See you how Ahab humbles himself before me? because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.
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Ambrose of Milan
In this place the question comes up: how do we interpret what the Lord said to Elijah: “Have you seen how Ahab has been moved at my presence? I will not bring evils in his days, but in his sons’ days will I bring evils”—or how do we say that repentance avails before God? “Behold, the king was moved before the face of the Lord and went away weeping, and he tore his garments, and covered himself with haircloth and put on sackcloth from that day on which he killed Naboth the Jezrehite,” so that mercy moved God, and he changed his decree. Therefore either repentance did not avail and did not turn God to mercy or the prophecy is false, for Ahab was vanquished and killed. But consider that he had a wife, Jezebel, by whose will he was inflamed and who turned his heart and made him execrable by reason of his excessive sacrileges. Accordingly, she checked even this desire of repentance on his part. But the Lord cannot be considered changeable if he did not think that he ought to keep for the one unmindful of his confession what, at his confessing, he had promised him.
But hear another and truer explanation. Even for him in his unworthiness did the Lord keep the tenor of his decree, but Ahab himself did not hold fast to the divine favors conferred on him. The king of Syria made war. He was defeated and kept for pardon. Although a captive, he was even given his liberty and sent back to his kingdom. It was in keeping with the divine decree that Ahab not only escaped harm but even triumphed; it was due to his own stupid want of firmness that he armed against himself the enemy by whom he was to be conquered. And surely he was warned by the prophet, who said, “Know, and see what you do.” He was warned, I say, because the help of divine favor was due against the servants of the king of Syria, since he had said, “The God of the mountains is the God of Israel and not the god Baal. Therefore,” he says, “they have conquered us. And therefore,” he says, “if we shall not completely overcome them, put satraps in the stead of the king of Syria,” so that he might take from them their valor and the power of the king. Hence in the first battle Ahab was victorious, so that he put his enemy to flight; in the second he was also victorious, in which instance he restored the captured king to his power. For this reason there leaped forth a clear prophecy of Ahab’s defeat, one of the sons of the prophets saying to his neighbor, “Strike me. But he would not strike him. And he said, Because you would not obey the word of the Lord, behold, you depart from me, and a lion shall kill you. And he departed from him, and a lion found him and killed him.” And after this another prophet stood before the king of Israel and said to him, “Thus said the Lord: Because you have let go out of your hand a man of destruction, behold, your life shall be for his life and your people for his people.” It is clear, therefore, from these prophecies that the Lord keeps his promises even to the unworthy but the impious are either destroyed by their own folly or are condemned for a second transgression, though they have escaped the snares of the first. But we should so conduct ourselves that, being worthy through good works, we may deserve to receive the promises of the omnipotent God.