Archive for the ‘2 Kings 2’ Category

The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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Vocation and Spiritual Maturity, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Assumption of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sunday After the Ascension, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the King of glory, who through the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ,

hast opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers;

leave us not comfortless, we beseech thee, in our weary mortal state,

but send unto us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,

to guide us into the way of truth and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 178

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2 Kings 2:1-15

Psalm 42

Colossians 3:1-11

Matthew 28:16-20

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There is only Christ:  he is everything and he is in everything.

–Colossians 3:11b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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For most of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ’s mission was t Jews only.  Certain Gentiles expressed interest, though.  These were some of the God-fearers, who rejected the paganism of their cultures and recognized YHWH as the one true God.  At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus issued the Great Commission:  to go out into all the world, to baptize, and to make disciples in all parts of the world.

Grace is free yet not cheap.  Accepting it imposes obligations upon one.  These include maturing spiritually, as in Colossians 3:5-11.  The list there is representative, not comprehensive.  It points to how we think about and behave toward one another.

Such spiritual maturity also thrives at the high points of life and endures in the depths of despair.  Psalm 42 comes from exile.  Exile can assume many forms.  The longer the COVID-19 pandemic continues, for example, the more it feels like exile to many people, including me.  Souls feel cast down.  They feel thirsty for God.  Spiritual maturity helps one endure the wilderness of despair.

God loves all people and beckons them.  God even predestines some percentage of them to Heaven yet none to Hell.  The extravagant love of God functions as a model for we mere mortals.  Do we love people unconditionally?  Do we love those who are very different from us?  I confess that, at my best, my love falls far short of divine love.  Yet I trust in God, whose grace suffices.  And I strive to do better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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The Death and Evaluation of Elisha   1 comment

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCIII

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2 Kings 13:14-21

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It was Elijah who was covered by the whirlwind,

and Elisha was filled with his spirit,

in all his days he did not tremble before any ruler,

and no one brought him into subjection.

Nothing was too hard for him,

and when he was dead his body prophesied.

As in life he did wonders,

so in death his deeds were marvelous.

For all this the people did not repent,

and they were carried away captive from their land

and were scattered over all the earth;

the people were left very few in number,

but with rulers from the House of David.

Some of them did what was pleasing to God,

but others multiplied sins.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:12-16, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Some translations add two more lines in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:12.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989), for example, tells us:

He performed twice as many signs,

and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.

The first of those two lines is an interpretation of Elisha having requested and received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit in 2 Kings 2:9-18.  (I have covered that passage already in this series of posts.) 

The discrepancy between two sets of translations results from differing texts, in both Hebrew and Greek.  This is not a new issue in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira, as one who reads it closely should know.

The agreed-upon text of Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:12-16 is my guide for this post.

  1. Elisha did not suffer fools easily and did not find proud, powerful people impressive.  He had a healthy attitude in these matters.  It helped him confront authority, as a prophet should.
  2. Verse 13 refers to 2 Kings 13:21.
  3. Working wonders (even when dead) was impressive and gave Elisha his bona fides.
  4. Yet collective sins persisted, and future generations paid the price.  Ten tribes became the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Human nature is a constant factor.  The capacity for obliviousness can shock yet should never surprise.  And sin is both collective and individual.  Only grace can save us from each other and ourselves.  The free will to accept grace and its demands is a gift of grace.  Every road leads to grace, if one drives in the proper lane.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN WORTHINGTON, BRITISH MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER; JOHN ANTES, U.S. MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, COMPOSER, AND MISSIONARY; BENJAMIN HENRY LATROBE, SR., BRITISH MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; CHRISTIAN IGNATIUS LATROBE AND COMPOSER; JOHANN CHRISTOPHER PYRLAEUS, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MUSICIAN; AND AUGUSTUS GOTTLIEB SPANGENBERG, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE-FRANÇOIS NÉRON, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM, 1860

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The Reigns of King Jehoram/Joram and Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah   3 comments

Above:  King Jehoram/Joram of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXVIII

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2 Kings 8:16-29

2 Chronicles 21:1-22:9

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Whoever throws a stone straight up throws it on his own head;

and a treacherous blow opens up wounds.

