1 Kings 16:31
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.
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(31) Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians.—The mention of Ethbaal, clearly the Eithobalus of Menander (see Jos. against Apion i. 18), affords another comparison of Israelite with Tyrian history. He is said to have assassinated Pheles, king of Tyre, within fifty years after the death of Hiram, and to have founded a new dynasty. He was a priest of Astarte, and it is notable that he is called, not, like Hiram, “king of Tyre,” but “king of the Sidonians,” thus reviving the older name of “the great Zidon,” which had been superseded by Tyre. His priestly origin, and possibly also this revival of the old ideas and spirit of the Phœnician race, may account for the fanatic devotion to Baal visible in Jezebel and Athaliah, which stands in marked contrast with the religious attitude of Hiram (1Kings 5:7; 2Chronicles 2:12). The marriage of Ahab with Jezebel was evidently the fatal turning-point in the life of a man physically brave, and possibly able as a ruler, but morally weak, impressible in turn both by good and by evil. The history shows again and again the contrast of character (which it is obvious to compare with the contrast between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth), and the almost complete supremacy of the strong relentless nature of Jezebel.

2. The Baal here referred to is, of course, the Zidonian god, worshipped as the productive principle in nature, in conjunction with Astarte, the female or receptive principle. The name itself only signifies “Lord” (in which sense, indeed, it is applied, in Hosea 2:16, to Jehovah Himself), and is marked as being a mere title, by the almost invariable prefix of the article. Being, therefore, in no sense distinctive, it may be, and is, applied to the supreme god of various mythologies. Thus we find that in Scripture the plural Baalim is first used, of “the gods many and lords many” of Canaanitish worship (see Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7; Judges 10:6; 1Samuel 7:4); and we have traces of the same vague use in the Baal-peor of Numbers 25, the Baal-berith of Judges 8:33; Judges 9:4, the Baal-zebub of 2Kings 1:2-3, and in the various geographical names having the prefix Baal. The worship of the Phœnician Baal—variously represented, sometimes as the Sun, sometimes as the planet Jupiter, sometimes half-humanised as the “Tyrian Hercules”—was now, however, introduced on a great scale, with profuse magnificence of worship, connected with the Asherah (“grove”), which in this case, no doubt, represented the Phœnician Astarte, and enforced by Jezebel with a high hand, not without persecution of the prophets of the Lord. The conflict between it and the spiritual worship of Jehovah became now a conflict of life and death.

16:29-34 Ahab did evil above all that reigned before him, and did it with a particular enmity both against Jehovah and Israel. He was not satisfied with breaking the second commandment by image-worship, he broke the first by worshipping other gods: making light of lesser sins makes way for greater. Marriages with daring offenders also imbolden in wickedness, and hurry men on to the greatest excesses. One of Ahab's subjects, following the example of his presumption, ventured to build Jericho. 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 devoted to God's honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well known in Israel; but none ever hardened his heart against God, and prospered. Let the reading of this chapter cause us to mark the dreadful end of all the workers of iniquity. And what does the history of all ungodly men furnish, what ever rank or situation they move in, but sad examples of the same?As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam - Idolatries are not exclusive. Ahab, while he detested the pure worship of Yahweh, and allowed Jezebel to put to death every "prophet of the Lord" whom she could find 1 Kings 18:4, readily tolerated the continued worship of the "calves," which had no doubt tended more and more to lose its symbolic character, and to become a thoroughly idolatrous image-worship.

Eth-baal - Identified with the Ithobalus of Menander, who reigned in Tyre, probably over all Phoenicia, within 50 years of the death of Hiram. This Ithobalus, whose name means "With him is Baal," was originally priest of the great temple of Astarte, in Tyre. At the age of 36 he conspired against the Tyrian king, Pheles (a usurping fratricide), killed him, and seized the throne. His reign lasted 32 years, and he established a dynasty which continued on the throne at least 62 years longer. The family-tree of the house may be thus exhibited:

Lineage of Eth-Baal Eth-baal Badezor Jezebel Matgen (Belus of Virgil) Pygmalion Dido (founder of Carthage)

Hence, Jezebel was great-aunt to Pygmalion and his sister Dido.

Served Baal - The worship of Baal by the Phoenicians is illustrated by such names as IthoBAL, HanniBAL, etc. Abundant traces of it are found in the Phoenician monuments.

