Thoughts for the Day

Monday, 17th June 2024: Elijah 6 - King Ahab and Naboth

Jezebel Naboth Ahab Elijah 21

Reading : Verses from Elijah, Chapter 21


Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.’ But Naboth said to Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.’ Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, ‘I will not give you my ancestral inheritance.’ He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.

His wife Jezebel came to him and said, ‘Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?’ He said to her, ‘Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, “Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it”; but he answered, “I will not give you my vineyard.”’ His wife Jezebel said to him, ‘Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, ‘Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, “You have cursed God and the king.” Then take him out, and stone him to death.’ The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, ‘Naboth cursed God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, ‘Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.’

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, ‘Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.’ As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


King Ahab has been constantly unfaithful to Yahweh. With the encouragement of his wife Jezebel he has worshipped other gods, and generally challenged God's authority. As leader of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, he has great power, whereas Naboth the owner of the vineyard has little power, though he does have his ancestral lands. When the people entered Canaan the land was parcelled out to tribes and families, but still belonged to God, who said: 'The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants' (Leviticus 25.23). Ahab’s offer asks Naboth to forsake his birthright, his inheritance from God, for the mere sake of a whim. Ahab is also rejecting Yahweh's commands, for kings were appointed to care for His people.

So the scene is set for the betrayal of God and the murder of Naboth. It also shows Queen Jezebel as the ultimate power behind the throne. First though we get a wonderful picture of a peevish, sulking man when Ahab turns his face to the wall and refuses to eat. It's the action of a child who cannot get his own way. Jezebel's plan seems to involve some calamity that has occurred. A fast is called and a meeting of the leaders to decide who had committed a crime against God? Naboth was to be the scapegoat, and it was probable that his whole family would have been killed, so that Ahab could claim the land of an executed criminal. Abab doesn't question Jezebel's intentions, and for her to use his personal or royal seal to send out letters he must have been complicit in some way.

From the moment of his calling God had sent Elijah to oversee King Ahab, and we shall see the prophet's response to this wicked action tomorrow. In the meantime let us note how selfishness can result in true evil. We don't have the power of a king, but self-centredness and greed are all-pervasive in our world, and we are all responsible for caring for those less able to defend themselves. The "I" word is all consuming and every time we use it we should stop and question our priorities.


Lord God,
all too often we are selfish -
in our thoughts, actions and deeds.
It's only when we look back that we see this,
and realise that the "I" word has been constantly
in our thoughts,
and has affected our actions.
Help us to see how our actions affect others,
and to look out for those who cannot fend
for themselves.

Follow Up Thoughts

You might like to explore this - I particularly like "walking in another's shoes":

Or this which looks at Jezebel in much greater detail:

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