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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 21

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

A vineyard ... in Jezreel - The name Jezreel is applied in Scripture, not merely to the town 1 Kings 18:46, but also to the valley or plain which lies below it, between Mount Gilboa and Little Hermon (2Sa 2:9; 2 Kings 9:10; Hosea 1:5; etc.).

The palace of Ahab at Jezreel was on the eastern side of the city, looking toward the Jordan down the valley above described. It abutted on the town wall 2 Kings 9:30-31. Immediately below it was a dry moat. Beyond, in the valley, either adjoining the moat, or at any rate at no great distance, was the plot of ground belonging to Naboth 2 Kings 9:21.

Verse 2

I will give thee the worth of it in money - literally, “I will give thee silver, the worth of it.” Money, in our sense of the word, that is to say, coins of definite values, did not yet exist. The first coin known to the Jews was the Persian daric, with which they became acquainted during the captivity. (1 Chronicles 29:7 note).

Verse 3

The Lord forbid it me - Or, “Yahweh forbid it me.” Naboth, as a worshipper of Yahweh, not of Baal, considers it would be wrong for him to comply with the king’s request, as contrary to the Law (margin). His was not a mere refusal arising out of a spirit of sturdy independence, or one based upon the sentiment which attaches men to ancestral estates.

Verse 4

Upon his bed - That is, “upon his couch.” The Jews, like other Orientals, reclined upon couches at their meals (Amos 6:4; Ezekiel 23:41, etc.). Ahab turns his face toward the back of the couch, rejecting all converse with others, and so remains, after the banquet is served, refusing to partake of it. Such an open manifestation of ill temper is thoroughly characteristic of an Oriental king.

Verse 7

The meaning is, “Art thou king, and yet sufferest thyself to be thwarted in this way by a mere subject? I, the queen, the weak woman, will give thee the vineyard, if thou, the king, the strong man, wilt do nothing.”

Verse 8

Seal - The seal is a very ancient invention. Judah’s signet and Pharaoh’s signet-ring are mentioned in Genesis Genesis 38:18; Genesis 41:42. Signets of Egyptian kings have been found which are referred to about 2000 B.C. Sennacherib’s signet, and an impression of Sargon’s, are still extant. There can be no doubt that in the East, from a very remote antiquity, kings had seals and appended them to all documents which they set forth under their authority. (Compare also Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8; Daniel 6:17). The Hebrew mode of sealing seems to have been by attaching a lump of clay to the document, and impressing the seal thereupon Job 38:14.

His city - i. e., Jezreel 1 Kings 21:1. The mode in which it is spoken of here, and in 1 Kings 21:11, seems to imply that it was not the city from which Jezebel wrote. The court was evidently at this time residing at Samaria 1 Kings 20:43; and Ahab may either have met Naboth there, or have gone down (compare 1 Kings 21:16) to Jezreel to make his request, and then, on being refused, have returned to Samaria. The distance is not more than seven miles.

Verse 9

The object of this fast was at once to raise a prejudice against Naboth, who was assumed by the elders to have disgraced the town; and at the same time to give an air of religion to the proceedings, which might blind persons to their real injustice.

Set Naboth on high among his people - This was not an order to do Naboth any, even apparent, honor; but simply a command to bring him forward before a court or assembly, where he might be seen by all, tried, and condemned.

Verse 10

Sons of Belial - i. e., “worthless persons” (Deuteronomy 13:13 note). Witnesses must be two in number according to the Law Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15.

The word rendered “blaspheme” is that which commonly means “bless.” The opposite sense of “cursing,” seems, however, to be required here and in Job 1:5, Job 1:11; Job 2:5. Perhaps the best explanation of the bad sense of the original word is to be found in the practice of blessing by way of salutation, not only on meeting, but also on taking leave Genesis 47:7, Genesis 47:10. From the latter custom the word came to mean “bidding farewell to,” and so “renouncing,” “casting off,” “cursing.”

Carry him out and stone him - Naboth’s offence would be twofold, and in both cases capital; blasphemy against God being punishable with death by the Law (marginal reference), and blasphemy against the king being a capital offence by custom 1Ki 2:8; 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 19:21. The punishment would be stoning, since the greater crime would absorb the lesser, and the Law made stoning the punishment for blasphemy against God. As stoning always took place outside the city (see Acts 7:58), Jezebel told the elders to “carry Naboth out.”

