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.1 Kings 21:1-3. Which was in Jezreel — Where one of Ahab’s palaces was, as the other was in Samaria. That I may have it for a garden of herbs — For a flower-garden, as some understand it. Ahab made a fair proposal for it, but the law was against Naboth’s alienating his vineyard from his family and tribe. The Lord forbid it me, &c. — For God had expressly, and for divers weighty reasons, forbidden the alienation of lands from the tribes and families to which they were allotted. And although these might have been alienated until the jubilee, yet he durst not sell it to the king for that time: because, he supposed, if once it came into the king’s hand, neither he nor his posterity could ever recover it; and so he should both offend God, and wrong his posterity.
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.1 Kings 21:4. Ahab came into his house, heavy and displeased — He was so vexed to be denied by a subject the thing he wanted, that his vexation made him sick, took away his stomach, and made company disagreeable to him; so that his grief and trouble appeared in his countenance. Here we see, 1st, That irregular desire, or “discontent, is a sin that is its own punishment, and makes men torment themselves: it makes the spirit sad, the body sick, and all the enjoyments sour: it is the heaviness of the heart, and the rottenness of the bones; 2d, It is a sin that is its own parent; it arises not from the condition, but from the mind. As we find Paul content in a prison, so Ahab discontent in a palace: he had all the delights of Canaan, that pleasant land, at command; the wealth of a kingdom, the pleasure of a court, and the honours and powers of a throne; and yet all this avails him nothing without Naboth’s vineyard. Inordinate desires expose men to continual vexations; and they that are disposed to fret, be they ever so happy, will always find something or other to fret at.” — Henry.
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.1 Kings 21:7. Jezebel said, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? — Art thou fit to be a king who canst put up with such affronts from thy subjects, and hast not courage to dispose of them and theirs as seemeth good unto thee? I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth — Trouble thyself no further about it, but leave the matter to me; I will manage it to thy satisfaction, and the vineyard shall be thine, and shall cost thee nothing. Unhappy are those princes, and hurried apace toward their ruin, who have those about them who excite them to acts of tyranny, and teach them how to abuse their power!
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.1 Kings 21:8. She sent the letters unto the elders and nobles — Whom she very well knew to be fit for her purpose; that were in his city — In Jezreel. Thus she seeks to destroy him with a pretence of justice, and with as little reflection on Ahab as might be.
And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:1 Kings 21:9. She wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast — As if there had been some grievous crime committed, or some great calamity had befallen them, which all the people were to bewail, and purge themselves from, lest they should become guilty; and consequently they were to see the crime punished very severely; for such days of fasting were spent in punishing offenders, doing justice, and praying to God for pardon. She intended also, by taking this step, to remove all suspicion of evil design in Ahab, and to beget a good opinion of him among his people, as if he were grown zealous for God’s honour, and careful of his people’s welfare, and therefore was desirous to inquire into all those sins which provoked God against them. And set Naboth on high — On a scaffold, or high place, where he might be seen and heard by the people; for persons accused and arraigned were wont so to appear before the judges, that all the people might see them, and hear what was alleged against them, and the proofs of it, and their defence.
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.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.
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.1 Kings 21:11. The men of his city did as Jezebel had sent to them — Which is not at all strange, considering that they had for a long time cast off the fear of God; prostituted their consciences and religion to please their king; and sold themselves to all manner of wickedness; so that they could not now make a safe and honourable retreat. Besides, they durst not disobey Jezebel’s command, by whom they knew the king was wholly governed, and who could easily have taken away their lives, in the same manner, if they had refused to kill Naboth: and it is not unlikely that she sent private messengers to tell them, by word of mouth, what she expected from them, and how she would reward them; as well as public letters to authorize what they did. Princes never want instruments to execute their pleasure; but it is strange that, in this case, there should be none among the judges and great men that abhorred such villany: it argues the great corruption of their manners by 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.1 Kings 21:13. They stoned him — And, it seems, his sons too, either with him, or after him; for God afterward says, (2 Kings 9:26,) I have seen the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons. Let us commit the keeping of our lives and comforts to God, for innocence itself will not always be our security. This account of Ahab’s unjust and barbarous conduct toward Naboth, placed, as it is by the sacred historian, immediately after his gentle treatment of Ben-hadad, shows the great inconsistency and extreme wickedness of his conduct. He spares the proud, boasting, and blaspheming heathen, and even terms him his brother, and honours him by taking him into his chariot; nay, and enters into a covenant with him: but he basely and barbarously murders, or, at least, connives at his wife’s murdering, the just and pious Israelite; and that under colour of justice, and with the formalities of a legal process! which was a great aggravation of the crime. For, to use that power for the preservation of the guilty and the murdering of the innocent, which ought to have been used for the punishment of the former and the protection of the latter, was such a violent perversion of justice and judgment, as cannot easily be paralleled. But there is a judgment to come when such iniquitous judgments as these will be called over again!
Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.1 Kings 21:14. They sent to Jezebel — By whom they were not ignorant the affairs of the kingdom were in a great measure managed, and this design contrived: saying, Naboth is stoned — Which they knew would be an agreeable piece of news to her who had imbrued her hands in the blood of so many of the Lord’s prophets. Here let us observe, that as obsequious as the elders of Jezreel were to Jezebel’s orders, which she sent from Samaria for the murder of Naboth, so obsequious were the elders of Samaria afterward to Jehu’s orders, which he sent from Jezreel, for the murder of Ahab’s seventy sons, only that was not done by course of lay. “Those tyrants,” says Henry, “that, by their wicked orders, debauch the consciences of their inferior magistrates, may perhaps find at last the wheel return upon them; and that those, who will not stick to do one cruel thing for them, will be as ready, when occasion offers, to do another cruel thing against them.”
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.
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.1 Kings 21:18-19. Arise, go to meet Ahab, which is in Samaria — That is, who reigns in Samaria. Behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth — Or, rather, he will be there by the time thou comest thither. And speak unto him, Hast thou killed and also taken possession? — Thou hast murdered an innocent and righteous man; and, instead of repenting of thy crime, hast added another piece of injustice and violence to it, and art going, confidently and cheerfully, to reap the fruit of thy wickedness. He ascribes Jezebel’s act to Ahab, because Jezebel did it by his connivance, consent, and authority, and for the gratification of his inordinate desire. In the place where dogs licked, &c. — Instead of the place, some would render the original word here used, the manner, and so the sense of the passage will be, As the dogs licked, or, in like manner as they licked Naboth’s blood, even so shall they lick thy blood: mark what I say, even thine. According to this reading, the prophet foretold that this judgment should come upon him, but did not assign the place; accordingly, the dogs licked Ahab’s blood, not in Jezreel, but in Samaria, 1 Kings 22:38. If, however, our translation be preferred, it may be observed, 1st, Ahab’s blood was licked by the dogs, if not in the same individual, yet in the same general place, Jezreel being in the territory of Samaria. 2d, This was particularly accomplished in his son Joram, as is affirmed 2 Kings 9:25-26, whose blood is not improperly called Ahab’s, children being said to be born of their parents’ blood. The expression, indeed, thy blood, even thine, seems to show that the threatening was at first denounced against Ahab’s person, and designed to be fulfilled in him: but afterward, upon his humiliation, the punishment was in part transferred from him to his son, as is expressed 1 Kings 21:29; yet upon Ahab’s returning to sin, as is related in the next chapter, he brought back the curse upon himself, and so it is no wonder that it was in some sort fulfilled in him also.
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.
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.1 Kings 21:20. Ahab said to Elijah — Upon his delivery of the message last mentioned, which it was needless to repeat. Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? — Dost thou pursue me from place to place? Wilt thou never let me rest? Art thou come after me hither with thy unwelcome messages? Thou art always disturbing, threatening, and opposing me. I have found thee — The hand of God hath found and overtaken thee. Thou hast sold thyself — Thou hast wholly resigned up thyself to be the bond-slave of the devil, as a man that sells himself to another is totally in his master’s power. To work evil, &c. — Impudently and contemptuously. Those who give themselves up to sin, will certainly be found out, sooner or later, to their unspeakable amazement.
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,
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.1 Kings 21:23-24. The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall — Or, by the ditch, or fort; or, in the portion, of Jezreel, as the Hebrew word בחל, becheel, often signifies, and as it is explained 2 Kings 9:36, a passage which attests the exact accomplishment of this prediction. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city, &c. — Punishments after death are here most insisted on; and these, though lighting on the body only, yet undoubtedly were designed as figures of the soul’s misery in an after state.
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.1 Kings 21:25-26. There was none like unto Ahab — Among all the kings of Israel who had been before him. Whom Jezebel his wife stirred up — This is added to show that temptations to sin are no excuse to the sinner. He did very abominably in following idols, &c. — There was no abomination which the people of Canaan committed, (here called the Amorites, according to their ancient name, Genesis 15:16,) which Ahab did not imitate.
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.
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.1 Kings 21:27. He rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth, &c. — These were expressions of great sorrow and heaviness, and usual in mourning: for, notwithstanding that Ahab was drawn, by the persuasions of his wife, to idolatry and other great crimes; yet he was sensible that many of Elijah’s prophecies had been fulfilled, and therefore he was much disturbed at what he now heard from that prophet. And went softly — Slowly and silently, after the manner of mourners, or those who are under a great consternation.
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.1 Kings 21:29. Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? — His humiliation was real, though not lasting, and accordingly pleasing to God. This discovers the great goodness of God, and his readiness to show mercy: it teaches us to take notice of that which is good, even in the worst of men: it gives a reason why wicked persons often prosper; God rewards the little good which is in them: and it encourages true penitents. If even Ahab goes to his house reprieved, doubtless they shall go to their houses justified.