Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sermon Scraps from 6/13: The Days of Elijah, Part II

Today I preached on 1 Kings 21: 1 - 21a. The thing about sermon research is that there are always more jewels than I can or should include in my sermon. For instance, in this week's scripture, I was quite interested in the vegtable garden. Why would Ahab want a vegtable garden? I love gardening, but it seems a bit random within in the text.

In Deuteronomy 11: 10 tells the people, "For the land that you are about to enter to occupy is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sow your seed and irrigate by foot like a vegetable garden." One of the commentaries I read pointed to this verse, indicating that the same phrase (gan hayaraq) is used both in 1 Kings and in Deuteronomy. I believe words like garden and herb would not be rare in the writings of an agricultural society, but his point is well taken. Perhaps we are supposed to read that Ahab's desire for the garden was not purely asthetic. Perhaps we are to read into this text, something akin to the uses of nagas or hanogsim or taskmasters (slavedrivers, etc.) at various times to describe the "unrighteous" kings. This is to say, perhaps, we should read that Ahab's desire for a vegtable garden is actually a plan to enslave his people, to force them to work in his garden, the way the enslaved Isrealites were forced to work by their Egyptian slavedrivers or hanogsim.

So what does all this mean for us? I'm not entirely sure. The writer of 1 Kings was no fan of the Northern kings, but that does not mean there is nothing for us to learn. Maybe we should be reminded that greed often leads to oppression. Ahab was blocked by his desire for the Naboth's land, and it seems that this land would have been used to further oppress his people. Even something as innocent as a vegtable garden can be an instrument of oppression. Maybe we learn that we should always examine our desires--in what ways can we be corrupted to participate in systemic oppression?


  1. Interesting. Could the vegetable garden also be the author’s way of pointing out the pettiness? Ahab "killed" Naboth over a vegetable garden. If the text had merely said that Ahab wanted Naboths Vineyard, we would see a land dispute and many wars have been fought over land, not a surprise. But when the land has an intended purpose of a vegetable garden it lends an air of fatuousness to the situation. Ahab pouts over a simple vegetable garden. Ahab takes the life of another man so he can have a vegetable garden. Hmmmm!

  2. Interesting point. It's true. It's not like Ahab said, 'I want this land to build a hospital for orphans.'