False Mercy As Witchcraft: A
Study of 1st Kings
Last night we continued
looking at 1 Kings, particularly chapter 20, a chapter that most
people overlook while studying the dramatics of Elijah, Ahab and
Jezebel. In looking at these times we must always understand that
this a story about the Lord God Jehovah versus Baal (pronounced
"Baa-awl") the God of the Phoenicians. Ahab was the first king of
Israel to marry outside his people's blood. He married Jezebel, the
princess and high priestess of Phoenicia, for strictly political
reasons. This "false peace" and period of seeming prosperity was
deadly for the nation as Jezebel brought her monstrous religion to
Israel. Baal was a territorial god, in that each region of the
country had their own Baal, but in a general sense, Baal is a
weather and fertility God. The name roughly means "Storm God."
Elijah arrives on the scene in chapter 17 in a mysterious fashion.
Breaking custom, there is no mention of his father or tribal
lineage. Some believe he was a priest, but there is nothing saying
that he was anything but a sojourner from Tishbe.
He takes on Baal on the enemy's turf by pronouncing drought. When we
look at that we must recall the scriptures in James 5:17-18 that
begin by saying "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he
prayed earnestly that it would not rain and it did not rain..." (A
nature like ours!?)
When Elijah fled Jezebel after the Mt. Carmel showdown with the 450
false prophets he fled to a cave where he was fed by an angel. The
Lord found him there and the Lord passed by as a strong wind, an
earthquake, and a fire. But, the Word says, the Lord was in none of
these. Instead, he was in a "still small voice." This is a wonderful
example of seeking intimacy with God and not merely looking for
dramatic manifestations, but let me suggest something else. Elijah
had control over the elements. He was fully capable of crying out to
God in such a manner that he could evoke a wind, earthquake, and
fire. But the Lord took him to the end of his own power. Let me add
this, the Lord sends his miracle when we need it, not necessarily
when we want it. A chapter later Elijah gets his earthquake.
When you are dealing with the "Storm God" you are dealing with a
brooding, swarming, dense spirit of the atmosphere. You can expect
some dark moods, brass heavens, and stormy spiritual seasons. Ahab
was an evil king, but his evil was rooted more in indecision and
compromise (1 Kings 18:21 shows that influence on the people) than
it was malicious intent.
Abab's conflict was simple: did he listen to Elijah or did he listen
to his wife, Jezebel? Interestingly, 1 and 2 Kings is a study in
double portions as Elisha receives a double portion of Elijah's
spirit. But Ahab, too, was a man of double portions. His evil
father, Omri ruled for 11 years but Ahab ruled for 22. Eleven is the
number of disorganization, confusion, and chaos, and 22 is divisible
by no numbers except 2 and 11.
Having set the stage, this brings us to Chapter 20.
Ben-Hadad is listed as the King of Syria, but the name Ben-Hadad is
not a name but a title. It literally means "Son of God," but more
correctly, it means "Son of the Storm God, Ba-al." When the Syrians
threaten Israel Ahab is told by a prophet (probably Elijah) that the
Lord would deliver Israel militarily, but the suggestion was there
that Ahab was to destroy Ben-Hadad. This is almost the retelling of
the story of Saul and King Agag that is found in 1 Samuel 15:9. The
mighty Syrian army is routed by Israel's "two little flocks of
goats" (note, they were called goats, not sheep) and Ben-Hadad and
his troops flee to Aphek, which means "fortress." It is here where a
wall falls that kills 27,000 Syrian troops. Let me suggest that this
is where Elijah got his earthquake. What else could cause a wall to
fall that would do that type of damage?
Ben-Hadad flees to an inner sanctuary within the rubble. The "strong
man" when pressed, will always flee deep within. The principle here
is, that within his "stronghold", the "strong man" will always flee
to where he first got his "foot-hold." The verse in 20:31 is very
interesting. Ben-hadad's servants tell him that they have heard that
the kings of Israel are "merciful" kings. The servants dress in
their form of sackcloth and ashes and go to Ahab begging for their
king's life. Ahab says: "Is he still alive? He is my brother."
