This week we're studying one of the "bad girls" of the Bible; Jezebel was a princess of Sidon who married a wicked king - the king of Israel, Ahab!
Jezebel is a study in arrogance: she was a religious woman who held powerful convictions about her idols. She was presented with proofs of the one true God, but her pride and lust for power caused her to ignore those proofs.
Let's dive in!
In I Kings 18:1-19:2 (I know, it's a long passage, but if you read it, you will be amazed! There is so much action, drama, and even humor, that it will be done before you know it!), we see that Jezebel is devoted to the pagan fertility god, Baal, whose worship includes sexual immorality. Baal is thought to control the rain, so he is ultimately in control of the harvest, right? The Bible tells us that Jezebel is so anxious to convert all of Israel to the worship of Baal that she hunts down and kills all the prophets of Yahweh that she can get her hands on.
Now, don't despair. Obadiah has hidden one hundred of the Lord's prophets, and there is one very famous one that has eluded her, as well: Elijah. Boy, was he annoying to Ahab and Jezebel! He warned them that there would be a drought in the land for the next few years -- and wow, what a drought! Not only would there be no rain, there wouldn't even be dew on the grass and plants! You know, even when we experience some dry weather nowadays, we will feel dew on the grass in the afternoon or evenings . . . a light layer of moisture, it helps sustain the vegetation until the next shower or storm. Israel would not even have dew for over three years.
I'm sure that the Queen instructed her priests and prophets and temple workers to do everything they could, but it just didn't work. In her arrogance and devotion to the idols, she pushed them hard to make things happen. It must have been quite frustrating to wake up day after day, and realize that Baal hadn't allowed it to rain. Again. (Grin)
Here comes that annoying upstart, Elijah. He issues a challenge to the king and queen. What would they call it today? A smackdown? Elijah wasn't avoiding confrontation -- he was starting one!
He said for them to meet him on the mountain top. They were to assemble the prophets of both Baal and Asherah, and the contest would be roughly 850 to 1. Two bulls would be prepared there for sacrifice, but no human was to light the fire on either one. Instead, the fires would be lit from heaven, thereby proving which deity was real.
Elijah graciously allowed the false prophets to go first. All morning long they chanted and danced, and called out for Baal to answer their calls. All they heard was a few crickets chirping. Elijah begins to taunt them (I'm sure this went over really well with Jezebel), "Y'all need to shout louder! He might be asleep or deep in thought!" Bible scholars say that his taunts included a word that meant perhaps Baal was in the bathroom, so Elijah was being downright insulting! His words spurred them on to more frantic shouts and they even began to cut themselves with their knives and spears, pleading with Baal to answer.
Of course, nothing happened.
Then Elijah took twelve stones and built his altar, and prepared the bull. He even instructed his helpers to pour lots and lots of water over the whole kit and kaboodle -- if it was lit, it would surely be seen as a miracle! (There was so much water that it ran off and filled the trench around the altar.) Then Elijah called on the one true God, saying, "O Lord, 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 these things at your command."
Immediately, fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil under them, and the water in the trench.
The people, who had been sitting squarely on the fence, trying to decide whether to serve God or Baal, fell on their faces and worshiped God. Elijah told them to seize and slaughter all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah. All 850 died that day.
Can't you just imagine that irked Jezebel? But wait a minute, didn't she hear about the miracle? Wasn't she convinced of the holiness and power of God? Didn't she turn from her worship of Baal?
In a word, no.
This arrogant woman sent word to Elijah that his life was very much in danger. She was after him now, more than ever!
We'll conclude our study of Jezebel tomorrow!