July 22 – July 29, 2016

Friday, July 22

First Kings 14: The similarities between Samuel and Ahijah are truly striking. Both of them prophets from Shiloh, both were likewise appointed to designate new kings for Israel: Saul in the case of Samuel, Jeroboam in the case of Ahijah. Both of those kings, each of whom reigned roughly twenty years, proved to be failures. Finally, toward the end of their reigns, the same two prophets, both of them now quite old, were once again commissioned to announce the downfalls of the aforesaid kings and the impending changes of dynasty. Thus, Samuel prophesied the rise of David (1 Samuel 13:14), and Ahijah foretold the coming of Baasha (1 Kings 14:14).

Although the story of Samuel, because of its greater length and the richer detail in its telling, is doubtless the better known of the two, the account of Ahijah is no less dramatic and every bit as memorable.

Ahijah first appears on the biblical scene late in the reign of Solomon. By way of preparing for his appearance, Holy Scripture tells of the evils attendant on Solomon’s rule (11:1–9) and the external political enemies who rise to challenge his kingdom (11:14–25). It is at this point that the Bible introduces young Jeroboam, whom Solomon has appointed an overseer for the northern tribes. As Jeroboam leaves Jerusalem to undertake his new responsibilities, he is met by the Prophet Ahijah, who abruptly proceeds to tear his clothing into twelve parts. Having thereby gained his total attention, Ahijah explains to the young man that these twelve torn fragments represent Israel’s twelve tribes, and he goes on to prophesy that Jeroboam will govern ten of those tribes, leaving only two tribes for the dynasty of David (11:26–39). All of this prophecy is fulfilled in the events that immediately follow the death of Solomon (11:30—12:16).

We do not again hear of Ahijah for a long time, nor does the Bible give us reason to suppose that Jeroboam further consulted the prophet for advice in the governance of the realm. Unlike David, whose reign benefited from the prophetic counsel of Nathan, Jeroboam puts all thought of God behind him (14:9). On one occasion when he is accosted by an anonymous prophet from Judah, Jeroboam asks for the man’s prayers but pays no heed to his prophetic warning (13:1–9). Furthermore, if Jeroboam had conferred with the Prophet Ahijah, whom God sent to him in the first place, he likely would not have erected those two golden calves at Bethel and Dan, thereby doubling the ancient infidelity of Aaron. (Compare 12:28 with Exodus 32:4, 8).

No, Jeroboam does not place himself under the judgment and discipline of the prophetic word. He is one of those men who want God on their side, without taking care to be on God’s side. Craving the divine aid without the divine ordinance, Jeroboam will not consult Ahijah again for many years.

When he does so, it is because his son is sick, and he sends his wife to the prophet in hopes of obtaining a favorable word. Jeroboam sends her, moreover, in disguise, evidently too embarrassed to let Ahijah know who it is that seeks that word. The prophet himself, by this time, has grown very old, and his sight is failing.

Foolish Jeroboam, thinking to deceive the prophetic vision! Ahijah had been able to read the signs of the times during the reign of Solomon, but Jeroboam now fancies he can deceive the old seer with such a clumsy ruse. Inwardly guided by the Almighty, Ahijah reads the situation perfectly, and the Lord himself dictates “thus and thus” what he is to say.

The awful asperity of Ahijah’s word to Jeroboam is enhanced by the ironies of the scene. At the doorway, deeply anxious for her sick child, arrives this woman clothed in a hopeless disguise. At her footfall, before one syllable escapes her lips, she is already detected by an old blind man, greeting her with a harshness hardly surpassed on any page of Holy Scripture (14:6–16), informing her, not only that the child will die, but that he will be the last in the family even to find his way to a grave. All the others will be devoured by dogs and birds. Mercy now is found no more, nor tenderness, but terrifying, unspeakable finality. God’s last word to Jeroboam, the man who “made Israel to sin,” is a kind of paradigm of damnation itself: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire.” Ahijah speaks for the God who reads hearts and is not mocked.

Saturday, July 23

First Kings 15: Asa (913–873 BC) was Judah’s initial “reform” king, in this respect a forerunner to Hezekiah and Josiah. He was the first of those very few kings of whom it was said that he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did his father David” (1 Kings 15:11).

