One day, the evil King Ahab of Israel decided that he wanted to plant a vegetable garden. He looked at the land all around his palace in the city of Samaria and finally found a perfect spot that was close by.
Unfortunately, the land Ahab wanted was owned by a man named Naboth. Naboth had inherited the land from his family and was using it for a vineyard.
Ahab decided to visit Naboth.
“Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money,” the king said to Naboth.
According to God’s law, a family’s land was not supposed to be given to anyone outside the family. So Naboth refused.
“The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage,” he answered.
Ahab went home. He was angry about being told no, so he went to bed and refused to eat.
His wife, Jezebel, noticed his bad mood.
“Why are you so sullen that you will not eat?” she asked.
Ahab told her all about his conversation with Naboth.
But Jezebel, who was just as evil as her husband, had an idea. She told Ahab to cheer up and let her fix the problem. She knew of a way to get the king the land he wanted.
So she wrote letters to the elders and nobles who lived in Samaria and put her husband’s seal on the letters so it looked like they were from him.
In the letters, she ordered the elders and nobles to proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people.
“Next,” Jezebel wrote, “set two scoundrels opposite him to accuse him: ‘You have cursed God and king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”
The elders and nobles did just as they had been told. After the two dishonest people falsely accused Naboth of wrongdoing, Naboth was taken outside the city and stoned to death.
When Jezebel learned of Naboth’s murder, she went to her husband.
“Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite which he refused to sell you, because Naboth is not alive, but dead,” she told Ahab.
Now Ahab was very happy. He left his palace to go and claim Naboth’s land for himself.
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1 Kings 21
1. Whose land did Ahab want?
2. How did Ahab get the land?
The last of God’s Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17) warns us that we should not covet our neighbors’ possessions.
But what does “covet” mean?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which helps us to understand the Bible, says to covet is to want things in an unhealthy, unreasonable and sinful way.
Both the Bible and the catechism warn against being greedy. We are not supposed to love things more than we love God.
Each book also says we should not be envious of our neighbors. We are not supposed to be sad and jealous when our neighbors have more things than we do. Those bad feelings could lead us to sin against our neighbors by trying to take their things in unjust ways, like stealing or murdering. Instead, we are supposed to be happy that our neighbors have had good fortune.
There also are certain things belonging to our neighbors that we are forbidden to want, or that we should not want because our neighbors refuse to part with them. According to Exodus 20:17, these things include our neighbors’ spouses, fields, houses, servants and farm animals.
In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Doing this will help us to not covet our neighbors.
St. Bartholomew of Farne (d. 1193) was born in England. He traveled to Norway, where he was ordained a priest.
When he returned home, he joined the Benedictine order and became a hermit on the island of Farne. There, Bartholomew lived a very strict life dedicated to God.
The saint knew when he was going to die and told some other monks. When he died, they buried him on the island.
Bartholomew was known for miracles and holiness, and we remember him on June 24.