Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9
The incident took place in Jezreel, just east of modern Tel Aviv, in a fertile valley lying midway between the blue Mediterranean and the arid desert across the Jordan. A certain farmer had inherited a vineyard from his father, who, in turn, had received the title to the property from his father. Everyone admired the luscious grapes which came from the toil of the well-respected middle class farmer who kept the vineyard. Naboth, the owner, was proud of his vineyard, too, and rightly so. Offers to purchase the property were turned down without a second thought, even one that came from the wealthiest, most powerful man in the country.
You see, Naboth’s fine vineyard was only a short distance from a parcel of ground which was owned by Ahab, the king of Israel, so no one was surprised when Ahab approached Naboth with the offer: “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth” (1 Kings 21:2).
Most people would be willing to make an exchange, especially when there is enough money involved, but not Naboth. “No way!” he said, explaining that more than money was involved. This parcel was part of the inheritance that had been in the family for hundreds of years. All the gold in Samaria wouldn’t buy it.
When Ahab was angry and sullen over the rebuff, his wife, one of the most ruthless, cunning women alive, said, in effect, “I’ll take care of it for you!” And she did, by plotting the murder of Naboth so his land could be confiscated and appropriated by the king.
There is an eternal law that you reap what you sow, and eventually the violence from which Ahab profited returned to haunt him, and he lost his life as an archer randomly drew his bow and fired an arrow into a mob of people. Ahab, disguised as an ordinary soldier, was the victim, as the arrow found its mark between sections of the king’s armor.
Nearly 700 years before Ahab’s theft and murder, God had said, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). No exclusions were made–neither for the wealthy, nor for kings nor senators, nor presidents. The laws of God apply equally to all people everywhere.
Though the pages of our history books grow thicker with the passing of the centuries, the steps which we take to appropriate what we covet, but have no right to possess, are much the same.
Today what happened to Naboth is still happening. Covetousness turns to lust and lust to murder. Today, we may not destroy someone physically, yet some will destroy a competitor in business financially. “If it works, do it!” is the motto of the world, yet God says, “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
Whether or not you can get away with taking something you want–yes, you covet–whether it is your neighbor’s vineyard or his wife, or his employees–isn’t the issue. There is still an eternal law that says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7, KJV). It is the eternal law of the harvest, even today.
Resource reading: 1Kings 21.