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Studies on the Women of the Bible
Davis W. Huckabee
“And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him,” 1 Kings 16:30-31.
Here is the first mention of a woman of radically different character than most of those that we have heretofore considered, and this one was of such extreme wickedness that her very name has passed into a proverb for ultimate evil (See Rev. 2:20). Scripture speaks of the duty of God’s people to not be “unequally yoked together” with unbelievers, (2 Cor. 6:14), but here was a husband and wife that were equally yoked, but only in their total dedication to evil.
Ahab was the son of Omri, a man of great evil, (1 Kings 16:25), but the son surpassed even the great evil that his father had done, and became the most wicked king that had yet ruled over Israel. Naturally such a wicked king as this would not want a godly woman for his wife, so he chose Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians. The Zidonians were descendents of Ham, the wicked son of Noah, (Gen 10:1, 6, 15), and were among those pagan nations that God had commanded Israel to make no marriages with, (1 Kings 11:1-2). Jezebel’s father’s very name tells us something about him, for Ethbaal means “Baal’s man,” and so shows his dedication to the Baal or Baalim (the plural form), the chief god of the Canaanites and Phoenicians. These names in the original language almost always are prefaced by the definite article “the” as if to imply that this is the only true god.
So, this husband and wife team were pagan idolaters of long standing, for their ancestors had worshipped these gods before them. This had been established as evil in the very first reference to Baal in Scripture. On Judges 2:11 John Gill observes.
Openly and publicly, boldly and impudently, in the very face of God, and amidst all the good things they received from him, which were aggravating circumstances of their sins. What the evil was they did is next observed: and served Baalim; the idol Baal, as the Arabic version, of which there were many, and therefore a plural word is used; to which the apostle refers (1 Cor. 8:5); for the word signifies lords, and there were Baal-peor, Baal-zebub, Baal-berith, etc., and who seem to have their name from Bal, Bel, or Belus, a king of Babylon after Nimrod, and who was the first monarch that was deified, the Jupiter of the Heathens.—John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. 2, p. 7.
One thing always stands out in false worship. It is always multiple and varied so that no matter what one’s preference may be, Satan will have a false worship to suit rebellious man. By contrast God’s Truth is always singular and unified. And in the New Testament the Greek word rendered “doctrine” or “teaching” bears this out, for when it is in reference to man’s ideas or demons’ teaching the word is always plural, whereas it is always singular when referring to Divine Truth. This speaks loudly to us when we consider the multiplicity of religions, each of which has its own distinct “faith.” And while there are a number of commonly held doctrines, the overall view is of great diversity and difference, especially in regard to salvation and church truth.
There are 21 references in Scripture to Jezebel, all in First and Second Kings except the one New Testament reference to her in Revelation 2:20, where her name is used metaphorically for ultimate false doctrine and immorality. Yea, even in modern English this name is commonly used for any morally loose woman.
- CONSIDER HER IDOLATRY.
As already observed, Jezebel was not one newly come to her false religious ideas, but she was raised in this environment, for her father was a dedicated worshipper of Baal before her, and probably this had been true of this family for who knows how many past generations. It is always easier to believe false doctrine than the truth simply because truth is always very humbling to the flesh, giving all glory to God, whereas false doctrine, being the invention of man is always developed so that man is exalted in his own mind. Yes, it is indeed true that often false worship makes great and harsh demands upon its adherents, yet it always flatters them that they are fully self-sufficient, and so, can earn their way into God’s favor by their supposed good works. Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are filled with refutations of this flesh glorifying idea, but false religion thrives on it, and cannot exist apart from it, for it has nothing in God’s truth except what it can twist to glorify man.
We learn of Jezebel’s dedication to false worship when Elijah the prophet was sent to confront all of the false religionists in the land, for she was supporting 850 false prophets every day, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of the groves, (1 Kings. 18:19). Pink likens the situation in Israel to what is written in Isaiah 59:19.
