Lesson 7: Ahab’s Legacy

“He did 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 caused Israel to sin.” 

(1 Kings 22:52, NASB95)

“He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab did (for Ahab’s daughter was his wife), and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.” 

(2 Chronicles 21:6, NASB95)

One might assume that both of the preceding verses were written to describe kings of Israel, a kingdom whose rulers never followed in the ways of the Lord. While the first passage describes the character of Ahab’s son Ahaziah, the second refers to Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, who ruled over Judah. As we noted in our last lesson, godly Jehoshaphat had an affinity for Ahab’s family, and allied the two kingdoms through marriage (2Chron. 18.1). Thus Ahab’s evil influence would be felt in both Israel and Judah. In this lesson we will cover a period of approximately 20 years, dark years when Ahab’s descendants ruled in the two kingdoms. 

Ahab’s Legacy in Israel

Ahaziah was the first son of Ahab to reign over Israel (1Kings 22.51-53; 2Kings 1). He continued in the evil ways of his parents and of Jeroboam. Thus, the text says that he “provoked the Lord to anger”, resulting in a reign that lasted only 2 years. As you read 2Kings 1 note the following:

  • Moab rebelled (vs. 1): geopolitics continued to influence the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Assyria’s expansion took a brief pause following the stalemate between the forces of Shalmaneser and the combined forces of Aram, Israel and others in the days of Ahab. With Assyria no longer threatening, the uneasy coalition between Aram and Israel crumbled and warfare resumed. Ahab perished in a battle for Ramoth-gilead (1Kings 22). With his demise, Moab took opportunity to rebel. This rebellion is preserved in the Moabite Stone: “I am Mesha, son of Kemosh[yatti], the king of Moab, the Daybonite. My father ruled over Moab 30 years, and I ruled after my father. And I made this high place for Kemosh in Qarho, a high place of salvation, because he has saved me from all the kings and because he caused me to prevail over all my enemies. Now Omri, king of Israel oppressed Moab many days, for Kemosh was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him, and he also said, “I will oppress Moab.” In my days he spoke this, but I prevailed over him and over his house. Now Israel utterly perished forever. Now Omri had taken possession of the land of Madaba. And he dwelt in it his days and half the days of his son, 40 years, but Kemosh restored it in my days.” 
  • “inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron” (vs. 2): to “inquire” would involve divination and other practices forbidden by God (Lev. 19.31). “The god mentioned here in connection with that city is the Canaanite storm and fertility deity Baal-Hadad, in one of his many localized manifestations. Here he is Baal-Zebub, which would most naturally be taken to mean “Baal/lord of the flies.” If this is correct, it is in all likelihood a deliberate Israelite corruption of “Baal-Zebul” (“Baal the prince”), intended to express the biblical authors’ scorn of or hostility toward this “deity.” (ZIBBC)
  • “let fire come down from heaven” (vs. 10): Baal, as god of the storm, was believed to have fire at his disposal. Thus, Elijah’s calling down fire from heaven was intended to show the superiority of Jehovah.

Ahaziah’s brief reign and quick death meant that he had no heir, thus the throne passed to his brother, Jehoram (2Kings 1.17-18; 2Kings 3-8). Jehoram’s 12 year reign (3.1) included many of the events in Elisha’s ministry. Time and space will not allow us to consider all of those in this lesson, but we will draw some important principles from them at the conclusion. For a more detailed study, visit https://builtbyhim.com/category/days-of-elijah/

Significantly, the text says of Jehoram, “He did evil in the sight of the LORD, though not like his father and his mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin; he did not depart from them.” (2 Kings 3:2–3, NASB95) Following the wickedness of Ahab and Ahaziah, we might see this as progress, but not the Lord. He requires complete commitment to His ways, not partial reforms. Thus, the judgment that the Lord had decreed against Ahab following the murder of Naboth (1Kings 21.21-24) would occur in the days of Jehoram. We will consider this further in our next lesson as we focus on Jehu and his dynasty.

