Scripture Study on Leadership

1 Kings 21:1- 29.

The two Books of Kings were originally, like 1 and 2 Samuel, a single historical work. 1 Kings carries the history of Israel from the last days and death of David to the accession in Samaria of Ahaziah, son of Ahab. The reign of Ahab, King of Israel begins with 1 Kings 16,29:34 about 869 - 850 B.C. It is important to note the theological perspective from which this material is written. The deuteronomistic writers are concerned with each king’s success or failure in purely religious terms. They are concerned with the kings public worship in the Temple and the word of the Lord as mediated by the prophet. The deuteronomistic writers incorporate into their history prophetic narratives of various kinds. The stories in Kings, according to the Catholic Study Bible, is composed from annals, archives, and prophetic narratives.

There is an old saying that has the force of a proverb: "Behind every good man is a good woman." There is a modern-day version of this saying that reads: "Behind every successful man is a supportive wife." And still another somewhat more cynical version that goes: "Behind every successful man is an ambitious woman, and an anxious mother-in-law!" Do you suppose the converse works: "Behind every bad man is an evil woman?" Well, the incident told about King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in these verses from Kings seems to bear out that claim. Ahab wanted a certain vineyard that was owned by another man but, even though he was the king, he did not quite have the nerve to take it away from him. But Jezebel was not one to stand on law or ceremony so she engineered a way for Ahab to seize the vineyard by death and deceit.

Other biblical stories seem to suggest that bad men are pushed into their evil ways by bad women. Indeed, the story of Adam and Eve, where wicked Eve tempts innocent Adam to break God’s commandments implies that the original sin was more Eve’s doing than Adam’s. Some men might like to shift all of the blame for bad habits and nasty dispositions on women. In fact, women have been getting the lion’s share of the blame for the mess the world is in for thousands of years. But Ahab is not the typical evil man anymore than Jezebel is the typical evil woman. Evil is non-sexist and non-discriminatory about how it gets ahead in the world. Men and women, children and oldsters all come in for their share of the blame. Sin is a universal human failing and a universal human burden.

The story of King Ahab reminds us of the burden or the blessing that leaders can be. Ahab reigned over ancient Israel for many years. He no doubt fought and won many wars, faced and overcame many problems. Life in the ancient world was perilous even for kings. But Ahab went down as the most wicked ruler in Israel’s history. Not only did he sin in his own private life but he also led Israel into sin. The list of his transgressions would fill a book, but the most abominable thing he did was reintroduce the worship of idols in the land. And this was a transgression that God could not ignore. After all, the first of the ten commandments prohibits the worship of other gods! So God’s judgment fell heavily not only on Ahab and his wife Jezebel but also on the whole house of Israel.

That’s the problem with stupidity and wickedness in high places. Leaders set the goals that their followers are compelled to pursue. Leaders impose the standards that their followers are required to obey. When a leader does not understand the consequences of an action or the dangers of a situation, the entire group is led into mortal peril. His lack of understanding becomes a threat to everyone who follows. When a leader violates the canons of decency or ignores the prevalence of injustice, the entire group he leads, whether it be the church, a city, a state, or our country, is in moral jeopardy. His lack of character and conscience is a danger to everyone who follows.

A reading of Kings should make us realize, that now, more than ever, we need leaders who will realize their corporate responsibility. We need leaders who will conduct their private lives and meet their public duties with the weight of others on their shoulders. We need leaders whose public and private lives are in accord with the moral standards set by the Lord. It makes little difference whether the leaders be men or women. GDP

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