Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 2: The Kingdom Divided: The Discipline of Lost Blessing
Lesson 78 – Divided Kingdom – 1 Kings 16–18; Test for True Prophets
05 Feb 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ve been going through the events following the separation of the northern and southern kingdom. The north is the group that left the nation, they are the rebels. Tonight we are going to finish up this segment of history and then go into doctrine that comes out of these historical events. I want to go back and focus and realize what’s going on here at this point in Israelite history. We’ve had the kingdom, we’ve had the golden era; now we have people rebelling against the authority of the Lord and His Word in some way, shape or form. So what we’re being treated to in all these stories is a picture of how our God rules His kingdom. Whereas before in some of the other events we were getting a picture of how God saves us out of the world, now we’re getting a picture of how God rules His own. It’s really not a pretty picture in here because it’s dealing with rebellion, it’s dealing with sin. It’s not a particularly nice chapter in Israel’s history, but it’s been preserved for us in the Scripture that we may learn from it.
The record the prophets have kept together tell the story of how the Father rules with His children. In a day when we despise all kinds of authority, starting from the Word of God and working downward, when we go down into the home and parental authority is overthrown, and oftentimes by the society at large working against the family. Here we see that inside God’s kingdom He takes authority structures very seriously and He works through these authority structures and when the authority structures are violated there are certain prices that are paid.
We want to go back to the story in1 Kings, the weird story of that prophet. We had some discussion after class about that prophet, so we want to turn back to 1 Kings 13. Let’s look at something else. Between the north and the south there was a great difference. On page 23 I tried to summarize the flow of history with these kings. So let’s draw a chart; on one side of the chart we’ll have the picture in the south, on the other side the picture in the north. These two pictures are going to reveal something about how God works. In the south there were how many dynasties throughout this period? You had Solomon, Rehoboam, and you’re going to have these kings in succession, so in the southern part of the kingdom we have one dynasty. That shouldn’t be surprising because what did God promise He was going to do? The Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7.
Always go back to the structure because if you keep going back to the structure of the Word of God, that gives you this confidence that God knows what He’s doing and that He controls our problems and He’s some place to flee because there’s structure there and there’s reliability. That’s why I keep going over and over the covenants, the covenants, the covenants, the promises, the promises, the promises, review and review and review. We can’t get too much of this idea that where God rules and where His elective power works there’s no overthrowing it.
In the north at the same time this was going on, this is the average length of reign of individual kings between these events and the exile, during this time period neither kingdom was doing too good on the scale of godliness, but notice this statistical difference in the length of the reigns of individual kings. In the south the average length of reign was 17.7 years whereas in the north the average duration of a king sitting on his throne was 11.7 years. Right away we have a ratio established here. Obviously the south is more stable. In addition to these year lengths of the reign you have only one dynasty here.
Let me show you what’s going on in the north at the same time. At the same time Rehoboam rules you have Jeroboam. He is succeeded by a son who is assassinated. So this dynasty didn’t last, his son is killed, the next dynasty is a man by the name of Baasha, he tries to pass it off to his son and his son is killed. The third king is Zimri; he lasts one week before he’s eliminated. Finally we come to our character for tonight, Ahab. All four of these guys are in different families. So how many families have we already had in the north? Four dynasties. In the south we have the stability, the Davidic dynasty endures. It has its problems but the dynasty and the dynastic succession is secure. In the north you see no such demonstration of any kind of political stability.
The interesting thing about it is that in all this instability that they’ve created for themselves, what was the reason they split in the first place? They wanted to get stability; they wanted to get their own freedom. The first thing Jeroboam did, what was this big long thing he went into to establish his own religious state? He was afraid that two kingdoms with the people going into the south, that when his people went south three times a year to Jerusalem, which they were ordered to do by the Word of God, that they would become politically allied with Judah, that you couldn’t have two political kingdoms and only one faith. If you’re going to have two political kingdoms you had to have two faiths.
In the newspapers recently we’ve seen the same principle work out. We’ve had the visit to Cuba of a representative of the Roman Catholic Church. What’s interesting to watch between Pope John and Castro is that when Castro took over, at that point he ruptured the relationship between the Catholic Church and Havana, and he did so for a very clear cut reason. There were a lot of Cuban Catholics and he was afraid that if he took over his power would be diluted by the Roman Catholic Church. Immediately he saw the connection and he proceeded to attack the Catholic Church (and evangelicals, too). He realized that there’s a threat if you have people across the political boundary that think the same way.
The problem however, as we saw last week, was that Jeroboam had been promised this kingdom by God, therefore when he went to solve his political problem and screwed up, he didn’t have to pick that kind of a solution because he had no problem politically. Ultimately Jeroboam did not have a problem politically because God said the kingdom would be his. God offered him a stable dynasty, all he had to do was follow the Word of God, including allowing his people three times a year to come into the south. That was the condition. He had to have enough trust in the Lord that his subjects could cross that border and not become political traitors to his kingdom and his authority. But he couldn’t believe God for that and he had to try to solve his problem with some human gimmick solution, and he wound up by having one temple at Bethel and another one up in Dan, bracketing his kingdom. And he not only, as we saw last time, set up the temples, he replaced the priesthood, obviously did away with the Word of God, and then he had the audacity to create his own calendar, to deliberate festivities and festivals that would be allied to his man-made religion. His solution to his political problem to (quote) “get political stability” for his kingdom was to destroy the biblical faith. What an irony.
