I Kings 21

 

 

                        The Story of Naboth’s Vineyard (vs. 1-16)

 

 

 

1  And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite

had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of

Samaria.”  Naboth, according to Josephus (Antiquites viii. 13. 8) was from an

illustrious family.  Jezreel was only twenty-fve miles from Samaria and Naboth’s

place was a place of beauty for situation.  2   “And Ahab spake unto Naboth,

saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs,

because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard

than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.”

The prediction of Samuel (I Samuel 8:14) is being realized.  Whatever Ahab’s moral

weakness, he was certainly a prince of some enterprise. ch. 22:39 speaks of the

citieswhich he built. The palace of Jezreel would seem to have been erected

by him. This vineyard was to be one of his improvements.

 

3  And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me,” - These words reveal

to us, first, that Naboth was a worshipper of the Lord — otherwise he would hardly

have used the sacred name, and that to Ahab, with whom the servants of the true

God had found but scant favor; and, secondly, that he looked upon the alienation

of his patrimony as an act displeasing to the Lord, and as violating the law of Moses

(Leviticus 25:93 sqq.; Numbers 36:7 sqq.)  - “that I should give the inheritance

of my fathers unto thee.”  The preservation of the hl;j}n" was for every covenant

keeping Israelite a matter not merely of piety towards his family and his tribe but a

religious duty. It is clear, however, that the restraints of the old Mosaic law began

to be irksome in that latitudinarian age. Many of its provisions were already

regarded as obsolete.  (Now, is this not what many are guilty of today?  i.e. –

the regarding of God’s Law, which is ETERNAL, as obsolete or of none effect?

- CY – 2011)

 

4   “And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased (sullen and angry –

a rather childish way of showing his emotion) because of the word which Naboth

the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the

inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned

away his face, and would eat no bread. 

 

Jezebel, wicked woman that she is, takes things into her own hands and has

Naboth framed for blasphemy – notice that she appeals the provisions of the

Law in the Pentateuch – (Deuteronomy 17:6-7; 19:5; Numbers 35:30). 

 

5  But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so

sad, that thou eatest no bread?  6  And he said unto her,  Because I spake

unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for

money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and

he answered, I  will not give thee my vineyard.  7 And Jezebel his wife said

unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?”  (In our vernacular,

possibly,“are you a man or a mouse? – CY – 2011) – “arise, and eat bread,

and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the

Jezreelite.  8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his

seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his

city, dwelling with Naboth.  9  And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim

a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:  10 And set two men, sons

of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst

blaspheme God and the king.” - To curse the king was practically to curse Him

whose vicegerent he was (Matthew 23:18-22). Hence such cursing is called

blasphemy and was punishable with death.  “And then carry him out, and

stone him, that he may die.”   The terrible power accorded to “two or three

 witnesses,” of denouncing a man to death, accounts for the prominence given

to the sin of bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16; 23:1; Deuteronomy

19:16-21)

 

11  And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were

the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them,” - Their

ready compliance shows not merely the “deep moral degradation of the

Israelites  at that period, but also the terror which the name of Jezebel inspired -

and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.”  That

she did not hesitate to put her infamous command into writing shows the character

of the woman.

 

12  They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.

13   And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him:

and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth,

in the presence of the people,” – The whole congregation was interested

in a charge of blasphemy. If unpunished, the guilt rested on the congregation,

hence the provision of Leviticus 24:14. By the imposition of hands they

testified that the guilt of the blasphemer thenceforth rested upon his own head -

saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried

him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.”

It appears from II Kings 9:26 that the children of Naboth, who otherwise

might have laid claim to their patrimony, were put to death at the same time

and in the same way.  In the East the principle of visiting the sins of the parents

upon the children seems to have been carried to an excess, as we find Joash

(II Kings 14:6) instituting a more merciful rule.

 

14  Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.”

It appears from v. 19that the corpses both of Naboth and his children were

left to be devoured by dogs.

 

15   And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned,

and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of

the vineyard”  - The possessions of a person executed for treason were

ipso facto forfeited to the crown. There was no law prescribing this, but it

followed the principles of the Mosaic code. Just as the goods of the idolater

were devoted as cherem to the Lord (Deuteronomy 13:16), so those of the

traitor reverted to the king -  “of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused

to give thee for money:” - there is a proud malicious triumph in these words.

