1 Kings 21
1 Kings 21 Kingcomments Bible Studies

Ahab Wants the Vineyard of Naboth

The words “after these things” herald a new phase in the life of Ahab and thus a new character in the service of Elijah. Elijah’s service is closely linked to that of Moses. In the law are two parts. On the first tablet of stone the relationship to God is regulated. On the second tablet of stone is the relationship between the neighbors is regulated. The sins that people commit are sins against God or against their neighbor, whereby a sin against their neighbor is of course also a sin against God. The first sin in the history of man is a sin against God (Adam), the second sin is a sin against the neighbor (Cain).

Thus in the first part of Ahab’s history we see the question of idolatry, which is sin against God. That issue was resolved at Carmel. Now Ahab’s sin comes against his neighbor. He becomes a fratricide. We can also say of sin that it has two main characteristics: first, corruption – in which corruption is also divided into lust and lies – and second, violence. Ahab sins in this chapter in a way that sin comes to light in all these aspects. He lusts for his neighbor’s piece of land and uses lies and violence to gain possession of it.

There are two instruments of evil: Ahab and Jezebel. With Ahab we see the lust and with Jezebel we see the lie and the violence. Here we see the history of Christianity or the kingdom of God, entrusted to the responsibility of man. The period of Ahab and Jezebel corresponds to the period of Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29), which is the period of the roman-catholic church since the Middle Ages. In that letter Jezebel is reproached because of her idolatry and fornication (Rev 2:20). This can be found in the first part of the period of Ahab and Jezebel.

Babylon the great is essentially the same as Thyatira, but in the end time (Revelation 17-18). Here we see sin against the neighbor, for the blood of the saints is in her. Here we see the violence. Martyrs are killed within the church by the leaders of the church.

This is what we see in this history of Naboth, a faithful one whose only “mistake” is to hold on to the inheritance of the LORD. That Ahab takes this inheritance, the LORD takes very seriously. Now that Ahab and Jezebel violate the brother, a heavy judgment follows. God also takes it very seriously when someone causes damage to the church of God (cf. 1Cor 3:17).

The same principles of the Middle Ages are still supreme in Christianity today. The leaders (Ahab) still try to rob the people of their heavenly inheritance. We also see the principle of Jezebel, the godless religion that resists the true servant of God. Man’s religion always hates the religion of the Spirit. Many have lost their lives because they have held fast to Scripture and what God has given them. Ahab is the representation of a Christianity that is completely focused on the earth. We see Jezebel in the priests in the Middle Ages who misuse the name of God to kill the people of the church. Satanic forces are active in Christianity, which is increasingly characterized by roman-catholicism.

Ahab covets the vineyard of his neighbor, of Naboth. What Ahab wants is forbidden by the law. Each tribe and each family have received their own specific inheritance by allocation from the LORD. Only if a brother was impoverished he was allowed to sell his inheritance, but then in the jubilee year it returned to him, the original owner (Lev 25:13-34). However, Naboth is not impoverished and is therefore not forced to sell his inheritance.

He also rejects the offer of another vineyard. It is about him not for a more beautiful vineyard, but about his own vineyard; for he has received it from the LORD. In picture this suggests that we do not enjoy the joy of another. It is about one’s own joy. Every believer has his spiritual blessings in the heavenly land. Every believer has his own experiences with the Lord, with his own fruits which he enjoys together with the Lord.

The prophet Micaiah speaks about this too. He speaks about the characteristics of the false leaders (Mic 2:1-2). But he also lets us hear how the LORD intended it: “Each of them will sit under his vine And under his fig tree” (Mic 4:4). Each one has his own joy and righteousness that only he knows (cf. Rev 2:17b).

Naboth Refuses Ahab His Vineyard

Naboth is clear in his rejection of the proposal. It had to be. There are things that we should not think about, but that we should immediately and decisively say ‘no’ to. We must do this against any proposal that is tantamount to compromising something of the blessings of the land.

Naboth shows here the awareness that the land is not his, but that it belongs to the LORD and that he is steward over it. The fruit of his land is for the LORD. It is a vineyard, and wine represents joy which cheers God and men (Jdg 9:13). He refuses the offer to get another vineyard to replace it. Then it would be a piece of land that a man has given him and he has lost the land that God has given him. Never can what a person gives, bring real joy. Selling the land is also not an option. Naboth can’t be bribed.

Do we appreciate the blessings God has given us? Our blessings are in the heavenly places. There we are “blessed with all spiritual blessing … in Christ” (Eph 1:3). They are all given to us to enjoy them together with the Father. How could we surrender these blessings for the enjoyment of earthly blessings? Then we would be very ungrateful to its Giver. We cannot give up these blessings without denying Him.

The enemy is cunning. He tries to focus our attention on all kinds of other things and not on “the things above, where Christ is” (Col 3:1). It is to be feared that many believers have exchanged their God-given ‘vineyard’, their spiritual blessings, for a ‘vineyard’ given to them by men. Then the feeling becomes important and the measure for experiencing blessing. If someone feels comfortable with a certain way of serving God, God also will be okay with it. But His will is not asked for.

