MICAIAH the prophet stepped before Ahab the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah. He told them that God would help Israel take the city of Ramoth-gilead from the Syrians. (I Kings 22:1-15; II Chronicles 18:1-14.) Ahab couldn't believe his ears. He was certain that the prophet would predict failure. "Did God actually tell you to tell me that I would succeed against the enemy?" Ahab demanded.
The Truth Is Out
"He did not!" Micaiah answered so that all could hear. "That's what your servant who brought me here told me to tell you. He said that the other prophets had agreed to say that you would be successful, and that I should say the same thing so that you wouldn't be disappointed." Ahab's face turned a deep pink. He opened his mouth to shout something to the prophet, who hastily continued. "Here is what God wants me to tell you. The soldiers of Israel will be victorious against the Syrians, yet they shall be scattered as sheep that have lost their shepherd. They shall straggle back to their homes because of the loss of their leader." (I Kings 22:16-17; II Chronicles 18:15-16.) "Hear that?" Ahab whispered hoarsely to Jehoshaphat. "I told you this man would have only an evil report for me. Now he's trying to predict that my soldiers will come back safely from battle and that I won't." "Let me tell you more," Micaiah went on. "I had a vision from God in which I saw Him sitting on his throne, surrounded by His angels. God asked them which one would persuade Ahab to attack Ramoth-gilead, so that he should lose his life there. An evil spirit came among them and explained that he would manage to get the king of Israel to go to his doom simply by causing his prophets to lie to him by telling him that he would overcome the Syrians. God permitted this, and sent him on his way. Now you know why your four hundred prophets said you would succeed, whereas you will actually die if you go to battle." (I Kings 22:18-23; II Chronicles 18:17-22.) There was murmuring from the crowd and from Ahab's prophets. The one wearing the helmet with the iron horns, who considered himself the great holy man, strode up to Micaiah and struck him in the face with such force that Micaiah almost fell to the ground. "Don't try to convince the king that God hasn't worked through me to tell Ahab the truth!" he angrily shouted. "If there is a false prophet around here, it's you. If you are the special servant of God you claim to be, then how did God's Spirit get from me to you to speak to you?" As Micaiah gingerly rubbed his head bruises, there was an expectant silence. The accuser stood glowering at the prophet. He was unconcerned about what God would do to him because he didn't have that much belief in God. Ahab was taken in by this dramatic device. Like all the others watching, he wondered if something would happen to the man who had struck Micaiah. Nothing did, so he assumed that Micaiah was a false prophet. Perhaps it didn't occur to him that God might prefer not to do anything for Micaiah at that time. "The king obviously believes you," Micaiah told his attacker. "God has a reason for not dealing with you now, but not many days later you'll be running for your life."
Persecution of the Faithful
"Arrest Micaiah!" Ahab called to his guards. "Take him to the mayor of Samaria and tell the mayor that I want this man put in prison and kept alive only with bread and water until I return from taking possession of Ramoth-gilead!" "If that's the way it's going to be, I'll he consuming much bread and water," Micaiah observed to the crowd, "because Ahab won't be coming back alive. Everybody remember what I'm saying here today." (I Kings 22:24-28; II Chronicles 18:23-27.) Jehoshaphat was puzzled. He knew that Micaiah was a true prophet, but he couldn't understand why God didn't come to his rescue. He concluded that he would leave the matter up to the king of Israel. A few days later the two kings, each in his own chariot, led the armies of Israel and Judah across the Jordan River and into the high plain country toward Ramoth-gilead. The closer they came to their goal, the more concerned Ahab became for his life. He feared Micaiah's prediction would come true because he knew that his prophets had spoken only what he wanted to hear. In an attempt to provide more safety for himself, he decided that he would not approach the enemy in his personal chariot. Instead, he would use an ordinary army chariot, and wear the armor of a charioteer instead of his royal robes and insignia. In short, he wanted to hide his