“He refused, simple fool, to sell it. Now thou canst have it for nothing. I have

discovered a better plan than buying it” - “for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 

 

16  And it came to pass, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that

Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite,

to take possession of it.” Behind Ahab, probably in the back part of his

chariot, ride his two pages, Jehu and Bidkar (II Kings 9:26),” But the

expression “riding in pairs after Ahab” (A.V. “rode together after”) does

not make it certain that they were in the same chariot. Indeed, they may

have been on horseback. This was apparently on the day after the murder.

(Ibid.)

 

 

   ADDITIONAL NOTES ON NABOTH AND HIS VINEYARD

 

Consider Naboth – a man that is true to God

Consider Ahab – a man untrue to his God, covetous of Naboth’s vineyard.

               Ahab was appointed to execute the Law, not break it.

Consider Jezebel – one of the most wicked females of all time – plans

               to subtly and criminally steal Naboth’s vineyard for her pouty

               and inept husband.

Consider the elders and their role.

Consider the false witnesses.

 

History tells of few crimes of its kind more flagitious, more cruel and cold

blooded than this murder of Naboth and the seizure of his vineyard

And just as the crime has few parallels, so has the history few equals in

point of graphic force and quiet pathos. It is like one of those sketches by

the hand of a master, which set us wondering to see how much effect can

be produced, and how much meaning conveyed, by a few broad lines and

touches. We see in the first place the king, from his palace lattices, or from

his garden slopes, casting hungry, envious eyes on the rich vineyard of his

neighbor. He must have it at any cost. The residence is incomplete

without it. We then hear him making overtures to the sturdy owner. There

is a smile upon his face. His words are smoother than butter. Nothing

could be fairer, as it seems at first, than his proposals. Surely Naboth will

do well to sell or exchange on such liberal terms as these. But we find him

straightway shrinking in pious horror from the idea. There is nothing to

soften or modify his blunt and abrupt refusal. He cannot, he will not, do

this thing and sin against God. We see a cloud of vexation gather on the

king’s brow. He is foiled. The project on which he has set his heart he

cannot realize. With a mortified scowl, a look in which suppressed rage

and bitter disappointment are equally blended, he terminates the interview

and hurries to his palace, while Naboth, strong in the consciousness of

right, but not without misgivings as to the issue, goes to tell his story to his

wife and children at home.

 

And now the scene changes. We are admitted to a room, a bedroom of the

palace of Samaria. We see on an ivory couch, in an ivory house (ch. 22:29),

or in a chamber celled with cedar, and painted with vermilion

(Jeremiah 22:14), a man whose soul is so vexed and troubled that he

can eat no bread, that he has a word for no one, but turns his face sullenly

to the wall. Can this be the king of Israel? Can this be Ahab, whose recent

victories over the Syrians have rung through many lands? It is Ahab

indeed. The great conqueror is a slave to himself. By his side there stands

his dark, malignant, Phoenician wife. We hear his pitiful, almost

childish, complaint, that he cannot have the vineyard he so much covets,

and we straightway see a look of something like scorn upon her face. We

hear her almost contemptuous rejoinder, “Art thou, then, so helpless, so

utterly without resources, as to lie here and grieve like a spoilt child? Is it

for nothing that thou art a king, or art thou king in name only? If thou art

baffled, I am not. Arise, and eat bread. Banish dull care and give thyself up

to feasting. I will give thee the vineyard of this wretched peasant.”

 

The next tableau introduces us to another chamber of this same royal

residence. The king may keep his bed if he will, but the queen is up and

doing. The scribes are now writing at her command. She it is who dictates

the words, who stamps the writings with the king’s seal. The scribe’s hand

may well tremble as he pens the infamous decree, for the letter consigns

Naboth to death; but she knows no fear, has no scruples. The letters are

despatched, the royal posts carry their sealed orders to Jezreel, and the

murderess sits down to eat and drink, and rises up to play.

 

Again the scene changes. We find ourselves in s village convocation. The

elders of Jezreel, the officers of the royal borough, have proclaimed a fast.

