Navot’’s Vinyard – Ancestral Land – 6 – Elijah

The power struggle between God (or His representative) and the monarch seems to be a recurring theme in the Elijah narratives.  This time there is a moral twist as well.

I Kings 21:1-16

Pay attention to the titles and epithets that are used in the story.  What do they add to the story?

While the Tanakh is often careful not to spell out its preferences, it none the less persuades us in subtle ways, such as the titles and epithets it uses.  You may notice that this story begins with a confrontation between Navot the Jezreelite who owns land in Jezreel and Ahab the king of Samaria.  As the conflict takes place in Jezreel, the land owner who works his own land is preferred over the “foreign” king who merely desires a plot by the palace.  Farmer vs. a king that takes advantage of the region:  Ahab may have the power, but he will lose the battle of public opinion.

Let’s compare what Navot told Ahab and how Ahab understood the response.  Finally, we will compare those with Ahab’s retelling of the event to his wife, Jezebel.

When the Tanakh takes the trouble to retell something said, there is often much to learn from the changes in the retelling.  The texts below try to set up the 3 versions of Navot’s words:

 1) The Actual Conversation

(ב) וידבר אחאב אל נבות לאמר: תנה לי את כרמך ויהי לי לגן ירק כי הוא קרוב אצל ביתי ואתנה לך תחתיו כרם טוב ממנו אם טוב בעיניך אתנה לך כסף מחיר זה:
(ג) ויאמר נבות אל אחאב חלילה לי מה’ מתתי את נחלת אבתי לך.
2 And Ahab spoke to Navot, saying:

‘Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house; and I will give you for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to you, I will give you the worth of it in money.’

3 But Navot said to Ahab: ‘The LORD forbids it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you.’

2) Ahab’’s Perception of the Conversation

ויבא אחאב אל ביתו סר וזעף על הדבר אשר דבר אליו נבות היזרעאלי ויאמר: לא אתן לך את נחלת אבתי וישכב על מטתו ויסב את פניו ולא אכל לחם:

4 And Ahab came into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Navot the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said: ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’

And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.

3) Ahab’’s retelling of the Conversation to Jezebel

(ה) ותבא אליו איזבל אשתו ותדבר אליו מה זה רוחך סרה ואינך אכל לחם:

(ו) וידבר אליה כי אדבר אל נבות היזרעאלי ואמר לו תנה לי את כרמך בכסף או אם חפץ אתה אתנה לך כרם תחתיו ויאמר לא אתן לך את כרמי:

5 And Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him: ‘Why is your spirit so sullen, that you do not eat bread?’

6 And he said to her: ‘Because I spoke to Navot the Jezreelite, and said to him: Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you wish, I will give you a vineyard for it; and he answered: I will not give you my vineyard.’