Jezebel: Ahab’s Dog’s Life
August 28th, 1983 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 21:25
8-28-83 7:30 p.m.
Well, I don’t think it’d be possible to preach through the Bible about the amazing women in Holy Scripture and not include this one infamous female of all time. There has never been any one woman who epitomized wickedness as much so as Jezebel. She is a thousand Lady Macbeths in quintessence. A thousand years after she died, in our Lord’s message to the church at Thyatira, he says, "You have there this wicked woman, Jezebel" [Revelation 2:20].
Now let us turn in the Word of God to 1 Kings 21. 1 Kings 21, and we shall read verses 23-26. 1 Kings 21. 1 Kings, chapter 21, in the middle of your Old Testament; 1 Kings 21, and we shall read out loud together verses 23-26. Now together:
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 fouls of the air eat."
And 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.
And what a sentence: "None like Ahab who did sell himself to work wickedness . . . whom Jezebel his wife stirred up."
Where did she come from? We read in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Kings beginning at verse 30. 1 Kings 16:30: "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," the first king of Israel, "that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians" – that is a word describing Phoenicia, king of the Phoenicians – "and went and served Baal," the Canaanites’ god, Baal, "and worshiped him."
"And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, in the temple he built for him in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove" – now, that translation "grove" is the Hebrew word "Asherah, Astarte," the female goddess that matched the male god Baal, and Ahab made a temple for Asherah, for Astarte – "and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him" [1 Kings 16:30-33].
The tragedy of that is unspeakable. David had rid the whole nation of Canaanites’ idol worship, Baal and Asherah, and the commandment of the Lord was that no Israelite was to intermarry with the Canaanites [Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4]. God said it would mean the destruction and the dilution of the faith of Jehovah.
Against that prohibition and that interdictory commandment, Ahab, who is the king of Israel, takes to wife the daughter of Ethbaal who is king of the Zidonians, king of the Phoenicians [1 Kings 16:31]. Ethbaal became king in the assassination of his own brother, and he was the high priest of Baal worship in his country; and Ahab goes into that palace and selects a queen for the people of God in the idolatress temple of Baal and Asherah.
Well, what is so vile about Baal worship? I haven’t time to recount it – just one or two things that are salient. One: they offered human sacrifice to their idol god. Can you imagine offering up your children or the finest nobility of the land in human blood before Baal? As though that were not vile enough, Baal was worshiped with sexual intercourse with animals.
When I was in Israel one time, I saw an idol dug up, and I looked at the thing and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was an idol. It was a picture of a human being having sexual intercourse with an animal. That is Baal worship. That is Asherah worship. That is Astarte worship; and it displeased God [Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 18:23, 20:15-16; Deuteronomy 27:21], and God made it interdictory that the people who worship Jehovah should even intermarry with people who worship idols like that [Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4].
Now, when Jezebel came to be queen over Israel, it was her stated and avowed purpose – and she implemented it – that Jehovah worship, the worship of the Lord true God, was to be swept out of the nation, and all of the prophets of God she slew [1 Kings 18:4]; and she selected 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to sit at her table [1 Kings 18:19]. She was a vile and vicious and violent woman [1 Kings 18:13, 19:1-2, 21:8-10]; and as though that were not enough, Ahab, in her hand, was a cat’s paw – weak and vacillating [1 Kings 25:1-10, 15, 25]. She herself governed the entire nation – vile and wicked [1 Kings 25:1-16].
Their three children were as evil as she was. The eldest son, Ahaziah: Upon the death of Ahab, Ahaziah became king, and the Lord slew him after two years [1 Kings 22:40, 51-53; 2 Kings 1:1-17]. He was followed by the second son, Jehoram [2 Kings 1:17], and after he had served about six years in evil and villainy, Jehu, the captain of his army, slew him [2 Kings 3:1-3, 9:1-27]. The other child is Athaliah, a daughter, who was married to the king of Judah [2 Kings 8:26], and she slew all of the seed royal – all of them. A vicious woman herself, a true daughter of her mother Jezebel, Athaliah slew all of the seed royal [2 Kings 11:1-3]. And the great promises of God through the line of David would have ceased had it not been that Jehoiada, the high priest, hid a little baby that belonged to the royal family, named Joash, and took care of the little boy until the time came to present him to Judah [2 Kings 11:4-21]. Everything about her is vicious and vile and violent [2 Kings 11:14].
