Ahab has been totally misunderstood by Christians. We think of him as a wimp, but this is wrong. His father Omri was the commander of the army, and you only got that job in those days, if you were physically tough and totally ruthless. Omri killed off all the opposition to become king, and Ahab was his son.
Kings did not last long in those times, so Ahab's twenty-two year reign was a record. He was a successful warrior-king at time when war was fought hand-to-hand. Ahab was mean, tough and strong, and had killed his share of men. He was a bully, not a wimp.
He had married Jez for political convenience. He needed a peace treaty with her father and their marriage was part of the deal. She was a real good-looker, so it did no harm to his image having her around. Most of the time, he let her do what she wanted, but she knew that he was the boss. She was also handy round the house, because she dealt with the garbage.
Ahab was a hard, tough, mean political and military operator, who expected to get his own way. When he asked for something, people would jump to get it. This is why was sulking over the Nab incident (Naboth's name was shortened by everyone, so I will call him Nabs too). Nabs stood up to Ahab and refused to give him what he wanted. That seldom happened, so Ahab sulked. Bullies are like that.
The Nabs incident has been forgotten, so I will tell you what happened. Nabs' great grandfather owned a large prosperous farm near the capital city. An earlier king coveted the farm, so it had been confiscated and added it to the King's estate. The King did not want the hard work of a vineyard, so he had left as an inheritance for Nabs' family.
Nabs was a hard worker and he had turned the vineyard into a very successful business. With the increasing demand for Chardonnay, he was doing very well.
In a corner of the vineyard, a large hole had been cut in the rock. Nabs' father used it for pressing grapes, but Nabs had a new mechanical press, so did not need it. He filled the hole up with water and used it as a swimming pool.
Nabs was a generous fellow, so he allowed the children of the town to come and swim in his pool. He enjoyed listening to the fun and laughter of the children swimming, while he was working in his vineyard. The noise also kept the birds away from the grapes.
Then one day someone said, "Wouldn't it be awful, if Nabs stopped the children from swimming in the pool. Nabs' does not need the pool any more. The king should do something to make sure that our children can swim in it always." This thought seemed to strike a chord with the rest of the townspeople and soon all the important people thought the same.
This talk made Nabs very nervous. His family had already lost most of its inheritance and he did not want to be the one who lost the rest. He took the record of his family's ownership of the vineyard and presented it to the town judge. He was able to trace his family's title Back to the time when Joshua divided up the land. The judge agreed to record his ownership of both the vineyard and the swimming pool.
The townspeople reacted very negatively to the judge's decision. People began to say, "Nabs should not be allowed to stop our children from swimming. The swimming pool should belong to us all.
The pressure was really coming on Ahab to do something, and it was hard for a man of action to do nothing.
The muck really hit the fan when Jez went down to Jericho to speak to the local Rotary club. Many people thought she was manipulating the situation to increase her own popularity, but her talk got a great response. This is what she said.
This Nabs fellow is getting too big for his boots. Why should he and his family have special rights to a swimming pool that other people don't have. We are now one nation. Nabs should not have special privileges, just because his family was around in Joshua's time.
Swimming in the summer is now part of our culture. All children should be able to go and have a swim, whenever they like. This is a basic right of everyone in this town.
We need to move out of the past and into the present. The decisions that Joshua made when dividing the land are not relevant now. Joshua did not have a clue about swimming, as it had not been invented in his day. We cannot let his decisions control the way we do things now. We need to leave Joshua behind, and find a way to live in the modern world.
This speech made Ahab very afraid. He understood political power and knew that you cannot trust anyone, even those who are close to you. He had no real opposition, but Jez might become a threat to his power, if this carried on for too long.
Ahab consulted his lawyers and issued a decree. No individual would be allowed to own a swimming pool. Ownership of Nabs' pool would be vested in the King forever. Ahab would be responsible for managing the pool, but would not be allowed to sell it. Ahab would also allow residents of the town to swim in the pool, whenever he and Jez were not using it.
The lawyers suggested that Ahab throw a sop to Nabs to keep him quiet. He would be allowed to record an "ancestral connection" to the pool. If the pool were ever affected by the Resource Management Act, Nabs could sit in the front row at the hearing.
The townspeople were not totally happy with this decree. They were pleased their children would be able swim in the pool, but they were annoyed that Nabs had been given another special privilege. Many agreed with Jez, that he might use his right of "ancestral connection" to extract a rent from the pool by threatening to hold up progress.
Nabs tried to look on the bright side. He would still be able to swim in the pool because he was a citizen of the town. He would no longer have to pay for the chlorine for the pool. Better still, he was still alive, not like his great grandfather.
On the other hand, he felt like he had been robbed. As he saw it, he did not really own the pool, but held it in trust for his descendants. It was strange, but he felt like he had betrayed that trust. Maybe had made a mistake in putting water in the pool. Perhaps he was wrong in allowing the children of the town to use it.
Ahab decided that the pool should have a grand opening to usher in the new management. The band had just finished playing "Twisting by the Pool" and Ahab was about to make his speech, when Elijah turned up and confronted Ahab.
Elijah was very blunt. "This is what the Lord says: You have stolen this pool from Nabs and his children. You have done evil, so disaster will come upon you. Just as you stole the inheritance of Nabs' children, your reign will be cut short. None of your children will succeed to your throne. And by the way Jez, that smug smirk will be wiped from your face, too"
"Hold on Mate!" said Ahab. "I didn't steal the pool. I have made it available for all the children of the town to use."
"I don't think so!" called a boy sitting in the crowd. "We have been swimming in this pool for years. Nothing has changed, except we are shut out when Jez and her mates are having a pool party".
That crowd laughed loudly. Ahab began to sulk, and the rest is history. Well, not actually. I have twisted the story a little to make a point. I suggest you read 1 Kings 21. You will find that the circumstances are different, but the truth is the same.
1 May 2004
More on the Foreshore and Seabed.