“Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.” Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, “I will not give you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.” (I Kings 21:1-4)
Everyone who thinks Ahab is being a whiny, pouty, big baby – raise their hands!
“His wife Jezebel came to him and said, “Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?” He said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it’; but he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” His wife Jezebel said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him to death.” (Verses 5-10)
And everyone who thinks that Jezebel is an underhanded shrew who has very likely encouraged her spouse and the king to be a temper-tantrum toddler – raise your other hand. Wow! A sea of hands!!
[The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.” (Verses 11 to 14) ]
Verses 11 to 14 tells the reader that Jezebel’s orders were carried out exactly as she said. I guess the elders and nobles were more afraid of Jezebel than they were in fearing God. They did not even ask why such a good man had gotten on the bad side of Jezebel, and obviously King Ahab. And the RCL does not explicitly include it since the results are in the verses to come.
“As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.” (Verses 15 to 16)
But I do have to wonder how King Ahab could have taken possession of the land if it was supposed to go to Naboth’s family as ancestral land. So, I consulted my favorite bible commentator, and there I found the answer. As a traitor to the king and to God, the possession of his lands were forfeited to the crown. Which means that Jezebel was more shrewd than I initially gave her credit for. And it explains why another commentator said the Naboth was killed under the cover of religiousness. But the story does not end there.
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.”
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel . . . “ (Verses 15 – 21a)
King Ahab’s fate is set and sealed, as was his wife Jezebel. The passages and chapters that follow give the story of their deaths and the way the deaths fulfill the judgment that the Lord passes on them, and the judgment that Elijah passes on them.
While I was thinking about the passage, I remembered that the captain in Moby Dick was also called Ahab. Being obsessed with something unattainable by conventional means is dangerous. It should be a caution to all of us to respect what is others, and what should never be ours to possess. Selah!