NABOTH (Heb. נָבוֹת), owner of a vineyard close to the palace of *Ahab king of Israel (i Kings 21:2). Naboth came from the town of Jezreel. Ahab coveted Naboth's vineyard, but Naboth refused to sell or exchange it, basing his refusal on the tradition that inherited family property cannot be taken out of the family's hands: "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee" (21:3). In order to obtain the vineyard, Ahab's wife *Jezebel fabricated an accusation against Naboth that he blasphemed God and the king (21:10). According to the custom in the Ancient East, the property of a rebel against the monarchy was confiscated and taken into the royal treasury. Evidence of this custom has also been preserved in one of the *Alalakh documents (No. 17). As a result of a staged trial Naboth's property was confiscated and he himself was stoned. Another biblical tradition states that his children were also killed. Elijah the prophet raised his voice against Ahab because of Naboth's execution, and Elijah's scornful words branded Ahab a murderer and robber and foretold the doom of the royal house (i Kings 21:17–24). The story of Naboth serves as an example and symbol of the Israelite's close attachment to his inheritance and his family-tribe tradition. Furthermore, this story points to the limits of royal authority in Israel, which cannot deal arbitrarily with the lands belonging to the people. For this reason Jezebel had to represent Naboth as a rebel against the king and as blaspheming God.
In the Aggadah
Naboth was Ahab's cousin, with the result that the king, by killing Naboth's sons (ii Kings 9:26), could claim his vineyard by right of inheritance (Sanh. 48b). He used to make regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and as a great singer, many followed him. It was because he once failed to make his customary journey that his false conviction took place (pr 25, 127a). Naboth's opportunity for revenge, however, came when God asked: "Who shall entice Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?" (i Kings 22:20–21). It was the "spirit" of Naboth which volunteered for the task (Shab. 149b).
Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1913), 187–8; 6 (1928), 311–2; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 329.