He who digs a pit will fall into it,

and he who sets a snare will be caught in it.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 27:25-27, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Jehoram/Joram of Judah (Reigned 851-843 B.C.E.)

King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah (Reigned 843-842 B.C.E.)

King Hazael of Aram (Reigned 842-806 B.C.E.)

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Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The critiques of King Jehoram/Joram of Judah are negative.  The longer coverage in 2 Chronicles 21 is more devastating than 2 Kings 8:16-24.  The account in 2 Chronicles 21 even mentions a condemnation by Elijah.  Questions of historicity of the prophet’s message aside, a message from Elijah fits the chronology of 2 Kings.  If one pays close attention, one may notice that King Jehoram/Joram of Judah was already on the throne in 2 Kings 1:17, and that the account of the assumption of Elijah is in 2 Kings 2.

King Ahaziah of Judah, son and immediate successor of King Jehoram/Joram of Judah, also received a negative review.  King Ahaziah of Judah allied himself militarily with his uncle, King Jehroam/Joram of Israel.  They had a common foe, King Hazael of Aram.

Both King Jehoram/Joram of Israel and King Jehoram/Joram of Judah died badly.  The King of Judah suffered from an incurable disease of the bowels and died unloved.  The King of Israel perished in a revolution, to Jehu.

King Ahaziah of Judah also fell victim to Jehu’s revolution.

The insidious influence of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel in the Kingdom of Judah was not burned out, unfortunately.  The Queen Mother, Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, was still alive.  And she wanted to wield power.

The reign of Queen Athaliah will be the topic of my next post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE REFORMATION

THE FEAST OF DANIEL C. ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GERHARD VON RAD AND MARTIN NOTH, GERMAN LUTHERAN BIBLICAL SCHOLARS

THE FEAST OF AUL SHINJI SASAKI, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MID-JAPAN, BISHOP OF TOKYO, AND PRIMATE OF NIPPON SEI KO KEI; AND PHILIP LENDEL TSEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF HONAN AND PRESIDING BISHOP OF CHUNG HUA SHENG KUNG HUI

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Two More Stories of Elisha   Leave a comment

Above:  Elisha Makes the Axe Swim

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXV

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2 Kings 6:1-23

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If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,

let Israel now say–

if it had not been the LORD who was on our side,

when men rose up against us,

then they would have swallowed us up alive,

when their anger was kindled against us;

then the flood would have swept us away,

the torrent would have gone over us;

then over us would have gone

the raging waters.

Blessed be the LORD,

who has not given us 

as prey to their teeth!

We have escaped as a bird

from the snare of the fowlers;

the snare is broken,

and we have escaped!

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

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As one who pays close attention to this series of posts ought to know, I keep asking, in relation to stories, a guiding question:

What is really going on here?

Consider 2 Kings 6:1-7, for example, O reader.

Elisha had a band of disciples.  If we have not known that, we have not paid sufficiently close attention to 2 Kings 2 (in which he inherited it from Elijah) and 2 Kings 4.  Elisha’s disciples lived in a community near Jericho and the River Jordan.

Axe heads were expensive.  One of Elisha’s disciples lost a borrowed axe head in the River Jordan.  Elisha may have poked a stick into the axe head’s hole then lifted the axe head out of the river, as one commentary I read suggested.  If Elisha did that, so be it. How he retrieved the axe head was beside the point.  The prophet spared a disciple from a would-be onerous debt.  Elisha solved one man’s problem.  Such issues mattered greatly to the prophet.

They should matter to us, too.

Elisha also dealt with geopolitical and military issues.  God worked through him to foil Aramean raiders in Israel.  The lavish feast for the raiders, followed by their release, must have astonished King Ben-Hadad I of Aram.  That combination did not dissuade him from besieging Samaria, though.  

That siege, one of the topics of 2 Kings 6:24-7:20, will be the subject of my next blog post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EASTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 1885

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMAUS HELDER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

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Posted October 29, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 2 Kings 2, 2 Kings 4, 2 Kings 6, 2 Kings 7, Psalm 124

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Four Miracles of Elisha   Leave a comment

Above:  The Shunammite Woman and Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXIII

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2 Kings 4:1-44

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In you, O LORD, I seek refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me,

rescue me speedily!

