THE PROPHETIC WORD OF TRUTH ALWAYS HITS ITS TARGET
This passage brings us to the sad conclusion of the life of King Ahab – just as the Word of God promised. The contrast between the multitude of false prophets and the one true prophet points to the need for discernment in evaluating those who claim to speak the mind of God. There are differing perspectives towards the truth adopted by the main players in this scene. The Word of God is elevated as the only reliable standard for judging truth claims. Ahab tried to dodge the Word of God; but in the end the seemingly random arrow was actually the Word of God hitting its intended target and accomplishing God’s decreed will.
Peter Pett: Ahab’s life has been one of continual contact with prophets of YHWH as YHWH has sought to win him back to true obedience. Indeed that is the only reason why it has been portrayed in such detail, for the prophetic author’s concern has been to demonstrate that the final fall of both Israel and Judah occurred in spite of all YHWH’s attempts to prevent it. And now Ahab’s life will end with a description of one final conflict with a prophet of YHWH, a conflict which illustrates the fact that Ahab’s previous repentance had only been temporary, and that he had soon fallen back into his old ways.
“In this story we see just how recalcitrant human beings can be. Here is Ahab, a man who has personally witnessed the manifestation of God’s power, who has heard the word of the Lord through several prophets, and, despite his sins, has experienced the grace of God when he expresses penitence. Still, he does not seem to understand what it is that God demands. He has little understanding of the nature of God. He has a personal agenda that he is determined to carry out. So he musters all his resources. He gets his subordinates and allies to do his bidding and does not hesitate to manipulate the religious establishment to support his questionable goals. He ignores what he knows to be the truth and suppresses any voice of dissent. He even tries to thwart God’s will by deceit in order to achieve his goal. Ahab is a model of what we can become when we are not attentive to the will of God.” (Seow 1999:166)
But, as Seow himself goes on to point out, the will of God is often not easy to discern! As is the case here, we may be confronted with competing truth claims, which can only be verified or falsified unequivocally after the event. Certainly, majority opinion may well prove misleading, and feel-good messages can be positively pernicious. And as Seow points out there always will be those “who are all too ready to pander to the powerful.… Perhaps we should listen especially carefully when the word makes us uncomfortable” (Seow 1999:166).
And there is yet more to this. Our God can be very tricky, too! As Seow puts it,
“God may not fit our preconceived image of unimpeachable goodness. The passage jolts us into the realization that such a notion of deity, ironically, is too limiting for God. Such a god would be an idol, a god of our own creation.… The God of the Bible is a sovereign deity who oversees all that goes on in the world, darkness as well as light, woe as well as weal (Isa 45:7 ).… The sovereign God will use whatever means necessary to bring about divine will—whether in judgment or in salvation. (Seow 1999:166–167)
This, I submit, is the basic message of the “hardening of the heart” passages in Exodus (as even the Philistines ironically recognize in 1 Sam 6:5–6). This is also, I submit, the difficult teaching found in Job 42:2–6. God is absolutely sovereign, but at times, inscrutable. And this is the message of the present passage. King Ahab may attempt to bypass his God, but God may choose to bypass him, too. For it is not only Ahab who knows about “lying spirits.” In short, it may well be God’s will (for us) not to know God’s will. In any case, to God be the glory!”
(:1-4) THE TARGET OF THE ALLIANCE BETWEEN THE KINGS OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL WAS THE RESCUING OF RAMOTH-GILEAD FROM SYRIA
A. (:1-2) The Forming of the Alliance
1. (:1) Historical Background
“And three years passed without war between Aram and Israel.”
MacArthur: Israel had peace for 3 years following the two years of war with Syria described in 20:1-34. During this peace, Ben-hadad, Ahab, and 10 other kings formed a coalition to repel an Assyrian invasion. Assyrian records described the major battle fought at Qarqar on the Orontes River in 853 B.C. Though Assyria claimed victory, later events show that they were stopped from further advance southward at that time. With the Assyrian threat neutralized, Ahab turned his attention to the unfinished conflict with Syria.
