Ahab and the battle of Qarqar (1 Kings 22)

Bilderesultat for battle of qarqar

Illustration: Qarqar seen from the east

Ahab, som of Omri, ruled the northern kingdom for 22 years, from approximately 874-853 B.C. – the fourth longest rule of the 20 kings of that nation. Four Old Testament chapters are devoted to his reign (1 Kings 18, 20-22), more than to any other king of the northern kingdom. Because Ahab promoted the worship of Baal and Asherah, he carries the ignominious distinction of having been Israel’s most wicked king (16:30-33). During the last four years of his reign Ahab was involved in a war with Aram to the north. In his first two encounters with the Arameans he was victorious, but in the third recorded battle, at Ramoth Gilead, Israel was badly defeated and Ahab mortally wounded (22:29-37). Although he died a violent death, Ahab at least avoided the fate of several other kings of the north, who were assassinated by rivals (see 21:20-29).

Ahab was known as an enthusiastic and skilled “builder” (meaning that he commissioned the construction of various buildings; 16:32, 22:39), and archaeological findings have borne this out. Remains of his palace have been unearthed at Samaria, where Ahab expanded the royal quarters built by his father. Inside the compound archaeologists have unearthed numerous fragments of carved ivory plaques from his palace (22:39). In the northwest corner of the citadel was a pool, quite possibly the one in which Ahab’s bloodied chariot was washed (22:38). Fortifications and elaborate construction at Megiddo, Hazor and Tel Dan have also been attributed to this king.

In 853 B.C., just prior to his engagement with the Arameans ar Ramoth Gilead, Ahab had participated in a coalition of 12 states that were opposed to ssyria’s westward expansion, an event not recroded in the Old Testament. The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III confronted the coalition at Qarqar, Syria, and defeated its combined forces. In the Assyrian record of the event, “Ahab the Israelite” is credited with having contributed one of the largest forces – 2,000 chariots and 10,000 infantry soldiers. The Assyrian record, as well as artifactual and architectural evidence excavated in Israel, fully substantiates the tone of the Biblical record concerning Ahab. He was a powerful and prosperous, albeit idolatrous, Biblical king.


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