Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

Arrogance Punished

Posted by foryourfaith on September 6, 2011


Through the centuries, the concept of Satan has changed. In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, Satan, simply means “adversary.” Satan, as an independent manifestation of other-worldly evil, does not enter the biblical canon until the New Testament, but a precursor to this development occurs in the Book of Kings during the reign of Ahab. It was a “lying spirit” who fulfilled the prophetic pronouncement of Ahab’s doom.

The event that sealed Ahab’s doom at the instigation of the “lying spirit” occurred three years earlier, during a time of relative peace. In spite of Ahab’s notorious idolatry, the crucial event that damned his dynasty did not involve foreign gods, but an abuse of royal power against the traditional rights of an Israelite citizen. Naboth was a citizen of Jezreel and owned a vineyard next to royal land where Ahab had a residence. Ahab desired to expand his holding and offered to purchase the land outright or to barter a royal vineyard for it.

The king was unprepared for Naboth’s abrupt refusal, as he called God to witness that he would not sell his ancestral property. Naboth evidently invoked the ancient law that the land belonged to God, and each family had been given a portion to maintain as a patrimony in accordance with the divine command, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine.”

In spite of his chagrin, Ahab recognized Naboth’s right. Jezebel, however, did not. She sent letters under Ahab’s seal to the elders of Jezreel brazenly commanding them to cause false witnesses to say that Naboth had cursed God and the king. Then they were to take him out and to stone him to death. The elders obeyed and the dirty work was done. Jezebel sent Ahab to collect his prize. In the vineyard, Ahab met Elijah and his word of doom: Ahab’s descendants, Elijah said, would be utterly swept away.

When Ahab decided to invade Ramoth-Gilead, a city on the shifting border between Israel and Syria, he was, unknowingly, courting his own death. Now was the time that the Lord, through his agents, would punish Ahab.

The invasion was endorsed by the prophets of his own retinue, but Ahab decided to consult another prophet in the land, one who had traditionally been hostile to him. The prophet Micaiah was called in and asked whether it would be wise for the king to proceed with the planned invasion.

In Micaiah’s reply, he reveals a mysterious vision of the Lord: “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?’ . . . Then the spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.’”

The “lying spirit” has been described by scholars as being an aspect of the prophetic spirit of Yahweh. The spirit has no moral character of its own; the Lord himself is responsible for whatever is done to Ahab. Unlike the idea of Satan that would develop later, this lying spirit is still under the control of Yahweh, and, in fact, is sent directly from the Lord. Thus, he is not the adversary of God, but the adversary of man.

As a result of his oracle, Micaiah was thrown in jail, and King Ahab proceeded into a battle that he was preordained to lose. The Syrians at Ramoth-Gilead not only triumphed over the combined forces of Israel and Judah, but they also slew Ahab. “And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood . . . “(1 Kings 22:38).


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