Naboth’s Vineyard

I haven’t written a Bible post in a while. I came across a thought this morning that seemed worth writing about.

When people tell me “the Bible is boring”, I question how much of it they’ve read. Sure, some portions can be VERY tedious to read. Genealogies, for instance, are hard to read just to read. You’ve got to have a certain mindset to plow through Leviticus, and even I dread having to read Ezra. It’s hard to read some of the prophets without learning the background of who is being written to and why. Some books, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, were written over a lifetime. It takes some homework to be able to understand either.

The New Testament has challenges too. Even Peter had trouble understanding Paul:

2 Pe 3:[15] And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (ESV) (emphasis mine)

But the historical books are different. These are accounts of things that really happened. And they contain some VERY graphic descriptions of events and people. Battles. Massacres. Rebellions. Rape. Incest. It holds little back.

I was reading about Naboth’s Vineyard this morning. The scary thing is, it actually starts very reasonably:

I Kings [21:1] Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. (ESV)

It’s a factual statement. Naboth had a vineyard that happened to be next door to Ahab the King’s palace.

[2] And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.”

This is actually very reasonable. Maybe I see it that way because I’m in Real Estate, but there’s nothing wrong with this. “Naboth, your vineyard is next to my house. I’d like to buy it from you so I can put a garden there. I can walk to that garden from my house. In exchange for your vineyard, I will give you a plot of land that is better. Or I will compensate you monetarily. In either case, I will give you an exchange in value that is greater than the value of your land, because I want the location.”

The text doesn’t say anything about whether Naboth’s house was next to the vineyard. Wherever Naboth lived, the land was apparently closer to Ahab’s palace.

Next, Naboth responds to Ahab’s offer:

[3] But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid *that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the military and moved a lot. Home is where I park my car. I’ve lived in my current house for 9 years, which is a record for my life. I’ve been in New Jersey for 11 years. Again, a record. Prior to that, my longest stretch lived in one place was in Texas for 7 years. One of the houses we lived at in Texas I’d lived in for 4 years. I can understand Naboth’s attachment to his inheritance. I won’t bore you with the Torah’s instructions for land.

I would have at least asked Ahab “What do you have?” But Naboth was well within his rights to respond the way he did. There was absolutely nothing unreasonable about Ahab’s request up to this point. But now, events go off the deep end:

[4] And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.

Ahab was understandably disappointed, but the account paints him as crying like a baby. I wonder if he tried holding his breath before he decided to demonstrate his maturity by not eating.

Then it goes south. His wife, Jezebel, asks him why he’s crying. Then she sends out letters to the elders asking them to hold a feast with Naboth as the guest of honor, and to bring out false witnesses accusing him of speaking out against God and the king. Then to stone him.

Amazingly, they comply. Talk about corruption. Naboth is setup, falsely accused, stoned to death, and Ahab is told to take possession of his vineyard. Then Elijah shows up. No account involving Elijah could possibly be boring. I’d like to encourage you to read it for yourself.


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