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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 21

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.

Naboth ... had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel. Ahab proposed to Naboth to give him a better in exchange, or to obtain it by purchase; but the owner declined to part with it; and in persisting in his refusal, Naboth was not actuated by any feelings of disloyalty or disrespect to the king, but solely from a conscientious regard to the divine law, which, for important reasons, had prohibited the sale of a paternal inheritance, or if, through extreme poverty or debt, an assignation of it to another was unavoidable, the conveyance was made on the condition of its being redeemable at any time-at all events, of its reverting at the jubilee to the owner (see the notes at Leviticus 25:23-28; Numbers 36:8).

Verse 2

And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.

That I may have it for a garden of herbs. Whether Ahab thought that the vineyard of a subject might properly enough be converted into a kitchen garden for a king, or he set, as the Hebrews generally did, a high value on the possession of such a garden, at all events one chief reason for his eager desire to possess the vineyard of Naboth was its contiguity to the palace grounds. The herbs cultivated in such a garden as Ahab wished to form, were of course those indigenous to the country and the climate: the culinary vegetables of the Hebrews comprising gourds, cucumbers, melons; onions, leeks, and garlic; rice, anise, and cumin; mustard, cassia, and cinnamon; the former class being prized for their refrigerating qualities, tending to allay thirst as well as cool and refresh in the hot season, which prevailed during the greater part of the year; while the latter were useful as condiments, in seasoning viands, and serving tonics.

Verse 3

And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.

He laid him down upon his bed. The divan extends across the whole length or breadth of a room. It is raised a little above the floor, and spread with carpets or fine mats, on which the inmates sit or recline, their backs being supported by cushions placed, against the wall (see Russel's 'Aleppo;' Shaw's 'Travels').

Turned away his face - either to conceal from his attendants the vexation of spirit he felt, or by the affectation great sorrow rouse them to devise some means of gratifying his wishes.

Verses 5-6

But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.

Dost thus now govern the kingdom of Israel? - a sarcastic taunt: 'A pretty king then art! Canst thou use thy power, and take what thy heart is set upon?' Ahab seems not to have contemplated acquiring the much-wished-for plot of ground by injustice and cruelty. He never dreamed of the desperate expedient of realizing his desires by the method which Jezebel devised-at least he did not hint at such a thing; while her unscrupulous mind at once and unhesitatingly determined on the truly Oriental, despotic plan of getting rid of Naboth by murder.

Arise ... I will give thee the vineyard. - No sooner does Jezebel learn the sense of her husband's distress than, after upbraiding him for his pusillanimity, and bidding him act as a king, she tells him to trouble himself no more about such a trifle; else would guarantee the possession of the vineyard.

Verse 8

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

So she wrote letters ... and sealed them with his seal. The seal-ring contained the name of the king, and gave validity to the documents to which it was affixed (Esther 8:8; Daniel 6:17). Besides rings with a seal attached to them, there were other forums of seal or signet, neither set metal nor worn on the fingers: these were engraved stones, on part of the surface of which the necessary figures and characters were inscribed. This practice probably originated with the Egyptians; but it was afterward adopted by the Phoenicians. The stone was cut by lapidary, in the form of a cylinder, a pyramid, or a square, according to the taste or fancy of the other; at other times it was bisected, and on the convex superficies of the cut diameter the form of a scarabaeus or beetle was engraved; while the flat under-surface contained the legend or inscription for the seal. It has been conjectured, from Jezebel's Phoenician extraction and her ready command of the king's seal, that Ahab's might be of the Phoenician description. By allowing her the use of his signet, Ahab passively consented to Jezebel's proceeding. Being written in the king's name, it had the character of a royal mandate.

Sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in the city. They were the elders or civic authorities of Jezreel and would in all likelihood be the creatures and fit tools of Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were now in Samaria (1 Kings 20:43).

Verse 9

And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:

Proclaim a fast ... These obsequious and unprincipled magistrates did according to orders. Pretending that a heavy guilt lay on one, or some unknown party, who was charged with blaspheming God and the king, and that Ahab was threatening vengeance on the whole city unless the culprit were discovered and punished, they assembled the people to observe a solemn fast. Fasts were commanded on extraordinary occasions affecting the public interests of the state (2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15; Jonah 3:5). This was a fast not appointed by divine, but by human authority, [ beeraktaa (H1288) 'Elohiym (H430) waamelek (H4428). The verb baarak (H1288) signifies in most places to bless; and accordingly, the Septuagint has: Eulogeese Theon kai basilea; and there are only two places of Scripture (Job 1:5; Job 2:5, and here) in which it does not appear possible to give it this meaning. Schultens, Dr. Lee, and other able philologists think that it should have this meaning here also, for 'Elohiym (H430) they consider to denote in both places false gods or idols. But though blessing idols might be punished as a crime in Israel, it is inconceivable that blessing the king could be a punishable offence. Besides, 'Elohiym (H430) should not be taken in the sense of idols, unless there is something in the passage which indicates that that is the meaning. Gesenius says that the signification of cursing, which is so obviously the meaning of the word in this passage, is supported by the analogy of the cognate languages. In fact, the secondary senses ascribed to barak belong as naturally to Hebrew usage as to that of other languages, in which such usage is common.]

Set Naboth on high - i:e., bring him to trial. During a trial the panel, or accused person, was placed on a high seat, in the presence of all the court, in order that he might be identified by the witnesses. But as the guilty person was supposed to be unknown, the setting of Naboth on high among the people must have been owing to his being among the distinguished men of the place.