After we have taken this three minute review of the northern kingdom let’s go back to the chart we just drew and ask ourselves, did Jeroboam’s gimmick, did his human solution to the problem of political stability work? Absolutely not, it was a disaster, it was an absolute failure. This is a demonstration that we will see again and again in the book of Kings. The book of Kings is arguing that when you’re faced with circumstances and problems you don’t try to solve it yourself. You are supposed to be people of the kingdom, and if you’re people of the kingdom you act like people of the kingdom and you go to the Lord for the solution to problems. You go to His Word for the solution to problems; you don’t try to mimic the world. These guys tried to mimic the world, this was SOP; this was standard operating procedure in any political environment. Jeroboam went ahead and did that, everybody else in the world was doing it so why not him? The subtle argument you’re going to get here is you don’t do it Jeroboam because you’re not in the world, you’re in God’s kingdom, and God doesn’t want you to act that way. Human solutions in defiance of the Word of God collapse of their own weight eventually. That’s the big lesson we’re learning here.
1 Kings 13, obviously it’s a troubled passage, it’s a problem chapter, and one of the things that came out of the Q&A discussion last time is in verse 18. I want to introduce a principle that we’re going to track through the whole text. The man of God had delivered, he’d come from the southern kingdom, and he had delivered the message God told him to deliver to the people in the north. He was on his way back, he got intercepted by another man who was one of the prophets in the north, who had been intimidated, who had been silent, who was basically in retreat as far as his personal faith in the Lord was concerned. This guy came up to him with a ruse in verse 18. In our Q&A we were talking about that, a person rightly remarked, this is pretty rough, the man of God goes north, he minds his business, he executes the plan of God, he’s completed his mission and now he’s on his way home, and he encounters this guy who in verse 18 says, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ But he lied to him.”
Verse 19, “So he,” the pronoun “he” in verse 19 is the original man of God. This raises a question that is raised several times and is going to be raised very dramatically tonight, and that is: how do you tell a true prophet from a false prophet? A very basic question, and it was a basic question then because who controlled the kings? The king couldn’t ascend to the throne without an authorizing prophet. By the way, those four characters that we saw, if you read the text you’ll see very few of them had any authorizing prophets. The prophets did prophesy in some of their cases but it’s not a clear cut case where they were Messiah, “Messiah” means anointed one. If Messiah means the anointed one, somebody has to do the anointing. Who does the anointing of the kings? The king can’t do it, he doesn’t anoint himself. It’s the prophet that always anoints the king, that’s the word Mashach, from which we get the word “Messiah.” That’s what Messiah means. That’s why the Gospels start not with Jesus but with John. John is the anointer of Jesus. The procedure in the Gospels is pure Old Testament procedure; it would have been understood by anybody who had understood Kings and Samuel. The Messianic king has to be anointed by a prophet.
That raises the question, how do you then tell a true prophet from a false prophet? In particular how do you deal with it in verse 18? Here’s the true prophet being told that this guy has the Word of the Lord and it’s coming to him. The question is if this man who has been given a sign, who has come because of the Lord has called him, the test that he could have used in verse 18 is given in Deuteronomy. Notice how we’re going backwards now. We don’t believe the way the liberals teach in the university and college campus, that the Bible was put together in an evolutionary fashion, a piece here and a piece there, the book of Deuteronomy is late, and all the rest of it. We have to go back again and again to what was the law of the kingdom. If we’re living in the kingdom there has to be a law that controls the kingdom. The Great King who rules the kingdom has policies. He’s revealed those policies at Sinai. Part of those policies deal with the false prophet issue.
Go to Deuteronomy13 to one of two tests that this guy should have used in this text and he screwed up. There’s another feature to these tests. For us, it’s not a matter of life and death, but in Israel it was, because if a person were identified as a false prophet, guess what happened? Capital crime. Why do you suppose being a false prophet was a capital crime? Why was this treated as adultery and murder, to be a false prophet? What is the office of a prophet? How important is the office of the prophet? Crucial, because he’s the one that is the ambassador of the Great King, and if we’re in His kingdom and we have to have a message from the King we’ve got to get it through a prophet. So the umbilical cord of the Word of God that connects God and the believer is through the prophets. It still is, by the way. Who wrote The Book? Even the New Testament was written by those with the gift of prophecy. That’s why the gift of prophecy shall cease in 1 Cor. 13 when the canon of Scripture is completed; it’s not going to continue, that’s a Protestant principle. We don’t have prophets today because we don’t need prophets today because the Word of God is complete today. But when the Word of God was open, the prophets were speaking. If there were a prophet today they should be writing Scripture. I don’t see Revelation 23 being written.
