Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Prophet Condemns Ahab (1 Kings 20:35-43)

The following quote is taken from

"Killed by a Lion  - "Meanwhile, the LORD instructed one of the group of prophets to say to another man, "Strike me!"  But the man refused to strike the prophet.  Then the prophet told him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, a lion will kill you as soon as you leave me."  And sure enough, when he had gone, a lion attacked and killed him."  (1 Kings 20:35-36 NLT)
            To get a better sense of what is going on in this passage, it might help to read the entire chapter.  You can read it here:

            To summarize, this event took place not long after King Ahab of Israel (reigned circa 869-850 BCE) battled against King Ben-Hadad of Aram, and God enabled Ahab and his army to win the battle (1 Kings 20:1-34).  However, instead of following God's instructions and executing Ben-Hadad for his crimes and threat against Israel, Ahab let him live and made a treaty with him.
            In response, God sent another prophet to confront Ahab and give him God's message of condemnation.  This was a warning, intended to get Ahab to repent and turn back to God.  God gave Ahab several warnings by prophets at various times during his reign and several chances to repent, but Ahab rejected them (1 Kings 18, 20:35-43, 21-22).  As a result, he was eventually killed in battle (1 Kings 22:34-38).
            In this instance, an unnamed prophet of God was given instructions to have his companion strike him and wound him (verse 35).  Why would God command this?  In ancient times, physical conditions were often used by God to get the attention of someone he wished to communicate to.  God often used physical illustrations to fully explain his message to people (Jeremiah 27-28; Ezekiel 4-5; Hosea 1, 3).  God wanted the companion to wound the prophet because the prophet would then disguise himself as a wounded soldier and tell Ahab a story about slacking in his duty and letting a captive escape.  This would drive God's point home to Ahab of the seriousness of his sin in letting Ben-Hadad go free.
            This was an urgent command, because Ahab was coming and the prophet had to immediately deliver God's message.  A reason is not given as to why the companion refused to strike the prophet; it may have been out of compassion, but could easily have also been out of disbelief at the command.  The death of the companion was a warning to those who did not take God's commands seriously.