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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Ahab

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AHAB . 1 . Son of Omri, and the most noted member of his dynasty, king of Israel from about 875 to about 853 b.c. The account of him in our Book of Kings is drawn from two separate sources, one of which views him more favourably than the other. From the secular point of view he was an able and energetic prince; from the religious point of view he was a dangerous innovator, and a patron of foreign gods. His alliance with the Phœnicians was cemented by his marriage with Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre ( 1 Kings 16:31 ), who was also, if we may trust Josephus, priest of Astarte. At a later date Ahab entered into alliance with Judah, giving his daughter Athaliab in marriage to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat ( 2 Kings 8:18 ). His wealth is indicated by the ivory palace which he built ( 1 Kings 21:1 ; 1 Kings 22:39 ).

The reign of Ahab was marked by frequent wars with the Syrian kingdom of Damascus. Benhadad, the king of that country, was so successful that he claimed suzerainty over Israel a claim which Ahab was at first disposed to admit (1 Kings 20:2 ff.). But when Benhadad went so far as to threaten Samaria with indiscriminate plunder, Ahab resisted. In two campaigns he defeated the invaders, even taking their haughty leader prisoner. Contrary to the advice of the prophetic party, he treated his captive magnanimously, and concluded an alliance with him, stipulating only that the cities formerly taken from Israel should be restored. The alliance was one for trade and commerce, each party having bazaars assigned him in the capital of the other ( 1 Kings 20:34 ). It is not improbable also that common measures of defence were planned against the Assyrians, who were showing hostile intentions in the region of the Lebanon. In the battle of Karkar, which was fought against these invaders in the year 854, Ahab was present with ten thousand troops. This we learn from the Assyrian inscriptions.

The religious innovation for which Ahab is held responsible by the Hebrew writers, was the introduction of the Phœnician Baal as one of the gods of Israel. It is clear that Ahab had no idea of displacing Jahweh altogether, for he gave his children names which indicated his devotion to Him. But to please his wife he allowed her to introduce and foster the worship of her own divinities. Her thought was that with the religion of her own country she would introduce its more advanced civilization. The champion of Jahweh’s exclusive right to the worship of Israel was Elijah. This prophet, by his bold challenge to the priests of Baal, roused the anger of Jezebel, and was obliged to flee the country (1 Kings 17:1-24 ; 1 Kings 18:1-46 ; 1 Kings 19:1-21 ). Other prophets do not seem to have been disturbed, for we find them at the court of Ahab in the last year of his life ( 1 Kings 22:6 ). These, however, were subservient to the crown, while Elijah was not only a protestant against religious changes, but the champion of the common people, whose rights were so signally violated in the case of Naboth.

Ahab died fighting for his people. The Syrian war had again broken out apparently because Benhadad had not kept his agreement. Ahab therefore tried to recover Ramoth-gilead, being assisted by Jehoshaphat of Judah. In the first encounter Ahab was slain, his reputation for courage being vindicated by the direction of his adversary to his soldiers ‘Fight neither with small nor with great, but only with the king of Israel’ (1 Kings 22:31 ).

2 . A false prophet ‘roasted in the fire’ by the king of Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:21 f.).

H. P. Smith.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ahab'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/a/ahab.html. 1909.

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