Repentance and really bad kings

One of the more interesting characters in the Old Testament is Ahab. Not the whale-hunter from Moby Dick, but the king of Israel. Maybe the most interesting story from his life is when he connives with his wife to steal a vineyard–killing the owner in the process.

Ahab is stated to be the worst of the kings of Israel, a sort of anti-David. Yet of all the kings of the northern kingdom, I think he’s really the only one to truly repent of anything (1 Kings 21:27-29). Life is funny sometimes an it’s hard to see the things we should. I wonder if I were dropped into 9th century BC Israel how I would have seen Ahab: as a great evil, or as a competent king trying to balance competing religions and maintain his kingdom’s independence against powerful enemies (Aramean Syria and Assyria). Ahab is listed by the Assyrians as one of the stronger kings in a coalition of 12 kings fighting (successfully) it appears to limit Assyrian expansion. Politically speaking he was pretty successful.

And how about the prophets? Would I have seen Elijah and co as crazies? Clearly that’s all the wrong
perspective, as seen from God’s perspective revealed in the Bible. But there it is. It’s really hard to see history from God’s perspective.

Holiness is clearly more important and harder than I like to think. Ahab clearly failed (pretty close to how David failed, actually). And yet he repented for real, enough for God to relent some. He didn’t repent like David, and next chapter he dies defying God’s command not to fight at Ramoth Gilead. I’m pretty sure I won’t be having a pleasant chat with Ahab in heaven some day. Still he’s probably one of the most thought-provoking characters in the Bible. Learning to distinguish between hunan perspective and God’s perspective. Learning repentance from Ahab! Huh!

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