When Asa came to the throne as David’s fourth successor, the realm was not doing very well. During the reign of Asa’s grandfather, Rehoboam, Judah’s financial state had been greatly weakened by incessant war with the Northern Kingdom (15:6) and by an invasion from Egypt (14:25–26). Hardly better was the nation’s spiritual state, for idolatry and gross immorality were rife (14:22–23). Rehoboam was followed on the throne by Asa’s father, Abijah, but the latter, too, “walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him” (15:3).

These problems seem not to have daunted the young Asa, who cleaned up Judah’s idolatry and immorality with such dispatch and efficiency that 1 Kings can account for the work in a single verse (15:12).

Although the longer description of Asa’s reign in 1 Chronicles 14—16 describes in greater detail some of the more serious problems he encountered, there is reason to believe that Asa’s greatest single headache came from his . . . grandmother!

Had Asa’s accession to the throne followed traditional policy on the point, this grandmother, known to history as Maachah the Younger, would have retired to spend her remaining days rocking and knitting in some quiet corner of the palace, occasionally stopping to dandle a grandchild or take some cookies from the oven. Her role as queen mother, or gebirah, would have been assumed by Asa’s own mother.

As it happened, however, the old lady did not step down, and evidently, on the day that Asa took the throne, no one in the realm was sufficiently powerful to make her step down, not even the new king.

Maachah doubtless enjoyed occupying what was a very powerful position in ancient courts. Since royal sons were hardly disposed to decline reasonable requests from their mothers (cf. 1 Kings 2:17), it was no small advantage for other members of the court to cultivate the favor of the gebirah. Her special place in the realm is further indicated by the fact that the Books of Kings normally list the names of the mothers of the kings of Judah.

The case of Maachah demonstrates that an especially shrewd gebirah, were she also unscrupulous, might manage to maintain her position at court even after the death of her son. A woman so powerful, after all, was able to put quite a number of people in her debt over the years—influential and well-placed individuals on whom she might rely later on to keep her in power. The Bible’s truly singular example of this was Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, who actually usurped the realm itself during the years 842–837 BC (2 Kings 11).

Maachah herself never went so far, but she did manage to hold on to her privileged position at court after the accession of Asa (1 Kings 15:10). She had been around for quite a while and was well acquainted with the ways of power. Named for her grandmother, Maacah the Elder, a Geshurite princess married to David (2 Samuel 3:3), this younger Maachah was a daughter of Absalom. She was still a child during the three years that she spent with her father in his exile in Geshur (2 Samuel 13:38). Doubtless it was there that she first learned the ways of idolatry.

For Maachah was most certainly an idolatress. Raised in the easygoing atmosphere of her Uncle Solomon’s court after the death of her own father, she further learned the lessons of idolatry along with the habits of political power. Given in marriage to her cousin Rehoboam, who would eventually succeed Solomon on the throne, Maachah knew that someday, when her son Abijah became king, she would become the gebirah. She longed for the day.

That day, when it came, did not last very long, for Abijah reigned only three years. No matter, for the determined Maachah somehow found the means to stay in power for a while longer. Except for her idolatry, Asa might have left her in place for good. But the king, as his position grew stronger, was in a reforming mood, and Maachah stood in the way of his reforms. “You know, Granny,” he finally said to her one day, “it’s about time for you to take up knitting” (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16).

Sunday, July 24

First Kings 16: The Northern Kingdom, protected by no divine covenant, quickly becomes the possession of whoever gains sufficient political advantage. In this chapter we are introduced to several northern kings, including Elah (886-885), Zimri (one week in 885), and Omri (885-874, with a co-regency with Ahab from 881). The entire period of these kings is contemporary with the reign of just one king in the south, Asa (911-870, with co-regency with Jehoshaphat from 873).

Also introduced is King Ahab, about whom we will learn a good deal in the next few chapters. His reign in the north (874-853) is roughly contemporary with that of King Jehoshaphat in the south (873 to 848, with co-regency with Jehoram from 853). A study of the reign of Jehoshaphat provides useful insight into the wider political, social, and religious developments of this period.

Although the Prophet Eliezer leveled a half-verse of criticism against Jehoshaphat near the end of the king’s life (2 Chronicles 20:37), the Bible is, on the whole, rather positive in its assessment of that king of Judah. An earlier historian of the period summed it up: “And [Jehoshaphat] walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:43).

