1 Kings 20-22

I don’t have a teaching on this, but I do have extensive notes on this chapter which could be converted into a teaching.

1 Kings 20-22 – King Ahab

I. Ahab’s Defense (20)

  • At the end of ch. 19 God says that Hazael will be king of Aram and will execute God’s judgment on Baal worshipers. Now in ch. 20 we read the story of the attacks of the current king of Aram, Ben-Hadad.
    • This was probably Ben-Hadad II, the son and successor to the previous king of the same name. (NBC)
  • Initially Ahab gives into Ben-Hadad’s demands – gold, silver, wives and his best children
    • Hadad gets greedy and keeps demanding more (also he was probably drunk – v. 12)
    • Hadad was allied with 32 kings (v. 1), many of whom seem to have been with him (v. 12)
  • God promises to deliver Ahab so he will know that He is the Lord.
    • At this point Ahab obeys Yahweh. But lest we think he has had a change of heart after Mt Carmel he quickly returns to his old ways by the end of the chapter.
  • After losing the first battle, Ben-Hadad’s officer’s said that they only lost because “the Israelite gods are gods of the hills” but Aram’s gods are gods of the plains. Yahweh defeats them a second time despite having a much smaller army just to show Himself (v. 28).
  • But Ahab lets the king live despite Yahweh’s orders to execute him.
    • Ben-Hadad’s forces were crushed so resoundingly that he surrendered and pleaded for merciful treatment at Ahab’s hands. After all, his father had once had an alliance with Baasha (before Asa of Judah persuaded him to break it; 15:19), and he had reached a trade agreement with Omri (20:34). In the language of international diplomacy, Ben-Hadad spoke of himself as Ahab’s vassal (servant), but Ahab immediately referred to Ben-Hadad as his brother (32), as though they were already allies rather than enemies. The readiness with which he agreed to an alliance (34) suggests that he regarded it as the best guarantee of Israel’s future security. For the second time, Ahab failed to acknowledge God as Israel’s protector. (NBC)
    • Three years later (853 b.c.) Ahab and Ben-Hadad faced their mutual foe, Assyria, led by mighty King Shalmaneser III (859-824 b.c.) and repelled him at Qarqar on the Orontes River in Aram. Ahab supplied 10,000 troops and 2,000 chariots for this coalition. This battle is not referred to in Scripture but a record of it written by Shalmaneser has survived. It is now in the British Museum. (See James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 278-9.) (BKC)
  • God sends a prophet to pronounce judgment on King Ahab.
    • The story about the prophet trying to get someone to hit him is weird.
      • The friend’s refusal, though understandable, was an act of disobedient rebellion against the Lord. It was for this reason and the importance of the man of God’s mission that the compassionate companion suffered death. Again the Lord used a lion to execute his will (cf. 13:24). (BKC)
    • The prophet uses a similar tactic that Nathan used on David

 

