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.
A vineyard ... in Jezreel - The name Jezreel is applied in Scripture, not merely to the town 1 Kings 18:46, but also to the valley or plain which lies below it, between Mount Gilboa and Little Hermon (2 Samuel 2:9; 2 Kings 9:10; Hosea 1:5; etc.).
The palace of Ahab at Jezreel was on the eastern side of the city, looking toward the Jordan down the valley above described. It abutted on the town wall 2 Kings 9:30-31. Immediately below it was a dry moat. Beyond, in the valley, either adjoining the moat, or at any rate at no great distance, was the plot of ground belonging to Naboth 2 Kings 9:21.
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.
I will give thee the worth of it in money - literally, "I will give thee silver, the worth of it." Money, in our sense of the word, that is to say, coins of definite values, did not yet exist. The first coin known to the Jews was the Persian daric, with which they became acquainted during the captivity. (1 Chronicles 29:7 note).
And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
The Lord forbid it me - Or, "Yahweh forbid it me." Naboth, as a worshipper of Yahweh, not of Baal, considers it would be wrong for him to comply with the king's request, as contrary to the Law (margin). His was not a mere refusal arising out of a spirit of sturdy independence, or one based upon the sentiment which attaches men to ancestral estates.
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.
Upon his bed - That is, "upon his couch." The Jews, like other Orientals, reclined upon couches at their meals (Amos 6:4; Ezekiel 23:41, etc.). Ahab turns his face toward the back of the couch, rejecting all converse with others, and so remains, after the banquet is served, refusing to partake of it. Such an open manifestation of ill temper is thoroughly characteristic of an Oriental king.
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.
The meaning is, "Art thou king, and yet sufferest thyself to be thwarted in this way by a mere subject? I, the queen, the weak woman, will give thee the vineyard, if thou, the king, the strong man, wilt do nothing."
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.
Seal - The seal is a very ancient invention. Judah's signet and Pharaoh's signet-ring are mentioned in Genesis Gen 38:18; Genesis 41:42. Signets of Egyptian kings have been found which are referred to about 2000 B.C. Sennacherib's signet, and an impression of Sargon's, are still extant. There can be no doubt that in the East, from a very remote antiquity, kings had seals and appended them to all documents which they set forth under their authority. (Compare also Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8; Daniel 6:17). The Hebrew mode of sealing seems to have been by attaching a lump of clay to the document, and impressing the seal thereupon Job 38:14.
His city - i. e., Jezreel 1 Kings 21:1. The mode in which it is spoken of here, and in 1 Kings 21:11, seems to imply that it was not the city from which Jezebel wrote. The court was evidently at this time residing at Samaria 1 Kings 20:43; and Ahab may either have met Naboth there, or have gone down (compare 1 Kings 21:16) to Jezreel to make his request, and then, on being refused, have returned to Samaria. The distance is not more than seven miles.
And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
The object of this fast was at once to raise a prejudice against Naboth, who was assumed by the elders to have disgraced the town; and at the same time to give an air of religion to the proceedings, which might blind persons to their real injustice.
Set Naboth on high among his people - This was not an order to do Naboth any, even apparent, honor; but simply a command to bring him forward before a court or assembly, where he might be seen by all, tried, and condemned.
And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
Sons of Belial - i. e., "worthless persons" (Deuteronomy 13:13 note). Witnesses must be two in number according to the Law Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15.
The word rendered "blaspheme" is that which commonly means "bless." The opposite sense of "cursing," seems, however, to be required here and in Job 1:5, Job 1:11; Job 2:5. Perhaps the best explanation of the bad sense of the original word is to be found in the practice of blessing by way of salutation, not only on meeting, but also on taking leave Genesis 47:7, Genesis 47:10. From the latter custom the word came to mean "bidding farewell to," and so "renouncing," "casting off," "cursing."
