1 Kings 21: Lessons from Ahab’s Greed, Lies, Murder and Theft Regarding the Dangers of Covetousness

Introduction: Ahab had seen God’s mighty power at Mount Carmel and twice in the fields of battle against the Syrians. Yet, instead of choosing to live in a Covenant relationship with God, he chose to live submitting to Satan’s covetousness. This caused Ahab to want what did not belong to him. His covetousness and greed caused him and his wife Jezebel to spread lies and murder a neighbor named Naboth to seize his lands. Through their evil acts, God provides seven warnings about the damages of unrepentant covetousness. Covetousness can lead to: (1) greed, (2) lies, (3) strife or murder, (4) theft, (5) enmity with God, (6) judgment, and (7) grief.

First, because Ahab felt entitled to anything he wanted, he coveted his neighbor’s farm lands. He then asked his neighbor Naboth to give up his lands. Through Ahab’s covetousness, God reveals that covetousness is frequently manifested in the form of greed. Second, when Ahab was sad that Naboth would not give up his lands, Jezebel conspired with the elders to spread lies about Naboth in order to seize his lands. Through her evil acts, God reveals that covetousness frequently leads to lies and deceit. Third, after falsely accusing Naboth with lies, Jezebel had him murdered. Through his murder, God reveals that covetousness can lead to strife and even murder. Fourth, after murdering Naboth, Ahab then seized his lands. Through Ahab’s evil acts, God reveals that covetousness can lead to different kinds of theft. Fifth, God then sent Elijah to confront Ahab. When Elijah confronted Ahab on behalf of God, Ahab called Elijah his “enemy”. Through Ahab’s evil heart, God reveals that coveting makes you adverse to Him. Sixth, because Ahab would not repent of his covetousness or idolatry, God used Elijah to judge Ahab and his household. Through Ahab’s judgment, God reveals that unrepentant covetousness can lead to His judgment. Finally, upon hearing his judgment, Ahab was filled with sadness and repented. Through his grief, God reveals that giving into covetousness can also lead to sorrow. Instead of giving into covetousness God wants you to be content with what He has blessed you with. If you are content with Him, you will have great gain (1 Tim. 6:6).

1. Greed: Covetousness Frequently Appears as Greed. 1 Kgs. 21:1-4.

  • Ahab covets his neighbor’s field and becomes sad when his neighbor refuses his request. Being filled with greed, Ahab coveted his neighbor Naboth’s fields: “1 Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, ‘Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.’ But Naboth said to Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food.” (1 Kgs. 21:1-4). Naboth was from Jezreel, approximately 56 miles north of Jerusalem in modern day Zerin (1 Kgs. 21:1). This was a town belonging to the tribe of Manasseh on the southern border of Issachar (Josh. 19:18). Ahab had a royal residence in Jezreel when he was not in the capital Samaria (1 Kgs. 18:45-46). We can assume that Naboth’s vineyards were some of the most fertile land in the area. Naboth did not act with greed by refusing to give up his family lands (1 Kgs. 21:2-3). The lands belonged to God. God gave the lands as a permanent allotment to each of the 12 tribes. A person in one tribe was prohibited from permanently selling their lands to someone in a different tribe: “Thus no inheritance of the sons of Israel shall be transferred from tribe to tribe, for the sons of Israel shall each hold to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.” (Nu. 36:7, 9). Naboth was from the Manasseh tribe, and Ahab was from the Ephraimite tribe. Thus, the proposed sale violated God’s law. Naboth showed great courage to place God’s law above his ruler’s evil demands. Many believe that he was one of the 7,000 believers who refused Ahab’s orders that the Jews of Northern Israel bow before Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18). Normally, a person must obey their appointed leader (Ro. 13:1). Rejecting an evil order is the one time when a believer is free to reject a ruler’s edict. Ahab was sad because he was a slave to his greed and covetousness (1 Kgs. 21:5).

Naboth rebuked Ahab’s desire for his lands1

  • Greed violates God’s Tenth Commandment against coveting. When, like Ahab, you long for something that belongs to someone else, you violate God’s Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:17; 5:21). Paul is clear that this Commandment still applies to believers. It is included in Jesus’ command that you love your neighbor as yourself: “For this, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (Ro. 13:9).

