Old Testament

Where Did Ahab Die?

While in Israel, overlooking the Jezreel valley, our group talked about how Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard in an act of horrendous treachery. After that despicable act, God promised Ahab:

jezreel valley overlook where Ahab lived
Jezreel Valley Overlook

In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours (1 Kings 21:19).

In addition to the retribution promised to Ahab, God also promised that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs.

After three years (1 Kgs 22:1), Ahab (from Israel) and Jehoshaphat (from Judah) went together for war against Aram. Although Micaiah, a prophet of the Lord, told them they would face defeat and that Ahab would not come back in peace (1 Kgs 22:28), they persisted in going out to battle.

The armies of Israel and Judah did meet defeat, and 1 Kings 22:37-38 says,

So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the king in Samaria. They washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood (now the harlots bathed themselves there), according to the word of the Lord which He spoke.

Notice that 1 Kings 21:19 promises that the dogs will lick up Ahab’s blood where Naboth was (in the Jezreel valley). However, 1 Kings 22:38 notes that the king was brought back to Samaria. Samaria at this time was the name of the capitol city of Israel, which was located farther south than Jezreel. Is the Bible saying that God prophesied Ahab would have his blood licked up by the dogs in Jezreel, but instead he had his blood licked up far to the south in Samaria? In other words, is this a failed prophecy?

Probably not. Samaria can be a regional distinction as well as the name of a city (just like New York can be the name of a city, or of a state). Note the Lord’s previous instructions to Elijah.

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 down to take possession of it (1 Kings 21:18).

Here the Lord locates Ahab in the region of Samaria, but specifically in Jezreel. Thus, 1 Kings 22:38 speaks of Ahab being brought back to Samaria, but it utilizes the regional distinction as opposed to the land of Aram, where Ramoth-gilead lay. This makes most sense since there was a major highway with ease of travel from Ramoth-gilead to Jezreel. It would be far out of the way to return all the way to the city of Samaria.

Thus, in the end, Ahab died. And where Naboth was murdered, there the dogs licked up Ahab’s blood in poetic justice and complete fulfillment of God’s Word.

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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