The point is that prophets speak God’s words in an infallible way. So we’ve got to learn to identify the false ones and the true ones. Deuteronomy 13 is one of the two tests given in the Old Testament. Let’s observe this. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,” and notice the condition in verse 2, “and the sign or the wonder [does] come true,” this authenticates, “concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Now what is the test? The test of the false prophet at this point, test number one, is a test of theological consistency. So we’ll call this T-1 and T-1 means that the Word of God is always consistent. There’s not a conflict in Scripture.
This is another argument for the inerrancy of the Scripture. You can’t have the Bible teaching five different things. If the Bible teaches five different things you’ve just destroyed test one. Test one means that whatever the prophets are saying, they have got to build and not be in conflict with what preceded the prophets? Who put the first five books of the Bible together? Moses. That’s why it’s the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, the three parts to the Hebrew Canon. The foundation is the Law or Moses, the Prophets build on the foundation, so the frame of the house has to fit the cement foundation. That’s the test. Does the house fit the foundation? Do the prophets in their teaching authenticate Moses? You can’t use miracles.
Verses 1 and 2 show that you cannot use miracles as pure authentication devices for a prophet. It doesn’t matter whether the signs or wonders come to pass. You can have false prophets who can work miracles, the book of Revelation says when the beast and the false prophet come they will have tremendous miracles, they will delude the whole world, people will flock to these guys because they authenticate themselves with miracles that happen. Miracles are not an authenticating sign of a prophet. That may shock some of you who have not seen this section of Scripture. It’s very interesting; the content of teaching outweighs the authentication of miracles. The teaching of the Word of God is over miracles in authority in Scripture, because it’s where you test; the testing ground is on the teaching, not on the miracles, in a positive sense. When I say positive sense, if a miracle positively occurs, then that is not a sign unless it is accompanied by orthodox teaching.
That’s test number one, that’s the test that the prophet in 1 Kings 13 should have used, because God had told him to go into the land and come back and not stop… NOT stop. This guy comes up and says oh, I just got a word from God that said plans have changed. No, God’s plans don’t change. Therefore the first prophet in 1 Kings was out of line because he failed to apply the test and it cost him his life. He failed to apply test number one to the situation. That’s one of the tests.
The same test is repeated by Paul in Galatians. What does Paul say? If I, or an angel from heaven, teach another gospel to you, let him… and the Greek says let him be damned. So the test of the gospel, even Paul, once he disgorged the true gospel and wrote it, he himself could not depart from it. This is the Protestant’s answer to the Catholic Church. In the Catholic Church the argument always is that Mother Church gave the book; Mother Church has the authority to interpret that book. The Protestant answer is yes, the Bible was written by the church, we agree, but once it was written it becomes the law of the church, just as the law in the Old Testament came through Jews. Does that mean the Jews can change the law? No. Once the law is written and enscripturated, it becomes an anchor to which the people who spawned it must adhere. It’s the same principle. And that’s why as Protestants we believe in the supreme authority of Scripture. Yes, the church gave the Bible, but the Bible now rules the church, not the church rules the Bible; a fundamentally different faith going on here.
That’s what the godly man in 1 Kings 13 should have done. The other test is in Deuteronomy 18:22, this is T-2, this is the other test of a false prophet. Deuteronomy 18:20, it’s in the context of prophets. “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” That prophet is capitally punished. Obviously, if you’re on a jury you’re going to raise the question, excuse me, we’ve got this guy in here, he’s being accused of being a false prophet, what are the rules of evidence we apply in the trial? Remember this is law. So in verse 21, “And you may say in your heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?” So now we’re going to go into rules of evidence of how you decide the issue.  “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
Notice, it looks like a miracle is involved here but it’s in the negative sense. The word had to be consistent; here the word has to be shown in history. So this is a test of experience and this is a test of reason. The word is self-consistent and the word proves out in actual practice and experience. The false word doesn’t work, it never authenticates itself. Put the two tests together, now here’s a test. A guy comes along and a miracle happens. Does that authenticate anything? No. If the guy comes along and says there’s going to be a miracle and it doesn’t happen, does that authenticate something? Yes it does. It only works negatively, not positively. If you go out in the street and ask 100 people and 99 of them will tell you if the miracle happens it’s got to be the Word of God. No it doesn’t. If the miracle doesn’t happen it’s not the Word of God. It’s exactly backwards, so watch these two tests. This one is a negative one also. If the word is inconsistent with the rest of the word, it’s wrong, and if it doesn’t prove out in history it’s wrong.
There’s another argument implicit in all of this of why we fundamentalists believe in an inerrant Bible. Why do we believe in an inerrant Bible? You got into a liberal church and they’ll tell you well, we believe in the intent of the Bible, the Bible wants to stimulate us to good and godly lives and we like that, we agree with that, but we don’t necessarily agree with everything in the Bible as being true. Excuse me! Deuteronomy 18 says if a section in the Bible is not true…, what does verse 22 condemn it to be? The word of man. So these tests don’t work unless you’re a fundamentalist and believe in the Word of God. That’s one of the things that authenticate our position on Scripture.
