Ahab Rejects Warning and Dies

1 Kings 20-22

The last three chapters in 1 Kings includes much of the story of Ahab, King of Israel (and Samaria from and outsider’s perspective). This is covered 2 Chronicles as well, but here we find some interesting interactions between Ahab and Ben-Hadad (King of Aram), prophets, Naboth and finally Micaiah (a Nathan-like prophet).

Ben-Hadad

Ben-Hadad king of Aram and Ahab exchange words and begin a war of threats in chapter 20. BH tells Ahab he’s going to take everything after a siege against Samaria. Ahab’s response, “Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours” (1 Kings 20:4). BH sends messengers again and threatens Ahab further, but this threat seems more personal, “they will seize everything you value and carry it away” (1 Kings 20:6). Ahab is not happy about this threat and lashes back at BH,

“Tell my lord the king, ‘Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.'” 1 Kings 20:9

Game on! The taunting reaches its pinnacle. BH’s response:

Ben-Hadad: May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful.

Ahab: One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.1 King 20:10

Oddly enough, a prophet is sent by the Lord in support of Ahab. This is odd to me because Ahab is far from God as we read in the closing remarks about Ahab. Still, these are God’s people. Somewhere in the multitude there are those who love the Lord.

“But who will do this? asked Ahab (1 Kings 20:14) and how will it be done? The prophet provides details and 232 junior officers along with 7,000 set out against BH, a ridiculously small number compared to the Arameans. BH sent out a comparable force, but they were completely defeated and the Israelites “inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans” (1 Kings 20:21). End of scene.

BH’s advisors explain the Ahab’s god is the god of the hills and in order to win, they must be drawn out onto the plains. Great idea! Next Spring, the battle is taken to the plains, but the Lord will not be ridiculed. A prophet speaks on behalf of the Lord,

Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.1 Kings 20:28

Once again, the Lord gives Ahab a chance to honor him as the true Lord by coming to his aid–a one-sided deal.

The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside. 1 Kings 20:27

There was no way Ahab could possibly win this battle, the odds were heavily in BH’s favor. But that day was the Lord’s day.

The Israelites inflicted 100,000 casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek where the wall collapsed on 27,000 of them. And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid in an inner room. 1 Kings 29-30

BH has a plan that seems ok with Ahab. He puts on sack-cloth and begs for his life. Ahab ignores all that the Lord has tried to speak to him and simply lets Ben-Hadad go. The prophets provide God’s response.

The Prophets

The last part of chapter 20 includes strong words by the prophets against Ahab. The prophet provides a parable (like Nathan did for David) and Ahab responds as expected, trapped by his own words.

This is what the Lord says: “You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.” 1 Kings 20:42

Ahab departs sulking and angry–he takes out his frustration on Naboth.

Naboth

Naboth has a nice garden close to Ahab’s palace. The king decides he should have the garden so he gives Naboth a choice: give it to me or sell it to me; either way Ahab wants the garden. Naboth refuses. This is his land, the inheritance from his ancestors. No deal. Ahab whines to Jezebel and she lets her husband know she will handle the issue promptly. She hires two “scoundrels” to trump up false charges against Naboth then incite the community to stone him for his transgression. The plan works, of course, and Naboth is stoned. The garden is now available.

When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. 1 Kings 21:16

Elijah returns to the narrative…nothing good happens when Elijah talks to Ahab!

This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood–yes, yours! 1 Kings 21:19

Elijah is not done. Finally, Jezebel’s demise is prophesied as well,

And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel’ 1 Kings 21:23

Dogs must be the insult of insults for that age. Sadly this seems to foretell a fitting end for Ahab and Jezebel. Both stood against the Lord.

There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel. 1 Kings 21:25

Micaiah

Enter Micaiah, a prophet of the Lord and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. The kings meet, oddly enough, after 3 years of “no war” (I wonder if “no war” is equivalent to “peace” ??). Ahab inquired of his prophets, but Jehoshaphat wants a “real” prophet and Micaiah is recommended. Ahab doesn’t like him because he never has anything good to say! Not surprising, after some interaction (quite interesting), Micaiah predicts Ahab’s death and is, of course, rebuked, led away as a prisoner.

Ahab has this great plan: let’s go to war, you put on kingly garments and I’ll wear a disguise. Seriously Jehoshaphat, what are you thinking? They go into battle and surprise, the Armeans recognize the king. Jehoshaphat announces he is not the king they are looking for so they back off. But in the heat of battle, something odd happens,

But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died.1 Kings 21:34-35

When they washed out the chariot, the dogs licked up his blood.

The end of a despicable king, followed by another bad egg, Ahaziah, his son.

Compare that to Jehoshaphat (king of Judah), Asa’s son who did pretty well. The northern kingdom is not doing so well as the book of 1 Kings comes to a close.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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