King Ahab seizes Naboth's vineyard

1 Kings 21:1-29   The same year that he makes peace with the Arameans (in c.856BC), King Ahab wants to expand the grounds of his palace at Jezreel, so he claims Naboth's vineyard on the slopes of the Vale of Jezreel (see 14 on Map 58).

Naboth refuses to sell the vineyard to the king, so Jezebel gets Naboth stoned to death on a false charge. Elijah hears about the incident and tells Ahab that he will die because he has murdered an innocent man. He prophesies that dogs will lick up Ahab’s blood and will eat Jezebel's body by the wall of Jezreel.

 

A watchtower in a vineyard

A reconstructed vineyard watchtower at Neot Kedumim

 

Jezreel

The city of Jezreel (meaning ‘God sows’) was built on a low hill overlooking the southern edge of the Valley of Jezreel (the 'Valley of Israel'), on the site of the modern village of Zir’in. The valley – which took its name from the city – formed an important routeway between the Jordan Valley near Beth Shean and the coastal plain north of Mount Carmel (near the modern city of Haifa). As a result, the city had a strategic location, gaurding this important east – west corridor which separated the hills of Galilee in the north from the uplands of Samaria to the south.

Jezreel is first mentioned in the Bible when the newly-conquered land of Canaan was divided amongst the tribes of Israel in c.1405BC (see Joshua 19:18), but it only attained importance when King Ahab and Queen Jezebel built a royal residence there in c.874BC. The palace included a lookout tower from which soldiers and chariots approaching from the Jordan Valley could easily be spotted (see 2 Kings 9:17). It was to this palace at Jezreel that King Ahab returned in c.867BC after three years of drought devastated the land and the prophet Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18:20-40 & 44-46).

Some ten years later, in c.856BC, King Ahab planned to expand his palace at Jezreel. When Naboth, the owner of the vineyard on the eastern slope of the hill below the palace, refused to sell his land, Jezebel arranged for him to be stoned to death. When Elijah heard of Naboth’s murder, he prophesied the death of both Ahab and Jezebel (see 1 Kings 21:1-23). Ahab was killed four years later in 852BC in the battle for Ramoth Gilead (see 1 Kings 22:29-38), while Jezebel was thrown to her death from her room in the royal palace at Jezreel by her own eunuchs in 842BC. This occurred immediately after Jehu had deposed and killed her son Joram outside the city walls, and had dumped his body in the vineyard that had been so cruelly appropriated by the royal couple fourteen years earlier (see 2 Kings 9:14-33).

 

The Jezreel Valley from Tel Yize'el (Daniel Ventura)

View across the Jezreel Valley from Tel Yizre'el  (Daniel Ventura)

 

1 Kings 22:1-28   For three years, there is no war between Israel and Aram. Indeed, a round-topped stone stela, which can be seen in the British Museum in London, records King Ahab of Israel and King Adad-idri (Ben-Hadad) of Aram taking part in a coalition venture against King Shalmaneser III of Assyria at the Battle of Karkar in 853BC. (This date, incidentally, is the earliest Old Testament date that can be corroborated from a non-Biblical source.)

The following year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah proposes a joint offensive with Israel against Ben-Hadad, the King of Aram (Damascus). Micaiah prophesies that King Ahab will be defeated if he attempts to win Ramoth Gilead (the ‘Heights of Gilead’) back from the Arameans. (The site of Ramoth Gilead is uncertain, but is probably Tell Rumeith east of Irbid – see 15 on Map 58).

1 Kings 22:29-40   In 852BC, Ahab is killed in the battle for Ramoth Gilead - in accordance with Micaiah’s prophesy. His blood covers the chariot. He is buried at Samaria and the dogs lick up his blood as the chariot is washed at the pool – just as Elijah had warned him (see 1 Kings 21:19).

1 Kings 22:41-53   Meanwhile, Jehoshaphat has become King of Judah in c.871BC. He builds trading ships to bring gold from Ophir (on the east coast of Africa) but they are wrecked near Ezion Geber in the Gulf of Aqaba (see Map 57).

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