1 Kings 21
Ahab is still the unhappy subject of the sacred history; from the great
affairs of his camp and kingdom this chapter leads us into his garden,
and gives us an account of some ill things (and ill indeed they proved
to him) relating to his domestic affairs.
I. Ahab is sick for Naboth's vineyard,
1 Kings 21:1-4.
II. Naboth dies by Jezebel's plot, that the vineyard may escheat to
1 Kings 21:5-14.
III. Ahab goes to take possession,
1 Kings 21:15-16.
IV. Elijah meets him, and denounces the judgments of God against him
for his injustice,
1 Kings 21:17-24.
V. Upon his humiliation a reprieve is granted,
1 Kings 21:25-29.
|Naboth's Vineyard Refused to Ahab.
||B. C. 899.|
1 And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the
Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the
palace of Ahab king of Samaria.
2 And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard,
that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near
unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than
it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of
it in money.
3 And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should
give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
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 thee the inheritance of my fathers. And
he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and
would eat no bread.
1. Ahab coveting his neighbour's vineyard, which unhappily lay near his
palace and conveniently for a kitchen-garden. Perhaps Naboth had been
pleased that he had a vineyard which lay so advantageously for a
prospect of the royal gardens, or the vending of its productions to the
royal family; but the situation of it proved fatal to him. If he had
had no vineyard, or it had lain obscure in some remote place, he would
have preserved his life. But many a man's possessions have been his
snare, and his neighbourhood to greatness has been of pernicious
consequence. Ahab sets his eye and heart on this vineyard,
1 Kings 21:2.
It will be a pretty addition to his demesne, a convenient out-let to
his palace; and nothing will serve him but it must be his own. He is
welcome to the fruits of it, welcome to walk in it; Naboth perhaps
would have made him a lease of it for his life, to please him; but
nothing will please him unless he have an absolute property in it, he
and his heirs for ever. Yet he is not such a tyrant as to take it by
force, but fairly proposes either to give Naboth the full value of it
in money or a better vineyard in exchange. He had tamely quitted the
great advantages God had given him of enlarging his dominion for the
honour of his kingdom, by his victory over the Syrians, and now is
eager to enlarge his garden, only for the convenience of his house, as
if to be penny wise would atone for being pound foolish. To desire a
convenience to his estate was not evil (there would be no buying if
there were no desire of what is bought; the virtuous woman considers
a field and buys it); but to desire any thing inordinately, though
we would compass it by lawful means, is a fruit of selfishness, as if
we must engross all the conveniences, and none must live, or live
comfortably, by us, contrary to the law of contentment, and the letter
of the tenth commandment, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's
2. The repulse he met with in this desire. Naboth would by no means
part with it
(1 Kings 21:3):
The Lord forbid it me; and the Lord did forbid it, else he would
not have been so rude and uncivil to his prince as not to gratify him
in so small a matter. Canaan was in a peculiar manner God's land; the
Israelites were his tenants; and this was one of the conditions of
their leases, that they should not alienate (no, not to one another)
any part of that which fell to their lot, unless in case of extreme
necessity, and then only till the year of jubilee,
Now Naboth foresaw that, if his vineyard were sold to the crown, it
would never return to his heirs, no, not in the jubilee. He would
gladly oblige the king, but he must obey God rather than men, and
therefore in this matter desires to be excused. Ahab knew the law, or
should have known it, and therefore did ill to ask that which his
subject could not grant without sin. Some conceive that Naboth looked
upon his earthly inheritance as an earnest of his lot in the heavenly
Canaan, and therefore would not part with the former, lest it should
amount to a forfeiture of the latter. He seems to have been a
conscientious man, who would rather hazard the king's displeasure than
offend God, and probably was one of the 7000 that had not bowed the
knee to Baal, for which, it may be, Ahab owed him a grudge.
