Naboth (Hebrew: נבות) "the Jezreelite," is the central figure of a story from the Old Testament. According to the story, Naboth was the owner of a plot on the eastern slope of the hill of Jezreel. Described as a small "plot of ground", the vineyard seems to have been all he possessed and lay close to the palace of Ahab, who wished to acquire it to "have it for a garden of herbs" (probably as a ceremonial garden for Baal worship). The king promised compensation, based upon the assumption that Naboth's vineyard was owned in fee simple; Naboth, however, had inherited his land from his father, and, according to Jewish law, could not alienate it. Accordingly, he refused to sell it to the king.
Ahab became deeply annoyed at not being able to procure the vineyard. Returning to his palace, he collapsed in a sulk, lying on his bed, his face to the wall, and refused to eat. His wife, Jezebel, after learning the reason for his depression, (in addition to being irritated at the king's emotional state urging him to return to his entertainment saying mockingly, "Are you the king or aren't you?") promised that she would obtain the vineyard for him. To do so, she plotted to kill Naboth by mock trial, and then told Ahab to take possession of the vineyard as the legal heir.
As punishment for this action, the prophet Elijah visited Ahab while he was in the vineyard, pronouncing doom on him. Ahab humbled himself at Elijah's words, and was spared accordingly, with the prophesied destruction being visited instead on his son Joram.
Elijah's words to Ahab "You have killed and also taken possession" ("הֲרָצַחְתָּ וְגַם יָרָשְׁתָּ") or the expression "Naboth's vineyard" were sometimes used by Jewish medieval scholars to hint double injustice (or crime committed with indecency, as opposed to "simply committed" crime). The Talmud also sees here a link to the prohibition of mixtures of milk and meat in Jewish law.
Roger Williams, the founder of the American colony of Rhode Island and the co-founder of the First Baptist Church in America wrote about Naboth's story in The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience as an example of how God disfavored Christians from using government force in religious matters, such as the religious decrees by Jezebel and Ahab. Williams believed using force in the name of religion would lead to political persecution contrary to the Bible.
In popular culture
Naboth was played by Ludwig Donath in the 1953 film Sins of Jezebel. The 2014 film Leviathan, about a man's struggle against a corrupt mayor's appropriation of his land and house, has been compared by critics to the Naboth story.
- 2 Kings 9:25, 26
- 1 Kings 21:1, 2
- Lev. 25:23
- 2 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 21:19
- 1 Kings 21:28, 29
- 2 Kings 9:25
- James P. Byrd, The challenges of Roger Williams: religious liberty, violent persecution, and the Bible (Mercer University Press, 2002) (accessed on Google Book on July 20, 2009)