Their town has incurred the wrath of God, (a ban) and they must find out who is

guilty and expiate the sin. Naboth is there. He fears this meeting bodes him no

good, but he is compelled to attend. He finds himself, to his great surprise, set “at

the head of the people.” But who shall picture the astonishment and pain in

this man’s face, when there rise up in that assembly, two miserable varlets

who swear that he, Naboth, the humble servant of the Lord, the man who

has honestly striven to keep the law, even against his king, has committed a

horrible breach of law, has blasphemed God and the anointed of God. He

thinks, perchance, at the first, that the charge is so utterly reckless and

improbable, that none of these his neighbors, who know him so well, and

have known him from his youth up, will entertain it for a moment. (a man

should live so that when accused of evil, no one would believe it – CY  - 2011)

But he is speedily undeceived. He finds that he has not a chance with them, that all

steel their faces and hearts against him. He perceives that there is a

conspiracy against him. In vain he protests his innocence; in vain he appeals

to his blameless life. His cries and those of his wife and children are alike

unheeded. In a trice he is condemned to die the death of the blasphemer.

 

And now we find ourselves hurried along by a tumultuous crowd. We pass

through the city gate, we reach the open space outside the walls. So far,

Naboth has hardly realized that they are in earnest, so suddenly has the

thing come upon him. Surely it is some grim jest that his neighbors play

upon him. It cannot be that he is to die, to look for the last time on the

faces of those he loves, on his native fields, on the blessed light of the sun.

But if he has any lingering hopes of deliverance they are rapidly dispelled.

He sees them making preparations for his execution. They are going to

stone him on the spot. “O God in heaven!” he thinks, “is it for this I have

kept Thy law? Is this agony and death the reward of mine integrity? Must I

then die, when life is so sweet! Is there no power to rescue me out of the

jaws of the lion? Has God forgotten me? or will He look on it and require

it?” (II Chronicles 24:22.) It is true the history says nothing of any such

thoughts, of any prayers, appeals, entreaties, threatenings; but the history,

it must be remembered, is but an outline, and that outline it is left for us to

fill up. And we cannot doubt that Naboth had some such thoughts as these.

But whatever they were, they were speedily brought to a close. “The

king’s business required haste.” Time for reflection would mean time for

repentance. The witnesses speedily divest themselves of their abbas; they

lay them down at the feet of the elders; they take up stones and rush upon

him. At the first blow he quivers from head to foot with a great throb of

pain, but blow follows fast upon blow; he sinks senseless; the blood

streams from his wounds; the dear life is crushed out of him, and

Naboth’s name and the names of his sons are added to those on

the glory roll of the noble army of martyrs.

 

But it is now for us to ask what led to this shameful deed. There were five

parties to this tragedy:

 

  • Naboth,
  • the king,
  • the queen,
  • the elders,
  • the witnesses.

 

Let us see how each of these contributed, though in very  different ways, to

diabolical result. We shall thus see how Naboth, who was murdered in the name

of law and religion, was a martyr to law and religion.

 

 

  • The piety of Naboth. For it was his religion brought this doom upon his

            head. He had but to comply with the request of the king — and what loyal

            subject would not wish to gratify the Lord’s anointed? — and all would

            have gone well. So far from being stoned, he would have been honored

            and rewarded. And that request seemed so reasonable. There was no

            attempt at robbery or confiscation. The king offered an ample equivalent; a

            better vineyard than it, or bars of silver which could buy a better. Was he

            not perverse and wrong headed to let a scruple stand in the way? We

            should not have done so. No; but is not that precisely because we have not

            the steadfast piety of Naboth? There is no reason to think that he was not

            loyal. Doubtless he would have been glad to oblige his king. But there

            were two considerations stood in the way. First, his duty to God; secondly,

            his duty to his forefathers and to his posterity. His duty to God. For God’s

            law said, “The land shall not be sold forever” (Leviticus 25:23); it laid

            down that every child of Israel should “cleave to the inheritance of the tribe

            of his fathers” (Numbers 36:7). And Naboth knew this, and Ahab knew

            it. But to Ahab the law was a dead letter; to the Naboth it was a living

            reality. To him there was no God but one, no will to be considered in

            comparison with His. If Naboth could but have consented to do as others

            had done (ch. 16:24), he would have kept his life. But he could

            not. He “did not fear loss, but sin.” It was a crime against Jehovah, and he

            would not consent. Moreover it was — though perhaps this thought had

            comparatively little influence with him — a wrong to his ancestors and to

            his posterity. For generations past, ever since it was allotted to his first

            father, had that vineyard been in his family. It had been transmitted through

            a long line to him. It was his duty to transmit it intact to those who came

            after him, and he would do it. It was for these reasons — sentimental

            reasons some would call them — that Naboth died, because of his belief in

            a living God, and because he kept His law, and especially the first and fifth

            commandments of the Decalogue.