We’ve seen T-1 fail in 1 Kings 13. Now we’re going to see what happens when T-2 is applied. For that we’ll go to the reign of Ahab in 1 Kings 16. If you’re following in the notes we’re on page 24. We go through a bunch of kings in 1 Kings 16 and we finally come to Ahab. He’s the son of Omri. Pick up the text in verse 29. Before we read further, let’s ask a question and answer it to our satisfaction. Who is writing these words? This is about history, already these guys have all their reigns written in their own journals and their own chronicles because we’ve seen that notice, several times in Kings, if you want to know the rest of what the king did, look in the book of the chronicles of King X, because the kings kept chronicles. Each court had its own chronicler, so whoever wrote the book of Kings had the set of chronicles in front of him, it’s like the Encyclopedia Britannica, he had all that data, which unfortunately we’ve lost. So he selected things out of those books, or the committee of prophets of did. So the prophetic writers wrote Kings.
When I brought my Hebrew Bible in I said there were three parts to that Bible, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, and at that time I said its strange isn’t it that in the section of the prophets you had books like Kings and Samuel, and you think prophets. We ought to have Daniel in there, and Isaiah, Jeremiah, but I don’t understand why Kings is in the prophetic section of the Hebrew Old Testament. Now you do. Now we understand, because the section in the Hebrew Bible of prophetic writings doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all forward looking. They’re backward analysis of history to tell us what God was doing then. Remember when we read Genesis. Genesis stylistically was open history; this did this, this did this, etc. Is there any condemnation in Genesis? Think back to the style. Satan comes to Eve, Eve says this, Eve eats the fruit, Adam eats the fruit, they die, God kicks them out of the Garden. Is there any commentary in the text? It’s straightforward history. But in this book, this, unlike the Genesis style, is a commentary on history, its history interpreted, not just narrated. So watch this, you’ll see several notices of this.
1 Kings 13:29, “Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eight year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.  And Ahab the sons of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.” See that, that is a prophetic analysis of the reign of Ahab. So what we’re getting here is history interpreted prophetically. This is an editorial by a prophet. Verse 31, “And it came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,” stop right there. Page 24 of the notes, look at the paragraph where I give you every reference to the sins of Jeroboam, and count the number of times the prophetic writers used this expression the “sins of Jeroboam.” Eighteen times in 1 and 2 Kings the “sin of Jeroboam” is referred to. What is the sin of Jeroboam? It goes back to the things that we discussed when he rejected the temple, he rejected the law, and he established his own human solution to the problem of security. That is the sin of Jeroboam, seeking man’s solution to a circumstance that he should have sought God’s solution for, and it was an official solution that established official cultic centers paid for with tax money by the subjects of the northern kingdom, he mimicked the southern calendar, and he replaced the authorized priesthood. When it says, therefore, in this passage, “though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam,” what does that mean as a king? It means that he continued those policies, he continued to finance those cultic centers, he continued to hire people off the street to be priests when he should always have qualified them, whether they were of the tribe of Levi, and he went on and continued financing two kingdoms with two faiths, a man-made substitute for biblical faith.
He followed that and “he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.”  So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.  And Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, God of Israel, than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” Stop there. Notice the analysis, it’s pretty grim. This is the third step down. First we have the rupture, the rejection of the Davidic dynasty. We go to the next step, rejection of the temple and all that’s associated with it, and now we are going to see Yahweh Himself is officially banned from His own kingdom. At this point there has been an official complete flagrant public proclaimed replacement. They have changed gods at this point, and this is inside the kingdom of God. It’s a very sobering thing to see what believers can do. Totally replaced God! Now I’m not saying everybody here is a believer, I’m just saying this is inside the kingdom of God, imagine what is outside the kingdom of God.
Let’s look in a few details in verse 31. The name “Jezebel.” Jezebel is a name that throughout Scripture from this point forward is an emblem of evil. In the book of Revelation Jezebel is mentioned. Jesus mentions Jezebel in His condemnation of the church. This is a very evil name, Jezebel. You’ll see why as we go on. He not only marries this woman, Jezebel, but who is this woman. Notice her father; her father was Ethbaal, basically that’s of Baal, “the king of the Sidonians.” Look up along the coast of what is called Phoenicia; there are two cities along that coast line. One is Sidon and the other is Tyre. Sidon is still there, it’s a port in Lebanon. That was a place which was very wealthy. What were the Phoenicians known for in history? They were the merchant men, they carried the goods all the way out of this area, they had a monopoly on the navy. Basically they took over because when Solomon wanted his two-fleet navy, where did he go get the guys that were skilled at navigation? He borrowed them from Hiram, hired those guys down from Phoenicia. So these guys are very well trained, they always had commerce, very wealthy. It’s one of those cities, Tyre, that is the picture of the very seat of Satan in the book of Ezekiel, “O king of Tyre,” and he’s pictured, he talks to Satan through the king of Tyre. These guys were rolling in cash, and they were also very apostate; their religious connection was with the Canaanites that were the people who were to be slaughtered in holy war.
