Introduction: This chapter covers the reigns of five kings of Northern Israel who ruled over 60 years. These include: (1) King Baasha (24 years), (2) King Elah (2 years), (3) King Zimri (7 days), (4) King Omri (12 years), and (5) King Ahab (22 years). Each king engaged in more egregious acts of evil than his predecessor. Northern Israel’s slow descent into darkness living under ungodly kings provides a warning to the world. Many think that God embraces the notion of the separation between what happens in the political realm and the Church. He doesn’t. When a nation’s leaders live without God, they live under Satan’s control. All of society then suffers. Life in Israel under these five wicked kings provides a window into the end times when the nations will also be governed by leaders who reject God’s Word and live under Satan’s influence. During the end times, leaders and nations will live under: (1) pride, (2) God’s judgement, (3) violence, (4) chaos, (5) strife, (6) idolatry / apostacy, and (7) sexual immorality.
First, God raised up Baasha from a lowly position to be His instrument of judgment over Jeroboam’s household. Yet, out of pride, Baasha forgot about God and misused God’s grace to engage in the same evil acts of idolatry as Jeroboam. In the end times, people will be like Baasha, prideful and forgetful of God. Second, after Baasha refused to repent, a servant named Zimri fulfilled God’s prophesy of judgment against Baasha by betraying and murdering his eldest son and successor, Elah. In the end times, God will judge wickedness, just as He did to Baasha and his son Elah. Third, after Zimri murdered Elah, he then executed all of Elah’s sons, Baasha’s extended relatives and even people who were friends of Baasha or Elah. Each new ruler engaged in acts of violence that exceeded the prior ruler. In the end times, violence and hatred will also be rampant. Fourth, Zimri’s violent coup gave him a reign that lasted only seven days before he was also thrown out of power. In the end times, chaos and disorder will also be rampant. Fifth, after Zimri’s death, Northern Israel was divided for four years between Omri and Tibni. During this time, chaos continued to reign in Northern Israel. Everyone lived in strife and misery. In the end times, strife and misery will also be rampant. Sixth, while his predecessors created golden calves in a misguided and unlawful attempt to worship Yahweh, Omri openly worshiped the calves as their own gods. In the end times, idolatry and apostacy will also be rampant. Finally, Omri’s son Ahab continued the decline of Northern Israel. While his father worshipped the gold calves as gods, he and his pagan wife Jezebel openly adopted the worship of the Canaanite fertility gods Baal and Asherah. This included Asherah poles that were used for sexual idolatry. In the end times, sexual immorality (in far worse forms) will also be rampant.
God’s prophesy of judgment against Baasha. Although God had elevated Baasha from a lowly position to be His instrument of judgment over Jeroboam’s household, Baasha misused God’s grace to engage in the same evil acts of idolatry as Jeroboam. Thus, God sent a prophet to judge both Baasha and his descendants: “1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2 ‘Inasmuch as I exalted you from the dust and made you leader over My people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made My people Israel sin, provoking Me to anger with their sins, 3 behold, I will consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4 Anyone of Baasha who dies in the city the dogs will eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat.’ 5 Now the rest of the acts of Baasha and what he did and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (1 Kgs. 16:1-5). God sent the prophet Jehu from Judah to judge Baasha. He was also active during Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah (2 Chron. 19:1-3). This likely means that God could not find a messenger in all of Northern Israel who would convey His message. Being from Judah, Jehu risked death by crossing into Northern Israel to judge an adversarial king. During Baasha’s 24-year reign, 909-866 B.C., he caused all of Northern Israel to sin. To maintain his grip on power, he preserved the idolatrous system of worship with golden calves started under Jeroboam. At the same time, he prevented observant Jews from reaching the Temple for worship by creating a blockade in Ramah (1 Kgs. 15:17). Thus, Baasha seized power solely to glorify himself, and he imprisoned others in a counterfeit religion.
