WHEREAS JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY has a cross to bear, King Ahab had two. One cross was the prophet Elijah. If, generally speaking, a prophet to a king was like ants at a picnic, Elijah was like a swarm of bees. The other cross was his foreign-born wife, Jezebel, who had gotten religion in a big way back in the old country and was forever trying to palm it off on the Israelites, who had a perfectly good religion of their own. Unfortunately for Ahab, the two of them sometimes got to working on him at the same time, one from one side, the other from the other. A case in point was the Naboth affair.
To make a sordid story short, Naboth had a vineyard that Ahab wanted so much he could taste it, and when Naboth refused either to sell or to swap, Ahab went into a sulk. "He laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food" (1 Kings 21:4). It was the kind of opening Jezebel was always on the lookout for. Was he a king or a cup custard, she asked and proceeded to take charge. Found guilty of a trumped-up charge, Naboth got stoned to death, and Ahab got the vineyard. He also, needless to say, got a visit from Elijah.
Down through the years they'd kept meeting like that, usually in secluded places, always at critical moments. Ahab arrived incognito—the dark glasses, the Panama hat, the business suit—and Elijah with a ten-day growth of beard. Ahab addressed him in his usual informal way as a royal pain in the neck (1 Kings 21:20), and then Elijah let him have it with both barrels. When God got through with him, Elijah said, there wouldn't be enough left of Ahab to scrape off the sidewalk, and what there was the dogs would take care of. As for Jezebel, not only because of Naboth but because of all her imported witch doctors and totem poles, she would end up the same way.
Ahab at least said he was sorry, and as a result was allowed to die honorably in battle, the part about the dogs coming true only in the sense that they got to lap the water up that his bloody chariot was hosed off with afterward. Jezebel, on the other hand, continued unrepentant to the end. When the time finally came, they threw her out of the window, and when the dogs got finished, all that was left for the undertaker was "the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands" (2 Kings 9:35).
God is merciful, and if Jezebel and Ahab and Elijah all eventually met up again in paradise, you can only assume that Ahab said if it weren't for the honor of the thing, he'd as soon take his chances in a warmer climate, and immediately put in for a transfer.
1 Kings 21-22; 2 Kings 9:30-36
- Originally published in Peculiar Treasures