"And Jezebel his wife. "
When Ahab would "eat no bread," the servants went and told Jezebel. What she said to them, we do not know. Something of what she said to Ahab we do know. Puzzled and provoked at the news that her husband would not eat that he had gone to bed when it was not bedtimeJezebel went to investigate. She found him in bed with his face turned to the wall, his lips swollen with mulish moping, his eyes burning with cheap anger-fire, his heart stubborn in wicked rebellion. He was groaningly mournful and peevishly petulanthaving, up to the moment when she stood by his bedside, refused to eat or cheer up in the least.
Looking at him then, she doubtless, as is the custom with women until this day, put her hand on his forehead to see if he had fever. He had feverwithout doubt! He was set on fire of hell, even as is a wicked tongue (Jas. 3:6). Then, in a voice of "sweet" solicitation, she sought the reason of his anger. She asked, to put it in the semislang language of our day: "What's the matter with you, Big Boy?" But, in the words of the Bible: "Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?" (I Kings 21:5). Then, with his mouth full of grouches, with his heart stubborn in rebellion against the commandment of God, he told herhis every word full of mopish petulance:
Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard (I Kings 21:6).
Every word he said stung like a whip upon a naked back this wickedly unscrupulous woman who had never had any regard for the welfare of anyone who did not worship her god, Baalwho never had any conscientious regard for the rights of others, or for others who did not yield to her whimsical imperiousness.
Hear her derisive laugh as it rings out in the palace like the shrill cackle of a wild fowl that has returned to its nest and has found a serpent therein! With her tongue, sharp as a razor, she prods Ahab as an ox driver prods with sharp goad the ox which does not want to press his neck into the yoke, or as one whips with a rawhide a stubborn mule. With profuse and harsh laughter this old gay and gaudy guinea of Satan derided this king of hers for a cowardly buffoon and sordid jester. What hornet-like sting in her sarcasm! What wolf-mouth fierceness in her every reproach! What tiger-fang cruelty in her expressed displeasure! What fury in the shrieking of her rebuke! What bitterness in the teasing taunts she hurled at him for his scrupulous timidity! Her bosom with anger was heaving! Her eyes were flashing with rage under the surge of hot anger that swept over her.
"Are you not the king of this country?" she chides bitingly, her tongue sharp like a butcher's blade. "Can you not command and have it done?" she scolds as a common village hag who has more noise than wisdom in her words. "Can you not seize and keep?" she cries with reproach. "I thought you told me you were king in these parts! And here you are crying like a baby and will not eat anything because you do not have courage to take a bit of land. You! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! You, the king of Israel, allow yourself to be disobeyed and defied by a common clodhopper from the country. You are more courteous and considerate of him than you are of your queen! Shame on you! But you leave it to me! I will get the vineyard for you, and all that I require is that you ask no questions. Leave it to me, Ahab!"
And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let shine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite (I Kings 21:7).
Ahab knew Jezebel well enough to know that she would do her best, or her worst, to keep her wicked promise. So, as a turtle that has been sluggish in the cold winter's mud begins to move when the spring sunshine warms the mud, Ahab crawled out of the slime of his sulkssomewhat as a snake arouses and uncoils from winter sleep. Then Jezebel doubtless tickled him under the chin with her bejeweled fingers or kissed him peckingly on the cheek with her lips screwed in a tight knot, and said: "There now! Smile! And eat something. I will get thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite!"
Now, let us ask, who can so inspire a man to noble purposes as a noble woman? And who can so thoroughly degrade a man as a wife of unworthy tendencies? Back of the statement, "And Ahab, the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him" (I Kings 16:30), and back of what Elijah spoke, "Thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord" (I Kings 21:20), is the statement explaining both the other statements: 'Whom Jezebel his wife stirred up." She was the polluted reservoir from which the streams of his own iniquity found mighty increase. She was the poisonous pocket from which his cruel fangs fed. She was the sulphurous pit wherein, the fires of his own iniquity found fuel for intenser burning. She was the Devil's grindstone which furnished sharpening for his weapons of wickedness.
Search the pages of the Bible all you will; study history all you please. And you will find one truth that stands out above some other truths. What is that truth? The truth that the spiritual life of a nation, city, town, school, church, home never rises any higher than the spiritual life of women. When women sag morally and spiritually, men sag morally and spiritually. When women slump morally and spiritually, men slip morally and spiritually. When women take the downward road men travel with them. When women are lame morally and spiritually, men limp morally and spiritually. The degeneracy of womanhood helps the decay of manhood.
Yeswe ask againwho can so degrade a man as a woman of wicked tendencies and purposes? Is not a woman without spiritual religion and love of God in her heart like a rainbow without colorlike a strong poisoned well from which the thirsty drinklike a heated stove whoseheat is infectionlike kissing lips spread with deadly poison?
What a tragedy when any woman thinks more of paint than purity, of vulgarity than virtue, of pearls than principles of adornment with righteous adoration, of hose and hats than holiness, of dress than duty, of mirrors than manners! What a tragedy when any woman sacrifices decency on the altar of degradationvisualizing the slimy, the tawdry, the tinseled!
We askjust heresome questions. Who dominated the papacy in its most shameful days? Lucrezia Borgiaa woman. Who really ordered the massacre of Saint Bartholomew's day? Catherine de Medicia woman. Who breathed fury through Robespierre in those dark and bloody days in France when the guillotine was chopping off the heads of the royalty, A womandetermined, devilish, dominant! Who caused Samson to have his eyes punched out and to be a prisoner of the Philistines, after he had been a judge in Israel for twenty years? Delilaha woman! Who caused David to stake his crown for a caress? Bathshebaa woman. Who danced Herod into hell? Herodiasa woman! Who was like a heavy chain around the neck of Governor Felix for life or death, for time and eternity? Drusillaa woman! Who, by lying and diabolical stratagem, sent the spotless Joseph to jail because he refused her dirty, improper proposal? Potiphar's wife. Who suggested to Haman that he build a high gallows on which to hang Mordecai, the Jew? Zeresh a womanhis wife! Who told Job in the midst of his calamities, financial and physical, to curse God and die? A womanhis wife. Who ruined the career of Charles Stewart Parnell and delayed Home Rule for Ireland in the good days of good Queen Victoria? Kitty O'Sheaa woman. Who caused Anthony to throw away the world at the battle of Actium and follow the enchantress of the Nile back to Egypt? The enchantress herself, Cleopatraa womanthe lovely serpent coiled on the throne of the Ptolemies.
So also it was a woman, a passionate and ambitious idolatress, even Jezebel, who mastered Ahab. Take the stirring crimes of any age, and at the bottom, more or less consciously concerned, the world almost invariably finds a woman. Only God almighty knows the full story of the foul plots hatched by women.
But we know enough to say that some of the foulest plots that have been hatched out of Satan's incubator were hatched out of eggs placed therein by women's hands.
But let me say, incidentally, if women have mastered men for evil, they have also mastered them for goodand we gladly make declaration that some of the fairest and most fragrant flowers that grow in the garden of God and some of the sweetest and most luscious fruit that ripens in God's spiritual orchards are there because of woman's faith, woman's love, woman's prayer, woman's virtue, woman's tears, woman's devotion to Christ.
But as for Ahab, it was Jezebel who stirred him up to more and mightier wickedness than his own wicked mind could conceive or his own wicked hand could execute.
Let us come to the next terrible scene in this tragedy of sin. The next scene is: