1 Kings 21:2
So Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard to use as a vegetable garden, since it is next to my palace. I will give you a better vineyard in its place--or if you prefer, I will give you its value in silver."
CovetousnessJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 21:1-4
First Steps in the Path of CrimeJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 21:1-4
The Progress of SinA. Rowland 1 Kings 21:1-24
Ahab's Garden of HerbsG. T. Coster.1 Kings 21:2-16
In Naboth's VineyardA. Moorhouse, M. A.1 Kings 21:2-16
Mastery of Self1 Kings 21:2-16
Naboth's VineyardC. S. Horne, M. A.1 Kings 21:2-16
Naboth's VineyardJ. Parker, D. D.1 Kings 21:2-16
Naboth's Vineyard and Ahab's CovetousnessG. E. Merrill.1 Kings 21:2-16
Our Desires May Undo UsThomas Wilde.1 Kings 21:2-16
The Discontented ManC H. Spurgeon.1 Kings 21:2-16
The Story of Naboth's VineyardT. B. Stephenson, D. D. , LL. D.1 Kings 21:2-16
Voices from Naboth's VineyardJ. R. Macduff, D. D.1 Kings 21:2-16

Amongst the arguments used by Samuel to discourage the people of Israel from desiring a king, he said, "He will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them." We have in the verses before us a notable example of the truth of this forecast, understanding covetousness in a bad sense.


1. It is the principle of exchanges.

(1) If persons had no desire to possess anything beyond what they have acquired, there would be no motive to trade. Of the virtuous woman it is said, "She considereth a field and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard" (Proverbs 31:16).

(2) All commerce is founded upon the desire to make exchanges.

2. But commerce is fruitful in blessings.

(1) There are evils connected with trading, viz., where dishonest practices come into it. But these are intrusions; and they are denounced as "illegitimate" and "uncommercial."

(2) Genuine commerce gives profitable employment to thought and labour.

(3) It brings the countries and peoples of the wide world into correspondence. Thereby it enlarges our knowledge of those countries, their peoples and products, and other. wise stimulates science.

(4) It encourages philanthropy. Relief is afforded for distresses through famines, floods, fires, earthquakes; and religious missions are organized.

3. Desire, well directed, should be encouraged.

(1) To be absolutely without desire for things evil would be a happy state. Therefore this state should be earnestly desired.

(2) There is also the positive desire to be Christ like. This can scarcely be too vehement.

(3) Ahab does not seem to have signalized himself in either of these directions.


1. We should not desire what God has forbidden.

(1) Herein Ahab was wrong in desiring the vineyard of Naboth. It was the "inheritance of his fathers," transmitted in the family of Naboth, from the days of Joshua, and it would have been unlawful for him to part with it (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7).

(2) Ahab was wrong in tempting Naboth to trangress the commandment of the Lord. He should never have encouraged a desire, the gratification of which would involve such a consequence.

(3) It was a pious act in Naboth, who, doubtless in things lawful would be pleased to gratify the king, to have indignantly refused to gratify him here. "The Lord forbid it me that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee." He had his tenure from the Lord. He looked upon his earthly inheritance as a pledge of a heavenly.

2. This rule requires the study of God's word.

(1) It is of the utmost moment to us to be acquainted with the will of God. This he has revealed in the Scriptures.

(2) In cases of transgression we cannot plead ignorance when we have the Bible in our hands. Neither can we shift now our responsibility on to our teachers.

(3) Do we make proper use of our Bibles? Do we study them? Do we read them prayerfully? We must not sell the moral inheritance we have received from the past.

III. INORDINATE DESIRE IS COVETOUSNESS. Some things are lawful without limit. Such are the direct claims of God.

(1) The love of God. We may love Him with all our heart. We cannot love Him too much, or too much desire His love.

(2) The service of God. This, indeed, is another form of love; for love expresses itself in service (John 14:15, 23; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 John 5:3).

(3) The knowledge of God. To love and serve God perfectly we must have a perfect knowledge of Him according to our capacity. We cannot too ardently desire this knowledge.

(4) If Ahab had loved, served, and known God with perfect desire, he would have found such satisfaction as to have rendered it impossible for him to have sulked as he did because he could not obtain Naboth's vineyard. When God is absent there is a restless void; nothing can satisfy an unholy spirit.

2. Other things are lawful in measure.

(1) Otherwise they would interfere with the direct claims of God. The creature must not be put into competition with the Creator. "Thou shalt have none other gods beside me."

(2) Desire for sensible and temporal things must not displace the desire for things spiritual and eternal. To love the inferior preferably to the superior is to deprave the affections.

(3) It would have been lawful for Ahab to have purchased a lease of the vineyard of Naboth at a fair price, leaving it in the power of Naboth to have redeemed it; and for it to revert to Naboth or his heirs in the jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-28). But this desire to possess it, even under these conditions, could not be justified if a refusal should lead him to go home "heavy and displeased" and sicken with chagrin. Ahab's discontent brought its own punishment. He was a king, yet discontented. Discontent is a disease of the soul rather than of the circumstances. - J.A.M.

Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs.
Walking in the garden, what do we see?

1. Covetousness. God's brand is upon covetousness. Contentment is a Christian duty. Not sinful is the desire for comfort, for sufficiency; it is the inordinate desire that is sinful. Does the prosperity of another pain us? Do we desire for our. selves that which belongs to another? Then we are breaking the commandment — "Thou shall not covet."