To guide His lost people, God sent His prophets to bring His people to repent. Because God loves His people, He sent prophets to guide His people when His leaders went astray. Some of the most important prophets when Israel was divided included Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, and Huldah. Yet, He also sent lesser known prophets like Jehu and Ahijah (1 Kgs. 14:7-16) to warn His people. Unlike the many false prophets who opposed them, God’s true prophets only spoke His Word. And with every prophecy uttered by His prophets, God’s Word came to pass (2 Kings 17:5-6; 25:1-11). Through their righteous examples, the prophets during the time period of the kings set the stage for the prophets during exile, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who would prepare the people for the coming Messiah, Jesus. Today, God has left you with His Word and His Spirit to guide you when your leaders embrace evil and lead the nations astray.
Baasha ignored prior warning of judgment. The prophet Ahijah previously warned that God would raise up a king who would overthrow Jeroboam’s evil kingdom. (1 Kgs. 14:10-11, 14). God fulfilled that prophesy when He allowed Baasha to depose Nadab and kill every living descendant of Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 15:27-30). Thus, because God used him to judge Jeroboam and Nadab, Baasha knew that God does not tolerate evil. Yet, out of pride, he assumed that he was in control and responsible for his kingdom.
God judged Baasha for his pride. Through his pride, Baasha committed one of the sins that God “hates”: “ . . . pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). Because Baasha exalted himself, God promised to humble him. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12). “When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence, and the humble person He will save.” (Job 22:29). “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (Jam. 4:6). Because Baasha’s pride would not let him repent, it led to the destruction of his kingdom and his entire family: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). His pride deceived him into thinking that he was entitled to assume the throne: ‘“ . . . The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,’ . . . declares the LORD.” (Jer. 49:16). Like Baasha, when you are prideful, your heart will also deceive you into doing foolish things.
God is sovereign and can remove any evil government. God told Baasha that He was sovereign and elevated Baasha from “dust” to give him the throne (1 Kgs. 16:2). Daniel explained: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Da. 2:21). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). Even when you see evil in every branch and level of government, do you trust that God is sovereign over evil leaders?
Fear God by heeding His Word and hating evil. Baasha did not fear God because he did not believe in God’s Word: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Ps. 111:10; Job 28:28; Ecc. 12:13). He also did not fear God because he did not hate evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). “ . . . and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6). Do you hate what God defines in His Word as evil?
In the end times, people will also be blinded by their vanity and pride. Like Baasha, people during the end times will become arrogant and vain: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” (2 Tim. 3:2). “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:21). Ask God to show you where you are self-absorbed or vain.
Zimri fulfills God’s prophesy of judgment against Baasha by killing his son Elah. After Baasha refused to repent, a servant named Zimri fulfilled God’s prophesy judgment against Baasha by betraying and murdering his eldest son and successor, Elah: “6 And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried in Tirzah, and Elah his son became king in his place. 7 Moreover, the word of the Lord through the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani also came against Baasha and his household, both because of all the evil which he did in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and because he struck it. 8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha became king over Israel at Tirzah, and reigned two years. 9 His servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. Now he was at Tirzah drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household at Tirzah. 10 Then Zimri went in and struck him and put him to death in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and became king in his place.” (1 Kgs. 16:6-10). Baasha died a natural death (1 Kgs. 16:6). This did not mean that God had forgiven him. Instead, it showed God’s mercy and grace in withholding His judgment to give Baasha an opportunity to repent. Because Baasha refused to repent, God allowed a wicked commander named Zimri to carry out His judgment upon Elah and his descendants.
God showed mercy and grace before judging Elah. Before judging Elah, God allowed him to reign for two years (1 Kgs. 16:8), 886-885 B.C. God also gave Nadab exactly two years to repent after succeeding Jeroboam before God judged him (1 Kings 15:25). This again showed that God acted with mercy and grace to give both Nadab and Elah a chance to repent. Yet, both squandered this chance and instead pursued after the same idolatry as their fathers. Both were betrayed and killed by servants seeking to usurp their power. Elah was also believed to be a drunkard. His commander Zimri knew this and conspired with others to betray and murder Elah while he was intoxicated (1 Kgs. 16:9).
Deceit is a sign of a person acting under Satan’s influence. By employing deceit to kill Elah, Zimri put himself under the devil’s control. Lies and deceit are Satan’s tools to turn people away from God (Dt. 11:16; 30:17). If you deceive or lie, you are also under Satan’s influence. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). Are there any lies or deceit in your walk with God?
