This is one of my favorite chapters in the book, a smart and fascinating dialogue between two kings, a bunch of false prophets and one true prophet of God.
The context: Evil King Ahab of Northern Israel has invited Good King Jehoshaphat of Southern Israel over to his palace to plot war against Despicable King of Ramoth Gilead. Ahab is a pagan king, little regard for Yahweh but lots for the gods of Sidon and Tyre, he's particularly fond of the prophets who tell him what he wants to hear. As the two kings conspire, they come to a conclusion: attack; but before they announce it the Good King inquires, "First seek the counsel of the LORD." So Ahab brings in four hundred prophets who tell the kings to go for it (they are very affirming, encouraging, uplifting, positive prophets). For some reason, the good king has his doubts and asks, "Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?" Ouch. How did Jehoshaphat know the difference?
Ahab, now insulted and shamed, explains his disdain for Micaiah the prophet: There is still one through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad." It struck me when I read this, that Ahab was one of those men who deep down wanted to be known for doing good, but was compelled to do what he felt like doing, which always took him down the wrong road; he had enough of a conscience to feel pangs of guilt for doing wrong and hated to be told of his wicked deeds, but he also didn't want anyone to stop him from his desired course of actions. Poor guy.
The good king, upon hearing this confession, responds with shock: The king should not say such a thing!" One can imagine King J scooting over to escape the thunderbolt about to smite the defamer. So, here they two kings are, all dressed up in their royal garb, sitting outside the city gates where throngs of people are exchanging goods, loitering, traveling, etc; up comes one false prophet who holds up iron horns and declares that Abahn will gore the enemies unto victory; and the other four hundred prophets chime in resoundingly. The messenger who retrieved Micaiah whispers in his ear as they approach the kings: Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with their and speak favorably." Micaiah wisely, and predictably responds with the standard speech: As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what my God says.
Ahab leans forward as Micaiah walks up...anticipating that finally he will get a good word from the LORD, especially since King J is sitting next to him...finally an affirming word from God (reminds me of the emperor's son in Gladiator...). King J sits back, stroking his beard, wondering what this prophet will speak. King A poses the question: Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not? One can only imagaine that Ahab asks it in such a way that the desired answer is palpable.
Micaiah tiredly responds: Attack and be victorious, for they will be given into your hands.
The king explodes out of his throne, hands in the air, exasperation in his voice: How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?"
Ha ha ha ha! How many times did they do that dance?
Ahab wants the truth, but he doesn't. He wants to know the LORD's will, but he doesn't. He wants to obey, but he doesn't.
Oh that I would speak as Micaiah, and that we would request truth like King J, and avoid the shallowness of Ahab.