Biblical Economics

4. Naboth's Vineyard

mri came to power 125 years after David's accession, and his line came to an end just 50 years later with the execution of his daughter, Athaliah, who was queen in Jerusalem. But the laws which Omri introduced and which his son Ahab and daughter-in-law Jezebel enforced continued to compete with the law of the Lord until finally the law of the Lord was almost forgotten and Israel was wiped out as a nation.

Micah, the eighth century prophet, speaking shortly before the fall of Samaria, when the Southern Kingdom, Judah, was also deeply dyed with the land lust of the Phoenicians, said, (Mic. 6.16) "For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation..." This is elaborated in 2.2; "They covet fields and take them by violence: and houses and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage." This describes Ahab.

The episode of Naboth's Vineyard is the central fact given for Ahab's reign, and the specific reason given by the prophet (I Kg 21.19) for the destruction of the entire dynasty of Omri. It involves Ahab's greed for land and Jezebel's application of Phoenician (Baalistic) law to Israel.

Ahab wanted to buy or exchange Naboth's vineyard, but Naboth pointed out that, under the law of the Lord he was forbidden to alienate the heritage of his clan. Ahab, still an Israelite at heart and half a believer in the Lord, hesitated to act. Under the Phoenician system, however, this was a ridiculous position and, moreover, Naboth's refusal to accede to the King's reasonable request (under the Baal system) was lése majesté. Jezebel said to Ahab: "Aren't you the king of Israel? I will get it for you myself," and proceeded to have Naboth condemned in a public trial for blasphemy against God and the king. Certainly, it was blasphemy against Baal to assert rights or duties given by the Lord (Yahweh), and it was blasphemy against the king to assert that he was not free to enforce the Phoenician system which treats land as a commodity and not as a heritage.