29-33. Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him—The worship of God by symbols had hitherto been the offensive form of apostasy in Israel, but now gross idolatry is openly patronized by the court. This was done through the influence of Jezebel, Ahab's queen. She was "the daughter of Eth-baal, king of the Zidonians." He was priest of Ashtaroth or Astarte, who, having murdered Philetes, king of Tyre, ascended the throne of that kingdom, being the eighth king since Hiram. Jezebel was the wicked daughter of this regicide and idol priest—and, on her marriage with Ahab, never rested till she had got all the forms of her native Tyrian worship introduced into her adopted country. As if it had been a light thing for him; as if that sin were not big enough to express his contempt of God; as if he thought it below his wit and dignity to content himself with such a vulgar fault. But the Hebrew runs thus, Was it a light thing, &c.? i.e. was this but a small sin, that therefore he needed to add more abominations? where the question, as is usual among the Hebrews, implies a strong denial; and intimates that this was no small sin, but a great crime, and might have satisfied his wicked mind without any additions. Jezebel; a woman infamous for her idolatry, and cruelty, and sorcery, and filthiness. See 1 Kings 18:4 21:8 2 Kings 9:22 Revelation 2:20.

Ethbaal, called Ithobalus, or Itobalus, in heathen writers.

King of the Zidonians; so she was of a heathenish and idolatrous race, and such whom the kings and people of Israel were expressly forbidden to marry.

Baal, i.e. the idol which the Zidonians worshipped, which is thought to be Hercules, or false gods, for this name is common to all such. And this idolatry was much worse than that of the calves; because in the calves they worshipped the true God, but in these, false gods or devils, as is evident from 1 Kings 18:21.

And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,.... To worship the golden calves he set up:

that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians; who is called Ithobalus and Itobalus king of the Tyrians, by Heathen historians (h); and, by Theophilus of Antioch (i), Juthobalus, priest of Astarte; for Tyre and Zidon were under one king. This woman was not only of another nation, and an idolater, but a very filthy woman, and is made the emblem of the whore of Rome, Revelation 2:20.

and went and served Baal, and worshipped him that is, went to Zidon and Tyre, and worshipped his wife's gods, which were either Jupiter Thalassius, the god of the Zidoaians, or Hercules, whom the Tyrians worshipped.

(h) Menander apud Joseph. Antiqu. l. 8. c. 13. sect. 1, 2. & contr. Apion. l. 1. c. 21. Diodor. Sicul. apud Junium in loc. (i) Ad Autolye. l. 3. p. 132.

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 {m} to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.

(m) By whose influence he fell into wicked and strange idolatry and cruel persecution.

31. as if it had been a light thing] i.e. He was unwarned by all the visitations which had befallen the kings before him for their worship of the calves. He went further than this and introduced the worship of a false god into the land.

he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians] It was perhaps the taste for building, which manifested itself both in Omri and in Ahab, that brought them into closer alliance with Zidon; but no doubt an intercourse had been kept up ever since the days of Solomon between the two nations. But this marriage of Ahab was most fatal both to Israel and Judah. The family of Jezebel were devoted to the worship of Baal and Astarte. Josephus (cont. Apion. i. 18) mentions Eithobalus (i.e. Ethbaal) as ‘the priest of Astarte’ as well as king, and Pygmalion and Dido as being contemporaries of Jezebel. There was therefore great vigour in the race, and when Jezebel became queen of Israel she ruled her husband and the nation, and established the worship to which her family was so devoted. After the death of her husband, as queen-mother, she maintained her influence in the court of her son, and through her daughter Athaliah, who was married to the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, she wrought much evil in the southern kingdom and all but exterminated the royal race. The doings of Jezebel form a great part of the history till her death, which is related in 2 Kings 9. The various scenes in which she appears and the evil influence which she exercised will be best noticed as the history goes on.

went and served Baal] This was very different from the sin of Solomon who out of indulgence to his foreign wives permitted temples for their gods to be set up in his land, but himself took no share in the idolatrous worship. Jezebel had a greater and worse influence over Ahab.

