Ahab: 40 Years with the Wrong Woman
November 9th, 1980 @ 7:30 PM
AHAB: FORTY YEARS WITH THE WRONG WOMAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 21:25
11-9-80 7:30 p.m.
This is the pastor of the church, and we invite you to turn to 1 Kings, chapter 21, 1 Kings, chapter 21. We shall read verses 23, 24, 25, and 26, 1 Kings, chapter 21, verses 23 through 26. The title of the sermon tonight is: Jezebel or Ahab: Forty Years with the Wrong Woman. And next Sunday night at seven o’clock, at this same hour, continuing our series on the problems of human life, the title of the message will be Haman: the Gambler’s Fading Goal, next Sunday night at 7:00 P.M. Tonight, about Ahab, forty years married to Jezebel. Now let’s read out loud 1 Kings 21:23-26, out loud:
And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of] Jezreel.
Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.
But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.
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.
[1 Kings 21:23-26]
And the text,
But there was none like unto Ahab, who did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.
[1 Kings 21:25]
Isn’t that an unusual arrangement? As vile and as wicked as Ahab was, and not only in that text there, but in other texts in the Bible, no king ever did as wickedly, as abominably as did Ahab. He was the worst king Israel ever had. But, the Bible says expressly that he was corrupted by his wife. It was his wife Jezebel that stirred him up to do wickedly in the sight of the Lord [1 Kings 21:25-26].
Well, who was she? Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, who was the king of the Zidonians [1 Kings 16:31]. Her father had murdered his brother, assassinated his brother, in order to ascend to the throne, and this daughter Jezebel was a pure, simple, sure scion of the family. She carried out exactly the whole purport of her father and her father’s house [1 Kings 16:31-33]. Her father was the high priest of Baal, and when Ahab married her, directly opposite to the Mosaic legislation that the Hebrew people were not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Violating that legislative precept of Moses [Deuteronomy 7:3], Ahab marries the high priestess of Baal and the king’s daughter, king of the Zidonians.
And her corruption of the king of Israel was full and complete. There was no piece or parcel or section of his life that she did not dominate abominably, and for evil. Not only the king, but all of her progeny and all of her offspring were as vile as she. She almost, she came in a hair’s breadth of destroying the entire house of David. Down there in Judah, the separate kingdom of Judah, they have the kings who are born in the household of David. But one of the daughters of Jezebel, named Athaliah, is somehow maneuvered into the marriage of the king Jehoram of Judah. And when her husband dies, she reigns as queen of Judah, the only queen Judah ever had, Athaliah [2 Kings 11:3]. Now, when Athaliah saw an opportunity, she slew every member of the house of David [2 Kings 11:1].
Had it not been for Jehoiada and his dear wife, the high priest of Judah, took one of the children of the kingly line of David, Joash, and hid the little baby [2 Kings 11:2-3]. And kept him hidden until his seventh year, when he was brought out and appeared and presented to Judah as the new king [2 Kings 11:4, 12, 21] – at which time Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, was slain at the gate, at the door of the temple [2 Kings 11:13-20].
It was everything she touched turned to evil abomination in the sight of God. And one thousand years after her death by the eating up of dogs [2 Kings 9:30-37], in Revelation 2:20, the Lord Christ Himself says about Thyatira the church of Asia, the third name, "I have got this against you because you allow that prophetess and sorcerer, Jezebel, to seduce My people." And I suppose to this day, thousands of years later, all of us would be familiar with a term if you had a woman and you called her a Jezebel, I think everybody would know what you were talking about.
Now, not only did she corrupt her husband, and not only did she nearly destroy the entire house of David, but the thing that brought judgment upon Israel was – David had cleared the land of the worship of the Canaanites; from one end of it, from Dan to Beersheba. David had absolutely swept clear of the land all of the abomination of the Canaanites, all of it [2 Samuel 22:38-43]. But this woman Jezebel, who Ahab married, brought into Israel, introduced again into Israel, the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth [1 Kings 18:13, 19].
