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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Ahab and the contest on Mount Carmel

The story of the contest between God and Baal, on Mount Carmel, is one of the most interesting in the Old Testament. It is found in 1 Kings 18. That story makes up part of the oratio, Elijah, by Felix Mendelssohn. (For a video of one part of the oratorio, see here.)

The usual summary of the story tells how hundreds of priests of Baal tried to get their god to set fire to wood on an altar, and failed, but the God of Elijah did respond. It's a good summary. But there's another character that doesn't usually get mentioned, and that is Ahab. The Bible says, in 1 Kings 16:30-33 and 21:25 that he was the worst king of the Northern kingdom, at least up to his time.

But, in spite of his evil ways, he wasn't completely evil, or, perhaps, God mitigated the evil in Ahab's heart. Why do I say that?

1 Kings 18 indicates that, when Elijah proposed a contest between the god of Ahab's wife, Jezebel, and Elijah's God, it was Ahab who summoned the people to Mount Carmel (18:20). (Ahab seems to have followed Jezebel in worshiping Baal.) Chapter 18 also indicates that Ahab was present for this contest. There is no indication that Ahab tried to stop Elijah and the Israelites who were present from killing the false prophets.

1 Kings 20 tells about Ahab's wars with Syria. Ahab at least listened to prophets of God, on two different occasions during that chapter. (He also displeased God at one point.)

I Kings 21 tells the terrible story of the murder of Naboth, engineered by Jezebel, Ahab's wife, so that Ahab could claim Naboth's property. But that story indicates that Ahab repented, sincerely enough that God lessened the punishment. (verses 27-29)

And, lastly, there is 1 Kings 22, which tells another story of a battle against the Syrians. When Micaiah the prophet deliberately gave false information, Ahab reproved him, and told him that he should only speak what God told him to. (verse 16)

Ahab was not a good man himself, and Jezebel apparently led him to do even worse things than he would have done on his own, but there was even some good in Ahab, it appears.

Thanks for reading.


Teresa said...

This post has compelled me to read these passages again...very insightful on who our company is...some draw evil out; and others draw the goodness out. Ahab must have heard the stories of this Awesome God and it moved him enough to think twice of doing evil...I'm glad I stopped by...I actually found you as you left a comment on the blog of 'for his children'...I'm glad I stopped by.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Teresa. I'm glad you stopped, too.

That's a good thought, and a correct one, about who our company is.

atlibertytosay said...

You know, interestingly, Ahab and Jezebel are rather prominent characters in the original Ray Harryheusen version of Jason & The Argonauts.

Ahab is corrupt but Jezebel is even moreso - she's also a traitor and adulterer in the film.

Good company indeed.

Very astute analysis.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay. I didn't see, or don't recall, that film.

Jezebel seems to have been the worst of the two. Their daughter Athaliah seems to have been even worse than Jezebel.