2. Covetousness disappointed. Ahab has met with an unexpected master. The band of sycophancy had been wont to obey him — to hasten at his word, to answer to the silent solicitation of his eye. But here is a man that denies him, who has a denial from the word of the Lord. Let us beware. This sin is under the special reprobation of God. It was the sin in Eden, and by which Eden was lost. It was the sin of Achan. It was the sin of Gehazi. It was the sin which has branded out of use among names the name of Judas. Was Ahab disappointed? Alas, for him!

3. We see his covetousness successful. He gets what he desires. Jezebel finds her husband, and learning the cause of his depression sneers with imperious scorn upon him. "What is done by another for us is done by ourselves." Are we willing to profit by the dishonesty or hard dealing of others? Then you are not clean of their sin. Adam plucked not the fruit of the tree, though "he did eat" (Genesis 3:6) of it; yet upon him as well as upon the woman came the curse of the Almighty. Jezebel's sin was Ahab's; he winked at its enactment, and took of its guilt-gotten spoil. If we wittingly profit by others' sins, we must share in their condetonation too.

4. Covetousness detected and doomed. Ahab walking in that vineyard — his at last — meets "an hairy man, girt with a girdle of leather about his loins." It is Elijah the Tishbite. If there was one man in the whole world he had rather not have met it was Elijah. But there he is! his unquailing eye troubling him — detected king — to the deepest depths of his weak, wicked soul. Elijah is the king! Ahab cowers before him. He is found out. And the prophet, the truest, though sternest friend that he has ever had, Ahab esteems an enemy. Is the lighthouse on its wave-washed, rocky ledge the mariner's enemy, because it tells through the black and stormy night of the wrecking perils that lurk around the shore? Because it tells of danger, shall it be hated and assailed with angry epithets by those who sail the sea?

(G. T. Coster.)

The visitor to Potsdam in Prussia, from the terrace of the palace of Sans-Souci sees near at hand a gigantic windmill, the most conspicuous object in the landscape. He wonders that the bold miller should have dared to build so near. But on inquiry he learns that the mill was there before the palace. In it several generations of the same family had ground their grist and gathered their wealth ere the attention of the Prussian kings was directed to the town as a place of residence. When palace after palace arose, and the king came to see, behold! here was this ugly windmill, beating the air almost on the very border of his splendid gardens. Then Frederic the Great did what Ahab did in this Bible story. He tried to buy the mill. And the miller answered almost exactly as Naboth answered. The king raised his offer again and again, and ended by getting angry. The miller met the royal threats by an appeal to the court judges in Berlin. The judges supported him against the king; the mill went on grinding its corn; and to this day its great fans are whirled by every passing breeze. The whole nation has come to regard the mill at Potsdam at a symbol of the peace and prosperity of the poor under Prussian institutions. It has recently come into the possession of the royal family, but only with the proud consent, at last, of the descendants of the original owners. The world has got ahead. So far as concerns men who bear public rule and are subjected to the judgment of society, Ahabs must now be sought in darkest Africa or in equally benighted regions. Would that the spirit of Ahab were equally remote from all of us in our private lives and characters! Many of us, perhaps all, are too covetous, grasping, childish, weak in yielding to sin, even as was Israel's king.

I. THE COURSE OF TEMPTATION. It may seem to the casual reader that there was nothing wrong in Ahab's desire, or in the way in which he sought to gain it. So far as its terms were concerned, he proposed a strictly honourable bargain. The offer was even generous. Naboth might choose a better vineyard, or have cash. No hardship was involved except in respect to Naboth's principles and sentiments. But it was just here that the bargain failed as it deserved to. That Naboth merely loved the place would have been enough. Objects of affection are often beyond price. He did not want either the money or a better vineyard. The reason for his declining the bargain was deeper. Such a sale was an offence against the religious and statute law of Israel. It was carefully prescribed that inherited land should remain in the tribe where it was first owned. On this account a daughter to whom an inheritance fell was forbidden to marry outside her tribe. The theory was that the land all belonged to God, and that Be had parcelled it out as He wished it to remain. Now the king must have known this law; it is a stretch of charity to suppose that he did not. His proposal, therefore, showed a thorough lack of principle, a wicked contempt for the Mosaic code. Jezebel was virtually ruler of the realm. She said, "Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?... I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth." So Lady Macbeth drives her husband on to the murder of Duncan. She mocks his halting courage; she provides suggestion and plan; she does all except strike the murderous blow. She says to him at first —

"He that's coming

Must be provided for; and you shall put

This night's great business into my despatch."

"If we should fail," objects Macbeth.

"We fail!

But screw your courage to the sticking place,

And we'll not fail,"

she answers. And after it is done, and he refuses to return to put the evidence of guilt upon the sleeping and drugged servants, she exclaims —

"Infirm of purpose!

Give me the daggers."Ahab is weaker than Macbeth, though not so wicked; but Jezebel and Lady Macbeth are not far apart. When woman goes into crime, she often plunges to the extreme quicker than man. Jezebel said, "I will give thee Naboth's vineyard." There are few events in a man's life that stand alone. Every special sin has its long preparation. The avalanche in Switzerland rushes down at last; but what of the melting snows all through the spring and summer, until every waterdrop has done its work and washed away the last pebble that supported the hanging mass of earth and ice? The lightning-flash is sudden; but what of the hidden electric forces that have been gathering in the atmosphere all through the heated months, so that at last the bolt must leap from the cloud to meet the discharge from the earth? So morally. Ahab started wrong, as he knew. It was not a question of one sin, but of sin. He would have his Zidonian wife, though it meant Baal-worship. His good resolutions failed one by one. When at last he coveted the vineyard, his evil genius was at hand as ever, and he let her go on to the end of the transaction. Through years he had been laying the fatal train that was to shatter his kingdom and seal his doom. Who can tell just what moment of an evil course will bring the sinner to his abyss? After the first step every step is a peril. Even quiet consent, passive yielding, is fatal. The only safety is in prompt, manly, uncompromising conversion — turning away from sin for ever.

