|King of Israel|
from Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
|Reign||c. 869–850 BC|
|Died||c. 850 BC|
|Place of death||Ramoth-Gilead, Syria|
|Buried||Samaria, Kingdom of Israel|
|Successor||Ahaziah of Israel|
|Consort||Jezebel of Sidon|
|Issue||Ahaziah of Israel
Jehoram of Israel
Ahab (Hebrew: אַחְאָב, Modern Aẖ'av Tiberian ʼAḥʼāḇ ; "Brother of the father"; Greek: Αχααβ; Latin: Achab) was the seventh king of Israel since Jeroboam I, the son and successor of Omri, and the husband of Jezebel of Sidon, according to the Hebrew Bible.
Ahab became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa, king of Judah, and reigned for twenty-two years. William F. Albright dated his reign to 869–850 BC, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 874–853 BC. Michael D. Coogan dates his reign to 871–852 BC.
Omri (Ahab's father and founder of the short-lived Omri Dynasty) seems to have been a successful military leader being reported in the text of the Moabite Mesha Stele to have "oppressed Moab for many days". Ahab was succeeded by Ahaziah and Jehoram who reigned over Israel until Jehu's revolt of 842 BC. Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Tyre, and the alliance was doubtless the means of procuring political support. Jezreel has been identified as Ahab's fortified chariot and cavalry base. 1 Kings chapters 16–22 tells the story of Ahab and Jezebel, and indicates that Jezebel was a dominant influence on Ahab and strove to spread idol worship of Baal in Israel.
During Ahab's reign, Moab, which had been conquered by his father, remained tributary; while Judah, with whose king, Jehoshaphat, he was allied by marriage, was probably his vassal. Only with Aram Damascus is he believed to have had strained relations.
Battle of Qarqar
The Battle of Qarqar is mentioned in extra-biblical records, and was perhaps at Apamea where Shalmaneser III of Assyria fought a great confederation of princes from Cilicia, Northern Syria, Israel, Ammon, and the tribes of the Syrian desert (853 BC), including Ahab (A-ha-ab-bu mat) (Adad-'idri).
Ahab's contribution was reckoned at 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men. In reality, however, the number of chariots in Ahab's forces was probably closer to number in the hundreds (this due to archaeological excavations of the area and the foundations of stables that had been found). If, however, the numbers are referring to allies it could possibly include forces from Tyre, Judah, Edom, and Moab. The Assyrian king claimed a victory, but his immediate return and subsequent expeditions in 849 BC and 846 BC against a similar but unspecified coalition seem to show that he met with no lasting success. According to the Tanakh, however, Ahab with 7,000 troops had previously overthrown Ben-hadad[disambiguation needed] and his thirty-two kings, who had come to lay siege to Samaria, and in the following year obtained a decisive victory over him at Aphek, probably in the plain of Sharon at Antipatris (1 Kings 20). A treaty was made whereby Ben-hadad restored the cities which his father had taken from Ahab's father (that is, Omri, but see 15:20, 2 Kings 13:25), and trading facilities between Damascus and Samaria were granted.
Ahab and the Prophets
In the Biblical text, Ahab has four important encounters with prophets. The first encounter has to do with Elijah, whom Ahab refers to as "the troubler of Israel" (1 Kings 18:17), in which Elijah predicts a drought (1 Kings 17:1). This encounter ends with Elijah victorious over the official Baal prophets of Israel in a contest held for the sake of the Israelites and their king, Ahab. The contest ends when Elijah's God consumes the offering which the Baal worshipers could not induce their god to touch, after which Elijah slaughters the Baal prophets (1 Kings 18:17–40). The second encounter is between Ahab and two unnamed prophets in 1 Kings 20:22. The third is when Elijah confronts Ahab over Ahab and Jezebel's execution of Naboth and usurpation of his land. Upon the prophets remonstration, Ahab displayed sincere remorse (1 Kings 21). The fourth encounter is with Micaiah, the prophet who, when asked for advice on a military campaign, first assures Ahab he will be successful and ultimately gives Ahab a glimpse into God's plan for Ahab to die in battle (1 Kings 22).
Death of Ahab
Three years later, war broke out on the east of the Jordan River, and Ahab with Jehoshaphat of Judah went to recover Ramoth-Gilead. During this battle Ahab disguised himself, but was mortally wounded by an unaimed arrow (ch. 22). The Hebrew Bible says that dogs licked his blood, according to the prophecy of Elijah. But the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) adds that "pigs" also licked his blood. Israelites of course abstained from pork, but Ahab was married to a Phoenician/Tyrian princess Jezebel, who was one of the most "powerful and notorious women of monarchic times" yet who died of a similarly seemingly random death like her husband, and his capital of Samaria was said to follow Canaanite gods. Ahab was succeeded by his sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram.
Jezebel's death however was not quite as random as Ahab's. As recorded in the book of Second Kings (2 Kings 9:30-34). Jezebel was confronted by Jehu who had her servants throw her out the window (defenestrated) causing her death. Earlier in verse 22, when asked by King Jehoram, Jezebel's son, if he came in peace, Jehu answered "What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?" while on his way to Jezreel to deal with her.
While the above passages from 1 Kings do not view Ahab unfavourably, there are others which are less friendly. Essentially, 1 Kings 16:29 through 20:40 is the story of Ahab's reign. This reign is one which faces opposition from several prophets of Yahweh throughout as well as various consequences because of his marriage to Jezebel, because of his worship of Baal, disobedience to prophetic warnings and words, and also because of the murder of Naboth. The murder of Naboth (see Jezebel), an act of royal encroachment, stirred up popular resentment just as the new cult aroused the opposition of certain of the prophets (Elijah, Micaiah, and a few unnamed prophets). Indeed, he is referred to, for this and other things as being "more evil than all the kings before him" (1 Kings 16:30). The followers of Yahweh found their champion in Elijah, whose story reflects the prophetic teaching of more than one age. His denunciation of the royal dynasty of Israel, and his emphatic insistence on the worship of Yahweh and Yahweh alone, illustrated by the contest between Yahweh and Baal on Mount Carmel, as told in 1 Kings 18, form the keynote to a period which culminated in the accession of Jehu, an event in which Elijah's chosen disciple Elisha was the leading figure.
- 1 Kings 16:29-34
- 1 Kings 16:29
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257.
- Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 237.
- Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)239
- David Ussishkin, "Jezreel—Where Jezebel Was Thrown to the Dogs", Biblical Archaeology Review July / August 2010.
- 1 Kings 16:31, 18:4–19, 19:1–2, 21:5–25.
- Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 243.
- Achtemeier, Paul (Editor), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 18.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ahab". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
|King of Israel