Archive for the ‘Baal’ Category

Golden Calves vs. Baal – Response to a Counterpoint

January 31, 2013

There are a limited number of possible verses that seem to possibly associate the golden calves and Baal worship. One example is the passage below:

2 Kings 17:16-17
And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Here the golden calves and Baal are placed quite close to each other in a list of the wrong-doings of Israel. But, while they are placed close together, there is no strong indication that the grove worship was directly connected with the calves or with Baal. Moreover, the child sacrifice is more associated with Molech worship:

Leviticus 18:21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

Moreover, the divinations are also seemingly a separate but related category. Recall:

Deuteronomy 18:9-12
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Moreover, while Baal and passing one’s children through the fire are mentioned in close proximity elsewhere, in that place (as in Leviticus above) it is connected with the cult of Molech:

Jeremiah 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

It is interesting to note that in this instance, the sentence structure, in English, is such that there seems to be a connection between the high places of Baal and the child sacrifice to Molech. It is possible that “Baal” here is a generic reference.

– TurretinFan

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Roots of the Samaritan Religion

August 22, 2011

A further evidence for the fact that Jeroboamic worship of the golden calves was an attempt to worship the Lord by images can be seen from the unusual post-exilic religion in the region of Israel, from which the Samaritan religion appears to have been derived.

The account of that religion’s origin can be seen in the following account (2 Kings 17:22-41)

For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.

The “sins of Jeroboam” refers to a collection of sins of which the principle examples were the golden calves and the unauthorized priesthood. From the time of Jeroboam, until the destruction of Israel with the permanent exile of the ten tribes, the Israelites (as a nation) never gave up this ungodly worship of the Lord.

And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.

The Assyrians were, in some ways, smart. By reshuffling and intermixing the people, they avoided the ancient loyalties and helped to reinforce an Assyrian empire identity. The result, however, was that there were essentially no “native” Israelites in Israel.

And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.

Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land.

Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land.”

The people of the land recognized that they were receiving divine judgment in the form of these lions. Being from other places that each had its own “god,” they assumed that there must be some local deity in Israel that they needed to appease. However, no one knew how to appease the local deity. So, they begged for the king of Assyria’s help.

The king of Assyria had a solution. Send one priest back to teach them how to worship this local deity.

Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.

So, from this unauthorized Israelite priesthood, a single priest returned to teach them how to worship the Lord – not how to worship Baal, but the Lord. This suggests that the worship of the Jeroboamic religion was a faulty worship of the Lord.

And unsurprisingly, this one priest taught them how to worship the Lord, but did not teach them to worship the Lord alone. While God seems to have accepted this fundamentally unacceptable co-worship in terms of stopping the lion attacks, the text makes clear that this joint worship of God and other gods was not acceptable:

Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.

So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.

They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence. Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel; with whom the LORD had made a covenant, and charged them, saying,

Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them: but the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice. And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the law, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do for evermore; and ye shall not fear other gods. And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.

Howbeit they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner. So these nations feared the LORD, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.

Did God save these pagans who worshiped the Lord? God does not tell us that explicitly. It seems that the people did not continue to cry out to the king of Assyria for something more, nevertheless it is clear from the text that we should not view what they did as good enough.

I should also point out that there is a slight apparent contradiction you may have noticed “they feared the Lord” and “they fear not the Lord.” The resolution of this apparent contradiction is seen in the fact that while they do outwardly give worship to the Lord, nevertheless they do not do so according to the way that the Lord commanded. This single priest of Israel was not one of God’s appointed priests. He did not properly instruct the people of the land, nor – if he did – did they properly follow his instruction.

I suppose we ourselves can take a warning from this. The warning would be to be mindful that we are not content simply to have some general worship for God, but also to follow his commandments. After all, it is one thing to be afraid of God’s lions, but it is another thing to love the law of God.

– TurretinFan

The Worship of the High Places

August 18, 2011

When we read in Scripture about the worship in the “high places,” some of us may automatically assume that this is a reference to pagan worship. That assumption is not fully justified. Although the people of Israel were not commanded to worship God in “high places,” nevertheless it seems that they did.

The first clear reference to this practice can be seen in the softly negative comment about Solomon.

1 Kings 3:1-4

And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days. And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.

The exception to following the statutes of David was that Solomon sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. This, in combination with the reference to the fact that people sacrificed in the high places before the temple was built show – or at least suggest – that this was worship to the Lord.

The second reference to this practice is more clearly negative, and is connected with the Jeroboamic worship, which we have previously explained was an aberrant form of worship of the Lord.

