Friday 17 June 2016

Bible Book:
1 Kings

"The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." (v. 3)

1 Kings 21:1-16 Friday 17 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm 104:24-35


Being an upright citizen is no defence against a tyrant monarch.Naboth is introduced as being a citizen of some standing andinfluence or else he would not have an ancestral property adjacentto the royal palace. But King Ahab wants the vineyard for avegetable garden and offers a price and better vineyard inreturn.

As king of Israel Ahab should be a paragon of faith and virtue -not seeking his own wealth and glory. The king of Israel is to be areflection of God's 'king of all that is' (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). But the reader of 1Kings already knows Ahab does not follow in the way of the Lord anddoes not desire the best for his people.

The plot of ground does seem very grand but, for Naboth, it hadspecial significance as his ancestral land. The loss of thevineyard would have gone alongside a loss of position and income.Naboth and his family would have been reduced to the status ofroyal pensioners dependent on the king's whim. The initial approachby Ahab is reasonable - he proposes a transaction, not blackmail orthreat, but Ahab's reaction suggests that he expected compliance.The response of "The Lord forbid..." suggests that Nabothunderstood the permanent sale of the land to be an offence againstGod who had originally given the land to his ancestors.

Autocratic as he is, Ahab does not move against Naboth. Rather heenters a self-induced sullen depressive state. Jezebel, the queen,is made of sterner stuff, being trained in the traditions of thePhoenician states, where the monarch was absolute ruler ofeverything. She, on his behalf, is to "perform majesty overIsrael".

Letters from Jezebel ensure that "scoundrels" are employed to makefalse charges at a public fast. The conspiracy works and judgementagainst Naboth is immediate and final. The notion of 'possession'is only temporary.

To Ponder

  • One commentator suggests that Egypt is likened to a vegetablegarden and Israel like a vineyard. To what extent might there be anunderlying message of enslavement in this passage?
  • This story shows how the love of power can corrupt. How do wehold the responsibilities we have?
  • What is the inheritance for which you might say "Lord forbid Ishould give it up"?
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