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prevented the ruin of Israel. We are not told the name of the prophet who came to Ahab on this occasion. Elijah was not employed in this instance ; it might be the Lord's pleasure to shew, that notwithstanding Jezebel's impious attempts to destroy all the prophets, there were still others remaining besides him, and likewise that it was the LORD himself, and not Elijah, who wrought the former miracles, which Ahab attributed to the art and malice of this prophet,
It appears likely, that Ahab, for some time after the slaughter of the heathen priests, forbore to sacrifice to Baal, and reposed confidence in the aid of the LORD
OF AHAB CONTINUED HIS INJUSTICE TO
From 1 Kings, Chap. xx.
After the victory related in the last section, the same prophet went to the king of Israel, and counselled him to strengthen himself against the return of the year'; because at that time the king of Syria would come up again.
The servants of Ben-hadad, on the other hand, had advised him to attack the Israelites in a different way; because, said they, Their Gods are Gods of the hills; but let us fight them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. Ben-hadad followed this advice, and at the return of the year he went forth with an immense army whick filled the country; while the children of Israel pitched-before them like two little flocks of sheep ; but the LORD sent a prophet to assure the king of Israel, N 6
that because the Syrians had said, “The LORD. is God of the hills, but, not of the vallies ;" therefore. He would deliver them into their hands. Thus encouraged, the Israelites, risked, a battle with their formidable enemies, and obtained a complete victory; by which Ben-hadad was reduced to the utmost extremity. This proud king, relying on the mercy of the king of Israel, sent, ambas. sadors to him, to beg his life ; Ahab inconsiderately spared Ben-hadad, and made a covenant with him, for which he was reproved by a prophet; who told him, that because he had, suffered a man to escape whom the Lord had doomed to utter destruction, his own life should go for the life of Ben-hadad, and his people for the people of Syria. Instead of triunsphing for his memorable victory, or receiving the prophet's reproof with humility and contrition, Ahab returned to his house heavy and displeased, as if the Supreme Judge of all men had been too severe in the sentence pronounced
The counsel which Ben-hadad's servants gave, in respect to fighting on a plain instead of a hill, shews us what absurd notions idolatrous nations entertained of their deities.; “ that there were many gods who had each their particular charge or jurisdiction ; that some presided over whole countries, others over particular places, some over rivers, &c. As the Israelites sacrificed on high pluces, built their temple on a hill, and received their law on Mount Sinai, the Syrians 'supposed that JEHOVAH was a God of the hills.” How much more rational iş it to believe, as the Scriptures teach us, that the whole universe was created, and has ever been sustained and governed, by one SUPREME ALMIGHTY Lord, who knows all things, who is every where present, and will hear the prayers of those that call upon him faith.
fully, and will bless them for faith and obedience : who also overlooks the most secret designs of the wicked, and will punish them for sin. The Syrians were taught by their own defeat, that the LORD was God of the plains as well as of the hills, and able to put all those to confusion who trusted in vain idols.
How greatly was the impious king of Syria humbled by the LORD! but Ahab's folly in not pursuing his conquest, and turning it to advantage, is quite amazing.
Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard contiguous to the king's palace, which Ahab was desirous of possessing; he therefore desired that Naboth would either sell it to him, or exchange it for another; but Naboth refused to comply with the king's request, who was so enraged with him, that he returned to his house angry and disappointed, retired to his bed, and refused food. Jezebel understanding the cause of Ahab's uneasiness, reproached bim with want of spirit : and obtaining from him the royal signet, engaged to put him in possession of the vineyard. In order to do so, she wrote letters in Ahab's name to the governors of the place where Naboth lived, to proclaim a fast ; as if they were apprehensive of an impending judgment from God on account of some concealed offender, which could only be averted by public humiliation, and the death of the impious wretch, who, like Achan, provoked the LORD to send a curse on the city. Those to whom the letters were addressed, were wicked enough to comply with the contents. Naboth was pointed out as the suspected person, and brought to the usual place of trial ; false witnesses were easily procured, who accused him of blaspheming God and the king. By the former crime, if it could be proved, his life was forfeited; and by the latter, his, estate was confiscated to the crown. Being furnished with no means
of defence, Naboth was convicted by his unjust judges, and condemned to be stoned to death. There is reason to believe, that his family were all destroyed likewise ; but, happily for them, their persecutors had no power · over their souls ; we may therefore hope that the LORD, who suffered them to be cut off, removed them to a state of felicity, where their inheritance will remain secure to
. In order to understand the dature of Ahab's crime, in respect to Naboth's vineyard, it is necessary to mention a particular part of the Jewish law, of which it was a vio. lation.
Amongst a variety of other commands which Moses received from God on mount Sinai, were some relating to the security of inheritances from one generation to another, agreeably to the first division of them, which was to be settled before the Israelites took entire possession of the land. The intent of these laws was to - teach the Israelites to consider Canaan not as their own absolute right, but as a place sacred to the LORD, for tŘe habitation of the people he had separated to himself; and as the MESSIAH was to proceed from a particular tribe, it was necessary, in order to trace his genealogy, that all the tribes should remain unmixed ; and also that they should transmit their allotted portion to their descendants, lest some tribes should accumulate lands to the impoverishmert of others; but as God foresaw that occasions would arise, which would oblige many to sell their lands, in order to supply those wants which their own imprudence, or Divine chastisement, should reduce them to, He graciously ordained, for the sake of posterity, that none should be rmitted to alienate his land to any but one of his own tribe ; nor for a longer term than forty-nine years, at which time it was to be restored, without expence, to the lawful heir.
Naboth seems to have been in very good circum» stances, and to have made it a point of conscience to preserve his portion entire for his children., Ahab, who was amply provided for, had no right to expect Naboth's compliance; especially as this king was an open idolator, and a contemner of all Divine institutions ; which made it very unlikely that Naboth's posterity would be allowed to claim the restoration of their land at the appointed time, if it were annexed to the royal gardens.
It is probable, that Naboth was one of the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal ; we can not therefore wonder at Jezebel's inveterate malice towards him, when we consider her character. Ahab testified his approbation of Jezebel's conduct in this shock.. ing transaction, by which he made himself a partner in her guilt. He certainly must have known when she obtained his seal, that it was for some fatal purpose ; and when she invited him to take possession of the vineyard, he would naturally suppose she had caused Naboth to be put to death; yet with savage joy he obeyed her summons, and went, it seems, triumphantly, as if it was justly forfeited to him by the crimes of the late possessor. Ahab was soon reminded that all his actions, and the wicked motives of them, were open to the eye of God for the prophet Elijah was sent to accuse him for the murder of Náboth and his family on the very spot; and to denounce a sentence, which must have been particular. larly shocking to so proud a man; that the LORD would bring evil upon him, would cut off his posterity, and that dogs should lick his blood, in the place where Naboth was slain, and also that dogs should eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. In hearing these evil tidings Ahab shewed great signs of ance ; he rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth, and humbled himself; and the Lord, on this account, was pleased to suspend the execution