Why Naboth had a Vineyard

1 Kings 22:1: Some time passed after these events. Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard; it was in Jezreel next to the palace of King Ahab of Samaria.

Yet another fascinating archaeological discovery tells us why Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard — because Jezreel was full of wine-production in biblical times, something that comes straight out of a vineyard, plus, we know there were vineyards in Jezreel. In essence, archaeology has helped confirm another story in the Bible (which made some headlines in the last week) as well as increased our understanding of the texts. It seems as if not a single year goes by without archaeology affirming yet another narrative in the most important book to all Christians in the world.

In 1 Kings 22, we are told the story of a man named Naboth, who had a vineyard in Jezreel that he inherited from his father. The king, Ahab, sees Naboth’s vineyard and wants it, so he offers up some silver to Naboth in order to purchase it from him. Naboth rejects the kings silver, unwilling to sell off his inheritance. Ahab gets bitter about it, lies on his bed and refuses to eat, which catches the attention of his wife, Jezebel. Jezebel finds out why Ahab is having a bad day, and stages a mock trial to execute Naboth so her husband can get the vineyard. Jezebel’s mock trial works out, Naboth is stoned based on false charges of cursing God, Ahab hears about it and possesses the now ownerless vineyard formerly belonging to Naboth.

God saw the entire thing. God ends up delivering a prophecy of destruction to Ahab on his household through his prophet, Elijah, and the story continues from 1 Kings 21-22. Now, according to the archaeologists excavating Jezreel, because we know that in fact there were vineyards in and around Jezreel as the Bible notes and that their purpose was to supply national commodities like wine, we have good enough reason for considering the narrative as historical. God is great!

Is The Lake Of Fire In The Old Testament?

The most fearful thing for an unbeliever is being cast by God into the lake of fire. As Hebrews 10:31 illustrates, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The human fear of God and judgment is readily noted throughout our Bible, and it’s something that most of us all likely have come about. But what if… Later biblical authors just made it up?

Recently, I’ve been coming across the claim by non-believers that I’ve been talking with that say the concept of eternal torture in the afterlife is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament, and thus, is a New Testament invention as the biblical tradition continuously became more exaggerated with the passing of time. So, I took to studying the Old Testament in some way, and see if this claim stacks up. I’ve come across this claim by many people in many contexts, and so this is certainly one of those online skeptic classicals.

Firstly, before we see what the Old Testament has to say, we need to understand what the New Testament says about the eternity of torture in the afterlife. Although people refer to this as hell, in the entire Bible, this is most certainly not hell. Hell is not a place of eternal torture, biblically speaking, it is the lake of fire that is the place of eternal fire and tortureIn fact, towards the end of the New Testament, we are not only specifically told that hell and the lake of fire are two different things, but we are told that hell and death will literally be cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:14: Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

So, the final place of unrelenting agony is the lake of fire, not hell. So, how does the New Testament actually refer to the place of hell anyways? In reality, the actual English word hell only came into existence in the 8th century AD from Germanic derivation. Thus, it becomes immediately clear that the New Testament never refers to hell in the original Greek language, that term is only found in our modern English translations. In reality, the original Greek uses a single specific term for ‘hell’, that is, hades.

Hades is a place deep within the Earth where the souls of all the wicked dead lay after their death, and stay there until they are cast into the lake of fire by God, where they will be tortured in fire forever. Now that we’ve clarified this, the question becomes if the concept of the lake of fire (an eternal torture and fire) appears in the Old Testament. The deniers say it doesn’t. What does the Old Testament say?

Daniel 12:2: Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt.

In this verse, things become quickly clear. We are told that some people are resting in the “dust of the earth” (sheol), and soon, they will either depart to one of two places, either eternal life or eternal contempt (an eternity after death either way). The places of eternal life and eternal contempt appear to be opposites — eternal life being heaven, and eternal contempt being the lake of fire. It does appear, from this verse, that the concept of an eternal torture awaiting the wicked does appear in the Old Testament. There are more verses to examine, of course, before relenting in our study.

Jeremiah 23:40: I will bring on you everlasting disgrace and humiliation that will never be forgotten.”

Again, we see another explicit reference, by God Himself in this verse, where God will throw someone into some form of eternal unpleasance. These two aforementioned verses do not yet speak of an eternal fire, but there is one last verse to look at before deciding on whether or not the skeptics are right about this.

Isaiah 66:24 “As they leave, they will see the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against me; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.”

The last verse of Isaiah’s book tells us that some people will be in an undying fire after death, a place where their worm will never die (see Jesus speak in Mark 9:48). This verse unambiguously declares the unrighteous will enter into an eternity of fire and doom in the afterlife, consistent with both what we know from Daniel 12:2 and Jeremiah 23:40. Interestingly, another verse (Isaiah 50:11) also says that God says to the wicked “you will lie down in a place of torment.” So, I think it’s clear now that the lake of fire is explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, hence, not a later invention that comes about through the advent of the New Testament. Thus, the skeptics turned out to be wrong.

The Old Testament and the Tel Dan Inscription

 

In the last century, there has been perhaps numerous paradigm shifts in academia in relevance to the historical reliability of not only the Bible in general, but the Old Testament as well. These paradigm shifts all came, one after another, as archaeology continued to progress in uncovering the ancient world, revealing countless ancient cities, their prominence, and the discoveries of tens of thousands of ancient texts and inscriptions. All these numerous findings have caused our knowledge of the ancient world to simply explode. Some of these marvelous discoveries including the finding of over ten thousand tablets in ancient Ebla, the discovery and excavations of the ancient city of Avaris (biblical Rameses) by Manfred Bietak, and perhaps more recently, the discovery of the Tel Dan Inscription.