Now, you have an interesting confrontation here between Jezebel and Elijah. Elijah bursts into history with the force of a hammer, and his words are like jagged lightning. And we think of Elijah as being unafraid, fearless, courageous in the extreme: and this man Elijah, this prophet of God, stands before Ahab and condemns him [1 Kings 17:1, 18:1, 17-19, 21:17-29]; and he stands before the 450 prophets of Baal, and he slays them [1 Kings 18:19-40]; and he stands before Israel challenging them back from apostasy to the worship of the true God [1 Kings 18:20-21]; and on Mount Carmel he commands fire [1 Kings 18:30-39] and then water [1 Kings 18:42-45; James 5:17-18] to fall from the Lord out of heaven. Now, that is Elijah.
And we think of him in terms of a man of indescribable depths of courage and commitment, but before [Jezebel], he turns to water. Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, "Let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of those prophets of Baal by tomorrow about this time" [1 Kings 19:2].
Good night alive! Look at that. Does the signs of God from heaven – fire to fall on Mount Carmel and rain to fall out of the sky on the land – does that affect Jezebel? No, not at all. She sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "By this time tomorrow, you’re going to be like one of those slain prophets of Baal" [1 Kings 19:2]; and when he saw that, he arose and went for his life [1 Kings 19:3].
Now, can you believe that? A man stands before Ahab and all the prophets of Baal and all of Israel, unafraid, and then whipped before the violence of an angry female named Jezebel. And when he saw that – you know, when I read that verse, I thought about Peter when the Lord invited him to walk on the water. As long as Simon Peter kept his eye on the Lord, he walked on the water to Jesus [Matthew 14:22-29], but when he turned to see the wind and the waves, he began to sink [Matthew 14:30-32].
Now, that’s with Elijah: As long as he was looking to God, he was afire; he was aflame; he was a prophet; but he took his eye off of God and began to look at the fury of Jezebel who was like a tigress robbed of her whelps, and when he saw that he went for his life. And then you have the story of the prophet praying to die [1 Kings 19:4] and then God calling him back into service in a tremendous experience at Mount Sinai [1 Kings 19:5-19]. That’s Elijah before Jezebel.
Now, in the twenty-first chapter in the Book of [1 Kings], we’re going to look at Ahab before Jezebel. It starts off with Ahab’s pouting and sulking. He sits and lies on a couch in the palace – at verse 4 – and he turns his face to the wall, and he won’t eat and he won’t talk. He just lies there on the couch sulking.
And Jezebel, his wife, comes in and says, "Sweetheart, what’s the matter with you lying on the bed with your face to the wall, and you won’t eat? What’s the matter?" [1 Kings 21:5]
"Well," he says, "Um."
And she says, "Now, honey, you tell sweet mommy what’s the matter. What’s the matter? Coochie, coochie, lovey, lovey, dovey, dovey. What’s the matter? What’s the matter?"
And he says, "Naboth. The vineyard I want for a garden of herbs; and I offered to buy it from Naboth, and he won’t sell it to me" [1 Kings 21:1-3, 6]
She says, "Honey Pot, Sugar Dove, is that what’s the matter with you?"
"Yes, I want Naboth’s vineyard for a garden of herbs, and he won’t sell it
She said, "Aren’t you a king?" [1 Kings 21:7]
That reminds me of a line out of Shakespeare’s Macbeth when Lady Macbeth wants her thane to murder King Duncan of Scotland that he might inherit the throne. She says, "Give me the dagger" [Act 2, Scene 2, MacBeth, by William Shakespeare, 1606].
And she says to her husband, "Don’t you worry, Sweet. I’ll get the vineyard for you. I’ll do it. I’ll do it" [1 Kings 21:7].
Now, let’s look at that for a minute. This man Ahab is the king. He has everything. That is, he has everything but one thing. Right there next to his palace is this little vineyard. Now, was it a matter of haughty indifference or contumacy that Naboth wouldn’t sell his vineyard to the king? No. That violated the rule, and the law, and the commandment of Moses [Numbers 36:7]. You could not sell your inheritance.
You see, God said, "I own the land. It’s Mine, and these are tenants of Mine – the people of Israel" [Leviticus 25:23]. And God allotted them places and pieces and parcels in the land of Israel [Joshua 13:1-19:51, 21:1-42], and the Lord God said, "You’re not to sell it." That’s found in the last chapter of the Book of Numbers [Numbers 36:7, 9]. And if it is sold, the kinsman closest is to redeem it [Leviticus 25:25]; and if it isn’t redeemed, at the end of the Jubilee year, it’s to go back to the family" [Leviticus 25:26-28]. That’s what God said: "You can’t sell the inheritance of your fathers" [Numbers 36:7, 9].
