LESSON – NABOTH’S VINEYARD
Open in prayer. Say: Our story today is about King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and a neighbor named Naboth who got in their way. The prophet Elijah is in the story, too. It takes place around three years after God spoke to Elijah back on Mt. Horeb, following the demonstrations of the wind, the earthquake, the fire, and the gentle whisper.
Strengthened and with a new understanding of his God, Elijah went back home to train his successor Elisha, and to continue to speak out against evil. (A successor is the person who comes next, after you are done.)
We’ve already learned a little about Ahab and Jezebel, that they were both very wicked rulers. In fact, here’s the first thing the Bible has to say about Ahab, in 1 Kings 16:30: “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him”.
That’s quite a statement. After the good kings David and Solomon, Israel had a depressing run of mostly terrible kings that lasted over 130 years. What was it that made Ahab the worst of all? After all, he was an Israelite just like Elijah. Though he came to heavily promote the idols that his pagan wife Jezebel brought into Israel, part of him never really stopped believing in the true God, the God who made heaven and earth. And even though he came to think of God’s prophets as his enemies, he believed them when they told him things that God wanted him to know. When confronted by Elijah about something evil he did, the Bible tells us that Ahab was sorry!
He was sorry, all right. Let’s find out why God was so displeased with Ahab.
(Read or have a child read 1 Kings 21 in its entirety.)
Say: Let’s talk about the story. First off, why didn’t Naboth just sell Ahab the vineyard? Ahab offered a perfectly good price for it, and even offered to exchange it for a better piece of property. Wait for answers. Besides loving his home, Naboth knew about God’s laws for the nation of Israel. The laws were there to help and protect the people. According to Leviticus 25:23-34, land was supposed to stay in the same family from generation to generation, and not be sold. Naboth knew that if he sold his family’s land for any price, he would be breaking God’s commandment – he would be sinning!
Say: The Bible says that Ahab was rich. One of his homes was a beautiful white palace inlaid with ivory (1 Kings 22:39). (Does anyone know what ivory is made from? Elephants’ tusks). Ahab could have had just about anything he wanted. Why do you think he wanted his neighbor’s little vineyard so badly? Wait for answers. Maybe one reason, apart from wanting a vegetable garden, was because, just like Naboth, Ahab knew that it was wrong for him to have that vineyard, even through a fair sale or trade – and that knowledge enraged him!
Ask: Have you ever wanted something that belonged to someone else? Wait for answers. Have you ever wanted that thing even more when you realized you couldn’t have it? Have you ever even wished that the person it belonged to would just get out of the way – disappear or even die! – so that you could have it? Unfortunately, many grownups have felt this way at one time or another.
Say: This strong desire is called covetousness. Would someone like to read Exodus 20:17? (“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”)
I’m glad that God loves us enough to warn us about things that can hurt us and others. It’s important that we not let covetousness run away with us like it did with Ahab.
Ask: Would someone like to read James 1:13? “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
The verse in James is talking about spiritual death; but in Ahab’s case, his sinful craving for Naboth’s property led to both Naboth’s physical death and eventually his own!
Say: Let’s take a closer look at Jezebel. If she was so terrible, why did Ahab marry her in the first place? Wait for answers. Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel was what we call a “political alliance”. Much like today, the nation of Israel was surrounded by enemies. Jezebel was a princess from one of those enemy countries. Ahab married her hoping to make her country stop attacking his. It turned out to be not such a good idea, because Jezebel decided that it was her job to wipe out Israel’s religion and replace it with her country’s sinful idol-worship! She went about her work with considerable energy. It is to Ahab’s shame that she nearly succeeded.
Ask: Ahab and Jezebel were both evil, but who do you think was worse? Wait for answers. Ahab was evil, but he was also weak. He was what we would call “a spineless wimp”. Even though he was a grown man, he whined and sulked when he didn’t get his way. Even worse, he was happy to let his wife do his dirty work for him.
Jezebel had the stronger personality and the stronger will. She had grown up in a godless, brutal and bloodthirsty country. God’s laws which offered mercy and protection to ordinary people probably seemed ridiculous to her. Ahab may have seemed ridiculous, too! “Is this how you act as king of Israel?” she taunted as he lay sulking on his bed. Why, she may have wondered, had he even bothered to try and negotiate with an insignificant nobody like Naboth? In her view, if you wanted something, you simply took it – and destroyed anyone who got in your way!
Say: 1 Corinthians 15:33 says that “Bad company corrupts good character.” Ahab doesn’t sound quite as bad as Jezebel, does he? After all, he still believed in God, and in the beginning of the story he tried to negotiate with Naboth.
If only Ahab had chosen a good wife for himself from among his own people, instead of Jezebel, one of the worst women in history! It’s possible that a good queen might have strengthened the little bit of good in Ahab. Instead he allowed Jezebel to influence him for evil. Maybe “overpower” is a better word. Because it was Jezebel who ran the show.
Ask: Have you ever had anyone in your life who others said was a “bad influence” on you? Wait for answers.
Optical Illusion: Draw a picture of Ahab’s face and Jezebel’s face side by side. Or use this one! Each face should be about the size of a silver dollar, and almost touching each other. Have the children make Jezebel’s face boldly drawn and mean-looking (with lots of eye make-up), and Ahab’s face faintly drawn and wimpy (and with a crown). Then have the children hold their “Ahab and Jezebel” sheet up to their faces. Have them slowly move the sheet away from their faces, about the length of a pencil. They will see Jezebel’s bold face cover up Ahab’s faint one!
Say: We must learn from the story of Ahab and Jezebel, and be very careful about who we allow to influence us!
Craft: Make a Spaghetti Picture. From bowls of colored cooked spaghetti, the children can make pictures onto the poster board. The spaghetti contains gluten, which is a natural glue. The gluten will make the spaghetti stick to the paper.
Brain Teases: on whiteboard.
How many words can you find in the word “AUTOMATON”? (Auto, tomato, ton, to, at, a, mat)
What is interesting about the following sentence? “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (It contains all the letters of the alphabet.)