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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 21

 

 

Verses 1-7

Ahab Craves Naboth’s Vineyard And Is Promised It By Jezebel (1 Kings 21:1-7).

The first step in the downward spiral is that of Ahab coveting Naboth’s vineyard. This was in direct disobedience to the covenant of YHWH (it disobeyed quite blatantly the final one of ‘the ten commandments’). And it demonstrated what coveting came to when it was in the mind and heart of a weak king. Ahab is revealed as weak and foolish and petulant, hardly a good recommendation for a king.

Analysis.

a And it came about after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria (1 Kings 21:1).

b And Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near my house, and I will give you for it a better vineyard than it, or, if it seem good to you, I will give you the worth of it in money.” And Naboth said to Ahab, “YHWH forbid it to me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you” (1 Kings 21:2-3).

c And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers” (1 Kings 21:4 a).

d And he laid himself down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food. (1 Kings 21:4 b).

c But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so sad, that you eat no food?” (1 Kings 21:5).

b 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” (1 Kings 21:6).

a And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise, and eat food, and let your heart be merry. I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (1 Kings 21:7).

Note that in ‘a’ we learn of Naboth’s vineyard, and in the parallel Jezebel promises it to Ahab. In ‘b’ Ahab asks Naboth for his vineyard, but Naboth refuses, and in the parallel this is the complaint that Ahab makes to Jezebel. In ‘c’ Ahab is heavy and displeased, and in the parallel Jezebel asks him why his spirit is so sad. Centrally in ‘d’ we learn that Ahab is behaving like a petulant small boy, an indication that he is unworthy to be king.

1 Kings 21:1

And it came about after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.’

The incident is introduced by a general description of the situation. It occurred while Ahab was at his summer (or winter) palace in Jezreel, where he had also been at the time of the incident at Mount Carmel. Nearby that palace in Jezreel was a vineyard that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Note the emphasis on the fact that Ahab was ‘the king of Samaria’. It would be as a result of his taking up that attitude that what follows would result. But there is in it the hint that Ahab was not king of the Old Israel. His attitudes were new-fangled and foreign.

1 Kings 21:2

And Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near my house, and I will give you for it a better vineyard than it, or, if it seem good to you, I will give you the worth of it in money.” ’

Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard so that he could use it for a herb garden, and he therefore offered him a better one for it, or the alternative of a very good price. So far, so good. The offer seemed reasonable. But it did not take into account the loss of status that would be involved for Naboth’s family in surrendering the ancient family land, and becoming the king’s tenants.

1 Kings 21:3

And Naboth said to Ahab, “YHWH forbid it to me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you.’

The Israelites had a very strong sense of duty about their family land, for they saw it as having been given to their family by YHWH (Leviticus 25:23-28; Numbers 36:7). Thus Naboth considered that to sell his family land would be to disobey and insult YHWH, and that is why he refused to sell it, or yield it up in any way. At this stage the whole of ‘old Israel’ would have approved.

1 Kings 21:4

And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he laid himself down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food.’

But Ahab was not used to not getting what he wanted and he was heavy in his spirit and displeased as a result of Naboth’s refusal. Note the emphasis again on the fact that Naboth had refused to give him ‘the inheritance of my fathers’. Ahab knew that that in Israel that was sacrosanct.

Thus although he was upset he accepted ungraciously that that was the case, and because he was immature in his attitude, instead of saying ‘you are doing what is right in the eyes of YHWH’, he went to his room and sulked. Indeed he did it to such an extent that he refused any food. Such an attitude in a king was disgraceful. It demonstrated his inadequacy as a king, as the prophetic author wants us to recognise. Going with food while sulking was in total contrast with his later going without food when he was demonstrating repentance (1 Kings 21:27). Here it was petulant, there it was right.

1 Kings 21:5

But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so sad, that you eat no food?” ’

When he did not turn up to eat, Jezebel went to find out what was wrong, and she asked him why he was so unhappy, and why he was going without food.

1 Kings 21:6

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.” ’

His reply to Jezebel sounds very much like that of a spoiled small boy who has not got what he wanted. He had tried to persuade Naboth to sell him his vineyard and he had refused. Note how bluntly he puts Naboth’s reply. It gives the impression that Naboth was just being awkward, when it has previously been emphasised that in fact he was being loyal to his family and to YHWH.

