In spite of king Ahab’s bad influence on the people in his kingdom, there were 7,000 Israelites that remained faithful to God (1 Kings 19:18). One of those men, Naboth the Jezreelite, lived next door to Ahab’s secondary residence where his wife Jezebel lived. Naboth lived on a plot of land that had been occupied by his family for hundreds of years, perhaps since the Israelites entered the Promised Land. As if it were a trivial matter, “Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money” (1 Kings 21:2).
Naboth refused to give the land to Ahab because it was his inheritance. In other words, Ahab had no legal claim to the land. Naboth was honoring God by refusing to give Ahab the hereditary property that was supposed to stay within his family. Ahab’s reaction shows that he was upset, but intended to abide by Naboth’s decision (1 Kings 21:4). Then Jezebel stepped in and took matters into her own hands, “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in the city, dwelling with Naboth” (1 Kings 21:8).
Jezebel’s action to take control of the situation was probably typical behavior for her. She was able to get the elders and nobles to do what she wanted, which was break the law and lie about Naboth committing a sin so that he could be stoned to death. Jezebel manipulated the Israelite legal system in order to accomplish her own selfish purposes. Although Ahab was willing to accept Naboth’s refusal, Jezebel was not.
When Ahab went down to the vineyard of Naboth to take possession of it, Elijah was there waiting for him. “And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD” (1 Kings 21:20). Ahab’s question to Elijah might have been expressed, have you found out what I have done or are you here to accuse me of a crime? Ahab had been caught red handed stealing Naboth’s property. No matter what he did to try and talk his way out of it, king Ahab was found out. He was guilty of letting Jezebel rule God’s kingdom.
Surprisingly, Ahab didn’t argue with Elijah when confronted with his sin. Elijah’s reference to Ahab having sold himself to work evil in essence meant that Ahab was unable to say no to his wife Jezebel and therefore, was under the power of Satan. It says in 1 Kings 21:27, “when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” Ahab repented of his sin and because he humbled himself before the LORD, God forgave him.