Tuesday 1st September Bible Study 7pm

Naboth’s Vineyard
Where is ‘home’ to you? What makes it home? How rooted are you?

Naboth is bound to his land. He named as ‘Naboth the Jeezerite’ and his vineyard is in Jezreel. A request to purchase the land shows a disrespect for the law in ancient Israel (see Leviticus 25:23-24). The idea is that the land is really God’s and therefore a gift from God to be passed down as inheritance rather than a commodity to be permanently sold. To sell up or mistreat the land is to disrespect the Ultimate Giver that is God. As the poet Wendell Berry puts it ‘If we believe, as so many of us profess to do, that the Earth is God’s property and is full of His glory, how can we do harm to any part of it?’
Read 1 Kings 21:1-7
Do you think it makes sense for Naboth to refuse? Do you have something too precious to sell?
How would you describe Ahab? Is his garden somehow not big enough? He is king so he probably has extensive lands already. When have you become ‘sullen and angry’ because you’ve not got what you wanted?
How does Jezebel act? Neighbouring kings would have been brutal and just taken what they wanted. She views Ahab’s asking as weakness. Is it?
Read 1 Kings 21:8-16
This part of the story is full of irony as well as tragedy. Jezebel falsifies charges against Naboth of cursing God and the king. Jezebel has been cursing God and murdering God’s prophets. She doesn’t worship Yahweh but knows enough about Levitical law to know that cursing God has a death penalty attached to it (Leviticus 24:14-16) while conveniently forgetting Leviticus 25:23. Also, since when has cursing the king been as serious as cursing God or equated to blasphemy? Again, she has usurped the king’s authority by writing letters in his name and using his seal. It is hard to describe how someone’s identity and reputation were attached both to their name and seal in the ancient world. It reminds me that corrupt leaders always have their ‘fixers’.
Read 1 Kings 21:17-28
What do you think of God softening his approach to Ahab?
Is it fair that the next generation is punished? Or is it the case that the next generation often suffers because of the greed/corruption of their forebears?
What modern situations of injustice can you see in this story? Who are the modern day Ahabs and Naboths? Where do we need to be like Elijah?
Elijah condemns Ahab and Jezebel with idolatry. Social injustice is not merely a horizontal violation of our fellow human. It is primarily a vertical violation of God by wronging his creation, made in his image. In other words, we tend to interpret this narrative of Naboth’s vineyard as social gospel, but really, the passage shows us that we cannot separate the social and the spiritual. Our relationship with God is reflected in the way we treat our fellow human who is made in God’s image.
Prayer
Lord, it is true “we can’t always get what we want”,
Forgive us when we sulk because our plans have not worked out,
Forgive us when we are angry because we think someone is thwarting us,
Forgive us when we use whatever power we possess to get what we want.
Forgive us for not seeing the needs of others or what You want Lord.
We get ‘tunnel vision’ sometimes.
Lord, show us that love is not fixing everything for our loved ones and giving them everything they want,
Love is helping our loved ones become better people.
Almighty God, we thank You that You are patient with us and give us the chance to change.
Lord, when greed gets bigger and more political then there’s injustice on a massive scale.
Save us from the Ahabs of this world and give us Elijah-like courage to speak up for the many Naboths.
May the vineyards and the gardens of this beautiful world not be turned over to powerful interests.
Amen.

 

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