Reading this section, particularly 1 Kings 21, I am reminded of the statement of Paul: “Consider the kindness and sternness of God.”
On the one hand, Ahab was rotten to the core. Much as David had ages before, he had murdered a man to take his property. He had used his power to take advantage and destroy a weaker man. The observation of the writer of Kings is: “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord . . . He behaved in the vilest manner . . .”
And yet . . . Ahab was not all bad. There was a part of him that recognized the sovereignty of God, and that same part admitted that his behavior was not all it should have been (to say the least). And so, when he heard the judgment of the Lord, he tore his clothes and adopted the posture of the penitent.
It wouldn’t last of course. But that kernel of faith was there, and it led God to delay a sure punishment until after Ahab’s life was over.
As we will see repeatedly in Kings, God’s grace is so gracious. But God is God, and judgment is sure. For those who struggle with righteousness, grace is always there to help through the struggle. For those who abandon the struggle altogether (like Jezebel), judgment will be sure and harsh.