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Scott Richardson



Malcolm Andrews

Owen Griggs

Tim Hamilton

Jackson Drive


December 11, 2011



Ahab, son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, who reigned for twenty-two years, from 876 BC to 854 BC (1Kings 16:28 ff), was one of the strongest and at the same time one of the weakest kings of Israel. With his kingdom he inherited the traditional enemies of the kingdom, who were no less ready to make trouble for him than for his predecessors. Ahab, equal to the occasion, was clever enough to win the admiration and respect of friend and foe, strengthening the kingdom without and within. Many of the evils of his reign, which a stronger nature might have overcome, were results of measures that he took for strengthening the kingdom.

His Foreign Policy

In the days of David and Solomon a beneficial commercial relationship existed between the Hebrews and the Phoenicians. Ahab, recognizing the advantages from an alliance with the foremost commercial nation of his time, renewed the old relations with the Phoenicians (Sidonians) and cemented them by his marriage with Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. He next turns his attention to the establishment of peaceful and friendly relations with the kindred and neighboring kingdom of Judah. For the first time since the division of the kingdoms the quarrels are forgotten, “and Jehoshaphat,” the good king of Judah, “made peace with the king of Israel.” This alliance, too, was sealed by a marriage relationship, Jehoram, the crown-prince of Judah, being united in marriage with the princess Athaliah, daughter of Ahab.

Perhaps some additional light is thrown upon Ahab’s foreign policy by his treatment of Ben-hadad, king of Damascus. He had the opportunity to crush the threatening power of Syria, but when Ben-hadad in the garb of a suppliant asked for his life, Ahab received him kindly as his brother. Even though denounced by the prophets for his leniency, he spared his enemy and allowed him to depart on the condition that he would restore the cities captured from Omri, and concede certain “streets” in Damascus as a quarter for Israelite residents. No doubt Ahab thought that a king won as a friend by kindness might be of greater service to Israel than a hostile nation, made still more hostile, by having its king put to death. Whatever Ahab’s motives may have been, he displeased God (1Kings 20:42).

His Religious Policy

Ahab’s far-sighted foreign policy was the opposite of his short-sighted religious policy. Through his alliance with Phoenicia he not only set in motion commerce with Tyre, but brought in Phoenician religion as well. Accordingly he built in Samara a temple to Baal and in it erected an altar to that god, and at the side of the altar a pole to Asherah (1Kings 16:32,33). On the other hand he tried to serve Jehovah by naming his children in his honor—Ahaziah (Yah holds), Jehoram (Yah is high), and Athaliah (Yah is strong). Ahab failed to realize that while a coalition of nations might be advantageous, an amalgam of their religions would be disastrous. He failed to comprehend the full meaning of the principle, “Jehovah alone is the God of Israel.” In Jezebel, his Phoenician wife, Ahab found a champion of the foreign culture. She was the patron of the prophets of Baal and of the devotees of Asherah (1Kings 18:19,20; 19:1,2). At her instigation the altars of Jehovah were torn down. She inaugurated the first great persecution, killing off the prophets of Jehovah with the sword. She wanted more than a joining of two religions; she planned to destroy the religion of Jehovah root and branch and put that of Baal in its place. In this Ahab did not oppose her, but is guilty of conniving at the policy of his unprincipled wife, if not of heartily concurring in it.

The Murder of Naboth

Wrong religious principles have their counterpart in false ethical ideals and immoral civil acts. Ahab, as a worshipper of Baal, not only introduced a false religion, but false social ideals as well. The royal residence was in Jezreel. Close to the royal palace was a vineyard (1Kings 21:1) owned by Naboth, a native of Jezreel. This piece of ground was coveted by Ahab for an herb (vegetable) garden. He demanded therefore that Naboth should sell it to into or exchange it for a better piece of land. Naboth declined the offer. Ahab went home greatly displeased. Jezebel, however, had neither religious scruples nor any regard for the civil laws of the Hebrews. Accordingly she planned a high-handed crime to gratify the whim of Ahab. In the name and by the authority of the king she had Naboth falsely accused of blasphemy against God and the king, and had him stoned to death by the local authorities.

Ahab and Elijah

Like an accusing conscience, Elijah appeared before Ahab. His very name (my God is Yah) inspired awe. “As Jehovah, the God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years,” was the conscience-troubling message left on the mind of Ahab for more than three years. On Elijah’s reappearance, Ahab greeted him as the troubler of Israel. Elijah calmly informed him that the king’s religious policy had caused the trouble in Israel. The proof for it was furnished on Mount Carmel. Through a contest the people could see whom to serve. Baal was silent. Jehovah answered with fire. Then, a torrent of rain ended the drought. The victory belongs to Jehovah.

