Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, "I will not give you my ancestral inheritance." He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.
His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so sad that you will not eat?" He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'" His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."
So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, "Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, 'You have cursed God and the king.' Then take him out, and stone him to death." The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel wanted. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, "Naboth has been stoned; he is dead."
As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, she said to Ahab, "Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead." As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
To my words give ear, O Lord,
attend to my groaning.
Heed my call for help,
my king and my God! (R./)
At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you.
For you, O God, delight not in wickedness;
no evil man remains with you;
the arrogant may not stand in your sight. (R./)
You hate all evildoers.
You destroy all who speak falsehood;
The bloodthirsty and the deceitful
the Lord abhors. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you."
In today's first reading, the Book of Kings describes the judicial murder of the innocent Naboth as a glaring example of the misuse of royal power. Queen Jezebel's total disregard for the human rights of ordinary people shows how far institutional authority can be abused. That her husband, King Ahab, condoned the violent seizure of Naboth's vineyard arouses indignation in our hearts. Their combined crime cried out to heaven for vengeance. It was a classic case of man's inhumanity to man.
Jesus invites us to live by a totally different guideline, not to impose our will on others and not repay evil with evil, but to show mercy and goodness instead. The worst instinct in nature is to mistreat those who have intended us nothing but good. The crucifixion of Jesus is the supreme example of that. It is a much nobler instinct to seek to resolve evil through goodness. This divine instinct of patience and goodwill was what prompted Jesus, who endured the evil that was done to him and responded with love. Basically, he lived and died to overcome evil with good.
It is almost impossibly hard to stay patient if we feel that others have done us harm, or to remain loving in the face of unfairness, or faithful in the face of infidelity. Nobody could live by these ideals without a special grace from God. We need that grace and the strength of the Spirit, to consistently follow the pacifist and peace-making lifestyle proposed by Jesus.