II. GOD'S PATIENCE. Ahab's rebellion had been long and obstinate: an alien marriage; adopted idolatry; persecutions for conscience' sake; open disobedience in war; and now covetousness, leading him to break the most sacred obligations, and add robbery and murder to the list of his crimes. He had had many warnings from God. This triple crime of impiety, robbery, and murder settled the matter. God's word comes to Elijah, and Elijah comes to Ahab. The time had come for Ahab to receive a harder lesson than ever before. The prophet spoke Jehovah's decree, as Ahab's own signet had given authority to kill Naboth. As Naboth had died, so should Ahab die. As Naboth's family had been cut off, so should Ahab's race disappear. The awful curse brought him to his senses and to his knees. He rent his clothes, put sackcloth upon his flesh, fasted, lay in sackcloth, and went softly. God is always patient. We sin; He pleads and waits. We go on grasping after what is not our own: let my will, not Thine, be done, is the prayer offered by every deed. God warns, instructs, shows us in a thousand ways that His will is right, and that it is in the very nature of things our destruction if we oppose it. He tempts us with every promise, and shows us the fair destiny awaiting those who love truth and are obedient to Him. At last some evil comes to us from our wrongdoing, and we are unfeignedly sorry; but it is more the sorrow of a frightened than of a truly penitent soul. But the Divine heart is yet patient. The story of God's patience with Ahab is wonderful, but it is the story of His patience with most of us. We, too, are covetous to the last degree. My comfort, my pleasure, my wealth, my home, my loves, my will, — all these will I have, though at the expense of every other man's comfort, pleasure, wealth, home, loves, and will. And to this desperate covetousness of ours God matches His infinite self-sacrifice.

III. THE CURSE UPON AHAB FELL AT LAST. Sin must meet its doom. Brief and selfish repentance is not enough. If sin is not slain, it will slay. God's patience after all has its conditions. Years pass by, Ahab still living. At last he undertakes a war, and is slain in battle. Whether soon or late, the soul that sinneth it shall die. It stands written that though the heavens pass away, the word of the Lord shall not pass away. It is the final verdict: "He that seeketh his life shall lose it."

IV. WHAT OF NABOTH AND HIS SONS? They were good men, so far as we are told, yet they died miserably. They were victims of injustice and cruelty, their very piety hastening their end and making them martyrs. Are we to conclude from this that what we have said concerning the doom of sin is untrue? Shall we draw the inference that the good and the bad are treated alike, so that there is no profit in godliness? It would be unfortunate to turn away from our lesson with this question unanswered.

(G. E. Merrill.)

Ahab has received scant justice at the hands of the Biblical historians, and the popular estimate of his character is scarcely fair. We never think of him except as contrasted with Elijah, or as dominated by the fiendish Jezebel. Yet he had his good points. He was a courageous soldier, a capable rule, a far-seeing statesman. He never intended to renounce the worship of Jehovah — the names of his children are sufficient evidence of that. He thought it was possible to serve Jehovah and Baal, and perhaps those who denounce him most are not entirely guiltless of trying to serve two masters. If it had not been for the influence of his wife, he would have been a better man after what took place on Mount Carmel. But that was seven years ago, and in the meantime he had twice defeated a dangerous enemy and rolled back the tide of foreign invasion, tie had won for his kingdom peace and prosperity, and for himself considerable wealth. He was free now to establish his own house, to adorn his beautiful palace in Samaria, and his country house in Jezreel, eight miles away.

1. Notice the danger of undisciplined d sire. This chapter enforces, in concrete form, the exhortation of our Lord, "Take heed and beware of covetousness." It was a subject on which He had a great deal to say, and His warning was never more needed than now. This passion for getting, this longing for a little more than we have, this worship of Mammon — it is not peculiar to millionaires. Poor men sometimes forget that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

