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Ahab and Jezebel

 

The Bible in Art: Ahab and Jezebel    

 

 

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Verses for Consideration: 1 Kings 18:1-40; 19:1,2  (The Date is 863 B.C.)

After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

 

Now the famine was severe in Samaria, 3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator.(Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. 4 While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” 6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.

 

7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”

 

8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.'” 9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped theLord since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”

 

15 Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”

 

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

 

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

 

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

 

But the people said nothing.

 

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire-he is God.”

 

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

 

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

 

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

 

 

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

 

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.”32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

 

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

 

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

 

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham,Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

 

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

 

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God!”

 

40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

 

19:1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

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We may not believe in them or like them, but public opinion polls have become a way of life. Everyone from politicians to advertisers wants to know what Americans think, what they like, and what they believe.

The majority position has a lot of clout. “But Dad,” argues a teenager, “you gotta let me go to the party. All my friends’ parents are letting them go!” If the majority says it’s okay, it must be okay. When the majority holds to a certain opinion, who are you to argue against it?

Elijah did. He was outnumbered by 850 false prophets, playing to a fickle crowd, facing the wrath of an evil king and his cunning wife; yet he didn’t hesitate to go against popular opinion. He knew their false beliefs were not okay.

Those times must have been terrible for Elijah and Obadiah-when evil ruled and idols replaced the Lord in people’s hearts; when true prophets were dead or were in hiding, and God appeared to be silent.

However, things are not always as they seem. Elijah plus Obadiah plus God equaled a majority. And when the time was right, God broke his silence in a powerful display of force atop Mount Carmel. He showed that he is the true God.

Many years later God broke his silence atop Mount Calvary. For Jesus’ sake God declared the world’s sins forgiven. Though world opinion chooses not to believe God’s gospel of pardon, we will take heart; for someday God will once and for all silence opposition. He will settle his believing children in a perfect world forever, free from opposition and unrest.

How lovely it will be someday in that land when God comes to live among his people. Truth will reign and public opinion will be unanimous in its acclaim: “Long live the King, King Jesus.”

Prayer: Lord God, when leaders of all sorts fail me, remind me that I have a King in heaven who has shown himself completely trustworthy and gracious. Help me put my faith in him always. Amen.

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Title: God’s Judgement on Mount Carmel (1645-50)

 

Artist: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn