Why Did God Send a Lying Spirit to Deceive Ahab?


I cannot understand why God would send a lying spirit to deceive anyone into sin. What if God treated everyone the way He treated Ahab? Read First Kings 22:19-23, and Second Chronicles 18:19-22. Can you explain this to me?


God has created all the human race as free moral agents. “Choose ye,” has been His policy from the beginning. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” This same choice was open to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saul and David–and Ahab. In fact, we can read where Ahab had many opportunities to choose. And time after time he chose the wrong. Time after time he made himself God’s enemy.

But did God in using Ahab’s prophets to persuade him to go up to battle at Ramoth-Gilead practice some form of deception? Did He persuade Ahab against Ahab’s will?

The story is found in First Kings 22. It involves the two divided kingdoms: Israel to the north, under the leadership of the infamous Ahab; and Judah, the southern portion, under King Jehoshaphat. Syria was a strong foreign power north and east of Israel. Ramoth-Gilead, which lay east of Israel across the Jordan, was the land in question at the time: and all the broad fertile fields of Ramoth-Gilead belonged to Syria. Ahab could not forget that the prosperous land used to belong to Israel. The same jealous eye that coveted Naboth’s vineyard coveted Ramoth-Gilead.

At this point Ahab’s decision was made: He wanted Ramoth-Gilead and he would have it. He would ask no one’s advice; he would go and fight for it himself. He invited Jehoshaphat to join him in the venture, and Jehoshaphat consented. But Jehoshaphat suggested that a few formalities might be in order: Should not the King of Israel inquire of the Lord? Whereupon Ahab gathered four hundred of his “yes-men prophets” (not true prophets of the Lord) around him. No problem. They all said just as they were supposed to, and the King was flattered.

But Jehoshaphat was not satisfied. “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire (1 Kings 22:7, NIV). Ahab agreed reluctantly, and sent Micaiah.

The prophecy from the Lord was just what Ahab had expected -no good. The whole enterprise was to be ill-fated….it would even cost Ahab his life. Israel would be left as sheep without a shepherd.

The determined King Ahab had heard enough. But Micaiah said more. His message was a flashback of what had already happened. He related the details of the prophetic vision the Lord had given him. He saw in vision the Lord holding a conference with his “spirits” (or “angels”–see Ps. 104:4: Heb. 1:7). The subject of the conference was to decide upon a plan whereby Ahab would be persuaded to go up to Ramoth-Gilead and be killed. One angel had the acceptable idea …… he would go and “be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his [Ahab’s] prophets” (l Kings 22:22, NIV). Then Micaiah concluded his message of doom to the wicked king: “So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you” (l Kings 22:23, NIV).

We know that God is just and righteous in all His dealings. He never compels any to sin against their will: for He is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, NIV). Constantly He is imploring that we forsake the evil and love the good (Amos 5:14-15). This was the principal message delivered by His prophets: “Wash the evil from your heart and be saved.” “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.” “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed …. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses” (Jer. 4:!4: Prov. 1:23; Ezek. 18:31, 30, NIV).

All are free to choose their own course of action. And so was Ahab. The Lord was exceedingly longsuffering to tolerate Ahab’s evil devising as long as He did. In the instance of Ahab’s going to battle at Ramoth-Gilead, the Lord did nothing to persuade Ahab until Ahab had already, made up his own mind to do evil. In fact, the whole scheme was of Ahab’s devising. God did not originate the sin, He simply permitted it: and in the Hebrew’s vocabulary, what God permitted He was said to do. Therefore we read that the Lord moved Ahab’s prophets to persuade the wicked king to “attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” thus confirming the king in his wicked plan. And the Lord, knowing through divine foreknowledge what the outcome would be, saw fit to use this permission to advance His plan, i.e., to allow Ahab to be removed from the scene of action.

We must remember that God is supreme in the affairs of men. All things which happen are things which He allows; therefore He may be said to do or cause what happens because those events fit into His eternal purpose. He is supreme, and when anyone proves to be steadfastly minded against Him, He has the right and the power to see that such a one’s opportunity is given to another who may comply more nearly with the will of the Lord. He does this “so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17, NIV). “The authorities that exist have been established by God”; therefore, it is within the Lord’s rights to depose whom He will, and raise up whom He will, according to His overall purpose (Rom. 13:1-4, NIV).

And who are we to say that this is wrong? In the words of Paul, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Rom. 9:20, NIV). Who are you and I to judge God’s actions wrong? “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?” (Dan. 4:35, NIV). He is omnipotent, and whole nations before Him are as “a drop in a bucket,” even “worthless and less than nothing” unless they voluntarily place themselves under His authority and become worthy of His protection and blessing.