The wages of sin are death. Elah died because of his father Baasha’s sins. God’s punishment of Elah should not be dismissed as a relic of the Old Testament. “For the wages of sin is death, . .” (Rom. 6:23). For the unsaved, allowing demonic forces into your life through drug abuse, alcohol, pornography, or the occult brings with it an eternal death penalty (Lev. 20:27; Ex. 22:18; Dt. 18:10-12). Only through faith in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is salvation possible (Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:21). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). “for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’ (Ro. 10:13). How seriously are taking your sins?
Don’t ignore God’s warnings of judgment. No person should treat sin lightly (Rom. 6:26). God is a consuming fire when in the presence of sin: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). For those who do not repent, He warns: “I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, . . .” (Ez. 21:31(a)). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jer. 23:29). “The soul who sins will die.” (Ez. 18:4(b)). Unless you accept that God will judge sin, you will feel no pressure to repent. Staying silent about His judgments also doesn’t help others. Are you helping others turn to Christ to spare them from judgment? (Matt. 28:16-20).
God’s warnings of judgment are true and are fulfilled when sinners refuse to repent. Throughout the Bible, God reveals that His Word is true and always comes to pass: “Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” (Is. 48:3). “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Is. 42:9). No other holy book can make similar claims of fulfilled prophesy as the Bible does. Thus, non-believers ignore God’s warnings of judgment at their own peril.
In the end times, God will judge the unrepentant nations for their evil acts. During the end times there will initially be a period of peace when the people will celebrate their attempt to live without God. The same was likely true under the reign of Jeroboam. He reigned for 22 years (1 Kgs. 14:20). During this time, many likely believed that they could break away from God’s religious order and worship Him through golden calves without consequence. Yet, God would eventually judge Northern Israel. During the end times, the nations will initially enjoy a period of peace under the counterfeit religious order of the antichrist. Yet, this will merely be the calm before the storm of judgments that God will unleash on the unholy nations (Rev. 8:7-13; 16:4; 9:1-11; 16:3-21).
The fulfillment of God’s prophesy against Baasha’s descendants. Baasha showed no mercy when he violently murdered all Jeroboam’s descendants. God allowed Baasha’s descendants to be judged by the same standard that Baasha used to judge his rivals: “11 It came about when he became king, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he killed all the household of Baasha; he did not leave a single male, neither of his relatives nor of his friends. 12 Thus Zimri destroyed all the household of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke against Baasha through Jehu the prophet, 13 for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols. 14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (1 Kgs. 16:11-14). After Zimri murdered Elah, he then executed all of Elah’s sons. To eliminate any future rivals, he then executed Baasha’s extended relatives. He then went a step further than Baasha by executing people for the mere fact that they were once friends of Baasha or Elah (1 Kgs. 16:11). This continued a vicious cycle of violence. Each new ruler engaged in acts of violence that exceeded the prior ruler.
Baasha reaped what he sowed. God’s prophesy against Jeroboam and Nadab was limited to their living male descendants (1 Kgs. 14:10-11, 14). Baasha did not fulfill God’s prophesy to serve God. Instead, he acted with cruelty to serve his own needs. He went beyond the prophecy to kill every woman and child as well (1 Kgs. 15:27-30). He then turned his back on God by preserving the system of idolatry that God condemned. He, his family, and all of Northern Israel reaped the evil that he sowed: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.” (Hos. 8:7).
God will judge you by the standards that you use to judge others. Normally, God will not allow a son to die because of a father’s sins: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Dt. 24:16; Ezek. 18:20). Yet, God judged Baasha’s descendants with the same standard that Baasha used to judge Jeroboam’s descendants: “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things . . . . But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Ro. 2:1-3). “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5). “And He was saying to them, ‘Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.”’ (Mk. 4:24). If you are gossiping against and judging others, God may judge you by the same standards.
In the end times, people will be unforgiving and violent toward each other. In the end times, God’s teachings of mercy and forgiveness will be ignored. Like Baasha, people will become “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;” (Ro. 1:31). When God’s love and mercy is removed, the end times will be filled with acts of violence, wrath, vengeance, hatred, and betray, the same way Baasha treated his rivals.
