1 Kings 21:1-29 – Ahab Covets Naboth’s Vineyard
SummaryAhab and Jezebel attempt to gain the vineyard of Naboth through their political power. Elijah challenges them and announces the destruction of Ahab's house.
Ahab wished to own a vineyard that belonged to Naboth, adjacent to his residence in Jezreel. He made a fair offer of purchase for the vineyard, but Naboth refused because the property was his "ancestral inheritance" (v. 3). This is the crucial aspect of the narrative (Leviticus 25:23): family holdings could not be transferred permanently, and the land belonged to God, not the "landholder."
Ahab's sullen and resentful response was due, in part, because he knew Naboth was legally right. Jezebel's response was more direct. She had Naboth executed by stoning, on trumped up charges in a "kangaroo court" (vv. 8-16). Elijah (the story comes from a different cycle than chapters 17-19) is incensed at Jezebel's actions and condemns Ahab to the same fate as Jeroboam and Baasha (vv. 17-29). Jezebel is seen as the real power behind the throne in this passage (compare 18:4; 19:1-2), but having the power to act is not the same as having the right to act.