You’ve heard of “Bad Moms”? Well, I have never seen the movies or shows but I can bet those ladies have nothing on these two. They could also be said to be the greatest vilenesses in the entire Bible. So, why would I chose Jezebel and Athaliah to study during this Moms in the Bible series?
Simple. While we should seek to follow good examples, we can learn a lot about what not to do and warning signs from poor examples. I chose to present mother and daughter together since it will be evident that evil influence reigns through the generations. Like mother, like daughter.
Character Profile & Background
If I were to make a character list about these two moms, it would read like this: angry, vengeful, murderous, wicked, power hungry, idol worshippers. They had rule and influence over the men in their lives, their own power, riches, and greed. Some might even characterize Jezebel and Athaliah as sociopaths.
They lived during a time when Israel’s kingdom was split between the Northern and Southern kingdom. And, their reign would still be bad if it stayed in one or the either but sadly their family had their evil hands on both kingdoms. Israel was in bad shape. They were worshipping idols, experiencing wars, and even the priests were corrupt.
Jezebel, we are told in 1 Kings 16:31 ESV, was the daugther of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians. She married King Ahab, son of Omri, of Israel’s nothern kingdom. He is just one in a long line of wicked kings. But, just like Bonnie and Clyde, when two evil people get together, all hell is bound to break loose. 1 Kings 16:33 ESV states, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
Athaliah is the offspring of these two wicked individuals. Remember, I said this evil family influences both the Nothern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom; she marries King Jehoram of Judah. And, just so you don’t think I’m assuming her to have evil influence, here is what the Bible says, “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (2 Kings 8:18 ESV)
The Bible tells us that Jezebel was a worshipper of Baal and Asherah, and influenced her husband Ahab to lead the nation that way as well. Asherah is seen as the mother god who produced all other gods. Baal was the most powerful of her offspring who was said to have defeated all other gods and death. Their worship included animal sacrifice and at times even child sacrifice.
Believing the sexual relations of Baal and Asherah gave rise to fertility, their worshipers engaged in immoral sex to encourage the gods, ensuring good harvests. This practice was the open, religious prostitution that we read of in the Bible. So, these practices obviously would have been detestable to the site Lord.
Jezebel and Athaliah Bible Story
Jezebel and Ahab had over 800 prophets of Baal and Asherah that ate at their table. At the same time, she was slaughtering the prophets of the Lord. (1 Kings 18:4 ESV)
They are contemporaries of the prophet Elijah. You may remember the famous stand off on Mt. Carmel between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal, where God shows Himself as sovereign and powerful. This sent Jezebel into a murderous rage. She wanted to kill Elijah and he was truly afraid of this woman. So much so, that he fled to hide from her.
Meanwhile, her weak-willed and whiny husband, Ahab, is making bad alliances and moping when he doesn’t get his way. Jezebel, always in control, has innocent men accused falsely and killed to ensure her husband gets his way.
Ahab is killed and in his place comes their son, Ahaziah. 1 Kings 22:52 says, “He did what was 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.” Not often in the chronicles of the kings are mother’s impacts or deeds mentioned, usually it’s the influence of the father, but Jezebel had such a profound ungodly impact on her family and the nation of Israel that she is mentioned for it several times. As we will soon see, her daughter Athaliah inherited their monstrous traits as well.
In fact, Jezebel is so notorious for her abominable behavior that in Revelation when Jesus speaks to the church at Thyatira, He uses her name to call out the woman who’s sin they are allowing. Revelation 2:19 ESV: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”
Her end is quite brutal. She was thrown from a window, trampled by horses, and then eaten by dogs. This is the sum of what is said about her in the Bible from 2 Kings 9:35-37 (ESV): But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. When they came back and told him, he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel, and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.’”
As previously mentioned, the first mention of Athaliah that we have in the scriptures is found in 2 Kings 8 where we are told that King Jehoram of Judah marries her and her family’s evil influence is what causes his diversion from following God. Jehoram had the godly influence of his grandfather, Asa, and his father, Jehoshaphat, who walked with God. (1 Kings 15:11 ESV) However, all that wasn’t enough when he was listening to the wicked prowess of his new wife.
Athaliah is also credited with swaying her son into a life of debauchery. (2 Kings 8:26-27) When her son dies, instead of accepting defeat, this woman assumes to take the throne for herself and not only that, but she executes all of the rest of the royal family. This includes her children and grandchildren. We might praise her for being the only woman to assume the monarchy in Israel if her deeds weren’t so down right awful.
Plot twist, King Jehoram’s daughter is brave and hides away the youngest of the king’s sons, Joash, in the house of God. This is a smart move since we know Athaliah most likely as a Baal worshiper would not care to be in the temple. We knew there had to be some one left, because God did promise King David that he would never lack a man to reign in the throne. With this encouragement, an insurrection occurs and Athaliah is put to death by the sword. The last words written about her are found in 2 Kings 11:20 (ESV): “So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.“
Lessons from Jezebel and Athaliah
These women had a position to where they could have influenced their husbands for good. They could have spent time and energy raising up the next generation of godly leaders. And, finally, they could have left a legacy of holiness. However, they chose to turn from God and follow evil. Let’s learn from their lives and pursue the Lord in all aspects of our family life.
- Wives, we have lots of influence over our husbands.
- We need to help point them back to scripture.
- We need to speak words of encouragement.
- We need to remind them they are accountable to God.
- We need to respect their leadership.
- God gave us a responsibility to raise our children for Him.
- They need God’s word spoken into their lives.
- They need our time and attention.
- They need our care and protection.
- They need our positive role model.
- God will not allow evil to go unpunished.
- Their deaths were brutal and degrading.
- Their children inherited their punishments.
- God’s people suffered for following their wicked ways.
Challenge from the Bible to Live Opposite of Jezebel and Athaliah
Pray for your sons and daughters to marry godly men and women.
One of the saddest things about this whole story is that Judah had some godly kings from the line of King David. They had great role models and godly influence but they chose to intermarry with those whose hearts were far from God. Jezebel and Athaliah brought in idol worship and gave their children the example of murdering anyone who got in their way.
We have a responsibility to pray for our sons and daughters. And, one of those prayers should include their future spouse. We can pray for them to be believers who love God with all of their heart, souls, minds, and strength. Also, to be loyal and loving to our children as their partner in life.
Stay far from evil and evil people.
We are encouraged to shine our lights in a dark world by our actions and words. However, we are never told to entangle ourselves with evil people. And, the Bible clearly encourages us to run far from evil. The Bible is also clear that sin leads to death.
We can also protect our children from evil by preparing them with the truth of God’s word to discern between good and evil. We can guide and encourage them in behaviors and relationships that honor the Lord.
- “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14 (ESV)
- “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (ESV)
- “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:14-15 (ESV)
- “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
Beware of idolatry.
I don’t think many of us are being encouraged to bow to a statue or practice temple prostitution. Nevertheless, there are still very real idols out there. Anything that we put before God is an idol in our lives. We can check this by what we spend most of our time, energy, money, and thoughts on.
We can keep a clean heart by regularly confessing sin and asking God to show us idols in our lives. We can make sure we are willing to be sacrificial in giving up things that might come up against God’s word and His will for our lives.
Lord, help me to be always aware that my kids are listening and watching. Help me to point them toward you.. Keep evil influences far away from my children. Protect their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus so that they will follow Your words. When wicked people come into our lives, help us to trust you, pray for them, and know you will have the victory. Keep me from idols and anything that might try and take the place of your will for my life. Amen.
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