3 Kings xxi.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Who was. Hebrew, Chaldean, &c., place this after vineyard, and read which, referring it to the ground; which we might naturally suppose would be the place of Naboth’s nativity, as it was his paternal estate, 4 Kings ix. 21. Josephus calls the place Azari, and says it was a field contiguous to the king’s palace. Septuagint alo, “threshing-floor.”
Ver. 2. Herbs. The taste of eastern nations is very different from ours. The Syrians delight in seeing gardens filled with melons, onions, &c., and they cannot conceive what pleasure we can find in rambling round our long walks for the sake of exercise. — Money. Hence we perceive that, notwithstanding the despotic power of the kings of Israel, they did not imagine that they had a right to take their subjects’ lands, 1 Kings viii. 14. (Calmet) — Naboth’s conduct is therefore here applauded; and St. Ambrose (Off. iii. 9.) styles him a martyr, (Worthington) and a great saint. (Tirinus) — Maluit periculum cum honestate, quam utilitatem cum opprobrio.
Ver. 3. Fathers. He would have deemed it a mark of disrespect and a crime, as he was not in a state of indigence; which alone could authorize him to sell his property, and then only till the year of jubilee; (Leviticus xxv. 23.) and as his field was to be turned into a royal garden, and the law was disregarded by the king, there was no prospect of his regaining it at that period. The law of Moses was till in force; and there were some, like Naboth, who were resolved to comply with it, (Calmet) even at the hazard of their lives. (Tirinus)
Ver. 4. Fretting. The Hebrew terms are the same as [in] chap. xx. 43. What weakness in Achab! Riches and honours are not capable of ensuring content. (Calmet) — “Who, thinkest thou, is poor; the man who is content with his own, or he who covets another’s property?” (St. Ambrose, Naboth ii.) — Wall, as Ezechias did afterwards, in very different dispositions; though both were oppressed with grief, Isaias xxxviii. 2. Septuagint, “he covered his face.” (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Israel. Hebrew simply, “Now thou wilt make the kingdom of Israel.” (Calmet) — Protestants, “Dost thou now govern the?” &c. (Haydock) — Thou art a fit person indeed to establish a kingdom! Ought not a king to take what he has a mind to? Syriac, “Are you fit to reign?” Arabic, “You do not deserve to govern.” (Calmet) — Septuagint, “Dost thou now act the king over Israel, in this manner?” (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Chief men. Hebrew chorim, “those in white,” the usual colour of magistrates and noblemen, Ecclesiastes ix. 8., and Daniel vii. 9. The angels generally appear arrayed in white. Among the Egyptians and the Greeks, the rich were remarkable for the whiteness of their robes. (Herodotus ii. 36.) (Homer, Odyssey Z.)
Ver. 9. Fast, as in a case of the greatest importance, where the welfare of the king and of the state are concerned. We have frequent mention of such extraordinary fasts, 2 Paralipomenon xx. 3., 1 Esdras viii. 21., and Joel i. 14, &c. Some would translated, “Call an assembly.” (Vatable) — But the Chaldean, &c., are for the fast. Josephus joins both. All the people were collected, (Calmet) and Naboth was (Hebrew) “set on high, or at the head, as president, on account of his riches and nobility, (Haydock) that he might be unprepared, and afterwards be more disgraced. (Menochius) Abulensis (q. 4.) thinks that the judges were accustomed to fast, to shew their pity for the criminal, and that they were moved only by a zeal for justice.
Ver. 10. Belial, without restraint or conscience. — Blasphemed. Hebrew, “blessed.” — Elohim, (Haydock) or god, the gods, magistrates, &c. (Calmet) — Blessing is equally put, to avoid the horrible sound of blaspheming. (Worthington) (Job i. 5., and ii. 9.) — Martin de Roa (i. 9.) maintains, that the word implies to “bid adieu,” or quit; as if Naboth had relinquished the service both of God and of the king. He was accused as a traitor. The law did not condemn the person to death who had spoken ill of the prince, Exodus xxii. 28. But the wicked judges complied with the intimation of Jezabel; (Calmet) as she pretended that he had also blasphemed God. (Haydock) — Josephus introduces three witnesses, which was more conformable to the practice of the Jews. (Grotius) — But the text specifies two; and that number would suffice. (Haydock) — All Naboth’s family were involved in his ruin; (4 Kings ix. 26.; Tirinus) as it was necessary for Achab’s purpose. So Achan’s children perished with him, Josue vii. 25. (Haydock) — What a complication of crimes! (Tirinus) — “They proclaim a fast, in order to commit murder.” (St. Chrysostom, ser. 68.) Hypocrisy, falsehoods, perjury, perversion of justice, all are employed to take away the life, honour, and property of the innocent. See St. Ambrose, Seneca Benef. ii. 27. (Tirinus)
Ver. 13. Devil. Hebrew Belial, ver. 10. Protestants, “and the men of Belial witnessed against him.” — City, as was requisite. (Calmet) — Stoned him, for blasphemy, Leviticus xxiv. 16., and 23.