2. Notice the peril of self-deception. There is many a man who lacks the pluck to do a wrong thing himself, but is willing to acquiesce if others do it. He is willing enough to reap the benefits of wrong-doing, and to shirk his share of the responsibility. It is notorious that a committee, or a limited company, will do what an individual would shrink from doing, and each member tries to thrust the responsibility for it on others. A professional man will sometimes do, according to professional etiquette, what he would scorn to do as an individual. A tradesman, otherwise honest, will stoop to the tricks of the trade. How easy it is to delude oneself by thinking that, because there is no actual personal wrong-doing, there is therefore no responsibility. Ahab thought this thing had been taken out of his hands. Yet he was responsible, and he knew it. The fiction by which he deceived himself was exposed in a moment by the short, sharp words of Elijah. But notice the amazing cleverness of Jezebel's scheme. "When a wicked thing is cleverly done, half the world is disposed to condone its wickedness." Many a sinner deceives his own soul by calling a wicked thing smart. But when conscience wakes, it calls our sins by their right names! In this case, all the legal proprieties were observed. A letter was written in Ahab's name, sealed with the royal seal. Nobody suspected Jezebel's part in the affair, except a few subservient nobles who could be trusted to keep their secret. It is not difficult to reconstruct the conversation: "That churl Naboth, who refused to sell his little vineyard, has been found guilty of treason. He and his sons are dead, and the vineyard is yours — legally and inalienably yours — and yours for nothing!" It was very clever! Ahab was willing to pay a fair price, but he saved money on that transaction, he got that vineyard cheap! But did he? It is possible to buy a thing at the lowest market price, and yet pay very dear for it! That which a man gets by tampering with his own conscience is dear, whatever the selling price. The money price one ]pays for a thing is not always the measure of what it costs. Here is a man who is congratulating himself on a particularly smart bargain; but what if he has paid down for it his own good name and his peace of mind and the welfare of his family! Is it worth the price? And whether a man gain a kitchen garden or the whole world, what does it profit him if he lose his own soul? So Ahab rose up to go down to his vineyard. He rode in state the journey of eight miles to Jezreel. Two young cavalry officers rode behind. One of them, Jehu, had good reason afterwards to remember all that happened that fateful day! All the way, Ahab was congratulating himself that he had such a clever wife, and thinking what a pleasure this would be to his children afterwards! He could not entirely silence his misgivings. He could not forget that to gain his ends he had wronged a true-hearted man, a neighbour and a subject. "Wronged" was the word which his lips formed. The word in his thoughts was "killed." Conscience will call things by their right names! But he told himself, if he had done a shady thing, or allowed it to be done, it was really in the interests of his wife and family. Self-deceit will carry us great lengths! How many a rogue has silenced his conscience "in the interests of his family"!

(A. Moorhouse, M. A.)

It has been pointed out many times that of all the Ten Commandments it is the last one which is the most searching because the most spiritual and the nearest to the new law of the Sermon on the Mount. I say this was a searching, spiritual commandment, for it dealt with the inward soul of a man, his private thoughts and feelings and desires. For these, says the Tenth Commandment — and not merely for your actual deeds — you are answerable to God. "Thou shalt not covet."

1. God's way is to strike sin in the germ: to kill, as it were, the very bacillus of the disease. Man loves to dally with evil suggestion, to play with unclean thoughts, to toy with unchaste or dishonourable desires; to entertain these while outwardly he is respectable and honoured by society. There is something to him fascinating in this bargain, by which he consents to outward respectability at the price of inward licence. But as verily as the uncleanness of the water bears evidence that the spring has been fouled, an evil life is born from an evil heart. That is the source of the mischief.

2. Ahab played with fire. He had wronged Naboth already in his heart; it was a little thing that he should go further and wrong him in fact. There are sinners and sinners. There is a covetousness that hides defeat in assumed smiles, with deadly malice and envy smouldering within. And there is a covetousness less formidable and more contemptible, that pouts and fumes and frets and sulks. The latter kind was Ahab's.

3. I think it very likely that Ahab was not meditating any serious misconduct; but he was preparing his own heart, drying it of all true manly feeling, so that it was like prepared tinder for any spark of temptation. There" are hundreds of our fellowmen and women outwardly respectable and innocent as yet of gross sin who are in danger just because their heart is in a similar condition. A chance spark, a whispered suggestion, a rash impulse will suffice to precipitate a course of action which can only bring ruin and overwhelming shame. The heart is dry to the roots; no sap of honour, and manly feeling, and love of justice penetrates and invigorates them. They have allowed their hearts to wither.

4. Now while Ahab s heart lies there like so much prepared tinder, enter the temptress, with a due supply of sparks cunningly contrived for the purpose of an explosion. "And Jezebel his wife said unto him." The most deadly weapons are made of the finest steel. Jezebel's character was strong, firm, unmalleable; a diamond heart, cold, passionless, cruel, hard as steel, sharp as a dagger's edge. The words had not left Ahab's lips a moment before her plan was made. Treachery and murder came as natural to her as breathing Lady Macbeth only did the deed of death when her husband's courage failed Jezebel did not dream of entrusting the task to her husband, for whom she had probably a very just contempt. She herself laid the train and fired it that was to send Naboth into eternity and give the vineyard to Ahab.

5. So the little sin of covetousness has found its reward. The coveted object is obtained — Ahab was in the hands of evil. He had placed himself there; and, like every man or woman who consents to sin, he was no longer his own master. If he had been a giant instead of the weak creature he was he could not have stayed the course of this crime.

(C. S. Horne, M. A.)

1. We sometimes hear that Ahab was a covetous man: are we quite sure that the charge is just and that it can be substantiated? Do we not sometimes too narrowly interpret the word covetousness? It is generally at least limited to money. But the term "covetous" may apply to a much larger set of circumstances, and describe quite another set of impulses and desires. We may even be covetous of personal appearance; of popular fame, such as is enjoyed by other men; we may be covetous in every direction which implies the gratification of our own wishes; and yet with regard to the mere matter of money we may be almost liberal. Sometimes when covetousness takes this other turn we describe it by the narrower word envy; we say we envy the personal appearance of some, we envy the greatness and the public standing of others. But under all this envy is covetousness. Envy is in a sense but a symptom: covetousness is the vital and devouring disease. Under this interpretation of the term, therefore, it is not unfit or unjust to describe Ahab as a covetous man. Look at his dissatisfaction with circumstances. He wishes to have "a garden of herbs." That is all! The great Alexander could not rest in his palace at Babylon because he could not get ivy to grow in his garden. What was Babylon, or all Assyria, in view of the fact that this childish king could not cause ivy to grow in the palace gardens? Ahab lived in the very narrowest kind of circumstances; as a little man, he lived in little things, and because those things were not all to his mind it was impossible for him to be restful or noble or really good. Once let the mind become dissatisfied with some trifling circumstance, and that fly spoils the whole pot of ointment. Once get the notion that the house is too small, and then morning, noon, and night you never see a picture that is in it, or acknowledge the comfort of one corner in all the little habitation: the one thing that is present in the mind throughout all the weary hours is that the house is too small. If we live in circumstances, we shall be the sport of events; we shall be without dignity, without calmness, without reality and solidity of character; let us, therefore, betake ourselves into inner thoughts, into spirituality of life, into the soul's true character, into the very sanctuary of God: there we shall have truth and light and peace.

