1 Kings 21:10
And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, You did blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
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(10) Two men—in accordance with Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6.

Sons of Belial.—See Judges 19:22; Judges 20:13; 1Samuel 1:16; 1Samuel 2:12; 1Samuel 10:27; 1Samuel 25:17; 1Samuel 25:25; 1Samuel 30:22; 2Samuel 16:7; 2Samuel 20:1, &c.; properly, “children of lawlessness, or worthlessness.”

Blaspheme.—The word is the same used in Job 1:5; Job 1:11; Job 2:5, there rendered “curse.” It properly signifies “to bless;” thence, to “part from with blessing;” finally to part from, or “disown.” It is, rather, therefore, “to renounce” than “to blaspheme.” The punishment, however, was stoning, as for positive blasphemy. (See Leviticus 24:16; Deuteronomy 13:9-10.)

1 Kings 21:10. And set two men before him to bear witness — It was the Roman custom also; and was most rational, that the accused should have the accusers face to face, Acts 25:16. Thou didst blaspheme God and the king — Hebrew, ברכת, beracta, thou didst bless. Blessing is here put for cursing and blaspheming, as in Job 1:5; Job 2:9, as is apparent, because his blessing God and the king would have been no crime. It was death by the law of Moses to blaspheme God, Leviticus 24:16; and by custom it was death to revile the king, which was forbidden, Exodus 22:28. Now, in order to make sure work, the witnesses, as they were instructed, accused Naboth of both those crimes, that the people might be the better satisfied to see him stoned. There is, however, this difference to be observed between these two crimes, that by blaspheming God, a person only forfeited his life, not his estate, which went to his heirs; whereas, when a man was executed for treason, his estate was forfeited to him against whom the offence was committed. For this reason it was that Naboth was charged with this crime also, that his estate might be confiscated, and Ahab might, by that means, get possession of the vineyard. And then carry him out — Not merely out of the assembly, but out of the city, 1 Kings 21:13. For while they were in the wilderness, and before the conquest of Canaan, they executed punishments without the camp, Leviticus 24:23; Joshua 7:24; but afterward without the gates of their cities. By this they intended to signify, that they would take the evil out of the midst of them, and not suffer wickedness to remain among them.21:5-16 When, instead of a help meet, a man has an agent for Satan, in the form of an artful, unprincipled, yet beloved wife, fatal effects may be expected. Never were more wicked orders given by any prince, than those Jezebel sent to the rulers of Jezreel. Naboth must be murdered under colour of religion. There is no wickedness so vile, so horrid, but religion has sometimes been made a cover for it. Also, it must be done under colour of justice, and with the formalities of legal process. Let us, from this sad story, be amazed at the wickedness of the wicked, and the power of Satan in the children of disobedience. Let us commit the keeping of our lives and comforts to God, for innocence will not always be our security; and let us rejoice in the knowledge that all will be set to rights in the great day.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."

9. Proclaim a fast, &c.—Those obsequious and unprincipled magistrates did according to orders. Pretending that a heavy guilt lay on one, or some unknown party, who was charged with blaspheming God and the king and that Ahab was threatening vengeance on the whole city unless the culprit were discovered and punished, they assembled the people to observe a solemn fast. Fasts were commanded on extraordinary occasions affecting the public interests of the state (2Ch 20:3; Ezr 8:21; Joe 1:14; 2:15; Jon 3:5). The wicked authorities of Jezreel, by proclaiming the fast, wished to give an external appearance of justice to their proceedings and convey an impression among the people that Naboth's crime amounted to treason against the king's life.

set Naboth on high—During a trial the panel, or accused person, was placed on a high seat, in the presence of all the court; but as the guilty person was supposed to be unknown, the setting of Naboth on high among the people must have been owing to his being among the distinguished men of the place.

Thou didst blaspheme, Heb. bless. Blessing is put for cursing and blaspheming, as Job 1:5 2:9, so also here, as is apparent, because his blessing God and the king had been no crime. It is a figure called euphemisms. God would have blasphemy so much abhorred, that it should not easily and unnecessarily be named by its proper name. Compare Psalm 16:4.

Carry him out, to the place where malefactors were punished, which was out of the city, Leviticus 24:23 Joshua 7:24 Mark 15:20 Hebrews 13:12, partly to show that they were unworthy of all human society, and abhorred by all the people; and partly because the place where they were killed was thereby ceremonially polluted.

Stone him; the proper punishment of blasphemers, Leviticus 24:15,16.

