The Blood Of Ahab: Reevaluating Ahab’s Death And Elijah’s Prophecy -- By: Benjamin Foreman

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 58:2 (Jun 2015)
Article: The Blood Of Ahab: Reevaluating Ahab’s Death And Elijah’s Prophecy
Author: Benjamin Foreman

The Blood Of Ahab: Reevaluating
Ahab’s Death And Elijah’s Prophecy

Benjamin Foreman*

* Benjamin Foreman is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at The Masters College, 21726 Placenta Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91321.

Though evangelicals rightly deny that the prophets erred in their predictions concerning the future, this does not mean that it is always easy to understand how their prophecies relate to the actual historical events of which they spoke. Elijah’s prophecy concerning Ahab’s death is a case in point. In 1 Kgs 21:19 Elijah foretold, “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your [Ahab’s] blood.”1 Since most scholars assume that Naboth was stoned in the city of Jezreel, it is surprising to read in 1 Kgs 22:38 that “they washed the chariot [of Ahab] by the pool of Samaria; the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the Lord that he had spoken” (italics mine). If Ahab’s blood was licked up by the dogs in Samaria and Naboth was stoned in Jezreel, then how was Elijah’s prophecy “fulfilled”?

This question is not new. As we shall see, even the translator of the Septuagint struggled to understand how the licking up of Ahab’s blood in Samaria (1 Kgs 22:38) fulfilled Elijah’s prophecy concerning Ahab’s death (1 Kgs 21:19). And recent interpreters have been puzzled as well. Some argue that we simply have misunderstood the Hebrew of Elijah’s prediction (references will be given throughout the article below). Others assert that Elijah was not necessarily referring to a specific location but to a particular situation (i.e. simply that dogs would lick up Ahab’s blood just as they licked up Naboth’s). Still others contend that Elijah’s prognostication was modified after Ahab repented (1 Kgs 21:27–29). Other suggestions have also been advanced.

Given the lack of consensus concerning how this prophecy relates to its fulfillment, it is surprising that there has not, until now, been a study which examines the strengths and weaknesses of each of these explanations. In this paper I will show how six proposals that relate the account of Ahab’s death to Elijah’s prophecy all fall short in one way or another. In the end I will propose a new solution that resolves the apparent discrepancy.2

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