A'hab (Hebrew Achab', אחאָב, father's brother; Sept. Α᾿χαάβ, Josephus ῎Αχαβος), the name of two men.
1. The son of Omri, and the eighth king of Israel, who reigned twenty-one years (current, B.C. 915-895, the preceding year apparently as viceroy in his father's old capital Tirzah), the weakest of all the Israelitish monarchs, although not without occasional good feelings and dispositions (Kitto's Daily Bible Illustr. in loc.). Many of the evils of his reign may be ascribed to the close connection which he formed with the Phoenicians (Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 3, 169 sq.). There had long been a beneficial commercial intercourse between that people and the Jews, and the relations arising thence were very close in the times of David and Solomon. This connection appears to have been continued by the nearer kingdom of Israel, but to have been nearly, if not quite, abandoned by that of Judah. The wife of Ahab was Jezebel (q.v.), the daughter of Ethbaal or Ithobaal, king of Tyre, who had been priest of Astarte, but had usurped the throne of his brother Phalles (compare Josephus, Ant. 8, 13, 2, with Apion. 1, 18). She was a woman of a decided and energetic character, and soon acquired such influence over her husband that he sanctioned the introduction, and eventually established the worship of the Phoenician idols, and especially of the sun-god Baal. Hitherto the golden calves in Dan and Bethel had been the only objects of idolatrous worship in Israel, and they were intended as symbols of Jehovah. But now the king built a temple at Samaria, and erected an image and consecrated a grove to Baal. A multitude of the priests and prophets of Baal were maintained. Idolatry became the predominant religion; and Jehovah, with the golden calves as symbolical representations of him, were viewed with no more reverence than Baal and his image. But a man suited to this emergency was raised up in the person of Elijah, who boldly opposed the regal authority, and succeeded in retaining many of his countrymen in the worship of the true God. SEE ELIJAH.
The history of King Ahab is given in detail in the sacred narrative, 1Ki 16:22 (see Obbarius, Gesch. d. Hauses Ahab, Nordh. 1754). One of his chief tastes was for splendid architecture, which he showed by building an ivory house and several cities, and also by ordering the restoration and fortification of Jericho, which seems to have belonged to Israel, and not to Judah, as it is said to have been rebuilt in the days of Ahab rather than in those of the con. temporary king of Judah, Jehoshaphat (1Ki 16:34). But the place in which he chiefly indulged this passion was the beautiful city of Jezreel (now Zerin), in the plain of Esdraelon, which he adorned with a palace and park for his own residence, though Samaria remained the capital of his kingdom. Desiring to add to his pleasure- grounds there the vineyard of his neighbor Naboth, he proposed to buy it or give land in exchange for it; and when this was refused by Naboth, in accordance with the Mosaic law, on the ground that the vineyard was "the inheritance of his fathers" (Le 25:23),. a false accusation of blasphemy was brought against him, and not only was he himself stoned to death, but his sons also, as we learn from 2Ki 9:26. Elijah, already the great vindicator of religion, now appeared as the asserter of morality, and declared that the entire extirpation of Ahab's house was the penalty appointed for his long course of wickedness, now crowned by this atrocious crime. The execution, however, of this sentence was delayed in consequence of Ahab's deep repentance. (See Niemeyer, Charakt. v. 101). SEE NABOTH.
We read of three campaigns which Ahab undertook against Benhadad II, king of Damascus, two defensive and one offensive. SEE BENHADAD. In the first, Benhadad laid siege to Samaria, and Ahab, encouraged by the patriotic counsels of God's prophets, who, next to the true religion, valued most deeply the independence of his chosen people, made a sudden attack on him while, in the plenitude of arrogant confidence, he was banqueting in his tent with his 32 vassal kings. The Syrians were totally routed, and fled to Damascus. Next year Benhadad, believing that his failure was owing to some peculiar power which the God of Israel exercised over the hills, invaded Israel by way of Aphek, on the east of Jordan. Yet Ahab's victory was so complete that Benhadad himself fell into his hands, but was released (contrary to the will of God as announced by a prophet) on condition of restoring all the cities of Israel which he held, and making "streets" for Ahab in Damascus; that is, admitting into his capital permanent Hebrew commissioners, in an independent position, with special dwellings for themselves and their retinues, to watch over the commercial and political interests of Ahab and his subjects. This was apparently in retaliation for a similar privilege exacted by Benhadad's predecessor from Omri in respect to Samaria. After this great success Ahab enjoyed peace for three years, and it is difficult to account exactly for the third outbreak of hostilities, which in Kings is briefly attributed to an attack made by Ahab on Ramoth in Gilead on the east of Jordan, in conjunction with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, which town he claimed as belonging to Israel. But if Ramoth was one of the cities which Benhadad agreed to restore, why did Ahab wait for three years to enforce the fulfillment of the treaty? From this difficulty and the extreme bitterness shown by Benhadad against Ahab personally (1Ki 22:31), it seems probable that this was not the case (or at all events that the Syrians did not so understand the treaty), but that Ahab, now strengthened by Jehoshaphat, who must have felt keenly the paramount importance of crippling the power of Syria, originated the war by assaulting Ramoth without any immediate provocation. In any case, God's blessing did not rest on the expedition, and Ahab was told by the prophet Micaiah that it would fail, and that the prophets who advised it were hurrying him to his ruin. For giving this warning Micaiah was imprisoned; but Ahab was so far roused by it as to take the precaution of disguising himself, so as not to offer a conspicuous mark to the archers of Benhadad. But he was slain by a "certain man who drew a bow at a venture;" and, though stayed up in his chariot for a time, yet he died toward evening, and his army dispersed. When he was brought to be buried in Samaria, the dogs licked up his blood as a servant was washing his chariot; a partial fulfillment of Elijah's prediction (1Ki 21:19), which was more literally accomplished in the case of his son (2Ki 9:26). Josephus, however, substitutes Jezreel for Samaria in the former passage (Ant. 8, 15, 6). SEE ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF.
2. A false prophet who deceived the Israelites at Babylon, and was threatened by Jeremiah, who foretold that he should be put to death by the king of Babylon in the presence of those whom he had beguiled; and that in following times it should become a common malediction to say, "The Lord make thee like Ahab and Zedekiah, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire" (Jer 29:21-22), B.C. 594. The rabbins, followed by several expositors, believe that this Ahab and his associate Zedekiah were the two elders that conspired against the chastity and life of Susanna, as related in the Apocrypha; but their punishment appears to have been by stoning (Penz, De supplicio Achabi, etc. Lpz. 1736). SEE SUSANNA.