The Text: 1 Kings 21
1-3 Naboth’s Vineyard
Although the capitol of Israel was Samaria, and this is where Ahab’s palace was, Ahab established what was essentially a summer home in Jezreel. The city overlooked the valley of Jezreel and was known for breathtaking views to the northeast, towards Syria. As Ahab looked to establish his connection with Ben Hadad, it made sense for him to develop an opulent estate in Jezreel. Ahab’s family became quite attached to this palace. It is here that Jezebel will be later thrown from the window (2 Kings 9:30-37). And it is here that Jehu will slaughter Ahab’s seventy sons (2 Kings 10:1-11).
Naboth had a vineyard here, just next door to Ahab’s palace. And Ahab began coveting the land for his own. Selling to Ahab was prohibited (Num. 36:7, Lev. 25:23), which is why Naboth refuses to sell.
4 Sullen and Displeased
The two words here describe both stubbornness and ill-temper. It takes two ingredients to create a good sulk. You have to be displeased with the situation and you have to refuse to get over it. A real estate deal gone bad is a great picture of what this looks like. We always see so much potential in the opportunities that are just out of our reach. And our inability to let go of these things can put us into a funk.
5-7 Enter Jezebel
Jezebel’s statement to Ahab is dripping with irony. Is it Ahab or is it Jezebel that exercises authority over all Israel? The relationship between Ahab and his wife is such a striking picture of a very particular and very common kind of manipulation that it is worth taking a moment to examine.
First, men frequently have very fragile egos. This can be good because it drives them to achievement. But it can be bad because it makes them so susceptible to manipulation. Nothing is easier to control than a man whose insecurities are obvious. Be careful, men, about what whispers you let yourself hear. In particular, the claim that your greatness is being neglected or insufficiently rewarded is poison to your soul.
Second, women who have found this button to push can get anything they want out of their husbands, but they make their marriages miserable. Wives, do you fuel contentment or discontent in your husband? How many women tell themselves that they are being Abigail when they are actually being Jezebel.
8-16 Proclaim the Fast
Jezebel orders two sons of Belial to accuse Naboth at a fast. A fast is a strategic moment for making an accusation against Naboth because suspicions would have been aroused. Two witnesses were required to make the charge (Deut 17:6. 19:15, and Num 35:30). The charge was cursing the King and God and the penalty was death (Ex. 22:28 (cf. Acts 23:5) and Lev. 24:16). With Naboth out of the way, Ahab was free to seize the vineyard.
17-26 The Curse
Elijah returns to give Ahab some bad news. As the worst Israelite king of all time (v. 25, cf. 2 Kings 21:3), Ahab gets a whopping curse levelled at him. Fist of all, note that even though we saw Jezebel’s hand behind all this, Ahab remains responsible. He cannot say, “the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” To be have been manipulated is not an excuse. It’s an extra sin. Ahab will be cut off. Just as he has done to Naboth, so will be done to him. Ahab is killed in battle and the dogs licked his blood from the chariot (1 Kings 22:38). Jezebel is thrown from the heights of Jezreel and the dogs ate her (2 Kings 9:30-37).
Joram, the son of Ahab, is killed by Jehu and his body is thrown onto the ground of Naboth’s vineyard (2 Kings 9:24-25). Ahaziah, who is the grandson of Ahab and the king of Judah, is killed by Jehu (2 Kings 9:27-29) and his forty-two brothers (2 Kings 10:12-14). Seventy sons of Ahab and then all the descendents of Ahab are all killed by Jehu (2 Kings 10).
In fact, even the genealogy of Jesus is expunged all the descendants of Ahab (Mat. 1:8, 2 Kings 8:16-18).
At hearing this, Ahab is brought to repentance. There doesn’t seem to be any insincerity here. Just as he was in a funk at being refused Naboth’s vineyard (v. 4), now he mourns over the curse that is on him. And God acknowledges Ahab’s sorrow. It is only enough to postpone the curse, however, and does not delay it. Ahab has been capable of these kinds of turns on a dime throughout his life.