Verse 11

The ready submission of the elders and nobles implies a deep moral degradation among the Israelites, the fruit of their lapse into idolatry.

Verse 13

Naboth had sons who were also put to death at this time (marginal reference). It is not improbable that they were stoned together with their parent (compare Joshua 7:24-25). In the East, a parent’s guilt constantly involves the punishment of his children. Contrast 2 Kings 14:6.

Verse 16

To take possession of it - The goods of traitors appear to have been forfeited to the crown by the Jewish law as they still are almost universally throughout the East. Compare 2 Samuel 16:4.

Verse 19

Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? - These words rebuke especially Ahab’s indecent haste. He went to Jezreel the very day after Naboth’s execution 2 Kings 9:26.

The prophecy following had a double fulfillment. The main fulfillment was by the casting of the dead body of Jehoram into Naboth’s plot of ground at Jezreel, where, like Naboth’s, it was left for the dogs to eat 2 Kings 9:25. This spot, which was just outside the city wall, and close to a gate 2 Kings 9:31, was probably the actual scene of Naboth’s execution. Here did dogs lick Ahab’s blood, that is, his son’s blood, the execution of the full retaliatory sentence having been deferred to the days of his son, formally and explicitly, on Ahab’s repentance 1 Kings 21:29. But, besides this, there was a secondary fulfillment of the prophecy, when, not at Jezreel but at Samaria (marginal reference), the actual blood of Ahab himself, was licked by dogs, only in a way that implied no disgrace. These two fulfillments are complementary to each other.

Verse 20

The words “O mine enemy,” may refer partly to the old antagonism (marginal reference; 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 19:2-3); but the feeling which it expresses is rather that of present oppositions - the opposition between good and evil, light and darkness John 3:20.

Thou hast sold thyself to work evil - Compare the marginal references. The metaphor is taken from the practice of men’s selling themselves into slavery, and so giving themselves wholly up to work the will of their master. This was a widespread custom in the ancient world.

Verse 21

The prophet changes, without warning, from speaking in his own person to speaking in the person of God. The transition is abrupt, probably because the compiler follows his materials closely, compressing by omission. One fragment omitted here is preserved in 2 Kings 9:26.

Verse 23

And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying - These are not the words of Elijah, but of the writer, who notes a special prophecy against Jezebel, whose guilt was at least equal to her husband’s.

Wall - The marginal rendering “ditch,” is preferable. There is always in Oriental towns a space outside the walls which lies uncultivated, and which is naturally used for the deposit of refuse of every kind. Here the dogs prowl, and the kites and vultures find many a feast.

Verse 25

whom Jezebel stirred up - The history of Ahab’s reign throughout exhibits him as completely governed by his imperious wife. Instances of her influence are seen in 1 Kings 21:7, 1 Kings 21:15, marginal reference, 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 19:2.

Verse 26

The Amorites appear here as representatives of the old Canaanite nations (Genesis 15:16 note). It seems to be implied here that their idolatries were in the main identical with those of the Phoenicians which Ahab had adopted.

Verse 27

The repentance of Ahab resembles that of the Ninevites Jonah 3:5. It has the same outward signs - fasting and sackcloth - and it has much the same inward character. It springs, not from love, nor from hatred of sin, but from fear of the consequences of sin. It is thus, although sincere and real while it lasts, shallow and exceedingly short-lived. God, however, to mark His readiness to receive the sinner who turns to Him, accepted the imperfect offering (as He likewise accepted the penitence of the Ninevites), and allowed it to delay the execution of the sentence 1 Kings 21:29. So the penitence of the Ninevites put off the fall of Nineveh for a century.

And lay in sackcloth - In this particular he seems to have gone beyond the usual practice. We do not read elsewhere of mourners passing the night in sackcloth.

And went softly - “As if he had no heart to go about any business” (Patrick).

Verse 29

The evil - i. e., the main evil. See 1 Kings 21:19 note; and compare 1 Kings 22:38 with marginal reference.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-21.html. 1870.
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