1 Kings 21:7

And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise, and eat food, and let your heart be merry. I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” ’

Jezebel came from a country where the king’s word was law, and there were no such inconveniences as YHWH’s covenant with His people. So she asked him who he thought was governing Israel. Then she assured him that he could start eating again, and making merry, because he could leave it with her. She would soon obtain Naboth’s vineyard for him. Ahab could have been in no doubt that her methods would be crude, for he knew his wife. What he might not have expected was just how crude they would be. He cannot, however, thereby be exempted from blame for what happened.

'b7


Verses 1-26

Ahab Is Condemned By Elijah For Both His Past Behaviour And For What Jezebel Has Done And Repents Before YHWH (1 Kings 21:1-26).

We now come to what the account has been building up to, the condemnation of Ahab by Elijah for what he has done, and the condemning of him above all who have gone before him. This is why the story is introduced at all. To illustrate how YHWH’ covenant was being broken and to underlines His subsequent condemnation of those who broke His covenant.

Analysis.

a And the word of YHWH came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who dwells in Samaria. Behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone down to take possession of it” (1 Kings 21:17-18).

b “And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH, Have you killed and also taken possession?’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH. In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth will dogs lick your blood, even yours’ ” (1 Kings 21:19).

c And Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of YHWH” (1 Kings 21:20).

d “Behold, I will bring evil on you, and will utterly sweep you away and will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him who is shut up and him who is left at large in Israel, 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 provocation with which you have provoked me to anger, and have made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 21:21-22).

e And of Jezebel also spoke YHWH, saying, “The dogs will eat Jezebel by the rampart of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:23).

d “Him who dies of Ahab in the city the dogs will eat, and him who dies in the field will the birds of the heavens eat” (1 Kings 21:24).

c (But there was none like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of YHWH, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up, and he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom YHWH cast out before the children of Israel) (1 Kings 21:25-26).

b And it came about, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went tenderly (1 Kings 21:27).

a And the word of YHWH came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Do you see how Ahab humbles himself before me? Because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in his son’s days will I bring the evil on his house” (1 Kings 21:28).

Note that in ‘a’ Elijah is called on to go to Ahab as he stands proudly and arrogantly amidst the vineyard that he has falsely taken possession of, and in the parallel he is later to be spared the worst of the judgment because he has humbled himself before YHWH. In ‘b’ Elijah comes to Ahab with the words of YHWH, and in the parallel Ahab hears the words of YHWH and humbles himself before YHWH. In ‘c’ he is described as having done evil in the sight of YHWH, and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘d’ Ahab’s whole house is to be punished, and in the parallel the same applies. Centrally in ‘e’ the greatest judgment is to come on Jezebel.

1 Kings 21:17

And the word of YHWH came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who dwells in Samaria. Behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone down to take possession of it.” ’

What Ahab and Jezebel had done did not go unnoticed with YHWH. That was the problem for the kings of Israel and Judah. No other nation had gods who were concerned about the behaviour of kings as long as they fulfilled their religious duties, but YHWH was very concerned. And the result was that YHWH came to Elijah the Tishbite and told him to go and see ‘Ahab who dwells in Samaria’. There is an indication here that Ahab was really to be seen as alien to the rest of Israel. He had established his Baal sanctuary in Samaria, so let him have it, but thereby he lost any right to the rest of Israel. By thus ‘dwelling in Samaria’ he had had no right to make claims in Jezreel. But he had made such claims, and he had made them on land that belonged to YHWH, and had taken possession of the vineyard of Naboth, which YHWH had given to Naboth.


Verses 1-28

Jezebel Arranges Naboth’s Death In Order To Obtain His Vineyard For Ahab Who Is Then Severely Rebuked By Elijah (1 Kings 21:1-28).

The story of Naboth’s Vineyard is introduced here in order to illustrate how grasping and inward-looking Ahab had become, and how greatly he was manipulated by his evil wife Jezebel, leading on to the prophecy by Elijah that proclaims his demise and the demise of his house, something which begins to come about in chapter 21. Central to the story is the right of every Israelite to hold his family’s property, given to them by YHWH, in perpetuity. It was one of the cardinal statutes of Israel. And to retain that land gave the family great prestige. The evil of Jezebel is especially illustrated in the setting up at her instigation of false and lying witnesses, followed by the cold-blooded murder of an innocent man, something in which she also involved a number of others causing them also to disobey the Law of YHWH. Her pollution was thus spreading among the leaders of Israel, causing them to ignore the covenant. It is a reminder of the direction in which Baalism was taking Israel, and goes on to explain that this was why YHWH’s judgment was coming on Ahab. Despite all YHWH’s appeals, and the goodness that He had shown to Ahab, Ahab demonstrates that he was still far from YHWH and His ways in his inner heart.

