5.59 1 Kings -- Ahab and Elijah
Chaos enveloped the northern kingdom of Israel. There were no good rulers, each outdid his predecessor in evil deeds. Fortunately, they tended to wipe each other out. The next low-point was the accession of Ahab:
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him (1 Kings 16:30).
Since this was also said of Omri, and Ahab was worse than Omri, then he must have been REALLY bad. He was in a class of his own: Ahab "considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam" (1 Kings 16:31). Some of his sins were marrying Jezebel, daughter of a Phoenician king (Solomon set the precedent for this), building a temple for Baal in his capital city of Samaria, and building an Asherah pole (1 Kings 16:31-33). Jezebel was a fit help-mate to Ahab in his defiance of God -- very much like Herodias in the New Testament. Both women were not merely sinful, they actively and purposefully opposed the purpose of God and killed His prophets.
It is at this low point in the fortunes of Israel, a doomed nation, that God sent a most powerful prophet. His very name, Elijah, means "The Lord is my God," a statement that defied the leaders of Israel. Elijah was from Gilead, a region of Israel across the Jordan. His ministry signified:
-- God, not kings and political leaders, is in control of history.
-- God can show up at the worst of times.
-- God gave even the worst ruler an opportunity to repent and align himself with God's plan.
-- God can raise up anyone at anytime for His sovereign purpose and to declare His Word.
-- God was present among His rebellious nation, as judge, witness and savior.
The first judgment of God on Israel was drought. This was a direct affront to Baal, Ahab's favorite deity, who was believed to control fertility and rain (NIV footnote, p. 509). God provided food and drink for Elijah in the midst of affliction, at first through ravens (1 Kings 17:6), and then through the widow of Zarephath.