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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Ahab covets the vineyard of Naboth, and wishes to have it either by purchase or exchange, 1 Kings 21:1, 1 Kings 21:2. Naboth refuses to alienate it on any account, because it was his inheritance from his fathers, 1 Kings 21:3. Ahab becomes disconsolate, takes to his bed, and refuses to eat, 1 Kings 21:4. Jezebel, finding out the cause, promises to give him the vineyard, 1 Kings 21:5-7. She writes to the nobles of Jezreel to proclaim a fast, to accuse Naboth of blasphemy, carry him out, and stone him to death; which is accordingly done, 1 Kings 21:8-14. She then tells Ahab to go and take possession of the vineyard; he goes, and is met by Elijah, who denounces on him the heaviest judgments, 1 Kings 21:15-24. Ahab's abominable character, 1 Kings 21:25, 1 Kings 21:26. He humbles himself; and God promises not to bring the threatened public calamities in his days, but in the days of his son, 1 Kings 21:27-29.
1And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.
After these things - This and the twentieth chapter are transposed in the Septuagint; this preceding the account of the Syrian war with Ben-hadad. Josephus gives the history in the same order.
2And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.
Give me thy vineyard - The request of Ahab seems at first view fair and honorable. Naboth's vineyard was nigh to the palace of Ahab, and he wished to add it to his own for a kitchen garden, or perhaps a grass-plat, גן ירק gan yarak; and he offers to give him either a better vineyard for it, or to give him its worth in money. Naboth rejects the proposal with horror: The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to thee. No man could finally alienate any part of the parental inheritance; it might be sold or mortgaged till the jubilee, but at that time it must revert to its original owner, if not redeemed before; for this God had particularly enjoined Leviticus 25:14-17, Leviticus 25:25-28 : therefore Naboth properly said, 1 Kings 21:3, The Lord forbid it me, to give the inheritance of my fathers. Ahab most evidently wished him to alienate it finally, and this is what God's law had expressly forbidden; therefore he could not, consistently with his duty to God, indulge Ahab; and it was high iniquity in Ahab to tempt him to do it; and to covet it showed the depravity of Ahab's soul. But we see farther that, despotic as those kings were, they dared not seize on the inheritance of any man. This would have been a flagrant breach of the law and constitution of the country; and this indeed would have been inconsistent with the character which they sustained, viz., the Lord's vicegerents. The Jewish kings had no authority either to alter the old laws, or to make new ones. "The Hindoos," says Mr. Ward, "are as strongly attached to their homesteads as the Jews were. Though the heads of the family be employed in a distant part of the country, and though the homesteads may be almost in ruins, they cling still to the family inheritance with a fondness bordering on superstition.
3And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
4And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.
He laid him down upon his bed - Poor soul! he was lord over ten-twelfths of the land, and became miserable because he could not get a poor man's vineyard added to all that he possessed! It is a true saying, "That soul in which God dwells not, has no happiness: and he who has God has a satisfying portion." Every privation and cross makes an unholy soul unhappy; and privations and crosses it must ever meet with, therefore: -
"Where'er it goes is hell;
itself is hell!"
5But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?
6And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.
7And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? - Naboth, not Ahab, is king. If he have authority to refuse, and thou have no power to take, he is the greater man of the two. This is the vital language of despotism and tyranny.
8So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.
She wrote letters in Ahab's name - She counterfeited his authority by his own consent; and he lent his signet to stamp that authority.
9And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
Proclaim a fast - Intimate that there is some great calamity coming upon the nation, because of some evil tolerated in it.
Set Naboth on high - Bring him to a public trial.
10And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
Set two men - For life could not be attainted but on the evidence of two witnesses at least.
Sons of Belial - Men who will not scruple to tell lies and take a false oath.
Thou didst blaspheme God and the king - Thou art an atheist and a rebel. Thou hast spoken words injurious to the perfections and nature of God; and thou hast spoken words against the crown and dignity of the king. The words literally are, Naboth hath Blessed Clod and the king; or, as Parkhurst contends, "Thou hast blessed the false gods and Molech," ברכת אלהים ומלך And though Jezebel was herself an abominable idolatress; yet, as the law of Moses still continued in force, she seems to have been wicked enough to have destroyed Naboth, upon the false accusation of blessing the heathen Aleim and Molech, which subjected him to death by Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 17:2-7. The first meaning appears the most simple.
