So what happens with this plan that has been set in motion by Jezebel? As directed, “The men of the city, the leaders and the nobles who lived there, followed the written orders Jezebel had sent them” (1 Kings 21:11), unaware of the source of the orders, and believing that they had come from the king. With this belief in mind as the story is read, one can surmise that it is doubtful that the original communication that was presumed to have come from Ahab used the term “villains” (at least, not in the way that some tend to think of villains---in reality, they were the unwitting dupes of an oppressor).
Ultimately, the men who carried out these orders would have believed that they were simply acting in accordance with the demands of justice. As far as they knew, and regardless of his honor standing in the community, one would suppose that there would be little reason for them to think otherwise, Naboth had actually done that of which he was accused. Accordingly, they would be predisposed to believe that he was indeed deserving of the rightful judgment that they knew would take place. Jezebel took advantage of this situation. So “They observed a time of fasting and put Naboth in front of the people. The two villains arrived and sat opposite him. Then the villains testified against Naboth right before the people” (21:12-13a), as this would have been a gathering of the entire community, “saying ‘Naboth cursed God and the king.’” (21:13b)
Just as the community leaders were not necessarily complicit in this act of injustice, neither were those who testified against Naboth. Again, as far as they knew, this information and directive came from the king himself. Predictably, “they dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death” (21:13c).
It would seem that this horrible achievement of Naboth’s death was predicated on honor and the meal table. The two “villains” that were set opposite Naboth would be seated to his right and left, in what would likely have been the positions of greatest honor at a meal or any community gathering. These persons that were seated immediately to the right and to the left of the chief seat could also have been presumed to be possessive of even greater honor than the one seated in the host position, and these two men would not have been unknown to the community. If there were unknown, or known to be men of lesser honor, their testimony would not have been acted upon so seriously.
Accordingly then, when these two men, who were undoubtedly well-respected men of the community and not simple villains whose words would carry no weight with the community, offered these words of testimony about Naboth, their testimony would have been presumed to be truthful and would have carried a tremendous amount of weight. Thus the resulting fate of Naboth.
Clearly then, when the opportunity is taken to move past a merely superficial reading of the story of Ahab, Jezebel, Naboth, and the vineyard, one can conclude that the story is less about Jezebel (who is undoubtedly cast as a villain) and Ahab, and much more about the abuse of power, corruption, and injustice that so often accompanies unnecessary acquisitiveness (desire to continually acquire things). It is not primarily (or even necessarily) a story about a rebellious wife usurping her husband’s authority and lording over him, or the story of a weak man and husband, as it is so often portrayed. It is a story of oppression and murder that is brought about by a perverted use of the very provisions of justice that were put in place by the Creator God so as to enable His image-bearers to reflect His glory.