Sunday, May 22, 2011

1 Kings 20, 21, 22 Ahab and God's Judgment

Version of the Omride genealogy using the Sept...Image via Wikipedia
Of all Biblical couples,  Ahab and his wife Jezebel share a legendary notoriety.  Ahab, the King of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, reigned while the prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, proclaimed God's Word to a nation that rejected God.  King Ahab embraced Baal worship, encouraged all forms of pagan idolatry, but actively persecuted the prophets of the Lord, the God of Israel.  Yet, throughout his reign, God spoke to Ahab at critical points of his reign in an attempt to encourage Ahab to recognize that the Lord, alone, is God.  If Ahab accepted the God of Israel as Sovereign God, then the rest of the nation would follow suite.

It's a great mystery, that though God knows the future and how everything will play out, He still gives man the freedom of choice.  In fact, God mandates that man must make his own choices; that He will not coerce anyone into a relationship with Him.  So, before the events in these final chapters of 1 Kings took place, God already told Elijah the Tishbite that he had to complete three tasks before retiring: anoint a new king over Aram;  anoint a new line of kings over Israel;  anoint a new prophet to Israel.   In other words, God prophesied that Ben Hadad, the King of Aram, who was a powerful force with extensive alliances, would be defeated and deposed during Elijah's lifetime; God prophesied that the greatly feared tyrant Ahab and his line, would be eradicated from Israel's political arena. 

 Another facet of God's mercy is that before He brought charges against Ahab, God informed him of His plans.  In Hebrew, to bring against,  בּוֹא (bow'), carries the implication of effecting an attack against an enemy or of bringing an adversary before a tribunal, where judgement is meted out.   God does judge but He always makes His plans known to man beforehand. (see Noah)  When one knows the judgment and why it is given, it is still possible to repent and to align oneself with God.

Though Ahab was a merciless, ruthless, tyrannical leader who led his people away from worshipping the God of Israel, God  continued to  reach out to him.  When Ben Hadad's formidable forces which greatly outnumbered Israel's army,  attacked Israel, God spoke with  Ahab, through a prophet, three times on three separate occasions  to tell him that He would supernaturally defeat the armies of Ben Hadad, so that Ahab would know that the Lord is God.  (1 Kings 20: 14, 22, 28)

Before the Aramean attack, Ahab already witnessed the contest on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of God.  Elijah called down God's fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice while the prophets of Baal were unable to do anything.  Also, the severe drought that afflicted Israel for some years immediately before this contest, was both brought on and ended through the prayers of Elijah, not the prophets of Baal.  Ahab had ample opportunity to accept that "I AM is the Lord" (1 Kings 20:28).

However, though Ahab appreciated the military victory God afforded him, he failed to  acknowledge God's hand in defeating the Arameans and he didn't repent of his rejection of the God of Israel.  Yet, God still didn't give up on him.  By taking possession of Naboth's vineyard, Ahab violated God's Law and God's provision for the allotment of land by clan in Israel.  Because he completely dismissed God's Law in the sight of all Israel,  God proclaimed  a hefty judgment against Ahab, his descendants, and all of the males in his household.  In 1 Kings 21: 17- 24,  God said that dogs would lick up his blood where the blood of Naboth was shed; that dogs would devour his wife Jezebel - effectively, she wouldn't have a burial; that no male descendants of his would survive past his dynasty.

Where all of God's mercy and blessing failed before, this judgment grabbed Ahab's attention.  After all, every king wants his line to continue and every king wants a burial with honor.  This time Ahab repented so God softened the judgment so that it would take effect during his son's reign.  Since the substance of the judgment was not changed,  it may be that that Ahab did not fully repent.

Three years later, Ahab entered into a battle, ostensibly doing God's will.  He wanted to reclaim Ramoth Gilead from the Arameans.  However, before the battle,  a prophet of God told Ahab that the battle would be lost and that he would be killed.  If Ahab had truly given himself over to God when he repented earlier, he might have been able to discern in his spirit that a lying spirit predicted victory and that the prophet of God spoke the truth.  To hedge his bets, just in case God's word was true, Ahab disguised himself so that  the Arameans would think him to be an ordinary soldier.  Ahab believed that he could fool God.  In this instance, after God had revealed Himself so mightily in his life, Ahab still thought that he was more clever than God and that he could deceive Him.

As it turned out, a stray arrow hit Ahab between the sections of his armor. He bled profusely in his chariot, then died.  Later, the blood in the chariot was washed out in a pool in Samaria where dogs did indeed lick his blood where Naboth was stoned.  Ahab was given the honor of a burial and his son Ahaziah succeeded him.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for bow' (Strong's 935)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 22 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H935&t=KJV >

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