Not only did she do that, but it was in her heart to exacerbate, absolutely to eradicate the name of Jehovah and the worship of the true God from the face of the earth. She slew all of the prophets of Jehovah, all of them [1 Kings 18:4]. The only exception was those that Obadiah, one of God’s servants, had hidden in a cave and himself fed them [1 Kings 18:4]. She slew all the prophets of [Jehovah]. She tore down all of the altars of God, and instead she introduced four hundred fifty prophets of Baal, and they ministered before Ahab [1 Kings 18:19]. And she introduced four hundred prophets of Ashtoreth, and they sat at her table [1 Kings 18:19].
You see, you don’t quite get that in reading the King James Version of the Bible because Ashtoreth is translated "groves" [1 Kings 18:19]. But don’t have to go into the story of the translation: Baal was the male god, and Ashtoreth was the female god. And you worship them licentiously, and lewdly, and abominably, and sexually, and promiscuously, and prostitutionally. That’s the way the Canaanite worship, the abomination of the Canaanites, was carried on, and David had cleared the land of that awful religion [1 Kings 15:5]. And Jezebel brought it back and did so with a vengeance [1 Kings 18:13, 19].
Another thing about Jezebel: she was a cunning, astute murderer. When I turn one leaf of my Bible, in the twenty-first, the same twenty-first chapter, when I turn one leaf of my Bible, I turn the story of Naboth [1 Kings 21]. Now, Naboth had a vineyard, had a little inheritance. It was his little farm, it was his inheritance, it was his lot in Israel. Naboth’s farm was right next to the winter palace of Ahab and Jezebel in Jezreel [1 Kings 21:1]. Now Jezreel is right down there south and close to the Sea of Galilee. And it was a beautifully decorated palace for the wintertime, and Ahab, looking out of his window saw that beautiful little piece of a farm that belonged to Naboth, so he took a notion that he would love to have it for a garden of herbs. So he goes to Naboth and he says, "Give me this little vineyard of yours, and I will give you a better one. Or if you like, I will give you the money for it." And Naboth answers Ahab, "God forbid! I cannot give thee the inheritance of my father unto thee" [1 Kings 21:2-3]. It was against the Mosaic legislation all through the times and the times, the land being allotted to these different tribes and the families in the tribes; they were to keep it forever [Numbers 36:7]. When Daniel closes, God says to Daniel at the end of the age: "Thou shalt stand in thy lot" [Daniel 12:13]. What does that mean? Daniel’s family has an inheritance in Israel, and at the end of the age, he will stand there in that inheritance that God has promised His people Israel. Each one of them has an inheritance. This was his, Naboth’s.
"And I cannot give it thee" [1 Kings 21:3]. Then Ahab came into his house, heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him. And he laid him down upon his bed and turned his face to the wall and would not eat," pouting [1 Kings 21:4]. "And Jezebel, his wife, came to him," and said unto him, "Sugar pie, what you doing here lying in that bed with your face to the wall and you so sad and you don’t eat?" [1 Kings 21:5]. And Ahab says to her, "I want Naboth’s vineyard, and I said to him, I will buy you a better one or I will give you money for it. And he said, I will not give thee my vineyard" [1 Kings 21:6].
And Jezebel his wife says to Ahab, "He won’t give you his vineyard? I’ll get it for you. You just wait" [1 Kings 21:7]. And brother, how she did it.
Not in all of literature will you find a more dramatic miscarriage of justice, and public betrayal of the people’s trust as you will in the story that immediately follows. She suborns, she buys false witnesses, proclaims a fast, sat Naboth on high, and these suborned, paid witnesses say: "We heard Naboth curse God and the king." And passing sentence and judgment, they took Naboth and stoned him to death! And he died there in his little inheritance! [1 Kings 21:8-16]. And the dogs came and licked up his blood [1 Kings 21:19, 22:37-38]. And then Jezebel comes into the palace, into the bedroom where her husband Ahab lies there with his face to the wall, pouting. And she says to him, "Hubby, get up, possess! Naboth is dead, and the vineyard is yours! You don’t even have to buy it" [1 Kings 21:14-15].