Do you remember the Book of Daniel closes like that: "Daniel, go thy way; at the end of the age you’ll stand in your lot" [Daniel 12:13]? What does that mean? That means that when Jesus comes again, God takes the Promised Land, and He divides it by lot to the families of the people of God and Daniel is one of them. He’ll stand in his lot, in his inheritance, in the land of Judah.
So Naboth, when the king came to him to buy his vineyard, he said, "I cannot sell you my vineyard. God forbid. This is the inheritance of my fathers. My fathers sat under these vines and under this fig tree. I cannot sell you my vineyard" [1 Kings 21:2-3]. So Ahab pouts and sulks; and the tigress says, "I’ll get you your vineyard" [1 Kings 21:4-7].
Now the story that follows is unthinkable. She calls for a fast [1 Kings 21:8-9]. All Israel is to fast – a fast day – and the purpose of the fast is to point out a man who has blasphemed God and blasphemed the king [1 Kings 21:10]; and his name is Naboth [1 Kings 21:9]. And she suborns, she hires witnesses who swear that they have heard Naboth curse the king and blaspheme the name of God [1 Kings 21:10], and they take Naboth and stone him with stones that he died [1 Kings 21:11-13].
Then they sent to Jezebel saying, "Naboth is stoned and is dead" [1 Kings 21:14]; and a messenger went to Mrs. Naboth and said, "Naboth, your husband, is stoned and is dead;" and messengers went throughout all Israel, saying, "Naboth is stoned and is dead!" And Gabriel, the messenger of God, appeared before the throne of the Lord God Almighty and said, "Naboth is stoned, and he’s dead;" and the Lord God looked down from heaven.
And Jezebel said to Ahab, "Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth" [1 Kings 21:15]. And look at the word next: "And the word of the Lord God came to Elijah the Tishbite saying, "Arise, go down to meet Ahab. Naboth is stoned and is dead" [1 Kings 21:17-18]. Isn’t it a wonderful thing when Jezebel says to Ahab, "Arise, Naboth is dead," God says to his prophet, "Arise, Naboth is stoned and is dead"? There is no such thing in national life, in personal life, in home life, in any life that escapes the final judgment of Almighty God. When Jezebel says to Ahab, "Arise" [1 Kings 21:15], God says to Elijah, the Tishbite, "Arise" [1 Kings 21:17-18].
Now, what a difference in Elijah. Once before, remember, when he heard that, he went for his life [1 Kings 19:1-3]. Not now. Elijah has had an experience with God, and he stands in the vineyard of Naboth when Ahab comes to possess it. He just stands there like an incarnate conscience. Like a grim, stern judgment from God, he just stands there; and Ahab looks at him and says, "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" [1 Kings 21:20]. And Elijah says to him, "Hast thou killed and taken possession in the place? In the place where the blood of Naboth was licked up by the dogs, shall the dogs lick up thy blood" [1 Kings 21:19]. And then the passage you read: "And the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel" [1 Kings 21:23]. Oh! Every red sunset reminded of that pronouncement of Almighty God, and every red flower was a sermon and a judgment of Almighty God, and every red clump of clay was a speechment from Almighty God.
The dogs that couldn’t get to the body of Naboth because of the stones but licked up his blood in that place, shall the dogs lick up the blood of Ahab [1 Kings 21:19], and by the wall of the palace shall the dogs eat the body of Jezebel [1 Kings 21:23] – and the rest of it you know. Oh the almightiness of the mightiness of God!
Now, may I conclude? There is something about a woman in her relationship in the circle of the home of her husband that is everlastingly determinating. It’s a strange thing. I have watched it for fifty and four years as a pastor; and what I tell you may seem the harshest thing that ever fell on your ears, but as I live, it is the truth of God.
I will not even try to win a man to the Lord if I do not have the sympathy of his wife. I won’t even try. There’s no need to try. I can pray with the man. I can get him to commit his heart to Jesus. I can get him on his knees in prayer, and that night when his wife is done talking to him, he is as heathen and as brazen and as infidel as he ever was before I made appeal to him. I just don’t try.