Verse 31. - And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him [Heb. as marg. was it a light thing? Ewald (362 a) explains this to mean "because it was." But it seems better to understand, "was it such a light thing... that he must needs also?" etc.] to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [i.e., the sins of heresy and schism], that he took to wife Jezebel [ = "Without cohabitation," "chaste," Gesenius, who compares it with Agnes. It is hardly the original of Isabella] the daughter of Ethbaal [ = "With Baal." The Greek form Ἰθόβαλος or Αἰθώβαλος, found in Jos., Ant. 8:13.1; cf. Contr. Ap. 1:18, suggests as its original אִתּו בַּעַל i.e., "with him is Baal." In either case the name well became him, for, according to Menander (apud Jos. l.c.), he was the priest of Astarte, who gained for himself the throne of the Zidonians by the assassination of Pheles. He is further said to have reigned thirty-two years, and to have lived sixty-eight years. He would therefore be thirty-six years old at the time of his accession. It does not appear that (Keil) he was the brother of Pheles. Pheles, however, was certainly a fratricide. (Rawlinson reminds us that Jezebel was great-aunt to Pygmalion and Dido.) This statement helps to explain Jezebel's fierce and sanguinary character, and at the same time accounts for her great devotion to the gods of her country, and for her determined efforts to establish their impure rites in her husband's kingdom. It was only what one would expect from the child of such a parent] king of the Zidonians [This alliance, it is extremely probable, was made for purely political reasons, as a counterpoise against the active, ambitious, and encroaching power which had arisen in Damascene Syria. The army which had already humbled Omri (ch. 20:34) could not fail to be a source of danger to Tyre], and went and served Baal [Heb. the Baal, i.e., the lord or master; cf. ὁ κύριος. The name appears among the Babylonians as Bel (Isaiah 46:1) - Greek βῆλος. Reference has already been made to the frequent recurrence of the word in different compound names, and in different parts of Palestine, as showing how widespread must have been his worship at an earlier age. We are also familiar with the word in the names Hannibal, Hasdrubal, etc. Baal was the supreme male god of the Canaanitish races, as Ashtoreth was their great female divinity. The former was regarded, not only as the possessor, but as the generator, of all], worshipped him 1 Kings 16:31Whereas the former kings of Israel had only perpetuated the sin of Jeroboam, i.e., the calf-worship. or worship of Jehovah under the image of an ox, which he had introduced, Ahab was not satisfied with this. לכתּו הנקל ויהי, "it came to pass, was it too little?" i.e., because it was too little (cf. Ewald, 362, a.) to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, that he took as his wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal the king of the Sidonians, and served Baal, and worshipped him. ויּלך before ויּעבד, "he went and served," is a pictorial description of what took place, to give greater prominence to the new turn of affairs. אתבּעל .sri (i.e., with Baal) is the Εἰθώβαλος (בּעל אתּו or Ἰθόβαλος: Jos. Ant. viii. 13, 1) mentioned by Menander in Josephus, c. Ap. i. 18, who was king of Tyre and Sidon, and priest of Astarte, and who usurped the throne after the murder of his brother, king Pheles, and reigned thirty-two years. Jezebel (איזבל, i.e., probably without cohabitation, cf. Genesis 30:20, equals untouched, chaste; not a contraction of אביזבל, as Ewald, 273, b., supposes) was therefore, as tyrant and murderess of the prophets, a worthy daughter of her father, the idolatrous priest and regicide. Baal (always הבּעל with the article, the Baal, i.e., Lord κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν) was the principal male deity of the Phoenicians and Canaanites, and generally of the western Asiatics, called by the Babylonians בּל equals בּעל (Isaiah 46:1), Βῆλος, and as the sun-god was worshipped as the supporter and first principle of psychical life and of the generative and reproductive power of nature (see at Judges 2:13). Ahab erected an altar to this deity הבּעל בּית, in the house (temple) of Baal, which he had built at Samaria. The worship of Baal had its principal seat in Tyre, where Hiram, the contemporary of David and Solomon, had built for it a splendid temple and placed a golden pillar (χρυσοῦν κίονα) therein, according to Dius and Menander, in Joseph. Ant. viii. 5, 3, and c. Ap. i. 18. Ahab also erected a similar pillar (מצּבה) to Baal in his temple at Samaria (vid., 2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:27). For statues of images of Baal are not met with in the earlier times; and the בּעלים are not statues of Baal, but different modifications of that deity. It was only in the later temple of Baal or Hercules at Tyre that there was, as Cicero observes (Verr. iv. 43), ex aere simulacrum ipsius Herculis, quo non facile quidquam dixerim me vidisse pulcrius.
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