Lesson 10

*August 31 - September 6

Meanwhile. . . Back in the North

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   August 31

MEMORY TEXT: "But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?" (2 Kings 1:3).

THE LAST DAYS OF THE OMRIDE DYNASTY. We last left off our study of the kingdom of Israel with the ill-fated war against Ramoth-Gilead (853 B.C.), in which Ahab was killed and Jehoshaphat (by the grace of God) barely escaped alive (2 Chronicles 18). This week we backtrack, looking more closely at Ahab's reign and those who followed: his son Ahaziah, Ahaziah's brother Joram (the last of Omri's seed to sit on the throne of Israel), and then Jehu, who seized power in a military coup blessed of the Lord. We will also take a peek at the last "earthly" days of the incredible Elijah, not only a great presence in the Old Testament but who, in fact, makes a cameo appearance in the New Testament, as well.

THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What did Jezebel do to Naboth in order to possess his vineyard for Ahab? What were the results of that plot? Who was Ahaziah, and what crucial, but common, mistake did he make? Why was Elijah so important? What principles can we, today, thousands of years after Elijah's ministry, learn from the story of his life and last days? How did the Omride Dynasty finally end? Why were Jehu's reforms so drastic, and why did the Lord approve of what Jehu did to the house of Ahab?  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 7.

Sunday  September 1

AHAB AND NABOTH (1 Kings 21).

Even after the encounter at Carmel with Elijah, things seemed to go relatively well for the weak-willed King Ahab of Israel. He defeated the Syrians in two wars (1 Kings 20:1-34) that, apparently, left him well off economically.

Read the story of Ahab, Jezebel, and Naboth, at least as far as verse 16 in 1 Kings 21. According to The SDA Bible Commentary, Naboth apparently believed that it was "against the spiritual purpose of the Levitical law for him to transfer his inheritance to the king."Vol. 2, p. 834:3, "The Lord forbid it." Whether he understood the law correctly or not, Naboth was determined not to give his land to the king. Obviously, he felt a responsibility to a higher authority. In the context of this story, answer the following questions:

What did Ahab offer Naboth for the vineyard? Was it a fair price? Read 1 Kings 21:9 and 10, which record Jezebel's plot. Notice the irony. She calls a "fast" and wants Naboth stoned because he "blasphemed God" (NKJV). Was this not the same woman who at one point tried to eliminate the worship of the Lord? Maybewith the defeat of her gods and death of her priestsshe had converted to the true faith in an experience similar to Saul of Tarsus who, having been a persecutor of the Lord, suddenly became a follower. Or did Jezebel have other motives? If so, what were they?  

Read the rest of the chapter. Notice the phrase Elijah uses when he confronts Ahab: "Because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord" (vs. 20, NKJV, emphasis supplied). It implies that there was some good in the king, that he knew what was right, but he allowed himself to sell his principles for a price. Verse 25 repeats the same idea but adds the expression that he sold himself because "Jezebel his wife stirred him up" (NKJV).

Perhaps all this helps explain what happens next. After being denounced, Ahab "rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly" (vs. 27). Apparently, this was not just for show. He had truly repented, for the Lord told Elijah, "See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days" (vs. 29, NKJV).

Fraud, violence, theft. Yet, God accepted Ahab's repentance? Parallel this story with the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 and 12). What do the stories have in common, and where do they differ? What lessons can we learn from both?  

Monday  September 2


Read the account of Ahaziah, in 2 Kings 1, who ascended the throne after the death of his father Ahab. His request (vs. 2) shows that whatever victories the followers of the Lord had in Israel, the problem of paganism had hardly subsided. Here was the king, finding himself in dire straits, seeking after pagan deities for help.

Look at the words the angel of the Lord gave to Elijah to speak to Ahaziah: "Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?" (2 Kings 1:3). What spiritual principle is operating here? How often we find ourselves doing the same thing, that of seeking answers in the wrong places. Write down different ways in which people, in a sense, might be enquiring of the "god of Ekron" all the while the Lord God of heaven and earth is waiting there to help. Understand, too, that turning to a source of help outside of God can be a very subtle thing, in that we do not realize what we are doing. For example, some people look to science as the answer to all human questions. Others believe the answers exist within themselves, within something deep and profound inside them. What other "gods of Ekron" are there?  

Read the account of what happened when Ahaziah sent soldiers to talk with Elijah (2 Kings 1:9-18). This time fire came down from heaven and devoured, not sacrifices, but over a hundred men. By the time the third group of soldiers came, the captain pled for all their lives (he must have heard what happened to those who went before him and did not want to face the same fate). Though the Bible does not say why something so drastic had to happen, perhaps it was to reinforce to Ahaziah, in a manner reflective of Carmel, the power of the living God (if that was the reason, it did not work); or, perhaps it was to give Elijah the courage to go down and face the soldiers (after all, with something like this happening, he should not have been afraid).

