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Home » Daily Readings, Prophets

The Vineyard of Naboth (1 Kgs. 21:1-16)

Submitted by on Monday, 14 June 2010No Comment

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  • Reading I: 1 Kings 21:1-16
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 5
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:38-42

The story is found in a section of 1 Kings about the reign of Ahab1) interspersed with the Elijah cycle of stories (1 Kgs. 16:29 – 22:42). The narrative in 1 Kgs. 21 can be divided as follows:

  • 1- 3 — Naboth’s Refusal to give his land to Ahab
  • 4 -7 — Ahab’s Reaction and Jezebel
  • 8 – 14 — Jezebel’s Plan and its Accomplishment
  • 15-16 — Ahab is informed and prepares to take possession of the Vineyard
  • 17-26 — The intervention of Elijah
  • 27-29 — Ahab Repents

Ahab is characterized as one of the evil kings of Israel; and this is illustrated in the story. He wanted the vineyard of Naboth for himself, but Naboth refused to give in on religious grounds: the Covenant prohibits him from giving or selling his piece of ancestral land because it is not his but is intended for his family and descendants.

Ahab goes home and like a child gets in a tantrum refusing to eat. This caught the attention of Jezebel — the Queen who made Baalism official in the kingdom of Israel — and like a mother to her disconsolate child, promises to make things right. Her plan was to have Naboth falsely accused of treason and blasphemy before an assembly with the elders condemning him to be stoned to death. Her plan was carried out and Naboth was put to death. Ahab was informed of the death of Naboth and was already about to take possession of the vineyard when Elijah, under directions from Yahweh, met him, accused him of the murder of Naboth and declared the punishment for it.

Ahab repented of his sin and Yahweh pulls back his anger.

The story can be read on different levels:

  1. It is the story of a king’s covetousness and abuse of power
  2. It is the story of an innocent man put to death and avenged by God
  3. It is a story where repentance allows an evil man to "buy" more time for himself
  4. It is the story of how — like in the case of Solomon — a wife turns away the heart of a man from God.

In the Liturgy …

The liturgy for Monday of the 11th Week in OT — C presents the first 16 verses of the narrative. Focus is placed on the injustice against Naboth by the king and queen of Samaria. To take the vineyard, Naboth is falsely accused through the system of justice that should have been protecting him. From the king to the queen and to the elders, there is a direct line of responsibility for the crime. The actions of the queen cannot be dissociated from her husband because she is after all one body with him. His was the covetousness, hers was the murderous plan that satisfied that covetousness. The elders were the the judiciary in that town, tasked by the Covenant to aid the king in dispensing justice. But where the head is corrupt, even the body is corrupt.

Up until verse 16, Naboth is the innocent man who awaits vengeance for his death. The following part of the story will show how God immediately acts — even without anyone praying for Naboth — and calls upon Elijah to declare Ahab’s sin and its punishment. Because of Ahab’s repentance, however, the vengeance for Naboth will have to wait until after the king’s death.

The responsorial psalm for the day taken from Psalm 5 is a prayer from the heart of the innocent man who suffers wrongly in the hands of evil men. It is the hope expressed here, of the God who does not allow the innocent to suffer for long which is answered in the rest of Naboth’s story. The Gospel reading about Jesus’ teaching on vengeance (Matthew 5:38-42) coincides with 1 Kings 21:1-16 in that it echoes the Christian teaching on vengeance and the wrath of God:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord (Romans 12:19)

