Politically Strong; Morally Corrupt

Ahab, King of Israel

By Jon W. Quinn

Ahab was a strong political king, very powerful but also very weak when it came to personal morality. He formed alliances with Phoenicia, Judah, and Syria and built Israel up as a nation. Yet, he allowed his wife and queen, Jezebel, a woman foreign to Israel both in nationality and religious practice, to promote idolatry in Israel. This incurred the wrath of God and led to Ahab's downfall. He joined his queen in practicing idolatry, yet humbled himself before God on occasion. He died in battle in 853 B.C.

Syrian Invasions Of Israel
We can read of how war between Israel and Syria (also called “Aram”) came about. (1 Kings 20:1-21). Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, made an offer he hoped Ahab would have to refuse. Essentially, Syria required that Ahab pay a tribute to Syria consisting of “everything valuable in Israel." Ahab would have to refuse that, and that would be Syria's pretext for war.


It might be that Ben-hadad was afraid Israel was growing too strong, thus forcing to Ahab to fight. Ahab issued his famous reply; “So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, "Tell my lord the king, "All that you sent for to your servant at the first I will do, but this thing I cannot do.'" And the messengers departed and brought him word again. Ben-hadad sent to him and said, 'May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria will suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me." Then the king of Israel replied, "Tell him,' 'Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.'" (1 Kings 20:9-11). This was a brave, but arrogant reply. Ahab warned Ben-hadad not to act as if he had already won. But Ahab's arrogance is seen in that he did not seek God's help.

With the battle set to begin, God intervened so Israel would "know that I am the Lord." (1 Kings 20:13). Ahab did as the prophet instructed him, and Syria was defeated.
But the Syrians had an idea. There would be a second battle (1 Kings 20:22-43). The Syrians correctly attributed Israel's victory to their God. Deeming Him a God of the mountains only, they decided to attack Israel on the plains (1 Kings 20:23,28). Ahab again prepared for battle without seeking God's help. God again intervened, not for Ahab's sake, but because the Syrians thought Him "a god of the mountains only." The Syrians were defeated with great losses. Ahab, relying on his own political judgment, spared Ben-hadad and made a covenant with him (1 Kings 20:32-34).

The Lord was angry with Ahab for sparing Ben-hadad. God foretold that in the next battle, Ben-hadad would triumph and Ahab would die. Ahab was "sullen and vexed" at God's reproach (1 Kings 20:42,43).

There is much for us to learn today from this account. A couple of things for you to think about:

First, God must be given the glory He deserves. He is not a God of only the mountains, but of the universe which He Himself has made. The Syrians did not have nearly enough respect for God's power, and neither do many today! I fear for those who do not acknowledge God and give Him the proper glory in their lives (1 Corinthians 1:24-25; Matthew 19:26; 22:29; Romans 4:20-22).

Second, things devoted to destruction must be destroyed. There are things which the Christian must “put to death” as far as his or her sins, ungodly attitudes and characteristics (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; 5:24).

Naboth's Vineyard
Ahab desired Naboth's vineyard in Jezreel for a vegetable garden and made an offer to trade. Naboth refused Ahab's offer. Ahab became "sullen and vexed." (1 Kings 21:1-4). Jezebel plotted to kill Naboth and his sons (1 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings. 9:26) by framing him with false accusations made by “worthless men” whom she had paid off. Naboth was killed for the crimes he was falsely accused of, and upon his death, Ahab took possession of his vineyard.

God sent Elijah to prophesy against Ahab for his wickedness. Ahab had run out of opportunities to become a better person (1 Kings 21:17-24). The prophecy consisted of three main parts:

1. Ahab's blood would be shed at the same place.
2. Ahab's house would be destroyed.
3. Dogs would eat Jezebel.

Ahab repented and God put off the destruction of his house until after his death (1 Kings 21:27-29). Again, we can see some important lessons in this episode of Ahab's life:

First, we must not be so morally weak (as Ahab was) that it becomes easy for the ungodly to manipulate us (as Jezebel did) (1 Kings 21:25,26). We get the idea that Ahab was never comfortable with his compromises, but was unwilling to take a morally courageous stand. (Matthew 6:24).

Second, God will repay evil for evil. Ultimately, no evil is left unpaid. For men and women of faith, the price was paid by Jesus and accepted by us through our faithful obedience. The price was the blood of Christ. For the faithless, they will pay the price at the final judgment. (Romans 12:17,19; 2:5,6).

Israel And Judah Invaded Syrian Territory
Ahab requested King Jehoshaphat of Judah to assist him in recapturing Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed to help Ahab but requested prophetic guidance from God. 400 false prophets predicted success. Micaiah, a true prophet of God, foretold defeat and was imprisoned. (1 Kings 22:5-8; 27,28).

In the ensuing battle, the Syrians were victorious. Although disguised, Ahab was killed by a stray arrow. (1 Kings 22:34-37). Ahab died bravely in the battle. The dogs licked up the blood from his chariot at he pool of Samaria, thus fulfilling a part of Elijah's prophecy (vs. 38). The whole prophecy would be fulfilled before much longer.
Again, we are reminded of some things important to us as well. God's word is true and should be obeyed. Just as Ahab chose not to believe Micaiah the prophet, we can pretend the Bible does not say what it says, preferring to believe something else, but that does not change what is true (John 8:31,32; 44,45; 14:6; 17:17; 18:37).

In some ways Ahab was very successful. He won some battles. His nation prospered during his reign; he is known for building cities in Samaria. But his life ended tragically, and he entered into eternity estranged from God. He had listened to Jezebel too much and to God not enough. He was a proud rebel in life, but now the pride is gone. It is a rather hollow success in this life that is followed by eternal defeat! God was patient with Ahab. It didn't have to end that way. It doesn't have to with us either!

From The Bradley Banner 2/29/2004
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915


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