1 Kings 21


In this chapter, we begin to see what kind of king, Ahab is really like. We see a selfish, ambitious king who will go to any length to get his own way. We also read about his selfish, ambitious wife, Jezebel, who appears to dominate everything in Ahab’s life. What he wants, he gets, what she wants she gets!

Naboth’s Vineyard

‘Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.’ But Naboth replied, ‘The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.’ So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.’ He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.’ 1 Kings 21:1-4

Here we read of Ahab’s selfishness, there’s a vineyard in Jezreel which belong to a man named Naboth, and Ahab asks him for it. Many years ago, Samuel had prophesied that, when Israel got a king of their own choosing, then that king would take their fields and their vineyards, 1 Samuel 8:14, and it appears that Ahab is fulfilling that part of the prophecy.

Naboth couldn’t sell his vineyard to Ahab because it was part of his inheritance, God’s law forbids him from selling the inherited land, Leviticus 25:23-28 / Numbers 36:1-9.

Ahab was well aware of this law, but he selfishly still wanted the land, all he was thinking about was himself and not Naboth. After being told he couldn’t have the vineyard, he goes home ‘sullen and angry’, 1 Kings 20:43, because he couldn’t get what he wanted.

‘His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, ‘Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?’ He answered her, ‘Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’ Jezebel his wife said, ‘Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’ So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: ‘Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.’ So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, ‘Naboth has cursed both God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: ‘Naboth has been stoned to death.’ As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.’ When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.’ 1 Kings 21:5-16

Here we see the selfishness of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, who was from Sidon, 1 Kings 16:31. Because she came from she had absolutely no respect for God’s laws and we also see that she had absolutely no respect for Naboth and his life.

The domineering factor of Jezebel is seen in what she says to Ahab, ‘is this how you act as king over Israel?’ As far as she is concerned, Ahab was king and he could do whatever he wants, regardless of what God’s laws say and regardless of who he hurt in the process, Judges 17:6 / Judges 21:25 / Proverbs 21:2.

After writing letters in Ahab’s name and sealing them, she sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth. Notice that she arranges for two scoundrels to bear false witness against Naboth, this tells us that she has some knowledge of God’s laws because, in any trial, where the death penalty could be applied, there had to be at least two witnesses, Numbers 35:30 / Deuteronomy 17:6-7 / Deuteronomy 19:15.

We see the same thing happened to David, Psalm 27:12, and centuries later with Jesus, Matthew 26:60 / Mark 14:56, and Stephen, Acts 6:13. Jezebel also knew what the law said concerning the death penalty, Leviticus 24:13-16.

It appears that even those who knew Naboth were terrified of Jezebel and submitted to her idea of killing Naboth. It appears that even the elders were terrified of Jezebel and submitted to her idea of killing Naboth. This shows us just how evil Jezebel is, she is selfish and ambitious and will do whatever it takes to get what she wants.

Coffman in his commentary asks and answers the following question.

What about Naboth’s heirs? ‘Jezebel’s knowledge of the Books of Moses enabled her to take care of that also. The pretence of that false trial was modelled after the example of Joshua and the stoning of Achan, Joshua 7:1-25, and it will be remembered that not only Achan but his wife and all of his sons and daughters were also stoned with him. Yes, Jezebel took care of everything. They stoned all of Naboth’s sons, 2 Kings 9:26, at the same time as the stoning of Naboth so that there would not be any heirs!’

‘Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’ Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me, my enemy!’ ‘I have found you,’ he answered, ‘because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ ‘And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ ‘Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.’ (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.’ 1 Kings 21:17-29

Nothing goes unnoticed by God, nothing is hidden from His eyes, Proverbs 15:3 / Hebrews 4:13. God knew exactly what Ahab had done and sent Elijah to him to tell him his and Jezebel’s fate. The message which Elijah brought to Ahab wasn’t good, he and Jezebel were to die, but their death was going to be a horrible death.

Elijah tells him ‘In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’

Coffman says the following concerning this verse.

‘How ridiculous is the comment of critics that, These words were not exactly fulfilled in history. While true enough that the fulfilment of this dreadful prophecy varied to some degree from what is said here, the variation was due to the repentance of Ahab which fully justified the slight changes, Jeremiah 18:7-10, because all of God’s promises of judgment and punishment upon either nations or individuals are contingent, always, upon whether or not there is a significant change in the life of the condemned.’

Ahab knows that Elijah is now his enemy and because he was God’s prophet, he would also know that God is now his enemy, James 4:4. Notice that their death was to be a very public affair, the reason for this public death was to send a powerful message to the Israelites and let them know that when this prophecy was fulfilled, everyone would know that Elijah was a true prophet of God and God Himself was their God.

It appears that Ahab still had some kind of conscience because he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. Jezebel probably thought the words of Elijah were a bunch of rubbish. Ahab also ‘went around meekly’, which possibly means he went around barefooted.

Elijah’s words of judgment must have had a big impact on Ahab because God spared his life, however, the judgment wouldn’t come in his lifetime, it would come later as his sons would have to pay the price for Ahab stealing Naboth’s vineyard. Joram who carried the blood of Ahab was the last of Ahab’s house, and he was thrown by Jehu upon the very plot of ground where the dogs licked Naboth’s blood at Jezreel, 2 Kings 9:26.

Ahab’s household would become like that of Jeroboam or Baasha, in other words, his dynasty would come to an end.

Go To 1 Kings 22