1 Kings 21:1-16
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1And after these things, Naboth the Jezrahelite, who was in Jezrahel, had at that time a vineyard near the palace of Achab king of Samaria.
2And Achab spoke to Naboth, saying: Give me thy vineyard, that I may make me a garden of herbs, because it is nigh, and adjoining to my house, and I will give thee for it a better vineyard: or if thou think it more convenient for thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.
3Naboth answered him: The Lord be merciful to me, and not let me give thee the inheritance of my fathers.
4And Achab came into his house angry and fretting, because of the word that Naboth the Jezrahelite had spoken to him, saying: I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And casting himself upon his bed, he turned away his face to the wall, and would eat no bread.
5And Jezabel his wife went in to him, and said to him: What is the matter that thy soul is so grieved? and why eatest thou no bread?
6And he answered her: I spoke to Naboth the Jezrahelite, and said to him: Give me thy vineyard, and take money for it: or if it please thee, I will give thee a better vineyard for it. And he said: I will not give thee my vineyard.
7Then Jezabel his wife said to him: Thou art of great authority indeed, and governest well the kingdom of Israel. Arise, and eat bread, and be of good cheer, I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite.
8So she wrote letter's in Achab's name, and sealed them with his ring, and sent them to the ancients, and the chief men that were in his city, and that dwelt with Naboth.
9And this was the tenor of the letters: Proclaim a fast, and make Naboth sit among the chief of the people,
10And suborn two men, sons of Belial against him, and let them bear false witness: that he hath blasphemed God and the king: and then carry him out, and stone him, and so let him die.
11And the men of his city, the ancients and nobles, that dwelt with him in the city, did as Jezabel had commanded them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent to them:
12They proclaimed a fast, and made Naboth sit among the chief of the people.
13And bringing two men, sons of the devil, they made them sit against him: and they, like men of the devil, bore witness against him before the people, saying: Naboth hath blasphemed God and the king: wherefore they brought him forth without the city, and stoned him to death.
14And they sent to Jezabel, saying: Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
15And it came to pass when Jezabel heard that Naboth was stoned, and dead, that she said to Achab: Arise and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite, who would not agree with thee, and give it thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.
16And when Achab heard this, to wit, that Naboth was dead, he arose, and went down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite, to take possession of it.
Matthew 5:38-42
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
38You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
39But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other:
40And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him.
41And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two,
42Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.
Matthew 5:38-42
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
38You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
39But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other:
40And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him.
41And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two,
42Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.
1 Kings 21:1-16
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1And after these things, Naboth the Jezrahelite, who was in Jezrahel, had at that time a vineyard near the palace of Achab king of Samaria.
2And Achab spoke to Naboth, saying: Give me thy vineyard, that I may make me a garden of herbs, because it is nigh, and adjoining to my house, and I will give thee for it a better vineyard: or if thou think it more convenient for thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.
3Naboth answered him: The Lord be merciful to me, and not let me give thee the inheritance of my fathers.
4And Achab came into his house angry and fretting, because of the word that Naboth the Jezrahelite had spoken to him, saying: I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And casting himself upon his bed, he turned away his face to the wall, and would eat no bread.
5And Jezabel his wife went in to him, and said to him: What is the matter that thy soul is so grieved? and why eatest thou no bread?
6And he answered her: I spoke to Naboth the Jezrahelite, and said to him: Give me thy vineyard, and take money for it: or if it please thee, I will give thee a better vineyard for it. And he said: I will not give thee my vineyard.
7Then Jezabel his wife said to him: Thou art of great authority indeed, and governest well the kingdom of Israel. Arise, and eat bread, and be of good cheer, I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite.
8So she wrote letter's in Achab's name, and sealed them with his ring, and sent them to the ancients, and the chief men that were in his city, and that dwelt with Naboth.
9And this was the tenor of the letters: Proclaim a fast, and make Naboth sit among the chief of the people,
10And suborn two men, sons of Belial against him, and let them bear false witness: that he hath blasphemed God and the king: and then carry him out, and stone him, and so let him die.
11And the men of his city, the ancients and nobles, that dwelt with him in the city, did as Jezabel had commanded them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent to them:
12They proclaimed a fast, and made Naboth sit among the chief of the people.
13And bringing two men, sons of the devil, they made them sit against him: and they, like men of the devil, bore witness against him before the people, saying: Naboth hath blasphemed God and the king: wherefore they brought him forth without the city, and stoned him to death.
14And they sent to Jezabel, saying: Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
15And it came to pass when Jezabel heard that Naboth was stoned, and dead, that she said to Achab: Arise and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite, who would not agree with thee, and give it thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.
16And when Achab heard this, to wit, that Naboth was dead, he arose, and went down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite, to take possession of it.
Romans 12:19
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
19Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.

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  1. 869-850 BC (Albright); 874-853 BC (Thiele []

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