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After persuading Jehoshaphat to go to war against the Arameans Ahab also requests the king to put on his royal garments

1 Kings 22:4 NASB

4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

1 Kings 22:29 NASB

29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into the battle, but you put on your robes.

When the battle heats up Jehoshaphat is almost killed being mistaken for the king of Israel until he shouts out identifying himself.

Could Ahab have deliberately mislead Jehoshaphat to put on his robes so that he will be identified as the king of Israel whilst Ahab disguised himself?

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I do not think that any lying or deception was involved here at all. After-all, everyone was aware of all the facts and Ahab did not provide and misleading information; nor did he with hold any.

The reason for this almost bizarre behavior by Ahab is probably a much simpler reason: he harbored a guilty conscience and knew that Micaiah's prophecies 1 Kings 22:17 about him were true, viz:

“I saw all Israel scattered on the hills

like sheep without a shepherd.

And the LORD said, ‘These people have no master;

let each one return home in peace.’”

Ahab was, an experienced politician and knew that the enemy would be seeking his (Ahab's) life above all others (he was correct - see 1 Kings 22:31); thus Jehoshaphat would be relatively safe. However, I am surprised that Ahab believed he could escape a divine condemnation and judgement by a change of clothes!!

Notice Ellicott's comments on 1 Kings 22:30 -

I will disguise myself.—The precaution of Ahab is almost ludicrously characteristic of his temper of half-belief and half-unbelief. In itself it is, of course, plainly absurd to believe that God’s judgment has in all probability been pronounced, and yet to suppose that it can be averted by so puerile a precaution. But, as experience shows, it is not the less on that account true to human nature, especially such a nature as his, always “halting between two opinions.”

The Cambridge Bible commentary offers some further thoughts:

There must have been some mark by which the king of Judah could be distinguished from the king of Israel; something answering to modern blazonry or a coat of arms, or else the action of Ahab would have been one designed to put his brother-king into the greatest possible peril. This we can hardly think he would have wished to do, nor would Jehoshaphat alone have gone to the post of greatest danger. Ahab seems to have been alarmed lest after all there should be some truth in Micaiah’s words. He will therefore clothe himself like an ordinary soldier and let the king of Judah alone appear in kingly robes, for against him the attack would not be particularly directed.

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  • ,There is no record that the Arameans expected more than one king at Ramoth-gilead therefore it was reasonable that anyone who wore royal robes would be king of Israel thereby shifting the focus onto that figure – collen ndhlovu Aug 13 at 8:32
  • @collenndhlovu - I completely agree and that is presumably why he was initially perused, but the pursuit was immediately called off when they realized who it was. This lends weight to the remark in the Cambridge commentary that perhaps they recognized the something about the insignia or something else that suggested it was NOT Ahab. – Dottard Aug 13 at 8:36
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Apology: My Bible study took a couple of hours, by which time Dottard had posted his answer (which I think is very good). I had prepared my answer in a story-telling format, then hesitated to post it, thinking it would not be sufficiently scholarly for this site. Then I thought, why not share my findings with others? It's a fascinating account with all sorts of lessons to be learned. So, here goes...

Main Characters: Ahab, king of Israel; Jehoshaphat, king of Judah; Micaiah, prophet of the Lord; Zedekiah, a false prophet; Amon, one of Ahab’s high officials; the king of Syria.

Background: 1 Kings chapter 18 informs us that Ahab had gathered 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel to face Elijah, but the 400 prophets of Asherah failed to turn up. Now (in 1 Kings chapter 22) Ahab gathers his 400 prophets before him to ask if he should go into battle against Ramoth-gilead. They reply “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king”. Jehoshaphat is unconvinced, perhaps because he knows full well that the king’s prophets are not prophets of the Lord as they claim. He asks if there is not another prophet of the Lord of whom they should inquire. Reluctantly, Ahab summons Micaiah whom he hates because he never prophesies good concerning the king.