The fulfillment of God’s prophesy of instability through Zimri’s overthrow. Zimri’s victory from his violent coup gave him a reign that lasted only “seven days” before he was also thrown out of power: “15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days at Tirzah. Now the people were camped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. 16 The people who were camped heard it said, ‘Zimri has conspired and has also struck down the king.’ Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp. 17 Then Omri and all Israel with him went up from Gibbethon and besieged Tirzah. 18 When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire, and died, 19 because of his sins which he sinned, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, making Israel sin. 20 Now the rest of the acts of Zimri and his conspiracy which he carried out, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (1 Kgs. 16:15-20). Zimri’s seven-day reign (885 B.C.), was the shortest of any king of either Israel or Judah. Zimri seized power during a battle between the Jews and the Philistines at Gibbethon. Members of the 10 tribes of Northern Israel had no interest in allowing Zimri to govern them. Thus, they picked another military leader named Omri to challenge him. Yet, Omri would continue the vicious cycle of leaders who engaged in evil acts that surpassed their predecessors. To avoid being captured, Zimri let himself suffer one of the most painful deaths possible by allowing himself to be burned alive in his palace.
Satan’s goal is to create chaos. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then lead Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Satan also becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Solomon later said that rebellion was the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). According to Paul, rebellion is also part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said that: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). After leaving Egypt, the Jews’ lack of faith caused them to repeatedly rebel against God and His appointed leader Moses (Nu. 14:22). As a result of the Jews’ repeated refusal to obey and have faith, God eventually banished them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). For everything good and holy, Satan has created a counterfeit to deceive people. If God’s perfect government leads to peace and harmony (1 Tim. 2:1-2), rebellion only brings strife, death, and misery. For those who follow Satan, he further deceives them. He turns his own leaders on each other to sow misery.
The future fulfillment of God’s judgment of political instability. Within a short period of time, Omri set up Northern Israel’s third dynasty. The constant instability in Northern Israel also fulfill a prophesy of God’s judgment. The prophet Ahijah prophesized that the people of Northern Israel would be like a “a reed is shaken in the water.” (1 Kgs. 14:15). This was a metaphor for instability (Matt. 11:7; Lk. 7:24). Omri’s coup was the second coup, following Zimri’s coup (1 Kgs. 15:28) to fulfill this prophesy of judgment. God judged each and every one of the leaders of Northern Israel for their evil acts (1 Kgs. 15:34; 16:2, 19, 31; 22:52; 2 Kgs. 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28).
In the end times, chaos will also be pervasive in society. The anarchy that followed Elah being overthrown provides a window into the end times. His reign lasted seven days. Some believe that the antichrist will reign during the end times, for 7 years. Others believe that it will only be 3 and ½ years. Under either scenario, it will be short. The last half of the seven years will be filled with chaos during the Great Tribulation. “28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” (Dt. 28:27-29; Ex. 10:21). “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, . . .” (Is. 59:10(a)). “By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night.” (Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15). “They wandered, blind, in the streets; . .” (Lam. 4:14(a); Amos 8:9). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19). During the end times, people will be spiritually blind and numb to their sins. They will know their suffering. Yet, they will be oblivious to the solution.
The fulfillment of God’s prophesy of instability through Israel’s civil war. As an additional fulfillment of God’s prophesy of instability, Northern Israel then suffered a civil war: “21 Then the people of Israel were divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; the other half followed Omri. 22 But the people who followed Omri prevailed over the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath. And Tibni died and Omri became king.” (1 Kgs. 16:21-22). After Zimri’s death, Northern Israel was divided for four years between Omri and Tibni. During this time, chaos continued to reign in Northern Israel. Everyone lived in strife and misery.
Satan stirs up evil leaders to create strife amongst God’s peoples. The strife between the Jews in Northern Israel was a result of their leaders’ evil desires for self-aggrandizement and power. As they lived without God, these leaders lived under Satan’s control and caused strife and misery: “An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.” (Prov. 28:25.) A person who causes strife amongst God’s people is one of the things that God “hates”: “There are six things which the LORD hates, . . . A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16, 19).
