September 5, 2014

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Old Testament: Elijah vs. Ahab and Jezebel

John F. Fink(Thirty-fifth in a series of columns)

When we left the prophet Elijah last week, in Chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings, he was outside a cave on Mount Horeb, where God talked to him as he had done to Moses. He sent him back to Israel, thus indicating that he had not abandoned the people.

Upon his return, Elijah threw his cloak over Elisha, indicating that he would be his successor. Elisha immediately followed Elijah as his attendant, but we don’t hear about him again until the Second Book of Kings.

Instead, in Chapter 20, the action switches to battles between King Ahab of Israel and King Ben-hadad of Aram (modern Syria). There are many elements of holy war in this lengthy chapter, with God promising victory not only in the mountains but also in the plain; in other words, throughout the world.

As part of a holy war, the defeated king is expected to be put to death. When Ahab failed to do so and released Ben-hadad, an unnamed prophet (not Elijah) told Ahab that he would pay with his own life.

Chapter 21 gives us the story of Ahab and Naboth. When Ahab wanted to buy a vineyard that Naboth owned next to the palace, and Naboth refused, Ahab’s wife Jezebel took matters into her hands. She arranged for scoundrels to accuse Naboth of cursing God and king, and Naboth was stoned to death. Then Ahab went to take possession of the vineyard.

However, he was met by Elijah, who told him that God condemned him, not only for what he and Jezebel did to Naboth, but for all the other evil they had done. Elijah told Ahab that dogs would lick his blood where they had licked up Naboth’s, and dogs would devour Jezebel.

Ahab repented by putting on sackcloth, so the Lord told Elijah that he would bring evil upon Ahab’s house, not while Ahab lived, but during the reign of his son. Nevertheless, the predictions would remain.

Then King Jehoshaphat of Judah made a pact with King Ahab of Israel to fight against Aram. Before going into battle, they called upon their prophets to see if they would be successful. The prophets told them what they wanted to hear: They would be victorious.

So they called upon one more prophet, Micaiah, who said that the vision he saw was of the Lord wanting to deceive Ahab so he would go into battle and fall. For this prophecy, Micaiah was put into prison.

So Jehoshaphat and Ahab went into battle, Ahab disguising himself so the enemy wouldn’t know that he was the king of Israel. Nevertheless, a lucky archer hit Ahab with an arrow between the joints of his breastplate. He died and his blood flowed to the bottom of his chariot, where it was licked up by dogs when it was washed.

Jezebel’s death didn’t occur until Chapter 9 of the Second Book of Kings. Eunuchs threw her from a second floor, and her body was left for dogs to devour. †

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