1 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.
2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.”
3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”
4 And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.
Naboth, the man of ‘fruits’ was given a portion in Jezreel – the place of kings yet also the place where God scatters (likely to be a reference to the destruction of Ahab’s house in 2 Kings 9). Yet, this very contestation of inheritance is akin to the story of Jacob and Esau – the latter brother who sold his inheritance to Jacob over a simple meal. Naboth however is no Esau – he is not selling his inheritance in new creation for mammon or the desire of his eye. “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers” (v.3) – a basis built upon Numbers 26 and Numbers 36:7-9, that the inheritance of the Israelites are proportionately placed and kept within the tribes without transfer.
What is the value behind such a vineyard? Quality? No – it is a mere ‘vegetable garden’, which could have been replaced by a better vineyard (v.2). Rather, it is simply because it is in a better location, because it is near Ahab’s house. What nonsense! Naboth’s adherence to the LORD’s command is exactly the type of faithfulness modeled from his following Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, the excellent wife in Proverbs 31:16; contrary to the sluggard, the vineyard of a man lacking sense, such as Ahab (Proverbs 24:30). Such is the vineyard, the object of Christian love (Song of Solomon 8:12), modeled after the love the Father has for us through Christ:
Isaiah 5:7: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
but behold, an outcry!
We are His vineyard! We are the apple of His eye! We are the treasure in the field! He is the one Who protects, Who seeks, Who provides.
5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?”
6 And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”
7 And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city.
9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people.
10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”
11 And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them,
12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people.
13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men 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 with stones.
14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”
The events between v. 5-14 are but a repetition of Adam’s fall – Eve directing Adam’s actions, the man listening to the woman (Genesis 3:17) instead of being her head. Naboth cared deeply for his vineyard, given to him by the LORD and commanded by the LORD to keep as his and his fathers’ inheritance. Yet, the men, elders and leaders of the city from which Naboth belongs betrays Naboth. The very people who are likely to know the same Naboth who stood up to king Ahab, and would cling onto his vineyard just as Christ clings to us that nothing shall remove us from His love (Romans 8:38). They would spit in the face of a faithful man, in the face of the prophets like Elijah and Elisha, and instead listen to the false head, the false king who is not listening to Wisdom but to Folly (Proverbs 9:13). Not only that, but two worthless men (witnesses) are set opposite the innocent Naboth, just as Christ was judged guilty in comparison to Barabbas (Matthew 27:20) by worthless men. This flies in the face of the command in Deuteronomy 19:15-21:
15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing,
17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days.
18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely,
19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you.
21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
V.13 is direct and blunt. They did not place the dispute before priests and judges who are in office. There was no diligent inquiry. The two worthless men did not receive their due justice. Instead, Naboth was innocently stoned. He shall receive his true inheritance, as part of the LORD’s vineyard, in new creation and we will meet with him there, an inheritance which no man can purchase from him. Yet, Ahab’s kingdom is on this earth and this is all he shall ever receive. The nation Israel thus listened to a false king, whose headship had been influenced and subsumed heretically under the whore called Folly. Yet, we are the spiritual Israelites called to listen to the true king, the “Son” of Solomon, who listens to the excellent wife the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 1:10; 31).
15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.”
16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession.
19 And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”
V.17 sees Christ speaking to Elijah – the Word of the LORD Who informed Elijah concerning the murder and false possession of Naboth and his inheritance. The LORD shall not forsake Deuteronomy 19 – the wrath, which did not fall upon us Christians, still needs to fall upon Someone – that One being Christ Jesus. Yet no one has paid the penalty for Ahab’s sins – he shall therefore experience the torment of Naboth by having the dogs lick his own blood (v.19, c.f. Romans 7:14).
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD.
21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.
22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin.
23 And of Jezebel the LORD also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’
24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”
25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.
26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)
The destruction of Ahab’s house does not fall upon him until 2 Kings 9:36-37, a fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy (his own fall fulfilled in 1 Kings 22:38). In stealing another man’s inheritance, Ahab loses his own. In conceding Jezebel’s actions and murdering Naboth, a holy saint and Christian in the city of Jezreel, Ahab’s household is itself the subject of God’s holy wrath. Thus also Adam’s house is destroyed, so that the second Adam may rule – the removal of Satan, the false lord, the false Baal, in place of the true husband and our LORD Jesus Christ.
