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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Kings 21

Verse 2

1 Kings 21:2. Ahab spake unto Naboth, &c.— The account of Ahab's coveting Naboth's vineyard is immediately set after his treatment of Ben-hadad, to shew his extreme great wickedness in sparing him, as Saul did Agag king of the Amalekites, and killing Naboth that he might get possession of his vineyard; for this was a high aggravation of his crime, that he basely murdered a just Israelite, and suffered an impious enemy to escape. It appears however, from this request of Ahab, that, though the kings of Israel ruled their subjects in a very arbitrary and despotic manner, they did not take the liberty to seize on their land and hereditaments; and, therefore, what Samuel prophesies of the kings of Israel, 1Sa 8:14 does not extend to any true and lawful, but a presumed and usurped right only in their kings. See Calmet and Patrick.

Verse 3

1 Kings 21:3. The Lord forbid it me, &c.— Ahab's request was inconsistent with the law, Lev 25:28 and therefore shewed an unbounded avarice, if not impiety in the king; for as, by means of the incorporation of the religious and civil societies which was the consequence of a theocracy, religious matters came under a civil consideration; so likewise civil matters came under the religious. See Div. Leg. vol. 4: Houbigant remarks, that Naboth very properly urges a religious motive; for it was part of his religion not to alienate a paternal inheritance, unless through poverty or necessity. They were to have the same sentiments concerning each particular inheritance, as concerning the possession of the land of Canaan itself; which contained the pledge of the divine promises of a better covenant. Besides, Naboth knew that his vineyard, if possessed by kings, would not return to him at the jubilee. So that he is not to be blamed for refusing a condition which would have been most dishonourable to any private man. Note; When we must offend God or man, there can need no hesitation to determine which.

Verse 7

1 Kings 21:7. Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel In truth the king has very excellent authority in Israel! Houb.

Verse 9

1 Kings 21:9. Proclaim a fast It was always usual; upon the approach of any great calamity, or the apprehension of any national judgment, to proclaim a fast. Jezebel orders such a fast to be observed, the better to conceal her design against Naboth: for by this means she intimated to the people, that they had some accursed thing among them, which was ready to bring down the vengeance of God upon their city; and that therefore it was their business to enquire into all those sins which provoked God to anger against them, and to purge them out effectually. As, therefore, these days of fasting were employed in punishing offenders, doing justice, and imploring God's pardon, the elders of the city had now an occasion to convene an assembly, and the false witnesses a fair opportunity to accuse Naboth before them. The phrase, set Naboth on high, seems to be similar to that of lifting up the head; Gen 13:18 and signifies to bring a person to a public trial. Others however think, that as Naboth was a man of consequence, it implies the setting him in an honourable place among the elders of the city. See Le Clerc, and Pilkington's Remarks.

Verse 10

1 Kings 21:10. Thou didst blaspheme God and the king It was death by the law of Moses to blaspheme God; Lev 24:16 and by custom it was death to revile the king, Exodus 22:28. Now, in order to make sure work, the witnesses, as they were instructed, accused Naboth of both these crimes, that the people might be the better satisfied to see him stoned. There is this difference, however, to be observed between these two crimes, that if a man had blasphemed God, his goods came to his heirs; whereas when a man was executed for treason, his estate went to the exchequer, and was forfeited to him against whom the offence was committed; for this reason it was that they accused Naboth of this crime likewise, that his estate might be confiscated, and Ahab might by that means get possession of the vineyard. See Patrick, and Selden, De Succes. cap. 25: Note; 1. Perjury is among the most deadly sins, and most dangerous to society; no man's life or property is safe against a lying tongue. 2. Injustice committed under the pretext of law is the most insupportable kind of oppression. 3. No innocence can protect a man from the power of oppressors. 4. There is a day, when the blood of innocence, and the tears of the oppressed, will come into remembrance; and then woe to the murderer and the oppressor.

