‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’
Robert Wurtz II
And Ahab said to Elijah: ‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’ And he answered: ‘I have found thee; because thou hast given thyself over to do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD. (1 Kings 21:20)
But there was none like unto Ahab, who did give himself over to do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. (1 Kings 21:25)
In August of this year I had the privilege of visiting the British Museum where artifacts from the Assyrian Empire are on display. These items date from roughly the 9th to the 6th century BC. As this empire was growing stronger and stronger the Northern Tribe of Israel, with the help of a series of diabolic leaders, was drifting farther and farther away from the one true God by serving the false gods of the pagans. The Assyrian’s were a barbarically cruel people of a merciless sort, readied to punish the wickedness of those that were once called by the name of God. Their savagery has been well documented in history as for starters they would impale and behead their enemies for sport. Here were these formidable agents of cruelty on Israel’s doorstep with the only thing standing between the two being the mercy of God. Yet, here we have Ahab mean-mouthing Elijah, a man of whom he was not worthy to have even met. Elijah was the great prophet of the Old Testament of whom signs and wonders followed in unparalleled ways. He prayed and the heavens shut up for 3 and a half years. He called fire down from Heaven and raised the dead. (1 Kings 17:22) Yet, Ahab and his wicked wife greatly withstood this man of God.
God not mocked
Some might wonder why God had not built a special compartment in Hell for Ahab and Jezebel where He turned the temperature up, but there is no need to worry about that because the judge of all the earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25) God wanted this man and his evil wife to repent and leave off his evil way. (2 Peter 3:9) We read about God in the Revelation dealing with a kindred spirit in the churches of God and giving ‘that woman’ what He called a space to repent, but she repented not. (Revelation 2:21) But Ahab was blinded. His blindness was so complete that he viewed his true enemies as good and submitted to their influence while viewing those that were God-sent and good as enemies and shunned their counsel. God explains this when he states, But there was none like unto Ahab, who did give himself over to do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. (1 Kings 21:25) The word here for ‘stirred up’ (cuwth) comes from the idea of persuading, prodding or enticing a person to do something. She used her influence to exercise Ahab’s authority for her own will- thus she us known as a usurper. She was as the thorns and briars in the book of Hebrews, rejected and nigh unto cursing whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8) Or in the words of the Revelation, Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (Revelation 2:22)
Jezebel had a reputation for destroying the prophets of God. (1 Kings 18:4) So when Elijah heard she had threatened his life he fled from her. (1 Kings 19:1-9) This is amazing given the fact that he had just experienced a great victory over the prophets of Baal. It would seem that Elijah had become confused on a point and I think this was brought about because he misinterpreted God’s allowing Jezebel to destroy many of the prophets. I have always told myself when pondering these events that no matter what God’s reasoning for allowing her to destroy good men it was not because he was an ‘Ahab’. That is to say, God was not under Jezebel’s spell. He does things for His own reasons and is not subject to men even though the enemy would like to spin events to look that way. God was not impressed by the way she doctored her eyes with makeup to both seduce and impose upon men in order to control them. To give an idea as to how effective this strategy was she tried to use it at last to save her life when Jehu came to destroy her. When Jehu came to Jezreel and Jezebel heard of it, “she put her eyes into lead polish (i.e., painted them with it), and beautified her head and placed herself at the window.” This make-up is a very favourite eye-paint with Oriental women even to the present day. It is prepared from antimony ore (Arab. khΩl, Cohol or Stibium of the Arabs), which when pounded yields a black powder with a metallic brilliancy, which was laid upon the eyebrows and eyelashes either in a dry state as a black powder, or moistened generally with oil and made into an ointment, which is applied with a fine smooth eye-pencil of the thickness of an ordinary goose-quill, made either of wood, metal, or ivory. The way to use it was to hold the central portion of the pencil horizontally between the eyelids, and then draw it out between them, twisting it round all the while, so that the edges of the eyelids were blackened all round; and the object was to heighten the splendour of the dark southern eye, and give it, so to speak, a more deeply glowing fire, and to impart a youthful appearance to the whole of the eyelashes even in extreme old age. Rosellini found jars with eye-paint of this kind in the early Egyptian graves (vid., Hille, über den Gebrauch u. die Zusammensetzung der oriental. Augenschminke: Deutsch. morg. Ztsch. v. p. 236ff.).—Jezebel did this that she might present an imposing appearance to Jehu and die as a queen; not to allure him by her charms (Ewald, after Ephr. Syr.). (K&D) But it did not work. She had ran out of men she could intimidate and control. Jehu asked for some help and the men that were up with her cast her down so that her blood splattered on the wall and her body was mangled in the streets. All the while these events are going on the Assyrian Empire is gaining strength and preparing to exile the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
God had to get Elijah back on his feet after his bout with this woman after the demonic principality that was back of her had nearly wore the life out of him. These events are instructive. First let us observe the big picture. Satan was leading Northern Israel farther and farther away from God until they will in time ‘pass into legend’. God is sending prophets to halt the destruction, but men like Ahab are under her spell seeing good as evil and evil as good. Undoubtedly this drunkenness of judgment is a fearsome judgment in itself, but God also made an example out of Ahab. He allowed his wife to stir him up to do evil so he was accountable. We are accountable for how we allow people to influence us. No blaming her. He listened to her and rejected the voice of reason (Elijah). Elijah received strength from the Lord as He got him back in the game doing his calling (anointing kings, etc. 1 Kings 19:16). Her threats had succeeded in side-lining Elijah for a time. Understand that Jezebel is a discouraging spirit that seeks to sideline men of God. Yet God warns of her finality, Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel. (2 Kings 9:36, 37)
That Woman Jezebel?
