Elijah versus Jezebel: The Great Showdown, Past and Present-Day
By Rinah Shalom of Prophecy.WorthyOfPraise.org
Our brief intro note: The article below by Rinah Shalom, is a well summarized account of the biblical showdown between Elijah and Jezebel. It’s worth bearing in mind that the same scenario is unfolding in our times. The spirit of Jezebel is back with increasing persecution on God’s people, the body of Christ. As end-time believers we’re to rise to the rise to the challenge that’s in out times. Like with Elijah we’ve abundant grace available from God to deal with the end-time Jezebel culture, politics, economics, etc that’s unfolding before us.
I Kings 18:1-39 describes the famous showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Ba'al on Mount Carmel, but the happy ending was not really that happy. Why? What went wrong? Are we seeing a similar pattern happening in Israel today?
The time period of King Solomon marked a high point in Israel's history. Five hundred years after the Exodus, Israel finally attained their fullest borders, their economy flourished, unity was achieved, and the Temple was built in the new capital, Jerusalem. However, only a short time later, the empire crumbled. Not only did the kingdom split between Rehoboam (Judah) and Jeroboam (the Ten Tribes), the king of Egypt attacked, leaving the country in shambles. Even though Judah recovered rather quickly during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, the situation of the Ten Tribes went from bad to worse. Jeroboam's dynasty lasted only two generations, as did the dynasty of his rival Baasha, after which the country experienced internal war between generals (Zimri, Omri and Tibni). Omri managed to secure the kingdom and moved his capital to Samaria. (I Kings chapter 16)
Ahab, King of Israel, and His Treaty with Sidon
Omri's son, Ahab, was the first king to put the Ten Tribes 'back on the map.' He stabilized the internal political situation, built a strong army and boosted the economy by entering into an alliance with Sidon (in Lebanon), opening Israeli trade to the entire Mediterranean basin. As part of this alliance, Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Sidon (a common practice in ancient times and even today, when two countries enter a treaty or cooperation). Unfortunately, Jezebel brought with her the Canaanite culture. The establishment of 'state sanctioned' houses of worship for Ba'al and Asherah was the price that Ahab was willing to pay for his treaty with Sidon. In his own eyes, this newfound prosperity was in Israel's best interests, and he was willing to pay the price. (I Kings 16:30-33)
Jezebel and Elijah
Jezebel, after rising to a powerful position within Ahab's government, began to purge the country of its prophets. (I Kings 18:4,13) In her opinion, these backward 'religious fanatics' would prevent Israel from molding into an integral part of the 'new Middle East' that Sidon was creating. Even though there were other high-ranking officials in Ahab's government who remained faithful to YHVH, Jezebel's policy became dominant during the early years of Ahab's rule.
During this time Ahab made peace with Jehosaphat, king of Judah, (their children intermarried as well) and for the first time since the split of the kingdom, prosperity returned and tribal unity was re-established.
It was at that point that Elijah entered into the picture. He wanted to convince Ahab to repent and bring revival to Israel, but there was one major obstacle standing in the way: Ahab's wife, Jezebel.
Elijah knew that not all of Israel was following Jezebel, and that they only accepted her Canaanite culture for economic reasons, because it brought them prosperity. If he could prove to them that YHVH controlled their prosperity (the rain) and not Ba'al (the Canaanite rain god), surely the people would return to YHVH, Elijah reasoned. Therefore, his first step was to decree a terrible drought upon the Land. (I Kings 17:1)
After three years of drought, Elijah was ready for the big 'showdown' with the prophets of Ba'al. On Mount Carmel he hoped to prove to the people once and for all, that YHVH, not Ba'al, would bring them rain.
Before this confrontation, Elijah entered into a heated debate with Ahab over who was responsible for the terrible situation brought by the drought. Ahab accused Elijah of bringing on the demise of Israel. Elijah replied that Ahab himself was responsible, because of his alliance with Jezebel and the Ba'al worship that she instituted. (I Kings 18:17-18)
Just One Miracle...
Elijah was sure that with one big miracle he could turn everything around. He invited the prophets of Ba'al to a showdown on Mount Carmel, while the people gathered to watch. From his censure of the people before this showdown, we can see how torn Israel actually was between the two cultures:
"Elijah came to the people and told them: How long halt ye between two opinions? If YHVH is Elohim, then follow only Him, and if Ba'al is god, then follow him, but the people could not answer him." (I Kings 18:21)
After the prophets of Ba'al were unable to cause their god to answer them, Elijah gathered the people around his altar, and prayed to YHVH that He answer him in order that al Israel become certain the He is indeed their Elohim. YHVH answered Elijah's prayer by consuming his offering and the people, amazed by this event, declare their belief in YHVH. (I Kings 18:22-39)
Even though it seemed to be a happy ending, the final outcome of this miracle fell quite short of Elijah's expectations. The very next day, Jezebel, unmoved by these events, declared that Elijah must die. (I Kings 19:1-2)
Upon hearing this, Elijah was very distressed. He hoped that this miracle would have caused the people to revolt against Jezebel, but instead, she remained in power, and Ahab remained powerless against her. Elijah, realizing that he had failed, gave up his battle and ran away to Mount Horeb/Mount Sinai. (I Kings 19:3-14)
Just like then so is now! Even with the help of a miracle from YHVH the great showdown failed, and all because of the leaders' weakness and the people's lack of involvement, caused by their lack of faith!
© Rinah Shalom of Prophecy.WorthyOfPraise.org