Their commonly held roots traced as far back as they could remember. They were both born into the lineage of Father Abraham. As the two kings stood side by side and engaged in dialogue, they knew their joint history. Abraham’s grandson Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. King Ahab’s tribe was Ephraim, which was the lineage of Jacob’s eleventh son Joseph and Joseph’s firstborn son Ephraim. King Jehoshaphat was born into the tribe of Judah, who was Jacob’s fourth son. These two kings were distant cousins who not only shared a past but were currently participating in a common future.
Years had passed since Jacob’s sons dwelt together in bedouin tents in Canaan. The sons became men, married, fathered, and produced tribes of families who carried the son’s names. Twelve tribes made one nation – the nation of Israel. Ahab and Jehoshaphat were keenly aware of their joint heritage. However, about 250 years before the two kings stood together considering engaging Syria in battle, the one nation of Israel divided into two nations: Israel and Judah. The broad gulf of diversity and opposition had continued to increase between the two nations, and the two kings were also keenly aware of their dichotomy.
Ahab was in favor of the war; Jehoshaphat was much more cautious. However, the cause – to protect and defend the city of Ramoth Gilead – was a just cause and a territory important to both nations. Ahab, undeterred from his declaration of conflict, sought to enlist the support and armies of the king of Judah. Jehoshaphat, reticent to engage, sought to enlist the support and confirmation of the Lord. Both men acknowledge the need of a wise counselor, but their common goal was approached from two divergent pathways.
Ahab harkened to his own advice and the words of the prophets that were on his paid staff. They spoke tidings to appease the king and confirm the veracity of his choice. Victory would be secured; Ahab would win; Israel would be triumphant. Emboldened by the council of his will and the confirming reports of his prophets, Ahab was prepared to go to war.
Jehoshaphat wanted validation of his intentions. He wanted to know what the Lord would say. The king of Judah, familiar with the broad chasm that existed between the worship practices of the two nations, expressed reluctance. Was the word of the prophets of Baal the same advice that he would hear from a prophet of Jehovah? Micaiah, the prophet of the Lord, was summoned.
Four hundred prophets for Ahab and one prophet for Jehoshaphat spoke. Ahab’s counselors promoted the war and guaranteed the victory. Jehoshaphat’s prophet forecast the opposite: Ahab would be killed in battle and the armies would return home without regaining the city. Ahab was enraged at the council. Jehoshaphat acknowledged the validity of the word but did not harken to the council. In union, the two nations went to war.
The common goal of war yielded two divergent outcomes. Indeed, Ahab died; and the war effort was thwarted. Jehoshaphat returned home and governed his nation Judah in accordance with wise council from the Scriptures and words from the Lord’s prophets. Then or now, to commoners or to kings, the axiom endures: heeded words from wise council are a sure foundation for unity and for victory.