3. Ahab's great discontent and uneasiness hereupon. He was as before
(1 Kings 20:43)
heavy and displeased
(1 Kings 21:4),
grew melancholy upon it, threw himself upon his bed, would not eat nor
admit company to come to him. He could by no means digest the affront.
His proud spirit aggravated the indignity Naboth did him in denying
him, as a thing not to be suffered. He cursed the squeamishness of
Naboth's conscience, which he pretended to consult the peace of, and
secretly meditated revenge. Nor could he bear the disappointment; it
cut him to the heart to be crossed in his desires, and he was perfectly
sick for vexation. Note,
(1.) Discontent is a sin that is its own punishment and makes men
torment themselves; it makes the spirit sad, the body sick, and all the
enjoyments sour; it is the heaviness of the heart and the rottenness of
(2.) It is a sin that is its own parent. It arises not from the
condition, but from the mind. As we find Paul contented in a prison, so
Ahab discontent in a palace. He had all the delights of Canaan, that
pleasant land, at command the wealth of a kingdom, the pleasures of a
court, and the honours and powers of a throne; and yet all this
avails him nothing without Naboth's vineyard. Inordinate desires
expose men to continual vexations, and those that are disposed to fret,
be they ever so happy, will always find something or other to fret
|Naboth Murdered by Jezebel.
||B. C. 899.|
5 But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is
thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?
6 And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the
Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or
else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for
it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.
7 And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the
kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be
merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with
his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles
that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.
9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and
set Naboth on high among the people:
10 And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness
against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And
then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
11 And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles
who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent
unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had
sent unto them.
12 They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the
13 And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat
before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even
against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did
blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of
the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.
14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is
15 And it came to pass, 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 thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but
16 And it came to pass, 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.
Nothing but mischief is to be expected when Jezebel enters into the
story--that cursed woman,
2 Kings 9:34.
I. Under pretence of comforting her afflicted husband, she feeds his
pride and passion, and blows the coals of his corruptions. It became
her to take notice of his grief and to enquire into the cause of it,
1 Kings 21:5.
Those have forgotten both the duty and affection of the conjugal
relation that interest not themselves in each other's troubles. He told
her what troubled him
(1 Kings 21:6),
yet invidiously concealed Naboth's reason for his refusal, representing
it as peevish, when it was conscientious--I will not give it
thee, whereas he said, I may not. What! says Jezebel
(1 Kings 21:7),
Dost thou govern Israel? Arise, and eat bread. She does well to
persuade him to shake off his melancholy, and not to sink under his
burden, to be easy and cheerful; whatever was his grief, grieving would
not redress it, but pleasantness would alleviate it. Her plea is,
Dost thou now govern Israel? This is capable of a good sense:
"Does it become so great a prince as thou art to cast thyself down for
so small a matter? Thou shamest thyself, and profanest thy crown; it is
below thee to take notice of so inconsiderable a thing. Art thou fit to
govern Israel, who hast no better a government of thy own passions? Or
hast thou so rich a kingdom at command and canst not thou be without
this one vineyard?" We should learn to quiet ourselves, under our
crosses, with the thoughts of the mercies we enjoy, especially our
hopes of the kingdom. But she meant it in a bad sense: "Dost thou
govern Israel, and shall any subject thou hast deny thee any thing
thou hast a mind to? Art thou a king? It is below thee to buy and pay,
much more to beg and pray; use thy prerogative, and take by force what
thou canst not compass by fair means; instead of resenting the affront
thus, revenge it. If thou knowest not how to support the dignity of a
king, let me alone to do it; give me but leave to make use of thy name,
and I will soon give thee the vineyard of Naboth; right or
wrong, it shall be thy own shortly, and cost thee nothing." Unhappy
princes those are, and hurried apace towards their ruin, who have those
about them that stir them up to acts of tyranny and teach them how to
abuse their power.
II. In order to gratify him, she projects and compasses the death of
Naboth. No less than his blood will serve to atone for the affront he
has given to Ahab, which she thirsts after the more greedily because of
his adherence to the law of the God of Israel.