2. Then notice in Ahab a childish servility to circumstances (ver. 4). Yet he was the King of Israel in Samaria! He was in reality a man who could give law, whose very look was a commandment, and the uplifting of his hand could move an army. Now we see him surely at his least. So we do, but not at his worst. All this must have an explanation. We cannot imagine that the man is so simply childish and foolish as this incident alone would describe him. Behind all this childishness there is an explanation. What is it? We find it in ver. 25: — "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." That explains the whole mystery. But this is an affair which does not take place in the open market or in the open daylight. But the compact is made in darkness, in silence, in out-of-the-way places. Now we understand King Ahab better. We thought him but little, frivolous of mind, childish and petty, without a man s worthy ambition; but now we see that all this was but symptomatic, an outward sign, pointing, when rightly followed, to an inward and mortal corruption.

3. Now let us look at the case of Naboth and the position which he occupied in this matter. Naboth possessed the vineyard Ahab is said to have coveted. Naboth said, "The Lord forbid" (ver. 3). He made a religious question of it. Why did he invoke the Eternal Name, and stand back as if an offence had been offered to his faith? The terms were commercial, the terms were not unreasonable, the approach was courteous, the ground given for the approach was not an unnatural ground, — why did Naboth stand back as if his religion had been shocked? The answer is in Numbers 36:7. Ahab was taught that there was a man in Samaria who valued the inheritance which had been handed down to him. Have we no inheritance handed down to us — no book of revelation, no day of rest, no flag of liberty, no password of common trust? So Ahab lay down upon his bed, turned away his face, and would eat no bread. But there is a way of accomplishing mean desires. Take heart! there is a way of possessing oneself of almost whatever one desires. There is always some Merlin who will bring every Uther-Pendragon what he longs to have; there is always some Lady Macbeth who will show the thane how to become king. There is always a way to be bad! The gate of hell stands wide open, or if apparently half-closed a touch will make it fly back, and the road is broad that leadeth to destruction. Jezebel said she would find the,garden or vineyard for her husband.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

1. There is a strange fascination in sin. This man looks at this thing; turns it over in his mind; says how nice it would be; and at last the thing gets entire hold of him. He ought at first to have said, "No, that is beyond my power; that is forbidden." Instead, he plays with the thing, and nurses it, and it becomes his master. And just as a bird might be seen trying to escape, and yet is chained to the spot, the secret is discovered after a while in the approach of the serpent, sure and slow, with its eyes fixed on its prey, and held by its cruel glance; so it is with sin: there is a fascination in it. You look at it, you get your eyes fixed upon its eyes; you can break away if you have the will to do it, and the good sense, by God's providence, to do it; if you have not felt the full force of its fascination. But if you loiter where its influence can be felt more and more on you, presently it becomes your master, and you go to the evil thing, and bring the stain on your soul. Is it not so? The doctor, though he may carry his life in his band, must go where the small-pox or deadly fevers are raging, but the man who has no work and no cure for the evil is a madman, and not a hero, if he goes needlessly into an atmosphere laden with infection. It is the old soldier who has been in many a battle, and carries the scars of many an engagement, who shelters himself till the moment comes for the decisive charge. He is not afraid of lying down. It is the raw recruit, who has never smelt powder, and who has never had a scratch on him, who dare not be suspected of being afraid. And believe me, young men, it is not a courageous thing to go needlessly into danger of a moral character.

2. Yes, there is this fascination in man, but see what it brings us to, and the degradation it brings with it. "He, laid him down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread." Poor fellow! Yes, but that is what sin always does to men; it eats the heart out of their manliness. If a man wants to be strong to meet sorrow he must keep himself well in hand, and, by the grace of God, learn to control his appetites and desires, so that circumstances and possessions and pleasures shall always be his servants, never his master. I have seen in this city an old man beggared in a day, by no fault of his own, but through the wrong-doing and the misfortunes of others; a man who had maintained a stainless character, and a prominent position in all good works; and I saw him, not whining because he had lost his money, and asking all the world to come and see how sorely he had been dealt with, but bravely shaking off from himself the ruins of his fallen fortunes, and going out to win another fortune in his old age, if that were God's will, or to do without one, if that were God's will; but keeping a good conscience and a brave heart, and a face with the light of-God upon it, so that he could look any brother-man in the face with self-respect. And I tell you the man who is to be ready to do that sort of thing, and go through that sort of experience, is not the man who has always been wanting the softest bed and the warmest corner, the easiest path and the best dinner, whose one great thought is, how can I make myself as comfortable as possible in the world. No, the man who is to be brave to meet his own misfortunes when they come — and to all they will come, sooner or later — is the man who has not been continually thinking about himself, but who has let his heart go out to his fellow-men and towards the great Father, God, who tells us we ought to consider all men as our brothers. II you want to have the manliness taken out of your heart live for selfish aims and objects.

