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Holman Bible Dictionary


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(ay' hab) Personal name meaning, “father's brother.” 1. The seventh king of Israel's Northern Kingdom, married a foreigner, Jezebel, and incited God's anger more than any of Israel's previous kings. Ahab, was the son and successor of Omri. His 22-year reign (874-853 B.C.), while enjoying some political and military success, was marred by spiritual compromise and failure (1 Kings 16:30 ).

His wife, Jezebel, was the daughter of Ethbaal, priest-king of Tyre (1 Kings 16:31 ). She was a devotee to the Tyrian god Melqart and gave open endorsement to the worship of Baal in Israel by supporting 450 Baal prophets and 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah (1 Kings 18:19 ). Following Ahab's death, she continued to be a significant force in Israel for ten years as queen mother.

Ahab's marriage to a Phoenician princess had both commercial and political benefits. Commercially, it brought desired goods to Samaria and opened the way for expanded sea trade. Politically, it removed any military threat from Phoenicia.

During Ahab's days, Israel enjoyed peace with Judah, largely as a result of a marriage he arranged between princess Athaliah and Joram, the crown prince of Judah. The resulting alliance produced cooperative efforts in sea trade (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 ) and a joint military campaign to recapture Ramoth-gilead, which had fallen under Aramean control (1 Kings 22:2-40 ).

During his reign, effective control was maintained over Moab, producing revenue extracted by tribute, a tax the Moabite king paid to maintain his position (2 Kings 3:4 ). The oppression of Moab under Ahab and his father Omri finds expression in the famous Moabite Stone. In this inscription Mesha, king of Moab, observed that his land was under Israelite control for a period of 40 years. Mesha also claimed to have gained independence from Ahab's Israel.

Ahab was successful in two major campaigns against the Syrian king, Ben-hadad, but was mortally wounded in the third. His participation in the great battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.), though not mentioned in the Bible, is recorded on an inscription of Shalmanezer III of Assyria. According to Shalmanezer, Ahab committed 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men to the battle.

The days of Ahab in Samaria were days of growing wealth and spiritual apostasy. According to 1 Kings 22:39 , he built an “ivory house” for Jezebel, the remains of which were discovered in the Harvard excavations at the site. Rooms and furniture were decorated with ivory inlay which in many cases featured Egyptian deities. His surrender to the influences of idolatry is illustrated by the construction of a temple for Baal (1 Kings 16:32 ), the massacre of the Lord's prophets (1Kings 18:4,1 Kings 18:19 ), and seizure of an Israelite's property (1 Kings 21:1 ).

Ahab appears to have been a worshiper of Yahweh, God of Israel, but probably along with other deities. He frequently consulted with Yahweh's prophets (1Kings 20:13-14,1Kings 20:22,1 Kings 20:28; 1Kings 22:8,1 Kings 22:16 ), used the divine name in naming his children (Ahaziah, Jehoram, and Athaliah) and did not interfere with the execution of the priests of Baal after the contest on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:40 ). The influence of Jezebel in his life, however, overshadowed any significant influence the prophets of the Lord had in his life. He became a prime example of evil (Micah 6:16 ).

The death of Jezebel was surrounded with the arrogance that so characterized her life. She painted her eyes and adorned herself just for the occasion of issuing verbal taunts at Jehu from the palace window. She was pushed out of that window and died and, as prophesied (1 Kings 21:23 ), was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30-37 ).

2. A false prophet living in Babylon who prophesied lies and faced Jeremiah's condemnation (Jeremiah 29:20-23 ).

John J. Davis

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Ahab'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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