Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 21

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1 Kings 21

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Naboth's Vineyard 

Technically, all land in ancient Israel belonged to God, who granted it to be permanently held by each Israelite tribe and family (Leviticus 25:23-28 Leviticus 25:23-28 [23] The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for you are strangers and sojourners with me. [24] And in all the land of your possession you shall grant a redemption for the land. [25] If your brother be waxen poor, and has sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. [26] And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; [27] Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it; that he may return to his possession. [28] But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that has bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return to his possession.
American King James Version×
). Thus the property was clearly Naboth's (compare Numbers 36:2-9 Numbers 36:2-9 [2] And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. [3] And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance. [4] And when the jubilee of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers. [5] And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph has said well. [6] This is the thing which the LORD does command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry. [7] So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. [8] And every daughter, that possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife to one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers. [9] Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.
American King James Version×
). Even the king, a constitutional monarch, was required to obey the law (1 Samuel 10:25 1 Samuel 10:25Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
American King James Version×
).

"In reminding Ahab that he was king and could do as he pleased, Jezebel reflected her Canaanite background where kings ruled absolutely (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20; 1 Samuel 8:11-18)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 21:7). Regarding 1 Kings 21:7 1 Kings 21:7And Jezebel his wife said to him, Do you now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let your heart be merry: I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
American King James Version×
The Bible Reader's Companion explains: "The Heb[rew] reads literally, 'You now; you are going to perform majesty over Israel.' The saying seems to indicate that she will show Ahab how to magnify himself by having his way in Israel. Her use of the king's seal indicates that she had his authority for her plot against Naboth. Ahab lent her his full support" (Lawrence Richards, 1991, note on 21:7-14).

Jezebel's murderous plot then unfolds. "Some suggest that the charge made by the two 'scoundrels' was that Naboth went back on a pledge made in God's name to sell his land to the king. Failure to keep an oath made in God's name would be blasphemy. In that case, after Naboth's execution, the king could legally have taken possession of the property in dispute. Second Kings 9:26 adds that Naboth's sons were killed at the same time. With no heir left alive, there seemingly was no one left to dispute Ahab's claim to the land" (same note).

Ahab and Jezebel's behavior regarding Naboth prompts the return of Elijah—this time to pronounce the termination of Ahab's rule and the extermination of his dynasty similar to the warning given earlier to Jeroboam and Baasha. This will be carried out by Jehu son of Nimshi, a military leader, as God had previously told Elijah (1 Kings 19:16-17 1 Kings 19:16-17 [16] And Jehu the son of Nimshi shall you anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shall you anoint to be prophet in your room. [17] And it shall come to pass, that him that escapes the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
American King James Version×
). Yet Ahab's expression of remorse results in God postponing some of the punishment, illustrating His tremendous mercy.