Ahab and Jezebel
Open Your Bible
1 Kings 16:29-33, 1 Kings 18:1-6, 1 Kings 19:1-5, 1 Kings 21:1-29, Matthew 7:15-20
For my grandma, the word “Jezebel” was synonymous with “worldly woman.” And grandma simply did not broach subjects like drinkin’ or card playin’ or movie-house goin’—no ma’am. So much of what we now allow as acceptable would have fit under her “Jezebel” heading. It’s pretty awkward to call anybody worldly, and much easier to just stand back and let “you do you.” In fact, there is a contemporary trend to even view Jezebel herself as an empowered modern women—to classify the queen of idolatry as a savvy and sassy businesswoman. How did we get so far from the truth? Is it possible my grandma was right after all?
Jezebel’s husband was Ahab, a notoriously evil king whose wickedness is largely attributed to Jezebel. Scripture says Ahab “devoted himself to do what was evil in the LORD’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him” (1 Kings 21:25). Instead of devoting themselves to do good, they set the compass one-hundred and eighty degrees in the other direction and actively sought to do evil. Theirs is a pretty condemnable legacy.
Yet how was Jezebel seen in her own day? If she was like Ahab, she was an able administrator and politician. She was a strong female leader who got things done. Her political marriage to Ahab brought with it an alliance to the mercantilist strength of the Phoenicians. She was a woman of her time and of her culture, and she brought her religious beliefs with her into Israel.
Her devotion to Baal was a culturally normal thing to do. Baal was a god who was worshipped through music, dance, partying and debauchery, and sexual promiscuity. In return, Baal promised agricultural, social, and economic success. In contrast to the moral standards of the God of Israel, Baal made an easy appeal to man’s basest inclinations.
But Christ warns us about this very danger: “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves” (Matthew 7:15). We know that not all leaders are trustworthy, and we know that not all success is measured in money and power. God calls us to measure our success not by the world’s standards, but by the standards of His kingdom.
On our own, we all have Jezebel hearts, offering up the sacrifices of our own choice, hoping to barter a deal for worldly success from the higher powers. The applause of the world is a deceiver. But God is not like Baal. He is holy, and He does not exchange His favor for anything we can give to Him. He is not like the gods of this world. He judges the world concerning two things: righteousness and wickedness. And this righteousness, which alone can please Him, is not native to us. It runs counter to every strain of the fallen human heart. To truly please God, to truly have His favor, we must rest wholly in the righteousness of Christ.
At the end of Jezebel’s life, she was confronted by Jehu, whom God had anointed to drive out wickedness from the land. Though Jehu was far from righteous, he nonetheless reminds us of the true anointed One, Jesus, whom God sent to earth to put an end to wickedness.
While I do allow card playin’ and movie watchin’ in my own home, I think my grandma was on the right track about Jezebel. Run from those who seek evil. Don’t reclassify evil as empowerment. Evil will always be evil. May God be gracious to us and purify us from worldliness. May He transform us into the image of His Son, who alone is our righteousness.