Ahab was the king of Israel. As Ahab’s life shows, God’s favor often has little to do with worldly success. By all worldly accounts, Ahab was a very successful leader. He ruled as king over Israel for twenty-two years (1 Kings 16:29), cementing his power through a shrewd political marriage to Jezebel, daughter of the king of Tyre.
He was successful in several military campaigns and even persuaded the king of Judah to join him in his attempt to recover the city of Ramoth-gilead from the Arameans (1 Kings 22:3–4). Assyrian records recall how Ahab spearheaded a coalition of forces to fight against the Assyrians at Qarqar, and his own contribution of over half the chariots for the coalition demonstrates his great military strength in comparison to neighboring nations.
So does Ahab’s great success reveal that God was pleased with him?
Not at all. The Bible makes it clear that Ahab sinned more than all the kings of Israel before him (1 Kings 16:30), and God was greatly displeased with him. Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel led him and his people to worship Baal and other idols, and his reign was marked by wickedness. In the end, the Lord ordained that Ahab would be killed by an archer as Israel fought against the Arameans to recover Ramoth-gilead, and his wife Jezebel would suffer a shameful death as well (2 Kings 9:30–37).
1 Samuel 16:7 makes it clear that
“the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 ESV).
It may have appeared to everyone else that Ahab was successful and enjoyed God’s favor, but his heart was sold to wickedness, and God was not pleased with him. God is pleased when we humbly seek Him and turn from our wickedness, calling on Him to forgive us and change us to reflect His character (Micah 6:8; Romans 12:1).