2. (:2) High Stakes Summit Meeting
“And it came about in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.”
Peter Pett: The visit of Jehoshaphat to Israel may have been simply a ceremonial one, or it may have been to do with trading arrangements. Or it may even have been with the venture that follows in mind. Whichever way it was he was clearly invited to the council meeting which Ahab held with a view to his plan to regain Ramoth-gilead.
Wiersbe: Jehoshaphat’s son was married to Ahab’s daughter, so Jehoshaphat had to be friendly toward Ahab and help him fight his battles. He was disobeying the Lord when he took this step (2 Chron. 19:1-3), but one compromise often leads to another. As the descendant of David, Jehoshaphat should have kept his distance from Ahab and never allowed the Davidic line to mingle with that of Ahab.
B. (:3-4) The Focus of the Alliance
1. (:3) Key City Still Controlled by Syria
“Now the king of Israel said to his servants, ‘Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?’”
MacArthur: Ramoth-gilead was a Levitical city E of the Jordan River in Gilead, on the N border of Gad the home of Jephthah (Jdg 11:34) and a key administrative center in Solomon’s kingdom (4:13). It seems to have been one of the cities that Ben-hadad should have returned to Israel (20:34).
John Schultz: During Jehoshaphat’s visit Ahab brings up the matter of Ben-Hadad’s failure to fulfill his promise of returning Ramoth Gilead to Israel. The king of Judah offers his cooperation in terms of providing troops and armament. But he suggests consulting the Lord before finalizing the plans.
Dale Ralph Davis: True, Ramoth-gilead belonged to Israel. But shekels probably weighed more heavily than rights in swaying Ahab’s policy. Ramoth-gilead (probably Tell Ramîth) stood twenty-five to thirty miles east of the Jordan, astride the north-south King’s Highway leading to Damascus in the north. A road also ran westward from Ramoth-gilead to Beth-shan and other points west of the Jordan. Incense and spice caravans trucked through Ramoth-gilead. That meant whoever controlled the site collected ‘caravan transit revenues’. In short, it’s a shame to have a turnpike running through a place if you aren’t sitting in the toll booth.
2. (:4) Kindred Spirits in Conducting a Military Campaign to Regain the City
“And he said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?’ And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’”
I. (:5-28) TWO PARALLEL INQUIRIES TARGETING A “GO-NO-GO” DECISION FROM GOD REGARDING THE MILITARY CAMPAIGN
A. (:5-14) Inquiry of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah –
Wanted His Initiatives to be Corroborated by the Truth
1. (:5-6a) Inquiry Directed Towards the 400 False Prophets
“Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, ‘Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.’ 6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, ‘Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?’”
King Jehoshaphat had already made up his mind regarding his course of action before consulting the Word of the Lord. So he was looking for the Word of God to back up his initiatives. That prejudices his inquiry.
Peter Pett: From their reply (‘Lord’ not YHWH) it is clear that these were mainly not prophets of YHWH. They were probably mainly prophets of Baal or Asherah, which have already been mentioned as consisting of such numbers (1 Kings 18:19), those slaughtered by Elijah having been replaced. Others of them (like Zedekiah) may have been prophets from the syncretistic sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan, half Yahwist and half Baalist. They were, however, all agreed that he should go ahead because ‘the Lord’ would deliver it into their hands. It was the common practise among such prophets to say what would please the king. But they saw their prophecies as doing more than this. The belief was that their ‘inspired words’ would help to bring about what was predicted. They considered that the more they ‘prophesied’ the more the chance of success.
2. (:6b) Unanimous Approval
“And they said, ‘Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.’”
3. (:7) Dissatisfaction Regarding the Counsel
“But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of him?’”
4. (:8-9) Soliciting the Counsel of the Hated Prophet
“And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say so.’ 9 Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, ‘Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.’”
Micaiah = “Who is like the Lord?”
