Self centeredness and greed are pervasive in our world, especially among those who have power over others. There is an old saying that “A fish rots from the head.” It means that when a society starts degrading, it must be the fault of the leadership. Ahab has proved to be that fish that rots from the head. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:31, 33). Yet by end of this narrative we are faced with the reality that while this head should have been chopped it was spared by God.

What happens when a wealthy royal king covets and seizes the only possession of a commoner? God decides to get involved! The narrative revolves around Naboth’s vineyard and the king’s desire to buy it in order to extend the gardens around his palace and make a vegetable patch (v. 2a). The king presents Naboth with a generous offer which Naboth declined stating “The LORD forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance” (verse 3).

Vineyards are important in the Old Testament. The Torah includes a number of laws regarding the care of vineyards (Exodus 25:5; 23:11; Leviticus 19:10; 25:3; Deuteronomy 22:9; 23:24; 2421). A man who has planted a vineyard but has not yet enjoyed its produce is excused from military duties (Deuteronomy 20:6). Isaiah speaks of Israel as the Lord’s vineyard (Isaiah 5:1, 3, 5, 7).

Unlike a vegetable garden which can be planted in one place this year and another place next year, a vineyard is a long-term proposition. It takes time for vines to grow sturdy enough to produce grapes, and it takes careful nurturing to get good grapes. A person who inherits a vineyard receives not only land and vines but also the dreams and sweat and toil of his parents and their parents and so on, back to the beginning. A vineyard is a heritage.

While the Torah does not forbid the sale of land, it regards land as Yahweh’s property, held in trust by the family that owns it. Land was rarely bought and sold, and when it was done, it was only done to people within the kin.

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