 

  • The impiety of Ahab. Just as the action of Naboth arose out of his belief,

            so did that of Ahab spring out of his practical unbelief — an apt illustration

            of the close connection between our faith and our practice. This crime had

            ts beginning, its fons et origo, in idolatry. It was because Ahab worshipped

            gods many and lords many that his allegiance to the Divine law was

            shaken. The law of Baal, he argued, did not forbid the alienation of land —

            why should the law of Jehovah? The root of this sin, therefore, like the

            root of all sin, was unbelief. And its blossom was a direct violation of the

            Decalogue. Out of the breach of the first commandment sprang violations

            of the sixth, eighth, ninth, and tenth. Just as Naboth, the believer in the one

            true God, stands out conspicuously as a keeper of the ten words, so do all

            the other parties in the tragedy stand convicted of violating them. It was

            primarily the tenth commandment that Ahab set at naught. He had no right

            to set his heart upon that vineyard, which the great King had given to

            another. And a breach of law was the less excusable in his ease, insomuch

            as he was the guardian of law and was acquainted with its provisions

            (Deuteronomy 17:18). Of all men, he should have been the last to defy

            or disregard it. But it is only when we consider that when his subject, to

            whom he should have been an example, set him an example, and refused to

            participate in his sin, that then, so far from repenting and praying that the

            thought of his heart might be forgiven him, he mourns and repines that he

            was not allowed to consummate it — it is only when we consider this that

            we realize its true character. His was a sin against light and knowledge; a

            sin against his helper and benefactor (ch. 20:13, 28); a sin in spite

            of manifold warnings; a sin which led to blacker sin still. He coveted an evil

            covetousness to his house. That “love of money” was a root of false

            witness, of foul murder. And in this estimate of Ahab’s sin it is assumed

            that he neither knew nor sanctioned Jezebel’s designs. If he gave her the

            royal seal with the least idea of the malignant purpose to which she would

            apply it, he was virtually an accessory before the fact, and so was guilty of

            murder and robbery. And even if he was ignorant of her intentions, still the

            readiness with which he reaped the fruits of her crime makes him a

            partaker in her sin.

 

  • The depravity of Jezebel. Great as Ahab’s guilt was, it was altogether

            eclipsed by that of his wife. At her door lies the real sin of the murder. The

            hands that accomplished it were not so guilty as the heart that suggested it

            and the mind that planned it. Ahab broke the tenth, Jezebel the sixth,

            eighth, ninth, and tenth commandments. Covetousness, false witness,

            murder, confiscation, she stands convicted of them all. But what lends its

            most hideous feature to her sin is the consideration that she, the sworn foe

            of the law of Jehovah, availed herself of its forms to compass Naboth’s

            death. Was ever such black-hearted ingenuity as hers? We can fancy her

            laughing in her sleeve at the crafty use she made of the hated system of the

            Jews. We can see her shaking her finger at Naboth and saying “Simple

            fool! thou hast stood out for the law; thou shalt have a surfeit of it this

            time.” It is possible that she rejoiced at the base part to which she commits

            the elders of Jezreel. If they will cling to their austere and gloomy creed,

            she will make them carry out its provisions. To this shameful murderess it

            added zest to her sin that she scored a triumph against the followers and

            the law of the God of Israel. We must also observe the evident satisfaction,

            the malicious triumph, with which she hears of Naboth’s death. So far from

            feeling the least compunction, she hurries with the good news to her

            husband. Her part, so far as we know, is absolutely without a parallel of all

            the daughters of our first mother. What name is there so deservedly

            infamous as hers?  (Who names their daughter Jezbel?  - CY – 2011)

 

 

  • The corruption of the elders. We may readily acquit them of liking the

            task entailed upon them. They could not embark on that course of crime

            without many qualms of conscience and secret self upbraidings. But the

            name of Jezebel inspired so much terror that they dared not resist her will.