Ver. 16. Of it, on the title of confiscation, as Naboth had been condemned for high treason; (see 2 Kings ix. 7.; Menochius) or because there was no heir left, ver. 10. Some assert, that Naboth was Achab’s uncle. But this wants proof. (Calmet) — Achab only waited one day, and then Elias met him to denounce to him a similar fate after he was dead, 4 Kings ix. 26. Septuagint have, “he tore his garments, and put on sackcloth; and it came to pass afterwards, that Achab arose,” &c. This addition would intimate that the king pretended to be sorry. They repeat the same thing, ver. 27., “he had put on sackcloth, on the day when he slew Naboth, and went along cast down.” It is probable that Achab might assume this garb, to make people suppose that he had no hand in the death of Naboth; but this was all hypocrisy, and Elias boldly accused him of guilt. Thou hast slain, &c., ver. 19. (Haydock) — He knew, at least, of his wife’s machinations. (Salien)
Ver. 19. Possession, by desire; though he was yet only on the road. (Menochius) — Perhaps he had sent his servants before. (Haydock) — Place, not precisely, as Achab was slain in Samaria. (Menochius) — But Naboth’s vineyard, perhaps, was not far distant from the pool, where dogs licked the blood of the king. (Haydock) — On account of Achab’s repentance, the sentence was (ver. 29.; Calmet) rather changed, and his son Joram was substituted in his stead, 4 Kings ix. 25. Jehu, and his captain, Badacer, were present, when Elias denounced this judgment upon the family of Achab; and they concluded that the prediction regarded Joram. He had, perhaps, taken part with his impious parents, and promoted the same crimes. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Thy enemy. Have I done thee any harm, whenever thou hast appeared before me? Hebrew and Septuagint, “O my enemy.” (Haydock) — To find, often means to attack or take by surprise. Art thou come thus, to fall upon me on the road? (Calmet) — Sold. That is, so addicted to evil, as if thou hadst sold thyself to the devil, to be his slave to work all kind of evil. (Challoner) (Worthington) (St. Gregory, in Ezec. hom. 10.) — The expression strongly marks the empire of the passions. Achab was sovereignly wicked, without any restraint. (Calmet) — So Vitellius was: Luxui saginęque mancipatus, emptusque. (Tacitus, Hist. ii.) — Sold, or “abandoned,” are used in the same sense, Psalm xliii. 13.
Ver. 21. Wall. See 1 Kings xxv. 22. — Israel, chap. xiv. 10. (Menochius)
Ver. 22. Sin. god frequently inculcates the enormity of the crime of public scandal. (Menochius)
Ver. 23. Field. Hebrew, “wall,” or “before the wall.” This was exactly fulfilled, 4 Kings ix. 32. Jezabel was hurled from a window over the gate or wall of the city. (Calmet)
Ver. 24. Eat him. Yet God remitted something from the severity of this sentence; and Achab was buried in Samaria, chap. xxii. 37. But his son was deprived of burial. (Tirinus) (4 Kings ix. 26.) — According to the Hebrew, the prediction related to Achab’s posterity, as the Chaldean, Septuagint, Syriac, &c., have understood it. (Calmet) — Protestants, “him that dieth of Achab in the city,” &c.
Ver. 25. Now. Septuagint, “Moreover, Achab was foolishly sold, a man who was sold, &c., since Jezabel….changed him:” metetheken. His natural disposition was not perhaps so bad. But his unfortunate connexion with a most wicked wife involved him in ruin. Even when he began to relent, and was on the point of reforming his life, (ver. 27.) her influence spoiled all. (Haydock) — He was sold to her, and she exercised a most severe tyranny over him, using his seal at pleasure, and treating him with indignity, ver. 7, 8. (Tirinus)
Ver. 26. Amorrhites. The Sidonians still adored the idols Baal and Astaroth, with the utmost exertions of cruelty and lust. This was the religion which Achab wished to establish, more than any of his predecessors. (Calmet)
Ver. 27. Down. Hebrew, “uncovered,” (Malvenda; 2 Kings xv. 30.) or “barefoot,” (Chaldean; Syriac) or “softly,” (Vatable; Protestants) or “he walked bent down.” (Septuagint) This variety shows that the signification or at (Haydock) is not well known. The repentance of Achab is not more certain. Some believe that it was insincere, and only external: yet God was pleased to reward it iin this life, (Lyranus; Theodoret, &c.) as it might have some influence on the people. (Haydock) — Others suppose that Achab really repented for what he had done, but presently relapsed at the instigation of Jezabel; so that his reward was equally of a temporal nature; though St. Chrysostom (ad Theod. laps.) seems to be convinced that he “obtained the remission of all his sins, and entirely changed his life.” (ser. 68, et hom. 5. ad Antioc.) — But here lies the difficulty. (Calmet) — “His groans would have found favour, if the lurking envy had not increased his offence.” (St. Ambrose, in Psalm xxxvii., de Naboth. chap. iv.) See ver. 25. — A relapse renders the sincerity of the former conversions doubtful; and the more so, when no radical change, but only external sorrow, has appeared.
