1 Kings 21:29
"Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity during his days, but I will bring it upon his house in the days of his son."
Guilt and MercyJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 21:15-29
Ahab's RepentanceJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 21:25-29
Partial PenitenceA. Rowland 1 Kings 21:27-29

Such was the effect of Elijah's message delivered in the vineyard of Naboth. The fearless courage of the prophet had again asserted itself, and once more the king quailed before his terrible words of denunciation. The subject is the more worthy of study because the deceitfulness of the human heart is here laid bare by "the searcher of hearts." If we understand Ahab, we shall better understand ourselves.

I. THE DECEITFUL NATURE OF AHAB'S HUMILIATION. We shall show that there was a mixture of the good and evil, of the true and false.

1. It originated in a true message. No phantom of his own brain, no utterance of a false prophet misled Ahab; but the declaration of a man who, as he knew by experience, spoke truly, and spoke for God. He dared not refuse credence to the message, but that his heart was unchanged was shown in his continued hatred to the messenger (1 Kings 18:17; 1 Kings 21:20). In all ages the word of God has been "as a fire," and as a "hammer" (Jeremiah 23:29). Give examples. The Ninevites, the Jews at Pentecost, etc. It has "pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe."

2. It asserted itself in fasting and tears. These would be natural signs of distress. In themselves they were no evidence of sincerity. It is easier to put on the outward than to experience the inward. There is always danger of letting the visible supersede the invisible, though it is only of value as the honest expression of conviction, Leaves and blossoms may be tied around a dead branch, but that does not make it live. (The perils of Ritualism.) Even under the Old Dispensation this was understood. Samuel said, "To obey is better than sacrifice," etc. David exclaimed, "Thou desirest not sacrifice," etc. (Psalm 51:16, 17; see also Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:11). Compare the words of our Lord, "Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast."

3. It consisted in terror, not in turning. Ahab was thoroughly alarmed, but imagination rather than conscience was at work within him. He did not forsake his idols, nor give up Naboth's vineyard, nor abandon his self confidence. See next chapter, which narrates his dealings with Micaiah. Evidently there was no change of heart or of life; nor had his present feeling any abiding influence. He was like those who are alarmed at the thought of hell, not at the thought of sin. They shrink from punishment, but not from guilt. Examples. The drunkard weeping maudlin tears over his poverty; the detected wrong doer thrown out of employment; the sinner who believes himself to be at the point of death, etc. True repentance makes us feel and act differently towards sin and towards God.


1. It did not escape the Divine search. God looks down from heaven to see if there were any that do good. He rejoices to find not the evil that must be punished, but the feeble germs of good that may be encouraged. (Compare Psalm 14:2.) Even such a sinner as Ahab (ver. 25) was not disregarded when he showed the faintest signs of repentance. God would foster them lovingly, as He fosters the seed sown in the warm earth. The prodigal is seen "when yet a great way off." Even the first beginnings of righteousness were commended by our Lord: "Jesus, beholding him, loved him," etc.

2. It led to the mitigation of the Divine punishment. Ahab's feeling was real as far as it went. The postponement of punishment was to give opportunity for more genuine repentance. Had that revealed itself, the judgment would have been averted. Compare this with our Lord's washing the feet of Judas, though He knew he was about to betray Him. "The goodness of God leadeth to repentance." See how ready God is to meet those who may return to Him (Acts 2:38; Joel 2:12-14). [NOTE. - We ought to notice and encourage what is right even in those who are not what they should be, commending it whenever it is possible.]

3. It Jailed to win a reversal of the Divine judgment. A temporary repentance may be followed by a temporary reprieve; but final salvation must be preceded by true repentance. If the heart is not turned from sin, it cannot be turned from hell. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow of this world worketh death." Not only must evil be expelled, but good must enter; for if the heart is left "empty, swept, and garnished" by self-reformation, the evil spirits will return. Good must supersede evil; Christ must supplant sin; the Holy Spirit must conquer the evil spirit. (Compare Acts 11:17, 18.) A partial penitence gained reprieve, and much more will a thorough repentance gain justification. As Trapp says, "If the leaves of repentance be so medicinal, much more the fruit." - A.R.

