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The Pouting King Ahab


“So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would not eat food.”
(1 Kings 21:4)
After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel separated into two competing kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom of Samaria and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Of the nineteen kings who ruled in Samaria, all were evil—but King Ahab was the worst. As stated in 1 Kings 16:30, “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.”
When Ahab came to power, he married the Phoenician princess Jezebel; a name still synonymous with treachery, idolatry, and immorality. During Ahab’s twenty-two-year reign (875-854 B.C.), he and Jezebel committed one godless act after another. They schemed. They stole. They murdered. They scorned God’s prophets and God’s Word. They gleefully promoted idolatry in Samaria, building a temple and altar for the storm-god Baal and erecting totem poles for his consort Asherah.
Jezebel was so committed to her Canaanite gods that she provided room and board for eight hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal and Asherah. And when she gave orders to slaughter the prophets of the true God, including Elijah, Ahab consented. Theirs was a marriage made elsewhere than heaven. They were partners in crime, inciting each other on toward ever-increasing evil. We’re told in 1 Kings 16:33, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
Ahab’s bloody rule and bloody end are recorded in 1 Kings 16-22. In fact, more chapters are devoted to Ahab than any other king of Samaria. Yet, the picture portrayed is not one of greatness but great wickedness; and along with wickedness, childish petulance. Ahab was both an evil ruler and a royal pouter. Twice he is described as “sullen and displeased.” (1 Kings 20:43 and 21:4) The Hebrew words used have the sense of anger, stubbornness, heaviness, and moroseness. Hence, Ahab was pouting.
The best example of Ahab’s pouting is found in 1 Kings 21 and the account of Naboth’s vineyard. Remember, Ahab was a wealthy king—wealthy enough to build cities; field an army; support hundreds of false prophets; and own two palaces, one in Samaria and the other in Jezreel. Yet, despite Ahab’s power and prosperity, he still coveted what was not his, namely, Naboth’s vineyard. The more Ahab saw the vineyard, the more he wanted it—not to produce grapes, but to grow vegetables.
However, when Naboth refused to sell the vineyard, Ahab reacted like a petulant child. He pouted. He returned to his palace, flung himself on his bed, faced the wall, and refused to eat or speak. While Scripture makes no mention of slammed doors, a protruding lower lip, and cries of “I never get what I want!”—these things likely happened too. Imagine what the palace guards thought.
Pouting may seem insignificant when compared with the other misdeeds of Ahab: idolatry; a blatant disregard for God and His Word; complicity in the murder of Naboth and the theft of Naboth’s inheritance, that prized vineyard. Yet, Ahab’s constant pouting is a telling insight into Ahab’s character. He was a greedy king, driven by a sense of entitlement. Eventually, that greed and entitlement led to his death and the demise of his entire family.
Mark Weis is pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Lemmon, South Dakota.