            Their sin was, first, that they feared man more than God. It was unbelief at

            bottom; they had more faith in the finger of the queen than in the arm of

            the Almighty. They argued, as the Turkish peasant does, that the queen

            was near and God was a long way off. It was, secondly, that they abused

            their office. In defiance of law (Exodus 23:2, 6; Deuteronomy 16:19), they

            wrested judgment and condemned the innocent (Deuteronomy 27:19, 25),

            and so they share with Jezebel the guilt of the murder. It is idle to plead the

            constraint put upon them, to say that theywould have died had they resisted

            her; they should have died rather than slay the innocent. But for their

            complaisance, the queen might have been baffled. One might reasonably

            expect elders — the “judges and officers” of the land (Deuteronomy 16:18)

             to answer, “We ought to obey God rather than man.”  (But then there

            are the men and women of liberal persuasion in the Congress of the

            United States of America who have did like the elders who cowered

            before Jezebel when it came to matters of abortion, perverted sexual

            behaviors and traditional marriage – “we must all stand before the

            judgment seat of Christ” – [Romans 14:10] – CY – 2011) -  The elders

            only feared for their skins. They argued that one or the other must die, and

            if so it must be Naboth. And so he died, and they bore the stain of blood

            upon their souls.

 

  • The perjury of the witnesses. It is hardly correct to describe their sin as

            perjury. It was much more than that. It was actual murder also. As

            witnesses, they had to cast the first stone — to take the principal part in

            the execution. Even without this they were guilty of murder, for it was

            upon their testimony that Naboth was condemned to die. They share with

            the elders, consequently, the guilt of violating the sixth and ninth

            commandments. But they were “sons of Belial” to begin with. They were

            not ministers of God; still less were they the “Lord’s anointed.” And they

            were but instruments in the hand of others. The elders were the hand; the

            queen was the head.

 

It is clear, then, that Naboth’s death was a true martyrdom. He died a

victim to his faith in God and his obedience to law. He was a witness

(ma>rtuv), martyr -  consequently, for God no less than Elijah or Elisha. Like Elijah,

Naboth was a public vindicator of the law, and he sealed his witness with his

blood. He died because he would not deny it; because others, its guardians

and executors, violated and abused it.

 

 

 

 

            Elijah Announces the Doom of Ahab’s House (vs. 17-26)

 

17  And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,

18  Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria:

behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to

possess it.”  The words imply that Elijah found Ahab while he was in the

vineyard.  19 And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the

LORD, Hast thou killed,” - T;j]x"r;h}, a rare and expressive word. We

might render, slaughtered, “and also” -  [this word suggests that Jezebel’s

programme, which he had accepted, was fast being accomplished. But in

the very hour of its completion it should be interrupted - “taken possession?

And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the

place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood,

even thine.”  The repentance of Ahab, (vs. 27-29) having secured him

immunity from this sentence, his subsequent folly and sin (ch. 22:27)

nevertheless brought down upon him a judgment of God strikingly

similar, as we might expect it would be, to that originally denounced

against him, which was now reserved for his son. In ether words, the

prophecy was fulfilled to the letter in the person of his son, but it had a

secondary fulfillment in its spirit on himself.

 

20  And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me,” - Ahab is so conscience

stricken by the sudden apparition of Elijah, whom in all probability he had not seen

or heard of since “the day of Carmel,” and by his appearance on the scene at the

very moment when he was entering on the fruit of his misdoing, in the very

 blossom of his sin, that he feels that judgment is already begun - “O mine

enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold

thyself” - the idea is derived from the institution of slavery - “to work evil in

the sight of the LORD.” – We can readily gather from these words why the

doom was denounced against Ahab, who had but a secondary share in the crime,

rather than against Jezebel, its real perpetrator. It was because Ahab was the

representative of God, God’s minister of justice. If he had not himself devised

the death of Naboth; if he had, which is possible, remained in ignorance of the

means by which Jezebel proposed to procure him the vineyard, he had

nevertheless readily and gladly acquiesced in her infamous crime after its

accomplishment, and was then reaping its fruits. And because he was the

king, the judge, who, instead of punishing the evil doer, sanctioned and

approved the deed, and who crowned a reign of idolatries and abominations

with this shameful murder, the prophetic sentence is directed primarily against him.