So we wind up with this guy marrying, not just a pagan woman, not just an unbelieving woman, but of all the women he could have found, he picks the daughter of zealot of the high priest of Canaanite religion. Great marriage; really helped the state of Israel! Look at Dr. Leah Bronner’s comment on page 24. “The meaning of ‘Ethbaal’ [her father’s name] is apparently [with him Baal’.” By the way, the Baal is a code name, it means lord, in a little “l” sense, and it’s taken on the flavor in the Scriptures of a god. No there’s an interesting story behind this name and why the Bible uses it. If you go out in secular history you find Ashtorah and you find “al” you find some reference to Baal, but some of the gods and goddesses that are included under the term “Baal” in the Old Testament had other names. It almost seems like the men who wrote the prophetic Scriptures were shy about naming all these gods at times. Sometimes they’re not, but they would tend to write this god is Baal, this god is Baal, this god is Baal, so every time you see Baal you can’t make a one to one equation with a certain god. It turns out that it’s a common label for pagan gods.
Dr. Bronner says, “The idea the name intended to convey was that the person enjoyed the favor and protection of Baal. According to Josephus, Ethbaal was King of the Tyrians and Sidonians ….” Notice, not just the priests as it says in the text here, he was the king but he was also the priest; the text says king but we’ll see later on. “Menander, the Ephesian, stated that Ethbaal was a priest of Astarte,” that’s what I mean, he’s called Baal but here it’s also known as Astarte, “who came to the throne by murder of the usurper Phelles. The zealotry of Jezebel is perhaps understood, if we remember that she was educated in the home of a priest of Baal. Her fanaticism can be attributed to her early environment and training.”
This lady was a fanatic. She got her way with her husband. Several cases in here show you when this guy was confused he always ran to Jezebel, “Jezebel will you please help me solve my problem.” So Jezebel helped him solve his problem because every time her husband came to her to solve a problem she just logged up more power, more power, more power, and she was really bringing in her father’s agenda over her husband’s agenda. She manipulated her husband to carry out the agenda that she had been taught as a daughter of her father. Her father was a very powerful man. This is why Ahab did a lot more things to provoke the Lord.
What we want to do is watch the rise of a man, in 1 Kings 17:1, one of the most controversial men in the history of Israel. A nasty guy, and in the New Testament an analogy is made between Elijah and John the Baptist. They are apparently both, what we would consider, slightly weird, they came out of the desert, both of them, they had their ministry, it was focused in a lonely area, they apparently operated much alone, although they had fellowship with fellow prophets. Elijah came from down in this area, and ironically John the Baptist ministered on the road that goes out from Jerusalem to the same area. Both of the men came from precisely the same geographic area.
“Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab,” now right away he’s introduced in a position of revolt, and this is one of the things we want to watch as we proceed through this text, that we’re going to see a mass revolt led by Elijah, and it’s going to cause a lot of authority problems, and that’s where we have to kind of examine ourselves and find out what’s going on here. We have a man who does not obey the king. We have a man who not only does not obey the king, he goes out of his way and he defies the king. How do we reconcile this? [Blank spot]
If you were the king, put yourself in Ahab’s position. What do you smell in all this? A guy walks in and tells you … there’s a twist in the word here. Do you catch the twist? It shall not rain but by my word, [“‘As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”]. What immediately is an issue that’s been precipitated here? Who is in authority? Who is in charge here? Because if it doesn’t rain, what happens to the kingdom economically? It’s destroyed. So in effect what Elijah has done is he’s walked into the court and he’s jerked the whole king’s policies around, because now the guy is threatened with millions of dollars damages in his economy. No king can rule a stable nation if the economy goes down the drain. This is an assault on the economy of Ahab. And this one man has the gall to walk in and say I will destroy your economy, you will do what I tell you to do or you will face depression and a disaster. That’s how it comes across. Don’t be too soft with this.
We have to go back and discuss something, and to do that we’re going to skip back one verse, a verse that looks like it’s completely out of place and doesn’t look at all like it flows. You could skip from verse 1 Kings 16:33 to 1 Kings 17:1 and never bother with verse 34. Why is verse 34 in there? “In his days” that’s in the days of Ahab, “Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.” Why do you think the prophetic writers of the text bothered to inject this seemingly out of place verse?
Go back to Joshua 6:26, we’re going back five centuries in time. Think about it, five centuries. Subtract 500 from 2000, you get 1500. Do you realize how far 500 years is? That’s before the Protestant Reformation. That’s back in the Middle Ages, the end of the Middle Ages. What would you think if there had been a prophecy about some property that was written down in some medieval document that said the moment somebody tries to build on that acreage there’s going to be two deaths, and the deaths are going to be in the family of the builder who tries it. The land is all trees, nobody has ever settled there, the land sells, somebody buys it, they clear the trees off, they start building and there’s an accident, and then there’s a second accident. And somebody says yoo-hoo, look what we’ve got here, 500 years ago that land had a curse on it and the curse is fulfilled. And the curse, in verse 26 was given by none other than Joshua.
