Naboth and His Inheritance

This is one of many exciting stories in the Bible but sadly it has a tragic outcome. Kings in ancient times were despotic and powerful, and there seemed to be little that the ‘man in the street’ could do to defend his rights or belongings. So, this is a salutary tale where a man stands up to the arrogant and selfish demands of the local king but loses his life in the process. But God is not to be mocked, ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’, Gal. 6. 7.

Let me summarize the story from 1 Kings chapter 21.

The Plot

Naboth inherited a vineyard next to King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel.

Despite all his wealth, King Ahab became obsessed with Naboth’s vineyard and offered to either pay for it or give Naboth a better one. To his amazement, all the money in the world would not have persuaded Naboth to part with his vineyard. It was a family plot, and it would stay in the family as far as he was concerned. So, like a big child, Ahab goes home, goes to bed, and sulks. He is the most powerful man in his kingdom, but he can’t get what he wants - a vineyard close to his palace to use as a vegetable garden.

When the queen learns that Ahab is sullen, angry, and on hunger strike, she pays him a visit to find out why. As far as Jezebel is concerned, Ahab is a king and will have what he wants, whatever it takes. ‘I’ll sort it’, she says! ‘I’ll get you the vineyard’.

She is very clever and knows how to manipulate people. She arranges a day of fasting (presumably under some guise of religion). She ensures that Naboth is given a place of honour at the event. Everyone in the city must be there; she is setting Naboth up. Two men are told to accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king during the day. Naboth was arrested immediately, taken out and executed. Two witnesses were enough to condemn him.

But that’s not the end of the story. When Ahab leaves the palace to claim Naboth’s vineyard, he gets a visit from the prophet Elijah. God sent him to condemn Ahab and warn him that he might have gained a little land, but he will lose his life and never see his male descendants survive God’s judgement. Furthermore, there is a severe judgement passed on his wife, Jezebel. Amazingly, Ahab reacts well to the message from Elijah, and God decides to delay his punishment. However, his dynasty was destroyed after he died.

It’s a sad tale, but we can learn lessons from it.

King Ahab

When Ahab became king of Israel there was a good king on the throne of Judah, Asa. The account of Ahab’s is dark and dire, and his evil reign is in direct contrast to King Asa’s. Ahab only reigned for twenty-two years, but he did more evil in his lifetime than anyone else who had lived before him, 1 Kgs. 16. 30. To add insult to injury, he married Jezebel, the ‘daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him’, v. 31. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. The person you marry can make a big difference in what you do with your life, and Jezebel certainly did nothing to improve this king’s life.

Undoubtedly, Ahab had never learned the wisdom of Solomon, Prov. 22. In verse 1, we read, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold’. His drive for possessions was more important to him than being a man of good character.

The major mistake that Ahab made was to commit the sin of covetousness, which underpins all other sins. Ahab’s sin is clearly prohibited in the law of Moses, Exod. 20. 17. In the New Testament, the prohibition continues, not only as what we should not do but in terms of being content with such things that we have.1 There is a potent contrast in this story between the powerful man being dissatisfied despite having so much and the common man being content with what he had inherited. May God help us to be content and not commit the sin of Ahab.

King Ahab’s response to Naboth’s refusal to sell or exchange his vineyard tells us much about the man. He had attempted to negotiate to get what he wanted, but having failed, he withdrew. He doesn’t threaten or bully Naboth but is clearly annoyed that he didn’t get his own way. He was a weak leader, and Jezebel’s approach indicates she was the more powerful person in the relationship. When Jezebel tells him that she will ensure he gets the vineyard, he does not resist or tell her that he wants to do the right thing. It is as if he can ignore her underhand methods as long as he doesn’t have to do anything and as long as he gets what he wants. Immaturity and a weak character are a terrible combination.

Ultimately, Ahab got Naboth’s vineyard, but, in the long run, he lost his inheritance and legacy, 1 Kgs. 21. 21, 22, 29. God sees and holds people to account - ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’, Rom. 12. 19. We too can live in the confidence that God will sort matters out in the end.

Queen Jezebel

This woman came from an idolatrous nation led by her father, Ethbaal. The name, Ethbaal, means ‘with Baal’, probably indicating the closeness of the union between the king and his people’s religion. This religion had, for a long time, trapped the people of Israel, but when Ahab married Jezebel, he invited this distortion of truth into the very inner sanctum of the nation, producing devastating effects. This was a tragic mistake but a reflection of his weak character. We should not be surprised at Jezebel’s disregard of the rights of the poor, her disrespect of Jehovah’s laws of inheritance, and her devious methods of getting her own way.2

There are no good features in this woman’s life, and her name continues to do a great injustice to her gender. She is, however, a powerful and persuasive woman.3Her venom, manipulation, scheming, and forcefulness are seen repeatedly in her life and none more so than in the story of Naboth.