Ahab’s Legacy in Judah

Reading of the continued apostasy in the northern kingdom is tragic enough, but even more heartbreaking is the evil that spread in Judah following the reign of righteous Jehoshaphat. As we’ve noted before the kingdoms of Judah and Israel were allied in marriage as Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat) married Athaliah (daughter of Ahab and Jezebel). Jehoram’s wicked and bloody reign would last only 8 years (2Chronicles 21). Note the following as you read the text:

  • killed his brothers (vs. 4): fratricide was a fairly common practice in the ancient near east as the heir to the throne would eliminate any potential rivals. Jehoram was no better than the surrounding nations, he certainly did not act as the true heir of David and Jehoshaphat.
  • Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David (vs. 7): the Lord’s displeasure with Jehoram is evident from the following verses, but this verse serves as a reminder of the enduring faithfulness of the Lord. He would not fail to keep the promise which He made to David (see 2Samuel 7.12-13). 
  • Rebellion and invasion (vss. 8-10, 16-17): Jehoram’s rebellion against the Lord resulted in the rebellion of the subjugated nations. Libnah (vs. 10) was an important city near the Philistine border. As you can see from the map, Judah was surrounded by enemies. 
  • Jehoahaz (vs. 17): later known as Ahaziah (22.1). The line of David hung by a thread as only one male descendant remained!

Matters in Judah would only worsen! Ahaziah took the throne after his father’s painful death, but he reigned only 1 year (2Chronicles 22.1-9). His reign is summed up in vss. 3-4, “He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. He did evil in the sight of the LORD like the house of Ahab, for they were his counselors after the death of his father, to his destruction.” He would perish, along with his uncle who ruled in Israel, at the hand of Jehu.

Ahab’s legacy ended with Athaliah, his daughter, who seized the throne of Judah following the death of her son (2Chronicles 22.10-12). Her wickedness knew no bounds as she killed her own grandchildren to secure the throne! Yet God secured His promise as one descendant of David was hidden in the one place wicked queen Athaliah would never visit: the house of God!

But God Still Reigns!

As we’ve seen, Ahab’s evil influence had tragic consequences in both Israel and Judah, but the text also offers reassurance that the Lord remained enthroned on high! The narratives surrounding the work of Elisha, successor to Elijah, are instrumental in demonstrating Jehovah’s continuing sovereignty over the nations. In 2Kings 3 we read how Moab rebelled against Israel. Jehoram allied with Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom, but as they marched to war they became concerned with the lack of water. However, the Lord promised through Elisha that, “You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts. ‘This is but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD; He will also give the Moabites into your hand.” (2Kings 3.17-18). 

Much more attention is paid to Israel’s continuing conflict with Aram, but each encounter further illustrated the Lord’s sovereignty. Consider:

  • The Lord’s healing of Naaman (2Kings 5) not only demonstrated the Lord’s mercy to the nations, but showed Jehovah’s superiority to the gods of Syria.
  • The king of Aram sought to capture Elisha in 2Kings 6. Elisha’s servant was at the point of despair, but God’s superiority was made evident: “So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2Kings 6.16-17). 
  • Aram besieged Samaria, resulting in famine and cannibalism (2Kings 6.24-33). However, the next chapter relates how the Lord delivered the city and provided for the people.
  • Finally, the Lord had instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor, Jehu as king of Israel and Hazael as king of Aram (1Kings 19.15-17). Elisha would complete this mission, anointing Hazael in 2Kings 8.7-15. Hazael would inflict much destruction on Israel, but this was the Lord’s doing!

God’s continuing sovereignty was also evident in the prophecy of Obadiah. This prophecy contains God’s complaint against, and judgment of, Edom. While no chronological information is given, many conservative scholars date it to the time of Edom’s rebellion in the days of Jehoram (2Chronicles 21.8-10). Regardless of the date, the importance of the message is evident; Edom’s military successes against Judah did not mean that Jehovah had failed. Quite the opposite: Edom would be held accountable and punished (Obadiah 1-9). Edom’s judgement was assured because “the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations” (vs. 15). And what of God’s people?

Obadiah 17–21 (NASB95)

17 “But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape,

And it will be holy.

And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.

18 “Then the house of Jacob will be a fire

And the house of Joseph a flame;

But the house of Esau will be as stubble.

And they will set them on fire and consume them,

So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,”

For the Lord has spoken.

19 Then those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau,

And those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain;

Also, possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria,

And Benjamin will possess Gilead.

20 And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel,

Who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,

And the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad

Will possess the cities of the Negev.

21 The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion

To judge the mountain of Esau,

And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.  

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