1 Kings 13:1-5

And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.

And again, at the end of the same account:

1 Kings 13:29-34

And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones: for the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass. After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.

The use of the high places returned to Judah after Solomon. We see testimony about this at various times, including one curious time that involves Jehoshaphat.

1 Kings 22:42-43

Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.

2 Chronicles 17:3-6

And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.

2 Chronicles 20:31-33

And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.

One explanation for this apparent contradiction (between 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings and internally within 2 Chronicles) may be found in another account:

2 Chronicles 33:10-18

And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only. Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel.

So, the solution with respect to Jehosophat is that he took away the high places of Baalim, but not those of Lord. Thus, the high places were not eradicated entirely, though those for Baalim were eradicated.

Hezekiah, however, was apparently more thorough. In fact, Hezekiah is praised this way:

2 Kings 18:1-6

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.

This zeal, however, lead to an interesting argument from the invading Assyrian general, Rabshakeh. Arguing to the people of Jerusalem, he stated:

2 Kings 18:22 But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?

2 Chronicles 32:12 Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?

Rabshakeh mistakenly thought that Hezekiah had insulted the Lord by destroying the places where the Lord was worshiped. He knew that Hezekiah had removed the high places that were used to worship the Lord, but he did not realize that this was required in order to purify the worship of the Lord in accordance with the law of Moses.

Further evidence that these were high places for the Lord come from the theme of several praising passages for the kings of Judah. Asa, Jehoshaphat (already discussed above), Amaziah, and Jotham are all praised as having done that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and yet are criticized for not removing the high places. Given the harsh condemnation that came upon those who permitted Baal worship, it is reasonable to suppose that these are instances of Jewish inappropriate worship of the Lord, as opposed to purely pagan practices.

1 Kings 15:11-14

And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.

1 Kings 22:42-43

Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.

2 Kings 14:1-4

In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah. He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.

2 Kings 15:32-35

In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign. Five and twenty years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the LORD.

What should these passages teach us? First, they should teach us that God values the purity of his own worship. Hezekiah is highly praised for the purity of his worship, and even other righteous kings are criticized for failing to purify the worship of the Lord. Second, they should teach us charity. If even those with impure worship can be said to have done “right in the eyes of the Lord,” we should be charitable toward our brethren who have modern-day high places in their worship. We may rightly encourage them to purify their worship, but we ought not to try to suggest that they are not Christians, simply because of an error of this category.

-TurretinFan

Baal vs. Golden Calves – Part 3

July 31, 2011

In two previous posts (post 1post 2) I have advocated for the idea that the golden calves represent a deficient worship of the LORD (one that like Roman worship purports to worship the living God through dead images) not Baal worship or the worship of an equivalent non-existent pagan deity.

There’s at least one further powerful demonstration of this thesis:

2 Kings 10:15-31

And when he [that is, Jehu] was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

And Jehonadab answered, “It is.”

“If it be, give me thine hand.”

And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.

And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So they made him ride in his chariot.

And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the LORD, which he spake to Elijah.

And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, “Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live.”

But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.

And Jehu said, “Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal.”

And they proclaimed it.

And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another.

And he said unto him that was over the vestry, “Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.”

And he brought them forth vestments.

And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, “Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.”

And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, “If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.”

And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, “Go in, and slay them; let none come forth.”

And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal. And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.

Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.

Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

And the LORD said unto Jehu, “Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.”

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.

Jehu’s attempt to exterminate Baal-worship was extensive and amazing. He tricks the Baal-worshipers into thinking he is the biggest fan of Baal ever, gets all of the Baal-worshipers in one place, orders them to expel any worshipers of the Lord from the place, dresses them distinctively to make them easy targets, puts them in an enclosed place with limited ways of escape, threatens death to those charged with guarding the exits if they fail in their duty, and then attacks them at the moment when the house is full of smoke but before they have eaten.

Yet despite all that, he continues to worship the LORD using the improper means set up by Jeroboam, namely the golden calves and the unauthorized priesthood and all that went with that. His sin, like that of Jeroboam, was not in failing to worship the Lord (he plainly distinguishes between the worshipers of the Lord and the worshipers of Baal) but in worshiping the Lord in a way that is out of accord with the way that the Lord wants to be worshiped.

The worship of the golden calves was very wicked, and it was the reason that Jeroboam’s entirely family was wiped out. But the worship of a false god, Baal, was even more wicked, such that God rewarded Jehu for wiping out Ahab’s family and the false god that he had re-introduced into Israel under the influence of his wife Jezebel.