27 And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly.
28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
Christ recognizes Ahab’s repentance before his end – yet, his end is but a proverb (Deuteronomy 28:37) to those who go after idols, stealing the LORD’s choice vineyard, selling himself to sin and listening to his wife instead of protecting and leading her in God’s word. We are unsure whether Ahab himself has accepted the LORD personally, but the damage to his lineage cannot be undone. Chapter 22 does not fare well for Ahab’s eventual death either, as he ended his life in sin and in defiance against the true prophets of the LORD. He has led Israel to sin and only Christ, not Ahab, nor Adam, could redeem it. The innocent blood of Naboth trickles on until Christ’s blood is itself licked by dogs like us. Jezebel’s demise, unsurprisingly, is more graphic – the true instigator, the true folly of follies. She is the temptress, the Babylonian prostitute (Revelation 14:8, 17:5).
1 Kings 22: Prophets and Kings
1 For three years Syria and Israel continued without war.
2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.
3 And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?”
4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
5 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.”
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”
7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?”
8 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”
9 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.”
10 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them.
11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.’”
12 And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”
We see in the final chapter of the first book of Kings what may seem to be a glorious attempt to unite Israel and Judah back into one nation, like the days of Solomon. Israel and Syria are not in covenant (2 Chronicles 16:7), and instead, Ahab – the ‘king of Israel’ (unnamed until v. 20), decides to pursue the Syrians in the battle against Ramoth-gilead in unity with the king of Judah. It is undoubtedly the case that the writer wishes to focus on the joint effort of this ‘king of Israel’ and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. Yet, as following in his vein of character, Ahab does not inquire the LORD – but Jehoshaphat (the LORD is judge) does (v.5).
It is interesting that these prophets (v.6) have been noticeably inactive up to this stage – to the point of Elijah’s despair (1 Kings 19:18). Perhaps they are part of the 7,000 who have not yet bowed their knees to Baal? I think not. These prophets are flatterers coming in their own name rather than Christ’s Name, their power is in their eloquence and tongue rather than in the Word (1 Thessalonians 2).
What is strange is the omission of Elijah from this chapter. Surely if there is one man by whom Ahab could inquire the LORD, it would be Elijah – the ‘enemy’ of Ahab (1 Kings 21:20), who is also hated by Ahab like this Micaiah (Who is like Jehovah?) the son of Imlah (whom God will fill up). Like Micaiah, Elijah has not prophesied good concerning Ahab. Yet, what is certain by their common prophecies is that Elijah and Micaiah are indeed of the LORD and filled with His Holy Spirit. Zedekiah, though named a the ‘righteousness of Jehovah’ is not fitting of his name like Micaiah. He is the son of a merchant, Chenaanah, and rather than being filled with the Spirit is instead a false prophet filled with gas (v.11-12).
13 And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”
14 But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.”
15 And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”
16 But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
17 And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’”
18 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left;
20 and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another.
21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’
22 And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’
23 Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”
Micaiah’s prophecy in v.17 is a fulfillment of the name “Jezreel” – God scatters – during Ahab’s time. The shepherdless and masterless Israel is a picture of the destruction of the house of Ahab. Yet, Israel shall be shepherded and mastered by the LORD on His throne, all the hose of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left (v.19). He is the One who allowed a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets to declare disaster upon themselves (v.21-23). Micaiah’s prophecy in v.15 is filled with irony, and we can be sure that Micaiah’s intention is for the king to receive his due judgment on the battlefield. Micaiah simply desires for Ahab to be removed, as the unrighteous king of Israel. Even Ahab can tell from Micaiah’s tone that he is mocking the false prophets. Adam Clarke notes Micaiah’s manner of exposing the false prophets’ lies shielded in ambiguity:
“This was a strong irony; as if he had said, All your prophets have predicted success; you wish me to speak as they speak: Go, and prosper; for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king. These were the precise words of the false prophets, (see 1Ki 22:6, 12,) and were spoken by Micaiah in such a tone and manner as at once showed to Ahab that he did not believe them; hence the king adjures him, 1Ki 22:16, that he would speak to him nothing but truth; and on this the prophet immediately relates to him the prophetic vision which pointed out the disasters which ensued.
It is worthy of remark that this prophecy of the king’s prophets is couched in the same ambiguous terms by which the false prophets in the heathen world endeavoured to maintain their credit, while they deluded their votaries. The reader will observe that the word it is not in the original: The Lord will deliver IT into the hand of the king; and the words are so artfully constructed that they may be interpreted for or against; so that, be the event whatever it might, the juggling prophet could save his credit by saying he meant what had happened. Thus then the prophecy might have been understood: The Lord will deliver (Ramoth-gilead) into the king’s (Ahab’s) hand; or, The Lord will deliver (Israel) into the king’s hand; i.e., into the hand of the king of Syria. And Micaiah repeats these words of uncertainty in order to ridicule them and expose their fallacy.”
24 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?”
