1 Kings 16:29-34
And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (16:31-33 ESV)
As leader of God’s people, Ahab, king of Israel, was in a position to lead the people away from God. The Holy Spirit in this section explains the evil spiritual situation that Israel fell deeper into. Previously, we observed that Ahab, surpassed all his predecessors in wickedness, and he broke through barriers in his pursuit of sin. What else did Ahab do to wreak spiritual havoc in God’s nation?
Ahab married an evil woman (16:31). We must recall the Lord’s concern for Israel’s purity in the marriage covenant. During the time of the law covenant, God had forbidden intermarriage with any of the Canaanite people (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). He had good reasons for this prohibition. He wanted his people to be separate from the nations, and avoiding close relationships, like marriage, would promote their devotion to the Lord. This same principle is true for the new covenant believer, though the intermarriage forbidden is different under the new covenant (1 Cor 7:39; 9:5; 2 Cor 6:14-16). People in God’s new holy nation are only to marry people who are also part of that group, meaning followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first question to ask before beginning any romantic involvement is this: “Is this person I am interested in a true follower of Jesus Christ?” If not, avoid romantic entanglements.
Jezebel was from Sidon, a Canaanite city (Judges 1:30-32). Therefore, Ahab had no right to marry her. Did Ahab care what God’s said in the Torah? Not at all! He had contempt for God, but his refusal to obey God did not grant him immunity from judgment.
This woman, Jezebel, became notorious for her wickedness. She became so infamous, that her name became a prophetic symbol for wickedness (Revelation 2:20-22). Notice her way of life:
- Her cruelty. 18:4. We have enough sorrow from the murders committed by those involved in drugs and gangs. How much worse when the government persecutes the righteous?
- Her idolatry. 18:19; 2 Kings 9:22.
- Her involvement with witchcraft. 2 Kings 9:22.
With a queen like this at wicked Ahab’s side, Israel was in for trouble.
To make matters much worse, Ahab established the worship of Baal in Israel (16:31b-33). What is meant by Baal? The word itself means “lord” or “master” or “husband”. It was used to refer to a number of false gods in ancient times, for example, Numbers 25:3; Joshua 2:11-13. Here it refers to the Baal of Tyre, Melkarth [Melqart], who “was the kind of god that required the burning of innocent children as oblations upon his altar” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary). He was considered to be sort of the “weather or fertility god” of the land. His worshipers would engage in various debauched practices to induce him to send good weather.
Ahab was devoted to his new god. He began to worship and serve Baal, and soon he was promoting his new faith. To do this he built a temple and an altar for Baal, and made an Asherah pole. Asherah, “the Lady who treads on the sea” was believed to be the mother of Baal and wife of El, the chief of the gods, and the goddess of the sea. In this way he again transgressed the instruction of the law covenant (Deuteronomy 7:5). Here is a recurring theme in pagan thought: the worship of a god and his mother. Does this sound familiar?
Ahab provoked the true and living God to anger. Even though others before him, like Jeroboam, had sinned grievously, Ahab gave himself over to evil to a greater extent than anyone before him had. Listen to what the Spirit says. Still, there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him (1 Kings 21:25 CSB). What happens next demonstrates that God was not indifferent to Ahab’s sin. He was provoked to anger by it. Consider Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (NASB). But how did God act? The stage is set for the appearance of Elijah. But we close with a couple lessons.
- When people depart from the worship of the true God, they often get involved in the worship of what has been created (Romans 1:21-23). Humans have sought to fill the vacuum in our souls by polytheism, evolutionism or pantheism. It is amazing to see how modern, technologically advanced humanity has descended to worship the “forces” in nature.
- God’s wrath is against all those who get involved in such pagan practices. The church must take its stand against the adoption of such things though they are called by different names.
- The only way to approach the true and living God is through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT).
Grace and peace, David