Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ahab and Jezebel: Abuse of Authority

The first word which most readers associate with the name Jezebel is adulteress (Rev. 2:22). However, Scripture provides no evidence that she was ever unfaithful to her husband, King Ahab. So far as the record is concerned, she and her husband were monogamous, a refreshing change in that day and age.

She was a zealous patron of the theological school of Baal. [1] She had the power and authority of the king, and access to the treasury with the means necessary to deliver a knockout punch to covenant Yahwehism in the northern kingdom of Israel.

The timing was perfect. Israel had been drifting for over a century into the sphere of religious influence of her neighbors to the north—Zidon. Although Baalism and the everlasting covenant promise of Jehovah were opposites, by Ahab’s day the accommodation had become complete, so that very few could make the distinction. [2] Jezebel was the princess daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon. When Ahab took her for his wife there was no hue and cry in the land, for so many kings had set the precedent, that it was considered common practice.

Since the days of the prophet Samuel, the Lord had established schools of the prophets throughout the land to educate the people in the true principles of the law and the gospel. Jezebel undertook a systematic policy of exterminating the Lord’s select teachers and importing priests and prophets of Baal. She did this so effectively that Elijah thought he was the only one left who was loyal to Jehovah. These educators and curates, all eight hundred and fifty of them, were financed from the queen’s table, but they were deployed throughout the kingdom. Their activities of re-education solidified the gains of Baalism in Israel and well nigh signaled the extinction of the knowledge of the true God.

Baal worship consisted of the worship of the sun and rain. Jezebel was a devotee of Baal’s consort, Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. The Asherah pole that Ahab set up was a cult symbol for the goddess. From these two major figures a whole mythology and constellation of lesser gods evolved from the philosophical speculations of the priests and teachers. Such nature worship could only be characterized as spiritualistic pantheism, which eliminated the necessity for a Creator. The law of God was abolished, hence there was no sin or need for a Savior from it. It was a religion derived from self and was very pleasing to self.

The major theological tenets of Baalism fostered a system of ethics oppressive to the poor and fed the insatiable greed of power and privilege. For example, when Ahab desired the acquisition of Naboth’s ancestral vineyard, which was adjacent to his palace in Jezreel, he was denied by the owner. But Jezebel enunciated the written doctrine of the divine right of kings to declare eminent domain. Naboth and his sons were murdered upon a false rumor, and the seizure of the vineyard was complete.

In our day the religion of Baal, or self, is not dead by any means. “It is as easy to make an idol of false doctrines and theories as to fashion an idol of wood or stone. ... Though in a different form, idolatry exists in the Christian world today as verily as it existed among ancient Israel in the days of Elijah. The god of many professedly wise men, of philosophers, ... of many colleges and universities, even of some theological institutions—is little better than Baal. ...”[3]

How easy it is to read the prevailing teachings of righteousness by faith from the contemporary religious environment into Scripture, is confirmed by one authoritative observer. “The prejudices and opinions that prevailed at Minneapolis are not dead by any means; the seeds sown there in some hearts are ready to spring into life and bear a like harvest. The tops have been cut down, but the roots have never been eradicated, and they still bear their unholy fruit to poison the judgment, pervert the perceptions, and blind the understanding of those with whom you connect, in regard to the message and the messengers. ... Infidelity has been making inroads into our ranks; for it is the fashion to depart from Christ, and give place to skepticism. With many the cry of their heart has been, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord. The true religion, the only religion of the Bible, that teaches forgiveness only through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, that advocates righteousness by the faith of the Son of God, has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected. ... What kind of future is before us if we shall fail to come into the unity of the [1888] faith? [4]

From these solemn words it becomes apparent that the church of Laodicea has permitted Jezebel to teach Baalism to her children. The Elijah message now comes to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. “When Elijah was here in person, his greatest work was that of overthrowing Jezebel and her system of teaching, and in their stead to reinstall the Lord’s prophets in their school work. He is now to do the same good work among the Laodiceans.” [5] To Laodicea Ahab says, “Follow Jezebel, my wife.” The Lord says, “Hear ye, Elijah’s message, and follow Me.”

—Paul Penno


1. Wm. Covert, “Jezebel,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 15, 1901, pp. 666, 667.
2. “The embrace of that alternative system of faith in Israel is likely not a deliberate alternative choice, but a slow, gradual, unwitting compromise, so that Yahwism is distorted by the alternative in its environment. Such a practice has no analogue among us, unless we imagine that ideologies of autonomous selves who can secure self lead to a compromise and distortion of biblical faith,” Walter Brueggemann, 1 & 2 Kings (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys, 2000), p. 190.
3. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 583.
4. Ellen G. White, “To the General Conference,” Letter B-24-1889, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 444, 445.
5. Covert, Ibid., p. 667.

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Marriages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 11 now in MP3 format. Click here to listen as a podcast. To stream online or suscribe to podcast go to