And [Ahab] arises, and he puts on his garments, and he goes down to possess the vineyard. And when he does, he meets God! Isn’t that a strange thing? He meets Elijah, the prophet of the Lord [1 Kings 21:16-19].
And Ahab says: "Have you found me, O mine enemy?" [1 Kings 21:20].
And Elijah replies: "It isn’t I that has found you. It is the Lord God. And in that exact place" – and I can see Elijah point to it – "in that exact place where the dogs have licked up Naboth’s blood, shall the dogs lick up thy blood, even thine [1 Kings 21:19]. And again, and by the gate of Jezreel, shall the dogs eat Jezebel" [1 Kings 21:23]. Ah, God, God, God!
The next episode that we follow is the confrontation between Jezebel and Elijah. This one has been the confrontation between Ahab and Elijah. Jezebel – and you enter an altogether different world when you face Jezebel. All life is like that. Man, I can have a set-to with the chairmen of the fellowship of deacons and the vice chairman seated there or with any of the men in the church, but brother, if I ever have a set-to with a woman in the church, I got troubles! I got troubles. And isn’t that an amazing thing? Elijah fearlessly faces Ahab. That’s just one instance we follow through.
And Elijah fearlessly faces the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, courageously. And Elijah fearlessly faces the apostasy of all Israel, all of it. And Elijah with great confidence faces God, and commands fire down from heaven, and the fire fell, and commands water from heaven, and the rains descend; that same Elijah [1 Kings 18:20-46]. Now, he’s going to face Jezebel. And we expect him to do it in the same power and fearless courage by which he faced Ahab and the prophets of Baal and the Almighty God. That’s what we expect.
When Jezebel heard what happened on Mt. Carmel and how Elijah had slain the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and when she heard how that Elijah had run before the chariot of Ahab all the way to Jezreel, where she was, Elijah was exalting in his victory, but the rage of Jezebel knew no bounds. Blood revenge was in her brain, and she wouldn’t let the prophet even rest for the night. And he had run nineteen miles from Mt. Carmel, down to the gate of Jezreel, before the chariot of Ahab [1 Kings 18:46].
She sent a messenger to him and said: "God do so to me and more also if about this time tomorrow I do not cut your head off." What will Elijah do? The Book says, "and he ran for his life" [1 Kings 19:2-3]. Now, isn’t that something? You know what I told you, I don’t mind having a set-to with the fellowship of deacons. But brother, what shall I do in the day that I have a set-to with a female. What shall I do? That was Elijah. He ran for his life. And isn’t that an unusual thing?
Now, you watch this man Elijah, concerning Jezebel. God speaks to him. He ran all the way down to the Sinaitic Peninsula [1 Kings 19:8], and God speaks to him. And He says: "Elijah, what are you doing here? What is the matter with you?" [1 Kings 19:9].
And does Elijah tell the Lord God the reason why? No, he doesn’t even mention Jezebel. He says: "All Israel has gone into apostasy, and they have turned and they have torn down Your altars, and they have killed all the prophets, and I am the only one that is left." He never even mentioned Jezebel. Isn’t that amazing?
And God asked him the second time: "Elijah, what you doing here?"
And he says the same thing again. He doesn’t even mention that he’s fleeing from the face and the rage and the anger of Jezebel. He doesn’t mention it. "Israel apostatized, and they have thrown down Your altars, and they have killed all Your prophets, and even I only, am left" [1 Kings 19:14].
Now, isn’t that something? You know, I have often thought, when Elijah was there under that juniper tree [1 Kings 19:4] and down there in that cave in the Sinaitic Peninsula [1 Kings 19:5], and he is so discouraged and so depressed, running away from Jezebel, I have often thought, how would it be had it been that he went to his family physician with his problem? And he talks to his family physician about his depression and about his discouragement and his running away. And he doesn’t say anything about Jezebel, and he just talks to his family physician. And so the family physician examines him, and he says: "Your endocrine glands are not quite up to par, and your spleen is the seat of melancholy and depression, and your adrenal glands have poured adrenalin in your system, and your blood vessels are constricted, and your heart is beating fast; and here, you take these pills and you will be all right." He never mentions Jezebel, does he?