1. Had she aimed only at his land, her false witnesses might have sworn
him out of that by a forged deed (she could not have set up so weak a
title but the elders of Jezreel would have adjudged it good); but
the adulteress will hunt for the precious life,
Revenge is sweet. Naboth must die, and die as a malefactor, to gratify
(1.) Never were more wicked orders given by any prince than those which
Jezebel sent to the magistrates of Jezreel,
1 Kings 21:8-10.
She borrows the privy-seal, but the king shall not know what she will
do with it. It is probable this was not the first time he had lent it
to her, but that with it she had signed warrants for the slaying of the
prophets. She makes use of the king's name, knowing the thing would
please him when it was done, yet fearing he might scruple at the manner
of doing it; in short, she commands them, upon their allegiance, to put
Naboth to death, without giving them any reason for so doing. Had she
sent witnesses to inform against him, the judges (who must go
secundum allegata et probata--according to allegations and
proofs) might have been imposed upon, and their sentence might have
been rather their unhappiness than their crime; but to oblige them to
find the witnesses, sons of Belial, to suborn them themselves, and then
to give judgment upon a testimony which they knew to be false, was such
an impudent defiance to every thing that is just and sacred as we hope
cannot be paralleled in any story. She must have looked upon the elders
of Jezreel as men perfectly lost to every thing that is honest and
honourable when she expected these orders should be obeyed. But she
will put them in a way how to do it, having as much of the serpent's
subtlety as she had of his poison.
[1.] It must be done under colour of religion: "Proclaim a fast;
signify to your city that you are apprehensive of some dreadful
judgment coming upon you, which you must endeavour to avert, not only
by prayer, but by finding out and by putting away the accursed thing;
pretend to be afraid that there is some great offender among you
undiscovered, for whose sake God is angry with your city; charge the
people, if they know of any such, on that solemn occasion to inform
against him, as they regard the welfare of the city; and at last let
Naboth be fastened upon as the suspected person, probably because he
does not join with his neighbours in their worship. This may serve for
a pretence to set him on high among the people, to call him to
the bar. Let proclamation be made that, if any one can inform the court
against the prisoner, and prove him to be the Achan, they shall be
heard; and then let the witnesses appear to give evidence against him."
Note, There is no wickedness so vile, so horrid, but religion has
sometimes been made a cloak and cover for it. We must not think at all
the worse of fasting and praying for their having been sometimes thus
abused, but much the worse of those wicked designs that have at any
time been carried on under the shelter of them.
[2.] It must be done under colour of justice too, and with the
formalities of a legal process. Had she sent to them to hire some of
their banditti, some desperate ruffians, to assassinate him, to stab
him as he went along the streets in the night, the deed would have been
bad enough; but to destroy him by a course of law, to use that power
for the murdering of the innocent which ought to be their protection,
was such a violent perversion of justice and judgment as was
truly monstrous, yet such as we are directed not to marvel at,
The crime they must lay to his charge was blaspheming God and the
king-- a complicated blasphemy. Surely she could not think to put a
blasphemous sense upon the answer he had given to Ahab, as if denying
him his vineyard were blaspheming the king, and giving the divine law
for the reason were blaspheming God. No, she pretends not any ground
at all for the charge: though there was no colour of truth in it, the
witnesses must swear it, and Naboth must not be permitted to speak for
himself, or cross-examine the witnesses, but immediately, under
pretence of a universal detestation of the crime, they must carry
him out and stone him. His blaspheming God would be the forfeiture
of his life, but not of his estate, and therefore he is also charged
with treason, in blaspheming the king, for which his estate was
to be confiscated, that so Ahab might have his vineyard.
