*Good morning. Thanks for joining me today as we continue our journey through the Bible. If you are just joining in on this study, each day (Monday through Friday) we make our way through the Bible. We began with the Book of Genesis and will end with the Book of Revelation. We are now near the end of I Kings.
Yesterday we looked at Elijah's encounter with the Lord at Mt. Sinai. (Sometimes referred to a Horeb. This depends on the tradition that gave us the account. (or writer) Elijah encountered God in a way that he was not expecting. Elijah expected God to appear in the same manner God had appeared before (Earthquake, wind, fire), but God surprised him and appeared in a whisper, or "still small voice." (KJV) Elijah learned that God is not contained to how God "has always done things." God then sent Elijah back to anoint a new king and Elisha as his successor. I will return to the encounter with Elisha later. Today, I want to return to King Ahab and Jezebel.
"Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth...the vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab...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 fathers.'" (I Kings 21:1-3)
In the ancient Near East monarchs sought to have control over their subjects. However, in Israel this was not the case. In Israel the king was never above the law and always subject to divine judgment. In the past the underlying issues have involved religious apostasy, but here the issue is the king's willingness to violate individual rights. Now, at first there is nothing that Ahab does wrong. He approaches Naboth and makes him an offer. The setting is the palace area near Jezreel, where a second palace was located. (Main palace is in Samaria) Ahab wants Naboth's vineyard. The offer he makes to Naboth is a fair offer. Naboth might even come out way ahead. Today, folks do this all the time. The other day we traveled to Glenville where I went to college (College Part II). My wife's uncle owned a garage there in town where he serviced vehicles, including mine when we lived in the area. My wife was sadden to see that the garage is gone and standing in its spot is a Tudor's Biscuit World. We saw her uncle and I asked, "Did you decide to start making biscuits instead of working on cars?" He answered by saying that one day a guy came by with the "right offer" and he took it. He is now enjoying retirement. So Ahab drops in with an offer. But, Naboth says "No!"
Naboth's reason for saying "No" is that "The Lord forbids that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers." Even though Israelites did try to prevent inherited property from passing out of the family there were no legal barriers against it. However, Naboth has out a "Not For Sale" sign" on the door. This is where the trouble begins.
"So Ahab went home sullen and angry...He lay in his bed sulking and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, 'Why are you so sullen? Why won't you eat? (I Kings 21:4-5)
O.K., what picture comes to mind here? Yes, that of a child who did not get what he/she wanted and ran to their room, slammed the door and had what we would call "a hissy fit." Here is the king, a grown man, laying on his bed pouting. I can picture in my mind Jezebel coming into the palace looking for Ahab and asking the servants: "Have any of you seen my man?" They answer, "The last time we saw him he was running into the bedroom." She goes toward the bedroom: "Woo Hoo" Where is that handsome, muscular, dreamy man of mine?" (I can hear Melody looking for me in this manner. Ummm...Not!) Then she finds him crying his eyes out. "What in the world is wrong with you?" she asked. I can just see him pounding his fists and kicking his feet saying: "That mean ole Naboth wouldn't sell me his vineyard and I even made him a great offer!" (Sniff, sniff,)
"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...(I Kings 21:7)
Jezebel wastes no time. She orders elders and nobles of the city in which Naboth lived to find two false witnesses against Naboth. They are to declare that Naboth cursed both God and king. Then Naboth is to be executed. This is exactly what they do. The property of executed criminals, if there were no family members to claim it, would then be forfeited to the king. Jezebel says to Ahab; "Hey Babe! (paraphrased of course) Go get your vineyard." I can just see Ahab running toward the vineyard: "Yay Me! Whoopee! It's mine! It's all mine!" Now, keep in mind Ahab does not necessarily know how Naboth died. (He was stoned to death) All he has been told is "He is no longer alive, but dead." (I Kings 21:15b) However, just as Ahab is walking through the vineyard thinking to himself; "Yes, I think I'll put a gazebo over there. Oh, wouldn't a patch of roses look splendid over in that corner? Ahh! A pond! Yes, a pond would look so pretty right over there, and we could have flamingos, oh, this is such a great day!" Elijah (remember him?) shows up. "Congratulations! What a beautiful vineyard! I can't wait to see what you do with it. In fact, you should have this as an installment on Home and Garden Network." Ummm...No! That is not what Elijah had to say. No, just as David was "found" after murdering Uriah and taking his wife, Ahab has been found and charged with murder and theft. Now, I have seen on the news videos of judges sentencing people to what awaits them. Usually, when one is sentenced to die, the judge will say something to the effect, "May God have mercy on your soul." However, Elijah isn't so kind as he hands down the sentence upon Ahab, and even Jezebel.
"This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood-yes, yours! And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." (I Kings 21:19b, 23)
So, enjoy your vineyard Ahab while you can. Well, Ahab is clearly a king who is influenced heavily by his wife. Perhaps this is also a jab at the people themselves who are so easily influenced and so easily follow after other gods. Ahab has no back bone and can not seemingly make his own decisions. Ahab may not have murdered Naboth himself, but he is still guilty. Sentence is postponed because Ahab does humble himself before God. But, it is too little, too late. In Chapter twenty-two Ahab is killed in battle. We are told that the chariot that carried the wounded Ahab was brought to Samaria where it was washed at a pool where the prostitutes bathed. Then we read: "and the dogs licked up his blood." (I Kings 22:38b)
Clearly, the Lord sees and knows everything. Jezebel may have gotten away with everything as far as the people were concerned, but she couldn't get away from the all-seeing eyes of God. Her day is yet to come, but Ahab's day has come and gone. He may have received his vineyard, but he didn't live to enjoy it. Tomorrow we will return to the prophets Elijah and Elisha. I hope you can join me. -Pastor Rick