Ahab (/ˈhæb/; Hebrew: אַחְאָב, Modern: ʾAḥʾav, Tiberian: ʾAḥʾāḇ; Akkadian: 𒀀𒄩𒀊𒁍 Aḫâbbu; Koinē Greek: Ἀχαάβ Achaáb; Latin: Achab) was the seventh king of Israel, the son and successor of King Omri and the husband of Jezebel of Sidon, according to the Hebrew Bible.[1] He was widely criticized for causing "moral decline" in Israel, according to the Yahwists. Scholars consider him to have been a Yahweh-worshipper.[2]

King of Northern Israel
Reignc. 874 – c.  853 BC
Diedc. 853 BC
Ramoth-Gilead, Syria
ConsortJezebel of Sidon

The existence of Ahab is historically supported outside the Bible. Shalmaneser III of Assyria documented in 853 BC that he defeated an alliance of a dozen kings in the Battle of Qarqar; one of these was Ahab. He is also mentioned on the inscriptions of the Mesha Stele.[3]

Ahab became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa of Judah, and reigned for twenty-two years, according to 1 Kings.[4] William F. Albright dated his reign to 869–850 BC, while Edwin R. Thiele offered the dates 874–853 BC.[5] Most recently, Michael Coogan has dated Ahab's reign to 871–852 BC.[6]

Reign edit

King Omri, Ahab's father and founder of the short-lived Omri dynasty, seems to have been a successful military leader; he is reported in the text of the Moabite Mesha Stele to have "oppressed Moab for many days." During Ahab's reign, Moab, which had been conquered by his father, remained tributary. Ahab was allied by marriage with Jehosophat, who was king of Judah. Only with Aram-Damascus is he believed to have had strained relations, though the two kingdoms also shared an alliance for some years.[7]

Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Tyre. kings 16–22 1 Kings 16:1–22:53 tells the story of Ahab and Jezebel, and indicates that Jezebel was a dominant influence on Ahab, persuading him to abandon Yahweh and establish the religion of Baal in Israel.[a] Ahab lived in Samaria, the royal capital established by Omri, and built a temple and altar to Baal there.[8] He additionally condoned Jezebel's anti-Yahwist purges.

According to 1 Kings 20, war later erupted between Ahab and king Hadadezer of Aram-Damascus (which the Bible refers to as "Ben-Hadad II") and that Ahab was able to defeat and capture him; however, soon after that, a peace treaty was made between the two and alliance between Israel and Aram-Damascus was formed.[7]

Shalmaneser III's (859–824 BC) Kurkh Monolith names King Ahab.

Battle of Qarqar edit

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 BCE), including Arabs, Ahab the Israelite (A-ha-ab-bu matSir-'a-la-a-a)[9] and Hadadezer (Adad-'idri).[7]

Ahab's contribution was estimated at 2000 chariots and 10,000 men. In reality, however, the number of chariots in Ahab's forces was probably closer to a number in the hundreds (based upon archaeological excavations of the area and the foundations of stables that have been found).[10] If, however, the numbers are referring to allies, they 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.

Jezreel has been identified as Ahab's fortified chariot and cavalry base.[11]

Ahab and the prophets edit

In the Biblical text, Ahab has five important encounters with prophets:

  1. The first encounter is with Elijah, who predicts a drought because of Ahab's sins.[12] Because of this, Ahab refers to him as "the troubler of Israel" (1 Kings 18:17). This encounter ends with Elijah's victory over the prophets of Baal in a contest held for the sake of Ahab and the Israelites, to bring them into repentance.[13]
  2. The second encounter is between Ahab and an unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 20:22.
  3. The third is again between Ahab and an unnamed prophet who condemns Ahab for his actions in a battle that had just taken place.[14]
  4. The fourth is when Elijah confronts Ahab over his role in the unjust execution of Naboth and usurpation of the latter's ancestral vineyard.[15] Upon the prophet's remonstration ("Hast thou killed and also taken possession?"[16]), Ahab sincerely repented, which God relays to Elijah.[17]
  5. The fifth encounter is with Micaiah, the prophet who, when asked for advice to recapturing Ramoth-Gilead, sarcastically assures Ahab that he will be successful. Micaiah ultimately tells him the truth of God's plan to kill Ahab in battle, due to his reliance on the false prophets, who were empowered by a deceiving spirit.[18][19]

Death of Ahab edit

Death of Ahab, by Gustave Doré

After some years, Ahab with Jehoshaphat of Judah went to recover Ramoth-Gilead from the Arameans.[7] During this battle, Ahab disguised himself, but he was mortally wounded by an unaimed arrow.[18] The Hebrew Bible says that dogs licked his blood, according to the prophecy of Elijah. But the Septuagint adds that pigs also licked his blood, symbolically making him unclean to the Israelites, who abstained from pork. Ahab was succeeded by his sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram.[20][page needed]

Legacy edit

Ahab's reign was deeply unpopular among Yahwists and was considered to be worse than the previous kings of Israel. Whilst the previous kings followed a "heretical" interpretation of Yahwism, known as the "sins of Jeroboam", Ahab institutionalized Baalism, which was completely divorced from Yahwism. He was also criticized for his oppressive policies, both domestically[21][7] and internationally.[22]

