« Agur Ahab Ahasuerus »

Ahab

AHAB, ê´hab: Seventh king of Israel; son and successor of Omri. His dates are variously given—918-897 B.C., according to the older chronology; 878-857, Kamphausen; 875-853, Duncker; 874-854, Hommel; d. about 851, Wellhausen. His history in I Kings xvi. 28-xxii. 40, is based upon two main sources, from which long extracts are given; the one, which furnished the account of the wars with the Arameans (ch. xx. and xxii.), may be described as a popular history of the kings of the northern realm and their wars; the other, from which the Elijah narratives are taken, evidently originated in prophetic circles. Both were of the ninth century and of Ephraimitic origin. The Monolith Inscription of Shalmaneser II. of Assyria (see Assyria, VI., § 8) states that in the army defeated by Shalmaneser at Karkar (854 B.C.) were 10,000 men and 2,000 chariots furnished by Akhabbu Sir’laai, by whom in all probability Ahab of Israel is meant (for another view, cf. Kittel, 233-234; Kamphausen, 43, note). The Moabite Stone also states that the subjection of Moab to Israel, established by Omri, lasted for “half of his son’s days.” Ahab’s reign was a time of prosperity. The long war with Judah was ended, and Ahab’s daughter Athaliah was married to Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son. A marriage alliance was also made with the Phenicians, Ahab taking to wife Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal of Tyre. The Moabites remained subject to Israel and paid a considerable tribute (II Kings iii. 4). Jericho was rebuilt, and other cities were fortified or built. Ahab erected a palace at Jezreel (probably the “ivory house” of I Kings xxii. 39). In later years he had to fight with the Arameans of Damascus, who laid siege to Samaria, but were defeated and driven off. In the following year both armies met at Aphek in the plain of Jezreel, and Ben-hadad, the Syrian king, was captured and magnanimously treated by Ahab; with the promise to give up the conquests of his father and to allow Ahab’s merchants to have bazaars in Damascus, he was set free. After three years Ahab undertook a new war against Damascus to capture Ramoth-gilead, which probably was to have been delivered to Israel after the covenant at Aphek. This time he had the help 96 of Jehoshaphat of Judah, whose son may have married Ahab’s daughter at this time. The battle was lost and Ahab was mortally wounded.

Ahab’s reign is of great importance in the religious development of Israel, and is marked by a bitter contest between the throne and the prophets. That Ahab had no intention of apostatizing from Yahweh, the god of his people, is shown by the names he gave his children; but to rule righteously, according to the conception of the prophets, did not suit his policy. He tolerated the calf worship instituted by Jeroboam (I Kings xii. 26-33), and, influenced by his Phenician wife, introduced into Samaria the worship of the Syrian Baal (Melkarth), for whom he built in his capital a great temple with all the necessary paraphernalia. No doubt certain circles in Israel were shocked by this heathen worship; but the great majority saw in it no inconsistency with the Mosaic religion. It fell to Elijah to rebuke the people for “halting between two opinions”; but his voice, like that of other prophets who protested, had little effect. Jezebel tried to silence them by bloody persecutions; and Elijah complained that he was the only prophet of Yahweh left. It must not be imagined, however, that all so-called prophets of Yahveh had been killed; for Ahab, who still regarded himself as a worshiper of Yahweh, would hardly have permitted such an act. Those who did not oppose the worship of Baal were doubtless left alone; but in the eyes of Elijah they were not much better than the prophets of Baal. After the event on Mount Carmel (I Kings xviii.) Jezebel saw the futility of trying to suppress the opposition to the worship of Baal, and the prophets who had kept in hiding could come and go freely. Ahab and his wife were also denounced by Elijah for the crime committed against Naboth and his family, which led to signs of contrition on the king’s part and to a postponement to his son’s days of the threatened retribution (I Kings xxi.; cf. II Kings ix. 21-26). Ahab’s character and achievements are differently estimated. He was undoubtedly an able man, and desired to promote the welfare of his people; he was a brave warrior, and died manfully. But in the estimation of many these virtues are outweighed by his weakness toward Jezebel, his short-sighted optimism after the victory at Aphek, and his lack of deep religious conviction and earnestness.

(W. Lotz.)

Bibliography: On the chronology: A. Kamphausen, Chronologie der hebräischen Könige, Bonn, 1883; Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah compared with the Monuments, in Church Quarterly Review, Jan., 1886; E. Mahler, Biblische Chronologie und Zeitrechnung der Hebräer, Vienna, 1887; DB, i. 397-403; EB, i. 773-819; and sections on chronology in the following named works. On the history: H. Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 7 vols., Göttingen, 1864-68 (Eng. transl., 8 vols., London, 1867-83); M. Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii., Leipsic, 1878; B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 2 vols., Berlin, 1884-89; E. Renan, Histoire du peuple Israel, 5 vols., Paris, 1887-94, Eng. transl., London, 1888-91; R. Kittel, Geschichte der Hebräer, 2 vols., Gotha, 1888-92, Eng. transl., 2 vols., London, 1895-96; H. Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, 11 vols., Leipsic, 1888-1900, Eng. transl., 6 vols., London, 1891; G. Rawlinson, Kings of Israel and Judah, London, 1889; Smith, OTJC; idem, Prophets; H. Winckler, Geschichte Israels, 2 vols., Leipsic, 1895-1900; C. F. Kent, History of the Hebrew People, 2 vols., New York, 1896-97; idem, Students’ Old Testament, ii., ib. 1904; J. Wellhausen, Israelitische und judische Geschichte, Berlin, 1897; idem, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, Berlin, 1899 (in Eng., Prolegomena to the History of Israel, with a reprint of the articleIsraelfrom theEncyclopædia Britannica,” Edinburgh, 1885); C. H. Cornill, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Leipsic, 1898, Eng. transl., Chicago, 1898; DB, ii. 506-518; EB, ii. 2217-89; H. P. Smith, Old Testament History, New York, 1903. Further material is to be found in the commentaries on the Books of Kings and Chronicles. On indications from the monuments: Schrader, KB, 6 vols., Berlin, 1889-1901; idem, KAT, 3d ed., by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler, 2 vols., Berlin, 1903, Eng. transl. of 1st ed., London, 1885-88; H. Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen, i.-vi., Leipsic, 1893-97 (new series, 3 vols., 1898-1901; 3d series, 2 vols., 1901-05); A. H. Sayce, ‘Higher Criticismand the Monuments, London, 1894; J. F. McCurdy, History, Prophecy and the Monuments, 2 vols., New York, 1894-1901; W. St. C. Boscawen, The Bible and the Monuments, London, 1895; S. R. Driver, in D. G. Hogarth, Authority and Archaeology, London, 1899.

« Agur Ahab Ahasuerus »
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