Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:1
A vineyard ... in Jezreel - The name Jezreel is applied in Scripture, not merely to the town Kg1 18:46, but also to the valley or plain which lies below it, between Mount Gilboa and Little Hermon (Sa2 2:9; Kg2 9:10; Hos 1:5; etc.).
The palace of Ahab at Jezreel was on the eastern side of the city, looking toward the Jordan down the valley above described. It abutted on the town wall Kg2 9:30-31. Immediately below it was a dry moat. Beyond, in the valley, either adjoining the moat, or at any rate at no great distance, was the plot of ground belonging to Naboth Kg2 9:21.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:2
I will give thee the worth of it in money - literally, "I will give thee silver, the worth of it." Money, in our sense of the word, that is to say, coins of definite values, did not yet exist. The first coin known to the Jews was the Persian daric, with which they became acquainted during the captivity. (Ch1 29:7 note).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:3
The Lord forbid it me - Or, "Yahweh forbid it me." Naboth, as a worshipper of Yahweh, not of Baal, considers it would be wrong for him to comply with the king's request, as contrary to the Law (margin). His was not a mere refusal arising out of a spirit of sturdy independence, or one based upon the sentiment which attaches men to ancestral estates.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:4
Upon his bed - That is, "upon his couch." The Jews, like other Orientals, reclined upon couches at their meals (Amo 6:4; Eze 23:41, etc.). Ahab turns his face toward the back of the couch, rejecting all converse with others, and so remains, after the banquet is served, refusing to partake of it. Such an open manifestation of ill temper is thoroughly characteristic of an Oriental king.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:7
The meaning is, "Art thou king, and yet sufferest thyself to be thwarted in this way by a mere subject? I, the queen, the weak woman, will give thee the vineyard, if thou, the king, the strong man, wilt do nothing."
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:8
Seal - The seal is a very ancient invention. Judah's signet and Pharaoh's signet-ring are mentioned in Genesis Gen 38:18; Gen 41:42. Signets of Egyptian kings have been found which are referred to about 2000 B.C. Sennacherib's signet, and an impression of Sargon's, are still extant. There can be no doubt that in the East, from a very remote antiquity, kings had seals and appended them to all documents which they set forth under their authority. (Compare also Est 3:12; Est 8:8; Dan 6:17). The Hebrew mode of sealing seems to have been by attaching a lump of clay to the document, and impressing the seal thereupon Job 38:14.
His city - i. e., Jezreel Kg1 21:1. The mode in which it is spoken of here, and in Kg1 21:11, seems to imply that it was not the city from which Jezebel wrote. The court was evidently at this time residing at Samaria Kg1 20:43; and Ahab may either have met Naboth there, or have gone down (compare Kg1 21:16) to Jezreel to make his request, and then, on being refused, have returned to Samaria. The distance is not more than seven miles.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:9
The object of this fast was at once to raise a prejudice against Naboth, who was assumed by the elders to have disgraced the town; and at the same time to give an air of religion to the proceedings, which might blind persons to their real injustice.
Set Naboth on high among his people - This was not an order to do Naboth any, even apparent, honor; but simply a command to bring him forward before a court or assembly, where he might be seen by all, tried, and condemned.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:10
Sons of Belial - i. e., "worthless persons" (Deu 13:13 note). Witnesses must be two in number according to the Law Num 35:30; Deu 17:6; Deu 19:15.
The word rendered "blaspheme" is that which commonly means "bless." The opposite sense of "cursing," seems, however, to be required here and in Job 1:5, Job 1:11; Job 2:5. Perhaps the best explanation of the bad sense of the original word is to be found in the practice of blessing by way of salutation, not only on meeting, but also on taking leave Gen 47:7, Gen 47:10. From the latter custom the word came to mean "bidding farewell to," and so "renouncing," "casting off," "cursing."
Carry him out and stone him - Naboth's offence would be twofold, and in both cases capital; blasphemy against God being punishable with death by the Law (marginal reference), and blasphemy against the king being a capital offence by custom Kg1 2:8; Sa2 16:9; Sa2 19:21. The punishment would be stoning, since the greater crime would absorb the lesser, and the Law made stoning the punishment for blasphemy against God. As stoning always took place outside the city (see Act 7:58), Jezebel told the elders to "carry Naboth out."