Still, it is instructive to examine some unforeseen results of certain practical choices made by Jehoshaphat during the course of his admittedly virtuous life, because those unintended consequences bear witness to the human condition of sinful helplessness, our native inability to accomplish the good we will (cf. Romans 7:15–19). However pure his intentions, it is a fact that some terrible things came to pass by reason of Jehoshaphat’s political decisions. Indeed, they nearly led to the downfall of the house of David.

When he took his place on the throne of Judah in 873, Jehoshaphat resolved that there would be no more fighting with the kingdom of Israel. As much as anyone, he was sick of the strife that had ravaged the Promised Land for half a century, ever since the division of the region into two kingdoms at the death of Solomon in 922. The reign of Jehoshaphat’s own father, Asa, had been particularly bellicose. “Now there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days,” wrote that same historian of the period (1 Kings 15:16, 32).

Naturally, so much warfare exacted a heavy toll from Judah, in loss of life, disruption of families, devastated crops, impaired commerce, and swollen taxation, leading to a general weakening of the economy and the social order. None of this fighting, furthermore, had accomplished much. Since the only sane reason for a nation to wage a war is to decide something, hardly any national experience is so disheartening as an indecisive war, and Judah, by this time, was very disheartened.

The ensuing damage to the social edifice was even more severe in the kingdom of Israel, or at least we may infer so from its greater political disquiet. Israel, in addition to fighting with Judah, had been afflicted with civil unrest and dynastic strife. Whereas Jehoshaphat was Judah’s fourth king after Solomon, Israel had had as many dynasties during that same period (15:25—16:23)! Surely, then, Israel too might appreciate some relief from conflict.

Two other recent political changes likewise hinted that the time for peacemaking had arrived. First, barely four years before Jehoshaphat became king of Judah, Israel had crowned a new king whose name was Ahab. This new man, Jehoshaphat could see, was chiefly interested in making money by commercial ties with Phoenicia. Indeed, Ahab had married a Phoenician princess named Jezebel and had served as a mercantile partner of his father-in-law, Ethbaal of Sidon. Ahab would have no interest in continuing the old fight with Judah.

Second, a much larger menace now loomed darkly in the east, where the shadowy Assyrian began to feel the movement of his might. Before long the warring Shalmaneser III (859–824 BC) would start his march to the Great Sea, and if the little nations lying along the path of that trampling march, like Israel and Judah, were to meet his threat, they had better resolve their smaller problems.

Sizing up the entire geopolitical situation, therefore, “Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel” (22:44). In fact, Jehoshaphat went a very significant step further to seal that peace by arranging the marriage of his own son Jehoram, the crown prince, to Princess Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. The two crown houses thus became, as it were, a single family, so that Jehoshaphat could say to Ahab, some years later, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” (22:4).

Hardly could Jehoshaphat have known to what bad consequences his best intentions would lead. Within three years both his son and his son’s son would be dead, and Athaliah, now queen in her own right, would nearly destroy the house of David (2 Kings 11:1). In fact, until the fall of Jerusalem nearly three centuries later, Judah never saw a darker hour. And all this from one good man’s untimely decisions! Such is the power of evil in man’s fallen history.

Monday, July 25

First Kings 17: Although the institution of the northern throne, unlike the Davidic throne, is blessed by no covenant, God does not forsake His people in the north. As we see throughout these chapters, He continues to bless them through the non-institutional ministry of the prophets, several of whom are anonymously mentioned in the story of the Northern Kingdom. Of those who are named, special attention is given to Elijah, Micaiah, and Elisha. In First Kings, the dominant prophetic person is Elijah the Tishbite, who is introduced in the present chapter.

These next three chapters are united around the theme of the drought that took place during the reign of Ahab. It was invoked by the Prophet Elijah as a divine punishment against the infidelity of the Northern Kingdom, chiefly through its compromising alliance with the Phoenicians and their god, Baal.

We observe that Elijah, rather like John the Baptist in the Gospel accounts, receives no adequate introduction in the narrative. We find him shouting as soon as he appears. Elijah appreciates the irony of this punitive drought; the people have forsaken the Lord and given themselves over to this Phoenician-Canaanite divinity, Baal, who is a rain god. Now, as a result of this new adherence, the rain suddenly stops for three and a half years. And Baal is powerless to do anything about it! The ensuing famine also hits Phoenicia (cf. Josephus, Antiquities 8.13.2).