And then I think, well, what if Elijah, in that condition of despondency and discouragement, what if he went to a psychiatrist? And so he lies on the psychiatrical couch and the psychiatrist probes into his life. And so he says to Elijah: "You know what’s the matter with you? You betray signs of paranoia. And you have visions of grandeur. And your emotions have gone beyond your touch. Now, you have got to touch all of these things and clear them up." And he probes into his life. And back there, his mother used a switch on him and that ruined his personality. And the psychiatrist talks to him, you know, about his despondency and depression, and he never mentions Jezebel. Never mentions Jezebel.
And then I think, well, what if Elijah had gone to his pastor. And he tells his pastor: "I’m just blue and down and discouraged, and I’m in the dumps, and I’m plagued with melancholia, what shall I do?" And the pastor says: "There, there my brother, there, there my brother, somewhere between the mountain and the wilderness, you lost track of God, and you’re out of touch with the Lord." And he quotes him a verse, and puts his arm around his shoulders, and prays with him, and bids him Godspeed on his way. And he never says anything about Jezebel. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something?
You know, when things are wrong with us, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we never face up to what’s wrong. Man, it’s my glands, that’s what’s wrong. It’s my pancreas, no it’s my spleen, no it’s my pituitary, no, it’s my adrenal. What’s wrong with me? It’s my paranoiac tendencies. It’s – and we got a thousand things, when all the while what’s wrong with us is very plain, only we won’t face it. And that’s exactly with Elijah. What’s wrong with him, Jezebel scared the living daylights out of him, and he’s running away [1 Kings 19:1-4]. That’s what is the matter with him, plain and simple!
So the Lord God said to Elijah: "Now, you go back and you anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And you anoint Jehu to be king over Israel. And you call Elisha to pick up your mantel" [1 Kings 19:15-16]. And I can easily imagine Elijah saying to the Lord, "Lord, I am to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel? We’ve got a queen over Israel, Jezebel! And I’m to anoint a king?" God says, "I have raised up Jehu to bring the judgment of the Almighty upon the house of Ahab and on the house of Jezebel."
And Jehu, driving furiously, comes to the gate of Jezreel. And, I want to give the devil his dues. That woman Jezebel, she died like a queen, she did. And when Jehu – who had slain her son and her son’s family [2 Kings 10:11], and had come to bring the vengeance and judgment of God upon her – when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel, it says here in the King James Version, she painted her face [2 Kings 9:30]. The Hebrew is: "She set her eyes in paint." All of these women know about that. When you put all of this eye shadow and the dark above on your eyebrows and you work on your eyelashes, it makes your eyes larger and more lustrous. And she painted her face. "She set her eyes in paint." And she tired her head [2 Kings 9:30]. That’s an old archaic English word for, "she put her beautiful, jeweled headdress upon her head."
And she came to the window dressed like a queen, facing the judgment of Almighty God [2 Kings 9:30]. You know, there is something about a gifted, wonderful woman, even though she is vile and abominable and bad, there is something about a wonderful, gifted woman that you can’t help but admire. I’ll tell you another one.
Do you remember Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra ? In Act V, Scene II, she is facing her suicidal moment, dying, you know, with an asp, the sting in the bite of an asp. Cleopatra says: – this is Shakespeare – "Present me, my women, like a queen. Go fetch my best attires. I am again for Cydnus, to meet Mark Antony, Bring our crowns and all." And then a few lines further down: "Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have immortal longings within me." Cleopatra died with her crown and her queenly garments.