identity by disguise. As a further precaution, he boldly asked Jehoshaphat to put on royal robes. The king of Judah considered this an unreasonable request, but he complied because he wanted to prove to the king of Israel that he could be a dependable ally. He wasn't too certain that it was the wisest thing to prove, however, inasmuch as Ahab had made some unusual demands. (I Kings 22:29-30; II Chronicles 18:28-29.) Ben-hadad, king of Syria, had already been informed that an Israelite army was coming from the west. He immediately dispatched his army, including many chariots, to meet the enemy before Ramoth-gilead could be attacked. He remembered all too well how Ahab and his retainers, the clan chiefs' sons, had led the small Israelite army in two smashing victories over Syria twice in four years. (I Kings 20:13-29.) "Ahab is a great fighter," Ben-hadad told his thirty-two chief chariot officers. "You thirty-two concentrate on him above all others. Gang up on him and get him at all costs. Do away with him, and his army will become a lesser threat." (I Kings 22:31; II Chronicles 18:30.) As the Syrian and Israelite armies clashed on a plain south of Ramoth-gilead, the Israelites were puzzled by the way the leading Syrian chariots drove through their lines. It seemed as though these leading charioteers were intent on fighting their way into the midst of the Israelite army, rather than trying to destroy as many soldiers as possible. Suddenly several of the chariots headed toward a certain Jewish area of the Israelite army, now standing almost motionless. Soldiers scurried to get out of the way of the charging vehicles, whose riders struggled to shield themselves from a cloud of weapons. Jehoshaphat, standing in his chariot, abruptly realized that he was being personally attacked by the enemy. "That's Ahab!" some of the Syrian captains kept yelling. "Destroy him!"
A Sinner Cannot Hide
"I am not Ahab!" the king of Judah desperately shouted, expecting spears and arrows to come plunging into him at any moment. Above the clatter of weapons and the noise of excited voices, one of the captains, who had seen King Ahab at the battle three years before, bellowed to the Syrians that the man was telling the truth — that he wasn't Ahab. There was a quick exchange of turbulent remarks between the captains. Then the Syrian chariots wheeled about and rumbled swiftly away through the rattle and clank of Israelite arrows and spears hitting the shields of the riders. Ahab, watching at a distance, was pleased for having the foresight to keep himself from being recognized. At the same time he began to feel panic as he realized that certain chief Syrians were obviously more interested in getting to him than in fighting with his soldiers. At this time some Syrian archer fitted an arrow to his bowstring, drew it back with all his might and let it fly. It struck between armor joints of a certain chariot rider in the Israelite army, causing a deep wound in the man's chest. That man was Ahab. "Get me out of here before the Syrians find me or my soldiers learn that I've been wounded," Ahab told his driver. (I Kings 22:32-34; II Chronicles 18:31-33.) As Ahab was being taken from the battle zone, an officer leaped into the chariot to prevent the king from falling down, which would have created much attention. Ahab returned to the battle after the arrow was removed and his mortal wound bandaged. As the vehicle moved along, nearby troops saw that Ahab was standing in it with two of his officers. They didn't realize that he was being held up, and that he was making a great effort to keep his head erect and to keep fighting. The battle increased for the rest of the day. By sundown Ahab had lost so much blood that he died. His officers feared that news of his death could demoralize his army. Before the report could get out, they sent out orders that every man was to return immediately to his country and his home. The prophet Micaiah had foretold that the soldiers of Israel would return to their homes because of the loss of their leader. The prophecy was fulfilled as the army broke up and went back westward across the Jordan. Ahab's body was taken back to Samaria in the chariot in which he died. After the corpse was removed, the chariot was washed because of the blood the king of Israel had lost. Dogs came around to lick up the blood, thus carrying out the prophecy made by Elijah that dogs would one day consume Ahab's blood because of his disobedience to God. (II Chronicles 18:34; I Kings 22:35-40; I Kings 21:1-19.)
