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22And 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. 23Now 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. — 1 Kings 22:22-23

In this story, a prophet named Micaiah says that God put a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets speaking to King Ahab. Commentators usually say that God simply permitted the spirit to enter, based on verse 22, but they ignore verse 23. If God is said to have put a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets speaking to Ahab rather than just allow it to enter them, how is He not guilty of lying Himself?

Thank you.

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7 Answers 7

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The reason God is not guilty of lying is because you need to think in terms of legal rights.

When you lie you open yourself up to an unclean lying spirit. If you do not repent that unclean spirit has opportunity over you. Legally.

Take another example, anger.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:26-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The idea, though there are other longer passages that illustrate this point better, is that if you get angry and sin, you give an opportunity to the devil. What opportunity? The opportunity to legally harass you.

In the council of the Lord that Macaiah saw in the spirit, God was on the throne (think in the capacity as judge, even if as a king making judgment but still a judge) and in the council one says one thing and another says something else.

When the lying spirit spoke up and described his strategy, if Ahab and the prophets were not idolaters, liars and murders, this spirit would have no say in the matter.

But because the spirit was legally representing liars (namely the false lying prophets) the spirit offered to inspire these prophets with more lies. God could not reject his proposition just because it was a lying spirit, in fact because the spirit had legal rights in the hearts of the lying prophets it was entitled to exercise dominion in their lives.

Essentially the spirit was asking permission to inspire through the false prophets more lies

If God would have denied the lying spirit the right then there would have been injustice, especially since it would achieve the end God had in mind, namely, Ahab’s death.

God would have been usurping the freedom (freewill) of the false prophets. And since there was no one else to interject on the false prophets’ behalf the spirit was without challenge. Permission was granted.

God did not lie, it was the false prophets that lived a life of lies that brought this upon themselves and gave an opportunity to the unclean spirit to inspire them to lie some more.

If they wanted to be free all they had to do was confess their lying sins, bring a sacrifice and be free from their legal bondage to a lying spirit.

Today we have the Blood of Jesus that intercedes on our behalf but not if we give opportunity to the devil and sin without repenting.

Consider that in Job the same scenario is played out. The council of God and the elohim are all gathered together. The accuser (prosecutor if you want a legal term) accused Job. He didn’t have a great argument but God had an end in mind and since it could be achieved through this route God gave the accuser legal rights with limits. Twice.

The reason Job was allowed to be in the hands of the accuser was because he unknowingly was ascribing God’s righteousness to himself and that is pride. God resists the proud or the sin of pride. When Job repented and acknowledged his sin, gave credit back to God the accuser had nothing more to accuse Job of.

It’s for this reason that a lot of legal terms are used in the NT. The Holy Spirit is a Paraclete (lawyer) there is interceding on our behalf (making/arguing a case), God is a judge, just to name a few.

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Could this be a case of God whittling out a bad spirit creature from His heavenly court, and using this spirit to give the message Ahab wished, a message that would tickle his ears? After all, Ahab made the point that the prophet of Yahweh always gave him bad news. He had preferred the 'false positive' version given him from his 400 false prophets.

Time after time Yahweh had made opportunity for Ahab to repent and return; but his heart was set on doing bad.

The time had arrived for Ahabs removal. Maybe God knew Ahab had some kind of supporter within His heavenly court (1 Kings 22:19); or maybe the spirit that came forward, volunteered, harboured his own bad agenda in his heart, in a similar way to the devil, who as we know, was still able to access Gods heavenly court and present challenges (Job 1:6 - Remember too, the devil or dragon and his supporters (fallen angels), were, at a future time, to battle with Michael and his angels, before being hurled down to the Earth; and so I presume, no longer having access to Gods heavenly court - Revelation 12:7-12) Either way, is it possible God had decided to use this situation with Ahab, to make this heavenly 'dissenter' come forward - in effect, two birds with one stone?

This question brought to mind the account in John 13 verses 2 and 27 and how the devil entered Judas. Christ knew who his betrayer was and the 'right' circumstance gave opportunity for this betrayer to come forward, be revealed.

In 1 Kings 22:20-22, is it possible God was aware that He had a bad spirit within His heavenly court and the 'right circumstance', in this case, the problem with Ahab, was an opportunity for God to have His own 'betrayer' revealed, come forward? (maybe a spirit who liked to deceive, just in the same way the devil does)

All conjecture of course; but for me, without knowing enough of the full picture that unfolded for 1 Kings 22:22+23 to be penned, I do feel confident enough in Yahweh, to trust all His decisions and actions are right, even when I cannot fully understand in the present moment.

Hence my thought regarding the potential that He was dealing with (at least) two disloyal creatures - Ahab on the Earth and a bad/deceptive/lying spirit within Gods heavenly court.

I will look forward to the input of anyone else regarding these 'tricky' verses.

