“Give me your vineyard. It’s right next door to my palace, and I need it for a vegetable garden. I’ll give you a bigger one in a better location.”
Naboth’s lips parted ever so little as he looked directly at the King, and Ahab plowed ahead.
“Or name your price!”
“Oh, the Lord would never let me trade away my family inheritance.”
And with that the king pouted all the way home and crawled into bed. When his wife heard he had refused food she came in.
“Why the long face? Why won’t you eat?”
“Naboth won’t give me his vineyard.”
“Won’t? Why not? How much did you offer?”
“It’s not the money. It’s their old rules. I’ve heard about people like that, but I had no idea we had one next door.”
“Rules? What rules?!”
Her husband, the king, sat up in bed and looked at his wife from Phoenician Sidon.
“OK. You’ve heard of Moses?”
“Zarephath High – Sophomore – World History 101”
• “Baby in the basket”
• “Plagues on Egypt”
• “Bunches of laws – you talking about those old rules?”
“Naboth didn’t say a word about price. He just said ‘the Lord’ — not God but the Lord. That’s how they talk about their rules. ‘The Lord this. The Lord that.’ Plus he called it his ‘family inheritance.’ He’s one of those. That’s why he used those words. It’s not about price.”
“So duh wi-do king-ee’s got his fee-wens hurt! But mommy’s gonna fix it. Come on. Let’s eat!”
Her fix started right after supper. She dictated letters which her secretary wrote over Ahab’s signature. She stamped the letters with his royal seal and sent them to the civic leaders of the city of Jezreel.
Next morning Tola pushed into Jashub’s spice shop early.
“Did you get a letter from the Queen?”
“Have you talked with Shimron about it?”
“He got the same letter.”
“I don’t like this.”
“Remember what she did to Puah last year. You better learn to like it.”
“I’ve got a wife and kids.”
“Don’t we all.”
“Who’ll we get?”
“Shimron’s got two scumbags in mind. You know Jeriel, that offside cousin of Rephaiah?”
“Will he do as he’s told?”
“Shimron says he’s got stuff on him from two years back.”
“OK. That’s one.”
“Of course you know Jahmai. Can always count on him to do whatever Shimron tells him.”
“I suppose Shimron’s got a date in mind…”
“Ninth of Av.”
“Let me see your letter.” (1 Kings 21:11)
Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels facing him and have them bring charges that he cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.
“What if somebody calls us on it?”
“Ain’t gonna happen. Not inviting that kind. Announce it at ten; done by eleven.”
“I don’t like this.”
“You’ve got a wife and kids. Learn to like it.”
How do Elijah and Ira get to Jezreel City, so that Elijah’s close enough to Naboth vineyard to go there and meet Ahab?
In the early afternoon of the Ninth of Av, Elijah and Ira
“Wait!” Ira yelled. “They can’t do this! The leading citizens can’t — they won’t — do such a thing!”
While Ira paced up and down, Elijah sat studying the grain of the wooden table top.
“That’s not how it’s supposed to happen, Ira. But the solemn fast, the accusations, the stoning. I couldn’t believe it. They just set two worthless guys in front of Naboth and had them denounce him.”
“But, Elijah! It…it’s so basic. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’ Plus you Israelis have ways of dealing with this. ‘If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing…’”
Elijah put his elbows on the table, his head in his hands. Ira simmered down for a few seconds and then jostled the table as he boiled over again.
“They know the system laid down by Moses! To pervert it like this is…is…it’s just stupid! They’re undercutting the future of their own children!”
“But they did,” whispered Elijah. “They used the very thing designed to prevent injustice — used it to murder an innocent man and steal his inheritance.”
Ira sat and stared at the top of Elijah’s bowed head. He tried to whisper, but it came out as a hoarse croak.
“Why doesn’t God just kill the Devil, ‘Lij? Huh? Like you killed all those guys at Kishon.”
The question hung in the air between them while Elijah continued studying the grain of the wood. Finally Elijah spoke to the table.
“I’ve always thought God wanted us to learn to follow his teachings — even in the face of a satan. But what good are the best teachings if people don’t feel them deep down?”
“Mmm… You sound like old Hashabiah.”
“I’m flattered,” Elijah said, still looking at the table.
“Hashabiah used to talk about ‘the sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat.’[modern_footnote]1 Kings 13:34 – “The sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat”[/modern_footnote] Said they’d come home to roost.”
“King Jeroboam died a good 40 years ago. But what was Professor Hashabiah getting at?”
“You remember how Jeroboam led the tax revolt?”
“Maybe,” Elijah said. “Something about whips and scorpions?”
“That’s what started it. Anyway, when Jeroboam led your Israeli cousins here in the north to break away from Rehoboam…”
Elijah looked up: “He got nervous about Passover. People going up to Jerusalem every year where Rehoboam was still king.”
“So he set up his golden calves. Right. ‘Why bother with those hot, dusty trails. Just stop in here at Dan or Bethel.’”
“And the priests he put in weren’t even sons of Aaron — just whatever scum he could get. So what did your old Levite say about all this?”
“He said you Israelis are forgetting who you are,” Ira explained.
“Said the trip to Jerusalem every year used to mark you. Marked you inside. Plus just walking around in Jerusalem — the city King David turned into a home for the Ark of the Covenant — just feeling those old stones under your feet and rubbing at your elbows reminded you of the Teachings Moses placed inside that ark — reminded you how to live.”
Elijah nodded, “So we forgot who we are, what made us who we are, and we made murder easy.”
Then he stood to leave.
“Stay here, Ira. I’ve got a date with the killer.”
When Ahab heard, “Naboth is dead,” he took Jehu, a chariot captain, and went to look over his new garden spot. But at the vineyard gate Elijah barred his way.
“You know that corner where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood? That’s where they’re waiting to lick up yours.”
“Well! Well!” declared the killer, “If it isn’t my old enemy!”
“Your whole line, Ahab.” Elijah continued.
“God’s going to rub out every man in your line to your most distant cousin. And not just you. Jezebel. Those dogs are going to tear her apart and devour the pieces right by our city wall. The very spot.”
“This afternoon everyone wants to be friends of the royal family, but your family members are going to die very much alone. Captain Jehu here can be my witness: If they die in town, the dogs will pull them to pieces; if they die in the open country, the vultures will peck the flesh from their bones.”
The young prophet never dreamed his words were having any effect. So when the King stood tearing at his clothing, Elijah had no idea what was going on.
Then the next day he saw Ahab dressed for mourning! His shirt looked strangely like Elijah’s goatskin – cloth woven from the hair of a goat. For days and days, Ahab tiptoed around in this getup – meek, minus his normal head-in-the-air stride. Word from the palace back door was that the king was even going without meals.
“A killer in sackcloth? What an act!” Elijah muttered.
But the Lord took a different view.
“You’ve seen how humble Ahab is before me? I’m noting it and I’m holding off. His disaster is coming, but not in his lifetime. Instead it’s going to hit his son.”