The chapter therefore closes with Elijah’s clear cut condemnation of Ahab, which is the reason why it is placed here. It fills in the detail behind what the earlier prophet had said in 1 Kings 20:42-43, and pronounces in depth the doom of Ahab’s house in conformity with the fate declared on previous kings by earlier prophets. Even the wording of the denunciation is similar, with Elijah clearly taking up the words of the previous prophets. Such judgment is, however, then delayed because Ahab repents and seeks for mercy, a reminder that, as with David, all God’s judgments can be avoided where men truly repent. But his repentance did not result in a permanent change of heart towards YHWH (as is demonstrated by his view of the prophet Micaiah in the next chapter). Thus the delay also would only be temporary.

The account of Naboth’s vineyard divides up into three parts:

Ahab Craves Naboth’s Vineyard And Is Promised It By Jezebel (1 Kings 21:1-7).

Jezebel Arranges For The Death Of Naboth By A False Accusation (1 Kings 21:8-15).

Ahab Is Condemned By Elijah For Both His Past Behaviour And For What Jezebel Has Done And Repents Before YHWH (1 Kings 21:16-28).


Verses 8-15

Jezebel Arranges For The Death Of Naboth By A False Accusation (1 Kings 21:8-15).

The second step in the downward spiral was when Ahab abnegated his authority by allowing Jezebel to use his name and seal for a nefarious purpose. This would result in the king’s name being dishonoured and the rulers of Jezreel sinning against their neighbour, by setting up false witnesses, falsely accusing him, and then murdering him in order to steal his land. This was not loving their neighbours as themselves (Leviticus 19:18). YHWH’s commandments were going down like ninepins.

Analysis.

a So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and to the nobles who were in his city, and who dwelt with Naboth (1 Kings 21:8).

b And she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people, and set two men, base fellows, before him, and let them bear witness against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ And then carry him out, and stone him to death” (1 Kings 21:9-10).

c And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who dwelt in his city, did as Jezebel had sent to them, in accordance with what was written in the letters which she had sent to them (1 Kings 21:11).

b They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people, and the two men, the base fellows, came in and sat before him, and the base fellows bore witness against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him to death with stones. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth is stoned, and is dead” (1 Kings 21:12-14).’

a And it came about, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that 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.” And it came about, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it (1 Kings 21:15-17).

Note that in ‘a’ the letters written in the king’s name and under his seal were sent to the nobles and elders of Jezreel who were Naboth’s neighbours, and in the parallel the consequence was that Ahab was able to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. In ‘b’ Jezebel calls on them to proclaim a fast and falsely accuse Naboth, and in the parallel that is what they do. Centrally in ‘c ’the blame is laid squarely at Jezebel’s door.

1 Kings 21:8

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and to the nobles who were in his city, and who dwelt with Naboth.’

Jezebel wrote in Ahab’s name and sealed her letters with his seal. So he either knew what she had said, or he demonstrated gross negligence by allowing her to use his authority without checking on what she had written. Either way he was equally guilty. He was quite well aware of the calibre of his wife.

The letters were despatched to the nobles and eldership of Jezreel, men who by their positions were committed to fulfilling the will of YHWH. They also were therefore being involved in her dastardly plot, and in flagrantly disobeying YHWH. This was what Ahab had done to Israel.

Note the emphasis on the fact that they dwelt with Naboth. What they did, they did to ‘a neighbour’, one of their own, to whom they therefore owed a special duty under the Law.

1 Kings 21:9-10

And she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people, and set two men, base fellows, before him, and let them bear witness against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ And then carry him out, and stone him to death.” ’

In her letters Jezebel instructed the nobles and elders of Jezreel to proclaim a fast on the supposed grounds that Israel had sinned. Then they were to give Naboth a place of honour among the people, after which they were to put him on trial on the grounds that it was he who had sinned in such a way as to bring guilt on the whole people, by ‘cursing God and the king’, and were to bribe two ‘base fellows’ (‘sons of worthlessness’) to testify against him. No one could be sentenced to death in Israel without the testimony of at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15). Afterwards they were then to carry him outside the city and stone him to death. Death by stoning was necessary because it would be seen as sacrilege for the two witnesses (who would be responsible for the stoning, at least theoretically), or anyone apart from the arresting party, to actually touch the body of a blasphemer against whom they had borne witness. It was to be done outside the city because the guilty party would be seen as ‘unholy’, so that his death must not defile the city (Numbers 15:35-36).

