Vineyards and Soccer Fields

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Monday in the week of Proper 19, Year 1 (Pentecost 16, 2015)

1 Kings 21:1-3 ~ 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.”

As the story of Ahab, Naboth, and the vineyard continues, Ahab pouts about Naboth’s refusal, so Jezebel (Ahab’s wife) contrives away to steal the land. Naboth is framed for a religious infraction and then executed by stoning; as the land ends up without an owner, Ahab takes possession of the vineyard. The prophet Elijah, however, condemns the royal conspiracy and Ahab repents. Eventually, the Lord decrees: “Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.” (1 Kg 21:29)

Ahab and Jezebel were not the first rulers to covet the lands of another. That is a continuing pattern of human behavior. Consider this little reported news item from last week: “[Israeli] bulldozers began demolishing Christian-owned lands in the beautiful Cremisan Valley in August to make way for a massive three-story wall that will separate a historic monastery and its monks from the convent, school, and Palestinian people they serve. The monastery and fertile convent fields will be annexed to Israel, which has already taken more than 70% of Bethlehem’s farmland. Fifty-eight Christian families will lose their orchards, farms and livelihoods.” (Independent Catholic News, 11 Sept 2015)

As part of the Israeli confiscation of lands, the building of a soccer field for the children of the Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin (a project being funded by the United Methodist Church) was ordered to stop. In what seems more a biblical metaphor than the official act of a modern nation-state, the halt-construction order was placed under a rock on the field. (See photo here) I wonder if it read, “Give me your soccer field, so that I may have it for a security wall, because it is near my house.” If not, perhaps it should have: the Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land is no more legitimate than Ahab’s and Jezebel’s taking possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

No, Ahab and Jezebel were not the first rulers to covet the lands of another, nor were they the last.