  • Greed also violates God’s Second Commandment against idolatry. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you should want to remove all forms of evil in your life. This includes greed, which Paul defines as a form of idolatry: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;” (Eph. 5:3). Thus, if you give into covetousness, whatever you covet is your idol.

  • Guard yourself against greed and covetousness, which can defile you before God. Jesus warned believers to stay vigilant to guard their hearts against greed and any form of covetousness: “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”’ (Lk. 12:15). Coveting, like the other Ten Commandments, are sins of the heart that defile you: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). Thus, if you covet and refuse to repent, you are defiling yourself before God.

2. Lies: Covetousness Frequently Leads to Lies and Deceit. 1 Kgs. 21:5-10.

  • Jezebel conspires through lies and deceit to seize Naboth’s lands. To satisfy Ahab’s greed and covetousness, Jezebel conspired with the elders to use lies and deceit to steal Naboth’s lands: “But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, ‘How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?’ So he said to her, ‘Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’’ Jezebel his wife said to him, ‘Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’ So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. Now she wrote in the letters, saying, ‘Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people; 10 and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.’” (1 Kgs. 21:5-10). Even though Ahab was the most wicked king to ever rule Israel, Jezebel was worse. She was a Phoenician princess who married Ahab and seduced him into worshiping Baal (1 Kgs 16:31; 21:25). After corrupting her husband, she then seduced the 10 tribes of Northern Israel with 850 false prophets of Baal and Asherah (1 Kgs. 18:19). What might have initially been praised as tolerance quickly turned into a slaughter when Jezebel personally gave the order for any prophet of God to be murdered (1 Kgs. 18:4, 13). She was even able to corrupt Judah when her pagan daughter became a queen there (2 Kgs. 8:18). Being a dual minded man, Ahab did as she asked of him. He initially told her in excitement how he had personally experienced the power of Yahweh through a fire from heaven (1 Kgs. 18:38-39). He then again witnessed God’s power as He lifted the three and a half-year drought. God’s prophet Elijah then honored him on the return trip home (1 Kgs. 18:41-46). Yet, after hearing how Elijah discredited Baal and killed off the 450 false prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 18:40), Jezebel retaliated by sending Elijah a threat that she would kill him within 24 hours (1 Kgs. 19:1-2). Here, she appealed to Ahab to use his absolute power to seize the lands. When he failed to act, she committed an act of forgery by drafting a letter in Ahab’s name and then used his seal (1 Kgs. 21:8). Based upon the fact that God subsequently judged Ahab, we can assume that Ahab was aware of her plans to use lies and deceit to kill Naboth. She even had Naboth’s sons killed (2 Kgs. 9:26). She further maligned God in the process. She betrayed Naboth during a fast (1 Kgs. 21:9-10). She took a process that was meant to purify the lands and instead used it to pollute the land with sin. She further made it look like she was complying with God’s law by bringing forth two witnesses against him, a prerequisite for capital punishment (Nu. 35:30; Dt. 17:6; 20:2-3). The false witnesses alleged that Naboth blasphemed both God and King Ahab, which (if true) carried the death penalty (Ex. 22:28). As one of the most wicked women in the Bible, Jezebel is later referenced in the book of Revelation as the spirit who corrupted many saints (Rev. 2:20.) In contrast, Naboth foreshadowed Jesus. Both died as innocent men under false testimony that they had blasphemed God.

Luca van Leyden (1493-1533) “Jezebel and King Ahab” (woodcarving 1517)2

  • Coveting leads to the temptation to use lies and deceit. If you covet a life filled with wealth, you may face many types of temptations to lie or use deceit. This can include holding back on your tithes, underreporting your taxable income, and stealing from employers, clients, or others. If you give into covetousness, you will also face other similar temptations. You may also face temptations to gamble or argue with your spouse. Studies show that the most common thing to happen to couples after winning the lottery is to get a divorce. If anyone loves these “things of the world,” “the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Is your heart filled with a love of money?

