We’ve been discussing how Old Testament Israel is the harlot. Since Revelation also has something to say about the harlot, it is imperative to have a full grasp of what the Old Testament says about her in order to fully understand what the apocalypse is saying.
King Ahab of Israel, the son of Omri, was an evil man and an evil king. He was an idolater, just like his father: Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord and acted more wickedly than all who were before him…provoking the Lord God of Israel with their idols (1 Kings 20:25-26). Actually, Ahab was even worse, for he too, did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him (vv.29-30). Now, along comes Jezebel. Anyone who reads the Bible knows that Jezebel was an evil woman, and we will see just how evil she was.
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal. Did you catch that name? Eth – Baal, as in Baal, a false god – an idol. Worshipping idols is what we’re talking about here; it is what playing the harlot is, in the sight of the Lord. It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him (Ahab) to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. So, he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus, Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him (vv31-34).
I love how the Scriptures characterize what transpired: “As though it had been a trivial thing,” it says. And that trivial thing was the walking in the ways of Jeroboam. Jeroboam was the king of Israel at the point where the kingdom was being split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. King Solomon, who had been king of Israel, angered God, so ten tribes were taken from him and given to Jeroboam, his successor, with the tribe of Benjamin (Judah following), given to Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the first king of the kingdom of Judah.
It should be kept in mind that Jeroboam built the “high places” which was where the people would build their altars and shrines and play the harlot by worshipping strange gods. So, here was Baal-worshipper, altar-builder and Asherah-maker Ahab, the son of evil Omri, marrying Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal. This was a diabolical duo.
Jezebel would proceed to kill (destroy) the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4, 13); and later we see that: surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord because Jezebel his wife incited him (1Kings 21:25). In fact, she was so wicked that after she was finally killed, she is never mentioned again – until we reach the book of Revelation. It is there, in addressing the church at Thyatira, that none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had this to say:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you (Revelation 2:20-25).
What we have here is Christ, through John, chastising the church at Thyatira – that those who tolerated Jezebel, who called herself a prophetess but was a killer of the prophets, who led His people astray so that they committed acts of immorality by eating things sacrificed to idols – in other words, for playing the harlot, with Jezebel.
But God is longsuffering; He actually gave the reviled Jezebel time to repent – but she did not want to repent. So, look at what God does: He “gives them up” to their harlotry. “I will throw her on a bed of sickness,” He says; and He will “throw those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation;” and again, God, ever longsuffering, says this: …unless they repent of her deeds. And He will kill her children with pestilence…He will give each one of them according to their deeds. He then likens it all to “the deep things of Satan.”
Yes, playing the harlot by worshipping other gods is probably the worst thing that one can do in the eyes of God, and the evil, wicked woman Jezebel, the killer of God’s prophets who incited her evil husband King Ahab to do even more evil, epitomizes all that that evil is – but that is just half the story; the second half will come next time.