Lesson 10

"Meanwhile ... Back in the North"

(1 Kings 21, 2 Kings 9)
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Introduction: This week we bring King Ahab back to life! Seriously, the last we saw of Ahab was when he asked King Jehosophat of Judah to be his ally in the Ramoth Gilead battle. Ahab alertly suggested that Jehosophat should wear a bulls-eye while Ahab went disguised as a regular soldier. (See 2 Chronicles 18:29) Jehosophat, revealing something unsettling about his intelligence, agreed. Thanks to God's grace he survived, but Ahab died in battle. This week turn back the pages on Ahab's life to see what we can learn from his earlier days. Let's dive in!

  1. Ahab, the Sulky Gardener

    1. Read 1 Kings 21:1-2. What do you think about the business proposal that King Ahab made to Naboth? (I'm not a farmer, but it seems unusual to me to turn a vineyard into a garden. My understanding is that a vineyard is like an apple orchard. It takes years of growing and maintenance to get the proper product.)

    2. Read 1 Kings 21:3. What do you think about Naboth's response? Is it reasonable? (It is a sentimental response instead of a business response. The King is offering him a better vineyard or money. Naboth says, "It's been in my family for years." Naboth may also have objected for religious reasons. See Numbers 36:5-9)

      1. What does it say about Ahab that Naboth was willing to give this reply? (It could be Ahab does not have a "killer" reputation among his people. Naboth feels free to turn down his reasonable business offer. On the other hand, if Naboth is motivated by religious conviction, he might not care.)

    3. Read 1 Kings 21:4. What insight does this give us into Ahab's character? (He was very immature and selfish.)

  2. Jezebel, the Cunning Wife

    1. Read 1 Kings 21:5-7. Isn't it nice to have a loving and helpful wife? One that cheers you up when you are down? One who helps you when you are having trouble?

      1. When Ahab reported Naboth's response to his business offer, did he tell Jezebel the entire truth? (No. He just said that Naboth refused, without giving his reason.)

    2. Read 1 Kings 21:8-10. Do you let your wife sign your checks?

      1. The text is clearly telling us Ahab was not part of this scheme. Why did Jezebel do this on her own? Why not say to Ahab, "I'll get you the vineyard, here is my plan?"

      2. Why did Jezebel come up with this plan? Since the vineyard was close by, why not send a soldier in the night to cut Naboth's throat? Why involve all of these other people in an obvious injustice? Why not a simple, direct plan?

      3. Who was supposed to be mislead by this plan? (Not too long ago we studied the book of Amos. Chapters 4 and 5 of that book describe how the rich and powerful corrupted the judicial system to oppress and steal from the poor. Perhaps Jezebel thought it important to have this appearance of propriety.)

      4. How about you? Are you more concerned with how things look than with how they really are?

    3. Let's look more closely at this letter.

      1. Why did Jezebel tell the leaders to proclaim a fast?(She wanted it to appear that some judgment was threatened on that town. They could avoid judgment by fasting. Fasting was generally coupled with confessing sin. (See 1 Samuel 7:6) If the people were concerned about God, they would be lead to think that getting rid of Naboth was important to eliminate any judgment on their town because of his sin. If they were not concerned about God, they would be glad to get rid of Naboth so they could start eating again.)

      2. Is there any truth to these charges against Naboth? ( 1 Kings 21:7 reveals Jezebel thought that Naboth was dishonoring the King by refusing his offer.)

    4. Isn't there a flaw in Jezebel's plan? Naboth did not want to sell because the land had been owned by his family. This suggests that he had sons that would inherit his land. Just because Naboth is dead doesn't mean that Ahab gets the vineyard! Right? (Now we see what is probably the primary reason for the trial. If you read 2 Kings 9:26 you will see that Naboth's sons were also executed at the same time. Deuteronomy 13:6-18 suggests that the penalty for blasphemy is not only death, but the loss of your property. This explains the reason to charge Naboth with treason AND blasphemy. Note that Deuteronomy does not say the king (or anyone else) has a right to the property of the blasphemer. Instead, it should be burned. Since the justice system was so perverted, I doubt that detail stopped Jezebel.)

