Micaiah

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For other uses, see Micaiah (disambiguation).
Micaiah's prophecy. Woodcut by Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695.

Micaiah (Hebrew: מיכיהו Mikay'hu "Who is like Yah?"[1]) son of Imlah is a prophet in the Hebrew Bible. He is not the same as the titular prophet of the Book of Micah, also called "The Morasthite" to distinguish him from Micaiah.

Micaiah's prophecy[edit]

The events leading up to the appearance of Micaiah are illustrated in 1 Kings 22:1-12 . In 1 Kings 22:3-4 the King of Israel (identified later in the text as Ahab in 1 Kings 22:20) goes to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, and asks if he will go with him to take over Ramoth-gilead which was under rule by the king of Aram. Jehoshaphat requests that Ahab, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:5). Ahab then calls on his prophets and asks if he should go into battle against Ramoth-gilead. The prophets responded by telling the king of Israel to go into battle, stating that the Lord (Adonai) will deliver Ramoth-gilead into the hand of the king (1 Kings 22:6). Jehoshaphat asks if there are any other prophets of whom to inquire the word of the Lord (YHWH). Ahab mentions Micaiah the son of Imlah, but expresses dislike for him because his past prophecies have not been in favor of him (1 Kings 22:7-8). A messenger is sent to bring Micaiah to the king to give his prophecy. The messenger tells Micaiah to give a favorable prophecy to Ahab (1 Kings 22:12-13).

Micaiah replies to the messenger that he will speak whatever the Lord says to him (1 Kings 22:14). Micaiah appears before the king of Israel, and when asked if Ahab should go into battle at Ramoth-gilead Micaiah initially responds with a similar prophecy to that of the other prophets. Ahab then questions Micaiah, and insists that he speak nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord. Micaiah then gives a true prophesy, in which he illustrates a meeting of Yahweh with the heavenly hosts. At this meeting Yahweh asks who will entice Ahab to go into battle so that he may perish (1 Kings 22:19-20). A spirit comes forward, and offers to “be a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets” (1 Kings 22:22). Therefore, the prophecies of the other prophets were a result of the lying spirit. As a result of this prophecy, Ahab ordered Micaiah imprisoned until he returned from battle, unharmed (1 Kings 22:27).

Perhaps concerned about the prophecy, Ahab disguised himself in battle rather than lead his troops openly as their king. However, Ahab was killed in battle after being struck by a randomly shot arrow. Micaiah's prophecy was fulfilled, contrary to the word of 400 false prophets, all of whom encouraged Ahab to attack with a prediction of victory.

This account is also recorded in 2 Chronicles, Chapter 18.

Interpretation[edit]

Rabbinical interpretation[edit]

The Babylonian Talmud (b.Sanhedrin 89a) accepts that the scene literally occurred in heaven. Against this Judah Halevi (Kuzari 3.73) considered the "prophecy" to be an example of the prophet's own rhetoric.[2] Judah Halevi is followed by David Kimhi who argues that "prophecy is true by definition", and therefore Micaiah himself presented the vivid scene, using poetic dramatization to frighten and convince Ahab - "not that he saw these things, nor did he hear them."[3]

Modern scholarly interpretation[edit]

Micaiah prophesies as though he was present at the meeting between Yahweh and the heavenly hosts. Michael Coogan of Harvard compares the prophecy of Micaiah to that of several other prophets, including Isaiah’s vision of the Divine Council (Isaiah 6:1-8).[4] In Jeremiah 23, Yahweh warns against false prophecies. However, Coogan argues that unlike Isaiah 6 and Jeremiah 23, in 1 Kings 22 Yahweh’s actions to allow false prophecy to be given are deliberate and intentional. It appears as though Yahweh has an ulterior motive, and that is for Ahab to die, in this case at the battle at Ramoth-gilead.[5]

R.W.L. Moberly of Durham University discusses Micaiah's prophecy in “Does God Lie to His Prophets? The Story of Micaiah ben Imlah as a Test Case.” In his article, Moberly discusses Hebrew prophecy as “relational, engaging language that seeks a response.” [6] Moberly calls into question the honesty of Yahweh particularly in relation to a compassionate, loving God.[7] He suggests that for the Deuteronomistic Historians who were the compilers of the text, while the compassion of Yahweh may be called into question, “God will be merciful come what may.” [8]

Heavenly throne room[edit]

The prophecy is probably the earliest example in the Hebrew Bible of a representation of a heavenly throne room. It is not clear whether the prophecy represents Micaiah's own belief or a depiction of the beliefs of Ahab's prophets such as Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, who struck him after the prophecy (1 Kings 22:24).[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter J. Leithart 1 & 2 Kings 2006 - Page 161 "Pressed by Jehoshaphat, Ahab reluctantly brings Micaiah, whose name means “who is like Yah?"
  2. ^ M. Z. Cohen Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: From Abraham Ibn Ezra and ... 2003 -Page 159 "This role emerges in Radak's comment on I Kgs 22:20, where the prophet Micaiah describes a vision of God on His throne ... Not insignificantly, Radak's (unnamed) source here is Judah ha-Levi (Kuzari 3:73), the great poet-philosopher who formed a link between Moses Ibn Ezra and Abraham Ibn Ezra (above, p. 49). Speaking from the Andalusian poetic perspective .."
  3. ^ Magne Saebo Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation. 2000 Page 400 "On 1 Kgs 22: 19-23, Radak adopts a bolder strategy to avoid a rational dilemma that never distressed the Rabbis. In that passage, the prophet Micaiah, responding to Ahab's false prophets who predicted military success against Aram, describes a vision of God sending a "lying spirit" to mislead the king. Radak rejects the rabbinic view (b. Sanh. 89 a) that this scene occurred in heaven, arguing that God could not have sent false prophecy, since "prophecy is true by definition". ... Instead, he argues that Micaiah actually fabricated this vivid scene, using poetic dramatization (divre meliza . . . derekh haza'at devarim) to frighten and thereby prevail upon Ahab.39" Footnote 39: "Radak's (unnamed) source here is Judah Halevi, Kuzari 3.73."
  4. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009), p. 247.
  5. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009), p. 248.
  6. ^ Moberly, R.W.L. “Does God Lie to His Prophets? The Story of Micaiah ben Imlah as a Test Case.” The Harvard Theological Review 96, no. 1 (January 2003): p8.
  7. ^ Moberly, R.W.L. “Does God Lie to His Prophets? The Story of Micaiah ben Imlah as a Test Case.” The Harvard Theological Review 96, no. 1 (January 2003): p8.
  8. ^ Moberly, R.W.L. “Does God Lie to His Prophets? The Story of Micaiah ben Imlah as a Test Case.” The Harvard Theological Review 96, no. 1 (January 2003): p11.
  9. ^ Mordechai Cogan, 1 Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor-Yale, Doubleday, 2001