When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” 1 Kings 21:27-29
Amazing that someone as evil as Ahab was capable of genuine repentance. The previous verses tell us just how evil Ahab was, “There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel” (verses 25-26). Ahab not only sinned himself but caused Israel to sin by encouraging idol worship.
When Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard, Jezebel arranged a mock court to have Naboth stoned to death because he wouldn’t sell the vineyard. As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he went there to claim ownership of the vineyard (verse 16).
Yet despite all this, when Elijah brought God’s word of judgement Ahab repented. What was it that touched his heart? Was it guilt over Naboth’s vineyard? Or that God was going to wipe out his descendants? Or that dogs would devour his wife?
It’s difficult to know what the turning point was for Ahab, but God will allow disasters to befall if it leads to repentance and when Ahab finally repented, God noticed. It gives us such hope to know that God is so merciful that he even relents from sending disaster upon someone like Ahab.