1 Kings 21:1-4 . NABOTH REFUSES AHAB HIS VINEYARD.
1-3. Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel--Ahab was desirous, from its contiguity to the palace, to possess it for a vegetable garden. He proposed to Naboth to give him a better in exchange, or to obtain it by purchase; but the owner declined to part with it. In persisting in his refusal, Naboth was not actuated by any feelings of disloyalty or disrespect to the king, but solely from a conscientious regard to the divine law, which, for important reasons, had prohibited the sale of a paternal inheritance [ Leviticus 25:23 , Numbers 36:7 ]; or if, through extreme poverty or debt, an assignation of it to another was unavoidable, the conveyance was made on the condition of its being redeemable at any time [ Leviticus 25:25-27 ]; at all events, of its reverting at the jubilee to the owner [ Leviticus 25:28 ]. In short, it could not be alienated from the family, and it was on this ground that Naboth ( 1 Kings 21:3 ) refused to comply with the king's demand. It was not, therefore, any rudeness or disrespect that made Ahab heavy and displeased, but his sulky and pettish demeanor betrays a spirit of selfishness that could not brook to be disappointed of a favorite object, and that would have pushed him into lawless tyranny had he possessed any natural force of character.
4. turned away his face--either to conceal from his attendants the vexation of spirit he felt, or, by the affectation of great sorrow, rouse them to devise some means of gratifying his wishes.
1 Kings 21:5-16 . JEZEBEL CAUSES NABOTH TO BE STONED.
7. Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?--This is not so much a question as an exclamation--a sarcastic taunt; "A pretty king thou art! Canst thou not use thy power and take what thy heart is set upon?"
arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard--After upbraiding Ahab for his pusillanimity and bidding him act as a king, Jezebel tells him to trouble himself no more about such a trifle; she would guarantee the possession of the vineyard.
8. So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal--The seal-ring contained the name of the king and gave validity to the documents to which it was affixed ( Esther 8:8 , Daniel 6:17 ). By allowing her the use of his signet-ring, Ahab passively consented to Jezebel's proceeding. Being written in the king's name, it had the character of a royal mandate.
sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city--They were the civic authorities of Jezreel, and would, in all likelihood, be the creatures and fit tools of Jezebel. It is evident that, though Ahab had recently been in Jezreel, when he made the offer to Naboth, both he and Jezebel were now in Samaria ( 1 Kings 20:43 ).
9. Proclaim a fast, &c.--Those obsequious and unprincipled magistrates did according to orders. Pretending that a heavy guilt lay on one, or some unknown party, who was charged with blaspheming God and the king and that Ahab was threatening vengeance on the whole city unless the culprit were discovered and punished, they assembled the people to observe a solemn fast. Fasts were commanded on extraordinary occasions affecting the public interests of the state ( 2 Chronicles 20:3 , Ezra 8:21 , Joel 1:14 , 2:15 , Jonah 3:5 ). The wicked authorities of Jezreel, by proclaiming the fast, wished to give an external appearance of justice to their proceedings and convey an impression among the people that Naboth's crime amounted to treason against the king's life.
set Naboth on high--During a trial the panel, or accused person, was placed on a high seat, in the presence of all the court; but as the guilty person was supposed to be unknown, the setting of Naboth on high among the people must have been owing to his being among the distinguished men of the place.
13. there came in two men--worthless fellows who had been bribed to swear a falsehood. The law required two witnesses in capital offenses ( Deuteronomy 17:6 , 19:15 , Numbers 35:30 , Matthew 26:60 ). Cursing God and cursing the king are mentioned in the law ( Exodus 22:28 ) as offenses closely connected, the king of Israel being the earthly representative of God in His kingdom.
they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him--The law, which forbade cursing the rulers of the people, does not specify the penalty for this offense but either usage had sanctioned or the authorities of Jezreel had originated stoning as the proper punishment. It was always inflicted out of the city ( Acts 7:58 ).
14-16. Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession--Naboth's execution having been announced, and his family being involved in the same fatal sentence ( 2 Kings 9:26 ), his property became forfeited to the crown, not by law, but traditionary usage (see 2 Samuel 16:4 ).
16. Ahab rose up to go down--from Samaria to Jezreel.
1 Kings 21:17-29 . ELIJAH DENOUNCES JUDGMENTS AGAINST AHAB AND JEZEBEL.
17-19. Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?--While Ahab was in the act of surveying his ill-gotten possession, Elijah, by divine commission, stood before him. The appearance of the prophet, at such a time, was ominous of evil, but his language was much more so (compare Ezekiel 45:8 , 46:16-18 ). Instead of shrinking with horror from the atrocious crime, Ahab eagerly hastened to his newly acquired property.
19. In the place where dogs licked, &c.--a righteous retribution of Providence. The prediction was accomplished, not in Jezreel, but in Samaria; and not on Ahab personally, in consequence of his repentance ( 1 Kings 21:29 ), but on his son ( 2 Kings 9:25 ). The words "in the place where" might be rendered "in like manner as."
21, 22. will make thine house, Jezebel, though included among the members of Ahab's house, has her ignominious fate expressly foretold (see 2 Kings 9:30 ).
27-29. Ahab . . . rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly--He was not obdurate, like Jezebel. This terrible announcement made a deep impression on the king's heart, and led, for a while, to sincere repentance. Going softly, that is, barefoot, and with a pensive manner, within doors. He manifested all the external signs, conventional and natural, of the deepest sorrow. He was wretched, and so great is the mercy of God, that, in consequence of his humiliation, the threatened punishment was deferred.