The famed prophet of Passover foretold King Ahab's downfall.

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The Story of Naboth

The prophet escaped to the desert in the south. There, he found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing with oxen when Elijah placed his cloak upon him, thus symbolizing that he had chosen Elisha as a disciple. Elisha slaughtered two oxen, used the plow for firewood, gave the meat to his people, and left to follow Elijah.

Ahab coveted the vineyard of his neighbor Naboth the Jezreelite. The king's intention was to use that plot of land, which was adjacent to the palace, for a vegetable garden. He offered to pay Naboth for the land or to exchange it for an equivalent plot. Naboth refused to give up his family inheritance, and the king went back to the palace depressed and angry.

His wife, Jezebel, asked him why was he so depressed and why he refused to eat. The king replied that Naboth wouldn't sell him his land. Jezebel told him to be cheerful and to leave the matters in her hands. Jezebel arranged to have Naboth accused falsely of insulting God. Naboth was tried for blasphemy and was executed. Ahab then took possession of the property.

The Prophet Elijah went to Naboth's vineyard, confronted the king, and accused him of murdering the man and taking over his property. The prophet told the king that God would punish him for his evil deeds; that dogs would lick his blood in the very place that dogs had licked up Naboth's blood; that his family would come to the same bad end as King Jeroboam and King Baasha; and that dogs would eat the body of his wife, Jezebel.

After Elijah finished speaking, Ahab tore his clothes, took them off, and put on sackcloth. He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and walked about gloomy and depressed. The king's humble behavior made God relent and postpone the prophesied disaster until the reign of Ahab's son, after Ahab's death. Ahab died fighting against the Arameans, and his son Ahaziah succeeded to the throne.

Elijah is Protected by God

Shortly afterward, the new king severely injured himself when he fell from the window of an upper story of his palace. Ahaziah sent messengers to the Philistine city of Ekron to ask Baal-zebub, the god of that city, whether he would recover. Elijah reproved him for this act and prophesied that he would die. The king heard what Elijah had prophesied and sent a company of 50 soldiers to seize the prophet, but the troops were killed by fire from heaven.

The same thing happened to a second company of soldiers. A third company of soldiers was sent, which, this time, succeeded in bringing Elijah to the palace. Elijah, once in the presence of the king, repeated his prophecy. The king died soon afterward. Elijah knew that his own end was near.

With his disciple Elisha, who refused to leave him, he went to the river Jordan, divided the waters by hitting them with his mantle, and crossed over on dry ground. Elijah asked Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"

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David Mandel studied at the University of Pennsylvania under Bible scholar Moshe Greenberg, and moved to Israel in 1970, where he founded Computronic Corporation, an Israeli software development company that specializes in biblical software.