Many think that the word ברך barach signifies both to bless and curse; and so it is interpreted in most Lexicons: it is passing strange that out of the same word proceedeth blessing and cursing; and to give such opposite and self-destructive meanings to any word is very dangerous. Parkhurst denies that it ever has the meaning of cursing, and examines all the texts where it is said to occur with this meaning; and shows that blessing, not cursing, is to be understood in all those places: see him under ברך, sec. vi.
11And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.
12They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.
13And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.
And stoned him with stones - As they pretended to find him guilty of treason against God and the king, it is likely they destroyed the whole of his family; and then the king seized on his grounds as confiscated, or as escheated to the king, without any heir at law. That his family was destroyed appears strongly intimated, 2 Kings 9:26; Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, And the Blood of His Sons, saith the Lord.
14Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
15And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.
Arise, take possession - By what rites or in what forms this was done, we do not know.
16And it came to pass, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
17And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
18Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.
Go down to meet Ahab - This was the next day after the murder, as we learn from the above quotation, 2 Kings 9:26.
19And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.
In the place where dogs licked, etc. - It is in vain to look for a literal fulfillment of this prediction. Thus it would have been fulfilled, but the humiliation of Ahab induced the merciful God to say, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in the days of his son, 1 Kings 21:29. Now dogs did lick the blood of Ahab; but it was at the pool of Samaria, where his chariot and his armor were washed, after he had received his death wound at Ramoth-gilead; but some think this was the place where Naboth was stoned: see 1 Kings 22:38. And how literally the prediction concerning his son was fulfilled, see 2 Kings 9:25, where we find that the body of Jehoram his son, just then slain by an arrow that had passed through his heart, was thrown into the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite; and there, doubtless, the dogs licked his blood, if they did not even devour his body. There is a similar idea of the propriety of punishment overtaking the culprit in the place where he had committed the crime, expressed by Orestes to Aegisthus, Soph. Elect. 1495.
- Χωρει δ' ενθαπερ κατεκτανες
Πατερα τον αμον, ὡς εν ταυτῳ θανῃς.
- Go where thou slew'st my father,
That in the self-same place thou too may'st die.
20And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.
Thou hast sold thyself to work evil - See a similar form of speech, Romans 7:14 (note). Thou hast totally abandoned thyself to the service of sin. Satan is become thy absolute master, and thou his undivided slave.
21Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,
22And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.
23And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.
The dogs shall eat Jezebel - This was most literally fulfilled; see 2 Kings 9:36. The carcasses of poor Hindoos, and of persons who have received public punishment, are thrown into the rivers, and floating to the side, are devoured by dogs, vultures, and crows.
24Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.
25But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.
Did sell himself to work wickedness - He hired himself to the devil for this very purpose, that he might work wickedness. This was to be his employment, and at this he labored.
In the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up - A good wife is from the Lord; a bad wife is from the devil: Jezebel was of this kind; and she has had many successors.
26And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
27And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.
He rent his clothes - He was penetrated with sorrow, and that evidently unfeigned.
Put sackcloth upon his flesh - He humbled himself before God and man.
And fasted - He afflicted his body for his soul's benefit.
Lay in sackcloth - Gave the fullest proof that his repentance was real.
And went softly - Walked barefooted; so the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. The Vulgate has demisso capite, "with his head hanging down." Houbigant translates went groaning. Jarchi says that the word אט at, used here, signifies to be unshod. This is its most likely sense. All these things prove that Ahab's repentance was genuine; and God's approbation of it puts it out of doubt. The slow and measured pace which always accompanies deep and reflective sorrow is also alluded to by Aeschylus, where the Chorus are thus shortly addressed on the defeat of Xerxes. - Aesch. Pers. 1073.
"With light and noiseless step lament."
28And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
29Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.
Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself - He did abase himself; he did truly repent him of his sins, and it was such a repentance as was genuine in the sight of God: He humbleth himself Before Me.
The penitent heart ever meets the merciful eye of God; repentance is highly esteemed by the Father of compassion, even where it is comparatively shallow and short-lived. Any measure of godly sorrow has a proportionate measure of God's regard; where it is deep and lasting, the heart of God is set upon it. He that mourns shall be comforted; thus hath God spoken, and though repentance for our past sins can purchase no favor, yet without it God will not grant us his salvation.