Monday, April 15, 2013

CXXXIX - I Kings Chapter 21 - Naboth's Vineyard

Ahab, the son of Ornery Omri, gets a lot of Bible space compared to most other kings.  The Scripture says that Ahab was worst than all of the kings before him.  Ahab, mostly due to the influence of his wife Jezebel, advanced the worship of Baal and Ashteroth idols like the Caananite nations in the region.  In spite of Ahab, God has been merciful to him and the Israelites, but God's patience has its limits.  In this post, we'll see yet another side of Ahab and Jezebel.

Verse 1 says "some time later", which means perhaps years after God had blessed Israel with a successful military victory over Ben-Hadad and thirty-two other kings.  Naboth lived in Jezreel near Mount Gilboa.  Ahab, after having defeated Ben-Hadad had fortified this city against the Syrians to the north.  Ahab had built a palace there and probably made it something like a vacation home where there was a garden which bordered a vinyard belonging to a man named Naboth.  Evidently this vineyard was beautiful and well manicured, as it was very attractive to Ahab.  So Ahab offered to purchase this vineyard from Naboth and offered him a better vineyard as a trade or a straight purchase according to its market value.  Note that Naboth's response in verse 3 says, "The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors".  {In researching the customs of the times, it is reasonable to conclude that Naboth's land was a sacred allotment that had been in his family for generations.  Also in those days, owning particular allotments made Naboth a city elder.  Much of these privileges were attached to land more so than an individual person.}

So in verse 4 we see yet another characteristic of Ahab.  He went home and pouted like a spoiled brat.  He was so upset that he refused to eat.  So in comes Jezebel demanding to know what is wrong with him.  As he explains to her what happened, she takes charge of the situation.  {I think she did this frequently, as she was more cunning than Ahab and probably a stronger personality.  Also, here is a red flag for us:  Jezebel  DID NOT consider her and Ahab's status as king and queen to be positions of responsibility, but rather positions of privilege.  Beware of this in leaders.  It's a sign of character and indicates priorities.}  Jezebel told Ahab to "cheer up".  This is not a problem.  {Sometimes a solution is merely a matter of willingness to stoop low enough to outsmart your opponents.}  In verse 8 we see that Jezebel resorted to fraud, using Ahab's name and the royal seal so as to disguise her actions as coming straight from the king.  She wrote letters to elders and nobles of the city.  She's going to set up Naboth to be killed.  She instructs them to get two "scoundrels" to lie about Naboth and say that they heard him curse both God and the king.  With this, Naboth could be convicted of both blasphemy and treason.  Both of these offences were punishable by death, so one would have been enough.  But Jezebel wanted to make certain Naboth was put to death by the accusation of two crimes.  {Also, Jezebel did her homework.  The reason for TWO accusers (witnesses) was in the Mosaic Law.  Duet. 17:6 -  "On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness".}  So the elders and nobles did as Jezebel (or they thought the king) instructed, and Naboth was stoned to death.  In further research of the customs of the times I should mention that often times when a man was found guilty of a crime that is punishable by death, not only is he put to death, but also his entire family.  If not the family, most certainly the male members of the family.  I believe this was the case with Naboth, as the elimination of all male descendants would also eliminate any legitimate claims to the property, giving it up to public auction.  Ahab and Jezebel would have little trouble muscling their way through an auction.  In verse 16 we see that Ahab did not let himself be bothered by a legal public auction, but rather just went to the vineyard and claimed ownership, further abusing his power as king.

Verses 17-29  -  Elijah Re-enters Ahab's Life

God saw what Ahab and Jezebel did to Naboth.  He spoke to Elijah and told him what to say to Ahab.  He said that because of what they did to Naboth, he and his descendents would suffer the same fate as Jeroboam and Baasha, being killed and left for the dogs and birds to feed off their carcasses.  When Ahab saw Elijah coming, he refers to him as "my enemy".  Of course Ahab refers to Elijah as his enemy because Elijah always has news of judgement for him.  Any justice for Ahab would be bad.  Ahab wanted anything BUT justice.  {Personally, I would be extremely frightened if a prophet from God told me that He was going to pronounce justice on me.  I need mercy, not justice.}  Elijah proceeds to tell Ahab what God said, and added Jezebel to the same fate.  In verse 27 (this is important) Ahab showed true repentance.  He tore off his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted.  This was not only a sign of mourning, but also a sign of repentance.  This verse says also that Ahab went around "meekly".  VERY out of character for this man.  It seems to me that God is always moved by true repentance and humility, even from someone as despicable as Ahab.  The last verse in this chapter says that because of Ahab's sincere feelings of remorse for his actions, that God will not bring this judgement on Ahab during his lifetime, but will wait until after his death.

Next post - Ahab never changes

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