An innocent man is targeted and tricked by powerful forces. A wicked political leader and accomplice are seemingly spared punishment for their evil deed. This tragic story of King Ahab and Jezebel reveals 7 clear lessons about God’s justice. ◊
Many people struggle with apparent injustice in the world and question whether God is interested, able, or even aware of wrongs that need to be made right. While some question why bad things happen to good people, even more so, many question why God doesn’t punish bad people for evil done to good and decent people. Does God really care about injustice and evil?
Of course, the answer is a resounding yes. It’s just that God does not necessarily do it the way we might want it to play out.
There’s a fascinating though tragic story in the Old Testament that demonstrates man’s capacity for wickedness and God’s response. While there are numerous lessons which we can extract from this one story alone, we can be assured of God’s ultimately fair, just, and consistent, handling of evil though His judgment may be manifested over short and long terms.
It’s the story of the infamous King Ahab, his wife Jezebel, and an unfortunate man named Naboth.
The first part of the story is found in 1 Kings 21. Here’s a summary:
Ahab ruled over the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the latter 9th century BC. Naboth was a Hebrew man who had a vineyard near King Ahab’s palace in the countryside outside his capital city of Samaria. Ahab wanted this vineyard so he could convert it into a vegetable garden. He offered to pay Naboth outright for it or exchange it for an upgraded plot of land.
Naboth refused. He was actually following God’s Law handed down from Moses to the Hebrews that an Israelite’s family inheritance should not be sold. King Ahab was not happy with this response and returned home “sullen and angry” that he could not have Naboth’s vineyard. He even refused to eat.
When Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel, learned the full reason for her husband’s unhappiness, she chastised him for his passivity and assured him that she would “get the vineyard of Naboth.” She conjured a deceitful plan involving forged letters from the king and the hiring of “two scoundrels” to falsely accuse Naboth of cursing both God and the king.
Based on these trumped-up charges, Naboth was taken outside the city and stoned to death. When King Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he went to the vineyard and now took possession of it.
Because of the murder of Naboth, God condemned both Jezebel and Ahab. The word of the Lord came to Elijah the prophet in a terse message which he delivered to King Ahab: “Have you not murdered a man and seized his property? …In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your own blood… I (God) will bring evil upon your household…and dogs shall devour Jezebel by the walls of this city.
After hearing God’s terrible pronouncement of judgment, Ahab repented before God for his actions toward Naboth. Because of Ahab’s humble response, God chose not to bring the promised disaster on Ahab during his lifetime but instead during “his son’s days.”
The rest of the story, specifically the punishment, though delayed, comes in 1 Kings 22, and 2 Kings 9 and 10:
In fact, God’s word was fulfilled as Ahab was killed in battle with his own blood washed out of his chariot in the same place where Naboth had been stoned to death, just as Elijah had said (I Kings 22:34-38). As for Jezebel, she was later thrown out of a palace upper story window where her smashed body was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30-37). Shortly following her death, Ahab’s 70 sons and their entire households were killed – “for the Lord has done what He said by His servant Elijah” (2 Kings 10:1-11)
Here are 7 lessons about God’s justice and treatment of evil that can be derived from this tragic story sown of greed, power, and evil.
- God is not rushed. – God is very comfortable with letting things play out over a very long period of time. Justice was ultimately served many years after the death of Naboth.
- God is not mocked. – What God says is Truth and is to be obeyed. His Law and precepts are specific and purposeful. Ahab disregarded Naboth’s Godly obedience.
- Good people suffer and even die. – Despite our obedience, as humans we all die; even, unfortunately like Naboth, due to the evil intentions of others. In God’s omnipotence and omniscience, He doesn’t necessarily save us all from early death. This says something about the comparative value of eternity.
- Evil people seem to get away with it. – Whether it’s lying, cheating, stealing, hurting, or even killing, it seems that sometimes the bad guys get away with it. It’s not for us to judge how God will deal with wrongdoings. We can trust however that God sees all wrongdoings.
- God deals with evil and disobedience. – While often not in our timing or manner or to our liking, all evil and disobedience is ultimately dealt with by God. There’s no getting around it. He has the final say.
- God is forgiving. – Even evil King Ahab was given mercy by God. Yes, his next generation paid the price for his deeds (see #5), but Ahab was able to reap the benefit of his repentance to God in his own lifetime.
- God always speaks Truth. – Whenever God promises something directly in the Scriptures through one of His human prophets, you can always count on it coming to fruition. He is, after all, God.
God is good, just, and omniscient. He has the final say – for the evil done by evil people. And the evil done by us.
No crime or sin, large or small, public or private, goes without His notice. Man is foolish to think otherwise. We have all sinned and fall short. Our just and deserved punishment – eternal separation from a Holy God – has already been deemed and established. It’s on us to repent, even like evil Ahab.
But there are consequences in this world for our sin, though God has graciously given us a way out through Christ. He bore the penalty for our sins. (see Romans 3:21-31), which allows us to go and sin no more and walk in new relationship with God.
And while we may cringe at the apparent injustice around us, may we pray for the repentance of all our fellow man and trust in the short and long term justice of God.
Do you believe in God’s justice?
I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. – Ecclesiastes 3:17