We have here the beginning of the reign of Ahab, of whom we have more particulars recorded than of any of the kings of Israel. We have here only a general idea given us of him, as the worst of all the kings, that we may expect what the particulars will be. He reigned twenty-two years, long enough to do a great deal of mischief.
I. He exceeded all his predecessors in wickedness, did evil above all that were before him (1 Kgs. 16:30), and, as if it were done with a particular enmity both to God and Israel, to affront him and ruin them, it is said, He did more purposely to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger, and, consequently, to send judgments on his land, than all the kings of Israel that were before him, 1 Kgs. 16:33. It was bad with the people when every successive king was worse than his predecessor. What would they come to at last? He had seen the ruin of other wicked kings and their families; yet, instead of taking warning, his heart was hardened and enraged against God by it. He thought it a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, 1 Kgs. 16:31. It was nothing to break the second commandment by image-worship, he would set aside the first also by introducing other gods; his little finger should fall heavier upon God’s ordinances than Jeroboam’s loins. Making light of less sins makes way for greater, and those that endeavour to extenuate other people’s sins will but aggravate their own.
II. He married a wicked woman, who he knew would bring in the worship of Baal, and seemed to marry her with that design. As if it had been a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, he took to wife Jezebel (1 Kgs. 16:31), a zealous idolater, extremely imperious and malicious in her natural temper, addicted to witchcrafts and whoredoms (2 Kgs. 9:22), and every way vicious. The false prophetess spoken of Rev. 2:20 is there called Jezebel, for a wicked woman could not be called by a worse name than hers; what mischiefs she did, and what mischief at last befel her (2 Kgs. 9:33), we shall find in the following story; this one strange wife debauched Israel more than all the strange wives of Solomon.
III. He set up the worship of Baal, forsook the God of Israel and served the god of the Sidonians, Jupiter instead of Jehovah, the sun (so some think), a deified hero of the Phoenicians (so others): he was weary of the golden calves, and thought they had been worshipped long enough; such vanities were they that those who had been fondest of them at length grew sick of them, and, like adulterers, much have variety. In honour of this mock deity, whom they called Baal—lord, and for the convenience of his worship, 1. Ahab built a temple in Samaria, the royal city, because the temple of God was in Jerusalem, the royal city of the other kingdom. He would have Baal’s temple near him, that he might the better frequent it, protect it, and put honour upon it. 2. He reared an altar in that temple, on which to offer sacrifice to Baal, by which they acknowledged their dependence upo d82 n him and sought his favour. O the stupidity of idolaters, who are at a great expense to make one their friend whom they might have chosen whether they would make a god of or no! 3. He made a grove about his temple, either a natural one, by planting shady trees there, or, if those would be too long in growing, an artificial one in imitation of it; for it is not said he planted, but he made a grove, something that answered the intention, which was to conceal and so countenance the abominable impurities that were committed in the filthy worship of Baal. Lucus, a lucendo, quia non lucet—He that doeth evil hateth the light.
IV. One of his subjects, in imitation of his presumption, ventured to build Jericho, in defiance of the curse Joshua had long since pronounced on him that should attempt it, 1 Kgs. 16:34. It comes in as an instance of the height of impiety to which men had arrived, especially at Bethel, where one of the calves was, for of that city this daring sinner was. Observe, 1. How ill he did. Like Achan he meddled with the accursed thing, turned that to his own use which was devoted to God’s honour. He began to build, in defiance of the curse well known in Israel, jesting with it perhaps as a bugbear, or fancying its force worn out by length of time, for it was above 500 years since it was pronounced, Josh. 6:26. He went on to build, in defiance of the execution of the curse in part; for, though his eldest son died when he began, yet he would proceed in contempt of God and his wrath revealed from heaven against his ungodliness. 2. How ill he sped. He built for his children, but God wrote him childless; his eldest son died when he began, the youngest when he finished, and all the rest (it is supposed) between. Note, Those whom God curses are cursed indeed; none ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. God keep us back from presumptuous sins, those great transgressions!