Few archaeological discoveries have been as significant as the finding of the Tel Dan Inscription in the last 100 years. This single artifact was discovered in 1993 in excavations at the ancient site of Tel Dan,  biblical city of Dan (mentioned in verses like 1 Samuel 3:20). Indeed, after the publication of this basalt stone, the idea of biblical minimalism was plunged, and a paradigm shift in the way academics view the historicity of the Bible underwent. It is now unanimous amongst scholars that the Tel Dan Inscription is translated something like as follows;

  1. […] and cut […]
  2.  […] my father went up [against him when] he fought at […]
  3. And my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors] and the king of I[s-]
  4. rael entered previously in my father’s land. [And] Hadad made me king.
  5. And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven […-]
  6. s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
  7. riots and thousands of horsemen. [I killed Jo]ram son of [Ahab]
  8. king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iah son of [Jehoram kin-]
  9. g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
  10. their land into [desolation …]
  11. other [… and Jehu ru-]
  12. led over Is[rael … and I laid]
  13. siege upon […]

The Tel Dan Inscription was found by accident in northern Israel, and dates to the middle of the 9th century BC, uncovered in excavations at ancient Tel Dan, directed by Avraham Biran, a man who unfortunately passed away not too long ago at the age of 98. The significance of the Tel Dan Inscription is voluminous, for both the history of ancient Israel and the great Bible. For example, it is one of the only large writings we possess from the ancient biblical kingdom, and thereby gives us information about literacy at the time. But of course, even more important than that is that it has expanded our understanding and confirmation of the historicity of the Old Testament. Indeed, the Tel Dan Inscription has proven two segments of the Bible, one very major.

Image result for tel dan inscription house of david

Perhaps the first, more well-known and most important, is the phrase “House of David” on the 10th line of the Tel Dan Inscription. The Tel Dan Inscription is our earliest ancient artifact ever discovered to reference the existence of King David, the second king of Israel, the man who slew Goliath, and who established the kingdom of the holy land himself as lead by God. As the prominent archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel has noted;

The Tel Dan stele ended the first phase of the debate regarding the historicity of the Hebrew Bible.

The inscription speaks of the “house of David”, a reference to the Davidic dynasty. According to the renowned scholar Alan Millard who comments on this phrase of the Tel Dan Inscription;

A dynasty was named after its founder, a real man.

Millard specifically noted that in ancient history, the people from the past would name their dynasties off of their living kings for times to come, and thus the fact that David is not only mentioned in this ancient inscription, but is revealed by it to have had a dynasty named after him, speaks extraordinarily strongly that this man did in fact exist, as is now the view of virtually all scholars in the field. This major finding has proven that David, the man lead by God in many of his endeavors, did in fact exist.

There is of course a second contribution of this text to the historicity of the Bible that is well-known in scholarship, but is not as known to the public because it is completely overshadowed by the enormity of being the first discovery to have established the historicity of David. Let us now take turn to what God told us in the story of 2 Kings 9:1-29. Here, we are told that a prophet of God named Elisha came to a man and army commander named Jehu, and anointed him to be king over Israel. However, at the time, Joram was the king of Israel and Ahaziah was the king of Judah (the divided monarchy). So, Jehu took off on his chariot, and in perhaps a single day, slew both Joram the king of Israel and Ahaziah the king of Judah. This magnificent battle and short biblical narrative is vividly affirmed in the Tel Dan Inscription.

Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah would both have died about 850-840 BC, making the Tel Dan Inscription virtually contemporaneous to their deaths. In lines 7-9 of the Tel Dan Inscription, someone is said to have killed the king of Israel named […]ram, and the king of the house of David named […]iah. The only biblical king to ever have their name end with ‘-ram’ is Joram, as pointed out by the great egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen in his book On the Reliability of the Old Testament;

In the whole series of the kings of Israel, there is one and only one king whose name ends in -ram, and that is J(eh)oram, son of Ahab, circa 852-841 [B.C.]. Therefore it seems at the present time inevitable that we should restore here “[J(eh)o]ram son of [Ahab], king of Israel.” (pp. 36-37)

And as Kitchen continues to write, he also affirms that the only king of Israel/Judah at the time of the Tel Dan Inscription whose names ends with -iah is Ahaziah, king of Judah. In other words, this virtually contemporaneous document to the events of 2 Kings 9 clearly documents the death of two kings of Israel at the exact same time, both Joram and Ahaziah, just as the biblical narrative records it to have occurred. Indeed, we can consider this biblical battle virtually affirmed by the archaeological record. However, the question arises — if the Bible is simply recording plain history in its common events, such as those recorded in 2 Kings 9, shouldn’t we expect that the biblical authors were doing anything but writing biblical history as they knew it? In fact, the existence of Jehu, the man whom the Bible says to have slain Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah, has been confirmed some time ago as well, as his existence as the king of Israel was recorded by the Assyrian inscriptions of the emperor Shalmaneser III.

Truly, the Tel Dan Inscription is a blessing from God and has helped us further establish the historical veracity of the biblical narratives. Countless discoveries in recent times further helps us to shed more and more light on the biblical texts, and this seems to have no signs of ending, halting, or even slowing down in the near future (on the other hand, it has been speeding up in the last decade or two, especially since 2015). Glory be to God.

1 Samuel 17:37: And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine ” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.”