Prostitutes Washing Themselves in Ahab's Blood
The biblical story of these prostitutes is intrinsically tied to the story of Ahab's death. Ahab served as king of Israel from 874 B.C. to 853 B.C. He received a life-threatening wound in battle against the Syrians as he and his army attempted to regain Ramoth-gilead. Ahab ordered his charioteer, “Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded” (1 Kings 22:34). The Bible states that Ahab stood up in his chariot and stayed in the battle until that evening, but died from a loss of blood due to his wound. He was taken to Samaria to be buried.
According to Canaanite mythology, Baal, god of fertility, was in a perpetual struggle with Mot, god of sterility. The outcome of their struggles was often a seven-year cycle of famine or prosperity. Baal was also seen as king among gods, and ruled over the rain, wind, and clouds. He was worshipped in high places in nature, usually with an altar for sacrifices along with a wooden image of the goddess Ashtoreth, his consort, and a stone pillar to represent him.
Ahab must have lost considerable blood, because his chariot and armor were covered with it. When the chariot was washed, the Pool of Samaria ran red, and dogs licked it up, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:19). Some biblical accounts add that not only dogs were at the pool, but also prostitutes. Scholars suggest that the harlots bathing in the bloody water was probably due to a superstitious belief that they might magically gain some of the fertility and power of Ahab from contact with his blood. They may also have been worshippers of Baal.