3. And then see, too, another way in which sin degrades a man; how it overturns all his mental conceptions, and even darkens and destroys the sensitiveness of his conscience. Ahab is lying there on his divan, and Jezebel comes to him. One can almost fancy one sees him and her together, and she is saying to him, What is the matter? And he tells her this doleful story, how he wanted the vineyard, and could not get it. Jezebel's lip turns with scorn as she looks down at him, and says, "Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? Are you lying here because you cannot get that nice toy? What is the good of being king if you are going to take No for an answer, if you cannot have your own way. "Arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry; I will give thee the vineyard of:Naboth the Jezreelite." When Jezebel said that Ahab knew she meant mischief. If he had been a true man and a true king, he would have said to her, "Though you are queen, it is at your peril if you touch a hair of his head; he is within the rights of this land. Dare not touch him, for every subject's rights and safety are sacred in my eyes." But the poor, mean-spirited wretch, degraded by his own follies, lies there, and lets his wife go and contrive the wickedness for which he has not the wit or courage. And all the time. I have no doubt, like other men in similar positions, Ahab was making to himself all kinds of excuses: "Well, I don't know what she is going to do; perhaps she is only going to offer him a little more money, or appeal to his respect for the king. At all events, it is not my business; I have not asked her to interfere, and so I shall not trouble about it. I shall let her do just what she will." Yes, that "let alone" policy which is so popular in many quarters, was admirably illustrated by Ahab on this occasion And I have no doubt that to a certain extent that kind of reasoning was sufficient to drug his conscience to sleep, at least for the time being. And there are constantly men who are acting on that principle. Men used to say, "Oh, certainly I never bribed any elector"; but when an election was coming on they would pay five hundred pounds to the credit of their agent, and ask no questions about it. There are men to-day in London who would say, "Of course I did not sell three penn'orth of gin over a counter to a poor, bloated, degraded woman." No, but they take three times as much rent for a house because it has got a licorice than they could get if it hadn't any. Men say, "I did not tell that lie, or set that slander in circulation." No, but they suggested it quite delicately, and "hoping it would go no further," and so the carrion scent was awakened, and all followed that they thought might be expected to follow. Many of these people fancy that God's eyes are closed, or that God does not know what is going on in the world, and that in some way or other they have been able to cheat the Omniscient! They cannot feel, and are not aware of the true nature of the life they are living and the deeds they are doing. Just as the slaves when they were flogged, after the first few blows felt very little, because the nerves of the back had been lacerated; so the consciences of these men have been cut, lashed, and injured till their sensitiveness is gone out of them, and men have lost the faculty of quickly detecting wrong, and knowing what is right. Can there possibly be a deeper degradation for a man? She came back to Ahab and said, "Naboth is dead." So the conscience of Ahab will let him at once rise with new eagerness to go and take possession of his treasure. Away he goes from the palace, promising himself many a pleasant hour in the cool shade of the vineyard. Yes, yes, there is disappointment in sin. God does not let men get the good out of it that they thought. God does not let them enjoy it as keenly as they expected. And this is one of the great proofs of God's love, that He will not let men sin easily and comfortably. We sometimes say it is hard work to get to heaven. That is true enough. But we may almost say it is as hard work for many men to get to hell. If they will be lost they have to break through many a barrier which the love of God built in their way; and not till they have forced their way through these barriers can they be cast into the outer darkness, which they rush to encounter. How good it is that God will not let men sin easily Some Elijah will stand in the gateway of the vineyard. Here is a man who has gone away from home; perhaps he is a young man, and in the very midst of some sinful revelry, where the air is thick with curses, where the atmosphere is as the atmosphere of hell, suddenly, as though the heavens parted, and the breath of heaven's own atmosphere were thrust into the midst of that vile scene, there comes to him a thought of his mother, of the pure blessed home that he left years ago. No law of association will account for that. There was nothing in the associations of the place to make him think that thought at that time, but the exact opposite. Surely the blessed Spirit of God sent that thought just there in order that that man might meet his Elijah at the gate of the vineyard. Another man is trying to get away from the impressions of his better days. As he passes hurriedly along, perhaps on a Sabbath day like this, some door opens, and some wave of sound comes out from the worshipping congregation. Memories are at once set at work to carry him back to his purer days. God has sent some Elijah to meet him at the gate of the vineyard. Oh, blessed be God, for the love that will not let us slip easily into hell! And then one cannot help seeing the doom of sin. There is a sort of awful dramatic propriety about this doom: "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood."

(T. B. Stephenson, D. D. , LL. D.)

There are many voices addressed to us from:Naboth's vineyard.

I. BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS. That vineyard has its counterpart in the case and conduct of many still. Covetousness may assume a thousand camelon hues and phases, but these all resolve themselves into a sinful craving after something other than what we have. Covetousness of means — a grasping after more material wealth; the race for riches. Covetousness of place — aspiring after other positions in life than those which Providence has assigned us; — not because they are better — but because they are other than our present God-appointed lot — invested with an imaginary superiority. And the singular and sad thing is, that such inordinate longings are most frequently manifested, as with Ahab, in the case of those who have least cause to indulge them. The covetous eye cast on the neighbour's vineyard is, strange to say, more the sin of the affluent than of the needy, — of the owner of the lordly mansion than of the humble cottage. The man with his clay floor, and thatched roof, and rude wooden rafters, though standing far more in need of increase to his comfort, is often (is generally) more contented and satisfied by far than he whose cup is full. The old story, which every schoolboy knows, is a faithful picture of human nature. It was Alexander, not defeated, but victorious — Alexander, not the lord of one kingdom, but the sovereign of the world, who wept unsatisfied tears. How many there are, surrounded with all possible affluence and comfort, who put a life-thorn in their side by some similar chase after a denied good, some similar fretting about a denied trifle. They have abundance; the horn of plenty has poured its contents into their lap. But a neighbour possesses something which they fancy they might have also. Like Haman, though their history has been a golden dream of prosperity; — advancement and honour such as the brightest visions of youth could never have pictured, — yet all this avails them nothing, so long as they see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate! Seek to suppress these unworthy envious longings. "For which things' sake," says the apostle (and among "these things" is covetousness), "the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience." Covetousness, God makes a synonym for idolatry. He classes the covetous in the same category with the worshippers of stocks and stones. "Be content with such things as ye have."

