1 Kings 21-22
(Thou Shall Not Covet)
April 14th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord.

- 1 Kings 21:20 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

In today's reading we learn more about Ahab, one-half of the most evil duos of king and queen in the history of Israel and Judah. We also are introduced to his contemporary, Jehosophat, who was one of the most righteous kings of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). Through the experiences of these leaders we observe the difficulties of balancing national needs over spiritual needs. The choices made by these men remind us of the pitfalls of choosing evil and the difficulties of choosing the right path. We also see God's unfathomable mercy for evil-doers and notice the imperfections of man - even among the most righteous.

In chapter 21, we read an unflattering story of King Ahab of Israel, who pouted because a man named Naboth would not give up his vineyard. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, plotted to have this man killed so that her husband could have what he wanted. The prophet Elijah got wind of these stories, tracked Ahab down, found him in the vineyard that he had stolen, and rebuked him for his evil ways:

    “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’

    - 1 Kings 21:20-22 (NIV)

Subsequently, Ahab shows some remorse and humility, so God grants him a temporary reprieve.

In chapter 22, the author of 1 Kings provides an account of a short-term reunion between the southern and northern kingdom as they unite against a common enemy. The two kings, Ahab from the north, and Jehoshaphat from the south, seek counsel from Ahab's advisors, but Jehoshaphat discerned that these so-called prophets were just telling Ahab what he wanted to hear. Therefore, Jehoshaphat asked for a real prophet. The real prophet, Micaiah, resists the urging from a messenger to just repeat what everyone else is saying. However, he does parrot the other prophets in a sarcastic tone of voice, which incited Ahab to demand the truth.

    When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to fight at Ramoth-gilead, or shall we refrain?” He said, “Attack and conquer! The LORD will give it into the power of the king.”

    But the king answered him, “How many times must I adjure you to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”

    So Micaiah said:
    “I see all Israel
    scattered on the mountains,
    like sheep without a shepherd,
    And the LORD saying,
    These have no master!
    Let each of them go back home in peace.”

    - 1 Kings 22:151-7 (NAB)

Unfortunately, Ahab couldn’t handle the truth, so he threw Micaiah in jail, and then went off to die in war, just as prophesized. “They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared (1 Kings 22:38 - NIV).”

Jehoshaphat survived that battle and made an effort to clean up Judah, but never fully removed all the false objects of worship. He did maintain peace with his brothers in the north, where Ahab had been succeeded by Ahaziah, who followed in his parents’ footsteps by worshipping Baal.

Reflection and Application

The wickedness of Jezebel, queen and wife of Ahab, was so extreme that her name was used as a synonym for evil and is referenced in the last book of the Bible. For example, in the early chapters of the Book of Revelation, Jesus dictated to John messages for seven churches. These letters included words of encouragement and words of judgment. In his message to the church in Thyatira, Jesus said the following:

    "I see everything you're doing for me. Impressive! The love and the faith, the service and persistence. Yes, very impressive! You get better at it every day.

    "But why do you let that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants into Cross-denying, self-indulging religion? I gave her a chance to change her ways, but she has no intention of giving up a career in the god-business. I'm about to lay her low, along with her partners, as they play their sex-and-religion games. The bastard offspring of their idol-whoring I'll kill. Then every church will know that appearances don't impress me. I x-ray every motive and make sure you get what's coming to you.

    "The rest of you Thyatirans, who have nothing to do with this outrage, who scorn this playing around with the Devil that gets paraded as profundity, be assured I'll not make life any harder for you than it already is. Hold on to the truth you have until I get there.

    -Revelations 2:19-25 (MSG)

Worshipping other idols was the first step towards disaster for the people of Israel and Judah - and for any of us. At the beginning of 1 Kings, Israel was a united and strong kingdom, but began to fall apart as they worshipped false Gods. Ahab believed in God, but lacked faith. When he needed security for his nation he sought alliances with other nations. As a result, he was influenced by their idol worship and their lack of a moral compass (1). If Ahab had more faith and fear of God he would have known better than to covet the vineyards of Naboth. He also would have intervened to prevent the evil deed done by the immoral Jezebel. This covetousness was the final turning point that led to his death.

However, Ahab serves as a reminder that anyone can be forgiven. Ahab was the most evil king, but he showed remorse, so God reduced and delayed his punishment. If he had totally abandoned his false gods and evil ways then he probably would have experienced a much different outcome.

Consider the stark contrast of the two kings Ahab and Jehosophat, who reigned concurrently in their respective nations. While Ahab was spreading evil and showing no fear of God, Jehosphat was spreading knowledge and justice, as we will learn when we read 2 Chronicles:

    Jehoshaphat resided at Jerusalem; then he went out again among the people, from Beer-sheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you are doing, for you judge not on behalf of human beings but on the Lord’s behalf; he is with you in giving judgment. Now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the Lord our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes.”

    - 2 Chronicles 19:4-7 (NIV)

Was it a mistake for Jehosophat to offer to form a political alliance with the evil Ahab, or was it in the best interest of his people to seek peace with their brothers in Israel? Who was the stronger influence? Ahab's 400 prophets stood before both kings and predicted victory. Why did Jehosophat doubt their veracity, as noted in 1 Kings 22:7? "But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire."

What was your reaction to the debate of the prophets in chapter 22? Micaiah demonstrated faith and persistence by resisting the temptation to go along with the messages of encouragement expressed by all the other prophets. He must have felt the peer pressure to do what everyone else was doing, which would have been the safe thing for him to do. He would have avoided ridicule and prison, but instead he stuck with his conviction, which he was sure was the will of the LORD.

Have you been in similar situations where everyone was giving the boss or some other leader the answer that he or she wanted but you wanted to offer a counter opinion? If you have, then you can imagine the courage that was required for Micaiah to tell the truth. It also required a sense of bravery for him to reveal that God allowed a spirit to entice the false prophets to give the wrong message. Why would a good and merciful God participate in a scheme like that? Part of the answer is provided by the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans when he says that God uses both good and evil to achieve his purposes (Romans 8:28). God allows evil to exist, but is able to intervene and use it for his own purposes. And, in the end, good does triumph over evil, as described in the Book of Revelation.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What types of fruits or vegetables have you planted, maintained, or harvested?
    2. To what extent does consumer marketing messages contribute to our desire to covet what others have?
    3. How do we resist the urge to go along with the crowd when it comes to giving opinions or acquiring popular products? Sometimes the majority opinion is the right one and sometimes these new products are efficient tools for safety or productivity – like the computer on which I type this line. But then how do we resist when we believe the minority opinion is correct or the product is more of a desire than a need?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge you as the owner of the vineyard that we call earth. We confess that we sometimes try to claim ownership for our own pieces of it. Thank you for giving us opportunities for redemption. Help us to be grateful and satisfied with what you have given us and help us to resist our covetous ways.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Vineyard stewards


    (1) Israel, Alex, I Kings, Torn in Two, Maggid Books, Jerusalem, Israel and Milford, CT; 2013; p. 330

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Kings Overview and chapters 1-3 (Elijah Goes Home)

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