The final chapters of 1 Kings are a succinct portrayal of what would come to characterize the situation of God’s people until the time of the exile. From the prophet Elijah, Israel was to learn that God’s word should be taken seriously. The prophetic messages to Israel had a recurring theme: God was acting so that His people would know Him—just as Elijah prayed on Mount Carmel, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel” (1 Kgs 18:36). This message came to King Ahab repeatedly in 1 Kings 20, and the Lord gave Israel victory over the Arameans.
Although the Lord was faithful to His word and Israel struck down the Aramean threat, Ahab released the Aramean king when he pled for mercy (1 Kgs 20:29-34). This was a direct affront to the faithfulness of the Lord. The Lord sentenced Ahab to endure the fate of the Aramean king, whose archer “without taking special aim” (1 Kgs 22:34) killed Ahab in an ensuing battle (1 Kgs 20:35-43; 22:29-40).
King Ahab was not only peevish but greedy as well. Ahab wanted the vineyard of his neighbor, Naboth, who replied, “I will never give my father’s inheritance to you” (1 Kgs 21:3). When Ahab heard this, he threw a fit before his wife Jezebel. She responded by scheming for Naboth’s life and gave the king Naboth’s property (1 Kgs 21:1-16)—a feat that would earn her both fame and shame (1 Kgs 21:19-24; 2 Kgs 9:30-37). Soon the Lord sent Elijah to confront the king in Naboth’s vineyard. The prophet pronounced judgment upon the king and his family, a judgment that was delayed by Ahab’s immediate penitence of heart (1 Kgs 21:17-29).
Ahab’s wickedness in Israel was contrasted in 1 Kings 22 with the more loyal posture of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. While Jehoshaphat was willing to support Ahab’s battle against the Arameans, he first requested that they inquire “what the LORD’s will is” (1 Kgs 22:5). At the end of the chapter, the author described the covenant faithfulness of Judah’s king, “Jehoshaphat walked in all the ways of his father Asa; he did not turn away from them but did what was right in the LORD’s sight” (1 Kgs 22:43). It is thus not surprising that after Ahab inquired of 400 pagan prophets, Jehoshaphat would interject, “Isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh here any more? Let’s ask him” (1 Kgs 22:7). Ahab could not care less about the word of the Lord, while Judah’s king was insistent that it alone should guide those who lead God’s people.
In the end, Micaiah—speaking contrary to the 400 pagan prophets—was shown to be the spokesman from the Lord (1 Kgs 22:13-28). King Ahab approached Micaiah concerning whether or not Israel should go up against Aram. To the chagrin of Ahab, Micaiah informed the king that Aram would be victorious. The prophet said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘They have no master; let everyone return home in peace’” (1 Kgs 22:17). Israel was vulnerable because Ahab, like so many of his predecessors, had been unfaithful to heed the word of the Lord and guide the people in covenant faithfulness.
The Gospel writers employed Micaiah’s prophecy to illustrate Jesus’ compassion for those who were untaught in the hope of Messiah, marred by sickness and disease, under intense demonic influence, and needy of daily bread. The common Israelite suffered while the Pharisees and scribes, who were in position to shepherd the people, stood by loading burdens on the needy (Matt 23:1-7). When Jesus ministered in the regions of Galilee, He felt compassion on the mistreated and the diseased because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:35-37). After Jesus fed the 5,000 and intended to retreat with His disciples, He paused and compassionately ministered to the crowds chasing after Him (Mark 6:34). Micaiah’s prophecy hinted that the people of Israel were the victims of poor leadership—so different from Jesus. Jesus exclaimed, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).