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1 Kings 20-22, 2 Kings 1-2
Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, assembled a large allied army against the northern kingdom of Israel. They invaded the land and laid siege to the northern kingdom's capital city, Samaria. The invader's demands were "your silver and your gold are mine; your fairest wives and children also are mine." Ahab, at first, rather than rightly counter-attacking the invaders and annihilating them, agreed to surrender.
"Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his army together; thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots; and he went up and besieged Samaria, and fought against it. And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, and said to him, "Thus says Ben-hadad: 'Your silver and your gold are mine; your fairest wives and children also are mine.'"
The Syrian king then increased his demands, upon which Ahab refused.
"The messengers came again, and said, "Thus says Ben-hadad: 'I sent to you, saying, "Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children"; nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants, and lay hands on whatever pleases them, and take it away.'" (1 Kings 20:5-6 RSV)
When Ben-hadad made more threats, Ahab, who by that point had found his courage, told the Syrians, in effect, to bring it on.
"And the king of Israel answered, "Tell him, 'Let not him that girds on his armor boast himself as he that puts it off.'" (1 Kings 20:11 RSV)
The irony of what Ahab did was that The Lord wasn't helping him when he was acting like a coward, but when he did his duty and defended his kingdom, The Lord gave Israel a guaranteed victory against a much larger army.
"And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, "Thus says The Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day; and you shall know that I am The Lord." (1 Kings 20:13 RSV)
The Syrians tried it again, but again The Lord gave the victory to Israel.
"In the spring Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel." (1 Kings 20:26 RSV)
Ahab's fatal mistake however was refusing to do what The Lord commanded him to do with Ben-hadad. Ahab not only let him live, Ahab made a peace treaty with him - which would surely have not been honored by Ben-hadad as soon as he had rebuilt his army.
"And Ben-hadad said to him, "The cities which my father took from your father I will restore; and you may establish bazaars for yourself in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria." And Ahab said, "I will let you go on these terms." So he made a covenant with him and let him go." (1 Kings 20:34 RSV)
1 Kings Chapter 21
Naboth was the owner of a small family-heritage vineyard in Jezreel, apparently the only property that he owned, unlike King Ahab who was very wealthy and had much property. Nevertheless, Ahab coveted Naboth's land; he wanted to tear out Naboth's vineyard and plant a vegetable garden.
"Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money."
To his credit, King Ahab at least respected property rights and accepted Naboth's refusal to sell. Unfortunately for Naboth, Ahab's wife Jezebel was an evil person who had no respect for anything except her pagan religion, which apparently had no prohibitions against theft and murder. Jezebel arranged for Naboth to be falsely accused and executed.
"And the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who dwelt in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters which she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And the two base fellows came in and sat opposite him; and the base fellows brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city, and stoned him [see also Stoning] to death with stones." (1 Kings 21:11-13 RSV)
The murder of Naboth brought about a death sentence for those responsible (see The Fall of Ahab and Jezebel). The judgment was delivered by Elijah.
"Then the word of The Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. And you shall say to him, 'Thus says The Lord, "Have you killed, and also taken possession?"' And you shall say to him, 'Thus says The Lord: "In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood."' (1 Kings 21:17-19 RSV
1 Kings Chapter 22
Micaiah was a prophet at Samaria. King Ahab of Israel (see The Northern Kingdom and Kings of Israel and Judah) proposed to King Jehoshaphat of Judah (see The Southern Kingdom and Israelite Dynasties) to do battle again with Ben-hadad (who Ahab made the peace treaty with, despite The Lord telling him not to). The hundreds of prophets who advised Ahab said to do it, but Jehoshaphat asked Micaiah, who had been thrown in prison, apparently for the "crime" of disagreeing with the king about some matter earlier. Micaiah correctly prophesied that the expedition would result in a disaster because The Lord was going to punish Ahab for the evil that he and Jezebel had been doing. The Lord permitted an evil spirit to lead Ahab to his death.
"And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of The Lord: I saw The Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and The Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before The Lord, saying, 'I will entice him.'
Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat entered the battle with their troops. Jehoshaphat was wearing his royal robe, and was therefore a target for every enemy trooper to want to hit, while Ahab disguised himself, wearing only regular clothing. It didn't matter; Ahab was being sent to die in that battle. A "lucky shot" not only hit the disguised king, but hit him between the sections of his body armor. Ahab bled to death in his chariot while the battle raged on, "according to the word of The Lord."
"So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes." And the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.
Jehoshaphat was a relatively good king, "doing what was right in the sight of The Lord," although like nearly all of the rest, he compromised The Lord's Commandments.
"Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. He walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of The Lord; yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel." (1 Kings 22:41-44 RSV)
Like his parents Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah "did what was evil in the sight of The Lord" when he succeeded his father as king of Israel.
"Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel. He did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. He served Baal and worshiped him, and provoked The Lord, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done." (1 Kings 22:51-53 RSV)
2 Kings Chapter 1
When Ahaziah was injured in a fall, he sought the counsel of the demonic Baal-zebub (see Baal-zebub and Beelzebub). The Lord sent Elijah with a rebuke for the foolish king.
"Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, "Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness."
Like all "I'm right because of my might" despots, Ahaziah tried to strong-arm Elijah. The Lord responded, twice, with fire from heaven to defend His prophet. When a third military commander was sent to Elijah, he did so without the asking-to-get-fried arrogance of the previous two. Elijah went with them and delivered The Lord's message to Ahaziah that he would die for his unfaithfulness. Ahaziah was succeeded by "Jehoram, his brother ... because Ahaziah had no son."
"Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and entreated him, "O man of God, I pray you, let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Lo, fire came down from heaven, and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight."
2 Kings Chapter 2
It was a time of readiness; Elijah was ready to retire (see the Fact Finder question below) and Elisha was ready to replace him.
"Now when The Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, "Tarry here, I pray you; for The Lord has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As The Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today The Lord will take away your master from over you?" And he said, "Yes, I know it; hold your peace." (2 Kings 2:1-3 RSV)
Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven" for a journey to a peaceful place (again, see the Fact Finder question below).
"And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces.
Elisha's deadly encounter with a gang of youths has caused some to ask Did Elisha Go Too Far? (which he didn't). Also, their use of the term "baldhead" may have been more than just making fun of Elisha's natural baldness, if Elisha was bald at all. The term "baldhead" was also sometimes used as a general insult, regardless of whether the person was actually bald or not - it referred to someone who was suffering from leprosy or some other serious illness from which hair loss occurred, even if the person being "insulted" was perfectly healthy, as Elisha obviously was (he was a strong farmer when Elijah called him). The insult was particularly despicable because it mocked suffering people.
"He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!"
Fact Finder: (a) What happens to all people when they die? (b) Centuries after Elijah departed into "heaven," did Jesus Christ say "No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man"? (c) Where did Elijah go when he departed on that "chariot of fire"?