Omri ('Omriyya), King of Israel (885/76-874/69BCE)
Ahab BEN OMRI King of Israel (874/869-853/850BC)
(-Abt 850 B.C.)


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Princess Jezebel (Izével) of Phoenician Tyre

Ahab BEN OMRI King of Israel (874/869-853/850BC)

  • Died: Abt 850 B.C.

   General Notes:

He married Jezebel, the daughter of king Ithobaal I of Tyre, and the alliance was doubtless the means of procuring him great riches, which brought pomp and luxury in their train. We read of his building an ivory palace (1 Kings 22:39; Amos 3:15), and founding new cities, the effect perhaps of a share in the flourishing commerce of Phoenicia, which supplied the ivory for his palace.

The material prosperity of his reign, which is comparable with that of Solomon a century before, was overshadowed by the religious changes which his marriage introduced. Although he worshipped YHWH, as the names of his children prove (1 Kings 22:5ff), his wife was firmly attached to the worship of the Melkart (the Tyrian Ba'al), and led by her he gave a great impulse to this cult by building a temple in honour of Baal in Samaria. This roused the indignation of the Jewish prophets and Priests whose aim it was to purify the worship of God. (See Elijah)

During Ahab's reign Moab, which had been conquered by his father, remained tributary; Judah, with whose king, Jehoshaphat, he was allied by marriage, was probably his vassal; only with Damascus is he said to have had strained relations.

The one event mentioned by external sources is the Battle of Qarqar (perhaps at Apamea), where Shalmaneser III of Assyria fought a great confederation of princes from Cilicia, Northern Syria, Israel, Ammon and the tribes of the Syrian desert (853 BC). Here Ahab (A-ha-ab-bu matSir-'i-la-a-a or "Ahab the Israelite") joined Baasha, son of Ruhub (Rehob) of Ammon and nine others in alliance with Hadadezer (Bir-'idri), Ahab's contribution being reckoned at 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men. The numbers are comparatively large and possibly include forces from Tyre, Judah, Edom and Moab. The Assyrian king claimed a victory, but his immediate return and subsequent expeditions in 849 BC and 846 BC against a similar but unspecified coalition seem to show that he met with no lasting success. According to the Old Testament, however, Ahab with 7,000 troops had previously overthrown Ben-hadad and his thirty-two kings, who had come to lay siege to Samaria, and in the following year obtained a remarkable victory over him at Aphek, probably in the plain of Sharon (1 Kings 20). A treaty was made whereby Ben-hadad restored the cities which his father had taken from Ahab's father (that is, Omri, but see 15:20, 2 Kings 13:25), and trading facilities between Damascus and Samaria were granted.

A late popular story (20:35-42, akin in tone to 12:33-13:34) condemned Ahab for his leniency and foretold the destruction of the king and his land. Three years later, war broke out on the east of the Jordan River, and Ahab with Jehoshaphat of Judah went to recover Ramoth-Gilead and was mortally wounded (ch. 22). He was succeeded by his sons (Ahaziah and Jehoram).

It is very difficult to obtain any clear idea of the order of these events (the Septuagint places 1 Kings 21 immediately after 19). How the hostile kings of Israel and Syria came to fight a common enemy, and how to correlate the Assyrian and Biblical records, are questions which have perplexed all recent writers. The reality of the difficulties will be apparent from the fact that it has been suggested that the Assyrian scribe wrote "Ahab" for his son "Jehoram", and that the very identification of the name with Ahab of Israel has been questioned.

Whilst the above passages from 1 Kings view Ahab not unfavourably, there are others which are less friendly. The murder of Naboth (see Jezebel), an act of royal encroachment, stirred up popular resentment just as the new cult aroused the opposition of certain of the prophets. Indeed, he is referred to, for this and other things as being "more evil than all the kings before him".The latter found their champion in Elijah, whose history reflects the prophetic teaching of more than one age. His denunciation of the royal dynasty, and his emphatic insistence on the worship of Yahweh and Him alone, form the keynote to a period which culminated in the accession of Jehu, an event in which Elijah's chosen disciple Elisha was the leading figure.

   Marriage Information:

Ahab married Princess Jezebel (Izével) of Phoenician Tyre, daughter of Ithoba'al (Ethba'al) I, King of Phoenician Tyre (887-856BCE) and Unknown.

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