Joshua 6:26, “Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the LORD is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his first-born he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.’  So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” Does anyone want to hazard a guess why this incident is recorded at this point in the prophetic text of Kings, 500 years later, seemingly has nothing whatsoever to do with Ahab… or does it? Ahab has married Jezebel; Jezebel is allied with religion, the religion of the Canaanites who were the object of what holy war of extinction? The extinction of Joshua. Joshua was led into that land to destroy the Canaanites. Now we have the threat to the northern kingdom by a survivor of the Canaanites. The question is: shall she reign in Israel? Shall she ascend? Will the Canaanite religion be successful in overcoming the Word of God? Or will the curse of verse 26 be successful in controlling the Canaanites 500 years later? The answer is given in Kings: whose word shall prevail, Jezebels and her fathers, or Joshua, the word that goes all the way back to the sacred Canon of Sinai.
We said what were the two tests of a prophet? You’ll see now in the ministry of Elijah at this time in history test number two comes into position. All the words of Baal are false and they don’t hold up. Here’s what Baal claimed. Turn to page 26 on the notes, again the words of Dr. Bronner, here’s what the word of Baal said. It becomes a war. Baal wants to authenticate this false religion that tries to authenticate itself by proclaiming a gospel message. And here’s the gospel message of Baal: “The Canaanites believed that Baal was the storm and fertility god, who bestowed upon man and land the blessings of fecundity. He sent forth lightning, fire, and rain. He gave corn, oil, and wine. He could revive the dead, heal the sick, and bestow the blessing of progeny. [The book of Kings shows] through concrete examples and incidents that all the powers ascribed by Ugaritic mythology to Baal, are really attributes only of the God, the Lord of Israel.”
Look at what Bronner has said; underline the nouns that describe what the gospel of Baal promised. Underline lightning, fire, rain, underline corn, oil, and wine, and think of the stories of Kings. Now come over and look at something else. Elijah is not just making this up, Elijah is administering the Mosaic Covenant and so we want to turn to certain promises. Turn to Deuteronomy 28, the blessings and the cursings; you can look in Leviticus 26, that’s a parallel passage. Deuteronomy 28:23, what does it say, what is one of the cursings. The same Sinaitic Covenant that covered Jericho, that same era, is also the word that says, in verse 23, “The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze and the earth which is under you, iron.  The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.”
Verse 53, “Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you.  The man who is refined and very delicate among you shall be hostile toward his brother and toward the wife he cherishes and toward the rest of his children who remain.  So that he will not give even one of them any of the flesh of his children which he shall eat, since he has nothing else left, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you in all your towns.  The refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and refinement, shall be hostile” or hate, “toward the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter,  and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she shall eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you in your towns.”
That is the cursing prophesied five centuries before. Now come back to 1 Kings 17; does it surprise you then that the prophets injected that little note in verse 34? They’re taking us back 500 year and they are saying whose word comes true? It’s as though verse 34 is an announcement that the cursings are now beginning. When I took you back to Joshua, what was that? It was a curse that Joshua placed on Jericho. In 1 Kings 16:34 the curse comes into historical existence.
In 1 Kings 17:1 another curse is now activated. Now the climate changes. Now the rain stops. Now the economy will be destroyed. And it will be done through the prophet Elijah. So here is a fundamental picture of a prophet, and this is going to stay with us, whether we deal with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, any of those guys, these men are not what you learn in school. Here’s the picture you get of a prophet in these Bible is history courses: the prophets of Israel were social reformers. The prophets of Israel were not social reformers; they were far more profound characters than that. They were the ambassadors of the Great King who from the courts of heaven announced the rule of the Great King and in particular the discipline of the Great King. So all through this period the prophets are announcers of God’s chastening and God’s discipline upon sin, in His kingdom. We are not talking about discipline on the pagans, not talking about discipline outside election; he’s talking about his own elect secure nation. Because they are elect, because they are Mine, I am going to discipline them.
That begins the contest. So we have the big drought, and in verses 8 and 9 let’s see if we can put this story in context. See how neat the Old Testament fits together if you just see the themes all these little pieces start filling in like beads on a necklace. They look random when you first read them and then you say wait a minute, this fits. Verse 8, “Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,  ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon,” where is he traveling? Think about the political picture. What is the meaning of this little vacation up north? He is a prophet who came from the south; he goes north, so automatically he is identified with Judah. He keeps going north, all the way up here. What is the meaning of this story? Why this location? Who did Ahab marry? The daughter of the ruler of this area. Where was this Baalism coming from? Where was Baal’s home ground? Sidon. That’s the background of the story. “Go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’”
Verse 10, “So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow as there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, ‘Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.’  And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, ‘Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.’  But she said, ‘As the LORD your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Why is she in such dire straits? What’s happening in this territory? No rain. Isn’t this interesting. This is Baal’s home plate. Do you mean to tell me whose word now rules? See the argument going on here, whose God is controlling the situation, and even dares to reach north into the very heartland of Jezebel’s dad, and stop it raining there? It’s enough to stop it raining down here, but the rain has stopped in Baal’s own home ground.
