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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Thursday, September 19, 2019

This is a powerful story about how King Ahab and his wife Jezebel collude with scoundrels to trump up charges against the good man Naboth in order to take a vineyard which they coveted.  It is dreadful in its deep deception; it is horrendous in its horrible depiction of the violent frenzy of a plotting, conniving perseverance of evil.  It is human interaction in its basest form.

The prophet Elijah responds to God’s call but fears for his life when Ahab and Jezebel conduct a campaign with the goal of annihilating all prophets who speak with God’s voice; and in Chapter 19 Elijah even tries to run from the whispering voice of Yahweh.  In Chapter 20 we see how Yahweh brings success to the Israelites and favors them in battle.  Then Ahab wants something which Naboth has, a lovely beautiful vineyard.  Jezebel and Ahab conspire to attain it . . . so the innocent Naboth must die.

Yahweh steps in and we watch as he vindicates the faithful. We also watch as he delivers punishing blows to the wicked ones.  Ahab repents, and Yahweh softens the sentence he is about to deliver.  Jezebel does not . . . and if we read a bit further we discover Jezebel’s evil end.

Dear God, protect me from family and friends who would lead me to destruction as Jezebel did.  Remind me that repentance heals the mind and soul.  Bring me contentment rather than envy, humility rather than pride, love rather than hatred, restoration rather than destruction, and reaping of blessings rather than an arid life of self-gratification.  Surround me with holy people, God-fearing people, people who do not hide the light of the lampstand, people who honor, as Naboth did, their ancestral heritage.

Keep us from pride which inverts to shame.  Keep us from anger which turns inward to become melancholy.  Keep us from deception which leads to delusion.  Keep us from coveting Naboth’s Vineyard. 

Bring us peace, bring us joy, bring us hope, bring us your Spirit.  Amen.


First written on September 7, 2007 , re-writtten and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://thedailychapter.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/

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2 Chronicles 18:14 – 27: Ignoring Truth

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Books of Chronicles, Samuel, Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah all record the events of the rise and fall of the Kingdom of Israel from its founding with Saul and David through to the Babylonian Exile. The point on the timeline where we find today’s reading is after the ten northern tribes secede to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel, leaving the two southern tribes to form the remnant Southern Kingdom of Judah with the old capital of Jerusalem. Today’s confrontation between king and prophet takes place just after the division of the kingdom and just before the death of Ahab. The Chronicler writes with a particular emphasis on Yahweh’s fidelity to the faithful – even when the faithful turn away and fall to worshiping idols. The writer wants the people to remember their heritage, to remember that they would be successful as a nation only if they were faithful to the covenant they had with God, and to remember that truth has a way of revealing itself.

Ahab and his wife Jezebel hunt down prophets to exterminate them; they cannot withstand the truth their own seers bring to them. As we recall from our reflection on Naboth’s Vineyard, we know that Ahab and Jezebel use any means to take what is not theirs. They lie, bribe, coerce, plot, scheme, and murder. And with all their attempts to ignore and hide the truth, they end their days in violence that kicks back on them. They suffer the consequences they have wished on others.

It is with a certain amount of irony that we hear Ahab say, “When you speak to me in the name of the Lord, tell the truth! How many times do I have to tell you that?” Ahab and Jezebel lie, believing they can bend reality to their will. They scheme, believing they control the universe. They bribe and suborn, believing they hold ultimate power.

King pits himself against Prophet . . . Ahab versus Micaiah . . . deceit in competition with light . . . damnation against resurrection. We remind ourselves that when we turn away from a truth we do not want to hear, we take our first step onto a path of sure destruction. If we twist and spin truth to fit our perspective, we walk away from the very lesson that will bring us redemption, union, and happiness.

This is the lesson of the prophets, that when we ignore truth, we only postpone the lessons we come to this world to learn. When we avoid truth, we refuse to walk the way of resurrection and light.


Adapted from thoughts recorded on February 25, 2007.

Image from: https://www.business2community.com/branding/using-social-listening-discover-truth-brand-01051545 

Reprise the story of Naboth’s Vineyard on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/08/26/naboths-vineyard/

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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Monday, May 21, 2018

Near King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel there was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth.