Jezebel Lets Naboth to Be Stoned

Reactions like Naboth’s are poorly received. Ahab behaves like a deprived child. He is a weakling who, as a spoiled child, always wants to have his way. He lies on his bed and does not eat. When Jezebel comes to him, she wants her husband to explain why he is so sullen. Ahab tells her what happened. Jezebel knows a solution for that. She promises Ahab that she will give him the vineyard of Naboth. She has her own methods for this. Ahab can already, as far as she is concerned, rejoice in his ‘gift’. He can get up, eat and be cheerful, for she will make sure that he gets his way.

Jezebel is the strong, ruthless character that disregards God and neighbor. She goes unscrupulously toward her goal. In Jezebel’s case, in her are present the full measure of murderousness to carry out her own will at all costs and especially at the expense of those who fear God.

Jezebel doesn’t waste any time. A person like Naboth should be killed as soon as possible. She writes letters in the name of Ahab, seals them with the seal of Ahab and sends them “to the elders and to the nobles” of the city of Naboth. These high lords are as depraved as two worthless men who they let testify against Naboth by order of Jezebel. The nobles of the city do without a reply directly what is written to them.

They let two men who do not care about God or commandment themselves give a terrible testimony in a sham trial against a righteous man. Every word they accuse Naboth of is a word they are guilty of themselves in all their depravity. After this indictment Naboth is killed without any form of trial.

In what is done to Naboth here, he resembles the Lord Jesus. Just as one does with Naboth, one also does with the Lord Jesus. Also against Him two worthless people are sought as witnesses who can accuse Him (Mt 26:59-61).

When Naboth is killed, the elders and nobles send a message to Jezebel. Jezebel goes to Ahab with this message and tells him that he can take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, because “Naboth is not alive, but dead”. Soon it will become clear how much she is mistaken. She does not take into account God for Whom all those who have died in faith in Him, the living God, live.

Elijah Announces Ahab His Verdict

Jezebel may think that Naboth is dead, but Naboth’s God is not dead. Since 1 Kings 19 we have not seen Elijah anymore, but here he gets another assignment from God. Elijah is informed by God of what Ahab has done and must go and announce him the judgment.

What Elijah must say because the word of the LORD has literally been fulfilled. We see this in the history of Jehu (2Kgs 9:36-37). Jehu is on his way to kill the house of Ahab. Jehoram sees Jehu coming and goes to meets him and meets him “in the property of Naboth the Jezreelite” (2Kgs 9:21). This makes it clear that the people killed Naboth in his own property, apparently not in the vineyard. We also read there that the sons of Naboth were stoned with him (2Kgs 9:26), as a result of which also the heirs were exterminated and no more claim can be made on the land of Naboth.

At the place where Ahab thought he would finally enjoy undisturbed his unlawfully acquired possessions, Elijah meets him. Again that wretched Elijah. He can drink that man’s blood. He calls him “my enemy”. So much so is Ahab filled with hatred toward this representative of God. Yet he is powerless against the man of God.

Without the introductory “thus says the LORD” Elijah pronounces the judgment in the name of God. First Elijah confirms that he has found him. Thus every man will be found by God. No one can make himself untraceable before the omnipresent God. That Ahab sees Elijah like this is because he “sold” himself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD. He has sold his soul to Satan. All the fame and honor he has as king, he has got from Satan. The price he has paid is that of his soul. He who has so surrendered himself to the power of Satan, sees someone who reminds him of God as an enemy.

Elijah lets Ahab know what the LORD will do with him and his descendants. He refers to what happened to the kings who ruled before him. Ahab knows the history of the people and therefore knows what this means for him. He knows what happened to those houses and it will happen to his house as well. How important it is that we learn from history, that we let it warn us and take the lessons to heart.

The Judgment on Jezebel Is Announced

Unlike with the two kings mentioned, the wife of Ahab is also announced the judgment, which will inevitably come (2Kgs 9:30-37). The reason is given in 1Kgs 21:25. There has not been a more godless king than Ahab. He owes this characterization above all to his wife Jezebel. His wickedness reaches this absolute low point because he has listened to his even more wicked wife Jezebel.

Ahab Humbles Himself

After the description of the announcement of the judgment follows the reaction of Ahab. He humbles himself as he has never done before. He was struck in a small corner of his heart and shows that to his surroundings. God’s reaction to this is extraordinarily striking. Although God knows that his repentance is not deep and is only temporary, He gives respite from judgment. That is grace. The small trace of repentance is reason for God to prove patience.

Then the word of the LORD comes again to Elijah. Now not with message but with a communication for Elijah personally. The content is telling. God tells Elijah that Ahab really humbled himself before Him. That had to be said, otherwise you wouldn’t believe it. Although this humiliation is only temporary, it is a reason for God to postpone judgment. In this we see that God answers the slightest trace and the most superficial form of true humility with great grace.

The LORD introduces His communication to Elijah with the words “do you see?” This indicates that Elijah’s attention is being drawn to this in particular. He will not have thought it possible and therefore did not expect it. It is a lesson for us that we should always keep our eyes open for a work of God’s grace in cases where we least expect it.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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