  • Ananias and Sapphira’s coveting caused them to rob God of tithes. Ananias and Sapphira provide an example of how coveting can lead to theft against God by withholding tithes: ‘“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.’” (Mal. 3:8-10). The coveting of money overcame both Ananias and Sapphira by causing them to withhold tithes from their church (Acts 5:1-3). Their coveting not only caused them to break the Eighth Commandment against theft, their coveting also caused them to break the Ninth Commandment against lying. God then struck them both dead as an example for the Church (Acts 5:4-10). If you seek God first, you have no reason to worry about money or anything else. He will provide for you (Matt. 6:33). Does your love of your money make it hard for you to give back a part of God’s money? Will you tithe when times are tough?

3. Strife and Murder: Covetousness Can Lead to Strife and Even Murder. 1 Kgs. 21:11-14.

  • Jezebel has Naboth killed under false pretenses for refusing to give up his land. After entrapping Naboth with lies, the elders carried out Jezebel’s plan to kill him: “11 So the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them, just as it was written in the letters which she had sent them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the people. 13 Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, ‘Naboth cursed God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel, saying, ‘Naboth has been stoned and is dead.’” (1 Kgs. 21:11-14). The fact that the elders participated in this scheme shows that they were willing to follow evil orders without question (1 Kgs. 21:11). They were therefore complicit in Naboth’s murder. They were like the religious leaders who went along with the false accusations against Jesus and His Crucifixion in order to preserve their power. To eliminate all possible heirs to Naboth's land, the men further murdered both Naboth and his sons (2 Kgs. 9:26).

Ahab had Naboth and his son were murdered after a false trial3

  • Coveting can lead to strife and even murder. Jeremiah condemned one of the last kings of Judah, who also pursued dishonest gain through evil acts like murder and extortion: “But your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion.” (Jer. 22:17) “An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.” (Prov. 28:25). When drug addicts become entrapped in covetousness, many turn to violence to fulfill their desires. Thus, covetousness frequently leads to far worse sins.

  • David’s coveting also led to adultery, deceit, and ultimately murder. David’s many sins all began as he stood on his roof top and coveted his neighbor’s wife: “Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.” (2 Sam. 11:2). David most likely knew when to be on his roof to see what he wanted to see. Over time, his coveting could not be satisfied by merely looking. Eventually, his secret coveting led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4). When David’s adultery led to Bathsheba’ pregnancy, he tried to convince her husband Uriah to be with her to conceal his sin. When that did not work, he had Uriah murdered to try to cover his tracks and to win Bathsheba to himself (2 Sam. 11:14-17). David also became numb to his sin. He was not remorseful about sending Uriah to his death until God confronted him. Thus, nothing good came from David’s unrepentant coveting (Ps. 38:3, 18). Both David and Ahab again show that coveting frequently leads to far worse sins. This can include sins like lies, violence, and even murder. Thus, you should always treat this sin as a serious matter and immediately repent of it.

  • Coveting power is also the source of most wars. The coveting of leaders is also the source of most wars: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel . . .” (Jam. 4:1-2). There is an example of this in nearly every war. For example, on June 14, 1940, the Nazis and the Soviets signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Eastern Europe between them because both coveted these foreign lands. But the Soviets had made a Faustian bargain. On June 22, 1941, after the Nazis had gained control of the continental Western Europe, they attacked the USSR and within weeks took Soviet occupied Eastern Europe. Their coveting could not be satisfied. As another example, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the American Navy in Pearl Harbor because America was blocking their access to oil fields in South East Asia. They needed oil fields to invade other lands that they coveted. Most other wars also involve leaders coveting power, lands, or wealth belonging to another country.

4. Theft: Covetousness Can Lead to Different Kinds of Theft. 1 Kgs. 21:15-16.

  • After killing Naboth, Ahab steals his lands. Ahab expressed no remorse at Naboth’s murder. Instead, he immediately went out and seized his lands: “15 When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, ‘Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.’ 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.” (1 Kgs. 21:15-16). The text might imply that Ahab was unaware of Jezebel’s scheme when he got up and seized Naboth’s lands. But the fact that God later judged him establishes that he went along with her scheme. He was guilty of covetousness, lies, murder, and theft.