(2.) Never were wicked orders more wickedly obeyed than these were by
the magistrates of Jezreel. They did not so much as dispute the command
nor make any objections against it, though so palpably unjust, but
punctually observed all the particulars of it, either because they
feared Jezebel's cruelty or because they hated Naboth's piety, or both:
They did as it was written in the letters
(1 Kings 21:11,12),
neither made any difficulty of it, nor met with any difficulty in it,
but cleverly carried on the villany. They stoned Naboth to death
(1 Kings 21:13),
and, as it should seem, his sons with him, or after him; for, when God
came to make inquisition for blood, we find this article in the account
(2 Kings 9:26),
I have seen the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons.
Perhaps they were secretly murdered, that they might not claim their
father's estate nor complain of the wrong done him.
2. Let us take occasion from this sad story,
(1.) To stand amazed at the wickedness of the wicked, and the power of
Satan in the children of disobedience. What a holy indignation may we
be filled with to see wickedness in the place of judgment!
(2.) To lament the hard case of oppressed innocency, and to mingle our
tears with the tears of the oppressed that have no comforter,
while on the side of the oppressors there is power,
(3.) To commit the keeping of our lives and comforts to God, for
innocency itself will not always be our security.
(4.) To rejoice in the belief of a judgment to come, in which such
wrong judgments as these will be called over. Now we see that there
are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked
but all will be set to rights in the great day.
III. Naboth being taken off, Ahab takes possession of his vineyard.
1. The elders of Jezreel sent notice to Jezebel very unconcernedly,
sent it to her as a piece of agreeable news, Naboth is stoned and is
1 Kings 21:14.
Here let us observe that, as obsequious as the elders of Jezreel were
to Jezebel's orders which she sent from Samaria for the murder of
Naboth, so obsequious were the elders of Samaria afterwards to Jehu's
orders which he sent from Jezreel for the murder of Ahab's seventy
sons, only that was not done by course of law,
2 Kings 10:6,7.
Those tyrants that by their wicked orders debauch the consciences of
their inferior magistrates may perhaps find at last the wheel return
upon them, and that those who will not stick to do one cruel thing for
them will be as ready to do another cruel thing against them.
2. Jezebel, jocund enough that her plot succeeded so well, brings
notice to Ahab that Naboth is not alive, but dead; therefore,
says she, Arise, take possession of his vineyard,
1 Kings 21:15.
He might have taken possession by one of his officers, but so pleased
is he with this accession to his estate that he will make a journey to
Jezreel himself to enter upon it; and it should seem he went in state
too, as if he had obtained some mighty victory, for Jehu remembers long
after that he and Bidkar attended him at this time,
2 Kings 9:25.
If Naboth's sons were all put to death, Ahab thought himself entitled
to the estate, ob defectum sanguinis--in default of heirs
(as our law expresses it); if not, yet, Naboth dying as a criminal, he
claimed it ob delictum criminis--as forfeited by his
crime. Or, if neither would make him a good title, the absolute
power of Jezebel would give it to him, and who would dare to oppose her
will? Might often prevails against right, and wonderful is the divine
patience that suffers it to do so. God is certainly of purer eyes
than to behold iniquity, and yet for a time keeps silence when
the wicked devours the man that is more righteous than he,
|Ahab's Doom Foretold.
||B. C. 899.|
17 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite,
18 Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in
Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is
gone down to possess it.
19 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.
20 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.
21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy
posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against
the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,
22 And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son
of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the
provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made
Israel to sin.
23 And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall
eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.
24 Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and
him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.
25 But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to
work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife
26 And he did very abominably in following idols, according to
all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before
the children of Israel.
27 And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he
rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted,
and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.