During the end times, the people will also live in strife against each other. When order under Satan’s rule breaks down, society becomes chaotic, hateful, and violent. “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” (Titus 3:3). When God’s people turn on each other in strife, it is a sign that He has removed His hand of protection and Satan is in full control: “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 will oppress you.” (Dt. 28:53). “Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.” (Lev. 26:29). “I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them.” (Jer. 19:9). “They slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, and they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; each of them eats the flesh of his own arm.” (Is. 9:20). “The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children; they became food for them because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (Lam. 4:10). “Therefore, fathers will eat their sons among you, and sons will eat their fathers; for I will execute judgments on you and scatter all your remnant to every wind.” (Ezek. 5:10). These verses should not be read as acts of cannibalism. Instead, they represent the curse of having people who were once family and friends turn on each other in acts of cruel violence and strife.
King Omri acts more wickedly than any prior king. As part of Norther Israel’s downward slide into darkness, Omri engaged in acts that were more evil than any predecessor. This included pagan worship: “23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king over Israel and reigned twelve years; he reigned six years at Tirzah. 24 He bought the hill Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver; and he built on the hill, and named the city which he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill. 25 Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, and acted more wickedly than all who were before him. 26 For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and in his sins which he made Israel sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel with their idols. 27 Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did and his might which he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 28 So Omri slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria; and Ahab his son became king in his place.” (1 Kgs. 16:23-28). After Omri consolidated power, he reigned over Northern Israel for 12 years from 885 to 874 B.C. (1 Kgs. 16:23). He made Samaria Northern Israel’s capital, located 7 miles northwest of Shechem. It was defensible from attack because it was on a hill. It remained the capital until Assyria destroyed it and sent the Jews into exile in 722 B.C. Although his reign was short, he did more damage to the Jews than any king before him. The evil acts of Omri and his descendants covers a third of the two books of the Kings (1 Kgs. 16:23 - 2 Kgs. 13:25). While his predecessors created golden calves in a misguided and unlawful attempt to worship Yahweh, Omri openly worshiped the calves as their own gods. His descendants then openly adopted the worship of the Canaanite god Baal. Their influence eventually corrupted Judah’s royal families (2 Kgs. 8:18, 25- 27). Because of their evil acts, God eventually judged both Israel and then Judah. Both were sent into exile and captivity (2 Kgs. 9:14 - 12:21).
The imposition of idolatrous kings was a sign of God’s judgment. God would later condemn the Jews for following statutes for pagan worship that Omri started and his son Ahab perfected: “The statutes of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab are observed; and in their devices you walk. Therefore I will give you up for destruction and your inhabitants for derision, and you will bear the reproach of My people.” (Micah 6:16). God’s punishment would continue during the Jews’ future captivity in exile: “36 The Lord will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.” (Dt. 28:36). “There [in captivity] you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (Dt. 4:28). “It shall come about when they say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ then you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”’ (Jer. 5:19). ‘“So I will hurl you out of this land into the land which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers; and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will grant you no favor.”’ (Jer. 16:13). If the Jews wanted to live like pagans, God would let them be ruled under true pagans.
Worshiping anything other than God can bring curses to you and your descendants. God’s anger burned against Israel when they worshiped other gods: “So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel . . .” (Jdgs. 2:13-15). God repeatedly commanded the Jews not to turn to idols (Ex. 20:4, 23; 34:17; Lev. 19:4; 26:1; Dt. 4:16, 23; 2 Kin. 17:12; Ps. 78:58; Ez. 20:7). This prohibition is repeated in the New Testament. “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” (1 Cor. 10:7). The prohibition against idolatry is one of the three prohibitions from the Old Testament mentioned in the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:28-29; same 21:25). Paul lists it as one of the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). As part of the Second Commandment, God warned that idolatry is so serious that it can bring judgment upon both you and future generations (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Because the Jews ignored repeated opportunities to repent, God removed His hedge of protection and allowed Satan to lead the Jews into captivity: “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth . . . The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines . . . so that Israel was greatly distressed . . .” (Jdgs. 10:6-14). “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel . . .” (1 Kgs. 9:6-7; Ex. 20:5; Dt. 5:9). False gods will inevitably disappoint. Only worshiping God will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
In the end times, people will openly embrace apostacy. In the end times, leaders will also reject God’s Word and publicly shame and accuse those who follow God for allegedly being intolerant bigots. “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” (1 Tim. 4:1). “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” (2 Pet. 2:1). Are you voting for leaders who will uphold God’s laws and His standards of morality?
King Ahab acts even more wickedly than any prior king. Omri’s son Ahab continued the decline of Northern Israel. While his father worshiped the gold calves as gods, he and his pagan wife Jezebel openly adopted the worship of the Canaanite fertility gods Baal and Asherah: “29 Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. 31 It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. 32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. 33 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. 34 In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, 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.” (1 Kgs. 16:29-34). King Ahab reigned for 22 years, from 874-853 B.C. (1 Kgs. 16:29). His reign was equal in length to King Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:20). This was meant to draw a parallel between the two. While Jeroboam was the father of idolatry, Ahab was the father of Baal worship in Israel. Just as Jeroboam activity promoted the worship of golden calves, Ahab actively prompted the worship of the gods Baal and Asherah (1 Kgs. 18:1-19:18). He then compounded his evil by threatening God’s prophets (1 Kgs. 18:1-6; 19:1-2), and hiring 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kgs. 18:22). As one commentator explains: Jeroboam intended to serve the Lord through idolatrous images (such as the golden calf) and in disobedient ways (altars and high places other than Jerusalem). Ahab introduced the worship of completely new, pagan gods. In his disobedience Jeroboam said, ‘I will worship the Lord, but do it my way.’ Ahab said, ‘I want to forget about the Lord completely and worship Baal.’” (David Guzik on 1 Kgs. 16). For these and other evil acts, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” (1 Kgs. 16:33).
Ahab’s Baal worship also introduced sexual immorality into worship. The Canaanites worshiped Baal to provide the rain to fertilize their farmlands. The fertility goddess Asherah was the sexual consort of Baal. The Asherah poles were sexual poles that were also meant to promote sex and fertility. Moses repeatedly warned the Jews about polluting their worship with these pagan sexual poles: 21 “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22 You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates.” (Dt. 16:21; 7:5; 12:1-3; Ex. 34:13). The Jews were frequently tempted to worship both God and Baal in the misguided belief that they increased their chances that someone would hear their prayers: “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” (Jdgs. 3:7; 2:11, 2:13; 10:6, 10). Gideon became the first to fight against the infestation of Asherah poles when chopped down his father’s Asherah pole (Jdgs. 6:25-27). Yet, the Jews remained attracted to this sexual idolatry: “They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.”’ (1 Sam. 12:10). Ahab brought this evil out of the shadows by making this part of an official state-sanctioned religion. Ahab married the pagan Jezebel to form an alliance with the Phoenicians. This act of short-term gain was disastrous for all the Jews. She seduced Ahab into adopting this counterfeit religion. She would come to symbolize those who seduce God’s people into turning away from Him: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Rev. 2:20). She also introduced the Asherah poles. The people’s demand for these sexual poles later prompted King Manasseh to place Asherah poles in God’s Temple in Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 21:7). The inclusion of these sexual poles in the Jews’ worship represented an open embrace of the idol of sexual immorality. Although people don’t use these poles today, sexual immorality is an even bigger idol today.
Ahab rebuilt Satan’s wall of imprisonment that God had ripped down. Ahab also rebuilt the city of Jericho (1 Kgs. 16:34). Joshua destroyed and burned the ruins of Jericho hundreds of years earlier (Josh. 6:20-21). He then cursed anyone who would try to rebuild it: “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 firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.’” (Josh. 6:26). Here, Joshua’s curse was fulfilled when Ahab tried to rebuilt the city of Jericho. As a partial fulfillment of this curse, the builder Hiel lost his sons while trying to lay the foundations (1 Kgs. 16:34). Satan is always looking to rebuild a stronghold of evil in your life. Sometimes you place the blocks down without realizing that they will become the wall that Satan will use to entrap you. Are you staying clear from the cursed things of this world that Satan may use to entrap you?
In the end times, people will openly embrace sexual immorality. During the end times, people will also openly engage in sexual immorality. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,” (2 Pet. 3:3). Instead of poles, people can now embrace sexual immorality through nearly every part of civil life. Moreover, sexual practices that God condemned are now openly celebrated. Yet, although not politically popular to hear, God warns: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; . . .” (Is. 5:20). These are all signs of the end times.