  • Coveting can lead to evils like theft, embezzlement, and bribes. Micah condemned those whose covetousness led to acts of theft: “They covet fields and then seize them, and houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” (Micah 2:2). Many who commit property crimes are addicts desperate for the money to get their next fix. They will steal, embezzle, or demand bribes to meet their needs.

5. Enmity with God: Coveting Makes You Adverse to God. 1 Kgs. 21:17-20.

  • Elijah confronts Ahab, and Ahab calls Elijah his “enemy”. Although Ahab had received God’s mercy and grace on multiple occasions, he called Elijah his enemy when God sent him to confront Ahab: “17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 ‘Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it. 19 You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?’’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours.’’ 20 Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ And he answered, ‘I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord.” (1 Kgs. 21:17-20). To emphasize Ahab’s guilt, God sent Elijah to confront Ahab at the moment that he seized Naboth’s lands (1 Kgs. 21:17-18). God further did not leave any doubt as to Ahab’s culpability. He told Elijah to accuse Ahab of both murder and theft. He also promised that Ahab would die in the same location (1 Kgs. 21:19). Ahab should have immediately repented of his sins. Instead, he showed that he was spiritually blind by calling Elijah his enemy (1 Kgs. 21:20). He had become God’s enemy (Ro. 5:10).

God used Elijah to expose Ahab’s sins4

  • Solomon’s coveting turned his heart away from God. Solomon was the wisest man alive (1 Kgs. 4:30). But he coveted first wealth and then women. His coveting led him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11:3). His lusts and his pagan wives then turned his heart away from God: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kgs. 11:4). He then began to serve other gods and did evil in God’s eyes (1 Kgs. 11:5-6). Do the lusts of the flesh rule over you?

  • Balaam’s coveting of money also led to his rebellion against God. The Apostle James warned Christians against the “error of Balaam.” (Jude 1:11). Jesus later condemned the church of Pergamum for leading believers into “the doctrine of Balaam . . .” (Rev. 2:14). One of Balaam’s many sins included coveting money (2 Pet. 2:15). Balaam was a well-known sorcerer in his day. King Balaak solicited his help in casting a curse upon the Jews because the Jewish armies were too strong for Balaak to defeat in battle. God permitted Balaam to go with Balaak’s dignitaries on the condition that he only say what God commanded (Nu. 22:20). Balaam, however, later became filled with greed and planned to earn his money by cursing Israel (2 Pet. 2:15). But God knew his thoughts and became angry with Balaam for his plan to deceive God (Nu. 22:22). God prevented Balaam from cursing the Jews and instead had him bless the Jews (Nu. 23-24). But Balaam still coveted the money that King Balaak offered him (Nu. 22:17). He knew that sorcery could not break God’s protection of His people (Nu. 24:1). Just like the devil, Balaam knew that the only way God’s people could be destroyed was if they voluntarily broke God’s law. Having them join with temple prostitutes was one law he figured he could induce them to break (Ex. 34:14-15; Dt. 23:17; Judg. 2:17; 1 Kgs. 14:22-24). Thus, he came up with a plan to have the Jews defile themselves with the Moabite and Midianite women, who together formed an alliance against Israel (Nu. 22:4). He instructed Balaak to send his most attractive women to invite the Jewish men to Moabite banquets (Nu. 31:16). The women then seduced the men through acts of temple prostitution. The men would have had free sex with the prostitutes in exchange for their agreement to first eat foods sacrificed to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite fertility god, and then to worship him. While Balaam gave into the sin of coveting money, the Jews gave into the sin of coveting what the women had to offer. In both cases, the coveting led to rebellion against God. Are you content with what God has given you? Or, are you rebelling against God’s laws to seek after riches, women, or your own pleasures?