One of the most sobering things a person can do is to look at an ancient timeline. Listed over the years are the names of men and kingdoms and religions that come and go as time marches on. Consider the snapshot of a timeline below.
You will notice that Ahab (in blue) ruled from roughly 874 BC to 853 BC (22 years). Notice the two thin black lines sweeping upward towards Assyrian rule. This is where the Northern Kingdom was headed since Jeroboam started the people on a path to total annihilation. The righteous that lived in the Northern Kingdom migrated to Judah and many of the evil in Judah migrated to the Northern Kingdom. If you notice it was about 853 BC that Jonah was called to preach to Nineveh, capitol city of the Assyrian Empire. These things are going on along almost parallel lines. The people of Nineveh repented of their ways for a time, but eventually went back. During the ‘went back’ phase God used them to judge the Northern Kingdom. Ahab was oblivious to what God was doing as he was so focused in on what was important to him. He lived in the moment and with the advice of his evil wife did whatever he had to do to get his way.
Someone might read how the dogs licked the blood of Ahab (1 Kings 21:19, 1 Kings 22:38) or how Jezebel was thrown from a tall building to burst asunder on the ground, blood splattering the walls and horses as she was trod under foot (2 Kings 9:33, 34); and wonder why these wicked people would meet such an end. Yet Paul reminds us, Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11) We are also told by Paul that Christians have the ‘earnest of their inheritance’ whilst in this life as a foretaste of the greater life we can expect in the eternal future. Yet also, some evil people in this life, for the purposes of God (such as Pharaoh) are raised up as examples of God’s power for destruction of evil and wickedness. Ahab and Jezebel exacted a tiny- almost immeasurably small portion of their inheritance for the world to see and remember from the pages of God’s Holy word. They are examples unto us. What did Ahab do to warrant such an end?
The lesson of Naboth
And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. (1 Kings 21:2, 3)
Naboth was a man of principals and conviction. His property had been handed down as an inheritance, but Ahab believed the man’s heritage could be monetized. The tangible link with his past and family was this property. Ahab wanted it to add to his host of possessions, as he admitted, he had better lands than this. What did Ahab do? He went home to pout and make a big show for his wife Jezebel. She asked him, “Are you not the king of Israel?” This attitude is pagan and not of the kingdom of God. In the world kings get what they want, but it was not so to be in Israel. Nevertheless, she told him, “Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” What did she do? she forged a document pretending to be the king and got Naboth set up to be lied against and stoned to death. Him and his sons. (2 Kings 9:26) The result? And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead. (1 Kings 21:15) It was all a wonderful plan. It seemed to have worked! Jezebel conspired to kill a good man, but at least she got Ahab his vineyard. After all, how dare anyone resist the will of the king, right? Wrong. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. (1 Kings 21:17, 18) Ahab had gone down to collect the spoils. But he was not banking on one important factor; God was watching this whole thing play out.
You found me, again!
Now we have come to our text, And Ahab said to Elijah: ‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’ And he answered: ‘I have found thee; because thou hast given thyself over to do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD. (1 Kings 21:20) Notice that Ahab refers to Elijah, the man of God as his enemy. This admission tells us that he has postured himself as the enemy of God Himself. Nevertheless, God did two things. He allowed a lying spirit to enter Ahab’s prophets that thought they were speaking by the Spirit of God. They were not. So this lying spirit told Ahab to go up to the battle. But Ahab was suspicious, so he called Micaiah the Prophet and he told Ahab there was a lying spirit in their mouth. Ahab believed the lying spirit. Why? He was delusioned with sin and wanted to believe what he wanted to believe. When the Prophet Micaiah would not endorse his decision he had him imprisoned to be fed the bread of affliction. Ahab disguised himself (for we know he was afraid God word would find him) and he went into the battle. What happened? But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. (1 Kings 22:34a ESV) Notice the anonymity and the destiny contained in this verse. I recall a minister say many years ago that had this nameless man shot left the arrow would have turned around like a patriot missile and hit Ahab right where God had said. No need to sit around biting fingernails wondering when God will set things right. He already had an arrow with Ahab’s name on it. God gave him and his evil wife a space to repent. Yet we read, But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” (1 Kings 22:34 ESV) There was a space to repent and there was a space for God’s final judgment. A sobering end to a man that lived to be lied to, so he could dumb himself down into total deception and perdition.