Because of an Unholy Alliance
Unhappy because of how matters had worked out, and disappointed in himself for having become involved, Jehoshaphat returned with his troops to Jerusalem. When he was almost there, riding before his army, a man stood in front of him in the road, and held up his hand to try to stop the whole vast procession. Guards ran forward to remove him. Jehoshaphat signaled for a halt, and asked that the man be brought to him. He turned out to be Jehu, the prophet who had informed King Baasha that he would die because he had lived and ruled contrary to God's laws. (I Kings 16:1-4.) "What is your reason for standing in the way of the army of Judah?" Jehoshaphat asked Jehu. "I have news for you about your future," Jehu answered. "I know it will interest you because it also has to do with what will happen to Judah." While the army moved on, Jehoshaphat conferred with Jehu, who made some statements that caused the king to become even unhappier. "You have been unwise in forming an alliance with an ungodly king," the prophet told Jehoshaphat. "In the past you have followed God and have done many good things for your people. God has been pleased about that, but He is far from pleased about what you have lately done. Because of it, calamity will come upon this nation." (II Chronicles 19:1-3.) The king of Judah was so troubled that during the weeks that followed he toured every part of his kingdom to carefully inspect his judicial system. He wanted to make certain that the officials were conscientious and fair. In some places he made replacements. In others he added more judges. He admonished every man in authority to fear God and be completely just, so that God would give them greater wisdom in making decisions. When Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem, where the high priest and supreme court of the nation functioned, he made some changes for the better there, too, besides advising the Levites and the judges to be courageous in their decisions. Being fair often requires courage. Jehoshaphat worked diligently to make conditions right in Judah, hoping that God would take these things into account, and that Jehu's pronouncement of trouble wouldn't come to pass. He even reminded the Levites to be more obedient to their chief priest, Amariah. (II Chronicles 19:4-11.) Months later Jehoshaphat received a report that trouble was on the way to Judah in spite of all he had done since returning from Ramoth-gilead. "A massive army is coming this way up the west side of the Dead Sea!" the king was told. "Moabites, Ammonites and many of their neighboring nations are surely headed for Jerusalem!" "Where is this army now?" Jehoshaphat asked, trying to hide his concern. "Only a few miles east of Hebron on the west shore of the Dead Sea," was the answer. (II Chronicles 20:1-2.) "That is only about twenty miles from here!" the king exclaimed. "We could be attacked in two days!" "At the rate the army is moving, it would be closer to three days at the soonest," it was explained.
"You Are Our God"
Jehoshaphat was stunned, even though he had been expecting something like this. He immediately called a meeting of his top officers, who were as upset as the king when they learned that such a large army was so close. Some of them were in favor of sending out the army of Judah at once to meet the invaders. Jehoshaphat disagreed. He knew that there was something that had to be done before his soldiers went into action. He sent fast messengers to all parts of Judah to proclaim a fast and ask the people to pray for the protection of the nation. Within only a few hours people began flocking to Jerusalem, anxious to gather there to ask God for help. This crowd wasn't composed of just the leaders of Judah. The many thousands were made up mostly of families who wanted to come to the temple. Jehoshaphat welcomed this opportunity to lead the growing assembly in prayer. (II Chronicles 20:3-4.) "God of our fathers, we come to you now to ask for help," Jehoshaphat cried out as he stood in the court before the temple. "We know You are the Supreme Ruler of the universe as well as the One who controls even every heathen nation of this world. You have power that none can withstand. You are our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land and gave it to the descendants of Israel forever. Your people lived here and built this temple for You. In time of war, famine, pestilence or any kind of national disaster, they came to the temple to ask for help because they knew that your Presence was in the temple. Again we are in a time of danger because enemies are invading our land. When our forefathers came here, they passed in peace by the Moabites, Ammonites and inhabitants of the land south of the Dead Sea, even though You could have given the Israelites the power to destroy them. Now the armies of these nations are close at hand to attack us. They surely plan to push us out of the land You gave to Israel. The numbers of the enemy are so great we are fearful of defeat it we rely on the strength of the army of Judah. We look to our God for protection and strength. Be merciful to us!" (II Chronicles 20:5-12; Deuteronomy 2:4-9, 18-19, 37.)
After Jehoshaphat's prayer there was a period of quiet reverence. It was broken by the voice of a man named Jahaziel, a Levite who strode up beside the surprised king and began to boldly speak. Jehoshaphat quickly motioned to his guards to let the man alone. "Hear what I have to say to you, people of Judah!" Jahaziel shouted. "Listen to me, King Jehoshaphat and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Our king has just prayed to God for help. I have been instructed by Him to give an answer to that prayer. God wants you to know that we shouldn't be afraid because the invaders are so numerous. Our army won't have to fight against them. God will take our part in the battle. All that is expected of us is that we go tomorrow to meet our enemies and witness what will happen to them!" (II Chronicles 20:13-17.) A murmur of surprise came from the crowd. Jehoshaphat was almost as stunned as he had been when he had first learned of the invaders.