  • To fight covetousness, fear God by hating evil things. Contrary to what some may think, head knowledge of the Bible is not all you need to ward off coveting. Ahab had directly experienced God’s power at Mount Carmel and in his battles with Syrian invaders. But his knowledge of God’s power was not enough to keep him from coveting. As another example, Aaron shows us that head knowledge can sometimes make the coveting and pride harder to see. He and Miriam spoke against Moses because they coveted his authority (Nu. 12:1-2). Aaron, however, had witnessed God destroy Pharaoh’s armies. He also witnessed 3,000 people die after Aaron succumbed to peer pressure and built a golden calf (Ex. 32:26-28). Aaron was the high priest who knew God’s Ten Commandments. Yet, his head knowledge of the law was alone not enough to keep him from coveting his brother’s power. Likewise, despite being the wisest man alive and the author of most of the proverbs, Solomon gave in to the sin of covetousness (1 Kgs. 11:1-8). Because he learned that his wisdom and head knowledge were not enough to keep him from coveting, he implored others to fear God: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Ps. 111:10; Job 28:28; Ecc. 12:13). The fear of the Lord is not fear that God will arbitrarily strike you dead. It is instead hating the one thing in life that you are allowed to hate, evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6). When you hear gossip, do you flock to hear about it? Or, does the gossip repulse you? Do you enjoy reading or watching stories about evil things in this world? If you constantly embrace evil things, should you be surprised if you become numb to evil?

6. Judgment: Unrepentant Covetousness Can Lead to God’s Judgement. 1 Kgs. 21:21-26.

  • Through Elijah, God judges Ahab for his covetousness and idolatry. Because Ahab would not repent of his idolatry, his rebellion, his covetousness, his murder, or other evil acts, God used Elijah to cast judgment upon both Ahab and his entire household: “21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. 23 Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ 24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat.” 25 Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. 26 He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel.” (1 Kgs. 21:21-26). Because he would not repent of his idolatry and his murder, God judged both Ahab and his entire evil household (1 Kgs. 21:21-24). Ahab likely had no trouble understanding what would happen next. God’s prophets gave almost identical judgments to Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 14:10-11) and to Baasha (1 Kgs. 16:3-4). Because of Jezebel’s greater sins, she would not even be buried. Instead, she was cursed to have stray dogs eat from her rotting corpse on the street as the people looked on in disgust (1 Kgs. 21:23).

  • God promises to punish unrepentant covetousness. God is slow to anger and wants no one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). But He is a consuming fire of righteousness (Heb. 12:28-29). In Proverbs, Solomon warned from personal experience that God will ultimately punish those who give into covetousness and then refuse to repent of it: “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20). Like the other Commandments, the penalty for coveting is death (Jam. 1:14-15; Heb. 10:28). A coveter who has not repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior is not only cursed to struggle and lead a life of desperation, that person is also disqualified from entering heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5; see also Rev. 2:14; 2:20). If you know the price Jesus paid for your coveting, are you warning others?

7. Grief: Unrepentant Covetousness Can Lead to Grief and Sadness. 1 Kgs. 21:27-29.

  • Ahab becomes filled with grief and sorrow for squandering God’s mercy and grace. Upon hearing his judgment, Ahab became overcome with grief and repented. Because he humbled himself, God spared Ahab an immediate death and limited the judgment to Ahab’s evil sons: “27 It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 ‘Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.’” (1 Kgs. 21:27-29). Ahab was the worst of the worse when it came to Israel’s wicked kings (1 Kgs. 21:25). In addition to his own sins of murder and idolatry, he led an entire nation into Baal worship (1 Kgs. 21:26) He was deserving of death. The fact that God would show mercy on him after he humbled himself (1 Kgs. 21:27) shows that no one is beyond God’s mercy. God is slow to anger and quick to forgive (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, because neither Jezebel nor his sons repented, they would still be judged (1 Kgs. 21:29). During the reign of Ahab’s son Joram (2 Kings 9:25-26) (circa 852-841 B.C.), Joram died in the same field that Ahab stole from Naboth (2 Kgs. 10:1-11). Jezebel also died through a painful death, just as Elijah predicted (2 Kgs. 9:30-37).

Ahab was filled with sorrow after hearing God’s judgment5

  • The love of money leads to many types of grief and sadness. Although money is not inherently evil, the love of money is an evil that leads to many kinds of grief: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Even if you have eternal salvation through Christ, God promises “curses” or earthly discipline in the form of hardships for those who reject His Covenant and choose to submit to Satan’s covetousness (Lev. 26:14-37; Dt. 27:15-26; 28:15-68). This can include addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and sex (Ro. 1:24-33). God disciplines you when you are willingly wayward in your walk because He loves you and wants to guide you back with His rod (Heb. 12:6). Are you using His grace as a license to covet more? (Rom. 6:15).

