The direct imprint that moms almost always have on their daughters’ lives is an amazing phenomenon to me. The reality of the imprint is simply irrefutable and it can obviously be for the good or it can result in multi-generational sorrow. For the next few posts, I’d like to take some lessons from the biblical mother-daughter team of Jezebel and Athaliah. These lessons first appeared in the Power Lectureship book (http://southavencoc.org/?page_id=173) from a few years back, but, upon reviewing these points, I think they are worth posting. They have made me think seriously about my own relationship with my daughter, Hannah, and as she prepares to give birth to my first grandchild, I’m reflecting on the way that even my own mother had much to do with this baby’s raising, even though she will not meet him until we gather around the throne.
If you haven’t really studied Jezebel and Athaliah, put your seat belt on, because it’s a rough ride. Most of all, put on your big girl britches, Moms. It takes a lot of fortitude to own up to the responsibility of the legacy you are building.
Jezebel and Athaliah
Like Mother, Like Daughter
The annals of history contain no account more grotesquely vile than the account of the rise and reign of Athaliah, queen of Israel for a six year period during the fifth dynasty of the Northern Kingdom. With royal blood running in her veins, she had been given every material opportunity as a child growing up in the palace of King Ahab. But she was an extremely poor little rich girl, having been spiritually neglected and emotionally scarred by wickedness in her royal home.
Athaliah was the granddaughter of Omri, the king of Israel who “did worse than all who were before him” (I Kings 16:25). He made his way to the throne by slaughter and terrorism and then bought a hill in Manasseh for two shekels of silver. On this hill he built the city of Samaria, which became a mecca of Pagan worship (I Kings 16:24). By the time of Christ it was a large city, full of extravagant shrines and temples of false worship. Athaliah’s paternal grandfather built the capitol– the shining city on the hill of idolatry!
Athaliah’s maternal grandfather was Ethbaal, king of Tyre, a city famous for commerce and wickedness; a city so wicked in fact that when Christ wanted to illustrate the epitome of evil, he would refer to the ancient region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). Both of Athaliah’s grandfathers were kings! Athaliah ate from the silver spoon!
But what of her parents? Athaliah grew up in the Ahab household. She grew up in a home in which the entire family was accustomed to gratification of all material desires. She ate at the king’s table, wore the latest designs from the best designers, and traveled in the royal chariots. No education was too prestigious for her and her cultural exposure was second to none. She was a princess with a double dose of royal blood. Just think of the opportunities at the disposal of this heiress!
But alas! When this little girl reached up to hold her mother’s hand she was holding the hand of Jezebel! When she sat on her father’s knee, she was sitting in Ahab’s lap! When she asked for moral advice of her parents, she was inquiring of murderers. When she first heard her mother pray, she saw her pray to Baal. When she went to worship with her mother she went to the groves of idolatry. When the prophet of Jehovah was discussed at Athaliah’s house, he was spoken of with disgust and in derision. When they talked about dreams and aspirations, they never talked about heaven, but rather the “stuff” of dreams was material riches and power. When they went to bed at night, they slept on satin sheets and pillows, but young Athaliah’s bedtime stories were not about the great victories of the Almighty and her prayers were not addressed to the Father in heaven. In fact, the folks who lived in Athaliah’s house were so involved in the pursuit of power and promotion of self, that the little rich girl likely had little time for any religious instruction at all.
But Athaliah, just like all normal children had an ultra-absorbent little brain. Since children’s minds truly have the capacity to absorb in “quicker-picker-upper” fashion, and since the mother is, in all typical circumstances the primary influence of the formative pre-school years, Jezebel gave Athaliah her moral compass. The little vacuum in Athaliah’s intellect was daily being filled by the woman who is arguably the most wicked of all women in all of Scripture! I sometimes look at children in my community and, upon reflecting on their home lives comment “Poor things….They just don’t stand a chance.” All of the affluence, education and circumstance in the kingdom of Israel could not provide what this little girl desperately needed. She hardly had a chance at all.
(Next up, we’ll look at what Jezebel taught Athaliah about worship. For a heads up, read II Chronicles 21.)