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the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs iick thy blood, even thine.” Ahab's only answer was, “ Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” Woe to whoever learns to look on Gods messenger as his enemy. Those who dread as foes the ministers of God may be sure that their case is becoming only too like Ahab's. The measure of his sin had not been tull till he permitted this cruel treatment of the poor. The shedding of innocent blood is always more dreadful in the sight of God than almost any other wicked action; and now the same doom as had befallen the house of Jeroboam and the house of Baasha was to come upon that of Ahai), with the additional horror that those packs of wild dogs that act as the scavengers of the Eastern towns should lick the blood of Ahab and devour the limbs of Jezebel, his haughty, queenly wife. It seems as if Isaiah must have had this in his mind when, some two hundred years later, he said (Isaiah v. 8)—
Woe unto them that join house to house,
Unjust winning of wealth is the surest way to make the fields lie desolate. Ahab had sold himself to work wickedness. For the sake of Phænician riches and pomp he had tried to be as a Phoenician; for the sake of the poor price of a vineyard, he had let his wife tamper with justice, and give an innocent man and his children to a shameful death. Therefore he should perish! And yet perhaps one of the very things that made Ahab's crimes worse was that his heart was not too hard to feel and fear. He was shocked at the dooin, and grieved so deeply that the merciful God had pity on him, and decreed that the evil should not come on his family in its fuiness in his own time, but in that of his son. His repentance was fleeting, but not false-hearted, and it deceived the good Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, who, with something of Solomon's largeness of heart, may have grieved at holding aloof from the sister kingdom, especially after the signal deliverance from the Syrians, so plainly the work of God, and who thus made the one mistake of his life, the connecting his family with Ahab's. His error must have begun
in not inquiring of the Lord. We can fancy his thinking he should only be answered out of priestly prejudice, and believing he was obeying the call of a warm heart, when he consented to give his son and heir Jehoram in marriage to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and went down himself to Samaria, perhaps to fetch home the bride, at any rate to hold a great feast, which he no doubt looked on as a seast of reconciliation and union of the Twelve Tribes, forgetting that all union that does not begin in the fear of the Lord must be hollow and false.
And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to-day.
Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand.
But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may enquire of the LORD : but I hate him ; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil : the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
And the king of Israel called for one of his officers, and said, Fetch quickly Micaiah the son of Imla.
And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah sat either of them on his throne, clothed in their robes, and they sat in a void place* at the entering in of the gate of Samaria ; and all the prophets prophesied before them.
And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith the LORD, With these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed.
And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper : for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And the messenger that went to call Micaiah spake to him, saying,
* Open space.
Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one assent; let thy word therefore, I pray thee, be like one of theirs, and speak thou good.
And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, tkat will I speak.
And when he was come to the king, the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And he said, Go ye up, and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.
And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the LORD?
Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd : and the LORD said, These have no master ; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.
And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil ?
Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.
Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him.' And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith ?
And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail : go out and do even so.
Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil against thee.
Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah caine near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?
And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
Then the king of Israel said, Take ye Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;
And say, Thus saith 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.
And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.
COMMENT.—Ramoth was one of the Levitical cities lying in the land of Gilead, twelve miles beyond the Jordan, one of those appointed by Moses from his last encampment as the refuge of the manslayer. It had fallen into the hands of Syria during the decay of Israel. What better way could there be of sealing the reconciliation of the two kingdoms than by joining their forces to deliver it from the enemy, who had lain still and crushed ever since the great defeat at Aphek? Jehoshaphat readily agreed at
first, but soon his religious mind became disturbed at the want of all consecration of the enterprise, and at finding that no token of God's approval or blessing was asked for or expected.
Ahab, who had lived among wonders all his life--the true miracles of Elijah and the false magic of Jezebel and her prophets-seems to have been by this time in a state of dull distrust and disbelief of all alike, and only to have wished, in his cowardly heart, to keep from hearing any disagreeable truth ; but he was obliged to comply, for the sake of appearances, with the request of his guest; so proclamation was made that the prophets in the land should ask the will of God concerning the expedition. There was no lack of favourable answers-probably from prophets of Ashtoreth, of the high places and the calves—but Jehoshaphat felt that all the answers had the hollow ring of flattery, and would not be satisfied without a true prophet of the Lord. Elijah had withdrawn into the wilderness, and only one prophet of the Lord was at hand, apparently in captivity, since Ahab confessed that he hated him for prophesying only evil. Alas ! how many hate those who rebuke them, instead of so acting as to turn the prophecy to good!
Here is a grand scene before us. In the open space beside the gateway of Samaria were placed two thrones, and on them sat the two kings, in their purple robes and diadems, while the prophets- probably men in various fantastic garments—danced and sang their chants of victory. One of them, Zedekiah, in allusion to the bullock or unicorn of Joseph, brought a pair of iron horns,saying that like an ox Ahab should drive the Syrians to their destruction. Then, in the midst of all these courtly auguries, there stood among the prophets a man-grave, stern, sad--bearing the traces of imprisonment. Ahab asked him the question. He answered in the same words as the others, but with a tone that implied, “There, now you have all you care to hear !” Ahab, always weak, was constrained by Jehoshaphat's stronger spirit to press Micaiah to speak further. Then he heard of a vision of Israel scattered on the hills, masterless and leaderless. He turned to Jehoshaphat, with a bitter smile at the man's persistency in evil forebodings, in contrast to the great promises around. Then Micaiah spoke yet more solemnly. Heaven itself had been open to him in a vision. He had seen the counsel of the Almighty,
made comprehensible to man's understanding as a king on his throne, speaking of the means that were to tempt Ahab to fulfil his destiny and fall at Ramoth-gilead. Then came forth the evil spirit, and undertook to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets, so that they were fully in earnest in thinking themselves inspired to predict a victory. Observe, God did not tempt them ; He permitted the evil spirit to deceive them, but only after by a long course of false prophecies they had deserved it. It is the especial punishment on falsehood in all times, to become unable to see the truth. “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezek. xiv. 9.) So God spake in later times by Ezekiel ; and of deceivers in Christian times St. Paul said—“God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” (2 Thess. ii. 11). So it is the terrible punishment of wilful falsehood to be at last so entirely in the power of Satan, the lying spirit, as to believe one's own lie! Zedekiah did so entirely when he struck at Micaiah and scoffed at his awful vision. Micaiah only answered by telling him how he would soon be striving to hide from danger; and when Ahab in wrath and fury sentenced this speaker of evil onen to be closely imprisoned till his own return in peace, he replied, “If thou return in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me," and called on all the people to note his prediction.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle.
But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.
And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat,