We've all heard the story of what may be the very first recorded eminent domain action -- or at least the first case of eminent domain abuse -- the Old Testament's telling of the story of Naboth's Vineyard.
You remember: Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard that had been in his family for a while, but King Ahab wanted to make better use of the land to plant his own stuff. So he offered to buy it, but Naboth said no. So Ahab's wife Jezebel (yeah, that Jezebel) told him "King up, man, you are the King. And it's good to be the king. We'll get that land." So she plotted, and cooked up some false charges against Naboth. And after he was stoned to death, the King grabbed the land.
King James said it better:
And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. 3And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. 4And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread. 5But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? 6And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.
7And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.8So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.
. . . .
15As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.
Mission accomplished, Ahab. But at a cost. (Read on if you want to find out what happened to Ahab as a result of his abuse of his sovereign power. In sum, it wasn't pretty for Ahab. Or more precisely, Ahab's progeny. Very Old Testament.)
We recite all of the above because according to this story ("Naboth’s Vineyard Unearthed at Tel Jezreel?"), archaeologists think they may have discovered a winery in the old town of Jezreel. And where there's a winery, there must be grapes, no?Cut into limestone bedrock at the foot of Tel Jezreel, this ancient winery complex sits in the vicinity of the military enclosure overlooking the fertile slope that belonged to the agricultural hinterland of ancient Jezreel. Is it possible that this winery was associated with the Biblical Naboth’s vineyard? Did the adjacent field once produce sweet grapes?Fascinating.
The first clue to this question is the king’s palace that allegedly stood near the vineyard (and the ancient winery?). Although Biblical translations routinely speak of a “palace,” the Hebrew word heikal is better translated as “military structure,” which is precisely what archaeologists have discovered up on the hill just above the ancient winery at Tel Jezreel.
For more, see Gideon's Trumpet, "Eminent Domain in Jewish Religious Law."