Category: Ahab


Ahab was one in a line of increasingly evil kings in Israel’s history, starting with the reign of Jeroboam. King Ahab “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Among the events chronicled in Ahab’s life that led to his downfall was his marriage to an evil woman named Jezebel who had a particular hatred for God’s people (1 Kings 18:4). Because of his marriage to a pagan woman, Ahab devoted himself to the worship of the false gods Baal and Asherah in Israel (1 Kings 16:31–33).

The evil of King Ahab was countered by the prophet Elijah who warned Ahab of coming judgment if he did not obey the Lord. Ahab blamed Elijah for bringing trouble on Israel (1 Kings 18:17), but it was Ahab’s promotion of idolatry that was the true cause of the three-and-a-half-year famine (verse 18). In a dramatic confrontation between Elijah and Ahab’s false prophets, God proved to Israel that He, not Baal, was the true God (1 Kings 18:16–39). All of Ahab’s men of Baal were killed that day (verse 40).

King Ahab also disobeyed the Lord’s direct command to destroy Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram. God set it up so that Ahab would lead Israel to victory, but Ahab made a treaty with the king he was supposed to kill (1 Kings 20). “Therefore,” God told Ahab through an unnamed prophet, “it is your life for his life, your people for his people” (verse 42).

The event that sealed Ahab’s doom was his murder of an innocent man (1 Kings 21). Ahab coveted a vineyard belonging to a man named Naboth. The king offered to buy the vineyard, but Naboth refused, because the Law forbade him to sell it (1 Kings 21:2–3; cf. Leviticus 25:23). While Ahab sulked about it in his palace, his wife arranged Naboth’s murder. Once the vineyard’s owner was out of the way, King Ahab took the vineyard for himself. Elijah came to Ahab and told him the Lord would deal with him by cutting off all his descendants. Also, Ahab himself would suffer an ignoble fate: “In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!” (1 Kings 21:19). Upon hearing this, Ahab “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly” (verse 27). In response to Ahab’s repentance, God mercifully postponed the destruction of Ahab’s dynasty until after Ahab was dead (verse 29).

The prophesied judgment against Ahab came true exactly as Elijah predicted. God used Ahab’s own false prophets to entice him into going to the battle at Ramoth-Gilead, where he was hit by a “random” arrow and slowly bled to death in his chariot. Later, “they washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared” (1 Kings 22:38). After Ahab’s death, Jehu killed Jezebel (2 Kings 9) and all of Ahab’s descendants (2 Kings 10).

King Ahab was justly judged by God because he disobeyed the Lord’s direct commands, he abused his responsibility as Israel’s king, and he led God’s people right into idolatry. In the end, “there was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols” (1 Kings 21:25–26).

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King Ahab and Queen Jezebel served as leaders of the northern kingdom of Israel during a time of much evil in the land. King Ahab was a Jewish king who married a Sidonian woman named Jezebel and became involved in worshiping Baal, the god of her people. Ahab built a house to Baal in the capital city of Samaria and made an Asherah pole as a tool of pagan worship. We are told, “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33).

Jezebel was likewise known for her evil actions. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. After her marriage to Ahab, her first recorded action was cutting off the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4). Obadiah, a God-fearing officer in Ahab’s court, noted that Jezebel killed many prophets, despite Obadiah’s efforts to save them: “Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water?” (1 Kings 18:13–14).

It was during the time of Ahab and Jezebel that Elijah was the prophet in Israel. Satan had his couple on the throne, but God had His man in the field, performing miracles and leading a revival against Baal-worship. The three-and-a-half-year drought that Elijah prayed for was part of God’s judgment on the wickedness of the nation and its leaders.

When Elijah confronted Ahab near the end of the drought, the king said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17). But Ahab had it wrong. Elijah was not the one bringing trouble on the land. The prophet corrected the king: “I have not made trouble for Israel . . . but you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals” (verse 18).

After Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and had them killed at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), Jezebel issued a death threat against him (1 Kings 19:2). The queen went on to plot against Naboth, the innocent owner of a vineyard that Ahab coveted. Jezebel had Naboth killed so the king could confiscate his land (1 Kings 21), and she prodded her husband into many other wicked acts besides: “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited” (1 Kings 21:25).

