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Defiance, Disaster, and Death

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18; 19:1–3; 20:31–37

No one can continue to defy God and escape His judgment. Ahab is just one of many examples that illustrate this truth. We have just one earthly lifetime to humble ourselves and submit in faith to the sovereign Lord.


You are a wise person, and especially a wise leader, if you are willing to hear a word of criticism or a different viewpoint or even a challenge to rethink something. Surrounding yourself only with people who agree with you is a setup for disaster. And there’s no better example of this than King Ahab.

Here in 1 Kings 22, the old hostilities between Israel and Syria ignite again. Verse 1 says, “For three years Syria and Israel continued without war.” Apparently, though, the Syrians have not returned the city of Ramoth-gilead to Israel as King Ben-hadad had promised Ahab. Ahab wants to make Ramoth-gilead an important city east of the Jordan River, and that means taking it back from the Syrians.

Now if you can follow this bouncing ball, Ben-hadad had been an ally of King Asa, father of Jehoshaphat, the current king of Judah. But things are changing, according to 2 Chronicles 18:1, where we’re told that “Jehoshaphat . . . made a marriage alliance with Ahab.” Ahab’s daughter marries Jehoshaphat’s son (2 Chronicles 21:6; 22:2). And there’s nothing quite like a family alliance.

Back in 1 Kings 22:43, Jehoshaphat is described as a godly king who walked in the ways of his father, Asa. But this marriage alliance with Ahab, was unwise and, ultimately, it’s going to bring harm to his kingdom.

But now Ahab has the help of Jehoshaphat, and he’s ready to launch an attack on Ramoth-gilead to win it back from Ben-hadad, the king of Syria. But before they march into battle, Jehoshaphat wisely says to Ahab, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord” (verse 5). In other words, “Let’s ask God if we should go to battle against Ben-hadad.”

Well, Ahab was not planning on asking God anything, but we’re told here in verse 6:

The king . . . gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

These prophets are on the king’s payroll, and they tell Ahab what he wants to hear. But Jehoshaphat is suspicious about these 400 men, so he asks Ahab if there is any other prophet in the land.

Ahab’s answer in verse 8 is almost comical:

“There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.”

“He’s always raining on my parade. He never tells me what I want to hear!”

But Ahab is stuck now, so he calls for Micaiah. The messenger sent to bring Micaiah to Ahab warns him that he needs to speak favorably to the king. I love Micaiah’s response here in verse 14: “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.” King or no king!

When Micaiah arrives, he mocks these prophets by delivering to Ahab the same favorable message. “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king” (verse 15). Ahab immediately detects the sarcasm in Micaiah’s voice and demands that he speak the truth.

“Oh, you want me to speak the truth and not some feel-good message?  Okay, here it is”—verse 17:

“I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’”

In other words, Israel is going to be defeated and scattered. And they will lose their shepherd—their king—in battle, as well. Ahab says to Jehoshaphat in verse 18: “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”

But how could 400 prophets be wrong and only Micaiah be right? Well, Micaiah explains why here in verse 23: “The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” That is, God has allowed a “lying spirit” to speak through these 400 prophets in order to convince Ahab to go into battle so that God’s plan regarding Ahab’s death will be fulfilled.

Well, Ahab has Micaiah thrown into jail—mind you, for telling the truth. But I find it surprising that godly King Jehoshaphat goes with Ahab into battle. We’re not told why. Perhaps it was because he felt committed to helping Ahab as he had promised; or maybe he was convinced that Micaiah really did have a chip on his shoulder against Ahab. We just don’t know.

Now as they head into battle here, Ahab disguises himself so that he cannot be targeted by the Syrian army. And at first his plan works. In fact, the Syrians target King Jehoshaphat, and his life is in danger. But over in the parallel account in 2 Chronicles, we read, “The Lord helped him; God drew them away from him” (18:31).

God is actually directing the armies in this battle. He’s protecting King Jehoshaphat, and He’s about to judge King Ahab.

Although he is disguised, Ahab cannot run from God’s will. We are told here in 1 Kings 22:34, “But a certain [Syrian soldier] drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.” Notice those words: a soldier fired an arrow “at random.” He just aims up in the sky, and God directs that arrow to find the small gap between Ahab’s breastplate and the flexible scale armor that covered his stomach. What seems to be a random event is not outside the plan of God.

The severely wounded Ahab is propped up in his chariot, but as his life begins to slip away at sunset, even then, tragically, he doesn’t cry out to the Lord. There is no word of repentance, no prayer of surrender.

With that, he dies. And just as the Lord had predicted through His prophet Elijah, verse 38 now records, “They washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood.”

There is a warning in all this about the danger of compromise. Jehoshaphat compromised on two occasions. First, he joined Ahab in this battle, and he will be rebuked for this in the parallel account in 2 Chronicles 19 by the prophet Jehu.

Second, and again recorded in 2 Chronicles 19, Jehoshaphat will begin a ship-building enterprise with Ahab’s wicked son Ahaziah. And all these ships will be destroyed, as God judges this ungodly business alliance.

Now as the biography of Ahab comes to a close—just as the book of 1 Kings comes to an end—we need to realize that we have been given a tragic illustration, in living color, of the grip of sin and unbelief that can hold on to someone all the way to the doorway of death.

People who defy God and surround themselves with those who just tell them what they want to hear are in great danger. And that’s because sin just grips all that much harder. I have seen this happen in my years of ministry, that with the arrival of death, a person can grow even more defiant in unbelief.

Is that you today? Where do you stand before God? Have you listened to His warning? Have you believed His gospel and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do that today, because only God knows—today might be your last day, your last opportunity to believe. Believe in Him today.

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