Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary

1 Kings 21


Ahab covets the vineyard of Naboth, and wishes to have it either by purchase or exchange, 1 Kings 21:1, 1 Kings 21:2. Naboth refuses to alienate it on any account, because it was his inheritance from his fathers, 1 Kings 21:3. Ahab becomes disconsolate, takes to his bed, and refuses to eat, 1 Kings 21:4. Jezebel, finding out the cause, promises to give him the vineyard, 1 Kings 21:5-7. She writes to the nobles of Jezreel to proclaim a fast, to accuse Naboth of blasphemy, carry him out, and stone him to death; which is accordingly done, 1 Kings 21:8-14. She then tells Ahab to go and take possession of the vineyard; he goes, and is met by Elijah, who denounces on him the heaviest judgments, 1 Kings 21:15-24. Ahab's abominable character, 1 Kings 21:25, 1 Kings 21:26. He humbles himself; and God promises not to bring the threatened public calamities in his days, but in the days of his son, 1 Kings 21:27-29.

Verse 1

After these things - This and the twentieth chapter are transposed in the Septuagint; this preceding the account of the Syrian war with Ben-hadad. Josephus gives the history in the same order.

Verse 2

Give me thy vineyard - The request of Ahab seems at first view fair and honorable. Naboth's vineyard was nigh to the palace of Ahab, and he wished to add it to his own for a kitchen garden, or perhaps a grass-plat, ירק גן gan yarak ; and he offers to give him either a better vineyard for it, or to give him its worth in money. Naboth rejects the proposal with horror: The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to thee. No man could finally alienate any part of the parental inheritance; it might be sold or mortgaged till the jubilee, but at that time it must revert to its original owner, if not redeemed before; for this God had particularly enjoined Leviticus 25:14-17, Leviticus 25:25-28; : therefore Naboth properly said, 1 Kings 21:3, The Lord forbid it me, to give the inheritance of my fathers. Ahab most evidently wished him to alienate it finally, and this is what God's law had expressly forbidden; therefore he could not, consistently with his duty to God, indulge Ahab; and it was high iniquity in Ahab to tempt him to do it; and to covet it showed the depravity of Ahab's soul. But we see farther that, despotic as those kings were, they dared not seize on the inheritance of any man. This would have been a flagrant breach of the law and constitution of the country; and this indeed would have been inconsistent with the character which they sustained, viz., the Lord's vicegerents. The Jewish kings had no authority either to alter the old laws, or to make new ones. "The Hindoos," says Mr. Ward, "are as strongly attached to their homesteads as the Jews were. Though the heads of the family be employed in a distant part of the country, and though the homesteads may be almost in ruins, they cling still to the family inheritance with a fondness bordering on superstition.

Verse 4

He laid him down upon his bed - Poor soul! he was lord over ten-twelfths of the land, and became miserable because he could not get a poor man's vineyard added to all that he possessed! It is a true saying, "That soul in which God dwells not, has no happiness: and he who has God has a satisfying portion." Every privation and cross makes an unholy soul unhappy; and privations and crosses it must ever meet with, therefore: -

"Where'er it goes is hell;

itself is hell!"

Verse 7

Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? - Naboth, not Ahab, is king. If he have authority to refuse, and thou have no power to take, he is the greater man of the two. This is the vital language of despotism and tyranny.

Verse 8

She wrote letters in Ahab's name - She counterfeited his authority by his own consent; and he lent his signet to stamp that authority.

Verse 9

Proclaim a fast - Intimate that there is some great calamity coming upon the nation, because of some evil tolerated in it.

Set Naboth on high - Bring him to a public trial.

Verse 10

Set two men - For life could not be attainted but on the evidence of two witnesses at least.

Sons of Belial - Men who will not scruple to tell lies and take a false oath.

Thou didst blaspheme God and the king - Thou art an atheist and a rebel. Thou hast spoken words injurious to the perfections and nature of God; and thou hast spoken words against the crown and dignity of the king. The words literally are, Naboth hath Blessed Clod and the king; or, as Parkhurst contends, "Thou hast blessed the false gods and Molech," ומלך אלהים ברכת And though Jezebel was herself an abominable idolatress; yet, as the law of Moses still continued in force, she seems to have been wicked enough to have destroyed Naboth, upon the false accusation of blessing the heathen Aleim and Molech, which subjected him to death by Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 17:2-7. The first meaning appears the most simple.

