I Kings 21:7
Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” NIV
One of the things that makes this project challenging, and interesting at the same time, is that the word “worry” does not appear, even once, in the King James version of the Bible. All the same stories are there, of course, as translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, but, it appears to me that at the turn of the 16th century in England, the word “worry” was not in as wide a use as it is today.
I checked that out on the Web, and found one source, “The Word Detective,” that claims that the use of the word worry in the context of “to make or to be consistently anxious,” came into being in the early 1800s. The site also says, and this is fascinating to me, that the original meaning of the word in Old English was “to strangle.” I need to ponder that one.
In the meantime, this morning, I decided to look at the New Living Translation, expecting, correctly, that it would have translated some words to the word “worry” that other versions have not. That’s where I found this verse. The NLT translates this verse, “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” NLT
As I read the whole story of King Ahab, it seemed to me that he wasn’t worried, as much as he was just plain spoiled.
Ahab sets his heart on a vineyard that is close to his castle. He thinks it will make a lovely vegetable garden. He goes to the vineyard’s owner, Naboth, and asks him to give the land to the king. In return, Ahab promises Naboth a better vineyard, or, he tells him, he will gladly pay for the land.
Naboth declines the king’s offer. “Not on your life!” he says in verse 3, “So help me God, I’d never sell the family farm to you!” MSG
King Ahab goes back to the castle, which is right next door to the vineyard. Verse 4 says, “he went to bed, stuffed his face in his pillow, and refused to eat.” MSG
He hasn’t gotten what he wanted, and he’s been insulted in the process. He is the king of Israel, and, one of his subjects, instead of gladly granting his wish, has had the nerve to stand up to him.
What happens next is fascinating.
Jezebel comes in, delivers her speech, and then arranges for Naboth to be publicly maligned and stoned to death. After he is dead, she goes to the king and tells him that the vineyard is now conveniently available. Verse 16 says, “The minute Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he set out for the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, and claimed it for his own.” MSG.
No remorse, no “What have you done?!?” He just goes out to the vineyard, and, presumably begins planning where he’ll put the tomatoes.
The rest of the story is long and complicated, and doesn’t end well for Ahab’s family. Very sad.
Ahab wants something. There is a barrier. He is completely distressed by the barrier. It seems to him that life is not worth living if the barrier cannot be bridged. Perhaps, he even feels “strangled” by his unfulfilled want. Ultimately, he and his wife take matters into their own hands and break down the barrier in order to achieve the goal, paying no mind to the hurt they inflict in the process. The goal is achieved, and, as you read on, life still is not really worth living for Ahab.
This is a pretty effective lesson. Whatever it is that we’re worried about, or that we think we want, isn’t worth it. Our ultimate goal here needs to be to serve God, to commune with Him and to do His work. We shouldn’t waste our time pining after what someone else has, or something that we think we want.
That’s what I’ll think about today.