 

21  Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy

posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the

wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

22  And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of

Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the

provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made

Israel to sin.  23 And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The

dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.” There is always in Oriental

towns a space outside the walls which lies uncultivated and which is naturally

used for the deposit of refuse of every kind. Here the dogs prowl, and the kites

and vultures find many a feast.  Retribution should overtake her near the

scene of her latest crime (II Kings 9:35-37). By this the just judgment of God

would be made the more conspicuous. 24  Him that dieth of Ahab in the

city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the

air eat.  25  But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to

work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred

up.”  (incited, instigated and urged to sin)  - 26  And he did very abominably

in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the

LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”  Amorite and Canaanite

were interchangeable, the ethnical and geographical ideas of the Jews were

never very precise. The idolatries of the seven nations had lingered, as we might

expect, amongst the Zidonians, whence they were reintroduced into the kingdom

of Samariaone fruit of disobedience to the command of Deuteronomy 7:1-5)

 

 

                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES  (vs. 17-24)

 

                                                Divine Judgment

 

We have just seen Naboth martyred because of his fidelity to law; we have

seen him murdered by men who in the name of law violated all the laws of

God and man.

 

Now the dispensation under which these men lived promised a present

recompense, a temporal reward, to obedience, and it denounced temporal

punishment against “every transgression and disobedience.” We may

imagine, consequently, how this tragedy would strike the men of that age.

They would see in it a direct failure of justice. They would ask whether

there was a God that judgeth in the earth. They would look, and especially

the God-fearing amongst them, in utter perplexity and distress on this

conspicuous instance of the triumph of force and wrong. “What is the

Almighty,” they would be tempted to ask,” that we should serve him? and

what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” (Job 21:15.) They

would be tempted to think that “in keeping of his commandments there

was no reward”;  - a contradiction of Psalm 19:11- yes, even tempted to say

in their hearts, “There is no God” (Psalm 53:1).

 

It would have been strange, therefore, if such a red-handed, cold-blooded

murder had passed unnoticed and unavenged; if the dogs had been left to

feast on the remains of Naboth, and Ahab had been suffered to enter on his

vineyard without protest. But this was not to be. The men of Jezreel had

not seen the last act in the tragedy. They must be reminded that there

is a prophet in Israel, and a God of Israel who will by no means clear the

guilty (Exodus 34:6-7).  And so Elijah, the great restorer of the law, stands

forth to avenge the death of Naboth, the law-keeper, at the hands of law-breakers.

Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, which he refused to give

thee for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead  (v. 15).  Did the king stop

to ask how this death had been brought about? Did he know the shameful crime

that had been committed in his name, and under his palace walls? He must

have known something of it, if not all. Even if he thought it prudent to ask

no questions, still he would remember the significant promise of v. 7; he

would have some suspicions of the purpose for which the royal seal was

required; and it would be clear to him, even if he did not know the exact

circumstances, that somehow Jezebel had compassed Naboth’s death. It

was clear to him that this vineyard was bought at the price of blood.

But he will not let such considerations as these hinder his enjoyment of it.

All he thinks of or cares for is this, that the vineyard is his and he can enter

upon it at once. He will enter upon it at once. His chariot shall bear him to

the spot. He will view his new property that day; he will begin his garden

of herbs forthwith.

 

The citizens of Jezreel, the “elders,” and “children of Belial” amongst them,

see the royal chariot crossing the plain, breasting the hill, entering the city.

They know full well what is its destination. There is hardly a child in the

city but guesses the king’s errand. It causes them no surprise when the

chariot and its escort pass on to the vineyard of Naboth. But they shall

learn, and through them all Israel shall learn, that there is a just God in

heaven, and that even the king is responsible to a Higher Power; and they

shall know that God Himself is against the evildoer, and shall render to

every man according to his works (Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 16:27;

II Timothy 4:14).

