posted on Oct, 2 2015 @ 05:08 PM
The common image of the relation between prophets and kings is the loner in conflict with authority.
We think of Elijah challenging one king, and John the Baptist challenging another.
But it doesn’t have to be like that, and it wasn’t always like that.
In the early days of the kingship, there was a working relationship which gradually mutated from “prophet’s king” to “king’s prophet”.
In the “prophet’s king” relation, the king was guided by, and sometimes chosen by, a trusted prophet.
In the “king’s prophet” relation, the prophet announced exactly what the king wanted him to announce.
The classic examples are Samuel-and-Saul at one end of the time-scale, and Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah at the other.
Whenever we think of Ahab’s reign, we remember the stories of the defiant Elijah.
But there were other prophets of the Lord who were able to work with the kings of Israel in that era, by giving them help and encouragement in the
There was an anonymous prophet (or perhaps more than one) who was very active in 1 Kings ch20.
Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, had gathered his armies together and was besieging Samaria.
“And behold a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said ‘Thus says the Lord; Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I shall give
it into your hand this day; and you shall know that I am the Lord’”
Ahab asked for more detail; “By whom?”
“By the servants of the governors of the districts”.
“Who shall begin the battle?
So Ahab fought the battle according to these directions, and of course he won.
“Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said ‘Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what you have to do; for in the spring
the king of Syria will come up against you’” (vv13-22)
Ben-hadad certainly did come back in the spring, following a different strategy.
He took the advice of his servants, who told him that Israel’s God was a mountain god, whose help would be useless in the plains.
Then “a man of God” came near to the king of Israel and told him that the Lord was going to prove the Syrians wrong by giving the great multitude
into his hands again (v28).
The result of the battle was another victory for Israel.
Ben-hadad surrendered himself to the king, who spared his life (making the same mistake that Saul had made in the case of Agag).
And “a certain man of the sons of the prophets” acted out a “thou art the man” scene. He disguised himself as a wounded soldier, and told the
king that he was about to be penalised because he had been told to guard a prisoner, and he had allowed the prisoner to escape. The king declared that
the penalty was right, and should stand.
Then the man quickly tore off his disguise, and the king recognised him as “one of the prophets”.
He then announced from the Lord “Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go
for his life and your people for his people” (vv35-43).
Three years later, the king received a state visit from Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (ch22)
Ahab invited the other king to take part in a campaign against the Syrians in order to recover Ramoth-Gilead.
Jehoshaphat was willing, but said “Inquire first for the word of the Lord”.
Therefore the king of Israel gathered four hundred prophets together, and formally asked them the question; “Shall I go up to battle against
Ramoth-Gilead, or shall I forebear?”
All of them, without exception, told him “Go up; for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king”.
The star of the show was Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, who made himself horns of iron, declaring “Thus says the Lord; With these you shall push the
Syrians until they are destroyed”. We must imagine him putting on these horns and demonstrating the act of “pushing” (vv11-12)
Now a prophet may well be commissioned to encourage the king in war, as we’ve seen.
But that only applies when this is the message which the Lord wants to give.
In Ahab’s case, judgement had already been declared on two different occasions.
Apart from the last prophet mentioned in ch20, there was Elijah’s warning after the episode of Naboth’s vineyard (ch21).
So any genuine prophecy from the Lord would have echoed that judgement.
These four hundred men had “sold out”.
Instead of acting as the Lord’s prophets, faithfully presenting the Lord’s message to the king, they were acting as the king’s prophets or
public relations men, presenting the king’s message to the people watching this performance.
Jehoshaphat was sceptical, and asked if it wasn’t possible to hear some other prophet of the Lord.
Ahab admitted that Micaiah the son of Imlah was available; “But I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil”.
“Let not the king say so”, said Jehoshaphat, politely.
An officer was despatched to collect Micaiah, and gave him some friendly advice on the way;
“Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favourable to the king: let your word be like the word of one of them”.
When he arrived on the scene, Micaiah was asked the formal question.
With the blandest possible expression on his face, no doubt, he replied “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king”.
But Ahab could recognise sarcasm when he heard it, and demanded that the prophet should speak nothing but the truth.
So that’s what he got; the real prophecy came out as “I saw all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd”
The king grumbled at yet another hostile prophecy, so Micaiah explained why the other prophets were giving a different message.
He recounted a scene in heaven, of the Lord looking for a way to deceive Ahab and send him into battle, and a spirit offering to “go forth and be a
lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets”.
There’s no need for us to take this account at face value, as a record of what really happened in “God’s Council”.
The real message of the story is that the other prophets were not activated by the true Spirit of the Lord, and Zedekiah took the point.
He came over and stuck Micaiah in the face, demanding “How did the Spirit of the Lord go from me to speak to you?”
“You shall see” said Micaiah “on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself”.
In other words, the truth would become clear to him when he found himself desperately trying to escape God’s judgement (vv19-25)
Though the writer does not use the phrase, this looks like
the first Biblical reference to a forthcoming “Day of the Lord”.
Micaiah was imprisoned, but he was vindicated, as a prophet, by the shattering defeat which Israel suffered, as described in the rest of the
The event shows how the king was working against his own interests, by his policy of “taming” the prophets, and trying to suppress the word of the
That’s like dealing with a smoke alarm by switching it off; it stops the noise, but does nothing to avert the danger.
Nevertheless, the future of prophecy, as an official employment, would be with men like Zedekiah.
Thus the men who truly spoke for the Lord would be increasingly forced to detach themselves from royal service and commit their prophecies to writing,
Those in power lose touch with God’s guidance, and we see the results.