Kindness for the wicked

If I asked you to recount some particulars about King Ahab’s life, his wife, the incident with Naboth and the showdown at Mt. Carmel would likely be mentioned. Not many of you, I’m guessing, would put forward his repentance and the divine reprieve he received. I certainly wouldn’t have. And a blog post was born: who else in the books of Kings and Chronicles was thoroughly wicked and also a recipient of Yahweh’s kindness? The list is rather long:

Who Verdict Kindness
Rehoboam king of Judah “He did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek Yahweh.” (2 Chronicles 12:14) Shishak king of Egypt was coming to attack Jerusalem. God sent the prophet Shemaiah to tell the Judahites that since they had abandoned Him, He would abandon them to Shishak. The king and nobles of Judah humbled themselves and Yahweh sent Shemaiah with a message that He would not destroy Jerusalem, though they would be subjugated by Egypt. (2 Chronicles 12:5-8)
Abijah king of Judah “He walked in all the sins of his father that he had done before him, and his heart was not fully with Yahweh his God as the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 15:3) Jeroboam king of Israel attacked Judah. Jeroboam set up an ambush behind the Judean troops and also attacked them from the front. The men of Judah cried out to Yahweh, who defeated Jeroboam and his army and gave Abijah and Judah a great victory. (2 Chronicles 13:13-18)
Ahab king of Israel “But Ahab son of Omri did evil in the eyes of Yahweh more than all who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:30) First, the Lord gave him victory over Ben-Hadad king of Aram—twice (1 Kings 20:13-30). Second, after the Naboth affair, God pronounced judgment on him through the prophet Elijah. Ahab humbled himself before Yahweh and received a postponement on the punishment (1 Kings 21:20-29).
The people in Samaria  [Said of a different generation] “…for Yahweh is not with Israel, all the Ephraimites”
(2 Chronicles 25:7)
Ben-Hadad king of Aram had laid siege to Samaria. There was famine in the city and the residents had resorted to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:26-29). God sent word through the prophet Elisha that the siege would be lifted within 24 hours (2 Kings 7:1). Yahweh caused the besieging army to flee and used four lepers to take the news to the people of Samaria (2 Kings 7:3-18)
Jehoahaz king of Israel “But he did evil in the eyes of Yahweh, and he went after the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat with which he had caused Israel to sin, and he did not depart from it.” (2 Kings 13:2) Because of the sins of Jehoahaz (see to the left), Yahweh gave the kingdom of Israel into the power of the kingdom of Aram. Jehoahaz asked for Yahweh’s mercy, and Yahweh sent an unnamed deliverer. Yet the people continued in their sins. (2 Kings 13:3-6)
Jehoash king of Israel “He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh; he did not depart from all of the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat which he caused Israel to sin, but walked in it.” (2 Kings 13:11) When the prophet Elisha was on his deathbed, Jehoash went to visit him. Elisha instructed him to shoot an arrow out of a window, symbolising victory over Aram. Elisha then told him to take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Jehoash struck only thrice. Elisha was angry that he hadn’t struck more times, for each strike symbolised a victory over Aram. (2 Kings 13:14-19)
Jeroboam II king of Israel “But he did evil in the eyes of Yahweh; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat which he caused Israel to sin.” (2 Kings 14:24) Through the prophet Jonah, he receives a word about the expansion of his kingdom’s borders. Yahweh also chose to use Jeroboam as there was no helper to relieve Israel’s bitter misery. (2 Kings 14:25-27)
People of Israel after the fall of the northern kingdom   [Said of a different generation] “…for Yahweh is not with Israel, all the Ephraimites”
(2 Chronicles 25:7)
King Hezekiah of Judah invited them to the huge Passover celebration he held, but many of them weren’t ritually clean. Hezekiah prayed that Yahweh would forgive those who were determined to seek Him, even though they were ceremonially unclean. Yahweh listened to Hezekiah and forgave. (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
Manasseh king of Judah “And he did evil in the eyes of Yahweh according to the detestable things of the nations whom Yahweh drove out before the Israelites.” (2 Chronicles 33:2, the list of what he did goes on until verse 9) Because of Manasseh’s idolatry and refusal to listen to Yahweh’s prophets, He brought against Judah the commanders of the Assyrian army. Manasseh was seized, and carried to Babylon in humiliation. In his distress, Manasseh asked Yahweh for mercy and humbled himself. God responded by letting him return to Jerusalem, and Manasseh knew that Yahweh was God. (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
Jehoiachin king of Judah “He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh according to all that his father had done.” (2 Kings 24:9) 37 years after being carried into exile to Babylon, he was released and treated kindly (2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34).

How it works

I don’t detect any formula in this list: there are individuals and there are groups. There are kings of Judah and kings of Israel. Sometimes God acted on His own, other times He responded to prayer. Some people prayed for themselves, others needed a mediator.
What I do find is that Yahweh seems rather quick to show mercy: at the smallest sign of contrition, He’s got a blessing ready. Blows the image of the God of the Old Testament as wrathful and bent on revenge out of the water, doesn’t it?

Why God did it

In some of the accounts we’re told that the people carried on sinning even after Yahweh’s intervention. Why did He choose to be kind to them anyway?

Tucked away after the story of Elisha’s death we read:

“But Yahweh had mercy on them and showed compassion to them and turned to them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them nor cast them from his presence up to now.”
(2 Kings 13:23)

He did it because He’s a covenant-keeping God. It has nothing to do with our piety and uprightness or lack thereof, and everything with His unchanging character. And that’s something we can hang our deepest hopes on even today!