25 And Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.”
26 And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son,
27 and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.”’”
28 And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”
As if the Spirit is only for Zedekiah to keep! As if the Spirit only indwelt in a few Israelites! No, the Spirit was shared amongst the holy, amongst the righteous, amongst the children of the LORD. Behold, this truth shall be revealed not on the Pentecost in Acts 2, but on the day the false prophets are shamed (v.25). This Joash is the son of Ahab, an agent of Ahab’s heresy.
29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.
30 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” And the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.
31 Now the king of Syria had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, “Fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel.”
32 And when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is surely the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out.
33 And when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.
34 But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”
35 And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.
36 And about sunset a cry went through the army, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”
The irony is drawn out in v.29-36 – for Jehoshaphat is truly the one worthy of wearing this robe, and the king of Israel is but a man in disguise, a man posing as king though bearing no qualities of one. It is interesting that the king of Syria in v.31 is only pursuing the king of Israel and no other, in fulfillment of Micaiah’s prophecy that Ahab shall be struck down. In the LORD’s providence (v.34), the king is struck, for God’s wrath perceives through all disguises into men’s sinful hearts (Matthew 9:4; Mark 4:12).
37 So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria.
38 And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the LORD that he had spoken.
39 Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, and the ivory house that he built and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
40 So Ahab slept with his fathers, and Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.
The king therefore is buried in the same place where his father, Omri, was buried (1 Kings 16:28). This is the watch-mountain, pride of Omri’s purchase in 1 Kings 16, where Ahab built an altar in worship of Baal. Instead of being buried in the heart of Israel, in Jerusalem the place of the House of the LORD, Ahab was instead buried next to the altar of heretical worship. This is highlighted in v.38 – this same pool of Samaria was where the dogs licked up Ahab’s blood, where the prostitutes (like Jezebel) washed themselves in. It is thus the reign of Ahaziah, who instead of being held by Jehovah, follows in his mother’s footsteps.
41 Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.
42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
43 He walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.
44 Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.
Instead of reveling in the history of Ahaziah, we are brought immediately to focus on the robed king who survived the battle against the Syrians. He is the son of the physician (Asa), his mother the forsaken (Azubah), the daughter of Shilhi (armed), walking in the way of the true Physician Jesus Christ. The peace made with the king of Israel (v.44) is a mark rare amongst the other kings of Judah who have fought against the kings of Israel since the times of Solomon. This is the first hint of a re-unification of Israel as one man (Judges 20:8-11). Yet, unless the king of Israel and king of Judah both worship the Physician, the holy Son (Psalm 2), it does not look like Israel would be restored.
45 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he showed, and how he warred, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?
46 And from the land he exterminated the remnant of the male cult prostitutes who remained in the days of his father Asa.
47 There was no king in Edom; a deputy was king.
48 Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.
49 Then Ahaziah the son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Let my servants go with your servants in the ships,” but Jehoshaphat was not willing.
50 And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoram his son reigned in his place.
We see more of Jehoshaphat’s reign here – that he is a man under whom deputies were appointed in Edom, that Esau is fulfilling his role as the elder serving the younger Israel (Genesis 25:23). However, as soon as Jehoram replaced Jehoshaphat, Edom rebels (2 Kings 8:22), marking the allegiance of Edom to Judah as granted by the LORD to the faithful king (which Jehoram was not). It is interesting that the account in this chapter regarding Jehoshaphat’s refusal to join his servants with Ahaziah’s servant is recorded differently in 2 Chronicles 20:35-37. It is likely that Jehoshaphat’s refusal to join the servants from Israel and Judah is a result of the pronouncement of judgment upon Jehoshaphat’s initial agreement to join with Ahaziah. Upon recognizing the LORD’s wrath regarding Ahaziah’s sinful reign, thus Jehoshaphat became unwilling (v.49). The writer omits this detail, likely because of his agenda to paint Judah as the lineage through whom the Messiah shall come – though the Chronicler focuses on the LORD as the true king sitting on the throne of Israel.
51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel.
52 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
53 He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done.
And to what extent shall the nation be unified? The picture looks grim at the end of the eventful book of Kings where the LORD had been quiet and has spoken more to prophets and through prophets than to the kings directly. Yet, things are still looking hopeful for the kings of Judah (1 Kings 11:36) in order for the election of the Messiah to be fulfilled. Though the LORD is angered by Ahab’s household, Jehoshaphat still walked in the LORD’s ways. The light is still glimmering in Israel, though dim, the light is still shining through the Christian prophets like Nathan, Ahijah, Jehu, Eijah, Elisha, Micaiah – all men of God influencing the kings. If only Israel could be united by the LORD as the King of kings and not by mere men.