Dale Ralph Davis: Ahab hated Micaiah; he hated the word he spoke. Why? He could not stomach the frankness of the word, its candor. The king’s fixation, however, was not upon what was true or false but upon what was supportive or non-supportive.
5. (:10-12) Throne Scene: Emphatic Assurance — Deceptive Counsel to the
Kings of Israel and Judah Falsely Attributed to the Word of God
“Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 11 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, ‘Thus says the LORD, With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are consumed.’ 12 And all the prophets were prophesying thus, saying, ‘Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.’”
David Guzik: Zedekiah used a familiar tool of ancient prophets – the object lesson. He used horns of iron to illustrate the thrust of two powerful forces, armies that would defeat the Syrians. Zedekiah had the agreement of 400 other prophets (all the prophets prophesied so).
This must have been a vivid and entertaining presentation. We can be certain that every eye was on Zedekiah when he used the horns of iron to powerfully illustrate the point. It was certainly persuasive to have 400 prophets speak in agreement on one issue. No matter how powerful and persuasive the presentation, their message was unfaithful.
6. (:13-14) The True Prophet Stands Alone on the Word of God
“Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, ‘Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.’ 14 But Micaiah said, ‘As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.’”
Constable: Like Elijah, Micaiah was willing to stand alone for God against hundreds of false prophets (v. 14; cf. 18:22). Micaiah had stood before Ahab many times before (v. 8). This time he told the king what he wanted to hear sarcastically (v. 15). Ahab’s reply was also sarcastic (v. 16); He had never had to tell Micaiah to speak the truth in Yahweh’s name.
Peter Pett: This was the difference between true prophecy and false prophecy. False prophecy was an attempt to make the gods do what the prophet wanted. True prophecy conveyed the mind of YHWH.
John Gates: Here was a prophet who was above mercenary considerations, who would not “tailor” his message to suit the situation. He bore the Lord’s message, and that only would he declare. This prophet would not compromise himself as Zedekiah and the others had so willingly done.
B. (:15-28) Inquiry of Ahab, King of Israel –
Hated the Truth and Resented Having to Hear It
1. (:15a) Inquiry Directed Towards Micaiah, the True Prophet of God
“When he came to the king, the king said to him,
‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?’”
2. (:15b) Sarcastic Approval
“And he answered him, ‘Go up and succeed,
and the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.’”
John Schultz: Most Bible scholars believe that Micaiah repeated the false prophets’ words in a tone of voice that made them sound unbelievable, thus ridiculing their prediction. The Pulpit Commentary observes: “As Ahab’s inquiry is the echo of the question of ver. 6, so is Micaiah’s response identical with the answer of the prophets. He simply echoes their words, of which, perhaps, he has been informed by the eunuch. There was an exquisite propriety in this. The question was insincere; the reply was ironical (cf. … 1 Kings 18:27). Ahab is answered ‘according to the multitude of his idols’ (… Ezekiel 14:4). He wishes to be deceived, and he is deceived. No doubt Micaiah’s mocking tone showed that his words were ironical; but Ahab’s hollow tone had already proved to Micaiah that he was insincere; that he did not care to know the will of the Lord, and wanted prophets who would speak to him smooth things and prophesy deceits (… Isaiah 30:10).”
Whether it was Micaiah’s tone of voice or facial expression, Ahab knew the truth, which he hadn’t wanted to know. And when Micaiah prophesied that the king’s campaign would be victorious he knew that it would not be. Ahab didn’t need false prophets to deceive him; he deceived himself.
3. (:16) Dissatisfaction Regarding the Counsel
“Then the king said to him, ‘How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’”
4. (:17-18) Despising the Counsel of the Hated Prophet
“So he said, ‘I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. And the LORD said, These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.’ 18 Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?’”
John Gates: A picture of hopelessness, confusion and despair.
5. (:19-23) Throne Scene: Certain Disaster — Authoritative Judgment from the
Lord Delivered by the True Prophet
“And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. 20 And the LORD said, Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, I will entice him. 22 And the LORD said to him, How? And he said, I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. Then He said, You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so. 23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.’”
