Ahab was greedy, selfish, and egocentric. Jezebel was manipulative, cunning, and narcissistic. Together the evil they perpetrated was worse than any king before Ahab and worse than any person on the face of the earth before him. (1 Kings 21:25). That is not a title any of us might want for ourselves. The bible tells of some really horrible acts but Ahab and Jezebel outdid them all. Although Ahab was king and had wealth beyond what most of us will ever experience, he was not content. How many of the filthy rich are? How many of us are? Verses 1-4 read,
“Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 4 And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.”
Did Ahab need that vineyard? Could he have found a place for a vegetable garden somewhere else? He didn’t need it, he wanted it. Naboth’s inheritance was well cared for and precious because of it. our inheritance, our eternal life when well-tended is priceless to us and should be desired by the world. But Ahab couldn’t have Naboth’s vineyard because it was not his to inherit.
Ahab thought he could use his position and wealth to gain whatever he wanted but Naboth obeyed the Lord before he obeyed his king. I can’t imagine it was easy to tell the king no, but the Lord commanded it. And Ahab reacted like a brooding brat and sulked on his bed, even refusing to eat as if he were mourning a death instead of hearing “no.”
Ahab’s other half would have none of it. Her power rested with her husband. If he looked weak, she looked weak. So she devised a plan. Verses 5-10 read,
“But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” 6 And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” 7 And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city.9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”
Let’s look at this story through prophetic eyes of the Holy Spirit. Naboth is a type of Christ (a foreshadowing and representation of Jesus Christ), his vineyard is salvation. Ahab represents the Roman government and Jezebel the chief priests and Jewish council. As we read let’s keep this in mind.
Ahab was morose and pouting but he didn’t see what action he could take. Jezebel though hated the idea of anyone having more power than her husband, which meant they had more power than her. She loved the power she held as queen. She was not only going to have Naboth killed, but she was going to do it by having him accused and sentenced for blasphemy. Blasphemy was the most grievous crime one could be accused of and worthy of capital punishment.
The chief priests and the Jewish council loved the cushy relationship and power they held in the Roman government. Although the Roman’s completely discounted the Lord God, the priests didn’t regard God either, they regarded the Law and the politics of their religion. They didn’t want Jesus usurping the Roman government and forcing them to get in bed with a new king.
Jezebel carried out her plan. Verses 11-16 say,
“And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. 13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”
15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.”
Ahab didn’t kill Naboth directly but he was responsible for his murder and he was thrilled because that meant that Naboth’s inheritance was now his to take. But God didn’t let him just take it and not face his sin. Verses 17-24 describe what happened.
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”
Elijah confronted Ahab with his sin and told him what the consequences would be. Ahab considered Elijah is enemy because the Lord spoke through His prophet and consistently made Ahab see his actions were not right. Ahab was an evil man. He is described in verses 25-26.
“(There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.)”
What would Ahab do now? Here was Elijah telling him he knew Ahab had murdered Naboth in order to steal his vineyard. Would he murder Elijah? Would he throw him in prison? Would he torture him? Verse 27 records Ahab’s response.
“And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly.”
This wicked man was contrite? What? This man who was more dedicated to evil than anyone before him was repentant? So how did God respond? Did He say, “Well sorry isn’t good enough” or did he give Ahab a list of requirements so that he could be saved from his own death sentence? Verses 28-29 record the Lord’s answer.
“And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
Ahab humbled himself and the Lord forgave him. The man who had committed himself to self-promotion, malevolence, and power had humbled himself before The LORD. God accepted his remorseful attitude and forgave him. He delivered Ahab from his death sentence, but promised that his sons (those who followed in his evil) would still pay.
Ahab, like the gentiles received the Lord’s inheritance because he accepted God’s word, recognized his sin and repented. There is nothing you could do that would be so bad God would not forgive you. If God could forgive Ahab, don’t you think He could forgive you? I have believed the enemy’s lie that I was the most evil person in the entire world, but Ahab actually was! God forgave him when he humbled himself. God forgave me when I humbled myself. He can and will forgive you too.
No one is beyond redemption. God sent Elijah to Ahab and He sends us to the world. We cannot assume that someone is outside of God’s reach. He has no bounds. Nothing is impossible for Him.