EXCERPT In previous issues of Bible and Spade, we had discussed five Assyrian kings named in the Bible. Now we wish to examine the other side of that coin—the kings of Israel named in the Assyrian records. All told, there are nine kings of Israel and Judah mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions. References to five of these kings (Menaham, Pekah, Hosea, Ahaz and Hezekiah) are paralleled by biblical passages. The remaining four have to do with events not mentioned in the Bible, and thereby add to our knowledge of these particular Israelite kings.
Ahab the Israelite
Ahab is one of the best known of the rulers of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Some seven chapters of the Old Testament are devoted to his activities (1 Kgs 16:29–22:40 and 2 Chr 18). Ahab was the son of Omri and seventh king of Israel after the monarchy split. He ruled for 22 years, ca 874–853 BC, and married the infamous Phoenician princess Jezebel who introduced the worship of the heathen gods Melkart, Baal and Ashtoreth into Israelite religious life. Ahab did not try to stop this alien cult and, in fact, seems to have condoned it:
He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah (1 Kgs 16:32– 33, RSV).
Because of his association with these pagan deities, Ahab is castigated in the biblical record as one who had done “more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kgs 16:33). Elijah condemned Ahab as one who had troubled Israel, having forsaken the commandments of the Lord to follow Baal (1 Kgs 18:18). It was during Ahab’s reign that the famous confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal took place on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18:19–40)….
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