However, Yahwists commended him for fortifying numerous Israelite cities and building an ivory palace. [23]

In Rabbinic literature edit

Ahab was one of the three or four wicked kings of Israel singled out by tradition as being excluded from the future world of bliss (Sanh. x. 2; Tosef., Sanh. xii. 11). Midrash Konen places him in the fifth department of Gehenna, as having the heathen under his charge. Though held up as a warning to sinners, Ahab is also described as displaying noble traits of character (Sanh. 102b; Yer. Sanh. xi. 29b). Talmudic literature represents him as an enthusiastic idolater who left no hilltop in the Land of Israel without an idol before which he bowed, and to which he or his wife, Jezebel, brought his weight in gold as a daily offering. So defiant in his apostasy was he that he had inscribed on all the doors of the city of Samaria the words, "Ahab hath abjured the living God of Israel." Nevertheless, he paid great respect to the representatives of learning, "to the Torah given in twenty-two letters," for which reason he was permitted to reign for twenty-two successive years. He generously supported the students of the Law out of his royal treasury, in consequence of which half his sins were forgiven him. A type of worldliness (Ber. 61b), the Crœsus of his time, he was, according to ancient tradition (Meg. 11a), ruler over the whole world. Two hundred and thirty subject kings had initiated a rebellion; but he brought their sons as hostages to Samaria and Jerusalem. All the latter turned from idolaters into worshipers of the God of Israel (Tanna debe Eliyahu, i. 9). Each of his seventy sons had an ivory palace built for him. Since, however, it was Ahab's idolatrous wife who was the chief instigator of his crimes (B. M. 59a), some of the ancient teachers gave him the same position in the world to come as a sinner who had repented (Sanh. 104b, Num. R. xiv). Like Manasseh, he was made a type of repentance (I Kings, xxi. 29). Accordingly, he is described as undergoing fasts and penances for a long time; praying thrice a day to God for forgiveness, until his prayer was heard (PirḲe R. El. xliii). Hence, the name of Ahab in the list of wicked kings was changed to Ahaz (Yer. Sanh. x. 28b; Tanna debe Eliyahu Rabba ix, Zuṭṭa xxiv.).[24]

Pseudo-Epiphanius ("Opera," ii. 245) makes Micah an Ephraimite. Confounding him with Micaiah, son of Imlah,[25] he states that Micah, for his inauspicious prophecy, was killed by order of Ahab through being thrown from a precipice, and was buried at Morathi (Maroth?; Mic. i. 12), near the cemetery of Enakim (Ένακεὶμ Septuagint rendering of ; ib. i. 10). According to "Gelilot Ereẓ Yisrael" (quoted in "Seder ha-Dorot," i. 118, Warsaw, 1889), Micah was buried in Chesil, a town in southern Judah (Josh. xv. 30).[26] Naboth's soul was the lying spirit that was permitted to deceive Ahab to his death.[27]

In popular culture edit

Ahab is portrayed by Eduard Franz in the film Sins of Jezebel (1953). He is also the namesake of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

See also edit

Explanatory notes edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ 1 Kings 16:29–34
  2. ^ Grabbe, Lester (2017). p. 183-184. Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It?. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-67043-4. “ His chief palace overseer Obadiah was a devoted Yhwh worshipper, and Ahab could hardly have been ignorant of that (1 Kgs 17.3). Furthermore, his two sons had theophoric names that contained a form of the divine name Yhwh (Ahaziah [1 Kgs 22.40] and Jehoram [2 Kgs 1.17]), which would hardly have been the case if he had been a Baal worshipper.”
  3. ^ Finkelstein & Silberman 2002, pp. 169–195.
  4. ^ 1 Kings 16:29
  5. ^ Thiele 1965.
  6. ^ Coogan 2009, p. 237.
  7. ^ a b c d e Cook 1911, pp. 428–429.
  8. ^ 1 Kings 16:32
  9. ^ Craig 1887, pp. 201–232.
  10. ^ Coogan 2009, p. 243.
  11. ^ Ussishkin 2010.
  12. ^ 1 Kings 17:1
  13. ^ 1 Kings 18:17–40
  14. ^ 1 Kings 20:34–43
  15. ^ 1 Kings 21:1–16
  16. ^ 1 Kings 21:19
  17. ^ 1 Kings 21:27
  18. ^ a b 1 Kings 22
  19. ^ Achtemeier 1996, p. 18.
  20. ^ Coogan 2009.
  21. ^ 1 Kings 16:30
  22. ^ Alviero Niccacci from his article "The Stele of Mesha and the Bible: Verbal System and Narrativity" in Orientalia NOVA SERIES, Vol. 63, No. 3 (1994), pp. 226-248 https://www.jstor.org/stable/43076168?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A54c8fd0364c06eb40a10c02adb319296&seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents
  23. ^ 1 Kings 22:39
  24. ^ McCurdy & Kohler 1906.
  25. ^ 1 Kings 22:8
  26. ^ Singer et al. 1906.
  27. ^ Rosenfeld, Dovid (January 26, 2019). "The Lying Spirit Which Deceived Ahab". aishcom. Retrieved September 15, 2020.

General and cited references edit

External links edit

  •   Media related to Ahab at Wikimedia Commons
Preceded by King of Israel
874–853 BCE
Succeeded by