The Land of Our Ancestors
“And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And 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. And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” (1Kings 21:1-3)
Naboth’s response to Ahab was not merely a mundane refusal to sell a piece of property; it was a lesson about life.
You see, Ahab had lead Israel into idolatry. He encouraged his people to give their hearts in devotion to the forces of nature that were seen as deities by the surrounding nations. In his rejection of Ahab’s offer to buy his vineyard Naboth packaged a rebuke against the idolatrous ways of the evil king. A sellout of one’s ancestral lands to satisfy the hungry greed of an arrogant monarch compares to the act of idolatry in three different ways. The strong language of Naboth’s response would lead us to believe that he had at least one of these ideas in mind if not all of them.
The loyalty that one should feel toward his own family would stand in the way of such a sale. How could I give away something that was meant so much to my parents? How could I give away the very piece of land that my ancestors so faithfully preserved just so that I should inherit it?
The relationship that Israel shares with God is the most precious possession of the nation. Our ancestors literally gave their lives so that we can inherit this gift. How can one callously throw this gift overboard just to satisfy the avarice of a deity that our fathers never knew?
We understand the desire of a greedy person to acquire more land. Such a desire is rooted in a lack of satisfaction with one’s own station in life and reflects a desperate desire to amass more wealth and more power. We recognize such a desire in our own hearts and we identify it as evil. Selling one’s land to satisfy this desire is an acceptance of the fact that this desire has a legitimate role to play in human society. The refusal to acquiesce to such a desire reflects a protest against greed. A Godly person would want to see such desires eradicated from the hearts of men and will do all in his power to remove greed and avarice from the realm of human activity.
We can also understand the desire of a finite existence to amass unto itself the adulation of hearts that do not belong to it. It is the same hunger for power and honor that moves the greedy person to amass material property. Submitting to such a desire is an acceptance and an approval of greed and gluttony.
Worship of God has nothing to do with greed and gluttony. God is the Creator of all and as such everything belongs to Him already including our own hearts. Devotion to God is simply the acknowledgment of a truth that exists already. It is not giving to one what belongs to another.
Finally, when someone sells his ancestral land he is showing that he does not feel secure with the station allotted to him by God. Such a person feels a need to go to a place where God did not put him in order to find himself. One who lives with trust and security in God will find all of their needs met precisely in the place that God placed them and will not find it necessary to travel beyond those boundaries.
The same lack of trust in God that leads to abandonment of one’s true station in life leads also to idolatry. People turn to idols when they feel insecure with the One that called them into existence to begin with. If people would recognize that we have everything with our Creator they would never turn to a fellow subject of God to find security.
Naboth’s message to Ahab rings true today as it did then. If you are a Jew, don’t throw away your most precious inheritance. No human being should give in to the desire of another person for adulation and worship. And every human being can be sure that the One who created us all can amply provide for all of our needs without the services of one of His subjects.
There is no reason to give your heart to anyone aside from the One who called it into existence to begin with.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal