In the Bible, Ahab was the wicked king of Israel who ruled during the time of the prophet Elijah. Ahab was an idolater who worshipped Baal and led the people of Israel astray into idolatry and sin. He is most known for his evil wife Jezebel, who manipulated and controlled him to do evil in the sight of the Lord.
When the Bible refers to an “Ahab spirit,” it is describing a person who displays characteristics similar to the wicked King Ahab. An Ahab spirit is a term used to describe a man who:
- Is passive, weak-willed, and easily influenced by others (especially by a controlling, manipulative woman). Ahab was dominated and controlled by his ruthless wife Jezebel.
- Tolerates and compromises with evil. Ahab built altars to idols and allowed evil practices of pagan worship in Israel.
- Is selfish, concerned with his own comfort over doing what is right. Ahab pouted and became depressed when he couldn’t get his way (1 Kings 21:4).
- Blames others and shirks responsibility. When confronted about his sin by the prophet Elijah, Ahab replied, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17).
- Disregards and disobeys the word of God. The Lord condemned Ahab for his idolatry and violence (1 Kings 21:20-24).
Some characteristics of an Ahab spirit include:
- Passivity and weakness – An Ahab-spirited man avoids confrontation, goes along with what others want, and is unable to lead decisively. He is indecisive and fearful.
- People-pleasing and approval-seeking – An Ahab is more concerned with pleasing his spouse, friends, family or colleagues than obeying the Lord. He fears man over God.
- Escapism and self-pity – When confronted with difficulties, an Ahab-spirited man gives in to escapism, fantasy, or self-pity instead of taking responsibility.
- Tolerating and enabling sin – An Ahab-spirited man turns a blind eye to sin and idolatry, even within his own family. He is passive about confronting evil.
- Blaming others – Rather than taking responsibility, an Ahab points fingers at his spouse, friends, circumstances, or colleagues to explain away his own compromises.
- Disregard for spiritual authority – An Ahab often ignores spiritual counsel, the Bible, his conscience, and the Holy Spirit’s leading in order to do what he wants.
In a marriage relationship, an Ahab spirit manifests when a husband submits to an overly-controlling wife. The wife takes over the spiritual leadership of the home because of her husband’s passivity and weakness. An Ahab-spirited man is dominated by his wife’s opinions and directions for the family, rather than taking responsibility as the spiritual leader of the home.
The characteristics of an Ahab spirit are in direct contrast to God’s model for a strong, courageous, servant-hearted male leadership. Jesus Christ demonstrated true spiritual leadership by laying down His life for His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Ahab’s passive, people-pleasing, conflict-avoidant approach is the opposite of Jesus’ model of leadership.
Examples of Ahab in the Bible
King Ahab is the prime Biblical example of an Ahab spirit. Here are some ways Ahab displayed this weak, compromising leadership:
- 1 Kings 16:30-33 – Ahab married the pagan princess Jezebel and began to serve and worship her gods, building altars and temples to idols in Samaria. His idolatry was considered more evil than all the previous kings of Israel.
- 1 Kings 18:17-18 – When confronted by Elijah about the drought in Israel, Ahab accused the prophet of troubling Israel instead of taking responsibility for his own sin.
- 1 Kings 21:1-16 – Ahab pouted and became depressed when he was unable to acquire Naboth’s vineyard for his own pleasure. Jezebel usurped leadership from Ahab and arranged for Naboth’s murder.
- 1 Kings 21:20 – The Lord rebuked Ahab for selling himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, incited by his wife Jezebel.
- 1 Kings 22:1-40 – Ahab ignored the prophecy of Micaiah and proceeded into a battle that led to his death. His desire to please his allies was greater than his discernment to heed wisdom.
Other potential examples of an Ahab spirit in the Bible include:
- Adam in the Garden of Eden – Rather than taking responsibility, he blamed Eve for giving him the fruit (Genesis 3:12).
- Abraham – Twice he lied about Sarah being his sister to avoid confrontation with local kings (Genesis 12:11-13, 20:1-2).
- Isaac – He favored his son Esau over Jacob, against God’s plan (Genesis 25:28).
- Eli – His unwillingness to confront his wicked sons resulted in judgment on his family (1 Samuel 2-4).
- Herod – He beheaded John the Baptist to please those at his birthday party (Mark 6:14-29).
- Pilate – He compromised his convictions to please the crowd and handed Jesus over to be crucified (Mark 15:15).
Overcoming an Ahab Spirit
If you recognize characteristics of an Ahab spirit in yourself, here are some ways to overcome it through God’s strength:
- Repent to God for tolerance of sin and lack of leadership.
- Accept responsibility for your poor decisions; stop blaming others.
- Study Jesus’ model of servant leadership and allow Him to transform you.
- Lead courageously according to scriptural principles, not people-pleasing.
