1 Kings 21
1King Ahab had a palace in Jezreel, and near the palace was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. 2One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Since your vineyard is so convenient to the palace, I would like to buy it to use as a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or if you prefer, I will pay you for it.”
3But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.” 4So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!
5“What in the world is the matter?” his wife, Jezebel, asked him. “What has made you so upset that you are not eating?”
6“I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or to trade it, and he refused!” Ahab told her.
7“Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel asked. “Get up and eat and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!”
8So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and other leaders of the city where Naboth lived. 9In her letters she commanded: “Call the citizens together for fasting and prayer and give Naboth a place of honor. 10Find two scoundrels who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”
11So the elders and other leaders followed the instructions Jezebel had written in the letters. 12They called for a fast and put Naboth at a prominent place before the people. 13Then two scoundrels accused him before all the people of cursing God and the king. So he was dragged outside the city and stoned to death. 14The city officials then sent word to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.”
15When Jezebel heard the news, she said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” 16So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard to claim it.
(1 Kings 21:1-16, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
This story is a perfect illustration of how those who are in power can abuse that power for their own gain at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.
King Ahab, who is described in 1 Kings 16:30 as more evil than any of the Israelite kings who had come before him, decides he wants a vineyard that is close and convenient to his palace. When he approaches the owner (Naboth) to buy it, his offer is rejected, primarily because Naboth doesn’t want to release family-owned land that has been passed down via his ancestors.
When Ahab’s wife Jezebel finds out the reason why Ahab has been moping around, she takes matters into her own hands by enlisting the help of ruthless collaborators to accuse Naboth of a crime he didn’t commit so she could deceptively kill Naboth in a way that would seem legitimate and then take possession of the vineyard.
This kind of abuse of power doesn’t just happen in ancient monarchies but can happen even today in a democratic society like the United States, where cultural and political elites often get rich and wealthy at the expense of commoners.
A recent movie depicting this kind of scenario is the 2019 movie “Dark Waters” starring Mark Ruffalo. In the movie, DuPont, the biggest company and employer in the region, dumps their toxic waste in an area that ruins a man’s land and livestock. Instead of owning their actions, facing consequences and paying restitution, they employ an army of lawyers to keep their actions secret and shield themselves from consequences.
Essentially, they know they are poisoning people but they do it anyway because there is a lot of profit in creating their teflon products.
This is what Ahab and Jezebel do – they kill Naboth in order to seize his land, all for their own selfish gain.
The truth is that this kind of behavior is not new. It’s been around since the dawn of time and continues to persist within the business and political culture. Of course the root of these actions is always selfishness in the form of greed and covetousness.
In our society today, there is a lot of talk about equity and justice and enacting laws that would punish those who act unjustly towards others. But while laws are necessary to curb evil, they are ultimately ineffective in eradicating evil. Laws simply cannot uncover every deceptive form of greed and abuse that people choose to hide.
The only real solution, as the Scriptures attest, is for people’s hearts to be renewed and aligned with God.
As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised that sin still exists and that people seem to find new and twisted ways to exploit others for their own selfish gains. We are called to seek justice for those who are disenfranchised and we should seek to enact laws to curb evil.
But we should also realize that apart from a heart transformation that only Jesus can provide, evil and injustice will not be eliminated until Jesus Himself returns and forces everyone to give an account for their actions.
What are some examples of injustice and exploitation you see in our culture today?
What do you think are the root causes of some of the injustices and abuse of power that we still see today?
Shows like Star Trek have portrayed future human civilizations as becoming enlightened and “evolved”, discarding their base selfish desires of greed and coveting in order to create a semi-utopian societal existence. Do you think this kind of utopian outcome is possible? Why or why not?
What do you think would be required for injustices and abuse of power to really be eradicated?