I have never yet in fifty-four years as a pastor been able to win a man, get him really – get him for God, get him for the church, get him in the kingdom – I have never yet been able to reach a man if his wife was not in sympathy with me, if she didn’t try to help me. It’s a waste of time. It’s beating the air. It’s plowing water. Isn’t that a strange thing? But that’s one of the truths of Almighty God that I’ve seen in human life.
Let me turn that another way positively. It’s the woman that makes the religious life in the home and in a man’s heart. She does it; and if she is not a Christian, and if she doesn’t love God, and if she doesn’t offer her finest, highest, in prayer and intercession to the Lord, that man of hers and that home of hers will be as pagan and as heathen as the darkest hut in Africa. You’ll never reach the home. You’ll never reach the man if the wife is not in sympathy.
Thank God, thank God for the wonderful women in God’s Book and in human history. Thank God for Jochebed and Miriam and little Moses – Jochebed who in faith hid him in the bulrushes [Exodus 1:15-2:3, 6:20] and little Miriam who watched to see what would happen to the baby in the ark [Exodus 2:5-8]. Thank God for Jochebed and Miriam. Thank God for Deborah who delivered Israel [Judges 4:1-5:31]. Thank God for Ruth [Ruth 1:1-4:22]. I look forward to preaching on Ruth – the sweetest love story ever told. Thank God for Queen Esther who delivered her people from death [Esther 1:1-10:3].
I am not a Catholic, but thank God for Mary, the virgin mother of our Lord [Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-52], for her cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist [Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-80]. Thank God for Dorcas [Acts 9:36-42], and thank God for Lydia [Acts 16:14-15, 31-40], and thank God for Priscilla [Acts 18:1-7, 18, 24-28; Romans 16:13; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19].
And shall I not thank God for Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Roman emperor who turned to the Lord in the answered prayers of [his] mother’s heart? Thank God for Helena. Thank God for Anthusa, the mother of John Chrysostom – one of the most brilliant men and capable who ever lived. When you read a commentary today, trace it back and you’ll go to the words of John Chrysostom: John, the "golden mouth." His personal intent was to be a lawyer, and he was in the school of Libanius; and Libanius said his mother stole him away in prayer to a life of piety: God’s "golden-mouth" preacher in answer to the prayers of his mother.
What could I say about Monica? Her son, Augustine, was the vilest young man in all Carthage; and the pastor of the church said to her, "Go thy way, mother. The child of so many prayers could not be lost." Monica, the mother of Augustine – Santa Monica named for her like a thousand other places – a glorious mother.
What could I say of Olga and Vladimir who turned Russia to the Christian faith? What could I say of Susanna, the mother in Epworth whose children, Charles and John Wesley, saved England from the blood of the French Revolution?
What could I say of my own sweet mother? Dear me, what an everlasting debt do I owe to her faith and prayers and devotion. And if you had a Christian mother, and if you have a Christian wife, it’s the benedictory blessing of all remembrances that heaven could bestow upon you – the glorious, immeasurable power of a consecrated woman. God love you, and bless us in the faith and in the way; and you lead it, sweet and precious wife and mother. May we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, these tremendous truths that we find in the Word of God sometimes make our souls tremble. O Lord, dear God and our Father, help us – realizing these truths, help us with open heartedness to invite Christ into our homes, into our hearts, into our lives, into our work; and may that woman, wherever she is, whoever she is, be aware of the great burden of responsibility that lies upon her. She makes the home. She opens the door to Christ. She leads the way into the faith, and without her, we stagger and fail. O Lord, may she rise up: a godly mother, a godly wife, a godly girl, a godly person.
And while our people wait in prayer for you, a family, "God has spoken to us and we’re coming tonight as a family. We’re on the way;" a couple – you and your wife, you and your friend, you and your sweetheart, two of you, or one of you, a somebody you, "Pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m on the way." In a moment, we’ll sing our hymn of appeal; and while we sing it, in the balcony round there’s time to spare, down one of these stairways; on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, tonight we’re standing with you and this wonderful church and with God." Our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us. God bless them as they come, in Thy wonderful and saving Name, Amen. Welcome, while we sing.
JEZEBEL: AHAB’S DOG’S LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 21:25
I. Most infamous and evil queen in Israel, father was a Zidonian king
1. Married Ahab, king of Israel
2. Jezebel brought Baal worship to Israel
II. Elijah bursts on the scene
1. Rebukes Ahab
2. Fears Jezebel
III. Elijah prophesizes Ahab’s and Jezebel’s death
IV. Woman’s influence on her husband
V. Mothers’ influence on their children