Ahab (Hebrew: אַחְאָב, Modern: Aẖ'av, Tiberian: ʼAḥʼāḇ; Akkadian: 𒀀𒄩𒀊𒁍, translit. Aḫabbu; Ancient Greek: Ἀχαάβ; 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 Scriptures. The Hebrew Bible presents Ahab as a wicked king, particularly for condoning Jezebel's influence on religious policies and his principal role behind Naboth's arbitrary execution.
|King of Israel|
|Reign||c. 871 – c. 852 BC|
|Successor||Ahaziah of Israel|
|Died||c. 852 BC|
|Consort||Jezebel of Sidon|
|Issue||Ahaziah of Israel|
Jehoram of Israel
|Religion||Yahwism (formerly) |
Ahab became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa, king of Judah, and reigned for twenty-two years, according to 1 Kings. William F. Albright dated his reign to 869–850 BC, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 874–853 BC. Most recently, Michael D. Coogan has dated Ahab's reign to 871–852 BC.
Ahab's life and reignEdit
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 Jehoshaphat, who was king of Judah. Only with Aram Damascus is he believed to have had strained relations.
Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Tyre. 1 Kings 16–22 tells the story of Ahab and Jezebel, and indicates that Jezebel was a dominant influence on Ahab, inciting him to abandon Yahweh and worship and institute the religion of Baal in Israel. Ahab lived in Samaria, the royal capital established by Omri, and built a temple and altar to Baal (the Lord) there. This led to severe consequences for Israel, including a drought that lasted for several years and Jezebel's fanatical religious persecution of the prophets of Yahweh, which Ahab condoned. His reputation was so negative that the author of Kings attributed Hiel of Bethel's invocation of Joshua's curse several centuries ago and the subsequent deaths of his two sons, Abiram and Segub, to his reign in 1 Kings 16:34. He was succeeded by Ahaziah and Jehoram, who reigned over Israel until Jehu's revolt of 842 BC.
Battle of QarqarEdit
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 the Israelite (A-ha-ab-bu matSir-'a-la-a-a) and Hadadezer (Adad-'idri).
Ahab's contribution was estimated at 2,000 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). 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 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, and trading facilities between Damascus and Samaria were granted.
Ahab and the ProphetsEdit
In the Biblical text, Ahab has five important encounters with prophets:
- The first encounter is with Elijah, who predicts a drought because of Ahab's sins (1 Kings 17:1). 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. (1 Kings 18:17–40).
- The second encounter is between Ahab and an unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 20:22.
- The third is again between Ahab and an unnamed prophet who condemns Ahab for his actions in a battle that had just taken place (1 Kings 20:34-43).
- The fourth is when Elijah confronts Ahab over his role in the unjust execution of Naboth and usurpation of the latter's ancestral vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16). Upon the prophet's remonstration ("Hast thou killed and also taken possession?" (1 Kings, 21:19)), Ahab sincerely repented, which God relays to Elijah (1 Kings 21:27).
- The fifth encounter is with Micaiah, the prophet who, when asked for advice to recapturing Ramoth-Gilead, sarcastically assures Ahab he will be successful and 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 (1 Kings 22).
Death of AhabEdit
Three years later, war broke out east of the Jordan River, and Ahab with Jehoshaphat of Judah went to recover Ramoth-Gilead from the Arameans. During this battle, Ahab disguised himself, but he was mortally wounded by an unaimed arrow (1 Kings 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, symbolically making him unclean to the Israelites, who abstained from pork. Ahab was succeeded by his sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram.
1 Kings 16:29 through 22:40 contains the narrative of Ahab's reign. His reign was slightly more emphasised upon than the previous kings, due to his blatant trivialization of the "sins of Jeroboam", which the previous kings of Israel were plagued by, and his subsequent marriage with a pagan princess, the nationwide institution of Baal worship, the persecution of Yahweh's prophets and Naboth's shocking murder. These offenses and atrocities stirred up populist resentment from figures such as Elijah and Micaiah. Indeed, he is referred to by the author of Kings as being "more evil than all the kings before him" (1 Kings 16:30).
Nonetheless, there were achievements that the author took note of, including his ability to fortify numerous Israelite cities and build an ivory palace (1 Kings 22:39). Adherents of the Yahwist religion found their principal champion in Elijah. 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 (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 and the Omride Dynasty was brutally defeated.
- 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.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 428–429.
- 1 Kings 16:31, 18:4–19, 19:1–2, 21:5–25.
- 1 Kings 16:32
- Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 239
- Craig, James A. "The Monolith Inscription of Salmaneser II". Hebraica, 1887.
- Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 243.
- David Ussishkin, "Jezreel—Where Jezebel Was Thrown to the Dogs", Biblical Archaeology Review July / August 2010.
- Achtemeier, Paul (Editor), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 18.