When the crisis of the drought is resolved, at last, it will be resolved in a very dramatic way. It will not simply start raining again. It will start raining only after Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a sensational “rain match” in chapter 18. When Elijah is on the scene, there is never a boring moment.

Meanwhile, for the next forty-two months, everybody suffers the drought, including Elijah himself, who finds a bit of water in small Wadi Cherith and is fed daily by two ravens that bring him meat and bread. We have here a clear parallel with the manna eaten by the Israelites in the desert during the time of Moses. Elijah is certainly aware of this parallel. His mental association with Moses is so sharply a feature of his identity that we will find him, in just a few chapters, standing before the Lord on the very mountain where Moses received the Torah.

When the wadi dries up, Elijah must seek other arrangements. As he travels in search of sustenance, he comes to the village of Zarephath, on the Phoenician coast, south of Sidon. Here he meets a widow—clearly a pagan —with a son, whose resources have been reduced to their single meal. Elijah requests the gift of that meal, and the compassionate widow gives it to him. From that instant on, the woman and her son are miraculously provided with food until the end of the drought. Here there is a parallel with the earlier experience of Elijah himself, who was daily fed by the ravens.

When the widow’s son dies, Elijah’s prayer brings about his resuscitation. Jesus, in his first sermon in Luke’s Gospel, refers to this woman (cf. Luke 4:25-26). There is also a parallel with the widow who gave her last bit of resources to the Lord in the Gospel story (cf. Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4).

Tuesday, July 26

Mark 12:1-12: The parable of the vine-growers—listed prominently in Jesus’ teaching during the last week of his earthly life—provides a sharp, defining outline of how he came to understand, not only his ministry to his contemporaries, but also his larger significance in the history of Israel. It illustrates how Jesus thought about his mission and destiny. No other of his parables, I believe, contains such an obviously “autobiographical” perspective.

This parable of the vine-growers, in which the sending of God’s Son is presented as the defining moment of history, may be regarded as an extension of what Jesus said when he first preached on Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). In the story of the vine-growers, we see the clearest evidence that Jesus addressed, in his own heart, the large dimensions of his destiny.

When Jesus addressed this parable to the men who plotted to kill him (12:32, 45), those Jewish scholars of the Bible could hardly fail to recognize, in these initial details, the story’s resemblance to a lyrical poem of the prophet Isaiah eight centuries before. Perhaps some of them knew Isaiah’s poem by heart. It began, in lines of incomparable beauty:

A song of my beloved regarding his vineyard—’ashírah n’a lidídi shírat dódi lekármo / kérem hayáh lidídi beqéren ben shámenMy beloved has a vineyard / On a very fruitful hill. / He dug it up and cleared away its stones, / And planted it with the choicest vine. / He built a tower in its midst, / And also made a winepress in it (Isaiah 5:1-2).

It is significant that Jesus begins by invoking images from this Isaian prophecy, because the parable of the vine-growers does, in fact, explore Jesus’ historical relationship to the prophets. Moreover, as we shall see, he tells his parable in a way that further interprets the poem of Isaiah.

As to the meaning of the “vineyard,” the explanatory note in Isaiah left no doubt: “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, / And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant” (Isaiah 5:7). The “vineyard” has the same meaning in Jesus’ parable.

The son in the parable is described as “my beloved,” agapetos mou, the same expression the Father used to address Jesus at both his baptism and his Transfiguration. This identical expression—agapetos mou—is found, likewise, in the Septuagint (Greek) version of Isaiah’s poem—“My beloved has a vineyard.” Jesus’ parable, then, identifies the son as the “my beloved” in Isaiah’s poem. It is to him that the vineyard truly belongs, because he is the heir. He is the son with regard to God, and the heir with regard to Israel’s history.