- Confront situations where others are controlling or misleading you.
- Embrace spiritual mentors who can exhort you to walk in obedience to Christ.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to make wise, godly choices for your family.
- Trust God, not man. Obey Him even if it means disappointing others.
God can empower men to have hearts like David – who was bold, decisive, and quick to repent when confronted regarding sin. By following Jesus’ model of courageous, servant leadership, we can reject passivity and compromise and walk in the authority of Christ.
Dealing with an Ahab Spirit in Someone Else
If you have a relationship with a person who exhibits an Ahab spirit, here are some tips:
- Pray for them diligently, asking God to transform their heart.
- Avoid control, criticism, and contempt towards them.
- Encourage them lovingly, not berating them for their weaknesses.
- Speak truth gently. Ahabs tend to be sensitive to criticism.
- Call out areas where they are compromising Biblical principles.
- Challenge them to take small steps towards courageous leadership.
- Fast and intercede on their behalf.
- Connect them to strong believers who can mentor them.
- Exhort them to spend time alone with God, seeking Him wholeheartedly.
Keep in mind that only God can change someone’s heart – our part is to pray and speak the truth in love. With patience and grace, we can see Ahabs transformed into bold and decisive leaders.
Marriage Dynamics with an Ahab Spouse
One of the most challenging manifestations of an Ahab spirit is in marriage, when the husband submits to a controlling, manipulative wife while abdicating his spiritual leadership. This dynamic of the Jezebel spirit (domineering wife) and Ahab spirit (passive husband) results in a reversal of proper marital roles.
Some symptoms of an Ahab marriage include:
- The wife interrupts, overrides, and disrespects her husband.
- The husband defers to his wife for major decisions.
- The wife exhibits dominating behavior while the husband avoids confrontation.
- The husband seems absent or checked-out while the wife leads the family.
- The wife disregards her husband’s spiritual authority while the husband tolerates it.
This role reversal distorts God’s design for marriage. The husband is called to be the spiritual leader of the home (Ephesians 5:23). A wife may have valuable insights to share with her husband, but ultimately he is responsible before God for the choices made for his family. An Ahab husband abdicates this responsibility and allows his wife to usurp authority.
If you recognize these marriage dynamics, here are some suggestions:
- Husband must repent and ask deliverance from the Ahab spirit.
- Wife must repent of control, domination, disrespect of her husband.
- Reestablish proper marital roles according to Ephesians 5:22-33.
- Husband must lovingly but firmly take back spiritual leadership.
- Wife learns to respectfully bring input without controlling behavior.
- Husband turns to God as head, not his wife.
- Seek pastoral/marital counseling for relational dynamics.
- Pray/fast for God to restore proper order to marriage.
As the husband embraces courageous, servant-hearted leadership, and the wife embraces a gentle, respectful spirit, God can bring healing and restoration to the marriage relationship.
Freedom from the Ahab Spirit
Freedom from the Ahab spirit starts with recognizing it. Ask God to reveal any areas of passivity, weakness, and people-pleasing in your life. Repent thoroughly – God promises that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
The next step is renewing your mind according to biblical principles of leadership:
- Study Jesus’ assertive yet servant-hearted leadership style.
- Meditate on Scriptures about spiritual courage.
- Read biographies of bold, godly men like Joshua and David.
- Receive inner healing for any wounds that led to passivity.
- Reject victim mentality or entitlement attitudes.
As you are inwardly renewed in your thinking, start taking small steps outwardly to practice bold, loving leadership in your areas of influence. Some ideas include:
- Make decisive choices for your family rather than deferring.
- Confront sin issues and don’t avoid them; deal decisively with them.
- Practice saying no to manipulative or controlling requests.
- Accept responsibility for your decisions and stewardship.
- Deal promptly with situations rather than escapism.
- Don’t obsess over what others think; obey God instead.
Submit these steps to God in prayer and fill yourself with His Holy Spirit daily, the Spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). He will empower you to walk in the courageous leadership He has called you to.
Summary of an Ahab Spirit
In summary, an Ahab spirit refers to characteristics seen in the life of King Ahab in the Bible. It manifests as passivity, weakness, and people-pleasing, especially in men whom God has called to leadership. An Ahab-spirited man tolerates sin, makes excuses, and blames others for his own compromises. He is more concerned with pleasing people than obeying God.
This spirit can be overcome by embracing Jesus’ model of courageous, servant-hearted leadership. Through confession, renewing the mind, and relying on the Holy Spirit’s power, God can deliver an Ahab from passive tendencies into bold leadership. Marital relationships plagued by Ahab/Jezebel dynamics can be restored as proper spiritual roles are reestablished.
Our merciful God is in the business of giving new hearts. Even those trapped in patterns of passivity and weakness can become empowered conduits of His boldness, His strength, and His love in this world.