II. KEEP OUT OF THE WAY OF TEMPTATION. If Ahab, knowing his own weakness and besetting sin, had put a restraint on his covetous eye, and not allowed .it to stray on his neighbour's forbidden property, it would have saved a black page in his history, and the responsibilities of a heinous crime. Let us beware of tampering with evil. "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee." "Avoid it," says the wise man, speaking of this path of temptation, "pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." Each has his own strong temptation, — the fragile part of his nature, — his besetting sin.. That sin should be specially watched, muzzled, curbed; — that gate of temptation specially padlocked and sentinelled. One guilty dereliction of duty, — one unhappy abandonment of principle, — one inconsistent, thoughtless word or deed, — may be the progenitor of unnumbered evils. How many have bartered their peace of conscience for veriest trifles: — sold a richer inheritance than Esau's birthright for a mess of earthly pottage! And once the first fatal step is taken, it cannot be so easily undone. Once the blot on fair character is made, the stain is not so easily erased.

III. BE SURE YOUR SIN WILL FIND YOU OUT. Ahab and Jezebel, as we have seen, had managed to a wish their accursed plot. The wheels of crime had moved softly along without one rut or impediment in the way. The two murderers paced their blood-stained inheritance without fear of challenge or discovery.:Naboth was in that silent land where no voice of protest can be heard against high-handed inquity. But there was a God in heaven who maketh inquisition for blood, and who "remembered them." Their time for retribution did come at last, although years of gracious forbearance were suffered to intervene. And are the principles of God's moral government different now? It is true, indeed, that the present economy deals not so exclusively as the old in temporal retribution. Sinners now have before them the surer and more terrible recompense and vengeance of a world to come. But not unfrequently here also, retribution still follows, and sooner or later overtakes, the defiant transgressor. Conscience, like another stern Elijah in the vineyard of Naboth, will confront the transgressor and utter a withering doom. How many such an Elijah stands a rebuker within the gates of modern vineyards, purchased by the reward of iniquity! How many such an Elijah stands a ghostly sentinel by the door of that house whose stones have been hewn and polished and piled by illicit gain! How many an Elijah mounts on the back of the modern chariot, horsed and harnessed, pillowed and cushioned and liveried with the amassings of successful roguery! How many an Elijah stands in the midst of banquet-hall and drawing-room scowling down on some murderer of domestic peace and innocence, who has intruded into vineyards more sacred than Naboth's, — trampled virtue under foot, and left the broken, bleeding vine, to trail its shattered tendrils unpitied on the ground! And even should conscience itself, in this world be defied and overborne; at all events in the world to come, sin must be discovered; retribution (long evaded here) will at last exact its uttermost farthing. The most awful picture of a state of eternal punishment is that of sinners surrendered to the mastery of their own special transgression; these sins, like the fabled furies, following them, in unrelenting pursuit, from hall to hall and from cavern to cavern in the regions of unending woe; — and they, at last, hunted down, wearied, breathless, with the unavailing effort to escape the tormentors, crouching in wild despair, and exclaiming, like Ahab to Elijah, "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?"

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.).

1. There is no more striking illustration of this proverb than that supplied in the sacred story of King Ahab and Naboth of Jezreel. It is a curse of undisciplined desire that it never has enough. It has been asked, "When is a man rich enough?" and it has been answered, "When he has a little more than he has." A little more just to make an even sum, to secure this profitable investment, to finish this building, to make a complete ring-fence around this property, to gratify this harmless fad or to please some friend's taste — just a little more, and I shall be content, and then I will rest and be thankful. But undisciplined desire never comes to the resting-place, because such desire always increases with every new accession.

2. Undisciplined desire is never reasonable. All considerations of fairness and justice, of right and wrong, of doing "to others what we would they should do to us," must give way to this masterful desire.

3. But a man with a great passion of desire seldom hesitates long to use any means, however unlawful, to gain his object. He either clears the path himself, or, is too weak and cowardly to work with his own hands, he finds some strong and unscrupulous instrument.

4. But when such a man as Ahab gains his heart's desire, is he satisfied with his possessions? Said Jezebel, "Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite." Did he find the vineyard as large as it had appeared through the halo of his glowing hopes? Would it really make a satisfactory garden of herbs? Most of us have learned that there are two ways of looking through a telescope. One removes a near object far away, but it hides the blemishes; the other brings the object near, but it reveals all the blemishes. Possession exposes everything. And if the desire has been unreasonable and passionate, and especially if the conscience of the possessor is aroused to condemn the means used, there is left only a miserable sense of disappointment. When men use unlawful means to gain their desires, they must face all the consequences. In what beautiful contrast appears the testimony of St. Paul! "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content... In all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me."

(Thomas Wilde.)