Compare Ahaziah's sin, at least as recorded here, with that of his father, Ahab, when he took the life and property of Naboth. One hardly seems comparable with the other, yet Ahab was spared the immediate punishment for his deeds, while his son was not spared the punishment for his. What is going on here? What made the crucial difference between the two? Hint: Look for what is not said in the case of Ahaziah as in contrast to the one of Ahab (1 Kings 21:29).  

Tuesday  September 3


Christian musician Rich Mullins wrote a song with the line, "When I leave I want to go out like Elijah." Who would not, ascending to heaven on a whirlwind of flaming horses and chariots? (2 Kings 2:11). Not a bad exit for such a colorful and dramatic character.

Elijah. He appears out of nowhere and rebukes a powerful king (1 Kings 17:1). Elijah. His prayers and supplications to God brought back a child from death (1 Kings 17:18-22). Elijah, who stared down 850 pagan prophets at Carmel and won (1 Kings 18). Elijah, who fled in death-wishing discouragement from the wrath of an angry queen (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah, who brings down fire from God and devours his enemies (2 Kings 1:10-12).

Elijah, though, is not just a giant of the Old Testament. Jesus talked about Elijah (Matt. 11:14; 17:12; Mark 9:11). Every Gospel account mentions his name (Matt. 27:47; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:8; John 1:21). Paul used him as an example (Rom. 11:2), and so did James (James 5:17).

Review the events in Elijah's life (mostly 1 Kings 17-19; 21; 2 Kings 1; 2). Was he balanced? Fanatical? Moderate? A liberal? A conservative? If he were alive today, how might he relate to your local church?  

Notice how Paul and James refer to Elijah. Paul wrote: "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal" (Rom. 11:2-4). James wrote: "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (James 5:17, 18).

In both cases, the human side of Elijah was shown: In Paul's example, Elijah, discouraged, thought he was the only faithful follower of the Lord and had to be rebuked for that atti[t]ude. James simply emphasized the struggle with self that Elijah had, as do the rest of us. In short, both help to make this great prophet human.ally, poison everything.

Few of us have had the kind of dramatic spiritual confrontations that Elijah had.  Nevertheless, what can we learn from his story, both from his mistakes and from his victories that could help us be faithful followers of the same God in our own spiritual confrontations, whatever they might be?  

Wednesday  September 4


"And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel" (2 Kings 9:7).  

After the death of Ahaziah, his brother Joram (or Jehoram), last king of the Omride Dynasty (those directly descended from King Omri), succeeded him. See 2 Kings 1:17. Not surprisingly, Joram "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 3:2, NKJV), even to the point where Elisha the prophet instigated against a military coup d'etat in which Joram was deposed and the commander of the military took the throne.

Read 2 Kings 9 and answer these questions:

1. Look at the order that Elisha gave to one of the "sons of the prophets" regarding the anointing of Jehu (vs. 1, NKJV). Go, do it, get out, and "do not delay" (vs. 3, NKJV). What probable reason did Elisha have for having him do it so quickly?  

2. What question did Joram ask three times in response to the approach of Jehu and his men? What did his question imply about Joram's frame of mind? What did it indicate, and why would he have reasons to be fearful?  

3. The death of Joram came as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah after the death of Naboth (1 Kings 21), in which—because of Ahab's repentance—the punishment was placed instead on those who came after him (1 Kings 21:21). Ask yourself this question: In the light of the blessings/retribution motif in Kings and Chronicles, was the prophecy conditional? If Joram would have been faithful, unlike his father or brother, could the prophecy not have been fulfilled? Give reasons for whichever answer you choose. Where does 2 Kings 9:25 say that Joram's body was to be cast? Was this fate fair, especially since Joram did not have anything to do with his parents' treachery anyway? Or, perhaps, was it a symbol of something else? If so, what?  

5. What did Jezebel say to Jehu when he approached her? What message was she trying to convey? Zimri had been the one who had killed King Baasha in Judah (1 Kings 16:12). The answer, perhaps, is found in 1 Kings 16:15 and 16.  

Thursday  September 5


Thus began the dynasty of Jehu. Jehu ruled from 841 to 814 B.C. He eradicated Baal worship as thoroughly as he could. For his righteous zeal in this respect he was commended by the prophet Elisha, and a promise was made that his descendants would sit on Israel's throne to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). Accordingly, his dynasty reigned over the country for about 90 years, nearly half the time of Israel's existence. However, Jehu did not break with Jeroboam's calf worship, and his reform was, as a result, considered incomplete (2 Kings 10:31)."—Siegfried H. Horn, "The Divided Monarchy: The Kingdoms of Judah and Israel," Ancient Israel: A Short History From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1988), p. 125.

