I Kings 21

The Word Made Fresh

1Time passed. A man named Naboth owned a vineyard in Jezreel near King Ahab’s palace. 2Ahab approached him and said, “Let me have your vineyard. I want to use that land for a vegetable garden since it is right here at my palace. I’ll exchange a better vineyard with you, or if you want, I’ll pay you whatever it’s worth.”

3But Naboth answered, “The LORD forbid I should let you have my ancestral property!”

4Ahab went home dejected because Naboth had turned him down flat. He lay on his bed in a sour mood and refused to eat. 5Jezebel came to him and asked, “Why are you so depressed that you can’t even eat?”

6He told her, “I tried to buy a vineyard from Naboth the Jezreelite for money or in exchange for other property, and he turned me down flat.”

7Jezebel said, “Aren’t you the king of Israel? Get up and eat something and be happy. I’ll give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” 8Then she composed some letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal. She sent them to prominent men in Naboth’s city. 9This is what she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and have Naboth seated in a prominent place when the people gather. 10Put two men who will do anything for a bit of money across from him and tell them to accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then drag him out and stone him to death.”

11The prominent men to whom she sent the letters did as they were told. They followed Jezebel’s instructions to the letter. 12They announced a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the gathering. 13The two men they paid came in and sat across from him, and in the hearing of all the people charged Nadab with cursing God and the king. They hauled Naboth outside the city and stoned him to death. 14Then they got word to Jezebel that Naboth was dead.

15Jezebel couldn’t wait to tell Ahab. She said, “Go and claim the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, the one he refused to sell to you. He is dead!” 16As soon as he heard it, Ahab hurried to the vineyard to stake his claim.

17Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18“Go meet king Ahab of Israel in Samaria. He is in the vineyard of Naboth. He has gone to claim it for himself. 19Tell him the LORD says he is a murderer and a thief. Tell him the LORD says that in the place where the dogs lapped up Naboth’s blood, they will lap his blood too.”

20Ahab greeted Elijah, saying, “So my enemy has found me.”

“I have indeed found you,” said Elijah. “Because you have done evil in the LORD’s eyes, 21the LORD says, ‘I will bring disaster on you. I will waste you and I will remove your authority from every man in Israel, slave and free. 22I will make your family like the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the family of Baasha son of Ahijah because you have made me angry and have led Israel astray.’ 23And the LORD says of Jezebel, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the city of Jezreel.’ 24Anyone related to Ahab who dies in the city will be eaten by dogs, and anyone belonging to him who dies in the country will be picked clean by the birds.”

25There has never been anyone quite like Ahab. He sold his soul to do things the LORD hated – whatever Jezebel told him to do. 26He even worshiped idols as did the Amorites, the very people the LORD drove out of Israel.

27When Ahab heard Elijah’s words, he tore his clothes, dressed himself in sackcloth and refused to eat. He wandered about aimlessly. 28Then the LORD’s word came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Very well; I will not bring the disaster in his days, but it will come during his son’s reign.”


1-4: King Ahab offers to purchase an adjacent tract of land from one Naboth, but Naboth refuses, saying it has been in his family for generations and he won’t give it up. Ahab is once again resentful and sullen and goes to bed pouting. What a crybaby.

5-7: Jezebel asks the reason for his pique and offers to take care of things for him. She is a take charge kind of queen.

8-14: She takes care of things for him with a brutal efficiency. There are some ethical issues, of course, but that doesn’t bother Jezebel or the “nobles” who do her dirty work for her.

15-16: They send word to Jezebel that the deed is done and Naboth is dead. She informs Ahab, and he gets out of bed and goes to claim his vineyard.

17-19: Elijah receives the news and hears God telling him to confront Ahab with his crime and tell him it will cost him his own life.

20-24: Elijah delivers the message with a flare. Indeed, most of what he says to Ahab – that he, all his family, all his followers, and his wife Jezebel will all suffer an ignoble death – was not mentioned in his conversation with God in the previous paragraph. But you can be sure that, when it comes to the word of God, Elijah isn’t taking liberties.

25-26: Our historian pauses to remind us what a sorry, good-for-nothing king Ahab has been.

27-29: Ahab, however, is a complicated man. He hates Elijah but has tremendous respect for him and takes his word seriously. He repents and God amends the judgment, telling Elijah that Ahab will not be the end of the Omri dynasty of kings in Israel, but rather that disaster will be delayed until one of Ahab’s sons take the throne.


Ahab’s foolishness, Jezebel’s wickedness, Elijah’s faithfulness, and God’s willingness to forgive are all on display in chapter 21.