Ahab’s death was predicted by the prophets Elijah and Micaiah (1 Kings 21:19; 22:28). Jezebel’s gruesome death was also predicted by Elijah (1 Kings 21:23). True to the prophecy, Ahab was killed in a battle with Syria. Later, Jezebel was thrown from a tower, “and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her” (2 Kings 9:33). Then, “when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands” (2 Kings 9:35). Just as Elijah had said, the dogs ate Jezebel.

In Revelation 2:20 Jezebel’s reputation lives on as Jesus speaks against the church at Thyatira: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” The woman’s name in Thyatira was probably not literally “Jezebel,” but her immorality and idolatry in preying upon God’s people was very Jezebel-like.

Both Ahab and Jezebel were leaders of God’s people who forsook the Lord and served other gods. The royal couple earned a reputation for sin and violence, and they both suffered violent deaths as part of God’s judgment on their actions.

In 1 Kings 22:19-23, there is a troubling passage in which we are told that God used a lying spirit to deceive Ahab. Does God really use evil, lying spirits to do His bidding? Why would God do such a thing? To find the answer to this question, we need to learn a little background about King Ahab, and also understand something about the sovereignty of God.

King Ahab was the son of Omri, and he reigned over Israel in Samaria for 22 years (1 Kings 16:29). Continuing the example of his father, Ahab did evil in the sight of God by worshiping Baal and “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). Ahab again and again proved he was bent on evil, evidenced by his continued refusal to listen to the prophet Elijah’s warnings. Ahab accused Elijah of troubling Israel by the drought, but Elijah declared that it was Ahab’s own sin which caused the troubles for the nation (1 Kings 18:18). Since Ahab had declared war on God by killing His prophets (v. 13), God then brought the war to Ahab in the form of a contest (1 Kings 18:19-40) between the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on one side, and Elijah on the other. When God miraculously verified Elijah’s status as His true prophet, Ahab should have repented, but he remained in his sinful rebellion, fueled by the wicked anger of his wife, Jezebel.

In many subsequent incidents, God again showed His power and mercy to Ahab, but the king refused to submit and obey Him. Finally Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, came to visit him and Ahab persuaded him to join in battle to take Ramoth-Gilead from the Syrians. Wisely, Jehoshaphat insisted that they seek God’s will in the matter, so Ahab brought 400 false prophets together, who all assured him that God would give them victory (1 Kings 22:6). Jehoshaphat recognized their falsehood and asked whether a true prophet of God could be summoned. Ahab acknowledged that Micaiah was a true prophet, but he hated him, because “he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad” (1 Kings 22:8).

Micaiah was brought before the kings and delivered God’s final warning to Ahab. He said that if they went to war, they would be defeated and left without a king. Ahab replied, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” (1 Kings 22:18). Ahab was again rejecting the clear warning from God, and choosing a path of wicked rebellion. In response to Ahab’s constant choice of sin, God revealed some of the inner workings of the spiritual world.

God had already pronounced a death sentence upon Ahab (1 Kings 20:42, 21:19), but had given him opportunity to repent of his wickedness. With this final rejection of God’s counsel, God determined to carry out the death sentence. Since Ahab continued to prefer the lies of his false prophets over the truth given by God’s prophets, God chose to use the false prophets to carry out His plan. When God asked for volunteers to “entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there” (1 Kings 22:20), a spirit (fallen angel/demon) said he would be a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets. God gave the spirit permission to proceed, and Ahab received the message he desired.

God chose to use a lying spirit because Ahab rejected God’s rebukes and warnings all through his life and cup of God’s wrath was full. Since God is sovereign over all of creation, He is not restricted in what or who He can use to accomplish His holy purposes. All of creation is under His authority and He chooses to use people and spirits, both good and evil, to bring His divine plans to pass and bring glory to Himself. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). In the case of Ahab, God chose to using a lying spirit to accomplish His perfect and righteous plan (Psalm 18:30). The lying spirit will receive its punishment just as Ahab did, and those who repent of their sins will receive forgiveness just like Ahab could have. The real question is, “Will I respond to God’s warnings with faith and obedience, or will I reject His counsel and be rejected by Him?”