28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite,
29 Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he
humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his
days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his
In these verses we may observe,
I. The very bad character that is given of Ahab
(1 Kings 21:25,26),
which comes in here to justify God in the heavy sentence passed upon
him, and to show that though it was passed upon occasion of his sin in
the matter of Naboth (which David's sin in the matter of Uriah did too
much resemble), yet God would not have punished him so severely if he
had not been guilty of many other sins, especially idolatry; whereas
David, except in that one matter, did that which was right. But,
as to Ahab, there was none like him, so ingenious and
industrious in sin, and that made a trade of it. He sold himself to
work wickedness, that is, he made himself a perfect slave to his
lusts, and was as much at their beck and command as ever any servant
was at his master's. He was wholly given up to sin, and, upon condition
he might have the pleasures of it, he would take the wages of it, which
Blessed Paul complained that he was sold under sin
as a poor captive against his will; but Ahab was voluntary: he sold
himself to sin; of choice, and as his own act and deed, he
submitted to the dominion of sin. It was no excuse of his crimes that
Jezebel his wife stirred him up to do wickedly, and made him, in
many respects, worse than otherwise he would have been. To what a pitch
of impiety did he arrive who had such tinder of corruption in his heart
and such a temper in his bosom to strike fire into it! In many things
he did ill, but he did most abominably in following idols, like
the Canaanites; his immoralities were very provoking to God, but his
idolatries were especially so. Israel's case was sad when a prince of
such a character as this reigned over them.
II. The message with which Elijah was sent to him, when he went to take
possession of Naboth's vineyard,
1 Kings 21:17-19.
1. Hitherto God kept silence, did not intercept Jezebel's letters, nor
stay the process of the elders of Jezreel; but now Ahab is reproved and
his sin set in order before his eyes.
(1.) The person sent is Elijah. A prophet of lower rank was sent with
messages of kindness to him,
1 Kings 20:13.
But the father of the prophets is sent to try him, and condemn him, for
(2.) The place is Naboth's vineyard and the time just when he is taking
possession of it; then, and there, must his doom be read him. By taking
possession, he avowed all that was done, and made himself guilty ex
post facto--as an accessary after the fact. There he was
taken in the commission of the errors, and therefore the conviction
would come upon him with so much the more force. "What hast thou to do
in this vineyard? What good canst thou expect from it when it is
purchased with blood
and thou hast caused the owner thereof to lose his life?"
Now that he is pleasing himself with his ill-gotten wealth, and giving
direction for the turning of this vineyard into a flower-garden, his
meat in his bowels is turned. He shall not feel quietness. When he
is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon
2. Let us see what passed between him and the prophet.
(1.) Ahab vented his wrath against Elijah, fell into a passion at the
sight of him, and, instead of humbling himself before the prophet, as
he ought to have done
(2 Chronicles 36:12),
was ready to fly in his face. Hast thou found me, O my enemy?
1 Kings 21:20.
[1.] That he hated him. The last time we found them together they
parted very good friends,
1 Kings 18:46.
Then Ahab had countenanced the reformation, and therefore then all was
well between him and the prophet; but now he had relapsed, and was
worse than ever. His conscience told him he had made God his enemy, and
therefore he could not expect Elijah should be his friend. Note, That
man's condition is very miserable that has made the word of God his
enemy, and his condition is very desperate that reckons the ministers
of that word his enemies because they tell him the truth,
Ahab, having sold himself to sin, was resolved to stand to his bargain,
and could not endure him that would have helped him to recover himself,
[2.] That he feared him: Hast thou found me? intimating that he
shunned him all he could, and it was now a terror to him to see him.
The sight of him was like that of the handwriting upon the wall to
Belshazzar; it made his countenance change, the joints of his loins
were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. Never was
poor debtor or criminal so confounded at the sight of the officer that
came to arrest him. Men may thank themselves if they make God and his
word a terror to them.
(2.) Elijah denounced God's wrath against Ahab: I have found
thee (says he,
1 Kings 21:20),
because thou hast sold thyself to work evil. Note, Those that
give up themselves to sin will certainly be found out, sooner or later,
to their unspeakable horror and amazement. Ahab is now set to the bar,
as Naboth was, and trembles more than he did.