Sir Richard Grenville said of Thomas Stukeley, "He was a knight who wanted but one step to greatness, and that was, that in his excessive hurry to rule other people, he forgot to rule himself." The true victor is he who leads his own captivity captive, is master of his own heart by giving it over to the Master Himself. Until the kingdom that has been divided is united, how can it conquer its foes?

A contented man may have enough, but a discontented man never can; his heart is like the Slough of Despond into which thousands of waggon loads of the best material were cast, and yet the slough did swallow up all, and was none the better. Discontent is a bottomless bog into which if one world were cast it would quiver and heave for another. A discontented man dooms himself to the direst form of poverty, yea, he makes himself so great a pauper that the revenues of empires could not enrich him. Are you impatient in your present position? Believe me that, as George Herbert said of revenues in times gone by, "He that cannot live on twenty pounds a year cannot live on forty"; so may I say: he who is not contented in his present position will not be contented in another though it bring him double possessions. When the vulture of dissatisfaction has once fixed its talons in the breast it will not cease to tear at your vitals.

(C H. Spurgeon.)

Ahab, Ahijah, Amorites, Baasha, Elijah, Jeroboam, Jezebel, Jezreel, Melech, Naboth, Nebat
Jezreel, Samaria
Ahab, Beside, Better, Close, Exchange, Garden, Green, Herbs, Money, Naboth, Palace, Pay, Plants, Prefer, Price, Saying, Seem, Seemeth, Seems, Silver, Spake, Speaketh, Spoke, Stead, Sweet, Value, Vegetable, Vine-garden, Vineyard, Whatever, Worth
1. Ahab being denied Naboth's vineyard, is grieved
5. Jezebel writing letters against Naboth, he is condemned of blasphemy
15. Ahab take possession of the vineyard
17. Elijah denounces judgments against Ahab and Jezebel
25. Wicked Ahab repenting, God defers the judgment

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Kings 21:2

     4240   garden, natural
     4468   horticulture

1 Kings 21:1-2

     4532   vegetables

1 Kings 21:1-4

     5476   property

1 Kings 21:1-13

     4366   stones

1 Kings 21:1-14

     5550   speech, negative
     5951   slander

1 Kings 21:1-16

     5714   men
     6710   privileges

1 Kings 21:1-19

     4538   vineyard
     5440   perjury

1 Kings 21:1-25

     5745   women

1 Kings 21:2-3

     5257   civil authorities
     5704   inheritance, material

1 Kings 21:2-4

     8780   materialism, and sin

1 Kings 21:2-16

     8716   dishonesty, examples

Ahab and Elijah
'And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy!'--1 KINGS xxi. 20. The keynote of Elijah's character is force-the force of righteousness. The New Testament, you remember, speaks of the 'power of Elias.' The outward appearance of the man corresponds to his function and his character. Gaunt and sinewy, dwelling in the desert, feeding on locusts and wild honey, with a girdle of camel's skin about his loins, he bursts into the history, amongst all that corrupt state of society, with the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

(Tenth Sunday after Trinity.) 1 Kings xxi. 19, 20. 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. Of all the grand personages
Charles Kingsley—Town and Country Sermons

Whether all Dissimulation is a Sin?
Objection 1: It seems that not all dissimulation is a sin. For it is written (Lk. 24:28) that our Lord "pretended [Douay: 'made as though'] he would go farther"; and Ambrose in his book on the Patriarchs (De Abraham i) says of Abraham that he "spoke craftily to his servants, when he said" (Gn. 22:5): "I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshipped, will return to you." Now to pretend and to speak craftily savor of dissimulation: and yet it is not to be said that there
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Touching Jacob, However, that which He did at his Mother's Bidding...
24. Touching Jacob, however, that which he did at his mother's bidding, so as to seem to deceive his father, if with diligence and in faith it be attended to, is no lie, but a mystery. The which if we shall call lies, all parables also, and figures designed for the signifying of any things soever, which are not to be taken according to their proper meaning, but in them is one thing to be understood from another, shall be said to be lies: which be far from us altogether. For he who thinks this, may
St. Augustine—Against Lying

Blessed are they that Mourn
Blessed are they that mourn. Matthew 5:4 Here are eight steps leading to true blessedness. They may be compared to Jacob's Ladder, the top whereof reached to heaven. We have already gone over one step, and now let us proceed to the second: Blessed are they that mourn'. We must go through the valley of tears to paradise. Mourning were a sad and unpleasant subject to treat on, were it not that it has blessedness going before, and comfort coming after. Mourning is put here for repentance. It implies
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.' Acts 11: 18. Repentance seems to be a bitter pill to take, but it is to purge out the bad humour of sin. By some Antinomian spirits it is cried down as a legal doctrine; but Christ himself preached it. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent,' &c. Matt 4: 17. In his last farewell, when he was ascending to heaven, he commanded that Repentance should be preached in his name.' Luke 24: 47. Repentance is a pure gospel grace.
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Of Antichrist, and his Ruin: and of the Slaying the Witnesses.
BY JOHN BUNYAN PREFATORY REMARKS BY THE EDITOR This important treatise was prepared for the press, and left by the author, at his decease, to the care of his surviving friend for publication. It first appeared in a collection of his works in folio, 1692; and although a subject of universal interest; most admirably elucidated; no edition has been published in a separate form. Antichrist has agitated the Christian world from the earliest ages; and his craft has been to mislead the thoughtless, by
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

The book[1] of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with some brilliant exceptions--its relative monotony, are obvious to the most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.),
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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