We note from these letters that Jezebel was clearly familiar with the customs of Israel and was deliberately misusing them and manipulating them, and calling on the nobles and elders to assist her in the task. It was flagrant, open and cynical disobedience against YHWH and His demands for righteous judgment, by one who only acknowledged Baal and his standards. Thus by obeying her the Israelite leaders would be uniting with her in her loyalty to Baal, and rejecting the covenant.

1 Kings 21:11

And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who dwelt in his city, did as Jezebel had sent to them, in accordance with what was written in the letters which she had sent to them.’

It is then made clear that the nobles and elders of Jezreel kow-towed to Jezebel and did precisely what she asked. They rejected what they knew to be the requirements of YHWH, and even distorted them in order to let Jezebel have her way. It may well be that the Omride family had come from that area and thus had great influence in it, and besides, they knew very well what would happen to them if they did not.

1 Kings 21:12-13

They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people, and the two men, the base fellows, came in and sat before him, and the base fellows bore witness against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him to death with stones.’

The carrying out of what Jezebel had demanded is repeated in detail so as to bring out the awfulness of what the men were doing. First the pretended repentance for a ‘community’ sin. Then the pretence exalting of Naboth. Then the presentation of two men known to be false witnesses. Then the acceptance of false witness in order to obtain a verdict. Then the carrying out of an act of judicial murder on an innocent man. Ignoring YHWH and His laws they were abnegating all authority and were being totally subservient to Jezebel, and as a result accusing and executing a totally innocent man, a man who was in trouble because he had actually had the nerve to walk in YHWH’s ways and be faithful to him.

“Cursed God and the king.” That is, disowned them and rebelled against them, and possibly seeing him as even having blasphemed against the Name of YHWH. In the Hebrew the word used is ‘blessed’ but that is because it was used as a euphemism for cursed, so that no one would be tainted by speaking, even in the third person, of YHWH as having been cursed. For this as a crime see Exodus 22:28 where we read, ‘you shall not revile God nor a ruler of your people’.

1 Kings 21:14

Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth is stoned, and is dead.” ’

Having done that they contacted Jezebel and confirmed that Naboth was stoned and dead, shamed and executed. Note that they had not been at all deceived into thinking that the instructions came from Ahab. They had known all along that the orders had come from Jezebel.

1 Kings 21:15

And it came about, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that 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.’

And as soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth was dead she sailed into Ahab’s presence and informed him that he could now have what he had wanted, and could indeed have it without cost, because Naboth was dead. 2 Kings 9:26 makes clear that his heirs were in some way disposed of as well, leaving no one to inherit. The confiscation of property after a man had been executed for treason is testified to elsewhere in an Aramaean tablet.

1 Kings 21:16

And it came about, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.’

The news was music to Ahab’s ears, and he immediately rose up to go to Naboth’s vineyard to take possession of it. His conscience was clear. After all, he had had nothing to do with it.


Verse 19

And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH, Have you killed and also taken possession?’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH. In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth will dogs lick your blood, even yours.’ ”

Elijah was to declare to Ahab that because he had killed the owner of the land and had himself taken possession of it, the dogs would lick his blood in the very place where they had licked Naboth’s blood. For the scavenger dogs to lick a man’s blood was seen as the man having come to disgrace. They had done it to Naboth because Naboth had supposedly died as a blasphemer, outside the city where the scavenger dogs would be waiting. Well, the same thing would happen to Ahab. He would end up disgraced in the same way because by his actions he had blasphemed against YHWH. (It should be noted that in 1 Kings 21:29 this sentence is partly rescinded. Thus although in the end the dogs did lick his blood as a kind of poetic justice, it would be in a lesser way (1 Kings 22:38). But see also 2 Kings 9:25-26 where it happens in full to his son, just as Elijah had said).