That’s exactly like Jezebel. She met her death dressed in all of her regal robes. And when Jehu came to the gate of the city, dressed royally, queenly, she appeared in the fortification above the gate. And Jehu cried: "Who is on my side?" And because of the bitter hatred for that tyrannical woman, some eunuchs in the harem came to the window and Jehu said: "Throw her down!" Those eunuchs seized her and cast her down. And the blood splattered on the horses and the chariot wheels, and against the wall; and Jehu, Jehu drove his chariot furiously over her! [2 Kings 9:31-33].
And after the banquet of reception for Jehu, he turned to his men and said: "She is the daughter of a king. Go get her, her corpse, and give her a queenly burial." And when they came to find her corpse, all they could discover left was a skull, part of her feet, and the palms of her hands, "for the dogs had eaten her up, according to the saying and the prophecy of the man of God" [2 Kings 9:34-36]. Ah, Jezebel!
Now, my sermon: all of this is just an explanation of the text. This is just the background. Now, my sermon! My sermon concerns the power of a woman. It is illimitable. And it is all pervasive. And it is a thousandfold so in religion, and a ten thousandfold so in the Christian faith – the power of the woman. You may think this is one of the harshest judgments you ever heard in your life.
I’ve been a pastor for three and fifty years, and this is what I have learned: if the woman in the house, if the wife of the man is not in sympathy with you, you waste your time trying to win him to the Lord. You will not do it! I do not know an exception to that. And if by some kind of unusual acumen or alchemy, you win that man to the Lord, the next day, his wife has turned him away, and you’ll never see him again. You can’t win that man if his wife, if his woman is not in sympathy with you. You’re wasting your time to try – the power of a woman!
And when you look at that religiously, this is what you will find. The Christian faith, the Judeo-Christian religion is a woman’s religion. Now we think that all of these officers that are elected in the church, the pastor, the deacon, all of these men according to the Word of God, they are male. And when we read in the Bible about Judah, the high priest and the king, all are men. But when you get beneath the veneer, when you look beyond just the outside, and you look at it really, and you touch the woof and the warp and the fabric of the faith, this is what you will find: it’s a woman’s religion, from beginning to end.
In the garden of Eden, it was she – the Bible says so – it was she that brought the downfall of the human race [Genesis 3:1-13]. It was a woman. Adam was not deceived, the Bible says so [1 Timothy 2:14]. He consciously and volitionally chose to die with Eve rather than to live without her. Didn’t he have another rib? Couldn’t God have made him another woman? Adam chose to die with Eve rather than to live without her. It’s a great thing, the nobility of the commitment of that man in his love to Eve. But it was Eve who brought that.
And in that same chapter, it tells the story that it will be the Seed of the woman that brings redemption to the world, not the man, the woman. Salvation is in her, God says so [Genesis 3:15]. That’s the way it starts. And when you follow it through, in the story of Abraham, Abraham didn’t want to take Hagar into his bosom. Abraham never entered into that polygamous relationship! It was Sarah who did it! Sarah pressed upon Abraham her servant, her slave, Hagar [Genesis 16:1-3], because she didn’t believe the promises of God that in her old age she would have a son of promise! [Genesis 15:4-6, 17:15-19, 21:1-3]. And Abraham became the father of the child of Hagar, whom he called Ishmael, who is the father of the Arab people! [Genesis 16:15-16]. And the end of that story is in uncounted rivers of blood and oceans of tears. It’s a woman. It’s Sarah.
Carry it through. It’s a woman’s religion. When the Pharaoh made his rule, and his promulgated mandate that every male child born to the Hebrews is to be slain, drowned [Exodus 1:22], it was a woman, Jochebed who made a little ark and placed her little baby boy on the bosom of the Nile River. And when the woman, Pharaoh’s daughter, found the little ark and looked upon the baby crying, little Miriam, the older sister was there. And seeing the compassionate daughter of Pharaoh, asked, "May I bring a nurse and rear the child to you?" And Pharaoh’s daughter said, "Yes." And Miriam got Jochebed, the child’s mother, and Moses grew up on the breast of his own mother! And in the little ears and heart and soul, she poured the story of Jehovah God [Exodus 2:1-10]. And forty years later, he renounced the throne of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer with the people of Jehovah, than to enjoy the pleasures of the Pharaonic palace for a season [Hebrews 11:24-26]. That’s a woman! That’s a woman!
