A HUNDRED and fifty years ago Saul took his own life and now the wicked King Ahab of Israel has asked Jehoshaphat king of Judah if he would agree to join him at Ramoth-gilead for battle. Jehoshaphat is legally related through the marriage of his son to Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, which makes Israeli business a Judean family affair. Their alliance seems unorthodox, considering elsewhere we read of Jehoshaphat: “The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baal; But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel (2 Chronicles 17:3-4).” Regardless he agrees, so long as they first acquire of Yahweh. Ahab promptly gathers four hundred of his finest prophets, and together they prophesy.
“Go up,” they tell him, “for the LORD [Adonai] shall deliver it into the hand of the king.”
Jehoshaphat looks around perplexed. The king of Judah knows a genuine prophet of Yahweh when he sees one, and the prophets before him are clearly of a counterfeit religion. So he asks: “Is there not a prophet of the LORD [Yahweh], that we might inquire of him?”
“There is one man,” Ahab shrugs. “His name is Micaiah son of Imlah, and how I hate him. He prophesizes nothing good concerning me—but evil.”
Jehoshaphat insists to meet this Micaiah.
So with reluctance the king of Israel calls an officer and says: “Hasten hither Micaiah.”
The picture before us is of an earthly council which seeks to model itself in the same vein of the divine council in heaven. The reader who thinks to doubt this ancient Hebrew worldview needs pay careful attention to the event which follows. The king of Israel and the king of Judah sit each on his throne while the four hundred of Ahab’s finest false prophets falsely prophesy in the name of Yahweh. Zedekiah even makes horns of iron for himself. Upon presenting them before his king, he prophesies: “Thus saith Yahweh, ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are consumed.’” Meanwhile, the messenger who hastens Micaiah pleads with him to declare good news unto the king. “As the LORD liveth,” Micaiah confesses to the kings messenger, “What Yahweh saith unto me, that will I speak.”
When Micaiah appears from within the midst of the kings’ counsel, this is what he says: “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd.”
Ahab sighs to his Judean neighbor. “Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?”
But Micaiah isn’t finished yet. Micaiah has seen a vision of heaven above. While the false prophets are dogmatically crippled and spiritually impaired from looking beyond the workings of their own delusional earthly council, and certainly incapable of discerning spirits, Micaiah has looked in upon the courtroom of heaven and observed its judicial proceedings—events of such cosmic importance that they are only reserved for the Prophets of God and writers of the Word. To this he says: “I saw the LORD [Yahweh] sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left.” By this we are to understand the fate of men and kings are to be decided upon.
In his vision, the LORD [Yahweh] said, “Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?”
There were murmurings among members of the council. We are to understand by this that—though suggestions were given to Yahweh—nothing was yet decided upon. “And one said on this manner, and another on that manner,” Micaiah recalls. Still, no agreement was had. This is where Micaiah’s vision becomes particularly peculiar. From among the discussion there came forth a spirit, who stood before Yahweh, and promptly volunteered his services.
I will persuade him, he said.
We do not know how many suggestions were had, nor the number of services offered and disapproved as a matter of discourse, but according to Micaiah, Yahweh then asked the spirit in His midst: “How so?”
I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.
To this Yahweh agreed. “You will surely entice him and prevail. Now go and do so.”
Upon hearing of the heavenly divine council’s decision to deceive the false prophets of Ahab, Zedekiah immediately approaches Micaiah and smites him on the check, scowling: “How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?” Though jealousy is to be observed here, that God has sought council among His protégés is neither the shock nor insult of Micaiah’s vision. The fact that they have taken the bait and spoken in accordance with the council’s decision, as Micaiah would rightly have it, thereby tickling the tongue of a lying spirit is.
With Micaiah’s vision, we are immediately prompted back to our readings of Job, particularly the “day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it’ (Job 1:6-7).” This would not have been unfamiliar to them. Even Satan is granted power at heavenly assemblies. Likewise, Micaiah’s vision of the divine council and the lying spirit in its midst—clearly they are not always of charmed quality—should harken us back to the evil spirit whom Yahweh had sent unto Saul and prompt us to take notes. Was this also a result of heavenly discourse? Ahab’s hatred for Yahweh, as embodied through His servant Micaiah, is further bolstered by Saul’s complimentary turning against David. Concerning Micaiah, the king immediately orders, “Put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.”’
To this Micaiah warns as he is led away: “If you indeed return safely Yahweh has not spoken by me.”
It would be difficult to conclude that Ahab took Micaiah’s vision of the divine council lightly. But in actuality, as I have already noted, if he hated Micaiah for his counsel, it is only because he first and foremost hated the LORD and His counsel. So he attempted to prove the both of them wrong. Ahab attempted to outwit Yahweh and the spirit which had falsely inspired his beloved prophets by betraying Jehoshaphat and disguising himself in battle. If Micaiah proved anything, it was certainly not for the preservation of his own character. Rather, the monologue before Yahweh’s throne; the murmurs; the suggestions; the questions and answers; the final verdict; and the council member who is commanded to carry it out, is not a casual matter. The affairs of mortal men are decided upon by a divine council in heaven.
Ahab died in Ramoth-gilead.