Verse 10

And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.

God and the king. This order is always observed when God is spoken of as the supreme head or ruler of the theocracy, and the king his vicegerent (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:20).

Verses 11-12

And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 13

And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.

There came in two men - worthless fellows, who had been bribed to swear a falsehood. The law required two witnesses in capital offences (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30; Matthew 26:60). Cursing God and cursing the king are mentioned in the law (Exodus 22:28) as theocratic offences closely connected, the king of Israel being the earthly representative of God in his kingdom. Thus, this mock trial was conducted, and a conviction established by the local authorities for an alleged transgression of the Mosaic law. Neither the king nor the queen appeared to take part in it, although the latter was the secret instigator of the whole proceedings. The magistrates acted entirely through her influence and according to her instructions; so that although they were the obsequious agents in consummating this judicial murder, the guilty responsibility of the plot and its execution lay on the king and queen.

They carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him. The law, which forbade cursing the rulers of the people, does not specify the penalty for this offence; but either usage had sanctioned, or the authorities of Jezreel had originated, stoning as the proper punishment. It was always inflicted out of the city (Acts 7:58). 'The act of Naboth dying for his vineyard has been often adduced as a prophecy, not by word, but by deed, of the death of Christ, and the purpose of that death' (Trench, 'On the Parables,' p. 204) (cf. as to His suffering for alleged blasphemy, without the camp, John 19:17; Hebrews 13:12-13).

The whole of this infamous proceeding, conducted ostensibly according to the regular forms of criminal prosecution, furnishes dear proof that the constitution of the northern remained exactly the same as that of the southern kingdom. The regulation which required two witnesses (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 18:6-7; Deuteronomy 19:5), the charge made upon a ground purely theocratic (Exodus 22:28), the punishment left to the discretion of the magistrate, but awarded according to analogous cases (Deuteronomy 13:11; Deuteronomy 17:5), and the 'carrying out,' resting on Deuteronomy 17:5.-all combine to show that the Mosaic law remained the established national code in Israel (see Michaelis, 'Laws of Moses,' article 1:, sec. 59; 6:, sec. 295; 6:, sec. 299). Accordingly, Ahab, when he could not prevail upon Naboth to part with an inheritance of which the law gave him the sole and independent right of disposing, thought of nothing else than submitting to the authority of constitutional law; and even Jezebel, unprincipled and lawless as she was, durst not openly use violent measures, but was obliged to seek the attainment of her iniquitous end by pursuing an apparent course of legal investigation into a calumnions charge.

Verse 14

Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.

Jezebel ... said ... Arise, take possession. Naboth's execution having been announced, and his family being involved in the same fatal sentence (2 Kings 9:26) his property became forfeited to the crown, not by law, but by traditionary usage (see the notes at 2 Samuel 16:4).

Verse 16

And it came to pass, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

Ahab rose up to go down - from Samaria to Jezreel.

Verse 17

And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 18

Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.

Go down to meet Ahab ... in the vineyard of Naboth. The place of meeting commanded a full view of the memorable scene of Elijah's controversy with the priests of Baal, and it was associated with the memory of other great transactions in Israelitish history. The demeanour and the language of Elijah were deeply striking and impressive, all the more from the solemn lessons of religion he had been taught in his seclusion at Horeb (see this well illustrated by Maurice, 'Prophets and Kings,' p. 136).

Verse 19

And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.

Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? While Ahab was in the act of surveying his ill-gotten Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? While Ahab was in the act of surveying his ill-gotten possession, Elijah, by divine commission stood before him. The appearance of the prophet at such a time, was ominous of evil, but his language was much more so (cf. Ezekiel 45:8; Ezekiel 46:16-18).

In the place where dogs licked ... Dogs in the East being allowed to run wild, and in packs, are ravenous, and hence, it is a common phrase to give the carcass of an enemy or a worthless person to the dogs, as Achilles consigned the lacerated body of Hector. A righteous retribution of Providence. The prediction was accomplished, not in Jezreel, but in Samaria; and not on Ahab personally, in consequence of his repentance (1 Kings 21:29), but on his son (2 Kings 9:25). The words "in the place where" might be rendered 'in like manner as.'

Verse 20

And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.

Thou hast sold thyself to work evil - i:e., allowed sin to acquire the unchecked and habitual mastery over thee (2 Kings 17:17; Romans 7:11).

Verse 21

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 22

And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.

Make thine house ... - (see the notes at 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 16:3-12) Jezebel, though included among the members of Ahab's house, has her ignominious fate expressly foretold (see the notes at 2 Kings 9:30).

Verses 23-26

And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 27

And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.

Ahab ... rent his clothes ... went softly. He was not obdurate like Jezebel. This terrible announcement made a deep impression on the king's heart, and led for a while to sincere repentance. "Going softly" - i:e., barefoot, and with a pensive manner within doors. He manifested all the external signs, conventional and natural, of the deepest sorrow. He was wretched; and so great is the mercy of God, that, in consequence of his humiliation, the threatened punishment was deferred. But he did not "bring forth fruits meet for repentance," neither abandoning idolatry and re-establishing the true faith, nor restoring the ill-gotten vineyard of Naboth. But the Lord displayed His clemency and long-suffering by giving him an extended opportunity and increased motives to return to God, who would have mercy upon him, and to our God, who would abundantly pardon.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-kings-21.html. 1871-8.
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