1 KINGS 22:29-45
29So the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 30The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. 31Now the king of Aram had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, “Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.” 32When the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is surely the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him; and Jehoshaphat cried out. 33When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 34But a certain man drew his bow and unknowingly struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate; so he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” 35The battle grew hot that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans, until at evening he died; the blood from the wound had flowed into the bottom of the chariot. 36Then about sunset a shout went through the army, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”
37So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; they buried the king in Samaria. 38They washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria; the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the LORD that he had spoken. 39Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house that he built, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 40So Ahab slept with his ancestors; and his son Ahaziah succeeded him.
41Jehoshaphat son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of King Ahab of Israel.42Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 43He walked in all the way of his father Asa; he did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD; yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and offered incense on the high places. 44Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.
45Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his power that he showed, and how he waged war, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?
Often in biblical narratives, the description of how a person dies carries some significance -- a symbolic representation of the kind of life the person had led, a judgment of God for the evil the person had committed, a prophetic message for the people to remember, and so forth.
Ahab, as we know, was not a good king. His death could have been far more gruesome and ignominious. But because he had humbled himself, he dies a death that's bad but not really bad. (In contrast, his wife Jezebel's is really bad: she's thrown out a window (defenestration: the act of throwing someone out of a window); her blood splashed on a wall; her body trampled by King Jehu's horses; her flesh eaten by stray dogs, leaving only her skull, feet, and the palms of her hands. All according to Elijah's prophecy.)
Ahab's death comes about by "accidentally." Ahab, King of Israel, joins forces with Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, against the Arameans east of the Jordan River, at a place called Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab chooses to disguise himself, minimizing the chance, so he thinks, that he'll get killed (in defiance of Micaiah's prediction). However, the disguise -- Ahab's deception -- is powerless to save him. "A certain man," a nameless nobody, shoots his arrow and strikes the King of Israel, mortally wounding him! (The dignity of being killed by someone famous or well-known -- even this is taken away!) Ahab dies a slow death, eventually expiring at evening, his blood pooling at the bottom of his chariot. Later the dogs lick up his blood (in fulfillment of Elijah's prophecy from 1 Kings 21:19, "in the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood -- yes, yours!") The NRSV's translation of verse 38 is strangely ambiguous, "and the prostitutes washed themselves in it." What's the "it"? The blood? The pool of Samaria? The NIV does a better job, "They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared." Needless to say, dogs licking one's blood is a graphic picture of an ugly, ignoble end.
Ahab could not escape his death, despite his clever best. Ahab could not escape his life either, meaning that his death (the way he died) was inextricably connected to how he lived. How he lived was his life's work, not so much whether he was king of Israel.
Likewise, how we live is our greatest and actually our only lasting life's work. From God's point of view, at the end of it all, our life boils down to this -- how we've lived.
Let's pray: Father God, we look to you with humility and the knowledge that we have been created and redeemed for your glory. And your glory in us is how we live. Help us to be prayerfully mindful that we live for you and for the sake of Christ's agenda. Whatever that's selfish, ugly, greedy, lustful, deceptive -- whatever deserving of death -- help us indeed to put them to death, so that we can be fully alive toward you. We want a far better end than ones we read about above. Have mercy on us. In Jesus' name, amen.