Peter Pett: Micaiah then explained the meaning of his parable. He very much saw God as the ‘first cause’ of everything, simply because He was sovereign over all things. He thus knew that in the end everything that happened was ‘God’s doing’. But the point was that that was because He had created man and was allowing him to live out what he was. He was allowing man’s behaviour within His sovereign purpose, not instigating it. “God has spoken evil concerning you.” That is, through the false prophets He has allowed them to hear lies about the future (but has combated it by sending His true prophet).
“… God Himself instigated and authorized the deception of Ahab, as indicated by the Lord’s initial question to the assembly (22:20), His commission to the spirit (v. 22), and Micaiah’s willingness to prophesy a lie after he had vowed to speak only the word of the Lord (vv. 14-15). If the spirit of verses 20-23 can be identified with the divine spirit that energizes prophecy (v. 24), this thesis is further corroborated. The introduction of the truth, rather than ameliorating the deception, shows how effective it was. Even when faced with the truth, Ahab insisted on charging into battle, for the lying spirit working through the prophetic majority had convinced him he would be victorious.”
“… God is truthful in that He keeps His unconditional promises to His people and fulfills His sovereign decrees and oaths. God’s commitment to truthfulness, however, does not mean that He never uses deceit as a method of judgment on sinners. But He does so without compromising His truthful character and commitment to righteousness.” [quoting Robert Chisholm Jr.]
Another view is that Satan initiated and superintended demonic activity, which God permitted (cf. 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1:13-22; 2:7; Zech. 3:1; Matt. 12:24; John 8:44).
6. (:24-28) The True Prophet Suffers Alone for His Commitment to Truth
a. (:24-25) Suffering Inflicted by Zedekiah, Leader of the False Prophets
“Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, ‘How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?’ 25 And Micaiah said, ‘Behold, you shall see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself.’”
MacArthur: This was a rebuke by the leader of the false prophets (v. 6) for the perceived insolence of Micaiah and his claim to truly speak for God. It was followed by a sarcastic question asking if the prophet could tell which direction the spirit in Zedekiah had gone.
b. (:26-27) Suffering Inflicted by Ahab, King of Israel
“Then the king of Israel said, ‘Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; 27 and say, Thus says the king, Put this man in prison, and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.’”
William Barnes: Both names are otherwise unknown. “Amon” probably means “master workman” (BDB 54c), but it could refer to the famous Egyptian deity of that name. “Joash” (“Yahweh has given” [HALOT 393]) is probably literally a descendant from the royal family (Cogan 2001:492–493),
August Konkel: The confrontation with Micaiah reaches its climax in the assault of Zedekiah (22:24) and the confinement imposed by the king until the truth of his words can be verified (vv. 26–27). “Amon the ruler of the city” and “Joash the king’s son” represent civil and regal authority. They are jointly responsible for sustaining Micaiah with sufficient physical provision until the king returns safely from battle. Restraint imposed on the prophet will prevent him from disseminating his pernicious views among the people. Micaiah for his part simply responds according to the prophetic test of truth as found in Deuteronomy 18:21–22. If Zedekiah and Ahab are vindicated, death is his well-deserved fate.
c. (:28) The Prophet of God Will be Vindicated by History
“And Micaiah said, ‘If you indeed return safely the LORD has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Listen, all you people.’”
II. (:29-38) FINAL DEMISE OF KING AHAB IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD’S WORD
A. (:29-30) Duplicity of King Ahab in Only Looking Out for Himself
1. (:29) Supposedly Acting in Partnership with King Jehoshaphat
“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead.”
2. (:30) Selfishly Acting out of Self-Preservation While Exposing Jehoshaphat to Extreme Risk
“And 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 went into the battle.”
David Guzik: Going into the battle, Ahab did not want to be identified as a king and therefore be a special target. He thought this would help protect him against Micaiah’s prophecy of doom. It is more difficult to explain why Jehoshaphat agreed to go into the battle as the only clearly identified king. Perhaps he was either not very smart or he had very great faith.