Wednesday, July 27

First Kings 19: In the Books of Kings it is not difficult to perceive the ways in which the prophets Elijah and Elisha resemble the great Moses. Indeed, emphasizing that resemblance pertained very much to the author’s purpose, for he had in mind to portray them both as Moses’ latter-day successors, each providing some measure of fulfillment to Moses’ own prophecy that he would be succeeded by a prophet like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15–18). This perspective is likewise part of the Bible’s more general care to regard the prophetic corpus as the proper sequence to the Law. In fact, the expression “the Law and the Prophets” is sometimes employed to mean simply the whole Hebrew Bible.

In due course we shall explore the ways in which Elisha (introduced in the present chapter) resembles Moses. For now, let us limit our consideration to Elijah, who resembles Moses in several particulars of his story: a miraculous provision of meat and bread in the wilderness (1 Kings 17:4–7), a fast of forty days while journeying through the desert on the strength of miraculously provided bread and water (19:4–8), and, in the present chapter, an encounter with the Lord on Mount Horeb, complete with all the sounds and sights associated with Moses’ own experience in that place. Elijah receives his prophecies on the very mountain where Moses received the Law. Like Moses too, Elijah covers his face in response to his mountaintop experience (19:9–13). Then, when the time comes for Elijah to leave this life, he repeats Moses’ act of parting the waters and then disappears east of the Jordan, where Moses disappeared (2 Kings 2:8–18).

As the present chapter begins, Elijah is afraid, this same Elijah who acted so fearlessly in the preceding story. He flees the vengeance and wrath of Jezebel, whose prophets he slew after the episode on Mount Carmel. Elijah is also very tired from the exertions of the previous day, to say nothing of the ordeals associated with the long drought and famine. As he flees southward, he comes to Beersheba, at the southern boundary of Judah. Even for northerners this city is a popular site of pilgrimage (cf. Amos 5:5; 8:14). Here he leaves his servant, for Elijah has in mind to go much further south.

He proceeds another day into the Judean desert and sits under a tree, feeling very discouraged. In this respect Elijah resembles two earlier discouraged travelers in the desert, Moses and David. Totally distressed, he falls asleep from the heat and great fatigue. Twice an angel from the Lord feeds him with bread and water in the wilderness. Strengthened by these modest meals, he travels another 40 days—reminiscent of Moses’ forty years in the wilderness—until he comes to Mount Horeb (Sinai), where the Lord entered into covenant with Israel. He climbs the mountain to the place where Moses met the Lord, amid earthquake, fire, and whirlwind. Elijah’s own revelation from the Lord, however, takes place in a still small voice.

The prophet is warned about the dangers of isolation and self-pity. He is instructed to go back down the mountain and make contact with some of the seven thousand of the Lord’s loyal servants. Elijah must stop all this I-alone-am-left nonsense. There is still work to do. First, he must anoint two new kings, Hazael over Syria and Jehu over Israel. We take note that the Lord has a covenant with neither of these men, but He does choose them.

Finally, Elijah is to anoint Elisha to be his own replacement in the prophetic ministry.

Thursday, July 28

First Kings 20: This chapter starts with a Syrian siege of Samaria (verses 1-6). The fortress at Samaria, constructed during the reigns of Omri and Ahab, was almost impregnable; when it later fell to the Assyrians in 722, the latter force needed siege machines and three years to accomplish the task.

In response to the demands of the besiegers, King Ahab takes counsel of the tribal elders, who have taken refuge within the fortress. These encourage the king to resist boldly.

What happens next may surprise the reader, who knows that the Lord has already rejected Ahab (cf. 19:16). In spite of this rejection, the king still receives positive prophetic messages from the Lord (verses 13,28). That is to say, in spite of Israel’s schism from the covenanted throne at Jerusalem, in spite of the people’s continued infidelities, and in spite of the apostasy of Ahab, the Lord sustains His faithfulness.

This divine fidelity to the people of the Northern Kingdom—the schismatic kingdom—is of a piece with the material in the surrounding chapters, particularly the ministry of Elijah. The lesson drawn from this entire account indicates that the God of the Covenant does not suddenly lose interest in His people when a schism occurs. This lesson should be a source of comfort and strength to all Christians today, who are heirs to the many schisms which have divided them over the centuries; when schisms occur among the people of God, God is certainly displeased, but this in no way implies that redeeming grace is limited to just one side of a schismatic situation. Throughout the Book of Kings, we see grace poured out in both the south and the north, notwithstanding the schism between them.

