appear in today's passage with King Ahab referred to as "The king of Israel", and the king of Judah referred to by his name, Jehoshaphat.

Aram was a kingdom that lay to the North-East of Israel. It was later to become part of the empire of Syria. The chapter begins with Aram and Israel having been at war for three years.

In the third year, "Jehoshaphat king of Judah went … to see the king of Israel." Jehoshaphat may have been hoping for a reconciliation between the two kingdoms but he was clearly entering dangerous territory. Despite the showdown on Mount Carmel, Ahab was still committed to the worship of idol gods. Ahab saw this visit as a chance to try to gain an ally in his war against Aram: "Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?" he asks.

Jehoshaphat replies "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses." He recognises that the two kingdoms are one people, the descendants of Abraham, the children of Israel whom God brought out of slavery and into the Promised Land. But Jehoshaphat will not join forces with Ahab unless the Lord gives his blessing on their plans (v. 5).

Ahab first calls his tame prophets who naturally endorse his plans. But Jehoshaphat insists that they must hear from a prophet of the Lord – a prophet of Yahweh. The only prophet Ahab can lay his hands on is Micaiah of whom Ahab says, "he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad" (v. 8). Micah seems to have been held in prison by Ahab (see vv. 26-27).

At first Micaiah gave Ahab the same message as the false prophets. But he must have done so in a way that made it clear that he was mocking Ahab, for the king asks him to speak what the Lord has given to him. Micaiah then prophesied that Israel will be scattered on the hills with no-one to lead them. He added that the Lord had prompted the false prophets to give Ahab a message which would encourage him into war and result in his death. For Micaiah's pains he is returned to prison.

But Ahab has another trick up his sleeve. He persuades the naïve and foolish Jehoshaphat to go to war with him clothed in all the regalia of royalty while he, Ahab, goes in the ordinary dress of a soldier. As might easily have been expected, Jehoshaphat then becomes the focus of the attacks of the Aramean army – though he manages to escape with his life. An Aramean archer however, firing his arrow at random into the mass of his enemies, hits Ahab between the sections of his armour. Ahab was propped up in his chariot where he bled to death. The chariot was later washed clean at a pool in Samaria where prostitutes bathed. There dogs licked up his blood, just as Elijah had prophesied.

In this sad story we see that behind all the schemes of human history the hand of God is at work to accomplish his own purposes. That arrow, fired at random, was directed to Ahab by the hand of God. More than that, it hit just the right spot to get between the sections of his armour and pierce his body. God's directing providence is accurate and effective.

We also can mount all manner of defences to protect ourselves from submission to God's word. We may make careful plans to live our life our own way and to accomplish our own goals. But God is able to direct his arrows, pierce our armour and strike the heart: "the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Thank you Heavenly Father that you pierced the armour of my defences not to kill me but to give me life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach me always to listen to your word and respond readily to the call of the Saviour on my life. Keep me from naïve and foolish schemes.

Peter Misselbrook