Elijah as Micaiah – why not?

Published October 21, 2018 by amaic
Image result for prophet elijah like melchizedek

 

by

Damien F. Mackey

 

No commentaries that I have read pertaining to the prophet Micaiah will – whilst regarding him as Elijah’s contemporary, and of similar ilk – take that a step further by suggesting that Micaiah might have been Elijah.

 

  

 

A typical example of this that I shall present here is Rabbi David J. Zucker’s very useful article, “The Prophet Micaiah in Kings and Chronicles”. In the “Introduction” to Zucker’s article, we read: http://jbqnew.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/413/jbq_413_2_ahabmicaiah.pdf

 

….

One side effect of turning his back on the history and personalities of the kingdom of Israel was that the Chronicler could not (or chose not to) refer to the cycle of stories surrounding Elijah and Elisha so prominent in Kings (I Kgs. 18-19, 21; II Kgs. 1-2 – Elijah; I Kgs. 19; II Kgs. 2-13 – Elisha).

 

The Chronicler, however, did choose to refer to one prominent northern prophet, Micaiah ben Imlah, a contemporary of Elijah and Elisha. Chronicles essentially repeats the narrative of the Ahab-Micaiah confrontation, which appears in I Kings 22. The Chronicler includes this episode, despite the fact that it refers to the northern kingdom’s ruler, Ahab, and that its locale is Samaria. The most probable reason for the inclusion is that this narrative also features Judah’s King Jehoshaphat.

 

Zucker then proceeds to discuss:

 

AHAB-MICAIAH

 

In the single chapter in Chronicles where Ahab appears as a personality in his own right (II Chron. 18) … his presence is minimized when compared to the earlier history of First Kings, where Ahab is found in several chapters (18-22).

Since Ahab does not appear elsewhere in Chronicles, it is difficult to make sense of his statement to his southern counterpart, King Jehoshaphat, concerning the prophet Micaiah: ‘I hate him [Micaiah ben Imlah] because he never prophesies anything good for me, but always misfortune’ (II Chron. 18:7, cf. I Kgs. 22:8).

 

My comment: Should not this statement by King Ahab, who had called Elijah ‘my enemy’ – coupled with the singularity of Micaiah himself: ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD …’ – make us think immediately of the loner prophet Elijah?

 

Clearly, there was no love lost between Ahab and Elijah.

 

I Kings 18:17-18: “When [Ahab] saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’ ‘I have not made trouble for Israel’, Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals’.”

And I Kings 21:20-24:

“Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me, my enemy!’ ‘I have found you’, he answered, ‘because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin’. And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel’. Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country’.”

 

Zucker continues:

 

The context for this statement [to Micaiah] is an event late in the life of King Ahab, a proposed joint Israel-Judah battle against their mutual enemy, the king of Aram. They plan to recapture the territory of Ramoth-gilead. Four hundred of the prophets based in Samaria claim that the kings of Judah and Israel will prevail. Then the Judean king, Jehoshaphat, turns to King Ahab. He calls for an independent endorsement for this possible encounter. ‘Is there not another prophet of Y-H-V-H here through whom we can inquire?’ he asks (18:6, cf. I Kgs. 22:7). Ahab then replies, pointing out that there is someone, the aforementioned Micaiah ben Imlah, although he never prophesies anything good for me.

 

My comment: Rabbi Zucker will now ask the questions that I have just answered.

 

What is the basis for Ahab’s hatred of Micaiah? Where and when has Micaiah spoken ill of Ahab? Since Ahab only appears in this one chapter of Chronicles, the answer cannot be found in that book. Logically, we would expect it to be revealed in the earlier books of Kings ….

 

My comment: Exactly where “it” is to be found, I believe.

But Rabbi Zucker does not proceed to make what I would consider to be the connection begging to be made, that Micaiah is Elijah.

 

… yet even a close perusal of the relevant chapters provides no solution. Just as Micaiah ben Imlah only appears in this one chapter of Chronicles, so does he appear in only one chapter of Kings (I Kings 22).

 

My comment: In Rabbi Zucker’s next comment, the seeming “mystery” surrounding Micaiah’s comment is perfectly explained by the fact that the prophet is being, as Zucker continues, “sarcastic”. There is no “mystery” as far as Ahab is concerned. He knows what the prophet is like. Elijah’s sense of irony and mockery had been fully on display during his contest with the Baalists on Mount Carmel. So much so that we find contemporary writers, such as Leah Bronner, writing about Elijah’s biting ‘Polemics Against Baal’.

 

To add to the mystery, when the prophet Micaiah is summoned to appear before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, he first seems to endorse the coming battle; he foretells success (II Chron. 18:14) in a tone that may be sarcastic. Ahab then upbraids Micaiah, saying: ‘How many times must I adjure you to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of Y-H-V-H?’ (vs. 15). This rebuke makes it clear that these two have met on several occasions in the past.

… when Ahab says to Jehoshaphat that Micaiah ‘never prophesies anything good,’ it is apparent that there have been multiple occasions where Micaiah has opposed Ahab. To what, then, does Ahab refer?

 

My comment: Rabbi Zucker will now turn to the Mount Carmel incident as being one such of those ‘multiple occasions’ when Ahab was opposed by the prophet Micaiah. But, even now, he will not connect Micaiah with Elijah, but only with some obscure, “unnamed attendant” of Elijah’s.

 

One needs to turn to Kings to offer a possible answer to this matter. I Kings 18 relates the Ahab-Elijah-prophets of Baal contest on Mount Carmel. On that occasion, an attendant accompanies Elijah. Elijah sends this figure out to seek whether there is any hint of the coming rain, which will end the three year drought. Six times the servant goes and looks westward toward the Mediterranean, but sees nothing. Finally, on the seventh occasion the servant reported ‘A cloud as small as a person’s hand is rising in the west’ (I Kgs. 18:44).

Nothing more is said about this unnamed attendant in that chapter. In the next chapter an attendant, presumably the same person, accompanies Elijah when the prophet flees from the wrath of Jezebel. They travel south from Samaria as far as Beersheba in Judah. There Elijah leaves his servant behind (I Kgs. 19:3) and travels alone into the desert, eventually reaching Mount Horeb where he will experience a theophany with God.

 

My comment: Although Zucker will tell of Ahab’s turning his bitter wrath upon Elijah, he will maintain his line of argument – Micaiah is a recipient of the king’s wrath due to his association with Elijah.

 

At the Baal prophets’ episode, when King Ahab meets Elijah, he dismisses him in scathing language. Ahab caught sight of Elijah, [and] Ahab said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’ (I Kgs. 18:17). On a later occasion, Ahab describes Elijah as an enemy (I Kgs. 21:20). Ahab detests Elijah, and Elijah’s opposition. In like manner, Ahab associates that opposition with people connected with Elijah, and in particular (I suggest) Elijah’s unnamed attendant, Micaiah.

 

My comment: Perhaps it is “the Midrash” to which Zucker refers next that has prevented Jewish scholars, at least, from proposing an identification of Micaiah with Elijah.

 

There is some support for this idea in rabbinic literature: the Midrash names Micaiah as one of the four students of Elijah. ….

[End of quotes]

 

 

The prophet Elijah, a most mysterious character, who, like Melchizedek, seems to appear right out of nowhere, and whom King Ahab found to be frustratingly hard to pin down geographically, as attested by the godly ‘Obadiah (I Kings 18:10): ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master [Ahab] has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you’, ought to become somewhat easier to trace if he is also – as according to this article – Micaiah son of Imlah. For now at least, in this name “Imlah”, we have a further clue (patronymic) towards the assembling of a biographical identikit of Elijah.

 

 

 

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