We know the goodness of the well-tended vineyard. The Master maintains a sturdy wall to protect the vines from those who would plunder the fruit of sun and soil. The crop flourishes under the caring hands of the workers who gather in the harvest in due time. Jesus uses the metaphor of the grapevine to explain to us the nature of our relationship with him; and yet, Jesus also knows the familiar story of how Naboth’s vineyard aroused envy and later fury in those who held power.

John Liston Byam Shaw: Queen Jezebel

One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard; it is close to my palace, and I want to use the land for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will pay you a fair price.”

We hold on to that which we hold dear; we cling to the beliefs that support us as we engage in our work and play.

“I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors,” Naboth replied. “The Lord forbid that I should let you have it!”

My father always advised us that the better we became at our work, the more enemies we would have. He also reminded us that there is a difficult line to walk between minding our own business and speaking up about injustice. My mother advised us to stay away from gossip and squabbles, and always, no matter the circumstance, to “kill your enemies with kindness”. My parents knew that these adages would not keep us safe from the world; but they also knew that in living with Christ, we would survive calamity with the more valuable gift: unity with Christ, transformation, redemption.

The officials and leading citizens of Jezreel did what Jezebel had commanded. They proclaimed a day of fasting, called the people together, and gave Naboth the place of honor. 

The schemes of Ahab, Jezebel, and their powerful friends are insidious; these corrupt leaders strike at the heart of Naboth’s industry; they mock his fidelity, and ignore his goodness. They lure him to the feast only to betray him on the deepest level. When we put aside our negative emotions to read this story with patience, we see Ahab ride to his death in battle. Later, in 2 Kings 9; and we witness Jezebel’s gruesome end. We might be tempted to gloat over these outcomes that feel like divine justice. We may want to join in the chaos of war or the crowd’s frenzy; but rather than seek revenge, we might instead focus on Naboth’s goodness that despite the fact that it has the capacity to bring out the worst in his enemies, it also delivers redemption.

Thomas Matthew Rooke: Naboth Refuses King Ahab his Vineyard

During Eastertide, we heard several times the words Jesus speaks to his followers, words we will want to hear again today as we read about Naboth: If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

Be ready, Dad would say, to find that enemies accompany your successes. Be ready, Mother would remind us, to kill your enemies with kindness. This is our work in the vineyard. No matter the circumstances, we must cling to the vine that sustains us; we must produce good fruit in good time; and we must remain always in Christ who saves, transforms and redeems.


Tomorrow, Jesus is the alpha and the omega.

Compare the GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION with others for a better understanding of these verses.

For more reflections on Naboth, Ahab, Jezebel, or vineyard enter the words into the blog search bar and explore.  

How bad was Jezebel? Visit: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/how-bad-was-jezebel/

Images from: https://929chapters.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel and https://thetorah.com/the-story-of-naboths-vineyard-and-the-ancient-winery-in-jezreel/ 

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2 Kings 9: Deception – Part V

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Willy Pogani: Ahab and Jezebel (detail)

Willy Pogani: Ahab and Jezebel (detail)

Death

“Here the death of Ahab is not grounded only in the Naboth’s vineyard incident (1 Kings 21:21-24) but is related to retribution against Jezebel for killing God’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4; 19:10, 14).  (Meeks 573-574)

These are very scary stories indeed.  Scarier still because this violence is a result of people’s individual and collective actions.  Ahab and Jezebel took God’s people in an ugly direction, and today we see their ugly end at the hands of God’s warrior, Jehu.  We do not like to have these images before us because they remind us of the darkest part of ourselves, and they demand that we make an accounting of our own actions before God.  Many of us use the strategy of denial when we are asked to look in the mirror. We put away what we wish did not exist. But this does not result in anything good.  Many of us wish to re-write reality without making any change in ourselves, but of course this only delays the inevitable.  And this is what we see today . . . the inevitable finally takes place.  In the earlier parts of this story, the wicked Ahab and Jezebel have things all their way.  Today that ends, and they are fully rewarded for their actions.

Williy Pogany - ''Ahab and Jezebel'' (300)

Willy Pogani: Ahab and Jezebel

We have come through Lent to rejoice in Easter light and the gift of eternal life as God’s promise against the clutches of eternal death. Today we have an invitation to avoid a fate like the one we read here.  Rather than hiding and hoping to have our own way, we will want to open ourselves to the healing light of Christ and ask for change. A change in our hearts. A change in our way of being. A change from death to life.

