1 Kings 21

1 Kings 21  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Nothing could more strikingly reveal the frightful moral corruption of Israel-of king and people-at this time than the details of this chapter. Naboth had a vineyard "hard by the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria." The king saw and coveted it for himself: It was near to his house, and he desired it for a garden of herbs. Accordingly he sought to obtain it from Naboth, either by exchange or by purchase. Outwardly this was fair and honest; but Ahab knew, or should have known, that he could not have it except by inducing Naboth to transgress the law of God. Naboth preferred obedience to the Word above the favor of the king and his own advantage, and thus he replied, "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee." (See Num. 36:77So 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. (Numbers 36:7)) Baulked in his project, "Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased... laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread." (v. 4) In the previous chapter he likewise came to his house "heavy and displeased" (v. 43) because a prophet had pronounced judgment upon him for making an alliance with one whom God had appointed to destruction. Weakness and wickedness are often united, and in both cases the king was angry because the will of God was against his own, and interfered with his designs. But mark the lesson: whenever the heart is resolved upon evil, Satan is ever at hand to open the way for its commission. Covetousness had mastered the soul of Ahab, but he was lacking in courage; he feared to take what he longed to have. Jezebel was of another spirit; she had neither conscience nor fear. Daughter of a heathen king (1 Kings 16 "31), she owned no law but that of her own wicked will. Like the unjust judge, she feared not. God nor regarded man; and, determining that her husband should gratify the desire of his heart, she said, "I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite." Her measures were soon taken. "She wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal," commanding Naboth to be falsely accused and to be stoned. Surely there would be conscience, we might think, in some of Jezreel's elders! Alas 1 the men of Naboth's city, "the elders and the nobles," fellow-citizens of this faithful man, hastened to obey the queen's command, brought in -false witnesses, as in the case of our blessed Lord (also of Stephen), procured his condemnation, "stoned him with stones, that he died; " and they sent immediately to Jezebel to say, "Naboth is stoned, and is dead." (vv. 11-14) Let the reader pause, and mark the consequences of covetousness in Ahab's heart. A simple desire, at first, for a convenient garden -such was the root of this deadly tree, beating such a crop of poisonful fruit; such the trickling stream that swelled into this blackening river of corruption. Ahab wanted a garden; Jezebel determined he should have it at, all costs; and the elders of Jezreel, wishing to commend themselves to the queen, carried out her commands even at the cost of shedding innocent blood. What an unfolding of the heart of man!
So far all concerned, except Naboth, had left God out of their calculations, and it seemed as if sin had triumphed. Naboth had been stoned, and Ahab was now free to take possession. He went down, and his feet at last stood in the vineyard of Naboth; but, at the very moment he was about to lay his hand upon the coveted possession, he is confronted by Elijah the Tishbite, and has to learn from the awful words with which the prophet terrified his soul, that verily there is a God that judgeth the earth. "Hast thou [not Jezebel, but thou, hast thou killed, and also taken possession?... Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine." Miserable king! He could only utter―his vision is still bounded by the earth―"Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" It was Jehovah who had found him, and who sent His servant to denounce judgment upon Ahab, his house, and upon the wicked Jezebel.
Versed 25 and 26, parenthetically added, reveal the full extent of the abominable wickedness of this guilty king "stirred up" by his wife Jezebel. But the words of the prophet rang in his soul as a death-knell, reached (at least) his natural conscience, and produced a transient repentance. (v. 27) Who shall fathom the depths of the long-suffering and the mercy of the Lord! "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? "His word thus came to Elijah, "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me?" And on this account, though it were but a passing humiliation (for we are here in the sphere of God's government on earth), the judgment on Ahab's house (though the personal judgment on himself and Jezebel was literally executed) was postponed until his son's days. There was thus a day of grace even for Ahab.
Leaving the reader to study the details of this chapter for himself, we may indicate some general lessons: first, that there are no limits to the evil of man's heart; secondly, that sin can neither escape the eye nor the judgment of God; and lastly, that the mercy and goodness of God are unfathomable.