  • Covetousness can bring grief to an entire family. Ahab’s family suffered from his sins. Solomon also warned that covetousness can bring grief to a person’s family: “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” (Prov. 15:27). Any person who gives into covetousness can also cause damage to his or her family.

  • A leader’s covetousness can bring grief to an entire nation. Elijah connected Ahab’s sins to the Amorites: “26 He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel.” (1 Kgs. 21:26). This had two meanings. First, he was an idolater like the Amorites before him. Second, God told Abraham that He would expel the Amorites after 400 years when their sins were ripe: “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (Gen. 15:16). Like the Amorites, God would expel the Jews from Northern Israel because of their sins. Ahab introduced them to Baal worship, and the Jews would continue to follow it after him. Ahab lived for himself and to fulfill his own covetousness. As a result, the entire nation would suffer. The lesson from his mistakes apply today. If a nation elects immoral leaders, the entire nation will suffer.

  • Satan can only offer fleeting counterfeit pleasures. The pleasure Satan offers to the person who gives into covetousness never lasts long (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). Ahab, for example, never even had the chance to enjoy the fields that he coveted. The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting. Alcohol is just one of many examples of this: “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.” (Hab. 2:5). The greed or coveting of money can also never be satisfied with more money. “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11). “Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘Enough’”. (Prov. 30:16). The pleasure of alcohol, drugs, adultery, and theft all quickly fade. If a gambler is successful, how frequently is the gambler content not to gamble again?

  • Satan seeks to use covetousness to place you into bondage to sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place you into bondage and, like he did to Solomon, cause you to turn away from God (1 Kgs. 11:3-4). He seeks to make us slaves to the flesh: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!” (Is. 5:11). Ultimately, this can become a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5). If you give in to coveting, the devil will enslave you: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus also explains that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34). If you give in to coveting, your flesh will also be at war with God’s Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity . . .” (Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). In the end, you must pick that which you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). If you choose the flesh, you are at war with the Spirit, “[t]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). Which master are you serving?

  • Any honest believer has some form of coveting to repent of. Everyone at some point has felt covetous desires: “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain . . .” (Jer. 6:13). “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:3). Paul, for example, stated that he only knew that he was a covetous man through his study of the Law: “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You Shall Not Covet.’” (Rom. 7:7). Thus, all sinned in God’s eyes (Ro. 3:10, 23). If you deny your sin, God will confront you with it: “Yet you said, ‘I am innocent; surely His anger is turned away from me.’ Behold, I will enter into judgment with you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.”’ (Jer. 2:35). If you deny that you have coveted, you will be shown by your actions on Earth to be a liar before God (1 Jo. 1:10). Our God is “jealous” of anything that draws us from Him (Ex. 34:14; Dt. 5:9). Thus, repent of your coveting in whatever forms it has taken in your life.

  • God is faithful to forgive all who repent. God spared Ahab from his immediate judgment because he repented. He was allowed to live three more years before he died. If his family had repented, they also could have been spared an immediate death. As one commentator notes: “This shows that God gave the prophecy of judgment as an invitation to repentance, and God opened to the door of mercy when Ahab properly responded to that invitation. . . .This [also] shows us the character of God’s mercy: it is given to the undeserving. By nature, the innocent do not need mercy. Ahab was a great sinner, but he won great mercy (in this life) through humble repentance. The worst sinner should not disqualify himself from receiving God’s mercy, if that sinner should only approach God in humble repentance.” (David Guzik on 1 Kgs. 21).6 If you have given into coveting, God will forgive you if you repent: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9; Prov. 28:13). Have you repented of your covetous desires?

  • Be content with what God has given you by renewing your mind daily. Instead of coveting things that do not belong to you, God wants you to be content with what He has given you: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” (1 Tim. 6:6). “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”’ (Heb. 13:5). From his own mistakes, Solomon wrote: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say who is the Lord?” (Prov. 30:8-9). Because this is a daily for most, you must renew your mind each day with the power that Jesus has given you through the Holy Spirit: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Are you renewing your mind each day?