In the closing chapters of 1 Kings we have three different stories concerning the evil of King Ahab and how the Lord dealt with it. In chapter 20, Ahab goes to war against King Ben-Hadad of Aram who attacked Samaria. Ahab is successful and comes to terms of peace with Ben-Hadad. However, because Ahab lets Ben-Hadad go, the Lord tells him through a prophet,
Thus says the Lord, “Because you have let the man go whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.” (1 Kings 20:42)
Ahab’s response to this is to set out toward home with a resentful and sullen attitude.
In chapter 21, we see Ahab desirous of the vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. Ahab tries to obtain the vineyard from Naboth, even offering him another vineyard in exchange, but Naboth refuses. Ahab returns home again upset. His wife Jezebel asks him about this. When he tells her the story she says that she will take care of matters. Jezebel has Naboth killed by the elders of his own town then Ahab takes possession of the vineyard.
Elijah brings the word of the Lord to Ahab that he and Jezebel must both die for this sin and the dogs will lick up their blood. However, Ahab repents with fasting and wearing sackcloth. So the Lord tells Elijah to tell Ahab that the disaster will not happen in his days. Does this mean that Ahab will not die for this sin? What disaster is the Lord talking about here? The answer is unclear.
In chapter 22, King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah go to war against the King of Aram. Jehoshaphat shows how much more godly he is than Ahab by suggesting they inquire of the Lord first. All of Ahab’s prophets encourage him to go to war saying that he will win. Jehoshaphat asks if there is not another prophet from whom they may obtain a second opinion. Ahab says that there is but that this prophet never prophesies anything good to Ahab.
Micaiah ben Imlah is summoned. At first, he prophesies the same as the other prophets. However, when Ahab warns him to tell only the truth, Micaiah prophesies that Israel will be defeated in battle and that the Lord sent a lying spirit into the mouths of Ahab’s other prophets to entice him to war.
This bit is rather strange behavior on the Lord’s part if you ask me. Do I believe that God would put a lying spirit into anyone for any reason? No, I do not believe this. To me, this suggests that the author or editor of this bit of 1 Kings had an extreme view of God’s sovereignty over human affairs. The Lord decreed disaster for Ahab and that was all there was to it, from the perspective of the author/editor of 1 Kings. Actually, I think Ahab made his own choices that led to his undoing. He went to war anyway, even when Micaiah warned him against such a move. Despite trying to disguise himself in battle, Ahab was struck with a random arrow (the sovereignty of God at work again?) and he died because of his wound. Just as prophesied, the dogs licked up Ahab’s blood when his bloody chariot was washed in the pool of Samaria.
1 Kings closes with a focus on good King Jehoshaphat who “walked in all the way of his father Asa; he did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:43) He even got rid of the male temple prostitutes.
By contrast, Ahaziah son of Ahab, who succeeded his father, reigned only two years and did evil in the sight of the Lord. He served the very god, Baal, whose prophets Elijah had triumphed over earlier in 1 Kings.
I think the main question this section of Scripture raises for us is: do we listen to God when he speaks and walk in God's way like Jehoshaphat, or are we resistant and insistent on our own way like Ahab? That choice, a choice we can make every day, will determine our direction and the eventual outcome of our life.