Iain Provan: The donning of disguise is no more than a harbinger of disaster; it recalls the actions of Jeroboam and Saul (1 Sam. 28) just before their own deaths (cf. 1 Kgs. 14:1–18). Disguise cannot possibly thwart the purposes of God. Jehoshaphat, though wearing royal robes (v. 30), is saved from death because his Judean shout (in form or content) reveals that he is not the man Ben-Hadad is after (vv. 31–33). Ahab, however—playing the commoner—is struck down. An arrow shot at random flies unerringly to its divinely ordained target (v. 34)—to a single figure in the vast crowd, to one of the few undefended spots on his body. He stays on the battlefield all day long, perhaps to encourage his troops, but at sunset he dies and the army withdraws leaderless (vv. 35–36, cf. v. 17). The Lord’s deception of Ahab has succeeded; Ahab’s attempted deception of the Lord has failed. It was the only possible outcome.
B. (:31-33) Deception of King Ahab Fails Miserably
1. (:31) Ahab is the Designated Target of the King of Aram
“Now the king of Aram had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, saying, ’Do not fight with small or great, but with the king of Israel alone.’”
MacArthur: The very Syrian king, Ben-hadad, whose life Ahab had spared (20:34), ungratefully singled him out for death.
2. (:32) Appearances Lead the Troops to Pursue Jehoshaphat
“So it came about, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, ‘Surely it is the king of Israel,’ and they turned aside to fight against him, and Jehoshaphat cried out.”
3. (:33) Actual Identification Not Consistent with Ahab
“Then it happened, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.”
C. (:34-36) Death of Ahab via a Divinely Targeted Arrow
1. (:34) Arrow Shot at Random
“Now a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, ‘Turn around, and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded.’”
Donald Wiseman: It took a bow-shot at random (av ‘at a venture’ gives the force of the Heb. ‘in his simplicity’, i.e. without particular aim) to bring down the prophesied target (nrsv ‘unknowingly’). Armour made up of linked small metal plate segments from this period has been found at Lachish and at Nuzi and Nimrud in Iraq, the shot appears to have struck between the chain mail (Heb. dĕbāqîm) and the breastplate.
Constable: However, Ahab’s plan to thwart God’s will failed. He could not fool or beat Yahweh. One arrow providentially guided was all God needed (v. 34). Josephus wrote, “But Ahab’s fate found him out without his robes …” Wounded Ahab watched the battle from his chariot until he died that evening (v. 35). “The Achilles’ heel of Ahab was not the crack in his armor but his willful rebellion against God.” [Whitcomb]
“There are those today who think they have escaped the hand of God. But I want to tell you that God has an arrow with your name on it; it will find you one of these days. No matter how much you try to deceive and cover up, that arrow will find you. That is what happened to Ahab.” [McGee]
2. (:35) Ahab Bled Out During the Battle
“And the battle raged that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot in front of the Arameans, and died at evening, and the blood from the wound ran into the bottom of the chariot.”
3. (:36) Ahab’s Death Signaled the Retreat and Defeat of the Combined Forces
“Then a cry passed throughout the army close to sunset, saying,
‘Every man to his city and every man to his country.’”
D. (:37-38) Death of Ahab Recorded as Fulfillment of Divine Prophecy
1. (:37) Buried in Samaria
“So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the king in Samaria.”
2. (:38) Blood Licked up by Dogs
“And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood (now the harlots bathed themselves there), according to the word of the LORD which He spoke.”
Peter Pett: The prophetic author is not really interested in the details of the battle. His concern is with the failure of the subterfuge which sought to prevent the fulfilment of Micaiah’s prophecy, and with the subsequent death of Ahab and his ‘ritual’ disgracing. For while the king’s body was no doubt being buried with all honours, as a hero of the battlefield, YHWH was revealing his true worth by arranging for his blood, his very life source, to be licked up by scavenger dogs and mingled with the dirt washed from common prostitutes. It was a picture of YHWH’s view of him.