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me!

–Psalm 31:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Miracle stories attested to the bona fides of a prophet, in the cases of Elijah and Elisha.  These miracles were practical in 2 Kings 4.  A poor widow’s children did not become slaves because God, acting through Elisha, enabled their mother to pay her debts.  The Shunammite woman gave birth to a son, who died and whom Elisha restored to life.  Flour neutralized a natural poison.  A hundred men ate from a small quantity of food, and there were leftovers afterward.

One may recall 1 Kings 17 and think of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.  One may detect similarities between that account and the first two stories in 2 Kings 4.

One may also notice a similarity between 2 Kings 4:38-41 and 2 Kings 2:19-22, another miracle story involving Elisha.

One, looking forward, may also detect a similarity between 2 Kings 4:42-44 and Gospel accounts of Jesus feeding thousands of people with a small quantity of food, as well as having leftovers afterward.  The difference between 100 men, in the case of Elisha, and 4000-plus and 5000-plus, in the cases of Jesus, point to the Son of God being greater than Elisha.

I live in a town in a university town in the U.S. South.  College football is the dominant cultus in my community.  (Sports have legitimate places in society, but not as quasi-religions.)  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one could easily stand at a particular intersection near campus on a home game day and see people holding signs reading,

I NEED TICKETS.

Desires are not needs.  Necessities include food, shelter, and clothing.  One can lead a full life without ever attending a football game.  Wisdom entails know the difference between “I want” and “I need.”  If one has wrestled with mortality, one may have a strong sense of what is necessary and what is merely desirable.

The focus on necessities in these four miracle stories reinforces a major teaching in the Bible.  God cares about what we need.  And God frequently provides our necessities via human beings.  There is enough for all people to have a sufficient supply of their necessities at all times.  The problem relates to distribution, not supply.  And the fulfillment of certain desires is harmless while the fulfillment of other desires is dangerous.  The fulfillment of proper desires can improve the quality of one’s life.  That is important.  But desires are still not necessities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Two Stories of Elisha   Leave a comment

Above:  Bears Destroy the Mocking Children

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXI

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2 Kings 2:19-25

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With all your might love your Maker,

and do not forsake his ministers.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 7:30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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A spiritual mentor of mine in the 1990s has continued to influence me.  Whenever Gene analyzed any Bible story, he did so based on the question,

What is really going on here?

One barrier to determining what is really going on here is thinking differently than the people who originally told the stories.  I do not propose to forsake science and other categories of knowledge–far from it!  The ignorance of ancients should not limit the intellectual horizons of anyone who has a pulse.  However, I, as one trained in history, seek to crawl inside the heads of dead people, so to speak.  Then, maybe, I can learn what the text says, what is really going on.

I focus on the story of Elisha and the spring first.  Competing scientific theories offer to explain the problem with that spring.  One theory points to the existence of radioactive springs in the region of Jericho.    This is a geological explanation; water passes through radioactive rock strata.  The water, therefore, becomes radioactive.  Sterility is one side effect of drinking the water.  A competing theory points to the presence of freshwater snails in come springs in the region.  The snails carry a disease that causes high rates of infant mortality.

Regardless of the natural scientific explanation of the problem with the spring, one ought to ponder the difference between the mindset that seeks to explain the problem and the mindset from which the Biblical text emerged.  Ancient Hebrews cared more about the question, “Who?” than the question, “Why?”  A modern, scientific, rationalistic mindset points to the logical problem of making water drinkable by adding salt to it.  I sympathize with that modern, scientific, rationalistic mindset.  I also know that this mindset was alien to the tradition that repeated this story.  The ancient Hebrew mindset assumed that God made the spring water drinkable via Elisha.  That was enough, in that context and from that perspective.   Also in context, the reference to a new dish indicated a magical ritual to symbolize a complete break with the past–with the curse of Joshua (Joshua 6:26), to be precise.

