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1 Kings 18

In this passage we read how Ahab was seeking to form an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whereby they might together attack Ramoth Gilead which was under Aramean control. Jehoshaphat insisted that they first consult a prophet to get God's perspective. Ahab, on the other hand, gathered 400 of his prophets who told him to attack Ramoth Gilead and he would be victorious. Jehoshaphat consulted with the prophet Micaiah who told him of a vision he had had of a meeting of the heavenly council. In the vision, God asked who would go to entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead, in which battle Ahab would die. A "spirit" (angel?) volunteered to be a "deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his [Ahab's] prophets" (v. 22). God agreed. The spirit went forth, Ahab heeded the voice of the prophets, and went forth in the battle where he eventually died.

 

How do we account for this strange scene in which God commissions a “deceiving” spirit to be put in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets? Several observations are in order.

 

·      The scene in Micaiah's vision is similar to that in Job 1: a heavenly council at which the angels are all present.

 

·      Some have argued that the "spirit" was in fact Satan, but there is no indication of this in the text. The spirit is portrayed as simply one among many others. There is no evidence he held some superior or special position.

 

·      Was this a fallen spirit, a demon? Probably. It performs an evil function: it prompts Ahab's prophets to speak lies. Although the spirit is not Satan himself, there are undeniable parallels between this text and Job 1. Also, the passage seems to draw a distinction between the spirit that inspires Ahab's prophets and the one that inspires Micaiah (see v. 24). "The implication is that Micaiah and Ahab's prophets could not both have received their messages from the same source. There are, of course, two distinct sources, but it is Micaiah who has the right one. After all, it is his prophecy that comes to pass" (Page, 79).

 

·      Perhaps most important of all is the fact that even this demonic spirit is absolutely subject to the will of God. It does God's bidding. Micaiah is clear that it was God who "put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you" (v. 23). Thus God can and often does use demonic spirits to fulfill His purposes. Again we see that the question, "Who did it, God or the devil?" may be answered, "Yes." But God is always ultimate.

 

·      A close parallel with this passage is the account in Judges 9:23 where God sent an evil spirit to provoke discord between Abimelech and the people of Shechem.