Here is a man of an entirely different character to the king and queen. Whilst the lives of Ahab and Jezebel are not particularly pleasant, it is delightful to focus on a man like Naboth.

Naboth only appears on the page of scripture once. The simple lesson I see in this is that everyone is important in the eyes of God, and their story is worth recording. Naboth understood the value of what God had given him. He must have been familiar with the laws of inheritance that God had given to Moses.4 I think that his confidence in God’s word and his contentment with life led him to stand his ground when Ahab sought to persuade him to swap or sell his plot of land. I suppose that if Ahab had been familiar with what Solomon wrote in Proverbs chapter 23, he might have been a bit more cautious. In verse 11, the mighty redeemer promises to plead the cause of oppressed people.

In Old Testament scripture, the vineyard was a vivid picture of the nation’s fruitfulness or lack of it, Isa. 5. 1-7. Even when the nation was not fruitful for God, there were individuals in the nation who were still producing fruit for God’s glory. Symbolically, Naboth seems to be an example of this.

Interestingly, his vineyard was right beside the palace, in the times of Ahab and Jezebel a centre of evil. In Revelation chapter 2 verse 13, there is a church in the same locality, ‘where Satan’s seat is’ - the centre of the Devil’s operations at that time. In the same chapter, the name Jezebel is used to describe an equally wicked woman. Naboth resisted the urge to give up what God had given him in exchange for ‘a better offer’ from the world. We should similarly ‘stand against the wiles of the devil’ and ‘having done all, to stand’, Eph. 6. 11, 13.

Naboth understood that there was a higher authority than that of the king. As Christians, we recognize that there will be times when standing for truth and upholding principles that are pleasing to God will bring us into conflict with the world and we will choose to ‘obey God rather than men’, Acts 5. 29.

So where did this get Naboth? He lost his life after being falsely accused and maligned. Yet, in the records of heaven, he will be recorded as one of the faithful, one of whom the world was not worthy, Heb. 11. 38.


Poor old Elijah always seemed to get the tough gigs (to use a worldly expression). He had to live rough at the Brook Cherith, 1 Kgs. 17, confront Ahab, contest with the false prophets of Baal, and run from the vicious anger of Jezebel. His image is that of an outdoors man with very little dress sense and a questionable diet, but he is a man God uses to confront the evils of his day. Elijah is a man of great courage and obedience!

Could God use you and me to stand up to the evils of our generation, or have we become moulded into the world’s ways of thinking? Romans chapter 12 verse 2 warns us not to do this.

God instructs Elijah to ‘go down to meet Ahab’, 1 Kgs. 21. 18. He has to meet Ahab at the scene of the crime. Ahab didn’t waste any time getting into the stolen vineyard. We are not told what he was thinking, but you get the impression that he expected Elijah to turn up. He and Elijah didn’t really get on, which is not surprising. Ahab was a weapon in the hand of Satan, and Elijah was a servant of the most high God.

You can read the conversation in 1 Kings chapter 21, verses 17 to 24. Elijah tells Ahab that his days are numbered, and that God will judge him and his wife for their evil actions. It is amazing to see how Ahab reacts to the news. He is humbled, mourns, and takes a low profile. So much so that God delays his punishment until after his death. Sometimes I don’t really understand the way God works. I would not have given Ahab any room to manoeuvre, but our God is a God of grace and mercy. And aren’t we glad! He devises means so that ‘his banished be not expelled from him’, 2 Sam. 14. 14.



Phil. 4. 11; 1 Tim. 6. 8; Heb. 13. 5.


As with all false religions, the worship of Baal was not just false but morally destructive, Num. 25. 1-3; Jer. 19. 5; 1 Kgs. 18. 25-29. All in all, it was not unlike the modern menu-driven philosophy and religion of the 21st century.


We see this in how she handled the situation with Naboth, 1 Kgs. 21, her aggressive schemes to ‘cut off the prophets of the Lord’, 18. 4, and her rage at Elijah for exposing the fallacy of the religion which she so loved, 19. 2.


Num. 36. 7; Deut. 19. 14; 27. 17. See also, Prov. 22. 28; 23. 10.


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