Monday, June 06, 2011

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

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


Matthew said...

Notice how the word "elohim" in Nehemiah 9:19 was translated in the KJV (as it is in other versions):

"Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations [blasphemies, NASB, ESV, HCSB];" (Nehemiah 9:18 KJV)

Also, according to John Gill the Arabic version has it "the image of thy god"

1 Kings 12:28 and Nehemiah 9:18 are, of course, recalling Exodus 32:4. TurretinFan explained the immediate context of 1 Kings 12:28 showing that the word "elohim" is in specific reference to the Lord:

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 explanation applies to Nehemiah 9:19 and Exodus 32:4, which contain the same expression "Who [(NASB, ESV, HCSB)] brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."

Following Exodus 32:4, verse 5 shows the people did not intend to renounce the worship of Jehovah.

"And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD." (Exodus 32:5 KJV)

That the word "elohim" in these passages is actually referring to the Lord is further proven by Psalm 106:19-20

"They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass." (Psalm 106:19-20 KJV)

See Romans 1:23-25 for what it means to 'change the glory of God into a similitude' and to 'change the truth of God into a lie'. Note: Jeremiah 2:11 "My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols." Jeremiah 10:8, 14 "the stock is a doctrine of vanities." (KJV) "Everyone is stupid and ignorant. Every goldsmith is put to shame by his carved image, for his cast images are a lie; there is no breath in them." (HCSB) Habbakuk 2:18 "What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, Or an image, a teacher of lies?" (NASB)

Note: Israel's glory is the Lord (see: Psalm 3:3, Isaiah 60:19).

Also, the one who brought Israel out of Egypt is described as the Lord. See Jude verses 4-5 to see that Jesus Christ is our only Lord and that He saved a people out of the land of Egypt.

"For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe." (Jude 1:4-5 NASB)

Craig French said...

Great post. I'll be chewing on this for a bit.

Matthew said...

"They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again." (Amos 8:14 KJV)

John Gill points out the epithet "only belonged to the God of Israel" & Matthew Poole on Amos 8:14 says:

"Thy god, O Dan, liveth; the idol at Dan is the true and living God."

Hosea also mentions the expression:

"Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth." (Hosea 4:15 KJV)

Note the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown commentary on Hosea 4:15:

"nor swear, The Lord liveth — This formula of oath was appointed by God Himself (Deu_6:13; Deu_10:20; Jer_4:2). It is therefore here forbidden not absolutely, but in conjunction with idolatry and falsehood (Isa_48:1; Eze_20:39; Zep_1:5)."

Matthew said...

I said: "Following Exodus 32:4, verse 5 shows the people did not intend to renounce the worship of Jehovah."

This comment should be attributed to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

5, 6. Aaron made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to the Lord-a remarkable circumstance, strongly confirmatory of the view that they had not renounced the worship of Jehovah[...]