Verse 19

1 Kings 21:19. Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked, &c.— Instead of מקום mekom, the place, some would render it, the manner; and so the sense of the passage will be, "In the same manner as dogs licked Naboth's blood, even so shall they lick thy blood, even thine." Houbigant renders it whereever, or in whatever place, dogs, &c.

Verse 20

1 Kings 21:20. Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? Why art thou come to me, O mine enemy? Elijah answered, I am therefore come unto thee, because thou hast sold thyself, &c. The word sold, which is used by St. Paul, Rom 7:14 signifies the total giving up of one's self into the hand or power of another, and is a very strong and nervous expression for the total slavery of the soul to sin.

Verse 27

1 Kings 21:27. Ahab—went softly Went groaning. Houbigant; who observes, that the Hebrew word אט at, is from the Arabic to groan, as a camel when wearied, or falling under its burden. Though Ahab thus assumed the external garb of a penitent, we do not find him produce any of the fruits of sincere repentance; how came God, then, who inspects the heart, and cannot be deceived with external show, to have had any regard to such repentance, and in consequence of it to have revoked, at least in part, the sentence which he had denounced against Ahab? Some have replied, that God had so great an esteem for true repentance and reformation, that he was willing to reward the very appearance of it. But this is an answer which comports not so well with the purity and holiness of God; and therefore we should rather choose to say, that Ahab's repentance at this time was true, though imperfect, and his sorrow sincere, though of no long continuance; and that had he persisted in his good resolutions, God would have remitted him not only the temporal, but the eternal punishment likewise which was due to his sins. This, however, is an example of the infinite goodness of God towards the greatest sinners, when they humble themselves before him; and we may hence, to our great comfort, infer, that if the repentance of Ahab appeased the Lord for a time, because there was something of sincerity in it, though it was of short continuance; much more infallibly will those who repent with all their heart, and persevere in their repentance, obtain from the divine mercy the pardon of all their sins. See Calmet and Ostervald.

REFLECTIONS.—Ahab had now filled up the measure of his iniquities. Worse than all his predecessors in wickedness, and more infamous in his idolatries, he had willingly sold himself to commit every abomination: nor is it any exculpation of his guilt, that Jezebel stirred him up, whom he should have restrained, rather than have obeyed.

1. Elijah, at God's command, met him in Naboth's vineyard, and his unwelcome presence marred the master's joy. Ahab's guilty conscience told him that the prophet's coming boded no good, and therefore he accosts him, with his former unhumbled pride, as the enemy of his repose; yet expressing a dread, which majestic goodness impressed even on such a hardened heart. Note; (1.) The ministers of God, who cannot bear to see sinners perishing in their iniquities without warning, are therefore often counted by them as their worst enemies. (2.) The very presence of a godly man strikes an awe upon sinners, and they shun him as the ghost which haunts their conscience, and as the fiend come to torment them before their time.

2. Elijah denounces on him his deserved doom: I have found thee, and am come from God to pass sentence on thee. He charges him with Naboth's murder, and his unjust seizure of his inheritance, and, with a terrible commination of approaching judgments, thunders God's wrath against him. His wicked house shall be utterly cut off, as the houses of Jeroboam and Baasha, whose uncommon wickedness he had exceeded: his accursed wife shall be eaten by dogs; so low shall her pride fall; and in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, (awful and just retaliation!) dogs, says he, shall lick thy blood, even thine. Note; (1.) Let no sinner hope to be hidden; sooner or later, terrors like an armed man shall seize him; and woe then to the soul, that, flying now from its convictions, treasures up wrath against the day of wrath. (2.) No subterfuges in the day of judgment will be able to evade conviction. Both the approver and the perpetrator stand guilty before that God who searcheth the heart. (3.) God's justice in this world sometimes appears most exemplary in suiting the sinner's punishment to his crime.

3. Shocked at the message, his stubborn heart, for a moment, trembled; and, driven to his knees in terror, with sackcloth on his loins, he wore the garb of penitence; and God is pleased to grant him a short reprieve. Note; Partial professions of penitence legal terrors often produce; but a sense of pardoning love alone can convert the heart.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 21". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/1-kings-21.html. 1801-1803.