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Jehoshaphat and Ahab | Mark P. Spinks

Part I

“And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; But sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.”* (2 Chronicles 17:3-6)

Here is a bright spot in the dismal history of the kings of both Judah and Israel. Jehoshaphat’s father, Asa, who had started out with great faith in God, had ended his career by turning to seek help from the king of Syria in his national problems and from the physicians in his physical afflictions (2 Chronicles 16:7,12). But now his son Jehoshaphat, at the outset of his administration, was minded to please God. God blessed him greatly as he obeyed, bringing fear on all the surrounding nations to the extent that “they made no war against Jehoshaphat.”* (2 Chronicles 17:10) The people were taught the ways of the Lord with the example of the king before them, and the entire nation prospered. “And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly.”* (2 Chronicles 17:12)

“Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.”* (2 Chronicles 18:1)

There was a strong attraction between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for were not they all of the seed of Abraham? There was a hunger for a united kingdom as men remembered the past glories of David and Solomon. And this desire was of such a nature as to smooth over all differences and downplay the fact that it was God who had separated them.

“And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead. And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramoth-gilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war.”* (2 Chronicles 18:2-3)

Note the progression of events. First, Jehoshaphat just went and visited Ahab. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”* (1 Corinthians 15:33) Jehoshaphat did not carry a rebuke in his heart toward the wrong that was in Ahab, a man who had sold himself to do evil in the sight of God. Perhaps he felt as many do today that he should not judge, or perhaps he felt that the end justified the means, but the result was the same: “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people.”

Jehoshaphat got too far from God and too close to Ahab. The same will happen to you and me unless we live continually in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Without His aid, we begin to view things through the eyes of our humanity, and soon sin does not appear so exceedingly sinful anymore. After a while, we can get rather comfortable with the Ahabs of our time, thinking that there is really a lot of good there and that they are not really so bad when you get to know them.

At first, the doings, the talk, the wife of Ahab, were likely unsettling to Jehoshaphat, but after a number of visits to Samaria, he got quite comfortable and felt at home. Ahab seemed a rather decent fellow on the whole, and he certainly was generous in his hospitality. He also really did have a problem with this Syrian king, who had also troubled Judah at times. And Ahab had an admirable bravery that could endure great pain (2 Chronicles 18:34). So Jehoshaphat joined affinity with Ahab.

Affinity: inherent likeness or agreement as between things; close resemblance or connection.

The reader can see at a glance that for this affinity between Jehoshaphat and Ahab to really work, Jehoshaphat and Ahab must be the same. And they were not, as the scriptural record shows us. It was really an attempt to combine the ways of the flesh and the way of God. This begins to unfold in the next verses.

“And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day. Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the king’s hand. But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.”* (2 Chronicles 18:4-7)

The reality of what was in each heart begins to come out. Jehoshaphat has too much of the fear of God upon him to proceed without inquiring of the Lord. So Ahab gathers together his four hundred false prophets who tell him what they know he wants to hear. But Jehoshaphat is not satisfied. He readily identifies the false prophets for what they are and requests “a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him.” Note the word of accommodation: “besides.” As if to say, “These four hundred may be good enough for you, Ahab, but (please) I need just a little more assurance….” He did not say, “Ahab, this is no good at all—these four hundred false prophets are worthless and an abomination.” How could he rebuke Ahab after declaring, “I am as thou art”? No, for though Jehoshaphat still has the fear of God upon him, he is trying to work with that which is not God’s.

Even this mild, indirect preference for that which is right and solid does not sit well with Ahab, the husband of Jezebel. His condition of heart shows itself. “There is yet one man”—in spite of Ahab’s best efforts, it would seem—“by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him.” Now you would certainly think that this would be enough to cause Jehoshaphat to take to his heels, but no, he is deeply under the spirit of making this affinity work. Even this revelation of hatred for the man of God does not cause him to depart, but he only remarks, “Please don’t say that.”

When Jehoshaphat was in affinity with wrong, his principles and scruples lost their weight and authority. This is because he was acting inconsistently, trying to hold to truth while empathizing with an evil doer.

But the conversation has clearly revealed an even deeper insight into the life and character of Ahab: “For he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil.” One cannot help but think, “Jehoshaphat, what are you doing around a man whom God’s prophet has always condemned, whose life is black, whose doom is certain?” Oh, it is a good question! But it didn’t do Jehoshaphat any good at this time; he was too blinded by the spirit of unholy accommodation to forsake his unholy alliance.

And so Micaiah, the man of God, one of the Lord’s own prophets, was summoned to King Ahab’s court to a confrontation with four hundred false prophets, wicked King Ahab, and a recipient of past blessings and mercy, King Jehoshaphat. There they sat, side by side, these two kings, each on his throne, clothed in his royal robes. Before them the crowd of false prophets prophesied. What do you think were the feelings of Micaiah, the prophet of God, to see King Jehoshaphat in a league with such a crowd?

Micaiah was a faithful man of God. Pressure was brought to bear on him, but the fear of man was not in him, and he was true. “And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.”* (2 Chronicles 18:13) He was of the same spirit as the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews: “We may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”* (Hebrews 13:6)

Because he would not veer in any way from what God had given him (for there was no compromise in him in any way), he was thrown in prison and fed “with bread of affliction and with water of affliction.”* (2 Chronicles 18:26) Thus ended King Jehoshaphat’s request for an inquiry from a prophet of the Lord. The true prophet’s liberty was taken away; the false prophets were feted and received; and Jehoshaphat stayed right in there in spite of it all!

But this is not all that happened. The hypocritical King Ahab was afraid of the prophet’s prediction, although he was not afraid to condemn him to the prison. King Ahab actually disguised himself as though he were not a king, while persuading King Jehoshaphat to retain his kingly robes.

As a result of King Jehoshaphat’s affinity with the wicked King Ahab, Jehoshaphat nearly lost his life. The Syrians mistook him for King Ahab, and had not the Lord helped him, he would have died on the battlefield. But he was spared, although Ahab was not, Brother Micaiah’s prophecy proving true.

“And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.”* (2 Chronicles 19:1-3)

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”* (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”* (Revelation 18:4)