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. 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. And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased 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. ( I Kings 21:1-4)
In the last chapter, we looked at an example of Ahab, the King of Israel’s foreign policy . When threatened and even humiliated by the King of Syria, He went to war, and allowed himself to be directed and helped by prophets of God. As a result, God gave him a signal victory over his Syrian enemy.
But when He had a chance to execute Divine vengeance on the King of Syria, a war criminal, idolater, and inveterate foe of God and His people, Ahab indulged in elitist compassion. Not the mercy of God, of course, for God wanted to slay Ben Hadad. Ahab followed in the footsteps of Saul, who spared “the best of the Amalekites”, including their King. He refused to wage holy war, instead he indulged in worldly ‘compassion’. In fact he showed kindness to the cruel, for his own aggrandizement.
Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.( Leviticus 27:28-29)
Ahab pretty much repeated the error of the Syrians, for instead of acting as one who was given undeserved victory by the grace and power of Jehovah, He was treating God as a national Deity, and behaving as though the decisions for Israel, going forward, belonged to him. He decided it was best to spare Ben Hadad.
By contrast we are given this sordid story about Ahab’s Domestic policies.
Ahab had a prosperous neighbor, Naboth by name, who had a very beautiful Vineyard on his land. Ahab wanted it and offered to either buy it or to give Him a different Vineyard.
Naboth could not do so, for religious reasons. The land of Israel was sacred and allotted to the various tribes, clans and families as an “inheritance from the LORD”, which technically could never be forfeited. It was a matter of Naboth’s faith, (Evidently He was one of the 7000 God had reserved for himself).
The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption,then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property.But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.( Leviticus 25: 23-28)
Of course this frustrated and saddened Ahab, to the point that he pouted like a petulant child, and even went into a kind of depression.
Ahab’s wife, (the Priestess of Baal), Jezebel , noted Ahab’s sadness and marveled that the King of Israel would be so easily stymied, when he could just seize it, as any other godless pagan King would do if he had the power to do so. In Paganism, might makes right.
But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?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. And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. 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, ( I Kings 21:5-8)
Jezebel would take care of it, without the normal scruples of an Israelite King, still under the residue of Biblical morality. She had no such inner restraints , and neither did those in circles of power around her in that Kingdom. This passage very much reminds me of our situation in Washington DC today. We have Judges and senators who do not regard God or men! Woe to us!
Jezebel resorted to law-fare to seize Naboth’s property. She arraigned Naboth on false charges of blasphemy. In calling a fast on the community of Jezreel, she was hypocritically giving the appearance of outrage and offended piety, as if Naboth’s “blasphemy” had endangered the city which had tolerated t, and incurred some kind of Judgment, (I Samuel 7:6).
In another hypocritical nod to Deuteronomy, she subborned two witnesses, to verify that He had indeed blasphemed the King of Israel, the visible representative of God, in effect denying God himself. This crime was punishable by stoning, and to be carried out immediately.
Thus in a foretaste of the sham trial of Jesus himself, Naboth, a pious and God fearing Israelite was executed after a trial which made a mockery of the Law of God, letter and Spirit.
Ironically the property of those accused of blasphemy was to be offered to the LORD as a whole burnt offering, and not confiscated by the state. But Jezebel handed Naboth’s Vineyard over to Ahab as a prize, furthering the blasphemous proceedings.
This was Ahab’s domestic policy, by contrast to his foreign policy.
There would be no “brotherly compassion” for a truly pious Israelite, seeking to please God, no mercy, no quarter, and no understanding as He had given to a Pagan King and enemy of God. Just the use of power to seize, falsely cause, and to murder, even utilizing the Law pf God to do so, to give an appearance of propriety. Though Ahab delegated all to Jezebel, God would hold him to be the responsible party in this debacle.