Monday, March 25, 2024

2 Chronicles 18:1-27

2 Chronicles 18:1–27 (NIV)✞: Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab


To my eye, this looks like a retelling of the events as described in 1 Kings 22:1–28 (NIV)✞ with some minor differences. So… let’s hope I don’t disagree with anything I blogged there1. 🙃

The story is straightforward: the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, goes to visit the king of Israel, Ahab. During the visit Ahab urges Jehoshaphat to to to war against Ramoth Gilead with him. Actually, as you get further into the passage it’s more like going to war with the Arameans (called the Syrians in the ESV), who have taken the city of Ramoth Gilead; Ahab’s plan is to take the city back.

Jehoshaphat says sure, Judah will go to war with you – but, can we inquire of the LORD first? So Ahab brings in four hundred prophets, all of whom are prophesying that Israel/Judah should go up and re-capture Ramoth Gilead. Which is great! Except…

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”

2 Chronicles 18:6 (NIV)✞, emphasis added

Ahab grudgingly admits that yes, there is one prophet of the LORD, but Ahab hates him because he always prophesies bad things about Ahab. Jehoshaphat responds with what feels, to me, like a wimpy response: “The king should not say such a thing” (v 7✞).

So, fine, to make Jehoshaphat happy Ahab brings in Micaiah, the prophet of the LORD. While they’re waiting, all of the other prophets (not of the LORD) continue to prophesy, including a guy named Zedekiah who’s making some bold predictions about destroying the Arameans/Syrians altogether.

As they’re walking Micaiah into the room he is warned: everyone is saying Israel/Judah will be successful, so you should too! Micaiah says he can only say what God tells him to say. So when he enters the room he gives a prophecy of success to the kings – very sarcastically:

14 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?”


“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for they will be given into your hand.”


15 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”


16 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’”


17 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”


18 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing on his right and on his left. 19 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’


“One suggested this, and another that. 20 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’


“‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.


21 “‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.


“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’


22 “So now the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”

2 Chronicles 18:14–22 (NIV)✞

Zedekiah doesn’t like this so he slaps Micaiah in the face. He asks Micaiah which way the spirit from the LORD went, when He went from Zedekiah to Micaiah—I assume he’s going to try to show that the Spirit of the LORD isn’t actually talking through Micaiah—but Micaiah doesn’t play his game: “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room,” he says (v 24✞), and, although we never read about this incident (in either Chronicles or Kings), I think we can surmise that this is a prophecy about Zedekiah’s end2.

Ahab is fed up with Micaiah and has him put in prison, with nothing but bread and water for sustenance, until the king returns. “If you ever return safely,” Micaiah answers, “the LORD has not spoken through me” (v 27✞).


I have a few thoughts on this passage.

One is that, although it wasn’t mentioned in the 1 Kings version of events, here in 2 Chronicles we’re told that Jehoshaphat is allied to Ahab through marriage. This is more than just one king visiting another; it’s a family visit. I’m sure this also puts additional pressure on Jehoshaphat to join Ahab in his military campaign; it’s not just a matter of a stronger king putting pressure on a weaker king3, it’s also a matter of family putting pressure on family.

I also tend to focus on Jehoshaphat’s wimpy response to Ahab, when Ahab says he doesn’t want to inquire of Micaiah: “The king should not say such a thing” (v 7✞). That being said, Ahab himself doesn’t seem all that powerful in this passage, either! He comes across more like a petulant child than a fearsome king! (I’ve mentioned this before, but it really does feel like Ahab’s wife Jezebel is the strong one in that marriage, while Ahab is more going along with her.)

Even the point of Ahab putting Micaiah in prison, with nothing but bread and water, might not be as strong of an action as we might assume. To modern ears, that sounds like a harsh punishment; nothing but bread and water?!? That’s awful! Except… in that day and age, would that actually have been so terrible? I live in a world where I have meat—as in, the flesh of an animal4—at pretty much every meal, but people in Micaiah’s day didn’t. I definitely have some kind of vegetables at every single meal, but people in Micaiah’s day didn’t even have that. How could they? They didn’t have refrigeration or preservatives; if vegetables were out of season, or they hadn’t just slaughtered an animal, they weren’t eating vegetables or meat. So, although it sounds harsh to modern ears for Ahab to limit Micaiah to bread and water, was he not simply providing Micaiah with a steady source of food? I’m not saying Micaiah’s imprisonment was wonderful, but Ahab didn’t have him put to death, or even starve him!

Finally, though, to go back to Jehoshaphat, I always marvel at his lack of willpower in this story. Though I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll see in the next story that he’s going to join Ahab in attacking Ramoth Gilead,regardless of Micaiah’s prophecy. So the flow of the story is:

# Step Good/Bad?
1 Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to join him in reclaiming his city, and Jehoshaphat initially says yes Maybe a bit bad, but not terrible
2 Jehoshaphat says he wants to inquire of a prophet of the LORD first Good
3 Ahab brings in 400 prophets (but not of God) Neither good nor bad, for Jehoshaphat
4 Jehoshaphat says he really needs a prophet of the LORD to make this decision Good
5 Ahab brings Micaiah, who prophesies against Ahab’s plan Should be good, but…
6 Jehoshaphat goes along with Ahab anyway A surprisingly bad ending

After all of this, after making a point of demanding a real prophet of the real God before making his decision, Jehoshaphat simply… gives up.


  • After writing this post I went back and double-checked what I’d written for 1 Kings 22:1–40 and to my great relief I didn’t contradict myself. 😉
  • Later on there’s another Zedekiah who becomes king of Judah, but it’s a different person.
  • The passage doesn’t say Jehoshaphat is weaker or that Ahab is stronger—in fact, verse 1✞ tells us that “Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor”—but it’s the case for, as far as I know, the entire history of the separated nations: Israel is bigger, stronger, and richer, and Judah is smaller. Jehoshaphat has wealth and honour, but Ahab has more.
  • I mention this because the word “meat” didn’t always mean “the flesh of an animal,” it used to mean something more like the modern word “meal.”

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