Ver. 29. Sake. Hebrew, “before me,” publicly. (Haydock) — The threat of the prophet caused Achab to invest his son with the royal dignity, and Josaphat followed his example. (Salien, the year before Christ 916.) — But some call this in question. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Naboth, for denying his vineyard to king Achab, is, by Jezabel’s command, falsely accused and stoned to death: for which crime Elias denounceth to Achab the judgments of God. Upon his humbling himself, the sentence is mitigated.
1 And *after these things, Naboth the Jezrahelite, who was in Jezrahel, had at that time a vineyard, near the palace of Achab, king of Samaria.
2 And Achab spoke to Naboth, saying: Give me thy vineyard, that I may make me a garden of herbs, because it is nigh, and adjoining to my house; and I will give thee for it a better vineyard: or if thou think it more convenient for thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.
3 Naboth answered him: The Lord be merciful to me, and not let me give thee the inheritance of my fathers.
4 And Achab came into his house angry and fretting, because of the word that Naboth, the Jezrahelite, had spoken to him, saying: I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And casting himself upon his bed, he turned away his face to the wall, and would eat no bread.
5 And Jezabel, his wife, went in to him, and said to him: What is the matter that thy soul is so grieved? and why eatest thou no bread?
6 And he answered her: I spoke to Naboth, the Jezrahelite, and said to him: Give me thy vineyard, and take money for it: or if it please thee, I will give thee a better vineyard for it. And he said: I will not give thee my vineyard.
7 Then Jezabel, his wife, said to him: Thou art of great authority indeed, and governest well the kingdom of Israel. Arise, and eat bread, and be of good cheer; I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezrahelite.
8 So she wrote letter’s in Achab’s name, and sealed them with his ring, and sent them to the ancients, and the chief men that were in his city, and that dwelt with Naboth.
9 And this was the tenor of the letters: Proclaim a fast, and make Naboth sit among the chief of the people;
10 And suborn two men, sons of Belial, against him, and let them bear false witness; that he hath blasphemed God and the king: and then carry him out, and stone him, and so let him die.
11 And the men of his city, the ancients and nobles, that dwelt with him in the city, did as Jezabel had commanded them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent to them;
12 They proclaimed a fast, and made Naboth sit among the chief of the people.
13 And bringing two men, sons of the devil, they made them sit against him: and they, like men of the devil, bore witness against him before the people: saying: Naboth hath blasphemed God and the king. Wherefore they brought him forth without the city, and stoned him to death.
14 And they sent to Jezabel, saying: Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
15 And it came to pass, when Jezabel heard that Naboth was stoned, and dead, that she said to Achab: Arise, and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezrahelite, who would not agree with thee, and give it thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.
16 And when Achab heard this, to wit, that Naboth was dead, he arose, and went down into the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezrahelite, to take possession of it.
17 And the word of the Lord came to Elias, the Thesbite, saying:
18 Arise, and go down to meet Achab, king of Israel, who is in Samaria: behold he is going down to the vineyard of Naboth, to take possession of it:
19 And thou shalt speak to him, saying: Thus saith the Lord: Thou hast slain: moreover also thou hast taken possession. And after these words thou shalt add: Thus saith the Lord: *In this place, wherein the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth, they shall lick thy blood also.
20 And Achab said to Elias: Hast thou found me thy enemy? He said: I have found thee, because thou art sold to do evil in the sight of the Lord.
21 *Behold I will bring evil upon thee, and I will cut down thy posterity, and I will kill of Achab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up, and the last in Israel.
22 And I will make thy house like the *house of Jeroboam the son of Nabat, and like the house of **Baasa the son of Ahias: for what thou hast done to provoke me to anger, and for making Israel to sin.
23 *And of Jezabel also, the Lord spoke, saying: The dogs shall eat Jezabel in the field of Jezrahel.
24 If Achab die in the city, the dogs shall eat him: but if he die in the field, the birds of the air shall eat him.
25 Now, there was not such another as Achab, who was sold to do evil in the sight of the Lord: for his wife, Jezabel, set him on,
26 And he became abominable, insomuch that he followed the idols which the Amorrhites had made, whom the Lord destroyed before the face of the children of Israel.
27 And when Achab had heard these words, he rent his garments, and put hair-cloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and slept in sackcloth, and walked with his head cast down.
28 And the word of the Lord came to Elias, the Thesbite, saying:
29 Hast thou not seen Achab humbled before me? therefore, because he hath humbled himself, for my sake, I will not bring the evil in his days, *but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.
1: Year of the World 3105, Year before Christ 899.
19: 3 Kings xxii. 38.
21: 4 Kings ix. 8.
22: 3 Kings xv. 29. — ** 3 Kings xvi. 3.
23: 4 Kings ix. 36.
29: 4 Kings ix. 26.