Where are Milcah and their raft of children?
King Ahab walked out his headquarters kitchen door and down the path between his onions and his cabbage. He paused at the back gate as his neighbor walked by. “Good morning, Naboth. I need a bigger vegetable garden for my headquarters kitchen, and your vineyard out by the fort gate is about the right size.”
Naboth stopped and stared at the king, and Ahab plowed ahead.
“I’ll give you my vineyard on the Grand Trunk Road—half again as big, and a better location.”
Naboth looked directly at the king. “I’m flattered, Your Excellency. But of course—”
The king smiled. “Or name your price.”
“—of course, the Lord would never let me trade away the inheritance from my ancestors.”
Ahab came back up the path between his onions and his cabbage, through the kitchen, and down the tiny hall into Obadiah’s tiny office. The Chief of Staff stood. “Good morning, Your Excellency.”
“Good morning, ‘Biah. What’s so special about Naboth’s family?” The king looked out the window. “If I had Naboth’s vineyard, my cooks could grow carrots and spinach and melons just outside the fort gate. But he says the Lord won’t let him sell it.”
Obadiah came out from behind his desk grinning. “I warn you—the answer involves a slight history lesson.”
“I offered a bigger vineyard right on the Trunk Road. I told him to name his price. I don’t get it. How can he be so sentimental about his family that he can’t see such an opportunity?”
Obadiah walked over to the window and stood with the king. “Oh, sentiment has nothing to do with it, Your Majesty. He is simply telling you what the Lord told Moses. The Lord expressly forbids the sale of property outside the family unless the owner is in extreme poverty. Even then the property reverts to the original family at the next Year of Jubilee. Naboth is far from poor, so it’s not legal for him to sell that piece.”[i]
“You’re kidding me. The Lord’s got rules about selling your land? This is nuts!”
Ahab walked out on Obadiah and pouted all the way down the skinny hall, through the kitchen, and into his quarters. Even though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon, he crawled into bed.
When Queen Jezebel came home, the maid met her at the door. “The king is refusing food.”
Jezebel came into the bedroom. “Why the long face?”
“Naboth won’t give me his vineyard.”
“How much did you offer?”
“He wouldn’t even talk price. It’s their old rules. I’d heard about people like that, but I had no idea we had one living in the fort.”
“Rules? What rules?!”
The King of Israel sat up in bed and stared at his Phoenician wife.
“Okay. You’ve heard of Moses?”
“Of course. Zarephath High, Sophomore year, World History 101.”
“Baby in the basket—“
“Plagues on Egypt—“
“Lots of laws—you talking about those old rules?”
“Right. He said ‘the Lord’ wouldn’t let him sell. Not ‘God’ but ‘the Lord.’ I guess that’s how they talk about their rules. ‘The Lord this. The Lord that.’ He’s one of those people. That’s why he used the words ‘family inheritance.’ It’s not about price.”
“So duh wi-do king-ee’s got his fee-wens hurt? But mommy’s gonna fix it. Come on. Let’s eat.”
Her fix started right after supper. She dictated letters for her secretary to write over Ahab’s signature. She stamped the letters with his royal seal and sent them to the civic leaders of the city of Jezreel.
* * *
Next morning Tola pushed into Jashub’s spice shop early.
“Did you get a letter from the Queen?”
“Have you talked with Shimron about it?”
“He got the same letter.”
“I don’t like this.”
“Remember what she did to Puah last year. You better learn to like it.”
“I’ve got a wife and kids.”
“Don’t we all.”
“Who’ll we get?”
“Shimron’s got two ‘helpers’ in mind. You know Jeriel, that offside cousin of Rephaiah?”
“Will he do as he’s told?”
“Shimron says he’s got stuff on him from two years back.”
“Okay. That’s one.”
“Of course, you know Jahmai. Can always count on him to do whatever Shimron tells him.”
“I suppose Shimron’s got a date in mind…”
“Day after tomorrow, third day of the week.”
“Let me see your letter.” (1 Kings 21:11)
Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels facing him and have them bring charges that he cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.
“What if somebody calls us on it?”
“Ain’t gonna happen. Not inviting that kind. Announce it at ten; done by eleven.”
“I don’t like this.”
“You’ve got a wife and kids, so learn to like it.”
This story in the Bible – 1 Kings 21:1-14
1 Kings 21:8 – She wrote letters in Ahab’s name.
[i] Leviticus 25:23 and Numbers 36:7