Ahab had sold himself to do evil in the sight of Jehovah. Therefore Elijah made the pronouncement from God that Ahab’s house would fall. Jezebel’s carcass would be eaten by dogs; the king’s posterity would be cut off; the dogs of the city or the fowls of the air would eat their bodies (1Kings 21:20-26). Like thunderbolts the words of Elijah struck home. Ahab “fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” But the die was cast. Jehovah was vindicated. Never again, in the history of Israel would Baal, the inspirer of injustice, claim a place at the side of Jehovah, the God of righteousness.

Ahab’s Military Career and Death

Ahab was not only a splendor-loving monarch, but a great military leader as well. He no doubt began his military policy by fortifying the cities of Israel (1Kings 16:34; 22:39). Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, whose vassals the kings of Israel had been (1Kings 15:19), promptly besieges Samaria, and sends Ahab an insulting message. Ahab replies, “Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off.” At the advice of a prophet of Jehovah, Ahab, with 7,000 men under 232 leaders, inflicts a crushing defeat upon Ben-hadad and his 32 feudal kings, who had resigned themselves to a drunken carousal (1Kings 20-21).

As mentioned previously, the following year, the Syrian army, in spite of its overwhelming superiority, meets another defeat at the hands of Ahab in the valley, near Aphek. On condition that Ben-hadad restore all Israelite territory and grant the Hebrews certain rights in Damascus, Ahab spares his life to the great indignation of the prophet (1Kings 20:22 ff). In the year 854 BC, Ahab with 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men, fights shoulder to shoulder with Ben-hadad against Shalmaneser II, King of Assyria. At Karkar, on the Orontes, Ben-hadad, with his allied forces, suffered an overwhelming defeat.

Perhaps Ben-hadad blamed Ahab for the defeat. At any rate he fails to keep his promise to Ahab (1Kings 22:3; 20:34). Lured by false prophets, but against the dramatic warning of Micaiah, Ahab is led to take up the gauntlet against Syria once more. His friend, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, joins him in the conflict. For the first time since the days of David all Israel and Judah stand united against the common foe. Ahab entered his last battle in disguise, but in vain. An arrow, shot at random, inflicts a mortal wound. With the fortitude of a hero, in order to avoid a panic, Ahab remains in his chariot all day and dies at sunset. His body is taken to Samaria for burial. A great king had died, and the kingdom declined rapidly after his death. He had failed to comprehend the greatness of Jehovah; he failed to stand for the highest justice, and his sins are visited upon has posterity (1Kings 22:29 ff).

Lessons from Ahab

Don’t let personal desires get in the way of what is right. As with most kings, Ahab wanted his kingdom to be strong and glorious. His personal desires for power and wealth led him to many wrong decisions that a more spiritual man might have overcome. In fact, this attitude really sums up everything that was wrong with Ahab—from choosing the wrong spouse to choosing the wrong battles (1Kings 16:31).

Choose your companion wisely. Because of his desire for strength at any cost, Ahab made seemingly great foreign alliances. These alliances turned into his (and the nation’s) downfall. None made a greater difference than the alliance with the Sidonians brought about by his choice of a marriage partner—Jezebel. It brought a good political relationship, but a disastrous spiritual one (1Kings 21:25).

Understand true repentance. When Ahab heard the terrible words of Jehovah from Elijah (1Kings 21:20-26) after the murder of Naboth by which Jezebel secured his vineyard, Ahab was fearful and humbled (1Kings 21:27-29). Realizing you are wrong and being humble about it is not enough. Ahab didn’t change his ways. He still did not depend on God, but upon his own “yes” men, his lying prophets (1Kings 22:8).

The word of God is final standard. Men love to hear what makes them feel good. Ahab was no different. We must be willing to follow God’s standard even if it is different from our own feelings. Ahab wasn’t willing. Desiring to make even more political headway, Ahab decided to let the king of Syria, Ben-hadad, go, even though he knew Jehovah had different wishes (1Kings 20:42). This describes Ahab’s life—and his death. Even after the man of God explained that Ahab’s prophets were lying about victory and prosperity in battle at Ramoth-gilead and that Ahab would indeed fall (1Kings 22:23), he went anyway. He tried to disguise himself so the enemy wouldn’t know him. It was to no avail. God’s word is true.

—S. Scott Richardson Sr.

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