03. MICAIAH

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The son of Imlah, a faithful prophet of Samaria (1 Kings 22:8-28) and the chief character of an important episode near the end of the reign of Ahab (1 Kings 22:4-28 parallel 2 Chronicles 18:3-27). Three years after the great battle with Ben-Hadad (1 Kings 20:29-34), Ahab proposed to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, that they should go up against Ramoth-Gilead to do battle again with Ben-Hadad. Jehoshaphat agreed, but suggested that inquiry should be first made “at the word of Jehovah.” Ahab's prophets approved of the expedition; but Jehoshaphat, still dissatisfied, asked if there was no other prophet besides the four hundred that had appeared, and was informed of this Micaiah. He was sent for from prison, where he had been confined, probably on account of some prediction disagreeable to Ahab; and he condemned the expedition, and prophesied that it would end, as it did, in disaster. We hear nothing further of this prophet. Some have supposed that he was the unnamed prophet referred to in 1 Kings 20:35-42.

In the Hebrew, his name appears once in the contracted form “Micah” (2 Chronicles 18:14). Ahab had suggested to his victor, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, that they should undertake a joint campaign against Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat politely acquiesced, but asked that the mind of Yahweh should first be ascertained. Ahab forthwith summoned the official prophets to the number of 400, into the royal presence. Obsequious to their master, they, both by oracular utterance and by the symbolic action of their leader, Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, gave the king a favorable answer. Their ready chorus of assent seems to have made Jehoshaphat suspicious, for he pleaded that further guidance be sought. Micaiah, for whom Ahab, then, with evident reluctance, sent, at first simply repeated the favorable response of the 400; but adjured by the king to speak the whole truth, he dropped his ironical tone, and in sad earnest described a vision of disaster. Ahab endeavored to lessen the effect of this oracle by pettishly complaining that Micaiah was always to him a prophet of evil. The latter thereupon related an impressive vision of the heavenly court, whence he had seen a lying spirit dispatched by Yahweh to the prophets in order to bring about Ahab's delusion and downfall. In answer to a rude challenge from Zedekiah, who acted as spokesman for the 400, Micaiah confidently appealed to the issue for proof of the truth of his prediction, and was promptly commuted to prison by the king.

The narrative is exceedingly vivid and of the utmost interest to students of Israelite prophecy. Several of its details have given rise to discussion, and the questions: How far were the prophet's visions objective? How far did he admit the inspiration of his opponents? Is the Divine action described consistent with the holy character of Yahweh? have occasioned difficulty to many. But their difficulty arises largely either because of their Christian viewpoint, or because of their hard and mechanical theory of prophetic inspiration. Micaiah's position was a delicate one. Foreboding or foreseeing disaster, he did his best to avert it. This he could do only by weaning the king from the influence of the 400 time-serving prophets. He sought to gain his end; first, by an ironical acquiescence in their favorable answer; then, by a short oracle forecasting disaster especially to Ahab; and, these means having failed, by discrediting in the most solemn manner the courtly prophets opposed to him. Thus regarded, his vision contains no admission of their equal inspiration; rather is it an emphatic declaration that these men were uttering falsehood in Yahweh's name, thereby endangering their country's safety and their king's life. Their obsequious time-service made them fit forerunners of the false prophets denounced by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:9-40) and by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 13:1-15). The frank anthropomorphism of the vision need be no stumbling-block if allowed to drop into its proper place as the literary device of a prophet intensely conscious of his own inspiration and as whole-heartedly patriotic as those opposed to him.

The record ends very abruptly, giving no account of Micaiah's vindication when at length the course of events brought about the fulfillment of his prediction. The closing words, “Hear, ye peoples, all of you” (1 Kings 22:28 parallel 2 Chronicles 18:27), a quotation of Micah 1:2, are an evident interpolation by some late scribe who confused the son of Imlah with the contemporary of Isaiah.

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