1 Kings 21:20

And Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of YHWH.” ’

When Elijah arrived Ahab was both put out and abusive. He knew why Elijah had come and at this stage saw Elijah, and all YHWH’s true prophets as his enemies (compare 1 Kings 22:8). He was thus abusively saying, ‘So you have caught me. And what do you want now?’ But in his heart he knew perfectly well what Elijah wanted. He was fully aware of what had been done in his name, and that Elijah was here to rebuke him for breaking the covenant and God’s Law. He may even have seen Elijah as there because he was standing in as YHWH’s representative as the avenger of blood on behalf of a family which had been rendered helpless, who had now found the culprit. No wonder he saw him as an enemy.

Elijah’s reply was to the point, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of YHWH.” He was immediately facing Ahab up with YHWH and His Law, and indicating that he was a law breaker. He and his wife had coveted, lied, borne false witness, stolen and murdered. They had broken half the commandments. (They had also bowed down to graven images, and put other gods before YHWH, but not in this particular incident).

1 Kings 21:21-22

Behold, I will bring evil on you, and will utterly sweep you away and will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him who is shut up and him who is left at large in Israel, 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 provocation with which you have provoked me to anger, and have made Israel to sin.”

Elijah then applied to Ahab the words which had been applied by Ahijah the prophet to Jeroboam in 1 Kings 14:10-11 (see notes on those verses), and by Jehu the prophet to Baasha in 1 Kings 16:3-4. These prophecies would have been recorded in prophetic circles and would have been known to Elijah by heart. They were repeated so as to indicate that Ahab was to be seen as more guilty than both of them put together, something which guaranteed the extinction of his house, because he had provoked YHWH with his sins more than both of them, and had made Israel sin more than any of the others. Thus all that had been prophesied as coming on them would come on him, and more.

1 Kings 21:23

And of Jezebel also spoke YHWH, saying, “The dogs will eat Jezebel by the rampart of Jezreel.” ’

But the worst fate was to be reserved for Jezebel. She would be eaten by the scavenger dogs by the rampart of Jezreel. See for the literal and gruesome fulfilment of this 2 Kings 9:35-36. Once the dogs had finished with her only her skull, feet and the palms of her hands would be left


Verse 24

Him who dies of Ahab in the city the dogs will eat, and him who dies in the field will the birds of the heavens eat.”

A similar fate to some extent awaited all the house of Ahab, except in their case they would be allowed to die first. But their bodies would then be disgraced by being eaten by scavenger dogs or scavenger birds. They would receive no proper burial.

1 Kings 21:25-26

(For there was none like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of YHWH, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom YHWH cast out before the children of Israel).

The reason for this cruel end is given. It was because he had sinned above all who were before him. None had sinned as he had. He had sold himself to do evil in the sight of YHWH (compare 1 Kings 21:20) spurred on, and stirred up, by his wife Jezebel. And this had included his eager following of the idols of the Canaanites/Amorites whom YHWH had for that very reason cast out before the children of Israel. Ahab was not thus condemned just for following a foreign Baal at the behest of his wife, but for engaging in every form of local Baalism, and that included the false worship introduced by Jeroboam the son of Nebat where Yahwism and Baalism had been intermingled.

1 Kings 21:27

And it came about, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went tenderly.’

When Ahab heard these words he was genuinely moved. His heart was torn, something which he symbolised by tearing his clothes. And he divested himself of his royal robes and dressed in sackcloth, and went without food, and lay down before YHWH in sackcloth, and began to reform himself. Sackcloth was the clothing of the very poor, and was rough on the skin, especially sensitive royal skin. It was seen as a way of humbling oneself. Fasting (going without food in order to denote repentance) was another way of demonstrating sorrow. ‘Going tenderly’ probably represents a temporary change of attitude and a willingness to consider YHWH’s Laws and walk in them (being careful how he walked).

1 Kings 21:28

And the word of YHWH came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Do you see how Ahab humbles himself before me? Because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in his son’s days will I bring the evil on his house.” ’

When YHWH saw his repentance, He pointed it out to Elijah and declared that because Ahab had humbled himself in this way the evil to his house would not come on him in his day, but would rather come in his son’s days. Judgment would be delayed but not removed. (Of course had his sons repented then the judgment would have been even further delayed. But it was not to be - 1 Kings 22:52-53). This aspect of judgment must always be borne in mind. Judgment was always to be seen as avoidable by repentance, as long as the repentance was genuine. Thus judgment was always, at least temporarily, avoidable.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 21:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-21.html. 2013.

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