Micaiah prophesies against Ahab: After Micaiah sarcastically repeats what the false prophets predicted (victory for Ahab) he then speaks the truth: “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” 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.” (1 Kings 22:17-23)

The Point: In 1 Kings 22:23-24 Micaiah claims that Zedekiah and his prophets had a lying spirit. Zedekiah responds by declaring that he has been influenced by “the Spirit of the Lord.” Clearly, the Spirit of the Lord could not have been speaking to both Zedekiah and Micaiah. Though God himself does not do evil, sometimes he uses evil agents to accomplish his purposes. If Zedekiah and the false prophets were under the Spirit of the Lord then Ahab had nothing to fear by going into battle. But the lying spirit caused Ahab to doubt the final outcome, hence his disguise. He was trying to work the odds to his advantage, just in case Micaiah was speaking the truth.

Outcome: Ahab is killed in battle, even though he disguised himself while instructing Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes. The king of Syria had commanded his soldiers to seek out and kill the king of Israel. Initially the captains of the Syrian chariots thought Jehoshaphat was the king of Israel, but his shout (in Judean) was enough to convince them otherwise. It was a random arrow that struck Ahab, inflicting a mortal wound. Ahab died that evening and the events prophesied by Micaiah came to pass, proving that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Conclusion: Ahab deliberately took action to place Jehoshaphat in mortal danger. In battle the king is the number one target of the enemy. By disguising himself, Ahab sought to remain anonymous knowing full well that Jehoshaphat, wearing his royal robes, would become the primary target. How foolish of Ahab to think his disguise would protect him from what the Lord had purposed!

Did Ahab deliberately mislead Jehoshaphat? Ahab’s motives were entirely transparent and selfish, and it is unlikely that Jehoshaphat was misled. Jehoshaphat did not fear for his own life because he he knew that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Micaiah. The outcome of the battle was not in doubt, even though Ahab showed himself to be a doubting, duplicitous coward who was manipulated by the lying spirit.

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  • You should not apologize for such an excellently argued case. Many thanks. +1. – Dottard Aug 13 at 11:36
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It should be noted, first of all, that Don Isaac Abarbanel, in his commentary on that verse, suggests that the Hebrew התחפש (translated above as "I will disguise myself") actually is related to a Hebrew root meaning "to search or investigate," used in Gen. 31:35 and 44:12, I Kings 20:6, et al. So it would mean that Ahab is proposing to Jehoshaphat that he, Ahab, will put on his armor and go into the thick of the battle, where as a seasoned military leader he'll "investigate" how best to win, while Jehoshaphat can continue wearing his royal robes and not have to fight at all.

Taking התחפש in the sense of disguise, though, Abarbanel and some of the other classic Jewish commentators ad loc (Rashi, Kimchi, et al) say, as in the Cambridge commentary cited by Dottard, that Ahab figured that the Arameans had nothing against Jehoshaphat and therefore wouldn't attack him (which, as it turned out, was true except for the mistaken identity at first).

As for how Ahab imagined that disguising himself would allow him to evade his fate, Malbim there suggests two possibilities: (a) Ahab figured that Aramean spies might have overheard Micaiah's prophecy and therefore would be trying to target him specifically (such that disguising himself would indeed throw them off his trail), or (b) sometimes a prophecy can be fulfilled in a literally true but less drastic fashion, so Micaiah's vision that "these people have no master" might be accomplished by his temporarily divesting himself of his royal finery.

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  • I very much appreciate you citing other scholars/commentary. – trlkly Aug 14 at 1:03
  • Welcome to BH. Up-voted +1. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom right) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. – Nigel J Aug 14 at 3:47
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Did Ahab mislead Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:29? Not exactly.

Ahab did many evil things particularly by the advice of Jezebel, his wife.

1 Kings 21:25 There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.

He did have some kind of conscience.

1 Kings 22:29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into the battle, but you put on your robes.

He did not lie here and misled Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat knew the risk, yet still did it.

OP: emphasis added

After persuading Jehoshaphat to go to war against the Arameans Ahab also requests the king to put on his royal garments

If there was any misleading, it was done at the persuasion stage. Later, Ahab merely requested openly. Jehoshaphat was either naive or faithful or both when he complied to put on his royal garments.

I'm not trying to justify Ahab. I know that he was evil.

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