Many think that the word ברך barach signifies both to bless and curse; and so it is interpreted in most Lexicons: it is passing strange that out of the same word proceedeth blessing and cursing; and to give such opposite and self-destructive meanings to any word is very dangerous. Parkhurst denies that it ever has the meaning of cursing, and examines all the texts where it is said to occur with this meaning; and shows that blessing, not cursing, is to be understood in all those places: see him under ברך , sec. vi.

Verse 13

And stoned him with stones - As they pretended to find him guilty of treason against God and the king, it is likely they destroyed the whole of his family; and then the king seized on his grounds as confiscated, or as escheated to the king, without any heir at law. That his family was destroyed appears strongly intimated, 2 Kings 9:26; Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, And the Blood of His Sons, saith the Lord.

Verse 15

Arise, take possession - By what rites or in what forms this was done, we do not know.

Verse 18

Go down to meet Ahab - This was the next day after the murder, as we learn from the above quotation, 2 Kings 9:26.

Verse 19

In the place where dogs licked, etc. - It is in vain to look for a literal fulfillment of this prediction. Thus it would have been fulfilled, but the humiliation of Ahab induced the merciful God to say, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in the days of his son, 1 Kings 21:29. Now dogs did lick the blood of Ahab; but it was at the pool of Samaria, where his chariot and his armor were washed, after he had received his death wound at Ramoth-gilead; but some think this was the place where Naboth was stoned: see 1 Kings 22:38. And how literally the prediction concerning his son was fulfilled, see 2 Kings 9:25, where we find that the body of Jehoram his son, just then slain by an arrow that had passed through his heart, was thrown into the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite; and there, doubtless, the dogs licked his blood, if they did not even devour his body. There is a similar idea of the propriety of punishment overtaking the culprit in the place where he had committed the crime, expressed by Orestes to Aegisthus, Soph. Elect. 1495.

- Χωρει δ ' ενθαπερ κατεκτανες��<-144 �Πατερα τον αμον, ὡς εν ταυτῳ θανῃς.

- Go where thou slew'st my father,

That in the self-same place thou too may'st die.

Verse 20

Thou hast sold thyself to work evil - See a similar form of speech, Romans 7:14; (note). Thou hast totally abandoned thyself to the service of sin. Satan is become thy absolute master, and thou his undivided slave.

Verse 23

The dogs shall eat Jezebel - This was most literally fulfilled; see 2 Kings 9:36. The carcasses of poor Hindoos, and of persons who have received public punishment, are thrown into the rivers, and floating to the side, are devoured by dogs, vultures, and crows.

Verse 25

Did sell himself to work wickedness - He hired himself to the devil for this very purpose, that he might work wickedness. This was to be his employment, and at this he labored.

In the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up - A good wife is from the Lord; a bad wife is from the devil: Jezebel was of this kind; and she has had many successors.

Verse 27

He rent his clothes - He was penetrated with sorrow, and that evidently unfeigned.

Put sackcloth upon his flesh - He humbled himself before God and man.

And fasted - He afflicted his body for his soul's benefit.

Lay in sackcloth - Gave the fullest proof that his repentance was real.

And went softly - Walked barefooted; so the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. The Vulgate has demisso capite, "with his head hanging down." Houbigant translates went groaning. Jarchi says that the word אט at, used here, signifies to be unshod. This is its most likely sense. All these things prove that Ahab's repentance was genuine; and God's approbation of it puts it out of doubt. The slow and measured pace which always accompanies deep and reflective sorrow is also alluded to by Aeschylus, where the Chorus are thus shortly addressed on the defeat of Xerxes. - Aesch. Pers. 1073.

Γοασθ ' ἁβροβαται

"With light and noiseless step lament."

Verse 29

Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself - He did abase himself; he did truly repent him of his sins, and it was such a repentance as was genuine in the sight of God: He humbleth himself Before Me.

The penitent heart ever meets the merciful eye of God; repentance is highly esteemed by the Father of compassion, even where it is comparatively shallow and short-lived. Any measure of godly sorrow has a proportionate measure of God's regard; where it is deep and lasting, the heart of God is set upon it. He that mourns shall be comforted; thus hath God spoken, and though repentance for our past sins can purchase no favor, yet without it God will not grant us his salvation.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.