The Glossary of Terms


Harperís Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Ahab (Heb., Ďfatherís brotherí[?]). 1 The son and successor of Omri, king of Israel (ca. 869-850 b.c.). His queen was Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. Ahab inherited his fatherís military virtues and maintained a strong and stable government. He successfully defended his country against the powerful Aramean kingdom of Damascus, which he defeated in several battles. Ahab is the first king of Israel to come into conflict with Assyria. He is also the first whose name is recorded on the Assyrian monuments where we learn that he put two thousand chariots and ten thousand soldiers on the battlefield against Shalmaneser III at Qarqar in 853 b.c.

In the biblical account the point of interest lies not in the king himself, but in his four encounters with the prophets, especially Elijah. The first encounter concerns the great drought predicted by Elijah (1 Kings 17:1), which culminated in the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:17-40), at which Ahab was present. The second involved two unnamed prophets, one of whom encouraged Ahab in his resistance against Ben-hadad of Damascus (1 Kings 20:22). The third was the episode of Nabothís vineyard. After Naboth had refused Ahabís offer to buy his vineyard, Jezebel had Naboth executed so that Ahab could take possession of the coveted vineyard. When Ahab did so, he was confronted by Elijah who threatened the total destruction of his house. As a result Ahab did penance for his part in the crime (1 Kings 21). The fourth encounter occurred during Ahabís campaign against the Arameans, a campaign that led to his death (1 Kings 22). When Ahabís court prophets predicted success, his ally Jehoshaphat of Judah asked for the word of another prophet of the Lord. The man summoned was Micaiah ben Imlah, who at first predicted success but, when pressed, uttered his fateful prediction.

The judgment of the Deuteronomic historian who gave 1 Kings its final form is extremely harsh on Ahab, primarily because he permitted Jezebel to patronize the cult of Baal. Excavations at Samaria have revealed the magnificence of his buildings (1 Kings 22:39). The dominance of Ahab over Judah is shown by his treatment of Jehoshaphat in the campaign of Ramoth-gilead (1 Kings 22:29-31). Ahabís daughter Athaliah was married to Jehoram, king of Judah, and held the throne herself for six years after Jehoramís death. 2 The son of Kolaiah, a false prophet among the Babylonian exiles. Jeremiah accused him of adultery and impiety and threatened him with death by fire at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 29:21-23).

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