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:11
The ready submission of the elders and nobles implies a deep moral degradation among the Israelites, the fruit of their lapse into idolatry.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:13
Naboth had sons who were also put to death at this time (marginal reference). It is not improbable that they were stoned together with their parent (compare Jos 7:24-25). In the East, a parent's guilt constantly involves the punishment of his children. Contrast Kg2 14:6.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:16
To take possession of it - The goods of traitors appear to have been forfeited to the crown by the Jewish law as they still are almost universally throughout the East. Compare Sa2 16:4.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:19
Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? - These words rebuke especially Ahab's indecent haste. He went to Jezreel the very day after Naboth's execution Kg2 9:26.
The prophecy following had a double fulfillment. The main fulfillment was by the casting of the dead body of Jehoram into Naboth's plot of ground at Jezreel, where, like Naboth's, it was left for the dogs to eat Kg2 9:25. This spot, which was just outside the city wall, and close to a gate Kg2 9:31, was probably the actual scene of Naboth's execution. Here did dogs lick Ahab's blood, that is, his son's blood, the execution of the full retaliatory sentence having been deferred to the days of his son, formally and explicitly, on Ahab's repentance Kg1 21:29. But, besides this, there was a secondary fulfillment of the prophecy, when, not at Jezreel but at Samaria (marginal reference), the actual blood of Ahab himself, was licked by dogs, only in a way that implied no disgrace. These two fulfillments are complementary to each other.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:20
The words "O mine enemy," may refer partly to the old antagonism (marginal reference; Kg1 17:1; Kg1 19:2-3); but the feeling which it expresses is rather that of present oppositions - the opposition between good and evil, light and darkness Joh 3:20.
Thou hast sold thyself to work evil - Compare the marginal references. The metaphor is taken from the practice of men's selling themselves into slavery, and so giving themselves wholly up to work the will of their master. This was a widespread custom in the ancient world.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:21
The prophet changes, without warning, from speaking in his own person to speaking in the person of God. The transition is abrupt, probably because the compiler follows his materials closely, compressing by omission. One fragment omitted here is preserved in Kg2 9:26.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:23
And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying - These are not the words of Elijah, but of the writer, who notes a special prophecy against Jezebel, whose guilt was at least equal to her husband's.
Wall - The marginal rendering "ditch," is preferable. There is always in Oriental towns a space outside the walls which lies uncultivated, and which is naturally used for the deposit of refuse of every kind. Here the dogs prowl, and the kites and vultures find many a feast.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:25
whom Jezebel stirred up - The history of Ahab's reign throughout exhibits him as completely governed by his imperious wife. Instances of her influence are seen in Kg1 21:7, Kg1 21:15, marginal reference, Kg1 18:4; Kg1 19:2.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:26
The Amorites appear here as representatives of the old Canaanite nations (Gen 15:16 note). It seems to be implied here that their idolatries were in the main identical with those of the Phoenicians which Ahab had adopted.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:27
The repentance of Ahab resembles that of the Ninevites Jon 3:5. It has the same outward signs - fasting and sackcloth - and it has much the same inward character. It springs, not from love, nor from hatred of sin, but from fear of the consequences of sin. It is thus, although sincere and real while it lasts, shallow and exceedingly short-lived. God, however, to mark His readiness to receive the sinner who turns to Him, accepted the imperfect offering (as He likewise accepted the penitence of the Ninevites), and allowed it to delay the execution of the sentence Kg1 21:29. So the penitence of the Ninevites put off the fall of Nineveh for a century.
And lay in sackcloth - In this particular he seems to have gone beyond the usual practice. We do not read elsewhere of mourners passing the night in sackcloth.
And went softly - "As if he had no heart to go about any business" (Patrick).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 21:29
The evil - i. e., the main evil. See Kg1 21:19 note; and compare Kg1 22:38 with marginal reference.