2 Kings 2:23-25 is a disturbing story.  As much as I discourage insulting people for being bald, I disapprove more of the ideas that Elisha cursed rude children and that God sent two bears to maul them.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible indicates that the story emphasizes the importance of treating the man of God with respect.

So, what is really going on here?  The story tells us that Elisha, en route to Mount Carmel (from 1 Kings 18), had full prophetic authority.  Elisha’s ministry offered, in the words of Choon-Leong Seow, writing in Volume III (1999) of The New Interpreter’s Bible,

the possibility of blessings or curses, life or death.

God, acting through Elisha, blessed and worked for life in verses 19-22 and cursed and caused death in verses 23-25.  Elisha called upon God.  God had the power to decide how to act then to act.  Elisha had no control over God.

Nobody controls God.  Fine.  I accept that.  I take comfort in that.  I still reject the suggestion that God sent bears to mangle children.  Then again, I think differently than those who told this story originally.  Their perspectives do not define my point of view.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Assumption and Legacy of Elijah   Leave a comment

Above:  The Assumption of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXX

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2 Kings 2:1-18

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:14b-48:12a

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How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wonderous deeds!

And who has the right to boast which you have?

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Elijah was one of three Biblical characters assumed bodily into Heaven.  The first was Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24).  The third was St. Mary of Nazareth, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven.

2 Kings 2:1-18 contains elements that may require explanation.  For example:

  1. The mantle (robe or cloak) was the physical means of parting the River Jordan, in an echo of the parting of the Sea of Reeds in Exodus 14.  Elijah resembled Moses in that scene.
  2. The request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit was the request to become Elijah’s recognized and equipped successor.  According to Deuteronomy 21:17, the eldest son’s portion of the father’s inheritance was double that any of the any sons received.  Elisha asked for the same right as an eldest son, but not regarding property.
  3. Elisha resembled Moses in a second parting of the waters in 2 Kings 2:14.

I detect nostalgic exaggeration in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:8.  As I recall Biblical stories, God (in 1 Kings 19) ordered Elijah to choose his successor and to anoint the next Kings of Israel and Aram.  1 Kings 19 tells us that Elijah chose Elisha shortly thereafter.  2 Kings 8 and 9 tell me that Elisha anointed the next Kings of Israel and Aram.

Nevertheless, Elijah was one of the most remarkable figures in the Bible.  He became a figure of great importance in messianic expectation.  Elijah also became a symbol of the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36) testified to the greatness of the prophet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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King Ahab’s War Against the Arameans   Leave a comment

Above: Map of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXV

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1 Kings 20:1-43

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God is the opposite of evil,

and life is the opposite of death;

so the sinner is the opposite of the godly.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 33:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

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Ben-Hadad I was the King of Aram from prior to 1 Kings 15:18 through 2 Kings 8:15.  His realm (roughly modern Syria) sat between Israel and Assyria.  Aram also contained precious trade routes.  In the name of protecting these commercial caravan routes, Ben-Hadad I attacked Israel sometimes.  Ben-Hadad I’s campaign in 1 Kings 20:1-22 was an attempt to force King Ahab of Israel to join an alliance against Assyria, forces of which attacked Aram annually.  Ahab also had closed Aramean bazaars (in Samaria since the days of King Omri of Israel, Ahab’s father).

Ben-Hadad I, not dissuaded by defeat at Samaria the first time, attacked again months later.  He lot again.  The text made clear that that God, not Ahab, therefore, had no right to spare the life of Ben-Hadad I, which he did.

A recurring theme repeats in 1 Kings 10:  Disobedience to God’s instructions leads to death.  This death may not occur immediately, but it will happen.

One acculturated to Reformation theology may consider this teaching too close to the works side of the faith-works debate.  We need to acknowledge an irrefutable historical fact:  Hebrews of the 800s B.C.E. were not Protestants.  Also, works matter, not that I object to King Ahab sparing the life of King Ben-Hadad I.

As Amy-Jill Levine says of the Hebrew Bible, people did things differently then.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES A. WALSH AND THOMAS PRICE, COFOUNDERS OF THE MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS; AND MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXI

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1 Kings 17:1-24

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And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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