Within a decade, under the reign of the boy-king Jehoash (and particularly under the influence of Jehoiada the high priest) Baal worship was suppressed in Judah as well, though it is noted that the high places were not destroyed.

-TurretinFan

Distinguishing Baal-Worship from Jeroboamic Idolatry

June 14, 2011

There are at least two additional passages (beyond those we last discussed) that provide us with further evidence of the distinction between Baal-worship and the institution of the golden calves of Jeroboam, which were intended in service to the God who brought Israel up out of Egypt.

1 Kings 22:51-53

Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.

2 Kings 3:1-3

Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.

Notice that in the first one of these two, one might think that “For he served Baal,” might refer back to “the way of Jeroboam.” However, when you see the ending of the sentence in the first passage, you see it is connecting back to what Ahab did. That becomes even more clear in the second passage.

In the second passage, Jehoram is (to a degree) commended because he did not go to the extent of sin that Ahab and Jezebel went. Nevertheless, he still did what Jeroboam did, and worshiped God in violation of the second commandment.

-TurretinFan

Ahab vs. Jeroboam | 1st Command vs. 2nd Commandment

June 6, 2011

Not all sins are equally heinous in God’s eyes. The sin of Jeroboam was to set up a rival worship of God according to his own imagination, with his own priests, and images, namely golden calves. He set up one of those in Dan and the other in Bethel.

1 Kings 12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

God condemned this evil.

1 Kings 14:9 But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back:

You will notice in our English translation that it says “gods” in both of the verses above. The Hebrew word is “elohim,” which can either mean “gods” or “God.” In this context, there are two images, so the plural translation seems to make sense. Nevertheless, the reference to “which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” seems to be a reference to a very specific divinity, namely Jehovah.

This was a horrible sin in God’s eyes and God wiped out Jeroboam’s family for it.

But the following kings of Israel not only copied and continued Jeroboam’s bad practices, they did something worse. Read what is said of Ahab:

1 Kings 16:25-33

But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities. Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he shewed, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.

And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

Notice that it is Ahab (via his wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal) that brings Baal-worship to Israel.

It wasn’t the first time Baal-worship had come to Israel. Jerubbaal (aka Gideon) had wiped out Baal-worship in Israel during his time as judge. But then, later, Samuel had found it necessary to purge the land of Baal-worship again, because as soon as Gideon was dead, the people went right back to Baal-worship (Judges 8:33). And you may recall that Baal-worship goes back to the time of the exodus, where Moab seduced many of the Israelites into Baal-worship apparently through the use of prostitutes (see Numbers 25).

Although God was very angry with Jeroboam for his sin, God was even more angry with Ahab for his sin. Why is that? Part of the explanation may lay in the fact that Ahab had seen the destruction of Jeroboam and Baasha (and their families) for the sins of Jeroboam related to the golden calves. Ahab could look back at the warning of Ahijah the Shilonite and Jehu the son of Hanani (among others) given respectively to those kings.

Another part of it, though, is that Jeroboam and Baasha only engaged in second commandment idolatry: worshiping God by illicit and unauthorized means, especially by means of an unauthorized priesthood and golden calves.

In contrast, Ahab worshiped a false god – first commandment idolatry. Elijah made it plain on Mt. Carmel that Baal was a false deity and that the LORD was the True and Living God – the God who answers with fire.

These things are negative examples for us.

1 Corinthians 10:5-11

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

  1. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
  2. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
  3. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
  4. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

As to (1), see Exodus 32:6, regarding the golden calf. This is an example of the “second commandment idolatry” I mentioned above, though with the original golden calf, not with Jeroboam’s golden calves.

As to (2), see Numbers 25:1 (and 9), regarding fornication in connection with Baal-worship, which we also discussed above under the topic of “first commandment idolatry.” It was a combination of spiritual and physical fornication. The women were not their wives, and Baal was not their spiritual husband (though “Baal” can have that meaning).

As to (3), see Numbers 21:5, regarding Israel complaining against God’s provision for them. It is interesting to note that this is one of many testimonies to the divinity of Christ. It is plain from the text of Numbers 21 that the people complained against God, and here Paul is warning us not to tempt Christ as they did. That means, unmistakably, that Christ is God.

As to (4), see Numbers 14 or 16, with the destruction either being the general destruction of the people of Israel in the wilderness or the special quick destruction of Korah.

Likewise, when it comes to Jeroboam and Ahab, learn from these evil examples. Do not worship like Jeroboam did, according to the worship that “he had devised of his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33) but instead imitate David the Psalmist who worshiped God as God commanded (cf. 1 Kings 14:8).

– TurretinFan


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