During the time of the prophets, Christ walked among his people through the hands and feet of his prophets as they carried out Yahweh’s promises. The sweet promise of eternal life in Christ is announced even during the dark days when Ahab and Jezebel hunted down those who spoke and healed in God’s name.  Through the prophets, Christ dwelt among us even before his birth in the stable, and Christ will continue to dwell among us.  When those who worship our modern Baals beset us, let us turn to Christ. Let us ask for God’s guidance and rescue in any darkness or sadness of the present time when the prophets among us are being murdered.  Let us turn to Christ who is the only hope of the world, the only antidote to death, the only life that is eternal. And let us make good on our Lenten promise to open ourselves to transformation. Let us receive the healing light that is the Easter promise. Let us receive the healing indwelling of the Spirit.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  (Meeks)

Adapted from a reflection written on April 5, 2011.

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1 Kings 21: Deception – Part II

Thursday, June 9, 2016tota_vineyard-rows-russel

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

My mother’s quoting of Walter Scott’s words peppered our growing-up years. Her use of Scott’s poetic words was her method of teaching the lesson of Ahab and his temper tantrum.

Ahab wants something which someone else cherishes and does not wish to give up.  Ahab goes home, puts his face to the wall and refuses to eat.  His unfortunate wife, Jezebel, colludes with him to get the coveted vineyard from their neighbor, and if we read the entire story, we see what kind of an end these two come to.  They both pay a heavy price for their egregious crimes of trumping up false charges, conniving, lying, stealing, inciting a crowd to stone to death an innocent man. Naboth’s mistake or error is merely the cherishing of something that someone else wants.

We hear Yahweh’s words through the prophet Elijah in verse 20: You have given up yourself to do evil in the Lord’s sight.

Frederick Leighton: Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah

Frederick Leighton: Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah

Since my childhood, and because of the wisdom of my mother, my family has not worried about belonging to a particular group.  When my family opens our home party, all are welcome. Universal hospitality, bridge building to fringe groups, invitations to include all at the table have grown out of my mother’s teaching about Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel.

In this year of presidential politics in the U.S., we have become aware of many Naboths, many Ahabs and many Jezebels in the public eye. As we take in the daily news, we recall more words Mother and Dad recited from scripture: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  Ostracizing others says more about you than it does about the others.  There is really nothing that can be kept secret.  The truth always comes out in the end. I hope you can stand it when it hits you in the face.

What a wonderful gift we are given in the friends and neighbors God sends to us.  What a wonderful treasure is the vocation of building community to which we are called.  What a blessing to work, play and live beside people with whom we hold things in common, and people with whom we hold little in common. We learn more from our enemies than we do from the people with whom we feel most comfortable.  We are all God’s creatures, made in God’s image.  What do our daily actions say about the relationship we have with our Creator?  Do we turn away in anger when we covet something someone else has? When we open our hearts and homes, are all welcome?  Do we extend invitations with ulterior motives?  Do we interact with only a select few and bully others to bow to our wants? And when God asks us to invite the faithful to the table, whom are we willing to invite?

From a reflection written on June 1, 2008.

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1 Kings 21: Deception – Part I

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Vineyard in Wadi Biyar

Vineyard in Wadi Biyar

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

These words, often mistaken attributed to William Shakespeare, are found in the epic poem, Marmion, by Walter Scott about the Battle of Flodden that took place in 1513. The poem was published in 1808 but my mother repeated the words of this poem she had read in high school any time she found any of her brood even thinking of doing something that was not above board, open, honest and fair.  The story of Naboth is one that haunted me as a child; the envy, lies and deceit go beyond anything I experienced among family and friends. But as I grew older, I began to see Naboths everywhere; and from time to time I have been Naboth myself.

Verse 4 sends a chill down our collective spine when we realize what is about to happen: Lying down on his bed, [Ahab] turned away from food and would not eat.

