Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
After these events Ahab was seized with such a desire for a vineyard which was situated near his palace at Jezreel, that when Naboth, the owner of the vineyard, refused to part with his paternal inheritance, he became thoroughly dejected, until his wife Jezebel paved the way for the forcible seizure of the desired possession by the shameful execution of Naboth (1 Kings 21:1-15). But when Ahab was preparing to take possession of the vineyard, Elijah came to meet him with the announcement, that both he and his wife would be visited by the Lord with a bloody death for this murder and robbery, and that his idolatry would be punished with the extermination of all his house (1 Kings 21:16-26). Ahab was so affected by this, that he humbled himself before God; whereupon the Lord told Elijah, that the threatened judgment should not burst upon his house till after Ahab's death (1 Kings 21:27-29).
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.Ahab wanted to obtain possession of the vineyard of Naboth, which was in Jezreel (אשׁר refers to כּרם), near the palace of the king, either in exchange for another vineyard or for money, that he might make a vegetable garden of it. From the fact that Ahab is called the king of Samaria we may infer that Jezreel, the present Zerin (see at Joshua 19:18), was only a summer residence of the king.
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.Naboth refused to part with the vineyard, because it was the inheritance of his fathers, that is to say, on religious grounds (חלילה כּי מיהוה), because the sale of a paternal inheritance was forbidden in the law (Leviticus 25:23-28; Numbers 36:7.). He was therefore not merely at liberty as a personal right to refuse the king's proposal, but bound by the commandment of God.
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.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.
But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?When Jezebel learned the cause of Ahab's ill-humour, she said to him, "Thou, dost thou now exercise royal authority over Israel." אתּה is placed first for the sake of emphasis, and the sentence is to be taken as an ironical question, as it has been by the lxx. "I (if thou hast not courage enough to act) will procure thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."
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.The shameless woman then wrote a letter in the name of Ahab, sealed it below with the royal seal, which probably bore the king's signature and was stamped upon the writing instead of signing the name, as is done at the present day among Arabs, Turks, and Persians (vid., Paulsen, Reg. der Morgenl. p. 295ff.), to give it the character of a royal command (cf. Esther 8:13; Daniel 6:17), and sent this letter (the Chethb הסּפרים is correct, and the Keri has arisen from a misunderstanding) to the elders and nobles of his town (i.e., the members of the magistracy, Deuteronomy 16:18), who lived near Naboth, and therefore had an opportunity to watch his mode of life, and appeared to be the most suitable persons to institute the charge that was to be brought against him. The letter ran thus: "Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people, and set two worthless men opposite to him, that they may give evidence against him: Thou hast blasphemed God and king; and lead him out and stone him, that he may die." Jezebel ordered the fasting for a sign, as though some public crime or heavy load of guilt rested upon the city, for which it was necessary that it should humble itself before God (1 Samuel 7:6). The intention was, that at the very outset the appearance of justice should be given to the legal process about to be instituted in the eyes of all the citizens, and the stamp of veracity impressed upon the crime of which Naboth was to be accused. העם בראשׁ...הושׁיבוּ, "seat him at the head of the people," i.e., bring him to the court of justice as a defendant before all the people. The expression may be explained from the fact, that a sitting of the elders was appointed for judicial business, in which Naboth and the witnesses who were to accuse him of blasphemy took part seated. To preserve the appearance of justice, two witnesses were appointed, according to the law in Deuteronomy 17:6-7; Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30; but worthless men, as at the trial of Jesus (Matthew 26:60). אלהים בּרך, to bless God, i.e., to bid Him farewell, to dismiss Him, as in Job 2:9, equivalent to blaspheming God. God and king are mentioned together, like God and prince in Exodus 22:27, to make it possible to accuse Naboth of transgressing this law, and to put him to death as a blasphemer of God, according to Deuteronomy 13:11 and Deuteronomy 17:5, where the punishment of stoning is awarded to idolatry as a practical denial of God. Blaspheming the king is not to be taken as a second crime to be added to the blasphemy of God; but blaspheming the king, as the visible representative of God, was eo ipso also blaspheming God.
And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
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.The elders of Jezreel executed this command without delay; a striking proof both of deep moral corruption and of slavish fear of the tyranny of the ruthless queen.
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.
Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.When the report of Naboth's execution was brought to her, she called upon Ahab to take possession of his vineyard (רשׁ equals רשׁ, Deuteronomy 2:24). As Naboth's sons were put to death at the same time, according to 2 Kings 9:26, the king was able to confiscate his property; not, indeed, on any rule laid down in the Mosaic law, but according to a principle involved in the very idea of high treason. Since, for example, in the case of blasphemy the property of the criminal was forfeited to the Lord as cherem (Deuteronomy 13:16), the property of traitors was regarded as forfeited to the king.
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.But when Ahab went down to Jezreel to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, Elijah came to meet him by the command of God, with the word of the Lord, "Hast thou murdered and also taken possession?" The question served to sharpen his conscience, since Ahab was obliged to admit the fact. בּשׁמרון אשׁר means "who lives at Samaria," for when Elijah came to meet him, Ahab was in Jezreel, Elijah then said to him still further: "Thus saith the Lord: In the place where the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth, will they also lick thine, yea, thy blood." אתּה גּם serves as an emphatic repetition of the suffix (cf. Ges. 121, 3). This threat was only so far fulfilled upon Ahab, from the compassion of God, and in consequence of his humbling himself under the divine judgment (1 Kings 21:27-29), that dogs licked his blood at Samaria when the carriage was washed in which he had died (1 Kings 22:38); but it was literally fulfilled in the case of his son Joram, whose corpse was cast into Naboth's piece of ground (2 Kings 9:25-26).
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.
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.Ahab answered, "Hast thou found me (met with me), O mine enemy?" (not, hast thou ever found me thine enemy? - Vulg., Luth.) i.e., dost thou come to meet me again, mine enemy? He calls Elijah his enemy, to take the sting from the prophet's threat as an utterance caused by personal enmity. But Elijah fearlessly replied, "I have found (thee), because thou sellest thyself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord." He then announced to him, in 1 Kings 21:21, 1 Kings 21:22, the extermination of his house, and to Jezebel, as the principal sinner, the most ignominious end (1 Kings 21:23). הרע לעשׂות חתמכּר to sell one's self to do evil, i.e., to give one's self to evil so as to have no will of one's own, to make one's self the slave of evil (cf. 1 Kings 21:25, 2 Kings 17:17). The consequence of this is πεπρᾶσθαι ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν (Romans 7:14), sin exercising unlimited power over the man who gives himself up to it as a slave. For 1 Kings 21:21, 1 Kings 21:22, see 1 Kings 14:10-11; 1 Kings 15:29-30; 1 Kings 16:3, 1 Kings 16:12-13. The threat concerning Jezebel (1 Kings 21:23) was literally fulfilled, according to 2 Kings 9:30. חל, written defectively for חיל, as in 2 Samuel 20:15, is properly the open space by the town-wall, pomoerium. Instead of בּחל we have בּחלק in the repetition of this threat in 2 Kings 9:10, 2 Kings 9:36-37, and consequently Thenius and others propose to alter the חל here. But there is no necessity for this, as בּחלק, on the portion, i.e., the town-land, of Jezreel (not, in the field at Jezreel), is only a more general epithet denoting the locality, and חל is proved to be the original word by the lxx.
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.
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, 1 Kings 21:26 contain a reflection on the part of the historian concerning Ahab's ungodly conduct, whereby he brought such an ignominious end upon himself and his house. וגו היה לא רק, "only there has not been (one) like Ahab," i.e., there was no one else like Ahab, "who sold himself," etc. הסתּה for הסיתה, from סוּת, to entice, to seduce or lead astray (cf. Ewald, 114, a., and Ges. 72, Anm. 6). ויּתעב, and he acted abominably. Amorites: for Canaanites, as in Genesis 15:16, etc.
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.This terrible threat made such an impression upon Ahab, that he felt deep remorse, and for a time at least was sincerely penitent. Rending the clothes, putting on the mourning garment of hair (שׂק), and fasting, are frequently mentioned as external signs of humiliation before God or of deep mourning on account of sin. יהלּך אט, he walked about lightly (slowly), like one in deep trouble. This repentance was neither hypocritical, nor purely external; but it was sincere even if it was not lasting and produced no real conversion. For the Lord Himself acknowledge it to be humiliation before Him (1 Kings 21:29), and said to Elijah, that because of it He would not bring the threatened calamity upon Ahab's house in his own lifetime, but only in the days of his son. אבי for אביא, as in 1 Kings 21:21.
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.