The Grapes of Wrath, part 2

This is the second part of my narrative analysis of 1 Kings 21. (Part 1 is here)

II. Covenantal Level

At the covenantal level,


we find that this story of Naboth???s vineyard occurs in the time of the divided kingdom. We are in the time of the Kings, and Ahab is the seventh king of Israel (previous kings of Israel included Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri). In accordance with Canaanite culture, Ahab???s offer of an exchange of property or offer of money to purchase Naboth???s vineyard was a common transaction in the Near East, for land was simply a commodity to be traded and sold for profit.

This famous story of King Ahab???s injustice and his murderous theft of Naboth???s vineyard epitomizes the overarching spiritual condition in Israel during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. As the prophet Elijah denounced, the vengeance and justice of the God will be unleashed on the king ???because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD??? (1 Kings 21:20). The latter prophet Micah pronounces a prophetic indictment of Israel and a description of their punishment in Micah 6:16, for there we find an oracle of judgment upon all who follow the works of the house of Omri and Ahab:

“For you have kept the statutes of Omri,and all the works of the house of Ahab;and you have walked in their counsels,that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;so you shall bear the scorn of my people.???

In this we see that the consequence of doing ???what is evil??? in the sight of God is desolation. Israel has a king to rule over them, but unfortunately their king is evil to the inner most ??? following their king and his counsel only equates to the destructive justice of the LORD.

In view of the Mosaic Covenant, we find that Israel is forfeiting their position as God???s special possession by disobeying God and rejecting to keep His covenant (Exodus 19:5-6). By worshipping Baal, Israel thus refuses to keep her covenantal obligations and does not look like a kingdom of priests nor a holy nation. There is visibly very significant religious meaning in the characters and the choices they make. Why does Ahab covet so vehemently, and why does Jezebel plot to murder Naboth with such devious scheming? May it be that Ahab and Jezebel were simply victims of the fall of Adam and Eve (Adam and Eve), and may it be that Ahab and Jezebel themselves were archetypes of Adam and Eve themselves. We see the beloved wife of the man who is supposed to be the leader of the kingdom and of the family overthrowing the God-ordained gender roles and taking upon herself evil deeds which are inevitably evil in the eyes of the LORD. The order of creation and the authority of God are usurped by Jezebel as it was with Eve, and there are fatal effects for both Ahab and Jezebel just as it was with Adam and Eve. It may not necessarily be that Ahab and Jezebel were helpless to the effects of the fall, for we do see Ahab repenting of his sin and humbling himself before God (1 Kings 21:25-29). Nevertheless, the sinful behavior and intentions of Ahab and Jezebel show that their moral and mental faculties have been severely corrupted by original sin, though not to the point of no return.

Within the context of the narrative, it is clearly seen that Jezebel???s plot to murder Naboth is conducted under the cover of religion, justice, and the formality of religious process. Her orders to the elders and leaders of Jezreel (vv.8-10) were covered in a veil of religious fervor, making the act of stoning Naboth seem like an act of justice for blasphemy through the exacted formality of religious process. For Jezebel to call for a fast and set Naboth as head of the people further colors the murder scheme with a faked spirituality. The wickedness of the immoral and the power of Satan in the children of disobedience are clearly seen in Ahab and Jezebel. They are covetous, murderers, liars, and blasphemers themselves. Their abuse of power shows that there are dire consequences for those who disobey the LORD, including kings and rulers who conduct business through injustice.

Nevertheless, in this infamous example of King Ahab and Jezebel, God continues to keep his covenantal promise to David, and his descendants are either blessed or cursed depending on their obedience or disobedience to the will of God.

Part 3, coming soon...

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