Friday, July 04, 2008

Elijah's Back! 1 Kings 21

This post is part of a revolutionary Biblical commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

Another day, another sorry episode in the life of corrupt King Ahab. This time he wants to buy a vineyard near his palace, which is owned by a man named Naboth. Naboth refuses to part with it, either for a fair price or in exchange for another vineyard. The land is his inheritance, Naboth says, so he won't sell it. Actually, it's worth noting, if it's inherited land he can't sell it to Ahab, under the laws of Moses. But I guess that hardly matters because no one's following those laws anymore anyways.

Ahab sulks over the failed land deal but his wife Jezebel, who once again is the female embodiment of evil, promises to get it for him. (I'd say something about troublesome women in the Bible but I think I've said it more than enough already. Suffice to say that, as usual, women are causing trouble by their very presence.) Jezebel holds a banquet and frames Naboth for blasphemy; on the bribed testimony of some "scoundrels," the people of Naboth's city stone Naboth to death. With Naboth out of the way, Ahab marches into the vineyard and attempts to occupy it by force.

This little scheme would have worked, presumably, except that God decides to have some fun at Ahab's expense, and sends in Elijah. In exchange, Elijah pronounces, he is going to "bring disaster on you": Ahab will lose "every last male in Israel," and dogs are going to eat his wife! What's particularly chilling here is that Elijah is speaking in the first person, as though he is going to do these things himself. My NIV translation puts in the appropriate extra quotation marks to make it seem as though Elijah's just repeating God's words here, but there weren't any such marks in ancient Hebrew. This appears to genuinely freak out Ahab, and he puts on sackcloth and begins fasting and behaving "meekly" for a change.

Afterwards, God and Elijah get together and compare notes on their little operation. God is quite pleased with himself: "have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me?" He decides to postpone the coming "disaster" until after Ahab dies.