1 Kings 22

The Battle at Ramoth-gilead

The Location of Ramoth-gilead

The king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us?” (1 Kings 22:3)

The exact location of Ramoth-gilead is somewhat uncertain. The city has been identified with three sites in close proximity to each other. Tell er-Rumeith, shown here, was excavated by Paul Lapp in the 1960s and has Iron Age remains, but some scholars believe that the site is too small to fit the biblical description.

Israelite Houses

And Yahweh said, “These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace” (1 Kings 22:17).

The standard house plan of this period consisted of a central courtyard surrounded by rooms on three sides. One of these was often a space for domestic animals. In the house at Hazor shown here, which has an entrance at the far end, it is the room on the left, separated from the courtyard by a row of pillars, that was used for livestock.

Prisons in the Old Testament

“Put this man in the prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return in peace” (1 Kings 22:27).

The concept of imprisonment was not widespread at this time. No provision is made for it in the Mosaic law, and the concept is relatively rare in the Hebrew Bible (cf. Gen 39:20-22; Judg 16:21-25). An interesting reference appears later in Jeremiah 44:15, where Jeremiah was confined to “the house of fetters in the house of Jonathan the scribe, which they had made into a prison.” This may indicate that even in later centuries there were not purpose-built prisons, and any such need was fulfilled by a temporarily designated space. This seems to be borne out by the fact that, to date, no structure of the Iron Age (or earlier) has been found that could be identified as a prison. By contrast, depictions of prisoners of war are quite common. This relief of prisoners with their hands bound behind them comes from the Central Palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nimrud.

Ahab's Armor

A certain man drew his bow at random and shot the king of Israel in a joint of his armor (1 Kings 22:34).

The armor used by Ahab is not entirely clear. The arrow hit between “the scales” (Heb. devaqrim) and between “the armor coat” (Heb. shiryan; cf. 1 Sam 17:5,38). Clearly a joint or seam of some kind is intended, but precisely what kind or even where is difficult to determine. For the writer of 1 Kings, it is enough that neither his disguise nor his armor was sufficient to allow Ahab to escape the divine word of judgment. These scale armor plates likely come from Ardabil, an ancient city in northwestern Iran.

Ancient Dogs

And the dogs licked up his blood (1 Kings 22:38).

This detail is noted by the narrator because it fulfilled a prophecy given by Elijah (1 Kgs 21:19). This relief comes from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. It is about two centuries later than the time of Ahab, but it illustrates the sort of dogs known to the ancients. This relief was photographed at the British Museum.

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