We seem to be experiencing a void of leadership in our world. There plenty of leaders who want to dominate, who want rule, and those who think they are gods. Who does God call the “worst leader, the worst king?” The Bible gives us plenty of candidates. In the period after the death of King Solomon the Hebrew kingdom split into two, with the larger northern part called Israel and the southern part Judah. Both kingdoms had some horrible kings. Some of the leading candidates might be:
- King David – while he was still a hunted outlaw, he would cover his tracks by killing everyone, male and female, in the villages he raided (1 Samuel 27:9).
- Baasha of Israel (1 Kings 15: 28-29) – He killed his predecessor and the whole family of a previous king, Jeroboam, just to be on the safe side. Baasha was deposed by Zimri, who killed his family.
- Jehu of Israel was another murderer, who made two piles of the heads of 70 royal princes (2 Kings 10:8) and killed scores of other rivals.
- Manasseh of Judah built altars to foreign gods in the Temple and ‘sacrificed his own son in the fire’ (2 Kings 21:6).
The idea here is not to just look back at history as if we are creating a movie script. There were lots of leaders that were detestable to our God. There is one king, however, that God gives the Oscar to. He ‘did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him‘ (1 Kings 16:33). What is it that angered God so much?
(1 Kings 16:30-33)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.”
King Ahab was the son of Omri, who hardly gets a mention in the Bible. Some might even try to compare this biblical king to Captain Ahab, the complex antihero of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Only conjecture exists as to whether the captain’s scriptural namesake suggests a storyline like that of Israel’s most evil king. The goal, however, should be to dissect the story and understand what did King Ahab do to earn such a prestigious satanic title and unconditional condemnation from God?
The journey to ruin began when Ahab married a woman named Jezebel who had a particular hatred for God’s people (1 Kings 18:4). Because of his marriage to this pagan woman, Ahab devoted himself to the worship of the false gods Baal and Asherah (1 Kings 16:31–33). Ahab fell completely under the evil influence of his queen Jezebel, a heathen princess, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon. She was fierce, revengeful, and ambitious. Jezebel was a fanatical worshipper of Baal and spread idol worship throughout Israel. She consecrated high places and built altars all over Israel upon which countless sacrifices were offered to the idols. No less than four hundred and fifty prophets of the Baal were in the capital city. Four hundred prophets of the Ashtarte2Astarte was a goddess honored in the Eastern Mediterranean area, before being renamed by the Greeks. Variants of the name “Astarte” can be found in the Phoenician, Hebrew, Egyptian and Etruscan languages. A deity of fertility and sexuality, Astarte eventually evolved into the Greek Aphrodite thanks to her role as a goddess of sexual love. sat at her table as her daily guests. Jezebel persecuted the true Hebrew prophets so fiercely that not one true prophet could speak without giving up his life.
Departing completely from the worship of God, Ahab then built a temple to Baal. To fully comprehend the significance of this, one needs to understand Baal. Baal was the name of a supreme god worshiped in ancient Canaan and Phoenicia. Baal was a fertility god who was believed to enable the earth to produce crops and people to produce children. The practice of Baal worship infiltrated Jewish religious life during the time of the Judges (Judges 3:7). Baal became widespread in Israel during the reign of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31-33) and also affected Judah (2 Chronicles 28:1-2). The word baal means “lord.” Ahab broke both the first and second commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me and He worshiped graven images.”
Ahab also had coveted the vineyard of a man named Naboth. (This goes against the tenth commandment, “Coveting thy neighbor’s possessions.”). The king offered to buy the vineyard, but Naboth refused because the Law of Moses forbid Naboth to sell his inheritance (1 Kings 21:2–3). While Ahab sulked about, his wife Jezebel arranged for Naboth’s murder (God’s sixth commandment was broken, “Thou shall not murder”). Once the vineyard’s owner was out of the way, King Ahab took the vineyard for himself. God’s displeasure brought about a drought and famine over the land. His adversary throughout his life was the prophet Elijah, who warned him of coming judgment because he did not obey the Lord. Ahab blamed Elijah for bringing trouble on Israel (1 Kings 18:17). However, it was Ahab’s promotion of idolatry that was the true cause of the three-and-a-half-year famine (1 Kings 18:18). Elijah came to Ahab and told him the Lord would deal with him by cutting off all his descendants. Also telling Ahab that he would suffer a shameful fate:
(1 Kings 21:19) – “Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”
There were plenty of bad kings, and plenty guilty of bloodshed, but Ahab seems to have attracted the most severe condemnation. It’s likely that this was because of the brazen nature of his infidelity to God in building a temple to Baal, and the way he continually resisted God’s warnings through Elijah. Ahab’s sin before God was that he led God’s people away from the one true God! And all other sins start from there. With the true prophets of God murdered or driven from the country, the Kingdom of Israel was on the verge of a total spiritual collapse. How did it end for Ahab?
(1 Kings 22:34-38) – “A soldier shot an arrow without aiming at anyone. But he hit Ahab king of Israel. The arrow hit him in a place not covered by his armor. King Ahab said to his chariot driver, ‘Turn the chariot around. Take me out of the battle. I am hurt!’ The battle continued all day. King Ahab was in his chariot, leaning against it to hold himself up. He was facing the Arameans. His blood flowed down and covered the bottom of the chariot. That evening he died. Near sunset a cry went out through the army of Israel: ‘Each man go back to his own country and city.’ So in that way King Ahab died. His body was carried to Samaria and buried there. The men cleaned Ahab’s chariot at a pool in Samaria. This was a pool where prostitutes bathed. And the dogs licked King Ahab’s blood from the chariot. These things happened as the Lord had said they would.”
When looking at our world today, are the leaders of nations bringing people closer to God or farther away? What is most clear in Scripture is that God cares about His people. His covenant of salvation is real. It is clearest in the rearview mirror of history. We are fortunate today that we live in a country where we can still choose our leaders. But for “God’s sake,” choose wisely. Spiritual collapse may be closer than we think!
- Are the leaders of our country bringing us closer to God?
- Ideas to Explore: Is there an assault on religion? Why have we taken God out of our educational systems? What has replaced God in schools?
- The termination of an unborn child is murder in God’s eyes. Do you expect God to bless a leader who supports abortion?
- Ideas to Explore: Why is society so cavalier about killing the unborn? Is it really a personal rights issue? Why is crime, violent crime, going unpunished in our cities?
- The worship of Baal is no different than the worship of things. What has our society replaced God with?
- Ideas to Explore: Wealth, power, lifestyle, the environment, rules and regulations?
- Do you think that a leader today who leads people away from God will succumb to God’s judgement?
- Ideas to Explore: Name the worst contemporary leaders you can think of – How did their lives end?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2Astarte was a goddess honored in the Eastern Mediterranean area, before being renamed by the Greeks. Variants of the name “Astarte” can be found in the Phoenician, Hebrew, Egyptian and Etruscan languages. A deity of fertility and sexuality, Astarte eventually evolved into the Greek Aphrodite thanks to her role as a goddess of sexual love.