Israel's worst king? : the story of Ahab in light of its relationship to the stories of Saul, David and Solomon
In the story of King Ahab (I Kgs 16.29-22.40), Ahab is declared to be the worst person in the Hebrew Bible(I Kgs 21.25)seemingly because he repeats the infamous crimes of King Saul, King David and King Solomon. Because of the similarities in the behaviour of Ahab with his three predecessors, however, the story is a story about these three kings as well. As a result of the associations, Ahab's evil status is challenged. Views of the character Ahab in other literary traditions lend credence to the suggestion that Ahab does not live up to his bad name, and a close reading of the text of the story supports the suggestion. Such a reading leads to seeing King Ahab as a character who is a composite of Saul, David and Solomon at their worst. These correspondences between the four kings lead to several results. Without saying that Ahab is not wicked, the correspondences (relatively) normalise the moral character of Ahab (in that Saul, David and Solomon may be considered 'normal'), while they diminish the moral character of the three kings by their association with Ahab. As a result, Ahab is viewed in a different and better light than what he is declared to be, while Saul, David and Solomon are viewed in a lesser light. The diminishing after-effect also leads to rereading the stories of Saul, David and Solomon in the light of the story of Ahab. Read from such a perspective, their stories become stained by the stigma of being associated with Ahab.