The solemn verses quoted above accurately describe the awful conditions which obtained in Israel under the reign of Ahab and his heathen consort, Jezebel. Because of their multiplied transgressions God had given up the people to blindness and darkness and a spirit of falsehood and madness possessed their hearts. In consequence, Truth was fallen in the street—ruthlessly trampled underfoot by the masses. Idolatry had become the state religion: the worship of Baal was the order of the day: wickedness was rampant on every side. The enemy had indeed come in like a flood, and it looked as though there was no barrier left which could stem its devastating effects.—A. W. Pink, The Life of Elijah, p. 24.
She was neither the first nor the last civil ruler or wife of a civil ruler that used the state’s money to support false religion. And from the earliest history of man, false religion has always greedily desired to have state support for its heresies. Does it not tell us something about false religion’s view of itself when it is not willing to support itself, but expects and even tries to compel others to support it when it can? Almost every nation that has ever existed has been faced with this, and a great many have happily encouraged the marriage of state and church to the corruption of both of them.
At this time the Lord’s Truth was in short supply, for there were but two men in Israel that publicly tried to maintain and protect the truth, and both of these were somewhat timid about their roles. Naturally so, for Jezebel had made it a capital offense to worship any but the gods that she supported. Obadiah had indeed hidden and supported one hundred of the prophets of the Lord so that Jezebel could not find and destroy them, (1 Kings 18:3-4), for he greatly feared the Lord.
Question: How could he and some other Israelites be said to fear the Lord, when they did not go up to Jerusalem to worship, as God had commanded? Answer: Although they seem not to be wholly excusable in this neglect, because they should have preferred God’s service before their worldly commodity... Yet because they worshipped God in spirit and truth, and performed all moral duties to God and their brethren, and abstained from idolatry, and being kept from Jerusalem by violence, they thought necessity and the apparent hazard of their lives would excuse them from ceremonial services. And God bare with their infirmity herein. —Matthew Poole, Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 1, p. 699.
Elijah had been kept hidden and supported, first by the ravens by the brook Cherith, (1 Kings 17:1-7), and then by a widow woman of Zarephath in Zidon, (1 Kings 17:8ff.) This removal from the place of provisions by the Brook Cherith to where the widow woman lived involved almost a hundred miles trip and that across the desert. Not only so, but it is significant how God chose a Gentile widow to support Elijah at this time. When Jesus cited this fact in proof of God’s sovereignty in Luke 4:25-29, it infuriated the Jews. Here was a proof of the doctrine of election from the life of Elijah.
But what is yet more remarkable is the fact that “Zidon” was the very place from which Jezebel, the wicked corrupter of Israel, had come, (1 Kings 16:31)! How passing strange are the ways of God, yet ever ordered by infinite wisdom! As Matthew Henry says, “To show Jezebel the impotency of her malice, God will find a hiding-place for His servant even in her country.”—A. W. Pink, Life of Elijah, p. 58.
Then God called Elijah to confront King Ahab and to test whether Baal or Jehovah was the true God, (1 Kings 18:1ff). There were three and a half years from the time that the prophet first pronounced that there would be the drought until the slaying of the false prophets that Jezebel supported. Nor could these idols cancel out the drought. The question of Jeremiah 14:22 is especially appropriate at this point.
However dark these times seemed to be, shortly God revealed to Elijah that He had reserved to Himself seven thousand true worshippers, (1 Kings 19:18). It is most instructive to note that this text is quoted in Romans 11:1-7 in proof that God still has His graciously chosen elect however times may seem to make this questionable—a second proof of election drawn from the life of Elijah. What an encouragement this should be to us in these last days when there are so many Jezebels that are corrupting most of the professed worship of the Lord in favor of idols of one sort or another! How often must God speak to rebellious man through the many and varied “natural disasters,” as man in his blindness likes to call them. See God’s hand in all these as detailed in Nahum 1:2-8. “Mother Nature” is in fact, Father God in all these.
The confrontation between the one prophet of Jehovah and the 950 false prophets is detailed in 1 Kings 18:19-46. Every advantage was given to the false prophets, yet nothing happened to the sacrifice made to idols. Here was a case where there were “vain repetitions” by those that “think that they shall be heard for their much speaking,” (Matt. 6:7). Too many people seek to judge the truth of a religion by the zeal of its adherents, but it cannot be done. These, like Israel of a later date had “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge,” (Rom. 10:2). And Paul’s description of latter day religion also fits these in that they have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof,” (2 Tim. 3:5). These false worshippers had a form of worship, but it was one of the most depraved sorts, and, being the invention of man, it was utterly powerless, for it depended upon its adherents for its power. When put to a test wherein its priests and prophets could not act for it, it was found to be without power to answer or move.
