Deceiving Spirit article
"But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts," (Zechariah 7:11-13, ESV)
 "But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts," (Zechariah 7:11-13, ESV)
 Certain Biblical passages are difficult to understand and require considerable study to appreciate. One such passage arises in 1 Kings 22:19-23 on the occasion of Ahab’s battle with Syria. The passage seems to suggest that Jehovah God directly caused a sin to occur. Of course if that interpretation is correct, it would force a reconsideration of several of the qualities or characteristics of God. We believe it is possible to harmonize this passage with others which teach the holistic goodness of God.
The Context of 1 Kings 22
The chapter details the first recorded alliance between the northern ten tribes (Israel) and the southern two (Judah). In the south, Jehoshaphat rules and is seen by the inspired writer as a good man, although perhaps not as faithful as he should have been (1 Kings 22:43).
The casus belli was the occupation of Ramoth-Gilead by the Syrians. This city was originally a city of refuge for all of Israel. Located to the east of the Jordan, the city was in the tribal regions of Gad. It had been a principle city during the reign of Solomon. At some point after the division of Israel, Ramoth was taken by the Syrians. The Biblical account demonstrates that it was Ahab’s idea to go to battle. He seeks, and obtains, agreement from Jehoshaphat.
Spiritual Conditions in Israel
The north, led by Ahab is already spiritually bankrupt. The marriage of Ahab to Jezebel, a Zidonian – not a Jew – drew idol worship directly into the palace and replaced the prophets of Jehovah (c.f. 1 Kings 18:4, 13, 19). This absence of divine guidance is highlighted when Jehoshaphat asks to consult the Lord before going to battle and is presented with 400 prophets who do not speak truth (1 Kings 22:5-7).
The religious affiliation of these prophets is unclear. They are not likely prophets of Jehovah God for all but 100 had been slain by Jezebel (1 Kings 18:13; 22). The text says that the prophets of Baal who attended the Carmel contest were all killed (1 Kings 18:40) but that does not preclude the possibility that others remained elsewhere. The prophets of the groves (1 Kings 18:19) are not further mentioned and may have survived the slaughter at Kishon.
What is clear is the lack of truth in the comments of the prophets. They were specifically chosen to satisfy the desire of the King for war and conquest. It is certain they had previously scratched the King’s itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3) and were thus devoid of truth. That Micaiah was not called, although well-known, should tell us that he was a man who was indeed truthful “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) while his colleagues were little more than “yes men.”
Thus we have a circumstance where the King over God’s people has surrounded himself with false prophets and is, himself, wicked. The depth of Ahab’s sin must not be underestimated. He was sinful through and through and has surrounded himself with people who enable and support his wickedness. An appreciation of the wicked nature of the prophets and the depravity of Ahab is essential to properly understanding how Jehovah God can send a “deceiving spirit” upon them.
Jehoshaphat and Micaiah
Despite a large assemblage of prophets who support the King Ahab’s desire for war, King Jehoshaphat is not impressed. He discerns the emptiness of the prophet’s replies and asks for another.
Ahab grudgingly acknowledges Micaiah but declares his dislike for him. Nevertheless he summons righteous Micaiah. Ahab’s messenger encourages Micaiah to speak like the others so the King will not be disappointed (1 Kings 22:13). To his great credit, Micaiah declares he will speak only “what the Lord saith unto me…” (1 Kings 22:14).
Micaiah Before Ahab
The reader is surprised then when Micaiah stands before the king and agrees that he should go up to battle! Again the king (likely Jehoshaphat) discerns there is more to be heard. He rebukes Micaiah and demands that he speak the word of the Lord. It is at this point that we are given insight into the actual prophecy shown Micaiah.
The prophet reveals his vision from Jehovah God. He has been shown a disorganized, leaderless people who are told to return to their homes in peace. This is the prophetic picture of Israel after the battle and the loss of their King, Ahab (c.f. 1 Kings 22:34-36).
The prophet is also allowed to disclose a heavenly discussion revealed to him by God. Let us now attempt tp understand the difficult portion of the text and try and discern some lesson therein.
Harmonizing The Passage
Because the passage in view seems to suggest that God causes some to lie, we must see if there is a way whereby God’s actions described herein can be made to conform to the characteristics of him given elsewhere in Scripture. While some may be pleased to point to an alleged inconsistency or contradiction in the Scriptures, we believe that the proper approach is to search for a way to legitimately harmonize the text.
The truthfulness of God is upheld by Scripture
Priest, prophet and judge Samuel declared the Lord’s words to be true (2 Samuel 7:28). The Psalmist declared that the teachings of God are true (Psalm 25:5; Psalm 57:3; Psalm 69:13) and he is said to be abundant in truth (Psalm 86:15). Isaiah calls him at “God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16) while Jeremiah declared him a “true God” (Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 42:15). Zechariah says that God will rule in truth (Zechariah 8:8).
In the New Testament, God is seen as no less truthful and his son, Jesus Christ, is likewise seen as true. His opponents, while trying to entrap him, declared that he was true and that he taught truly (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14). Jesus states simply that “God is true” (John 3:33; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20).
The prolific Paul shows that God will be true even when all men are found liars (Romans 3:4). He speaks of the message of God as truth (2 Corinthians 6:7). To the Thessalonians he is the “living and true God” (1Thessalonians 1:9) and the one through whom their salvation comes through truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
The Bible is clear throughout that truthfulness is a characteristic of God. To assume otherwise is to shred the entire fabric of faith for no man can trust a God who says one thing but does another.
