By: Brian Borgman
I am reading through the Old Testament in the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Sometimes a different translation provides a fresh reading of well-known passages. Such was the case today in reading about Ahab in 1 Kings 20-21. R.G. Lee described Ahab as that “vile human toad who squatted befoulingly on the throne of the nation.” In 1 Kings 20 God gives an amazing victory to Israel (and thus Ahab) over Ben-Hadad. One hundred thousand Arameans dead in one day.
Then Ahab, in an act of treason, treats the murderous Ben-Hadad as a brother (1 Kg 20:32-34). Ahab not only welcomes him but restores cities to him. God sends a prophet to rebuke Ahab (35-42). The word of the prophet is strong stuff, “your life in the place of his life, and your people in the place of his people” (42). Here is where the new translation comes in, “The king of Israel left for home resentful and angry.”
Resentful and angry.
It caught my attention.
The next scene with the “toad” on Israel’s throne is truly grievous. Ahab wants Naboth’s vineyard, but Naboth, staying true to his covenant principles of inheritance, refuses to give it to the king (1 Kings 20:1-3). Then again the text says, “So Ahab went to his palace resentful and angry” (4). The rest of the story is a tragedy, revealing that sometimes the righteous are not vindicated in this life.
The wicked Jezebel enters the scene. R.G. Lee said of Jezebel, “Most of that which is bad in all evil women found expression through this painted viper of Israel.” The “painted viper” assures the pouting “toad” that all will be well and Naboth’s vineyard will be his. She sets up Naboth, brings forth false charges and has him executed. The “toad” got the vineyard (7-16).
What we have is a narcissistic, resentful, angry, selfish man who treats Israel’s enemies as his friends and Israel’s friends as his enemies. His wickedness is only surpassed by the wickedness of his painted viperous wife, Jezebel. And yet God sends another word to him through the prophet Elijah. This word of judgment is strong and vivid. It is more detailed than the previous word which left Ahab “resentful and angry.” But then, truly out of the blue, Ahab repents (21:27).
Yahweh seems impressed as He relays Ahab’s repentance to Elijah. He also delays judgment in light of Ahab’s repentance (29). This really doesn’t seem fair. We think of wicked Ben-Hadad, we think of righteous Naboth and we seethe with anger towards that “resentful and angry” Ahab. Ahab, who resents the Word of the Lord, Ahab who is angry when he doesn’t get his own way, Ahab who tramples the righteous and exalts the wicked, seems to get off scot free.
On a related note, it is telling of our own understanding and spiritual condition when we find ourselves growing resentful and angry because God showed Ahab grace and not justice.
In the end, it does not seem that Ahab’s repentance is a lasting repentance. In the next chapter he again is resentful against the word of the Lord (1 Kings 21). In chapter 22, God’s judgment comes with a divinely appointed and sovereignly directed arrow. “Pay Day — Someday” is written in the constitution of God’s universe. The retributive providence of God is a reality as certainly as the laws of gravitation are a reality,” said R.G. Lee. No it does not pay to be a “resentful, angry” person. These are sins which are tough to root out of the heart, as Ahab proves.
Whatever Ahab’s ultimate destiny was, these passages in 1 Kings show the power of sin to blind and engulf the soul. They show the danger of being resentful to God’s Word and the danger of living life just wanting what we want and getting angry when we don’t get it. The only remedy for the “resentful and angry” is the cross of Jesus. He alone can cleanse us from the resentments that poison our hearts. He alone can uproot the anger which controls and corrupts us. He alone, by His grace and Spirit, can teach us “not to let the sun go down on our anger” (Eph. 4:27-27). By the grace of His forgiveness, we in turn can be freed from bitterness and resentment and anger (Eph. 4:31-32).
Ask God to open your eyes, the angry and resentful always think they are in the right (see Ahab’s reaction to the prophet Micaiah (1 Kings 22). Being an angry and resentful person is always a recipe for disaster. Ahab is the lasting monument to its blinding effects.