That simple statement reveals Ahab's heart. Ben-Hadad is not really
King Ahab's brother. In fact, if Ahab had a brother it was Elijah.
But, due to the compromises of his political nature, he identifies
with the evil of Baal rather than the righteousness of Jehovah.
Jehovah, actually, had ordered Ahab to kill Ben-Hadad. But rather
than do this, Ahab makes a treaty with him. Remember, a treaty is a
covenant. All along, it was the desire of Satan to seduce the
Israelites into a covenant with evil. This was the role and purpose
of Jezebel, and while she made many evil "reforms" in the Kingdom,
it is Ahab's disobedience here that really seals the deal. When
mercy brings disobedience it is not mercy at all. It's simply
If verse 35 we come across another "unnamed, unknown" prophet. I
love these guys. Every time I come across a prophet in the Bible who
is not named I write the verses down in the back of my Bible.
This is a fascinating story!
The unnamed prophet goes to a neighbor and says: "Strike me,
The neighbor refuses. See again, how mercy can triumph over
obedience? In says in this verse that the prophet requested this "by
the word of the Lord." It was the Spirit of God asking the neighbor
to strike the prophet, but the neighbor refused.
And, the prophet had even said "please." This is a lesson in itself.
The Holy Spirit is gentle and polite. Prophets too often are
concerned only about the subject of their word. God is concerned
about both substance and style. The prophet did not order his
neighbor: "STRIKE ME!" He requested of his neighbor, "Strike me,
Now, get out of your head that the prophet just wanted a little slap
on the cheek. When you look through the Old Testament you see many
examples where a person is struck. It usually refers to being struck
down with a staff or walking stick. The prophet was asking to be hit
hard enough with a weapon so as to cause injury.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
The first neighbor was "too nice." The prophet rightly sees him not
as nice, but as disobedient and says that a lion will find him and
Look at the story in 1 Kings 13. Again, an unnamed prophet. He comes
boldly with a message to a king, but yields to the supposed position
of an older prophet. His disobedience causes him to be eaten by a
lion. (True spiritual authority does not exert its authority or hide
behind a position.)
Back to chapter 20. The prophet finds another man, probably another
neighbor, and says "Strike me, please." Even after his first bad
experience, the prophet is still polite.
This man is obedient and strikes the prophet. This is all to set up
a confrontation between the prophet and King Ahab, a confrontation
that is very similar to Nathan confronting King David. In this, we
see how leadership sometimes needs to be confronted and a manner of
The prophet is tricky and disguises himself. He then tells a story,
like Nathan did, that illustrates the King's sin.
I could go on here because there is still much to tell, but I want
to stop and ask all of you to consider the question of authority and
If a prophet asked you to do a strange thing, what would your
Would you demand "Why?" or would you be instantly obedient?
Let me suggest that the first thing we must do is discern that the
prophet is speaking "by the word of the Lord" and not merely out of
his own spirit. If he is speaking from the word of the Lord, we must
Young children love to demand "why?" Most of you are parents and you
know when little children ask that they seldom actually want a
reason. Their "why?" is really more of a "Says who?" It is not a
question wanting explanation, it is rebellion buying time.
The spiritual atmosphere of this time in history was one of
witchcraft. Rebellion "is as the sin of witchcraft."
One of the disguises of rebellion can be false mercy. Another
disguise can be "explanation."
At the early stages of our walk the Lord is more than happy to
explain things to us. As we grow He requires that we put away our
childish understandings. It is one thing to say "Why, Lord" when we
are little children walking with daddy in the garden. It is another
thing, entirely, to demand "Why?" in the heat of spiritual battle.
There are times when you must respect position. In the military we
are taught "to salute the rank, not the person." In our work places,
most of us have to obey someone we may not like, but our job
The unnamed prophet had a dangerous job to do that required
assistance. "False mercy" would not give the prophet the wound he
required in order to fulfill God's commission and confront the King.
It continues to do the same today.
People are asking all the time: "Why aren't the prophets confronting
the evil of this age?" Good question. Another question would be, are
the "neighbors" cooperating with the prophets so they might confront
the evil of this age?
John L. Moore