“…the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets;…”
“Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. “The LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “The LORD said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ “Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.” “
(1 Kings 22:19-23 NASB)
In 1 Kings 22:19-23 we read some information that can initially be troubling to some. It is often quoted by atheists seeking to shake the faith of a believer. Properly understood, it is harmonious with the rest of God’s word. So don’t let it trouble you. Let’s see if we can shed some light on it.
We know that God is truth. We know that He is righteous and holy. Reading this passage, if not properly exegeted, could lead one to believe that God caused false prophets to lie. This would seem to conflict with what we know of the attributes of God displayed to us in the rest of His word. This seeming conflict is easily remedied when we read the scripture in context.
We understand that Satan, has to answer to God. We read this in the book of Job. Satan cannot do anything unless God allows him. This might be a tough concept, but think about it. Satan has to ask permission to do what he was doing to Job. Satan is a creature, created by God. Satan is not God’s equal, or opposite. God could destroy Satan at this very moment. God doesn’t because He is using Satan to accomplish His good will.
Ahab was one of the most wicked kings in all history. God had already pronounced judgment on him. All of Ahab’s prophets were telling him to go to war at Ramoth-Gilead, and that he would succeed.
“…Three years passed without war between Aram and Israel. In the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. Now the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?” And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.” Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?” …”
(1 Kings 22:1-7 NASB)
Then, we see that Jehoshaphat asks Ahab to inquire of another prophet, a prophet of the LORD or (Yhvh) So Ahab sends for Micaiah.
“…The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.” Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are consumed.'” All the prophets were prophesying thus, saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, “Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak.” When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” Then the king said to him, “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” So he said, “I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.'” Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” …”
(1 Kings 22:8-18 NASB)
As you can see, by adding the context of the surrounding scripture we can easily understand what is happening here. God did not cause the prophets to lie. He allowed Satan to have the spirits controlling the false prophets to lie. God used their sins sinlessly to accomplish His righteous judgment against Ahab, a wicked king. The fact that God restrains evil every moment doesn’t seem to enter into our minds, but if he didn’t we would all be worse than Pharaoh or Hitler. When God allows evil spirits or men to act how they want, we get surprised, as if God is the bad guy. Our pitiful minds default to sinful criticism of the one truly good being. That is how messed up we are. I hope this helps. If you have questions, ask your Pastor and Elders, first. If they can’t answer you feel free to ask in the comments section. If I can’t answer, I’ll try to find someone who can. God bless you.