    5. Read 1 Kings 21:11-14. What does this plan tell us about the elders and nobles of this town? (They are corrupt too.)

    6. Read 1 Kings 21:15-16. Why doesn't Ahab ask any questions? Naboth was a healthy man just a little bit ago, and now he is dead. (Ahab understood the ways of his wife.)

    7. How safe was the property and life of the "little guy" under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel?

      1. What could be done about this if you were a "little guy" living then?

  3. Enter Elijah

    1. Read 1 Kings 21:17-19. Friend, are you glad for a God that sticks up for the "little guy?"

    2. Read 1 Kings 21:20 the first part. Ahab has been caught red-handed with the stolen property. God's prophet nails him with the proper characterization of what has happened. What kind of response does Ahab give? (He calls Elijah "my enemy." This does two things that the popular press does today to Christians. First, it responds to logic with name-calling. Second, the name-calling suggests that this is all Elijah's fault -- these charges are only leveled against Ahab because Elijah doesn't like him! Today they would say, "You found me, you agent of the religious right!")

    3. Read 1 Kings 21:20 the second part. Is Elijah silenced by Ahab's name-calling? Is there a message in this for us today?

    4. Read 1 Kings 21:21-23. God says (v.22) He has gotten angry because of Jezebel's scheme. How do you react to this? Are you glad that someone in a position of power is going to make this right? Are you glad God gets angry about injustice? Are you equally glad when God gets angry about your sins?

      1. Is it possible that only the sins of "other people" get God exercised?

    5. Read 1 Kings 21:27. Consider the reaction of Ahab to those intolerant, judgmental words of Elijah!

      1. Discuss whether we have gone too far today in promoting the picture of a God who is always loving, never angry, and of course, completely spineless and non-judgmental when it comes to evil-doing.

      2. Perhaps the reason why so few people "fear God" today is because He is more commonly portrayed as a loving, comforting puppy, rather than a Judge of sin and righteousness.

      3. Shouldn't Elijah be troubled by the fact that his job is to "tell others how to live?"

      4. Read 1 Kings 21:28-29. What does this say about God? (That He is in fact forgiving!)

    6. I must confess something here. One of the main reasons I like to study and teach the Bible is that God's plan makes so much logical sense to me. I can see why following God's commandments are in my best interests. It is not hard for me to understand how adultery is harmful to my wife, my children and (not least of all!)me. The problem with this thinking is that you look at every moral decision on the basis of how it will affect your life. Ahab could have employed this approach and decided there was no harm to him in eliminating Naboth. We need to be more mindful of what God will think about our daily decisions.

  4. Jehu

    1. 2 Kings 9 tells us that Elisha, at God's instruction, anointed Jehu King of Israel. The problem was that Israel already had a king. That king's name was Joram, who was the son of the late King Ahab. Jehu then gathers an army and marches on the palace of King Joram. Read 2 Kings 9:19-20. Joram sends out a messenger and the messenger joins Jehu's cause. Why would you guess this is happening?

      1. My wife says riding with me in the car is a religious experience. How was Jehu's driving? (Apparently, just like mine! :))

    2. Read 2 Kings 9:21-22. What prevents the two from having peace? (Joram's unfaithfulness to God.)

      1. Is there a kind of peace in your church that is not worth having?

      2. How do you distinguish improper controversies from controversies that matter?

    3. Read 2 Kings 9:23-26. Our buddy, Naboth, posthumously enters the picture. Why? (God's prophecy in 1 Kings 21:28 has come true.)

      1. What is the lesson to be learned here? God spares Ahab, but punishes his son? How is that fair? (I don't think Jerom died because of Naboth. 1 Kings 21:28 shows God's mercy towards Ahab when he repented of that sin. 2 Kings 9:22 reveals that Joram died for his own sin of following in the steps of his mother in idolatry and witchcraft.)

      2. This lesson may improperly encourage trouble-makers in the church to make more trouble! What does 2 Kings 9:25-26 teach us about when we should and should not stand up and fight? (You need a clear statement from the Lord. Unless God has clearly commanded something, you should seek peace and not controversy within the church.)

    4. Friend, we see in this lesson that God both executes judgment and shows mercy. When you convey a picture of God to others, do you show both sides of God? Or, do you paint an unfair picture that shows only love or only judgment?

  5. Next Week: The Last Days of the Northern Kingdom.

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

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