We were raised by parents who kept secrets on topics they did not know how to discuss or that brought pain to those already suffering too greatly; otherwise, my elders modeled honesty in every-day life whenever they could. Mother would often say, “If you are keeping something secret in order to have friends, this should tell you that there is something wrong with the people or the event you are thinking about joining”.  Of course, she was correct.  Secrets have a way of surfacing and when they do, their result is always irony.  “You better think twice about what you are thinking of doing”.  She would continue with more axioms.  “Birds of a feather flock together.  There is no honor among thieves”.  Once when I was in the sixth grade, I told my Mother that I could not invite a particular girl in my class to my birthday slumber party.  “Why not”?  Mother asked.  “Because’’, I answered with confidence, knowing that she would agree with me once she heard the terrible consequence that would follow, “If I do, the rest of my friends won’t come to the party.  And besides, she is a little weird and gets on our nerves”.  My mother turned from the stove where she was always standing, and said.  “Here is what you are going to do, or else there is no party.  You will invite all of these girls and when you do, you will all find something nice to say to this one you say gets on your nerves.  If you were paying attention as you should be, you would realize that she is worried that you don’t like her and she doesn’t know what to do about it”.  She turned back to the stove, saying over her shoulder, “And if the rest of the girls don’t come because you have invited her, they are no friends at all.  They are just people who are rude and inconsiderate.  They must have really had their own feelings hurt at some time, or they wouldn’t be acting this way.  You would think they would know better”.  And that was that.  I imagined a slumber party with me and the “weird” girl, but then I knew better than to try to outmaneuver my mother.  And she was right.  All the girls were invited.  All the girls came.  We sat crossed-legged eating popcorn until small hours, making certain that this one friend felt cared for.  We all survived the experience having learning something, and being better for it.  As for the weird girl, my mother was right.  Once she realized that we were not ostracizing her, she stopped being weird.  But really, I think it was the rest of us who stopped being weird.

That was most likely the most important lesson I learned about social interaction.  Mother did not name this bullying. She knew nothing of Mean Girls, or Queen Bees, or give it any other name than what it was: rudeness, a lack of consideration, the mean ostracizing of individuals or groups from a community.  And my mother, growing up in a family of six sisters and one brother, would not tolerate this lack in her own children.  I thank God for the careful shepherding Mother gave us as she handed us tools to handle the meanness of the world.

Tomorrow, Deception-Part II, Ahab gets his way.

For more on girls and bullying, visit: http://culturesofdignity.com/portfolio/queen-bees-and-wannabes/  

For more about Naboths, vineyard, click on on the image above or visit: http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/main-articles/naboths-vineyard-1-kgs-21.aspx 

Adapted from a reflection written on June 1, 2008.

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Death of Jezebel


Monday, October 22, 2012 – 2 Kings 9:30-37 – Death of Jezebel

We have looked at Jezebel and the role she played in the death of Naboth (1 Kings 21); several weeks ago we reflected on the city of Tyre, the birthplace of Jezebel.  Today we pause to think about her end.  It is not a pleasant story.   In fact, it is dreadful.

My sister passed along to me a recipe for an appetizer which combines horseradish, apple jelly, yellow mustard, and pineapple preserves.  This concoction – generously spiced with ground pepper and served over cream cheese, is spread on crackers.  It sounds dreadful, but it is divine.  Every time I take it to a party – or place it on my own front porch table when my family gathers – it disappears in a flash.  It stimulates and tantalizes, is piquant but lovely.  It does not remain long on the table.  It is called Jezebel.  And without fail, each time I put jam and jelly in my shopping cart, I think of this story.  What is about this woman who so enamored some and so enraged others?  Do we have modern-day Jezebels?  How do they rise to power?  What draws us to them?  What repels us from them?

When we are lured by the Jezebels in our lives to enter into their games of deceit and lies, it is difficult to pull ourselves away.  Even after we have escaped their siren call we find them seated next to us in church, working by our side . . . living in our home.  There is only one sure way to avoid the luring call of the dark and exciting killer game of Jezebels.  We must put all our decisions about this portion of our lives into the hands of God.  God creates us . . . God creates the Jezebels.  God understands these people . . . we do not. 

Life consists of opposites attracting and repelling, pulling and pushing.  This much we can expect.  And when Jezebel moves in next door and covets what we have, we can only turn to God.  When she whispers lies to friends to bring about our end, we can only turn to God.  Only God can understand her inmost workings. 

Our work with Jezebel is that we witness to her schemes.  Our plan with Jezebel is that we keep God close while she is near.  For in the end, we of ourselves can do nothing on our own but to listen to the voice within which tells us how to behave, what to say and do.  And in the end . . . when we find that we have sailed dangerously close to the Jezebels in our lives and have escaped with our souls, we will know that God has been watching, protecting and guiding.  We will know that the sum and total of their worth is that they are no longer among us.  Only God can pronounce with authority the judgment that wipes out their existence so that no one might say . . .  This was Jezebel.

Written on September 24, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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