Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
1Ki 21:1-4. Naboth Refuses Ahab His Vineyard.
1-3. Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel—Ahab was desirous, from its contiguity to the palace, to possess it for a vegetable garden. He proposed to Naboth to give him a better in exchange, or to obtain it by purchase; but the owner declined to part with it. In persisting in his refusal, Naboth was not actuated by any feelings of disloyalty or disrespect to the king, but solely from a conscientious regard to the divine law, which, for important reasons, had prohibited the sale of a paternal inheritance [Le 25:23; Nu 36:7]; or if, through extreme poverty or debt, an assignation of it to another was unavoidable, the conveyance was made on the condition of its being redeemable at any time [Le 25:25-27]; at all events, of its reverting at the jubilee to the owner [Le 25:28]. In short, it could not be alienated from the family, and it was on this ground that Naboth (1Ki 21:3) refused to comply with the king's demand. It was not, therefore, any rudeness or disrespect that made Ahab heavy and displeased, but his sulky and pettish demeanor betrays a spirit of selfishness that could not brook to be disappointed of a favorite object, and that would have pushed him into lawless tyranny had he possessed any natural force of character.
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.
4. turned away his face—either to conceal from his attendants the vexation of spirit he felt, or, by the affectation of great sorrow, rouse them to devise some means of gratifying his wishes.
But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?
1Ki 21:5-16. Jezebel Causes Naboth to Be Stoned.
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.
7. Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?—This is not so much a question as an exclamation—a sarcastic taunt; "A pretty king thou art! Canst not thou use thy power and take what thy heart is set upon?"
arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard—After upbraiding Ahab for his pusillanimity and bidding him act as a king, Jezebel tells him to trouble himself no more about such a trifle; she would guarantee the possession of the vineyard.
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.
8. So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal—The seal-ring contained the name of the king and gave validity to the documents to which it was affixed (Es 8:8; Da 6:17). By allowing her the use of his signet-ring, Ahab passively consented to Jezebel's proceeding. Being written in the king's name, it had the character of a royal mandate.
sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city—They were the civic authorities of Jezreel, and would, in all likelihood, be the creatures and fit tools of Jezebel. It is evident that, though Ahab had recently been in Jezreel, when he made the offer to Naboth, both he and Jezebel were now in Samaria (1Ki 20:43).
And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
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.
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.
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.
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.
13. there came in two men—worthless fellows who had been bribed to swear a falsehood. The law required two witnesses in capital offenses (De 17:6; 19:15; Nu 35:30; Mt 26:60). Cursing God and cursing the king are mentioned in the law (Ex 22:28) as offenses closely connected, the king of Israel being the earthly representative of God in His kingdom.
they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him—The law, which forbade cursing the rulers of the people, does not specify the penalty for this offense but either usage had sanctioned or the authorities of Jezreel had originated stoning as the proper punishment. It was always inflicted out of the city (Ac 7:58).
Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
14-16. Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession—Naboth's execution having been announced, and his family being involved in the same fatal sentence (2Ki 9:26), his property became forfeited to the crown, not by law, but traditionary usage (see 2Sa 16:4).
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.
16. Ahab rose up to go down—from Samaria to Jezreel.
And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
1Ki 21:17-29. Elijah Denounces Judgments against Ahab and Jezebel.
17-19. Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?—While Ahab was in the act of surveying his ill-gotten possession, Elijah, by divine commission, stood before him. The appearance of the prophet, at such a time, was ominous of evil, but his language was much more so (compare Eze 45:8; 46:16-18). Instead of shrinking with horror from the atrocious crime, Ahab eagerly hastened to his newly acquired property.
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.
19. In the place where dogs licked, &c.—a righteous retribution of Providence. The prediction was accomplished, not in Jezreel, but in Samaria; and not on Ahab personally, in consequence of his repentance (1Ki 21:29), but on his son (2Ki 9:25). The words "in the place where" might be rendered "in like manner as."
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.
20. thou hast sold thyself to work evil—that is, allowed sin to acquire the unchecked and habitual mastery over thee (2Ki 17:17; Ro 7:11).
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,
21, 22. will make thine house, &c.—(see on 1Ki 15:29 and 1Ki 16:3-12). Jezebel, though included among the members of Ahab's house, has her ignominious fate expressly foretold (see 2Ki 9:30).
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.
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.
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.
27-29. Ahab … rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly—He was not obdurate, like Jezebel. This terrible announcement made a deep impression on the king's heart, and led, for a while, to sincere repentance. Going softly, that is, barefoot, and with a pensive manner, within doors. He manifested all the external signs, conventional and natural, of the deepest sorrow. He was wretched, and so great is the mercy of God, that, in consequence of his humiliation, the threatened punishment was deferred.
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.