The sacrifice simply lay there unclaimed by the false gods, for they were nothings, (1 Cor. 8:4). And in spite of numerous disadvantages being allowed against Elijah’s sacrifice to Jehovah, fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the altar and all else as Jehovah showed Himself as the one and only true God. Elijah had made the test a clear one that demanded a response from the people, (1 Kings 18:21), and when the answer is so clear, the people acknowledge that Jehovah is the only true God, and all others are false. But for the loss of face before the people, and the danger of the loss of revenues, these false prophets might not have cared whether Baal answered or not, for they could not have suspected that the manifestation of the impotence of their idols would bring about their own destruction. On the other hand, “for a god such as this, that cannot concern himself about the affairs of men, of course will suffer a thousand sins and excesses to take place without being offended.” —F. W. Krummacher, Elijah the Tishbite, p. 82.
Then Elijah commands that Jezebel’s prophets be slain This was not mere petulance; it was the declared will of the Most High God, for nowhere in Scripture has the true God ever given false religion the option of existing and deceiving gullible souls.
False prophets and false priests are the greatest enemies a nation can have, for they bring both temporal and spiritual evils upon them, destroying not only their bodies but their souls too. To have permitted those prophets of Baal an escape would have licensed them as the agents of apostasy and exposed Israel to further corruption. It must be remembered that the nation of Israel was under the direct government of Jehovah, and to tolerate in their midst those who seduced His people into idolatry, was to harbor men who were guilty of high treason against the Majesty of heaven. Only by their destruction could the insult to Jehovah be avenged and His holiness vindicated.—A. W. Pink, The Life of Elijah, p. 174.
How all this infuriated Jezebel when she heard of the slaughter of her prophets! For she was apparently not at this confrontation, as implied in 1 Kings 19:1. Ahab seems not to have taken an undue offense at this, for he was a Jew, and had known the truth to a degree, and so knew the evil of all idolatry, but Jezebel was committed to false worship, come what might. Immediately following the slaughter of the false prophets, Elijah commands Ahab to hasten home because rain is coming, and shortly this comes to pass, (1 Kings 18:41-46). Because the hand of the Lord was upon Elijah, he runs before Ahab down from Mount Carmel and arrives at Jezreel before him.
Ahab tells his wife all that has happened on Mount Carmel, doubtless not showing her how that Jehovah had fully shown Himself to be the one and only true God and all her prophets of Baal and of the groves to be powerless nothings. What should have humbled this wicked woman’s proud heart only hardens it all the more.
Her rage knew no bounds: Elijah must be slain at once. Boastful of the morrow, swearing by her gods, she pronounced a fearful imprecation upon herself if Elijah does not meet the same end. This resolution of Jezebel’s shows the extreme hardness of her heart. It solemnly illustrates how wickedness grows on people. Sinners do not reach such fearful heights of defiance in a moment, but as conscience resists convictions, as light is continued to be rejected, the very things which should soften and humble, come to harden and make more insolent, and the more plainly God’s will be set before us, the more will it work resentment in the mind and hostility in the heart; when it is but a short time until that soul is consigned to the everlasting burnings.—A. W. Pink, The Life Of Elijah, p. 198.
She sends a messenger to him vowing by her gods to take his life on the morrow. But it is doubtful if she now had the power to do so, since all Israel had acknowledged Jehovah as the true God, (18:39), and Elijah is recognized as God’s prophet. It is more likely that she only hoped to drive Elijah away, and it worked! For “When he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba,” (1 Kings 19:3). Some commentators think that this originally read “and when he feared, he arose, and went for his life,” but that ancient scribes, thinking it was not very becoming to attribute fear to the prophet, changed the wording. In any case, it is clear that this wicked woman scared Elijah into fleeing his post of duty. Fear can come from unexpected sources, for after Peter would have fought the multitude with his sword to defend Jesus, (John 18:312), he quailed before a Hebrew maid that simply asks if he was not of Jesus’ disciples, (John 18:15-17). Nor can we point the finger of accusation at either Elijah or Peter, for no one of us knows what we will do in times of stress and fear if God does not give grace sufficient for the moment.