Carry him out and stone him - Naboth's offence would be twofold, and in both cases capital; blasphemy against God being punishable with death by the Law (marginal reference), and blasphemy against the king being a capital offence by custom 1 Kings 2:8; 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 19:21. The punishment would be stoning, since the greater crime would absorb the lesser, and the Law made stoning the punishment for blasphemy against God. As stoning always took place outside the city (see Acts 7:58), Jezebel told the elders to "carry Naboth out."
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, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.
The ready submission of the elders and nobles implies a deep moral degradation among the Israelites, the fruit of their lapse into idolatry.
They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.
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, 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.
Naboth had sons who were also put to death at this time (marginal reference). It is not improbable that they were stoned together with their parent (compare Joshua 7:24-25). In the East, a parent's guilt constantly involves the punishment of his children. Contrast 2 Kings 14:6.
Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
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 of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.
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.
To take possession of it - The goods of traitors appear to have been forfeited to the crown by the Jewish law as they still are almost universally throughout the East. Compare 2 Samuel 16:4.
And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
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.
And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also 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.
Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? - These words rebuke especially Ahab's indecent haste. He went to Jezreel the very day after Naboth's execution 2 Kings 9:26.
The prophecy following had a double fulfillment. The main fulfillment was by the casting of the dead body of Jehoram into Naboth's plot of ground at Jezreel, where, like Naboth's, it was left for the dogs to eat 2 Kings 9:25. This spot, which was just outside the city wall, and close to a gate 2 Kings 9:31, was probably the actual scene of Naboth's execution. Here did dogs lick Ahab's blood, that is, his son's blood, the execution of the full retaliatory sentence having been deferred to the days of his son, formally and explicitly, on Ahab's repentance 1 Kings 21:29. But, besides this, there was a secondary fulfillment of the prophecy, when, not at Jezreel but at Samaria (marginal reference), the actual blood of Ahab himself, was licked by dogs, only in a way that implied no disgrace. These two fulfillments are complementary to each other.
And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.
The words "O mine enemy," may refer partly to the old antagonism (marginal reference; 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 19:2-3); but the feeling which it expresses is rather that of present oppositions - the opposition between good and evil, light and darkness John 3:20.
Thou hast sold thyself to work evil - Compare the marginal references. The metaphor is taken from the practice of men's selling themselves into slavery, and so giving themselves wholly up to work the will of their master. This was a widespread custom in the ancient world.
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,
The prophet changes, without warning, from speaking in his own person to speaking in the person of God. The transition is abrupt, probably because the compiler follows his materials closely, compressing by omission. One fragment omitted here is preserved in 2 Kings 9:26.
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.
And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.
And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying - These are not the words of Elijah, but of the writer, who notes a special prophecy against Jezebel, whose guilt was at least equal to her husband's.
Wall - The marginal rendering "ditch," is preferable. 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.
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.
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.
whom Jezebel stirred up - The history of Ahab's reign throughout exhibits him as completely governed by his imperious wife. Instances of her influence are seen in 1 Kings 21:7, 1 Kings 21:15, marginal reference, 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 19:2.
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.
The Amorites appear here as representatives of the old Canaanite nations (Genesis 15:16 note). It seems to be implied here that their idolatries were in the main identical with those of the Phoenicians which Ahab had adopted.
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.
The repentance of Ahab resembles that of the Ninevites Jonah 3:5. It has the same outward signs - fasting and sackcloth - and it has much the same inward character. It springs, not from love, nor from hatred of sin, but from fear of the consequences of sin. It is thus, although sincere and real while it lasts, shallow and exceedingly short-lived. God, however, to mark His readiness to receive the sinner who turns to Him, accepted the imperfect offering (as He likewise accepted the penitence of the Ninevites), and allowed it to delay the execution of the sentence 1 Kings 21:29. So the penitence of the Ninevites put off the fall of Nineveh for a century.
And lay in sackcloth - In this particular he seems to have gone beyond the usual practice. We do not read elsewhere of mourners passing the night in sackcloth.
And went softly - "As if he had no heart to go about any business" (Patrick).
And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? 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.