Lesson 6

Apostasy in the North

(1 Kings 16-19)
Print this lesson | Bookmark/Share:

Introduction: This week we get back to some people you probably have heard about before: Ahab, Elijah, and Jezabel. Before we get to them, let's run a quick historical line from the end of last week's lesson. Baasha was king of Israel (the ten tribes in the north). He died, his son Elah took over. Elah was killed by Zimri, a palace official who was in charge of chariots. Zimri was king for a week, and then the army revolted. The army commander, Omri, became king. Omri's son was Ahab. Let's jump into our study this week!

  1. Bad Blood

    1. 1 Kings 16 tells us that Israel's kings, from Baasha to Omri, all did evil in God's eyes by worshiping false gods. Let's read the footnote to Omri's life in 1 Kings 16:25-26. Omri was the worst so far. Does that surprise you? Is sin progressive among generations?

      1. Notice the statement in verse 26 that he "caused Israel to commit" sin. Do you think this means he literally forced his subjects to sin? Or, did he cause them to sin because of his influence?

      2. If you are a parent, what kind of influence do you have on your children? How about your influence on co-workers? Your neighbors?

      3. What kind of impact does our culture have on us? Our children? The church?

        1. Do we invite an evil cultural influence by the movies and television we watch?

        2. Or, can we just watch these things, know they are not real, and therefore not be influenced by them? (I think everything we see and hear has some influence on us.)

    2. Read 1 Kings 16:29-31. The Bible tells us that Ahab, Omri's son, was the worst of the kings. Is this his fault? Look at the "bad blood" he inherited. Look at the long line of evil kings before him. Did he have a chance?

      1. We studied Jeroboam and his fall. How do Ahab and Jeroboam compare in the sin department? (Jeroboam's sins were trivial compared to those of Ahab.)

  2. Ahab

    1. Continue looking at 1 Kings 16:31. How do you understand verse 31? Is part of the evil of King Ahab that he married Jezebel?

      1. We discussed the influence of parents and the influence of the culture. How much influence can a spouse have on your faith?

        1. Why?

      2. Can you find a clue in verse 31 about the relationship between Baal worship and Jezebel? (Did you notice the name of Jezebel's father? His name has "Baal" in it. According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, her father murdered the King of Tyre, and then took his throne. Her father was also the priest of Ashtaroth. "Baal" is Hebrew for "lord" or "master." Thus, it can refer to one of several false gods. The "Baal of Tyre," according to Wycliffe, is Melkarth, the Tyrians' chief god. Wycliffe tells us Jezebel was the chief priestess of the Tyrian Baal. Thus, Jezebel was directly connected as a leader in the introduction of the worship of Baal to Israel.)

      3. We noticed previously that Ahab, according to verse 31, "considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam." What do you think this means? Does it mean Ahab didn't care that he sinned? Does it mean that Ahab's sins were much greater than those of Jeroboam? Does it mean that Ahab intentionally "sinned big - he wasn't satisfied with trivial sin?"

    2. Read 1 Kings 16:32-33. Can we make God mad? Can we provoke God?

      1. Does this create a different picture of God than you are used to seeing?

        1. Is "provoking" God the same as making Him "mad?" (You can provoke someone without the victim responding.)

      2. Is it a good thing for us to consider whether our actions might actually make God mad? That we can provoke God?

        1. Have you ever considered how your sin affects God -- as opposed to considering only how it affects you?

        2. Read Deuteronomy 11:16-17. Ahab should have known a drought was coming! What is the modern-day equivalent of worshiping false gods?

        3. What is the modern-day equivalent (for those who are not farmers)of no rain?

          1. Or, is the idea of making God mad an "Old Testament" idea that is not relevant today?

        4. Read Mark 3:4-5. Who is angry here?

          1. Is God's anger really distress over our stubborn hearts?

  3. Elijah

    1. Read 1 Kings 17:1. How would you like the assignment from God to go condemn Ahab?

      1. Notice that Elijah says no rain "except at my word." He doesn't say "except at God's word." Is Elijah getting carried away? What kind of attitude does this show on his part? Should we conclude Elijah likes this assignment?

      2. Do you think giving Ahab this message is dangerous? (Read 1 Kings 18:7-9. This is after three years of drought. Obadiah was in charge of the palace (18:3) and probably knew Ahab very well. He was frightened to give Ahab the news that he had met Elijah and knew where he was. If just mentioning the guy's name and his last whereabouts is dangerous, imagine how dangerous it is to be the guy!)

    2. Read 1 Kings 18:1. If you thought the first warning was dangerous, how would you like this assignment after three years of punishment? (We know from what we just learned from Obadiah that this was very dangerous.)

    3. Is it possible that Ahab has forgotten about Elijah? Was Obadiah just concerned about reminding Ahab about Elijah? (Read 1 Kings 18:10-11. Ahab has searched the ends of the world for Elijah. I doubt he was looking for him to wish him a nice day.)

      1. Why do you think he wanted to find Elijah? Was it to beg him to send rain? (No, I think Ahab thought that if he killed Elijah, that would be the end of the drought.)

    4. Read 1 Kings 18:16-18. Let's continue with our assumption that this is dangerous for Elijah. What is Elijah's attitude towards Ahab? Does he sound frightened?

