15 September 2011

"The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, 'Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favourable to the king; let your answer be like the word of one of them.' But Micaiah said, 'As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak.'" (vv. 13-14)


King Ahab, despite being condemned by the prophet Elijah, continues his military campaign in a war against Aram with his ally, Jehosaphat of Judah. Before going to war, Ahab consults his court prophets, desperate for a favourable oracle. Led by Zedekiah son of Chenaanah, the 400 prophets of Baal prophesy that God is on Ahab's side. Sceptical of such a positive oracle, Jehoshaphat asks for another prophet. The king then sends for Micaiah son of Imlah, a prophet of God.

When Micaiah arrives, knowing that the court prophets' oracles were favourable, he begins by prophesying victory for the king. But his prophecy (verse 15) lacks the formula used by true prophets: hear the word of the Lord. And having never before heard a positive word from Micaiah, Ahab doubts him and demands that he tell the truth. Micaiah then responds with a heavenly vision recounting that the Lord had put a lying spirit into the mouths of the Baal prophets, and that disaster was bound to come to Ahab. Displeased with Micaiah's prophecy, Ahab orders Micaiah imprisoned.

Still unsure as to which prophecy he should believe, the cunning Ahab sends Jehoshaphat into battle wearing royal garments, while he himself is in disguise, in order to avoid the fulfilment of the prophetic word. But Aram's soldiers recognise Jehoshaphat by his distinctive battle cry (verse 32) and knowing that he is not the king of Israel, they turn away from killing him. But by chance, a stray arrow pierces Ahab's armour, mortally wounding him. Ironically, and despite all his efforts to escape the prophetic word, Ahab is killed.

In a culture that depended on prophecy, distinguishing the true from the false prophets was difficult. Ahab's death showed that Micaiah was the true prophet and the court prophets were false, and it indicated that the rest of Elijah's prophecy against Ahab and his family was likely also to be true. No matter how clever he was, Ahab could not escape his fate.

To Ponder

When you are advised by someone to take a particular course of action, how do you judge whether your adviser is trustworthy and their advice sound? Does your knowledge of biblical prophecy have any bearing on your judgement?

Micaiah was given a prophecy which was very unpopular and finds himself in prison as a result. Think of (or imagine) a time when you have had to deliver some unpopular truth - how did you faith support you?


Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Susan Graham

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