Jul. 5. Ahab’s War; Treaty with Syria; Commits Murder

I Kin. 20:1-21:29

Israel and Syria were bitter enemies. Through an exchange of messages between Ahab and Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria, Ahab agreed to surrender to the Syrian king. However, Ben-Hadad raised the stakes and a prophet from God informed Ahab that God would deliver Syria into his “hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ahab’s army consisted of seven thousand, two hundred thirty-two men against the mighty army of Syria. With God’s help, they “killed the Syrians with a great slaughter.”

The next spring, Ben-Hadad again attacked Israel and suffered a great defeat losing one hundred thousand men in battle and another twenty-seven thousand when a wall fell on them. The Syrian king and his army fled in defeat. In an effort to save his own life, he offered to restore all the cities that his father had taken from Israel and to allow the Israelites to set up market places in Damascus, the Syrian capital. Ahab agreed to the treaty and there was peace between the two kingdoms.

God was displeased with Ahab for making a treaty with Ben-Hadad instead of destroying him. He sent a disguised prophet to the king to make His displeasure known. After revealing himself, the prophet spoke the Lord’s words, “Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.” Upon hearing the message from God, Ahab returned home sullen and displeased.

It seemed to be a simple and honorable request. Naboth’s vineyard was next to Ahab’s palace in Jezreel (probably a home away from home). He offered what seemed to be more that a fair trade for it. However, Naboth had inherited it and would not consider the trade. Because of his disappointment, Ahab’s wife, Jezebel devised a scheme to have Naboth falsely accused of blasphemy against God and the king. That crime was punishable by stoning.

Even though Ahab probably did not touch a stone, he was guilty by consent of the murder of an innocent man. The sin of covetousness led to the cruel crime against Naboth. Property of public criminals became the property of the king—a bitter victory for Ahab.

Again, the prophet, Elijah was the bearer of bad news to Ahab. The message from God was that the dogs would lick his blood and that his posterity would have no succession to the throne of Israel. Whoever died in the city would be eaten by dogs and the birds would eat those who died in the country.

Ahab and Jezebel were extremely wicked in following idols instead of following God. However, Ahab showed remorse and repentance at the words of Elijah and God postponed the calamity against his family until the reign of his son.