David Guzik: This was an almost fulfillment of God’s word through Elijah in 1 Kings 21:19, where Elijah prophesied that dogs would lick the blood of Ahab. This proved true, but not in the place Elijah said it would happen. God relented from His original judgment against Ahab announced in 1 Kings 21, but because of Ahab’s false repentance and continued sin, a very similar judgment came upon him.
Dale Ralph Davis: Our writer stresses the fulfillment of Yahweh’s word. What Ahab had tried to avoid, what the king of Aram could not achieve, Yahweh has brought to pass in line with what he had spoken. Actually, verses 37–38 depict the fulfillment of three distinct prophecies: that of 20:42 (via the anonymous prophet), 21:19 (from Elijah), and 22:17, 23 (Micaiah). Hence a triple fulfillment concludes this triad of narratives (chps. 20, 21, 22) about Ahab’s failure under the word of Yahweh. Perhaps Micaiah will enjoy supper at home tonight while Zedekiah et al. eat crow.
Some puzzle, however, over whether verse 38 really ‘fulfills’ 21:19. There Elijah had threatened, ‘In the place where the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood, yes yours.’ The writer seems to have 21:19 in mind in 22:38 when he writes, ‘And the dogs licked his blood … in line with the word of Yahweh which he had spoken.’ The problem is that Naboth was stoned, most likely, outside of Jezreel (21:10, 13), whereas Ahab’s chariot was washed down at the pool of Samaria. If, however, the pool of Samaria was outside that city (or at least outside the wall enclosing the fortified acropolis), we could understand the ‘place’ of 21:19 as indicating not a precise but a generic location. That is, dogs would also lick Ahab’s blood outside of town (not necessarily Jezreel). At any rate, the biblical writer saw no major rubs between 21:19 and 22:38 or he would never have claimed the latter fulfilled the former. And what a moment: dogs feverish for every trace of blood, prostitutes calmly preparing for the night’s work. Some things go on, even when kings die.
So the writer wants to tell you: that no-name prophet was right (ch. 20); Elijah was right (ch. 21); Micaiah was right (ch. 22). All this came upon Ahab ‘in line with the word of Yahweh which he had spoken’ (v. 38b). The King’s word (cf. vv. 19–23) will come to pass. For the writer of Kings, history is no accident but is directed by the word Yahweh speaks. Both the unwilling and the unknowing only fulfill it. Precisely here a bit of gladness reaches out of this dark narrative and grabs the people of God, for if Yahweh’s word is certain (the writer’s point), we know that Yahweh’s words of hope must be as solid as his words of judgment. His glory word must be as sure as his gory word. The coming of a kingdom (Dan. 2:44) is as sure as the departure of a king (Ahab); 2 Peter 3:13 must be as certain as 1 Kings 21:19. This point will not resolve all your personal problems—but it will pour some concrete into the bottom of your pit.
(:39-40) SUMMATION OF AHAB’S REIGN
A. (:39) Recorded Deeds of Ahab
“Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did and the ivory house which he built and all the cities which he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?”
Constable: Ahab was really a capable ruler in spite of his gross spiritual idolatry, which the writer of Kings emphasized. Other extra-biblical references to him indicate that he was generally successful militarily. This was due to the natural abilities God had given him, and because God showed mercy to Israel.
Peter Pett: The ivory house would be built of stone, but with ivory inlaid in the royal furniture and decorations with Phoenician, Egyptian and local motifs. Such houses are known to have been popular amongst great kings (e.g. Nimrud), and were seen as very prestigious. See Amos 3:15 for his view of them. Ahab is also credited with fortifying many cites. He would no doubt have completed Samaria when his father Omri died, and we also know from excavations of his building work at Megiddo and Hazor. Jericho was also rebuilt in his time (1 Kings 16:34).
B. (:40a) Death of Ahab
“So Ahab slept with his fathers,”
C. (:40b) Succession
“and Ahaziah his son became king in his place.”