      1. What is Ahab's attitude? Does it seem that Ahab has learned his lesson? (It seems neither of them is giving an inch. Elijah shows no fear. Interestingly, Elijah mentions Ahab's father as part of the problem.)

  4. Showdown at Mt. Carmel

    1. Read 1 Kings 18:19-20. Why would Ahab agree to assemble his false prophets? Does this show that he really believed in them?

      1. How could he believe in them when they had been unable to bring rain in the past three years?

        1. Is Ahab just desparate?

      2. Why would God waste His time with Ahab? Wasn't Ahab beyond redemption?

    2. Read 1 Kings 18:21. Is this the reason why God was "wasting" His time with Ahab? (Yes. God wanted to show the people who was the true God.)

      1. What is the spiritual condition of the people?

        1. Were they really uncertain about who was the true God?

        2. Why do you think they "said nothing?" How could they say nothing when there had been no rain, just as Elijah had said, for three years? (They obviously had a "wait and see" attitude.)

      2. Let's step back a minute. Do you think God withheld the rain to punish Ahab, or to get the attention of the people?

        1. Is this a question we should at least ask when something unpleasant happens in our life?

    3. You probably already know the story about Elijah and the fire. If you do not, then read 1 Kings 18:22-41. For those who know the story, let's just review some highlights. Read 1 Kings 18:27. Why does Elijah taunt the prophets of Baal? Does this show the same attitude we saw in Elijah when he said no rain "except at my word?"

      1. Should we taunt those who lead in false worship today?

      2. Unbelievers often have a "superiority" attitude towards Christians. I read an article in the Washington Post in the last couple of years which said that Christians are generally of low education and easily led. This was a taunt. Should we learn from Elijah to taunt back?

      3. 1 Kings 18:32-35 recounts how Elijah ordered the altar, the wood and the sacrifice be drenched with water. Why did he order that? (So no one could later say it was a trick.)

        1. I thought they had a drought on. How did they get this water?

    4. Read 1 Kings 18:36-38. Did Elijah need the water to show this was not a trick? (No. Fire came down from the sky and even burned up the stones and the dirt!)

      1. Was Elijah's reputation at stake? (In verse 36 Elijah says he wants the people to know God authorized all of this.)

      2. How hard does God work to encourage people to serve Him?

      3. Have you ever thought that maybe God was unclear on what He had in mind for you?

        1. If so, what does this story suggest?

        2. Or, does this "very obvious God" only exist in the Old Testament? (If you say, "yes," then consider John 11:38-44.)

    5. Read 1 Kings 18:39. Is this the same group that previously refused to say anything? (Yes)

      1. Did they get the point? (They were so impressed they shouted and prostrated themselves.)

    6. Read 1 Kings 18:40-41. Are they letting the wrong guy get away? Why does Ahab get to go eat? Why wasn't he dispatched along with all the prophets of Baal? Why does the "guy in charge" get a free pass here? (If you look at 1 Kings 21:27-29 it appears that God thought there was hope for Ahab.)

    7. Read 1 Kings 18:42. What is Elijah doing? Is this yoga? Do you get to bend your knees? If not, how many of you can do this? (I'm having trouble understanding this position. Apparently, Elijah is praying to God about the rain. If anybody tells you that you must kneel in church to show proper respect for God, you need to point out this text and tell them THIS is the way to show proper respect.)

    8. God wins. Rain comes. Ahab returns home without his 450 prophets of Baal. I can hear it now, "Honey, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that our food bill will drop considerably ( 1 Kings 18:19)and it is raining. The bad news is that the 450 prophets are no longer with us." Let's see how Jezebel reacts. Read 1 Kings 19:1-2. What do you think about the logic and intelligence of Jezebel?

      1. Put yourself in Jezebel's place. What is she thinking?

      2. Have you ever thought you were stronger than God? Have you ever opposed God's will? Have you ever said, "I don't care what God wants, I'm going to do what I want?"

    9. Read 1 Kings 19:3. What is Elijah thinking? What do you think about his logic?

      1. Read 2 Kings 2:11. Needless to say, this is not how Elijah was rescued from Jezebel. Some time has passed. Nevertheless, how is it possible that someone who has such an inconsistent faith gets translated to heaven? What hope does this give you?

    10. Friend, God is merciful to us. Elijah, after experiencing the most powerful proof of God's authority and power became afraid of another human. It was totally illogical. Nevertheless, because Elijah had been a great champion for God, he was taken to heaven without seeing death. Doesn't that give you hope when you become fearful - when logic would tell you to have no fear?

  5. Next week: The Good and the Bad Days of King Jehosaphat.

To receive the Bible Study of the Week by e-mail, please enter your e-mail address:

 Subscribe in a reader

Lessons on Rebellion and Reformation: A History of the Divided Monarchy

Attention Translators!

Would you like to help us share the Bible Study of the Week with others? At present, the Bible Study of the Week can be read in ten languages: Bosnian, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish. We welcome serious volunteers who are willing to spend the time each week to translate the lessons from English into another language. We are particularly interested in having the lesson translated into Portuguese. Please contact us if you would like to volunteer to translate.