The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and
sojourners with me. Leviticus 25:23

So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for
every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of
his fathers. Numbers 36:7

THE RIGHTS OF A MAN

I Want Your Vineyard: The Whining, Wicked Wimp
Ahab was King and he wanted the lot next door for a vegetable garden:

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. 2 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. 3 And Naboth said to Ahab, The
LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
1 Kings 21:1-3

Jezreel

The vineyard that Naboth cultivated on the lot could easily be replaced by another and better
vineyard than it. It was to Naboth, however, more than a plot of land. It was a connection with
his family and his connection with the God of Israel who had assigned the land to Naboth’s
tribe of Issachar. Naboth does not simply regard this offer as unacceptable due to family
sentimentalities, but a provocation to do evil, and his reaction is “with aversion and alarm, as
from a temptation to a heinous sin” (Rev. Thomas Scott, note on 21:1,2). Ahab who, in spite of
his evil, had been recently victorious in battle, and maintained a hold on his kingdom, was in
anguish over his inability to gain control of this small parcel:

4 And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth
the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my
fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no
bread.

1 Kings 21:4

 

Ahab’s depression was quite real. He could not stand the rejection of his offer. He skulked but
he took no action. He was quite accustomed to his wife taking that role. Ahab accepted
passivity, but Jezebel did not.

Israel is Defeated at Ai
Ahab’s covetous desire toward Naboth’s vineyard is reminiscent of the story of Achan in the
book of Joshua. The children of Israel were defeated at Ai, a small town they should easily have
taken, because of Achan’s sin:

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son
of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed
thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
Joshua 7:1

Joshua had a meeting with all of the tribes of Israel. He needed to purge the sin from the
nation’s midst, and soon.

Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is
an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine
enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
Joshua 7:13

Achan decided to come clean:
And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of
Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly
Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty
shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the
earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. Joshua 7:20-21

Achan saw, he coveted he took. Lust conceived, and brought forth sin… and sin, when it is
finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15). In Romans, we are taught the following:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the
law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin,
taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.
Romans 7:7-8

The Greek word for the verb “covet” in verse 7 is epithumeo (ἐ#ιθυ’έω), a combination of epi (ἐ#ί, complete, thorough) and thumos (θυ’ός, fierce, intensive), indicating a dominant desire that overpowers the mind. In verse 8, the outworking of the violation of that law is the noun “concupiscence”, epithumia (ἐ#ιθυ’ία) in the Greek, and describes what we see in Ahab—an overpowering desire for what he cannot lawfully have. Ahab’s mental framework was constrained, however, and he refused to seize the property in his capacity as King. He needed justification for such a move that would make it appear lawful. Ahab complained of his problem to his wicked bride, a powerful, idolatrous wife who hated God and would get Ahab what he wanted:

But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so
sad, that thou eatest no bread? 6 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. 7 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.

We can assume that Jezebel is not operating in the role of a caring wife. She hates
the God of the Israelites with such intensity, particularly since her prophets were
slaughtered after the contest on Mount Carmel, that she will not pass up the
opportunity to go after one of the Lord’s followers, particularly one who is relying
on the commands of Moses and the distribution of the lands by God to justify his
position in refusing to sell to Ahab. Maclaren writes:

“To be thus at the mercy of our own ravenous desires, and so utterly
miserable when they are thwarted, is unworthy of manhood, and is
sure to bring many a bitter moment; for there are more
disappointments than gratifications in store for such a one. We may
learn from Ahab, too, the certainty that weakness will darken into
wickedness. Such a mood as his always brings some Jezebel or other
to suggest evil ways of succeeding. In this wicked world there are
more temptations to sin than helps to virtue, and the weak man will
soon fall into some of the abundant traps laid for him. Unless we
have learned to say ‘No’ with much emphasis, because we are ‘strong
in the Lord,’ we shall fall. ‘This did not I because of the fear of the
Lord.’ To be weak is to be miserable, and any sin may come from it.”

Jezebel then takes over the problem—she had long ago taken charge of the
kingdom:

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. 9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people: 10 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. 11 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. 12 They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. 13 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. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead. 15 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. 16 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. – 1 Kings 21:5-16

Bearing False Witness:

A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies. – Proverbs 14:5

The rights of man are based on divine decrees. Laws, properly constituted and enforced, will
reflect God’s justice, which is the operational sphere of His righteousness. Justice only
operates within the realm and strict confines of truth. Truth informs both perspectives and
acts of justice. Falsehood is the power of injustice and the corruption, inequity, and tyranny
that accompanies its manifestations.

Jezebel, in league with the Elders of the city, brings in false witnesses to insure that Naboth is
condemned to die.

“Much highhanded oppression must have gone before such outspoken
contempt of justice; and, if Ahab represents the fatal connection of weakness
and wickedness, Jezebel is an instance of the fatal audacity with which a strong
character may come, by long indulgence in self-willed gratification of its own
desires, to trample down all obstacles and go crashing through all laws, human
and divine. The climax of sin is to see a deed to be sinful, and to do it all the
same” (Maclaren).

The record is silent as to Naboth. He makes no defense. Rev. Scott writes:

“It is hard to relate facts, respecting ourselves, with simplicity and impartiality;
but much more difficult to restrain those within strict limits of equity, who are
able to seize on the objects of their desires, without fear of being called to
account before any human tribunal. Hence, rapines and oppressions have
disgraced human nature, and desolated the earth, in all ages; every resistance to
the will of a superior has been condemned as rebellion; and this has occasioned
assassinations, massacres, or public executions. A little acquaintance with
history and with human nature, will terminate our astonishment at such
transactions; for “nothing is new under the sun;” but they must ever excite our
regret, our compassion and our indignation.
The most flagrant injustice has generally been committed under the color of legal
forms; and the most horrid crimes have been perpetrated under the mask of
piety: because the show of these good things hides the deformity of such
transactions, as otherwise could never be endured… Many command and
reward villainy, who in their hearts despise and detest the mercenary wretches
whom they employ…It is grievous that men of Belial abound even in the lower
order of society; but most horrible when judges and nobles deserve this harsh
appellation. Yet, there will always be found those in every rank, who will 2
prostitute their talents, influence, and conscience, to the tyrant who rewards
iniquity. Let us then blessed God for a limited government, and for security
from such outrages of oppression: though even in Britain, men of Belial, by false
testimony and perjury, may deprive us of our prosperity, our liberty, and our
reputation, or our lives.” (ca. 1795)

Not to be missed, Naboth is a figure of Christ, the Savior who faced false accusations,
betrayal, and death. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

The Last Guy Ahab Wanted to See

And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 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, 22 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. 23 And
of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.
24 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. 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.
1 Kings 21:17-25

Questions:

  • How has the Lord used others in your life to bring your sins to light?
  • What did the elders do, or not do, that corresponds with wicked leaders in today’s world?
  • Is the tale of Naboth relative to you in some way you can identify with?
  • What is our duty when we see oppression and tyranny?
  • Would you have stepped in to help Naboth? What would you have risked in such a culture? In
    today’s culture?