Verse 13, “Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son.” He makes her submit to him, because in submitting to the prophet who is this poor widow submitting to? She is submitting to the God of the prophet. So she’s blessed, etc. Verse 14, “For thus says the LORD God of Israel, The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.  So she went and did according to the word of Elijah….” What is this an argument for? It’s an argument, as all these stories are an argument during the Elijah cycle. This man is going around and systematically refuting the gospel of Baal—your god doesn’t work!
That’s the setup for one of the most famous stories in all Scripture, 1 Kings 18, and this is the announcement in verse 1, “…Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.  So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.  And Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly;  for it came about, when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.)” This gives background, there were prophets in the north, but look at what was happening to them in verses 3 and 4; they were being persecuted because the official policies of the state were anti-biblical. Verse 5, “Then Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys, perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.” In verse 7 Elijah met him, Elijah is now going to come before Ahab, and it’s a long story.
Verse 17, here’s the next meeting of Elijah and Ahab, “And it came about, when Ahab saw Elijah that Ahab said to him, ‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’” A real friendly conversation going on here, and it’s going to get a lot more friendly before we finish chapter 18. Verse 18, “And he said, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and you have followed the Baals.” Sort of like the argument you see in the press now, the poor starving children that you see in Iraq, and they are starving, but they say it’s the United States’ fault. Here’s this clown that runs the place that’s doing enough bacterial warfare that he can eliminate the whole population of the earth, and it’s our fault. It’s the same thing here, it’s Elijah’s fault, it’s always somebody else’s fault. And he straightens him out real quick as to whose fault it is. It’s the fault of sin in the kingdom, that’s the fault.
He goes on, and he gathers the prophets, we’ll go through that next time, some of the words that are said there, but we want to notice the argument as we go through this; get the big picture, Elijah is God’s bulldozer. He’s going to go up into the north and he’s going to assault their entire theology. He is going to publicly ridicule it and then he’s going to turn around and incite a mob to slaughter the staff, administration and all the hirelings of Ahab. Then he’s going to say go ahead and tell Ahab what I did. This builds a drama; this is one of those great dramatic moments in history. It’s been repeated several times throughout the Old Testament, but it’s a wonderful passage. It’s like David and Goliath, it’s a wonderful story if you just take it as a story, but as mature Christians, and as you grow in the Lord learn to see the bigger story. There’s a bigger story going on here, and it harks back to what we said, there are these two tests for the prophet. Elijah is applying this test. He is showing that the word of Baal, they have believed that Baal can give rain, and this is a refutation, he is applying… everyone knows that T-1 is true, they all know that God has been replaced, there’s no question that the gospel of Baal is conflicting with the gospel of Jehovah. But what they now need to see is that the gospel of Baal can’t deliver so all these stories are to undermine unbelief.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question here was when Ahab married Jezebel was it probably her father reaching into the riches of God’s kingdom, political motivation, probably. We’re not told that, but those guys, if we think about what else we know about Tyre and Sidon up to this point, what’s been their history? They knew, when Hiram ruled Tyre, apparently he wasn’t a fanatic Canaanite, and Solomon made treaties with him. Remember Solomon agreed to plant so many trees if he would bring down the trees to the temple, and there were deals made. These guys knew that the treasury was good in the south, so I’m sure they knew very well. The Jews were a prosperous country up until this point. So yeah, I would imagine those deals worked that way.
It’s just that when you read the history through the eyes of the prophet, I was warned about this one time by a PhD from Harvard who is a Christian, back when I was studying the Old Testament, and he was warning us that if we took a time machine and went back in history and walked around Israel, the image we got from just walking abound probably would be different than the image that we’re getting out of the Old Testament, not because the Old Testament is false, it’s just that the Old Testament represents a prophetic reflection on what was going on. Of course it would be hard for us not to have a prophetic picture because we have been schooled in the prophetic picture but if you could imagine yourself just a student of history walking around seeing these kings and stuff, and say you really weren’t clued into Scripture, you might not observe great moral evil with Ahab, for example. And if you had seen Elijah walk into the court that day, saying these nasty things that he said, you’d say for crying out loud, what is his problem? You might side that way.
But the prophets set up the big picture and the context of God’s plan, so we have learned our biases just because we’ve listened. It’s good we have, because that’s the way God is teaching us, through these lessons. But those secondary plots were probably there very much so. It’s just that the prophets seemed to skip over that and get to what they considered the root problem; the root problem was this importation of religious belief.
Question asked: Clough replies: These kings did intermarry their children to solidify relationships so it was kind of standard operating procedure. I think it tells you that in Jeroboam’s day…, remember we made the point that he had replaced the Levitical priesthood and the Levitical priesthood functioned in the kingdom as Bible teachers; that was one of their functions. They also functioned as medical doctors too, so they had kind of a several-faceted ministry. One of their ministries was teaching the Word of God and particularly preserving the text of the Torah because they didn’t have printing presses and mimeograph machines, and Xerox machines so these guys would go along, they probably were the ones that actually copied these scrolls. So they would copy the scrolls and they would have master copies and they would painstakingly sit there and dictate all these texts. Making a scroll is tough. You look at the Hebrew text and you figure everyone of those little characters has to be hand done, excuse me but this is going to take days, mucho weeks, so they would preserve these texts, and they would deposit it for the king.