The Heavenly Council
What follows now is a verse-by-verse analysis of the text to show the harmonization of God’s actions with other passages of Scripture.
|Micaiah said, “therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.(1 Kings 22:19)|
The prophet dissociates himself from the vision he is about to reveal. It belongs not to him, but to Jehovah. Micaiah appropriately understands himself as merely a conduit for God’s message; he is a tool for God’s use and nothing more. The vision is not for Micaiah but for his hearers.
The image presented herein is not unlike the picture drawn by Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-4 and John in Revelation 4:2-4. On both occasions, the Almighty is pictured as seated on a throne and surrounded by a variety of celestial creatures.
While in both the Isaiah and Revelation accounts we see humble adoration and worship coming from the creatures, we should note that on occasions even Satan presents himself before God (c.f. Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Zechariah 3:1-10). This will become significant shortly.
The reader should understand this as a peek behind the veil of Heaven. This is a scene of immense magnificence and glory nearly unspeakable by human words.
The description of the glory envisioned here is appropriate for it demands that the hearer listen to the message being conveyed. It is especially useful in the context of both Ahab and Jehoshaphat for they would both understand and appreciate the accoutrements of the | The Lord said, “Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” And one said this while another said that.”(1 Kings 22:20) |
royal court. The God who speaks here is the God of their ancestors; this is the God beyond the veil of the Temple. Through Micaiah, God was speaking their language in a way they would understand.
Ahab’s wickedness has risen to the throne of God and has become the focus of the heavenly host. There is really no question coming from Jehovah here at all, unless perhaps a rhetorical one. God knows all and certainly does not need advice to decide how to deal with Ahab.
The intent is clear: God desires the destruction of Ahab. The tool of that destruction will be Syria and God must now craft the circumstances that will bring Ahab into catastrophic proximity to the powerful adversary.
A careful student might ask why God would destroy his own king and especially at the hands of a wicked kingdom. Jehovah frequently made use of foreign kingdoms to accomplish his will. The Assyrians would come against Israel in short order and carry them into captivity. The Assyrians were even called by God “the rod of mine anger” (Isaiah 10:5). Such was the warning of Isaiah 8:1-8. A similar warning was issued to Judah through the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1-11). A careful study of Scripture will show that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was a favored tool of the Lord’s (Jeremiah 27:3, 6-7; 43:10-13; 44:1-30). God’s purpose here is quite simple. He desires a people (Jews) who will serve a multifaceted function. They will be his people, a shadow of the coming church, a repository of his wisdom through the Scriptures and the ancestors of the coming Christ. In order to accomplish these events, he needs a faithful people; a people who worship and honor him. The destruction of a single King would teach a powerful lesson. God’s desire was that the people of the north would return and honor him as he intended.
But in the case of Ahab, this destruction was an out pouring of the judicial wrath of God.
(American Standard Version)
And Micaiah said, Therefore hear thou the word of Jehovah: I saw Jehovah sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20And Jehovah said, Who shall entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner; and another said on that manner. 21And there came forth a spirit, and stood before Jehovah, and said, I will entice him. 22And Jehovah said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt entice him, and shalt prevail also: go forth, and do so. 23Now therefore, behold, Jehovah hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and Jehovah hath spoken evil concerning thee.
(King James Translation)And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, Who shall persuadec Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. 21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. 22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. 23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
(New American Standard -1995)
"Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. “The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ “Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”" 
(English Standard Translation)
"And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”" 
"Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him to the right and to the left of him. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ Then one said one thing, and another said another, until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘How?’ the Lord asked him. He replied, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.’ So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you.”" 
(New International Version)
"Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “ ‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “ ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “ ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ “So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”"
"Micaiah kept on: “I’m not done yet; listen to God’s word: I saw God enthroned, and all the angel armies of heaven Standing at attention ranged on his right and his left. And God said, ‘How can we seduce Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead?’ Some said this, and some said that. Then a bold angel stepped out, stood before God, and said, ‘I’ll seduce him.’ ‘And how will you do it?’ said God. ‘Easy,’ said the angel, ‘I’ll get all the prophets to lie.’ ‘That should do it,’ said God. ‘On your way—seduce him!’ “And that’s what has happened. God filled the mouths of your puppet prophets with seductive lies. God has pronounced your doom.” " 
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Several differing translations of the text are provided in Appendix A of this paper.
 W. S. Lasor, “Ramoth-Gilead,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, fully revised, 1988.
 Zidon is the same as Sidon, a coastal city ostensibly within the boundaries of the tribe of Asher. However the Asherites never removed the inhabitants of the land as instructed by God (Judges 1:31). This region is often known as Phoenicia. The people of Sidon worshipped several idol gods including Baal. It was from this community that Jezebel came and brought her own brand of paganism into the palace ofn Ahab.
 The 7,000 who had not “bowed the knee to Baal” in 1 Kings 19:18 are not prophets and the text does not say so. It is far more likely they are common people who are followers of Jehovah only.
 Syria or Aram, occupied the regions around Damascus. They proved themselves to be a danger to Israel through their idol worship (Judges 10:6). They were brought into servitude by David (2 Samuel 8:6) but were raised up by God as a adversary to Solomon because of his idolatry (1 Kings 11:23-25).
American Standard Version. 1995 (1 Ki 22:19). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
c persuade: or, deceive
The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (1 Ki 22:19-23). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.