As a very young and inexperienced pastor that had many fears about his ability, the fact of Elijah leaving his post of duty, and never thereafter being used of the Lord as he was before, spoke powerfully to this writer. This has had a continuing good effect upon him throughout the many years since the early 1960’s when this study was made.
No more does Jezebel exercise her wickedness against the prophet, for God has now chosen Elisha to be prophet in his place, but she continues to work evil in the nation of Israel. For idolaters never improve so long as they continue to be involved in idolatry, for they are generally under the influence if not the utter control of demons, (1 Tim. 4: 1 ff).
- CONSIDER HER INCITEMENT OF AHAB.
This is only implied in the verses with which we opened this study. But quite express is the statement concerning her in 1 Kings 21:25-26: “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whomJezebel his wife stirred up (marg. “incited”).And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” Ahab and Jezebel are determined to have their own evil ways, and will allow nothing to turn them from their downward course.
She was the power behind the throne, and often manipulated things to please herself and her husband without regard to right or justice. A case in point is seen in 1 Kings 21. Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that adjourned Ahab’s palace but Naboth would not sell it because it was a part of his inheritance as an Israelite. This threw Ahab into childish pout because he couldn’t have his selfish desires over God’s command, (Lev. 25:23; Ezek. 46:18). It gives a clear insight into one’s character when God’s revealed will is scorned in favor of the creature’s selfish will.
Ahab, while being the tool of Jezebel, had also learned how to use her violent and unprincipled nature to gain his own ends. This he now did when he “laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread,” (v. 4). He well knew that Jezebel would inquire as to the reason for this, and when she did, he distorted the truth as he had when he related to her the events that transpired upon Carmel. He did not explain that Naboth had courteously refused on the grounds that the Law forbade his giving up his inheritance. He only made it appear that it was the act of a stubborn and insubordinate subject —Davis W. Huckabee, Studies On The Life Of Elijah, pp. 188-189. (Unpublished Manuscript).
Now Jezebel takes control when she sees that her husband is in a childish snit, and she usurps the king’s power, writing letters in his name in which she manipulates the politicians that want to curry favor with the king. Thereby she brings about the stoning of an innocent man on the trumped up charge of blasphemy of God and the king, (1 Kings 21:5-13). She was a thoroughgoing utilitarian, for though she worshipped false gods, not Jehovah, she was willing to use the true God to obtain her own selfish will by having Naboth accused of blaspheming Jehovah. Alas, how many are exactly like that today. To them God is of value only to the extent that they can use Him for their own profit and promotion. But other than this, they want nothing to do with him.
That Jezebel should contrive so execrable a scheme and that there should be such sons of Belial among the common people to swear to such falsehoods, need not seem strange. But that the elders and nobles of the city, the chief magistrates thereof, should be so sadly and universally depraved as to execute such a piece of villainy is really surprising. Idolatry, when it prevails, takes away all sense of humanity and justice. —John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. 2, p. 389.
Elijah was commissioned to go meet Ahab in the vineyard that he had stolen. And he assures him that his blood would be lapped up by dogs in the same place where dogs lapped up Naboth’s blood, and the same thing would be the fate of Jezebel, (1 Kings 21:17-25). She had vowed a terrible vow in 1 Kings 19:2, vowing that if she did not make Elijah as one of the slain prophets by tomorrow, that the gods were to do so to her. But her gods were impotent nothings, but the prophet that she set herself against to destroy belonged to the omnipotent Jehovah, and He brings something even worse to pass in due time. Vows are dangerous things to make and none should be made lightly, for God might just take a person at his or her word. To His own people in Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 God warns that unpaid vows may result is the loss of the works of one’s hands, but the pagan that vows and does not pay will find his own soul in jeopardy.