If there’s no Levites around to do that, what does that tell you is happening in the royalty? The royalty is cut off from the Scripture, not listening to Scripture, not executing Deuteronomy 17, so here you are four dynasties later and they probably didn’t even think of the Word of God. The Word of God, what’s that? Oh, that’s something back in our old Jewish history. That probably is what characterized the guy’s mind so when the deals were made and cut and he took on this girl as queen, if he had been at all sensitive to the Word it should have clicked with him, excuse me but I don’t think she’s quite appropriate for the King of Israel. But it’s like he’s just oblivious, didn’t think about it. Probably judging from his character Ahab is kind of thoughtless. The picture you get in Kings is that this guy is not a vicious man, he’s kind of like a piece of milk toast, and his wife rules the roost, and she’s the one that’s sort of like Bloody Mary in English history, she’s a real witch.
Question asked: Clough replies: The Ten Commandments being a court room, yeah. But it’s interesting because changes are so slow to take place, even in our own families, it takes three or four generations and it’s tragic that we don’t think back two generations, even in our own families. Like I said before, if you can trace back the book shelves of whoever in your generation, your family lineage lived between 1900-1930 and you can examine their personal library, I think you’d be surprised at what you saw there. I think you’d see rank liberalism. This is not true of all families. But I think it typifies families in our country, that if you then went back and was able to interrogate the beliefs of your great grandparents who lived before 1900 and you somehow could get hold of their books and what they believed, or their letters, things they wrote, or the family Bible, what they put in their family Bible, then you would see, I think, much more faith.
I have two photographs, we saw two grave stones, I’ve always liked to go through graveyards in New England because they date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. One time I started looking at these and the names struck me, the names were all names of the fruit of the Spirit, Charity, Prudence, and you never see people named that way. Why were they naming their kids that way? Because to them character was important so there is an eloquent testimony right in the grave stones, and to do that you have to go back 250 years. That’s how far back that goes. We saw a grave stone that said “In Jesus she believed, to Jesus she has gone.” A man wrote that about his wife. So it’s quite clear that they were Christians. Then a few rows down in 1943 there are these praying hands on this rock with the expression, “I did it my way,” and it’s so blatant and obvious. What’s interesting about that grave stone, the more I thought about it, here in block letters was written “I did it my that,” but they couldn’t let that go, they had to have the praying hands. What did the praying hands have to do with the text? It was like the praying hands was just what’s left of the Christian tradition, it’s sort of like good decoration so we’ll keep it around because it makes us feel good, and we’ll just totally ignore it. There’s a total conflict between the praying hands and the “I did it my way.” If you did it “my way” why are you praying?
We have sped through five centuries of time and we see it very quickly, but let’s face it, Ahab was four generations after Jeroboam, so it took four generations; that would be like us going back to the early 1800s. Jeroboam is ancient history to the people of Ahab’s time. But what’s interesting, is think about the significance of that little verse that we covered about Jericho, because the prophets picked right up on that, even tough that was ancient history it verified in front of their face, so they said oh-oh, send the flag up, put this verse in here. That’s the prophetic mind. And probably that didn’t even make the front page of the papers, if they had newspapers in that day, which they didn’t. But it probably wouldn’t even make the headlines that the guy lost his two sons at Jericho; it was probably in the obituary section on page 50. But to the prophets that little note on page 50 was far more important than what was on page 1, because of what it said about the Word of God coming true.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s the point, the Bible calls that fool and there’s three or four words in Hebrew for foolishness, and one of them is kind of used for children and adults who don’t know right and wrong, that’s the same word for fool. It just means total naivety and that’s a good point, the guy might have been totally innocent. But the significance was… see Jericho was an emblem of the conquest because it was the first city that was destroyed, it was the barrier that was breached into Canaan by holy war, so it was a very, very important city in Jewish history. And anybody that would have been stupid enough to…it would be like somebody in Texas doesn’t know what the Alamo is about. I’m sure there are new people that have moved to Texas and don’t know what the Alamo is, but if you’ve lived in Texas any time, the Texans do. Of all the states I’ve lived in it’s very interesting, people that live in Texas have much more of a sense of their own history than any state I’ve ever been in. They let you know very quickly that they were the only state that joined as a country, the Lone Star Republic. But for anybody to bull doze down the Alamo and say gee, was this important. That’s as stupid as trying to build Jericho. And that’s a good observation that the guy really might have been stupid and ill taught.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good question, why didn’t the king check with the prophets? What had he done with the prophets? I didn’t cover it but in 1 Kings 18 you read about this Obadiah that shows up on the scene, and Obadiah ran a smuggling operation, he saved 150 prophets that Ahab was going to kill. Ahab didn’t want anybody, he didn’t want the Levites who could have taught him the Scripture, he didn’t want the prophets who could have interpreted the Scripture and supplemented them for him. He drove away everybody from his administration that could possibly have helped him. He either excommunicated them, threw them out, or just did away with them, killed them.
Our time is up, next time look at 1 Kings 18; it’s kind of an exciting chapter. Read what Elijah said to him in a modern translation.