(Im thinking now about 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

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I don't think there is a problem here is we approach it from the standpoint that God allowed one of the divine beings from his council to go and activate and accelerate a process that the prophets would have already fallen into based on the corruption of their own heart and human nature. God, as an all wise creator, reserves the right to amplify a certain trajectory that humans choose to be on. The prophets were already prophesying falsely by virtue of being a part of a rebellious regime. The divine being from God's council merely supplies the deceptive content of the prophecies, but the prophets themselves were already desiring false prophecy. So just as God works with the heart of Pharaoh, and accelerates the hardness of his own heart, he accelerates the false prophets activity of prophesying lies by supplying the content of their prophesies. He is working with what is already there, and bringing it to completion.

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Note the difference between "the prophets" (1 Kings 22:6 NIV) and "the prophet of the Lord" (1 Kings 22:7 NIV). The King of Judah Jehoshaphat asked the King of Israel Ahab: "Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?". It indicated that "the prophets" were prophets of the idol, and they only prophesized good news. Instead, Ahab hatred Micaiah son of Imlah, the prophet of the Lord, only prophesized bad news.

When Ahab wanted to know if he could win the war against Aram, all prophets of the idol said yes, and surprisingly, Micaiah said "yes" too! But his expression was certainly not very persuasive, as Ahab knew he was lying, replied " “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” (1 Kings 22:16 NIV)

Then Micaiah gave his vision (1 Kings 22:19-23 NIV)

  • 19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left.

  • 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that.

  • 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’

  • 22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’

  • 23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

Did God lie to Ahab that he would win? Nope, as no matter what Micaiah said, Ahab had already hardened his heart to side by his prophets of the idol. God was sarcastic in response, Micaiah conducted the dialogue. Did God really need his divine spirit to deceive his prophets? Did it require when one already hardened his heart?

So it probably God just made up a sarcastic story. Who says God cannot be humorous.

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  • I built on you answer to create my own... the story may be sarcastic, and it also may have been a serious warning against going to war against Syria. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 19:15
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Is God guilty of lying in 1 Kings 22? The text certainly portrays God as conspiring to entice Ahab to go to his death by putting a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets. But should we see this as a real event or not?

  • 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, 21 until a certain spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 ‘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[c] said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.’ 23 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.”

One way of excusing God from guilt in this is to interpret it as a parable. As @Vicent Wong says, "God just made up a sarcastic story." I agree that it may not have been meant to describe an actual event in the spiritual world, but to give a warning: namely that Ahab and Jehoshaphat should not go to war against Syria, especially at Ramoth-Giliad . Either way, the message is that the battle would spell doom for Ahab.

I have to admit that the author of the Book of Kings does not frame the story as a parable. He is looking back at God's providence from a later time. For this writer, Ahab is indeed an evil king who is beyond redemption. He must be destroyed and the Books of Kings condone worse things than lying to further God's cause.

But at the moment described, perhaps there were other possibilities. What if Israel and Judah had united back then, not in war against Syria but to heal the national schism that had been plaguing the God's people since the just after Solomon? Consider in this context that the meeting described in 1 Kings 22 may have had another agenda: to arrange the marriage of Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram to Ahab's daughter Athaliah. We know that such a union did take place, as 2 Kings 8:18 tells us "the daughter of Ahab was his (Jehoram's] wife.

This must have been a time of hope for Judah and Israel. Perhaps if Micaiah's prophecy had been taken seriously, Ahab could have been been wooed away from his wife Jezebel's enthusiasm for the Baal of her home country, and the history of the two countries would have been ended very differently.

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  • Hi Dan - I don't mind you used my hypothesis. This forum needs mutual inspiration, to enhance our knowledge. You suggested if it could heal the national schism through the marriage of Jehoram and Athaliah. You should note that Athaliah almost killed the whole royal family (2 Kings11), if not a divine intervene to protect Joash. If Athaliah was successful, than you might be right, for the Northern Kingdom would rule over Judah. However, the Lord would certainly forbid such a plot, as Joash was hidden for 6 years and eventually Athaliah was slain in the palace. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 3:36
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I think this text primarily shows that God USES all people to achieve His goals, including fallen spirits and false prophets. The second point that I want to note is that God personally does not lie, but using the spirit of lies to encourage false prophets to tell lies.

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God uses restraint of wickedness on people and spirits as scripture shows in 2Thessalonians 2:7 .Man's will is never free but either under the influence of God or the evil one at all times .Apart from God's influence, we would always choose the fleshly influence. God is not required to restrain anyone's fleshly evilness but of grace ,he does this .Addressing the question of 2Kings 2:22 as to weather God lies,the answer is no .He loosened his Godly restraints upon the evil prophets and Ahab .God also did not force the evil spirit to be a lying spirit .That spirit was an evil spirit and the Lord only loosened his restraints on the evil spirit .

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