You’ve probably heard the cardinal tenet of real estate; it’s all about location, location, location.
Naboth owned a vineyard adjacent to King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel. When Ahab wanted to expand his property so he could plant a vegetable garden, he offered to buy Naboth’s vineyard or replace it with a better one – whichever Naboth preferred.
But, Naboth preferred neither. He wanted to stay where he was and it was within his rights to do so. In fact, more than that, it would have been expected for him to stay where he was!
King Ahab owned many vineyards, but he wanted Naboth’s.
From our thinking today, it might seem to be no big deal. He could have sold his property for a lucrative profit. And, we understand the phrase “imminent domain” today, in which a government entity decides it needs property for “progress”… and a court orders that it be sold.
But, at that time, Naboth’s response would have been the only proper response from a God-fearing Israelite. Inheritance was VERY important to ancient Jewish families and generations. They had been taught that the land they occupied belonged to God – and it was entrusted to them as an ongoing inheritance. Naboth’s family had handed down that piece of land from generation to generation. It was family land… and it was supposed to stay in the family through following generations (Num. 36:7). Even those who forfeited their inheritance by falling into debt were supposed to have it returned to the family in the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:23-28).
When Naboth turned down Ahab’s “offer he couldn’t refuse”, he was – among other things – demonstrating his respect for the Jewish concept of inheritance. He also reminded King Ahab of another distinctly Jewish principle: the limited power of kings. An Israelite king – unlike the kings of other people groups – was not to do as he pleased. He was supposed to do as God pleased… and, in this case, that meant respecting Naboth’s inheritance.
Unfortunately for Naboth, King Ahab’s scheming wife, Jezebel, had the vineyard owner falsely accused of blasphemy and stoned to death. Naboth was vindicated in the end – after his death – as Ahab & Jezebel met a grisly fate in punishment for their crimes.
Naboth’s tragedy can bring comfort to us in this way; when we are treated unjustly, God sees. Naboth’s tragedy can cause us concern in this way; when we mistreat us, God sees.
God sees. And we ought not to take His love or His holiness lightly.
You can read Naboth’s story in 1Kings 21.