1 Kings 21 (NIV)
1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”
Remember at the end of the last chapter, we left Ahab feeling “sullen and angry.” In his bad mood, he has developed an obsession for something that he thinks will make him feel better.
3 But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”
Naboth’s response was an emphatic “no.” His rejection of the otherwise reasonable offer was rooted in the ancient Israelite idea of the land. They believed that the land was an inheritance from God, parceled out to individual tribes and families according to His will. Therefore land was never really sold, only leased — and that only under the most dire circumstances. Real Estate offices in ancient Israel didn’t do very good business.
4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.
Sullen, sulking, peevish . . . nice qualities for your king! He didn’t get his way, so he is acting out, like a big baby.
5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”
6 He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”
7 Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
The King of Irony
How interesting that Ahab’s asked
By Jezebel if he still rules,
But then, she does the dirty deed
And makes the king to be a fool;
Meanwhile, Elijah’s told (not asked),
To see the real scoundrel here,
And speak such truth that then could get
Elijah quickly “disappeared.”
Who really rules? We now are asked
To choose between the throne when wrong,
And One who’d set things right for all,
To whom all vineyards still belong.
–Scott L. Barton
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote:
“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”
“Ninety percent of politics is deciding whom to blame.”
11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them.
Alexander Maclaren noted three types of dangerous characters in this chapter:
1) Ahab, who was wicked and weak;
2) Jezebel, who was wicked and strong;
3) and the elders of Jezreel, who were wicked and subservient.
12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death.
Ahab is willing to overlook anything illegal or immoral to get what he wants.
14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”
15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.
17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”
Prophets must be men/women of great courage! To go to the king and say — You are guilty of murder and theft, and dogs will lick up your blood — to deliver such a message is not for the faint of heart!
Am I bold to confront what is wrong in my own life, or in the lives of those with whom I have connection?
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”
Elijah tells Ahab the truth; Elijah is Ahab’s best friend!
“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’
23 “And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’
24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”
25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)
Paul uses similar language:
Romans 7:14 (Amplified Bible)
We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh [carnal, unspiritual], having been sold into slavery under [the control of] sin.
27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.
Amazingly, God responds! See the next few verses!
My husband David suggested this song for this chapter: “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus,” with violin and Michael W. Smith, HERE.
28 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “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.”
So the dogs will lick up instead his son’s blood in Naboth’s vineyard, as we will read in 2 Kings 9.
“In view of Ahab’s sincere contrition, God tells Elijah—who does not tell Ahab—that the destruction of his dynasty, announced to Ahab in verses 21-22, will not occur in his lifetime. This qualification highlights the power of repentance while emphasizing that misdeeds must at some point be punished.”
—The Jewish Study Bible