That he may die; as one that cursed his God, and his political father, his king. See Exodus 21:17 12:28. And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him,.... Worthless wretches, that have cast off the yoke of the law, as Belial signifies, lawless abandoned creatures, that have no conscience of anything; "knights of the post", as we call them, that will swear anything; these were to be set before Naboth, right against him to confront him, and accuse him to his face, and charge him with crimes next mentioned:

saying, thou didst blaspheme God and the king: and so was guilty of death for the former, if not for both, and of confiscation of estate for the latter, which was the thing aimed at; and Jezebel was willing to make sure work of it, and therefore would have him accused of both:

and then carry him out, and stone him, that he die; immediately, without requiring the witnesses to give proof of their charge, and without giving Naboth leave to answer for himself.

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.
10. sons of Belial] In Deuteronomy 13:13, the R.V. has translated this expression ‘base fellows’, putting in the margin ‘sons of worthlessness’. This is the sense everywhere in the O.T. and should have been in the text. In N.T. times ‘Belial’ was personified (see 2 Corinthians 6:15), but there is no trace of this idea in the earlier Scriptures. The LXX. has υἱοὶ παρανόμων. The men were good-for-noughts, who would swear to anything for which they were paid. Josephus makes them three in number.

Thou didst blaspheme [R.V. curse] God and the king] The verb in the original ברך is very frequently used of blessing, but it had the opposite sense also. The root idea appears to be ‘to say adieu to’. This might be and most frequently was with a parting benediction; but it also might be a renunciation, a declaration of hostility. Hence the R.V. has put ‘renounce’ in the margin, to indicate how the sense of ‘curse’ is obtained. The verb is used in the bad sense also in Job 1:5; Job 2:9. It is remarkable that an accusation of this nature should have been set afoot by Jezebel. We need not however assume that she had any care about the cursing of God; only that she found this the first convenient mode of getting rid of Naboth. But amongst the people, who were to suppose Naboth justly executed, there must have still been some regard for the divine name and the divine law. The death stoning was appointed by the Mosaic code (Leviticus 24:16), and so was the necessity for two witnesses at least (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15) before the accused could be put to death.

that he may die] The R.V. omits ‘may’.Verse 10. - And set two men [according to the previsions of the law (Deuteronomy 17:6, 7; Deuteronomy 19:5; Numbers 35:30). "Even Jezebel bears witness to the Pentateuch" (Wordsworth). Josephus speaks of three witnesses], sons of Belial [i.e., worthless men. This use of the word "son" (cf. Psalm 89:22, "son of wickedness"), which is one of the commonest idioms of the East, throws some light on the expression "sons of the prophets" (see 1 Kings 20:35, note; cf. Deuteronomy 13:13; Matthew 26:60)], before him [confronting him], to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme [Heb. bless; cf. Job 1:5, 11; Job 2:5; LXX. εὐλόγησε. The Lexicographers are not agreed as to how this word, the primary meaning of which is to kneel, hence to pray, to bless, came to signify curse or blaspheme. According to some, it is an euphemism, the idea of cursing God being altogether too horrible for the Jew to express in words; whilst others derive this signification from the fact that a curse is really a prayer addressed to God; and others, again, account for it by the consideration that a person who bids farewell to another sometimes does so in the sense of dismissing and cursing him. Anyhow, it is noticeable that the word "blessing" is sometimes used with a similar meaning amongst ourselves] God and the king [God and the representative of God in Israel are here coupled together, as in Exodus 22:28. To curse the king was practically to curse Him whose vicegerent he was (cf. Matthew 23:18-22). Hence such cursing is called blasphemy and was punishable with death (Deuteronomy 13:11; Deuteronomy 17:5; 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 19:21; and see on 1 Kings 2:43, 44)]. And then carry him out [i.e., out of the city (cf. Leviticus 24:14; Acts 7:58; Luke 4:29; Hebrews 13:12). "Locus lapidationis erat extra urbem, omnes enim civitates muris cinctae paritatem habent ad castra Israelis" (Babyl. Sanh.)], and stone him [the legal punishment for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16)], 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; Exodus 23:1; Deuteronomy 19:16). It found a mention in the Decalogue.] Instead of respecting this tender feeling of shrinking from the transgression of the law and desisting from his coveting, Ahab went home, i.e., to Samaria (cf. 1 Kings 21:8), sullen and morose (סר וזעף as in 1 Kings 20:43), lay down upon his bed, turned his face (viz., to the wall; cf. 2 Kings 20:2) - "after the manner of sorrowful persons, who shrink from and refuse all conversation, and even the sight of others" (Seb. Schmidt) - and did not eat. This childish mode of giving expression to his displeasure at Naboth's refusal to comply with his wish, shows very clearly that Ahab was a man sold under sin (1 Kings 21:20), who only wanted the requisite energy to display the wickedness of his heart in vigorous action.
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