In 1 Kings 21, we read of Ahab’s designs to have Naboth’s vineyard, which was located just beside Ahab’s palace. Although Ahab offered Naboth a better vineyard or to pay him what it was worth, Naboth refused to part with it. This caused Ahab to retreat into his house sullen and angry, like a spoilt child. His wife Jezebel then devised an evil plan to get rid of Naboth under the guise of justice for blasphemy against God and the king, and Naboth was stoned to death. Ahab then took possession of the vineyard.
In this narrative, we see Ahab breaking two commandments, “You shall not murder” and “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20: 13, 15). We recall another king who also broke these two commandments: King David, who coveted Uriah’s wife and murdered Uriah. Ahab and David shared the following similarities:
- Both kings took what was not rightfully theirs and possessed it after the death of the owners. Both used manipulation and committed murder to gain their goals.
- In both incidences, prophets were sent to Ahab and David to expose their evil deeds and to pronounce God’s judgements. Elijah was sent to Ahab and Nathan was sent to David.
- Both kings did not try to make excuses. David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” while Ahab did not argue with Elijah even though he called Elijah “O my enemy”.
- Both kings fasted and repented of their sins.
- Both kings received forgiveness but did not escape the consequences of their sins. David’s first son with Uriah’s wife died (2 Sam 12:15-23), problems escalated in the family (2 Sam 12:10-12) and his son Absalom rebelled and nearly stole his kingdom (2 Sam 15-20). For Ahab, although he was spared, his offspring were not. God said, “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” (1 Kings 21:29).
However, despite the similarities, how the lives of these two kings ended is a starkly different. After David’s confession of his sins, he continued to humble himself and walk with God. A tell-tale sign of David’s humility was that he named his third son after the prophet Nathan even though the prophet pronounced judgement on him. We read that David “died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honour. His son Solomon succeeded him as king”.
Not so for Ahab. We read in 1 King 22:34-35 that he was struck by an arrow and died. Ahab’s repentance appeared short-lived. He remained an idolater when he summoned 400 false prophets for Jehoshaphat, who wanted to consult the Lord before going into battle with the Syrians. We also see Ahab’s hatred for God’s true prophets in 1 Kings 22:8. Just as he was open with his dislike for Elijah when he call him “O my enemy”, Ahab said of Micaiah, “I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” Though Ahab’s repentance was true as God had testified in 1 Kings 21:27-29, it was limited in depth and, in time, he reverted to his rebellious ways.
What vital lesson can we learn from these two similar narratives with very different endings? We are reminded that no one is perfect. Even David, who started well and was called a friend of God, did not have a perfect record. As long as we are on this side of heaven, we will commit sins from time to time. However, John instructs us that a truly born-again child of God cannot sin continually (1 John 3:9). Rather, a genuine Christian will strive to grow by working out his salvation (Philippians 2:12-13), and seeking to obey God in the process of sanctification. David continued to do that after his confession. In essence, David’s whole life habit was still to obey and serve God. On the other hand, Ahab’s whole life habit was to sin.
Where do you see yourself in these narratives? In David’s or Ahab’s? May we pray and ask God to help us to always repent and to seek and obey Him even in our moments of weakness and sin. Amen.
Reference: David or Ahab: What’s the difference. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2021, from https://tinyurl.com/nvbnbau
– Eld Sim Chow Meng