We do not read of further incitements of Ahab by Jezebel, but there can be no doubt that she did so, for prophecy had foretold her end for her continuing wickedness. “And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel,” (1 Kings 21:23). However, something happened that gave Ahab a slight probation before the judgment fell on him. When the prophecy of his doom was pronounced upon Ahab, it is written, “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house,” (1 Kings 21:27-29).
Jezebel’s end is recorded some years later when the son of Ahab has come to the throne, and he is met by Jehu who has been anointed Captain of the Lord’s host. When King Joram asks of peace, Jehu’s answer is, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many,”(2 Kings 9:22). King Joram is slain and when Jehu comes into the city, Jezebel looks out a window all painted and dressed in regal robes. He commands her to be cast out of the window, and some partisans of Jehu do so, and her blood is splattered on the wall and the horses. Later when Jehu commands her to be buried, as a king’s daughter, nothing is found left from the dogs’ scavenging but her skull, palms and feet, and this is recognized as the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy, (2 Kings 9:30-37). There is always a high cost to low living, and for all of Jezebel’s intense religious activities, it did not deliver her from the wrath of the Lord, but only brought it more certainly upon her as a rebel against the truth.
- CONSIDER JEZEBEL’S ICONIC CHARACTER
“Iconic” has to do with something being symbolic, and the name “Jezebel” has certainly passed into the English, and probably into other languages as well, as symbolizing ultimate wickedness. She was not only an idolater, but was also involved in witchcraft, as well as being an immoral woman, (2 Kings 9:22). Not all religion is good, nor is even most of it good, but is generally an endeavor to get around strict obedience to the revealed will of God. And this is especially so when idols are worshipped instead of the true God. Not only so, but because false religion always caters to the flesh, it tends to justify immorality, for the flesh is supreme in the desires of the unsaved person—those that worship idols. Only the sovereign grace of God, operating to control the flesh, will sanctify human desires so that recipients of grace can fully enjoy all of the good that God has permitted to His creatures.
The effects of the bad lives and practices of Ahab and Jezebel continued to plague the nation of Israel for several hundred years as is implied in Micah 6:16 which was written almost two hundred years later. “For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.” Few people realize the far-reaching effects of false doctrine and wicked practices, for children find it easier to emulate the evil of their parents than any good practices.
But as we noted in the beginning of this study, Revelation 2:20 charges the Thyatiran church with tolerating a Jezebel type woman corrupting the church. “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” This was evidently a literal woman that was out of her God-ordained role of life, and who pretended to be a prophetess of the Lord in order to justify her presumption, though she was immoral and an idolater. Some commentators think that this was in reference to the beginning of that religious system that became Roman Catholicism a few centuries later, but this is doubtful. Catholicism certainly was paganistic from the beginning and has always used idols, and practiced other types of abominations, but there is nothing to show a literal connection of it to this one in the Thyatiran church. However, in Scripture a woman is often used as a symbol of a religious system, whether good or bad, as Jerusalem is sometimes personified as a woman. And Zechariah 5:5-11 pictures Babylon as a woman of wickedness so that this sort of symbolism is common in Scripture, (Cf. Rev. 17:1 ff).
When we consider how many modern day “churches” are pastored by women, a wholly unbiblical practice, (1 Tim. 2:11-12), and that most of these “churches” are notoriously unsound in Bible doctrine, we can see the prominence of Jezebelism in our day today. No! This is not blind prejudice against godly women! This is a matter of only operating with proper authority, which is violated in all such cases. The teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is in harmony with 1 Timothy 2:12, that the woman is to be subject to a man as her head even as each man is to be subject to Christ as his head. And this principle is the same in regard to the Lord Jesus, who is equal with the Father, yet in function He is subject to the Father. Personal value or equality is no part of this matter. It is simply God’s ordained order that must always be maintained else it is a matter of disorder and rebellion. Thus when a woman is not in subjection to the male authority, whether in the home, the church or otherwise, she is tending to become as Jezebel, and no amount of “religious” zeal or knowledge can alter that.
This is one of the things that will characterize religion in the last days. For most people then will have a “form of godliness,” —the outward shell of worship—but will “deny the power thereof,”—the authority of the most High God, (2 Tim. 3:5). It is always corrupt human authority that installs women as pastors and other leaders in churches.
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