Ahab, encouraged by the counsel of the elders and the word of the prophet, makes a very successful sortie against the Syrians, who have let their guard down—“Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the encampment.” The armies of Syria’s vassal states panic, and the rest of the Syrian army retreats, but Ahab is warned that they will try again (verses 16-22).

They do try again in the spring, this time east of the Sea of Galilee, on the road joining Israel with Damascus. Once again, Ahab receives prophetic assurance (verse 28), apparently from the same prophet who had encouraged him earlier (says Josephus, Antiquities 8.14.3). When King Benhadad of Syria (known in Assyrian sources as “Hadadezer”) is captured, he agrees to a politically expedient treaty with Ahab (verses 30-34). Actually, these two men need one another, because the region is about to be invaded by a king more powerful than either, Shalmaneser III of Assyria. Israel and Syria will be parts of a coalition assembled to oppose the Assyrians at the Battle of Qarqar in 854 B.C.

Friday, July 29

First Kings 21: Naboth was a conservative. He could even be called a hopeless conservative, because he was also an anachronism. The moving times had passed him by, and his desperate cause was doomed from the start.

But even to speak of Naboth’s “cause” is probably misleading, for he was certainly no activist nor agitator, no reactionary nor leader of a movement. On the contrary, Naboth was a quiet, private man who wanted only to be left alone, free to grow his grapes on the little plot his fathers had planted for roughly three centuries.

There had been a time—and not so very long before—when Naboth’s modest aspirations represented an ideal. Even a century earlier, during the reign of Solomon (961–922 BC), it was said that “Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25).

Truth to tell, the Mosaic ordinance, taken literally, prescribed that no man’s farm, the land bequeathed by his father, should ever pass definitively out of the family. In due course, rather, those same inherited fields would be handed on to the next generation, so that household and real estate would remain forever inseparable (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7).

But by Naboth’s day the times had changed, and fewer folks felt tied so to their land. Indeed, in large measure Solomon himself, by introducing new mercantile enterprises and fiscal policies, had been responsible for the change. Thanks to the peace that David’s sword had brought to the region, international trade started to boom in the second half of the tenth century before Christ. By shrewd geopolitical maneuvers, Solomon joined the vast shipping interests of the Mediterranean to the extensive mercantile empire of Sheba, spread through the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and waters more exotic still.

As a consequence of these adventures, new and lucrative employment was to be had in Israel’s expanding cities, jobs much easier than the long hours and back-bending labor of the small family farm. Little wonder, then, that many Israelites began to adopt a less-than-literal understanding of the ancient rules about not letting their land be lost from the family. Attracted by the prospect of a brighter future in the city, working at any of the scores of new professions spawned by Solomon’s economic success, many citizens simply forfeited the inheritance of their fathers.

This rich economic development meant, of course, fewer farmers and larger farms. This adjustment created no immediate problems of labor, nonetheless, because the larger farms were more efficiently cultivated with tools made from a recently smelted metal called iron. Plowshare blades, axes, hoes, and scythes were sturdier than ever. Furthermore, farmers learned to seal the walls of their wells and cisterns with calcium oxide, thus preserving the precious water needed for irrigation. Food production increased enormously.

The enhanced nutrition not only lowered the infant mortality rate, it also led to earlier puberty and menarche, thus increasing the birth rate. The larger and healthier population provided the expanding work force needed for the economic boom. In short, as far as the bankers and financiers were concerned, the times were bright, and the future looked brighter. Seldom any more did one hear his elders talk of “the good old days” prior to this new, advanced era.

Not every man, however, fell into step with the march of progress, and a hundred years later there were still some stubborn, godly souls who, reading the Mosaic mandates rather close to the letter, maintained the homesteads very much as their forebears had done. Naboth, whose story is told in 1 Kings 21, was one of these dogged holdouts. When King Ahab, coveting Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, sought to buy or swap for it, he was met by the owner’s emphatic “No!”

Because Ahab’s queen was a ruthless woman, not scrupulous about such matters as suborning perjury and shedding blood, Naboth paid for his conservatism with the price of his life. Like his contemporary Elijah, this brave vine-grower stood defenseless but defiant before raw power and cruel injustice. This baffling Naboth’s hearty answer to Ahab (21:3) may serve as a battle cry for every true conservative: “The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!”