II. Ahab’s Deception (21)

  • Throws a tantrum when he can’t get Naboth’s vineyard
    • “sullen and vexed… lay down on his bed and turned his face away and ate no food”
    • e.g. modern day strip mall developers who can’t get the final guy to sell his land
    • This would have gone against God’s Law
      • Apart from the fact that a vineyard represented an enormous investment of time and effort, selling his land would have gone against the grain of OT law. In Israelite society a family and its inherited plot of land were meant to be inseparable (Lv. 25:25–28; Nu. 27:1–11; 36:7). This explains the strength of Naboth’s refusal in v 3. (NBC)
    • Jezebel’s plan
      • Even though Ahab accepted Naboth’s rejection, Jezebel would not
        • “Do you now reign over Israel?” – Reflects her backward view of power – the way of the Gentiles. In reality God reigns over Israel.
        • Here we see a head-on collision between two views of kingship. An Israelite king was bound by the law of Yahweh as much as any of his subjects (Dt. 17:18–20), but to Jezebel, the daughter of a Phoenician monarch, it was ridiculous that her husband’s wishes should be thwarted because one of his subjects chose to abide by an ancient institution. (NBC)
        • Note: God was way ahead of the curve on human rights. This was unheard of in ancient times.
        • So she plotted to get Naboth’s plot
      • Proclaim a fast (time of mourning?) and get two scoundrels to accuse Naboth (the Law called for at least two witnesses)
      • Note to self: Don’t mess with Jezebel
      • NLT translation is great: “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” (1 Ki 21:15)
        • So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard of Naboth to claim it. (1 Ki 21:16)
          • He “arose” (v. 15 and 16) – may have still been sulking in bed
          • Passive, doesn’t ask questions. He just wanted the vineyard and was willing to look the other way and plead ignorance.  But his sin of omission was just as bad (James 4:17) and he was judged for it
            • “What a coincidence!”
    • God sends Elijah to confront Ahab while he’s claiming the vineyard
      • Have you murdered him and robbed him too?
      • Ahab to Elijah: “So, my enemy, you have found me!”
        • Elijah: “you have sold yourself” – Ahab the ultimate sellout. He sold his soul to buy a vineyard.
        • This suggests that Ahab may have concluded that it would be only a matter of time till Elijah or some other man of God hunted him down. Elijah was not now the ”troubler of Israel“ (18:17), but the king’s ”enemy.“ Ahab had made himself the enemy of the Lord and His people by doing evil in the eyes of the Lord (cf. 21:25). When Elijah said the king had sold himself, he meant the king had sacrificed his principles to obtain what he wanted, which included a comparatively worthless vineyard. (BKC)
      • Elijah communicates God’s judgment on Ahab and his family.
        • He will wipe out Ahab’s family like Jereboam’s and Baasha’s families.
        • Dogs will lick his blood in the same place where they licked Naboth’s
          • Dogs licking up one’s blood was a disgraceful death, especially for a king whose body would normally be carefully guarded and buried with great respect. Elijah left no doubt in Ahab’s mind concerning whose blood he referred to: “yes, yours!” (BKC)
        • Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at Naboth’s old vineyard
          • Wild dogs lived off the garbage in cities such as Jezreel. (BKC)
        • According to 1 Kings 21:25-26, Ahab’s idol worship and yielding to Jezebel’s wicked influence was his greatest fault
          • I would expect God to at least mention his injustice and disobedience. But his idolatry was the root of his other problems.
          • But when he heard this message he repented. And the amazing thing here is that God relented:
            • 1Ki 21:29 – “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”
            • Surprisingly Ahab, the worst yet of Israel’s kings (16:30), showed the most contrition. (NBC)
          • This is a pretty incredible display of grace. It is so radical it seems unjust at first glance.
            • We may see Ahab in heaven.
          • Ahab was really just a weak man caught in between Jezebel/ Baal and Elijah/ Yahweh. He has outbursts and tantrums at various points but ultimately he has no convictions or backbone.
            • E.g. listening to Elijah at the end of ch. 18 but then Jezebel taking back over in 19:1
            • E.g. Faithful at the beginning of ch. 20 but unfaithful later in the chapter (taking the king of Aram in as his friend)
            • E.g. Unfaithful and passive with Naboth (ch. 21) and then repents at Yahweh’s judgment.

III. Ahab’s Defeat and Death (22)

  • Ahab has a weird view of God
    • Ahab knows he’s in the wrong: “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”
    • The messenger sent to fetch Micaiah tells him: “the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably”
    • Ahab rebukes Micaiah when he prophesies something good: “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
    • Ahab disobeys and goes into battle anyway, but tries to outsmart God by dressing up like a normal soldier while still having Jehoshaphat dress like a king
      • This is similar to Abijah disguising his wife and sending her to inquire about his dying son (1 Ki 14), or Saul dressing up to visit the medium in Endor and being busted out by God (1 Sam 28)
    • Application: We disobey God all the time and hope nothing bad will happen. We know we’re doing it and even rebuke people who say otherwise.  Sometimes it seems to work out for us but eventually his warnings will come to pass in our lives. (e.g. means of growth?)
  • In the end the prophecy about the dogs licking his blood by Naboth’s vineyard was fulfilled
  • More kings
    • 22:41-50 – Jehoshaphat – Judah – took office at age 35 – reigned 25 years – good
      • Followed God like Asa his father
    • 22:51-53 – Ahaziah – reigned 2 years – bad
      • Story of Ahaziah is woven through the Elisha narratives

 

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