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I have been trying to understand better the religious attitude of King Ahab. He was famously denounced by the usurper King Jehu, who, in the generation after Ahab, massacred his 60 sons along with his queen (Jezebel). In 2 Kings 10:18, Jehu facetiously declared "Ahab served Ba′al a little; but Jehu will serve him much" just prior to putting hundreds of Ba'al worshipers (or "servants") to death when he destroyed the Temple of Ba'al in Samaria.

Other examples of Ahab's association with Ba'al include the prophet Elijah saying, when Ahab called him a "troubler of Israel":

“I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Ba′als. (1 Kings 18:18)

In addition the narrator of the Books of Kings says:

Manas′seh... rebuilt the high places which Hezeki′ah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Ba′al, and made an Ashe′rah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them. (2 Kings 21:3)

My problem is that I cannot find definite examples of Ahab actually worshiping Ba'al. His wife Jezebel clearly did so. But Ahab is shown elsewhere to be a believer in the Lord, who sometimes supported him as King of Israel. In 1 Kings 20 when Ahab faced war against Ben-Hadad of Syria:

A prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, "Thus says the Lord, 'Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day; and you shall know that I am the Lord.'" (20:28)

Prophets of God continued to support Ahab in this campaign until Ben-Hadad was defeated, but others soon opposed him. Then in 1 Kings 22, we read:

Then the king of Israel (Ahab) gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I forbear?” And they said, “Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But Jehosh′aphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?” (6-7)

Here it seems that Ahab seeks advice from 400 prophets of the Lord, not Ba'al, and that Jehoshaphat too considers them to be prophets of the Lord, although not necessarily accurate in their advice. On the other hand, the context of the event is that the Lord has put a "lying spirit" into the mouths of these prophets in order to give Ahab bad advice.

When the narrator summarizes Ahab's sins, he says:

Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all that were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, he took for wife Jez′ebel the daughter of Ethba′al king of the Sido′nians, and went and served Ba′al, and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Ba′al in the house of Ba′al, which he built in Samar′ia. And Ahab made an Ashe′rah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1 Kings 16:31-32)

So it seems the Bible portrays Ahab in two ways in relation to Ba'al: as the par-excellence example of a Ba'al worshiper, but also as a believer in the Lord who sought the Lord's advice but grievously erred by tolerating and even encouraging Ba'al worship.

My question is: how ardent was Ahab in his support of Ba'al? Are then any examples of his actually worshiping Ba'al, or was his sin more like Solomon's, materially supporting his wife's religion by building a Temple for her, but not being a believer in this religion himself?

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    Actually, he could have been trying to serve God and Baal simultaneously, which is a fault reported at other times. E.g. Ezekiel ch14 v3; men who took idols into their hearts and then came to consult the prophet of the Lord. Jan 4, 2023 at 20:30
  • I think you have answered your own question in the final paragraph. Ahab's loyalties were divided.
    – Dottard
    Jan 4, 2023 at 20:42
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    Ahab feared Yahweh, but he feared his wife even more. Jan 4, 2023 at 21:05
  • Perhaps @Dottard is right that I answered my own question. But his answer was better. Jan 5, 2023 at 1:15

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It is difficult for we moderns to fully appreciate the attraction of the false gods and their associated religious practices compared to the worship of the true God of heaven. They were very different indeed.

The false gods of ancient Israel included Molech, Ba'al, Asherah, etc. While the "demands" of these false religions varied, at bottom, they all had very explicit, open and (often) deviant sexual practices. By contrast, the worship of Jehovah was rather bland.

Worship among the ancient peoples (as with moderns as well) was not simply binary, Ba'al vs Jehovah; many (possibly most) believed that Jehovah was the one true and only God, but liked to participate in these sexual practices of the false religions. (There is a similar situation among modern Christians, some of whom are very pious but are secretly addicts of pornography!)

Solomon was a perfect example of this - a worshiper and follower of Jehovah but indulged his appetite for earthly things to a dangerous extent. he built the Jerusalem temple dedicated to the worship of Jehovah but also built temples and altars to many other gods (for varying reasons including the desires of his wives). Solomon even recognized this problem when, under inspiration, he encouraged himself and the people to "be fully devoted to the LORD our God, as it is this day, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments." 1 Kings 8:61.

Similarly, king Abijam's "heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God" 1 Kings 15:3.

By contrast, king "Asa's heart was fully devoted to the LORD all his days" (1 Kings 15:14, 2 Chron 15:17. However, late in his life, this "full devotion" to God slipped and he suffered as a consequence (see 2 Chron 16:7-10)

Ahab suffered a similar problem of not being "fully devoted" to Jehovah. Ahab had married a Phoenician wife who was fully devoted to Ba'al - Ahab's loyalties were divided. Thus, we have a number of Hebrew verbs that reflect this:

  • he "followed the Ba'als" uses the verb הָלַךְ (halak) to go/come/walk often or follow. he did this by financing the construction of pagan temples etc. This also resulted in Ahab unjustly murdering innocent people (see 1 Kings 21). This is also reflected in the verb to "serve" עָבַד (abad) as per 1 Kings 16:31, 2 Kings 10:18. However, there is no explicit record of Ahab "worshiping" Ba'al, except perhaps, 1 Kings 22:53.
  • His divided loyalties can also be seen in 1 Kings 22 where he kept numerous false prophets on the royal salary as well as a true prophet, Micaiah.
  • However, he also recognized that Jehovah was the true and only God. His dependence on Jehovah in battle recorded in 1 Kings 20 is a good example.
  • 1 Kings 21:20–26 – Elijah prophesied that Ahab would be destroyed. But when he repented and turned to the LORD, the outcome was reversed (1 Kings 21:27, 28).

Among other things, this shows how very human Ahab was.

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He did actually serve in many instances without supporting his wife Jezebel,it is said he built an altar for baal at Samaria

KJV 1 Kings 16 : 30 - 33

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

Again during the battle of the prophets at mount Carmel which pitied Elijah against the prophets of baal it was Ahab who sent word to these prophets not Jezebel.

KJV 1 Kings 18 : 20

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.

Ìt was only after the contest that Ahab notified Jezebel of the outcome

KJV 1 Kings 19 : 1

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.

It is further said that he also worshipped the gods of the Amorites

KJV 1 Kings 21 : 25 - 26

But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. 26 And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.

It's clear that Ahab did worship idols at times without the instigation of Jezebel

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  • +1 But the general statement that Ahab worshiped Ba'al on 16:31 seems to be the closest thing we have to a description of Ahab actually worshiping Ba'al. The altar (and temple) could easily have been done to please his wife, just as Solomon created altars to please his own foreign wives. Jan 5, 2023 at 1:13

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