1 Kings 21:1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite.
Naboth lived in Jezreel, and owned a vineyard that was close to Ahab’s palace. Ahab wanted to buy Naboth’s vineyard to use as a vegetable garden. He was willing to pay whatever Naboth asked, or to give him a better vineyard. But Naboth wanted to keep the vineyard in his family since that is what God required. The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers (Leviticus 25:23), said God.
God gave the land to Israel by tribes (Joshua 13-21), and family property was to be passed down from generation to generation. Naboth could obey God, or sell his vineyard, but he could not do both. It took a measure of courage, but he said Yes to God, and No to the king.
1 Kings 21:4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors. He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.
It is highly inappropriate for kings to pout, but that is what Ahab did. He could not have what he wanted, so he lay on his bed and sulked. When his wicked wife, Jezebel, discovered the reason for his mood she said, Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard (1 Kings 21:7).
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31). Pagan kings were known to take whatever land they wanted because, theoretically, it all belonged to them. Jezebel had no concern for God, or Naboth, but only for herself and Ahab. So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him (1 Kings 21:8).
Jezebel wrote that Naboth should be accused of cursing God and the king; then he should be stoned to death. The sentence was carried out, and Naboth’s sons were also killed (2 Kings 9:26), to eliminate their claim on the land.
1 Kings 21:15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, Get up and take possession of the vineyard.
But that same day, God sent the prophet Elijah to meet Ahab at his newly acquired vineyard, and to give him the word of God. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel . . . . [and] dogs will devour Jezebel (1 Kings 21:21-23), he said.
Since Ahab killed Naboth and his sons, God would kill Ahab and his sons—and dogs would eat his wife. Ahab would die in battle (1 Kings 22:35) and his sons were later slaughtered (2 Kings 10:7). Jezebel was thrown from an upper room and trampled to death by horses. [W]hen they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands (2 Kings 9:35). The rest was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:36), just as the prophet foretold.
Naboth suffered injustice, but his story is not over. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10), said Jesus. It will be a joy to visit Naboth’s vineyard in the kingdom of God. He will show us around, and tell us even more about Ahab and Jezebel. We may suffer injustice now, but Christ will make it right in the age to come.
1 Kings 22:3 The king of Israel had said to his officials, Don’t you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?
Ramoth Gilead was about twenty-eight miles east of the Jordan River, and it rightly belonged to the nation of Israel. It was taken over by the Arameans, and Ahab wanted it back. He requested help from Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, who agreed go with him.
But Jehoshaphat wanted to consult the Lord, so Ahab gathered four hundred prophets who all agreed that God would give them victory. Zedekiah, son of Kenaanah, even made iron horns declaring, This is what the Lord says: With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed (1 Kings 22:11).
Nevertheless, Jehoshaphat was not convinced. He thought the prophets were only telling the king what he wanted to hear, so he asked for a more reliable prophet. Ahab called for Micaiah, son of Imlah, who was encouraged to agree with the others. But Micaiah was a man of conviction who only cared what God was truly saying. I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd (1 Kings 22:17), he declared. In other words, the king would be killed, and his army would be scattered.
1 Kings 22:24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face.
This was highly insulting, and Micaiah may have blushed. Then the king had him thrown in prison until he returned from battle. If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me, said Micaiah. Then he added, Mark my words, all you people!
1 Kings 22:29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.
Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, wanted to hear from a true prophet. But when he did, he ignored the prophet’s words and went into battle anyway. This is how many people listen to sermons. They want to know what God has to say, but have no intention of changing their ways.
1 Kings 22:30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.
Ahab was concerned that Micaiah’s prophecy might come true. So instead of wearing his royal robes, he went into battle in disguise. King Jehoshaphat agreed to wear the royal robes, and nearly died as a result.
Meanwhile, someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor (1 Kings 22:34). Ahab told his chariot driver to get him out of the battle, but he stayed propped up in his chariot, so his soldiers would not lose heart. The battle continued to rage, but the king’s bleeding would not stop. That evening Ahab died, just as Micaiah foretold.
The random shot of an arrow was not random to God. An inch to the left or right, and the arrow would have struck the king’s armor. But God directed the arrow to its mark, so the king would die as he decreed. No amount of protection can save a man whom God has determined to kill.
Ahab was one of the wickedest kings Israel ever had. Along with his wicked wife, Jezebel, he led God’s people to worship Baal. He partly believed in God, but he never fully turned to him. The purpose of God’s patience is to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). But if we will not repent, all that is left is judgment.
Reflection and Review
Why was Naboth persecuted?
Why was Jezebel so evil?
Why didn’t Jehoshaphat listen to Micaiah?