 

For who is this that strides up to the king as he stands in the coveted

vineyard, and shapes his projects concerning it? It is a prophet — the dress

proves that; a glance shows that it is the dreaded, mysterious prophet

Elijah. “Behold Elijah” (ch. 18:8, 11) is on their lips. Whence has

he come? Since the day of Carmel he has been hidden from their view.

They had often wondered why he had so suddenly disappeared; whether he

was still alive; whether the Spirit had cast him upon some mountain or into

some valley (II Kings 2:16); whether he was hiding among foreigners as

he had done before. And now he is amongst them again. And Jehu and

Bidkar at least (II Kings 9:25), and probably others with them,

presently understand the reason of his sudden reappearance. “Hast thou

killed,” he thunders forth, “and also taken possession?” They see the guilty

look on Ahab’s face; they note his ashy paleness; they observe how he

trembles helplessly from head to foot. Then they hear the terrible doom —

and their ears tingle, as Elijah’s impassioned words fall upon them —

“Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth

shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.” They hear, and Ahab hears, that for

him a death as cruel and shameful as Naboth’s is reserved; that, king

though he is, he shall come to the dogs at the last. But more: they presently

learn that for his children, born in the purple and delicately nurtured, there

remains a reckoning; that their blood must be shed, their bodies torn of

beasts, like those of Naboth’s sons. Nor shall proud Jezebel, the prime

mover in this murder, escape. In the open space before the city wall the

dogs which devoured the flesh of Naboth shall feast upon her dead body.

All this was spoken in the broad day, before king and retinue, by a prophet

whose words had never fallen to the ground. The king is found out; he is

taken red-handed in the blossoms of his sin, Yesterday the crime, today the

sentence. We may compare the feelings of that group standing in the

vineyard with those of that surging crowd who saw Robespierre standing

under the guillotine to which he had consigned so many  hundreds of

Frenchmen. “Aye, Robespierre, there is a God.” We may imagine how they

stood for a while transfixed to the spot; how, when Elijah had hurled his

words at the king, he strode away and left them to rankle in his mind. But

the thing was not done in a corner, and it could not be kept secret. As the

chariot returns to Samaria the townsman in the street, the peasant in the

field, perceive that something untoward has happened. The news of

Elijah’s reappearance spreads like wildfire; his scathing words are passed

from lip to lip; every town and hamlet soon knows that Naboth is avenged;

it knows that with what measure king and queen meted to him it shall be

measured to them again.

 

The lessons which this public manifestation of the righteous judgment of

God had for the men of that age, and some of which it has still, may be

briefly stated in the words of Scripture. Among them are these:

 

  • “The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the

            good(Proverbs 15:3); God doth know, and there is knowledge in the

            Most High (Psalm 73:11; Psalm 11:4).

 

  • Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that

            judgeth in the earth” (Psalm 58:11).

 

  • “Be sure your sin will find you out” (<043223>Numbers 32:23).

 

  • “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished”

            (Proverbs 11:21).

 

  • “I will come near to you in judgment, and I will be a swift witness

            against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false

            swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages,

            the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from

            his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord” (Malachi 3:5).

 

  • “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”

            (Genesis 9:6).

 

  • “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth, for tooth, hand or hand, foot for foot,

            burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-25).

 

                                    Ahab’s Penitence (vs. 27-29)

 

27 “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his

clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth,

and went softly.”  All these were signs of contrition and humiliation (v. 29). The

going softly” — Josephus says he went barefoot — is especially characteristic

of the subdued and chastened mind.

 

28   “And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,

29  Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me?” - The

repentance, if it was not profound, or enduring, was nevertheless, while it

lasted, sincere. The Searcher of hearts saw in it a genuine self-abasement.

And “He will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax;”

(Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20) - “because he humbleth 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.”  There is no injustice here, no threat of punishment

against the innocent instead of the guilty, as might at first sight appear. For in

the first place, God knew well what the son would be, and in the second place,

if the son had departed from his father’s sins he would have been spared

(Ezekiel 18:14-17); the sentence would have been revoked. Judgment was

deferred to give the house of Ahab another chance. When Ahab lapsed into

sin, he suffered in his own person: when his sons persisted in sin, excision

befell the family!

 

 

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