[1.] Elijah finds the indictment against him, and convicts him upon the
notorious evidence of the fact
(1 Kings 21:19):
Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? He was thus charged
with the murder of Naboth, and it would not serve him to say the law
killed him (perverted justice is the highest injustice), nor that, if
he was unjustly prosecuted, it was not his doing--he knew nothing of
it; for it was to please him that it was done, and he had shown himself
pleased with it, and so had made himself guilty of all that was done in
the unjust prosecution of Naboth. He killed, for he took possession. If
he takes the garden, he takes the guilt with it. Terra transit cum
onere--The land with the incumbrance.
[2.] He passes judgment upon him. He told him from God that his family
should be ruined and rooted out
(1 Kings 21:21)
and all his posterity cut off,--that his house should be made like the
houses of his wicked predecessors, Jeroboam and Baasha
(1 Kings 21:22),
particularly that those who died in the city should be meat for dogs
and those who died in the field meat for birds
(1 Kings 21:24),
which had been foretold of Jeroboam's house
(1 Kings 14:11),
and of Baasha's
(1 Kings 16:4),--
that Jezebel, particularly, should be devoured by dogs
(1 Kings 21:23),
which was fulfilled
(2 Kings 9:36),--
and, as for Ahab himself, that the dogs should lick his blood in
the very same place where they licked Naboth's
(1 Kings 21:19--
"Thy blood, even thine, though it be royal blood, though it
swell thy veins with pride and boil in thy heart with anger, shall ere
long be an entertainment for the dogs"), which was fulfilled,
1 Kings 22:38.
This intimates that he should die a violent death, should come to his
grave with blood, and that disgrace should attend him, the foresight of
which must needs be a great mortification to such a proud man.
Punishments after death are here most insisted on, which, though such
as affected the body only, were perhaps designed as figures of the
soul's misery after death.
III. Ahab's humiliation under the sentence passed upon him, and the
favourable message sent him thereupon.
1. Ahab was a kind of penitent. The message Elijah delivered to him in
God's name put him into a fright for the present, so that he rent
his clothes and put on sackcloth,
1 Kings 21:27.
He was still a proud hardened sinner, and yet thus reduced. Note, God
can make the stoutest heart to tremble and the proudest to humble
itself. His word is quick and powerful, and is, when the pleases to
make it so, like a fire and a hammer,
It made Felix tremble. Ahab put on the garb and guise of a penitent,
and yet his heart was unhumbled and unchanged. After this, we find, he
hated a faithful prophet,
1 Kings 22:8.
Note, It is no new thing to find the show and profession of repentance
where yet the truth and substance of it are wanting. Ahab's repentance
was only what might be seen of men: Seest thou (says God to
Elijah) how Ahab humbles himself; it was external only, the
garments rent, but not the heart. A hypocrite may go very far in the
outward performance of holy duties and yet come short.
2. He obtained hereby a reprieve, which I may call a kind of pardon.
Though it was but an outside repentance (lamenting the judgment only,
and not the sin), though he did not leave his idols, nor restore the
vineyard to Naboth's heirs, yet, because he did hereby give some glory
to God, God took notice of it, and bade Elijah take notice of it:
Seest thou how Ahab humbles himself?
1 Kings 21:29.
In consideration of this the threatened ruin of his house, which had
not been fixed to any time, should be adjourned to his son's
days. The sentence should not be revoked, but the execution
(1.) This discovers the great goodness of God, and his readiness to
show mercy, which here rejoices against judgment. Favour was
shown to this wicked man that God might magnify his goodness (says
bishop Sanderson) even to the hazard of his other divine perfections;
as if (says he) God would be thought unholy, or untrue, or unjust
(though he be none of these), or any thing, rather than unmerciful.
(2.) This teaches us to take notice of that which is good even in those
who are not so good as they should be: let it be commended as far as it
(3.) This gives a reason why wicked people sometimes prosper long; God
is rewarding their external services with external mercies.
(4.) This encourages all those that truly repent and unfeignedly
believe the holy gospel. If a pretending partial penitent shall go to
his house reprieved, doubtless a sincere penitent shall go to his