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King Ahab and his story

The Most Wicked of all Israelís Kings


In light of the lessons so far we have been observing the leadership styles of the kings of Israel and Judah. The criteria for assessing the actions of each of the kings are based upon the book of Deut. Where God made it clear to Moses what type of king His people should follow. When the people asked Samuel for a king, it is significant that they asked for a king so that they could be like other nations and that the king fight their battles for them.

The effects of the peopleís choice of a king were to haunt them in a successive downward spiral of politics and apostasy as told in the book of Kings. It is most interesting to note that scholars believe that Jeremiah was the one that compiled the material for the book of Kings. Given his mission to call the people to real repentance before the Babylonians come and destroy Jerusalem and take the nation captive, it is intriguing that such a history would be written to expose the depths of the nationís rejection of Godís ways. The progressive nature of the rejection beginning with Solomon affords the reader the opportunity to see the real nature of how improper leadership can destroy a nation due to spiritual bankruptcy.

Personally, I am fascinated with the ways in which the kings are characterized in the book of Kings. The ways the kings are described as being wicked or righteous are exposed in more subtle manners than one might expect. Instead of portraying the moral character of each king in simple black and white terms, the reader is presented with events that reveal the underlying character weaknesses that led otherwise strong military leaders and seemingly competent political strategists, to destroy the effectiveness of Godís people as the spiritual salt of the earth.

Ahab: The Extreme Example of a Wicked King

The story of King Ahab has always been one that has been associated with wickedness and apostasy. With his marriage to Jezebel and his interaction with Elijah clearly he stands as a leader that exhibits traits that are opposed to Godís directives. Yet if the reader looks carefully at the Bibleís characterization of this king, he will find that Ahab is described as obeying the words of the prophet, of complying with Godís requests at times, much more than other kings before him who are considered less wicked than he. Why is this so?

History shows that Ahab was quite a military leader and politician. He strengthened positions in his kingdom and doubled urban centers. His attention to the army gave him distinction among his peers. But this is not what God wished Israel to be known for. Notice the way in which Ahabís weakness of character is exposed.

Ahabís Character Weakness

The "good"

  • Ahab was hostile to Elijahís words but obeyed them
  • Gathering together the people 1 Kings 18:19
  • Eating and drinking 1 Kings 18:41
  • Preparing his chariot 1 Kings 18:44
  • He complies with an unnamed prophet 1 Kings 20:13, 28
  • He rends his garment in a display of repentance. This is underscored by the Elijahís comments of Godís approval of Ahabís sincerity by stating a stay of execution till the next generation. 1 Kings 21:20-29

The "bad"

  • Ahab is submissive to God and prophet but he is also submission to whoever confronts him regardless of politics or moral standards.
  • Jezebelís persecution of Godís prophets; Ahab is silent 1 Kings 18:4
  • He fails to speak up at Jezebelís threat on Elijahís life 1 Kings 19:2
  • He accedes to an enemy for mercy against warning of a prophet. 1 Kings 20:35-43
  • The incident with Naboth is prime evidence of Ahabís inconsistency
  • Ahab wants Nabothís land which is the latterís inheritance
  • Sale of which is forbidden outside of the family

Ahab shows his usual submissiveness but begins to reveal more

  • He represents Nabothís rejection as a personal one and not based upon principle
  • He substitutes "vineyard" (mere property) for the inheritance
  • He replaces Nabothís "The Lord forbid it me" for "I will not give thee my vineyard" Thus Ahab conveys that he has been insulted. He portrays Naboth as saying, "Perhaps I would sell to someone else, but not to you."

  • Ahab is not concerned about how Jezebel will give him the vineyard.
  • He is not interested in how Naboth dies (Jezebel doesnít tell him Naboth was stoned)
  • His repentance does not rehabilitate him. 1 Kings 21:27

Ahabís Weakness and greatest sin

  • He is an opportunist who will follow whoever leads him, whether good or bad.
  • He finally is confronted with a clear decisive choice in the battle, to follow God or inclination. He chooses badly and dies for it.


The characterization of King Ahab reveals his lack of commitment to God and the truth given him. Too often we look at the actions of a person to determine a personís character. We tend to list the good and the bad in two columns and see which list is longer. But this manner of characterization in the Bible reveals a much deeper criteria. Just as God told Samuel when he was sent to anoint David to not look on the outward appearance only but also upon the heart, so we are to assess the character. What is so displeasing to God is not just sins as we describe them. David committed some horrific acts as king, still God was said he was a man after His Own heart. This was not just a cover up on Godís part. He could say that because David had allowed God to cleanse his life. (See Ps 119:9-) David believed in salvation from sin not in sin. Ahab was completely at the opposite end of the spectrum.


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