Continuing our study of the Old Testament Historical Books, today we will look at the reign of Ahaziah, who became king of Israel after his father, Ahab, died (1 Kings 22:40). Ahaziah reigned for two years during the reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and Jehoshaphat even joined him in building trading ships that the Lord later destroyed (2 Chron. 20:35–37).
The Lord destroyed Judah’s ships because Jehoshaphat joined Ahaziah in building them. Apparently, the good king of Judah did not learn from his earlier, ill-conceived alliance with Ahab (2 Chron. 18). After all, today’s passage says that Ahaziah was just as bad as his father Ahab, walking “in the way of his father and in the way of his mother” (1 Kings 22:51–52). In other words, he continued in the state-sponsored worship of Baal that Ahab and Jezebel had instituted, worship that had developed beyond the “tamer” idolatry into which King Jeroboam I had led Israel (v. 53; see 12:25–33; 16:31).
King Ahaziah of Israel ruled for only a short time—two years (22:51). Scripture remembers him for his foolish attempt to inquire of false gods. Wanting to know if he would recover from his injuries from a fall, he sent messengers to “Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron” (2 Kings 1:1–2). This Baal-zebub was one of the Philistine gods and among the many versions of Baal worshiped in the ancient Near East. However, Baal-zebub was not the deity’s actual name. Baal-zebub, which means “lord of the flies,” seems to have been an intentional Hebrew corruption of the name of the god Baal-zebul, or “Prince Baal.” Over time, the faithful in ancient Israel came to refer to the god as Baal-zebub as a means of making fun of the deity, in keeping with the prophetic tradition of mocking idols (e.g., Jer. 10:1–10). Later, first-century Jews used the actual name of the god (Greek Beelzebul) for Satan, particularly fitting since the gods worshiped by idolaters are actually demons (Matt. 12:24; 1 Cor. 10:19–20).
In any case, Ahaziah certainly believed that Baal-zebul was a real god who could help him. So, the Lord sent Elijah to tell the king how foolish he was to consult the Philistine deity since there was a God in Israel—and not only a God but the God who created everything (2 Kings 1:3–4; see Gen. 1:1). This God demonstrated His authority by destroying one hundred of Ahaziah’s messengers before predicting and fulfilling Ahaziah’s demise (2 Kings 1:5–18). No one who rejects Yahweh, the one true God, will escape His judgment.