And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes.
I. HOW AHAB'S REPENTANCE WAS CALLED FORTH. A threefold crime is here laid to the charge of the King of Israel: that he had provoked God to anger — that he had made Israel to sin — and that he had sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. It was for this cause that the sword of the Almighty had been whetted for the destruction of himself and his house. It is a common proverb that "Every man has his price"; that there is something for which every one will be found willing to sell himself. These are words of very awful import, and yet they are but too true concerning every natural man. The children of this world, proud as they are of themselves, may always be bought with one temptation or another: honours, profits, pleasures of one class or another, will induce them to debase themselves more and more. The idol to which Ahab sacrificed was his affection for Jezebel. His own will, his honour, his peace of conscience, the salvation of his soul, the favour of God — all that he had or hoped for, was laid at this idol's feet. Would that he were singular in such infatuation; or only one of a few! But alas, it is common in every age. Let any one ask himself, why he is an unbeliever; why he despises the people of God; why he serves the world and the devil, and endeavours to stifle every good conviction. What an accursed alliance, though it be under the sacred name of friendship itself, must that be, which is connected with enmity against God!

II. WHAT KIND OF REPENTANCE IT WAS. This mourning of the King of Samaria was real as far as it went. The wretched outward dress in which he appeared was a true expression of his inward temper and state of mind. Still, much was wanting in his repentance to render it a repentance unto life and salvation. It was not a mourning like that of the woman that was a sinner at the feet of Jesus, like that of the thief on the cross, or that of the poor publican. Ahab's repentance was utterly destitute of love; and it is love which hallows all our acts and deeds, and give them a real value. Now, when a sinner has, with heartfelt seriousness, pronounced sentence against himself before the throne of God, he has begun to die to the law. For here is an end of his supposed self-righteousness, and of his own supposed ability. But that true repentance, which the Scripture calls a godly sorrow, and a repentance which needeth not to be repented of, does not, as yet necessarily exist. This is but, as it were, dying before the Divine holiness; as we see was the case of St. Paul, in Romans 7,: "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." Now, this glorious and happy death comes by "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2). And this law is no other than the Gospel; whereby alone it is that true, divine, and saving repentance is called forth.

III. WHAT WERE ITS CONSEQUENCES. Here was a delay of execution; but no revocation of the sentence. The curse still rested upon Ahab and his house. Yet even this respect shown to a repentance which had so little intrinsic worth, this exemption of Ahab from personally experiencing those storms which impended over his house, was an instance of great condescension and favour. But why, it may be asked, if Ahab's humiliation was so little worth, was any Divine regard shown towards it? This, we answer, was to show by a living example that self-condemnation and abasement before God is the way to escape His anger, and obtain His favour. Just as a novice in any art or trade may be cheered by words of encouragement at the first favourable attempt which he makes, however important it may be; so the exemption which the Lord made in Ahab's favour on repenting, was calculated to encourage him to aim at something better. Self-condemnation, self-abasement, and giving God the glory, are the first steps from spiritual death to spiritual life.

(F. W. Krummacher, D. D.)




(H. Kollock, D. D.)

In the context we have three subjects worthy of attention.

1. A fiendishly greedy soul,

2. A truly heroic soul.

3. A morally alarmed soul. In this incident we discover three things.





There is much in this old chronicle of sin and doom which it may profit us to ponder. Let me try to bring out of it some present-day lessons of warning and admonition.

I. HAPPINESS CONSISTS, NOT IN HAVING, BUT IN BEING. How many even to-day are letting their lives be darkened because some Naboth denies them a vineyard, or some Mordecai will not salute them! They forget that, even if they had the things which they so long for, happiness would be as far from them as ever, and some new object would take the place of their old grievance. They do lack one thing. But that one thing is not external to them, but within them. They lack a new heart, and until they get that they can have no abiding satisfaction. "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again."

II. THE EVIL OF UNHALLOWED ALLIANCES. Dazzled with the glitter of a fortune, or the glare of an exalted position, a young person enters into the sacred alliance of matrimony with one who has no moral stability or Christian excellence, and the issue is certain misery, with the probable addition of crime and disaster.

III. THE PERVERSION WHICH AN EVIL HEART MAKES OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE. The Spaniards have a proverb somewhat to this effect, "When the serpent straightens himself, it is that he may go into his hole." So when the unscrupulous suddenly manifest some punctilious regard for legal forms or for religious observances, you may be sure that they are after mischief. Some of the blackest crimes that have ever been committed have been perpetrated through the forms of law, or under the colour of religion. Is it not true that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked"? and are we forcibly impressed with the fact that no one is so daringly defiant in wickedness as he who knows the truth and disregards it? Mere knowledge never yet saved any one from ruin; for, if the heart be perverted, everything that enters the head is only made subservient to its iniquity. Your educated villains are all the more dangerous because of their education; and among godless men they are the most to be dreaded who have an intelligent acquaintance with the Word of God.