Second Kings 10 recounts Jehu's actions against the house of Ahab in Israel and against those who worshiped Baal. On the following lines, read the text given and write down what happened in order that the " 'word of the Lord which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab' "(2 Kings 10:10, NKJV) would be fulfilled:.  

2 Kings 10:7 _________________________________________________________________________

2 Kings 10:14 ________________________________________________________________________

2 Kings 10:17 ________________________________________________________________________

2 Kings 10:25, 27 _____________________________________________________________________

After reading these texts, someone might be tempted to say that all this carnage could be attributed simply to Jehu's excessive zeal. However, read what the Lord says to Jehu in verse 30 after all these "reforms" took place and how he did right in "mine eyes." How are we to understand this? Or can we, here, thousands of years later in a totally different culture, without having all the facts at our disposal?

Jehu was quite adamant about eliminating Baal worship from Israel. However, the text says that he did not "turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan" (2 Kings 10:29, NKJV).  Why would he be so firm about eliminating one form of paganism and idolatry and not another?  Why would he be less inclined to eliminate the golden calves as opposed to Baal worship, and what lesson is in this for us who might be selective in which sins we keep and which ones we dispose of? 

Friday  September 6

The Elijah Message. In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. Just such a work as that which John did, is to be carried on in these last days. The Lord is giving messages to His people, through the instruments He has chosen, and He would have all heed the admonitions and warnings He sends. The message preceding the public ministry of Christ was, Repent, publicans and sinners; repent, Pharisees and Sadducees; 'for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Our message is not to be one of peace and safety. As a people who believe in Christ's soon appearing, we have a definite message to bear,—'Prepare to meet thy God.' "—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1184:5, 6.

"It was because of His compassion for those whose moral power was weak that He raised up Jehu to slay wicked Jezebel and all the house of Ahab. Once more, through a merciful providence, the priests of Baal and of Ashtöreth were set aside and their heathen altars thrown down. God in His wisdom foresaw that if temptation were removed, some would forsake heathenism and turn their faces heavenward, and this is why He permitted calamity after calamity to befall them. His judgments were tempered with mercy; and when His purpose was accomplished, He turned the tide in favor of those who had learned to inquire after Him."—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 254, 255.  

1. In what ways does the above quote in Prophets and Kings help answer some of the hard issues raised in Thursday's lesson?  At the same time, what questions does it leave or, in fact, create? Discuss.  
2. Second Kings 10:31 reads: "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." This text came immediately after the one in which God commended him for wiping out the house of Ahab. The verb there for "took heed" in the Hebrew is a very common one used time and again in the Hebrew Bible in the context of Israel "taking heed" to do the will of the Lord. Yet, no matter how zealous he was in his actions against the house of Ahab, Jehu had some blind spots. What lessons can we learn from this account? Does God excuse our blind spots, or does He work with us despite them? Justify your answer.  

InSide Story

Would-Be Murderer Meets Christ, Part 1

J. H. Zachary

Zachariah grew up in a Hindu village in eastern India. As a youth he turned to crime and became the leader of a gang. He carried a weapon wherever he went.

Zachariah married a woman who was a Christian. When she realized how Zechariah hated Christians, she waited until he was asleep to read her Bible or pray. But one day he caught her praying. "If you are a follower of Jesus, you have no place in my home," he shouted.

Quietly she replied, "While I love Jesus, I will always be a faithful wife to you."

"You will not bring a strange God into my home!" he ordered.

For two years Zachariah did not talk to his wife. Then one day he abruptly sent her back to her parents. The elders from her village tried to reconcile the couple. "Your wife is a good wife to you. Let her worship her God. She will not disturb you," they pleaded. But Zachariah told them he would not have a Christian in his home.

Zachariah was determined to keep all Christians out of his village. If an itinerant preacher tried to conduct a religious meeting in his village, he sent his gang to disrupt the meeting and take their musical instruments. He could not stand the sound of Christian music in his Hindu community. Inevitably the Christian pastor would come to request the return of the instruments, and Zachariah would threaten, "The next time you try to hold meetings in this village, you will die."

For two years his wife remained in her parents' village. Then she returned to Zachariah. He met her with these words, "If you enter this house, one or the other of us will have to die. I will not permit your religion in my village." He beat her severely and dragged her body into the street.

Zachariah's wife survived. She fasted for three days and prayed that God would change her husband's heart. When she tried to return home, Zachariah beat her again. Then he grabbed his knife and lifted it above his head to kill her. Suddenly he saw a bright light above her.

(continued next week)

J. H. Zachary (left) is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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