I haven’t time to recount the story of Deborah, who persuaded Barak, encouraged to stand against the enemies of the Lord [Judges 4:6-16]. And I haven’t time to recount the story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of David. Ruth: "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: and where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: God do so and more also unto me, if aught but death separate between me and thee" [Ruth 1:16-17]. That is a woman! I never heard a man say that.
Following the story, it’s all of that piece. The angel of the Lord appears to Mary. And she is to be the mother of that foretold, foreordained Child [Luke 1:26-38]. It’s the story of a woman, a Madonna and a Child. I’m not a Catholic, as you know, but I can tell you in passing by, they have captured something of the true Christian faith, when they exalt the Madonna and the Child. The mother and the child – it’s a woman’s religion.
And I haven’t time to speak of Timothy and Eunice, his mother, and Lois, his grandmother [2 Timothy 1:5]; Timothy, Eunice, and Lois, TEL. So many churches have a TEL class. Nor have I time to go into the Apocalypse. The twelfth chapter that begins the second part of the Apocalypse, the first part is historical, successive [Revelation 1:1-11:19], but the twelfth chapter, the middle chapter begins the great personages of the final consummation of the age [Revelation 12:1-22:21]. And who is the first person presented in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse? It starts like this. "And I saw a great wonder in the heavens, a woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon at her feet, and in her crown, twelve stars" [Revelation 12:1]. It’s a woman’s religion, and it’s a woman’s faith.
How wonderful it is when a godly wife and a godly mother leads her family to the Lord, guides her husband into the faith, and above all, rears her children in the love and admonition of the blessed Jesus. That’s a woman.
Nor could I be other than a speaker for you. If you had a godly Christian mother, could you ever forget the days of your upbringing? Could you? Never! The memory of her sanctifies and hallows the commitment of your life. And if you have a godly, Christian home, it’s the mother in the home that makes it that. The religion is a woman’s religion from the days of the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:21-25] to the great consummation in the Apocalypse at the end of the age [Revelation 12:1]. God be praised for a godly, consecrated, Christian woman.
Now, may we stand together? Our Lord in heaven, all of us know that when we have a bad, bad woman, there is no badness as the badness of a bad woman. But when we have a good woman, there is no goodness like the goodness of a good woman. Our mothers, praise God for a Christian mother! The mothers of Judah and of Israel who kept the faith, and still keep it, making the home godly, God-honoring – and the mothers in our Christian Zion and among our Baptist people and in this dear church, O Lord, how could we find words to say it, the gratitude we feel in our hearts for our Christian mothers! And now, Lord, we live in the midst of our homes and our families, the mothers of our children, our wives, these who keep the faith in our day; for each one of the Christian women who make these homes and teach our children and love us in the Lord, God be praised for our Christian wives and mothers.
And, our Lord, we pray that every child shall have in memory a devoted Christian home, an anchor for the trials and the storms that inevitably come, overwhelming us, but an anchor in the hurricane. Dear God, bless this appeal and this message. To our families, to our children, to our fathers and mothers, and especially to the godly woman, and in this moment that we wait before the Lord, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, a mother and a child you, as the Lord shall press the appeal, answer with your life. "Here I am, pastor. We have decided for God, and we are coming." In the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press on this lower floor, through one of these aisles, our ministers are here, our deacons are here, loving and welcoming you. God speed you and bless you in the way as you answer.
And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest, in Thy precious name, amen. While we pray, while we wait, while we sing the appeal: "Here I am, pastor. Here I come!"
AHAB: FORTY YEARS WITH THE WRONG WOMAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 21:25
I. Jezebel’s family
1. Father was the king of Zidonians
2. Baal worshippers
II. Through Jezebel, Israel worshipped Baal
III. Cunning murderess
IV. Confronting Elijah – Elijah stood fearless before Ahab
V. Violent death prophesied