IV. THE PRICE WHICH WE HAVE TO PAY FOR SIN. What weighty words are these of Elijah to Ahab, "Thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord"! The great German poet has elaborated this thought into that weird production wherein he represents his hero as selling his soul to the mocking Mephistopheles. And it were well that every evil-doer laid to heart the moral of his tragic tale. That which the sinner gives for his unhallowed pleasure or dishonest gain is himself. Consider it well.

V. THE CURSE WHICH ATTENDS ILL-GOTTEN GAINS. The gains of ungodliness are weighted with the curse of God; and, sooner or later, that will be made apparent. For the moral government of God to-day is administered on the same principles as those which we find underlying this narrative. True, the dishonest man now pursuing his purposes in secret may have no Elijah sent to him, with the special mission to declare to him the sort of punishment which shall overtake him; but Elijah's God is living yet, and one has only to open his eyes, and mark the progress of events from year to year, to be convinced that "sorrow tracketh wrong, as echo follows song — on, on, on."

VI. THE TENDERNESS OF GOD TOWARD THE PENITENT. Ahab was filled with bitter regret at what had been done, and God, who will not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax, said that the evil should not come in his day. If God were so considerate of Ahab, the idolater, the murderer, the thief, will He not regard thee, O thou tearful one! who art bemoaning the number and aggravation of thy sins? Go, then, to Him; and let this be thine encouragement.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

I. THE REPENTANCE OF AHAB was awakened by the fearful prediction of coming vengeance, which Elijah delivered at the moment when he had taken possession of Naboth's vineyard. Mark the power of the Divine word. Is it not "like as a fire, saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces"? In the moment of Ahab's humiliation, his remorse was sincere; i.e., his conscience was roused, his fears excited, his sense of God's justice real, and his desire for pardon unfeigned.

II. AHAB'S PUNISHMENT WAS SUSPENDED IN HIS OWN DAYS. "Because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days." How can this be? It is possible that the God of mercy should show mercy; and that His mercy should rejoice against judgment. The history of our own lives, still spared and still prolonged, notwithstanding our manifold transgressions, is an evidence of this certain truth. And what is the practical result, arising from this combined view of God's mercy and truth? Assuredly, it will cause the contrite to hope, and the careless to fear. The one will recognise, in the sorest visitations that befall him, the hand of a gracious Father who chastens that He may bless; and whose afflictions are strewed upon the path of life, like the arrows of Jonathan before David, not for destruction, but for warning. The other will as surely perceive, that God's word shall not return unto him void; and, that, if it work not his conversion, it must be his condemnation. The threatenings which are revealed, that the sinner may repent, will remain, if he do not repent, to proclaim his fall.

III. THE THREATENED EVIL, WHICH WAS SUSPENDED IN THE DAYS OF AHAB, SHOULD, IN HIS SON'S DAYS, BE BROUGHT UPON HIS HOUSE. And here we cannot but call to mind the fact, that, whatever be the difficulties, connected with the view which is here presented to us, of God's moral government, or however weakly we may succeed in explaining them; it is, still, the government of God, of Him who is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works. The matter of fact, in the history before us, came to pass, as it is here predicted. Evil was brought upon Ahab's house, in his son's days Ahaziah, his first successor, soon perished. The next, Jehoram, fell by the arm of Jehu, in the very portion of Naboth's field. The seventy sons in Jezreel, were also slain, in obedience to the commands of Jehu, which he sent to the elders of that city; and, last of all, the same anointed captain, "slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and all his kinsfolk, and his priests, until he left him none remaining." Now, if we examine the sacred narrative which relates these events, we shall find that all these descendants of Ahab walked in his evil ways, and wrought evil in the sight of the Lord. It was not the innocent, then, suffering for the guilty; but the guilty reaping the harvest of his own guilt. And since "known unto God are all his works before the beginning of the world," the whole of this train of wickedness was known likewise, — itself, its causes, and its consequences, — that long process stretching out, from year to year, and from generation to generation, — whose separate and disjointed portions, only, can be discerned by moral intellect, — but the whole of which was, alike, and at the same moment, present to the Eternal Mind. It is difficult for us, in forming our estimate of actions, to preserve this distinction between the occasion which leads to an event, and its immediate effective cause; but a distinction there is, and must be remembered. When a criminal is convicted at the tribunal of an earthly judge, the law, and they who administer it, are the instrumental causes of inflicting the sentence; but the crime committed is the immediate cause which deserves it. We do not confound these things, in our estimate of the dealings between man and man: let us not confound them, therefore, when we are contemplating the revealed dispensations of God to man. But may we not be permitted, in some degree, to trace the course of the Divine counsels, in the present instance? The punishment of Ahab's descendants, we know to have been inflicted under a theocracy, which employed temporal rewards, and temporal punishments, as the instruments of its government. Now, what instrument could be more powerful, in such a case, than the prospect of misery, about to fall upon the children of the sinner, as well as upon himself? His own licentious and hardened passions might make a man insensible to the fear of temporal evil befalling himself; but, when he was assured, as he could not fail to be, by the moral law of Moses, that Divine wrath would visit his iniquity, upon his "children, unto the third and fourth generation," every instinctive feeling of parental kindness and affection would be enlisted on the side of duty, and act as a restraint upon the unruly will.

(J. S. M. Anderson, M. A.).

Ahab, Ahijah, Amorites, Baasha, Elijah, Jeroboam, Jezebel, Jezreel, Melech, Naboth, Nebat
Jezreel, Samaria
Ahab, Bring, Disaster, Evil, Family, Hast, Humbled, Humbles, Humbleth, Life-time, Low, Seest, Son's
1. Ahab being denied Naboth's vineyard, is grieved
5. Jezebel writing letters against Naboth, he is condemned of blasphemy
15. Ahab take possession of the vineyard
17. Elijah denounces judgments against Ahab and Jezebel
25. Wicked Ahab repenting, God defers the judgment

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Kings 21:29

     8276   humility

1 Kings 21:20-29

     1429   prophecy, OT fulfilment

1 Kings 21:21-29

     4925   delay, divine

1 Kings 21:27-29

     6735   repentance, examples
     8432   fasting, practice

1 Kings 21:28-29

     5340   house

Ahab and Elijah
'And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy!'--1 KINGS xxi. 20. The keynote of Elijah's character is force-the force of righteousness. The New Testament, you remember, speaks of the 'power of Elias.' The outward appearance of the man corresponds to his function and his character. Gaunt and sinewy, dwelling in the desert, feeding on locusts and wild honey, with a girdle of camel's skin about his loins, he bursts into the history, amongst all that corrupt state of society, with the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

(Tenth Sunday after Trinity.) 1 Kings xxi. 19, 20. And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? and thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine. And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord. Of all the grand personages
Charles Kingsley—Town and Country Sermons

Whether all Dissimulation is a Sin?
Objection 1: It seems that not all dissimulation is a sin. For it is written (Lk. 24:28) that our Lord "pretended [Douay: 'made as though'] he would go farther"; and Ambrose in his book on the Patriarchs (De Abraham i) says of Abraham that he "spoke craftily to his servants, when he said" (Gn. 22:5): "I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshipped, will return to you." Now to pretend and to speak craftily savor of dissimulation: and yet it is not to be said that there
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Touching Jacob, However, that which He did at his Mother's Bidding...
24. Touching Jacob, however, that which he did at his mother's bidding, so as to seem to deceive his father, if with diligence and in faith it be attended to, is no lie, but a mystery. The which if we shall call lies, all parables also, and figures designed for the signifying of any things soever, which are not to be taken according to their proper meaning, but in them is one thing to be understood from another, shall be said to be lies: which be far from us altogether. For he who thinks this, may
St. Augustine—Against Lying

Blessed are they that Mourn
Blessed are they that mourn. Matthew 5:4 Here are eight steps leading to true blessedness. They may be compared to Jacob's Ladder, the top whereof reached to heaven. We have already gone over one step, and now let us proceed to the second: Blessed are they that mourn'. We must go through the valley of tears to paradise. Mourning were a sad and unpleasant subject to treat on, were it not that it has blessedness going before, and comfort coming after. Mourning is put here for repentance. It implies
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.' Acts 11: 18. Repentance seems to be a bitter pill to take, but it is to purge out the bad humour of sin. By some Antinomian spirits it is cried down as a legal doctrine; but Christ himself preached it. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent,' &c. Matt 4: 17. In his last farewell, when he was ascending to heaven, he commanded that Repentance should be preached in his name.' Luke 24: 47. Repentance is a pure gospel grace.
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Of Antichrist, and his Ruin: and of the Slaying the Witnesses.
BY JOHN BUNYAN PREFATORY REMARKS BY THE EDITOR This important treatise was prepared for the press, and left by the author, at his decease, to the care of his surviving friend for publication. It first appeared in a collection of his works in folio, 1692; and although a subject of universal interest; most admirably elucidated; no edition has been published in a separate form. Antichrist has agitated the Christian world from the earliest ages; and his craft has been to mislead the thoughtless, by
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

The book[1] of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with some brilliant exceptions--its relative monotony, are obvious to the most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.),
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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