Archive for the ‘2 Kings 8’ Category

The Family of Hosea and the Restoration of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART II

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Hosea 1:2-2:1 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 1:2-2:3 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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When I began my preparation for writing this post, I read the text aloud.  While doing so, I got theological whiplash.  Late in the reading, I also detected evidence of subsequent, Judean editing of the text, as in 1:7 and 1:10-2:1/2:3.  (I wrote about reasons for subsequent, Judean editing in the original text of the Book of Hosea in the previous post.)

Adultery and prostitution, in the Bible, are sometimes simply adultery and prostitution.  On other occasions, they are not literal references, but metaphors for idolatry.  And, on other occasions, they are both literal and metaphorical.  Regarding Gomer, the third option is germane.

Idolatry was widespread in ancient Israel.  Polytheism was ubiquitous in the ancient world, so monotheism was an outlying theological position.  Canaanite religion was popular in ancient Israel, much to the consternation of God, God’s prophets, and pious priests.  Pious priestly religion and folk religion were quite different from each other.  The cult of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god, entailed shrine prostitution, to ensure continued fertility and productivity of the soil, officially.  Gomer (“to complete,” literally) was probably one of these prostitutes.

A competing scholarly opinion in commentaries holds that Gomer was a different type of prostitute.  Some books I consulted suggested that she may have resorted to prostitution out of economic necessity, that her alternatives may have been starvation and homelessness.  These scholars write accurately that many women in patriarchal societies have found themselves in this predicament, and that, in Gomer’s society, women lacked property rights.

Gomer being a shrine prostitute fits the metaphor in the Book of Hosea better.

Metaphorically, God’s covenant with the Jews was a marriage.  Worship of Baal Peor, therefore, constituted infidelity.  God was, metaphorically, her husband, and the Jewish people were God’s wife.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer dramatized the divine indictment of Israel.  The prophet played the role of God, and Gomer took the role of Israel.  The children of Hosea ben Beeri and Gomer bath Didlaim bore names that revealed God’s terse messages.

  1. The first son was Jezreel, literally “God sows.”  Jezreel was a city (as in Joshua 15:56) and a valley (as in Judges 6:33).  Apart from the Book of Hosea, this place name occurred in Joshua 15, 17, and 19; Judges 6; 1 Samuel 25, 27, 29, and 30; 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4; 1 Kings 4, 18, and 21; 2 Kings 8, 9, and 10; 1 Chronicles 4; and 2 Chronicles 22.  The city of Jezreel had a bloody past.  There, for example, Queen Jezebel had plotted the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21).  And, when King Jehu founded the dynasty to which King Jeroboam II belonged, Jehu did so by assassinating the entire royal court at Jezreel.  What had come around was coming around, God warned.  In 747 B.C.E., King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, died after reigning for about six months.  His life and the House of Jehu ended violently when King Shallum staged a palace coup.  About a month later, King Shallum died in another palace coup (2 Kings 15:11-15).  Hosea, by the way, disagreed with the perspective of 2 Kings 9-10, the author of which held that God had authorized Jehu’s revolution.
  2. Lo-ruhamah was the daughter of Hosea and Gomer.  The daughter’s name meant “not accepted” and “not shown mercy.”  (Poor girl!)  God refused to accept or pardon the House of Israel.
  3. Lo-ammi was the second son.  His name meant “not My people.”  (Poor boy!)  The House of Israel had ceased to be God’s people.

Pronouncements of divine judgment continued after 1:9.  But first, in 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification), came an announcement of divine mercy.  Those God had just condemned as not being His people would become the Children of the Living God, shown mercy and lovingly accepted.  This passage may have been a subsequent insertion into the Book of Hosea.

The juxtaposition of material serves a valuable theological purpose.  It reminds us that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Therefore, do not abandon all hope or presume on divine mercy; God both judges and forgives.  I recognize this balance without knowing where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer also dramatized God’s continued yearning for Israel.  R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

Hosea speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final words remain with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

History offers a complicating factor.  John Adams, while defending the accused British soldiers charged in the so-called Boston Massacre, said,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

  1. The Assyrian Empire absorbed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.  A mass deportation followed.  This was not the first mass deportation.  A previous one had occured in 733 B.C.E., when that empire had claimed much of the territory of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  2. Many refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel fled south, to the Kingdom of Judah after these events.  These refugees merged into the tribes of Judah and Simeon.
  3. Many other Israelites remained in their homeland.  Many who did this intermarried with Assyrian colonists, producing the Samaritans.
  4. The Ten Lost Tribes assimilated.  Their genetic and cultural heritage spread throughout the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa, over time.
  5. The two kingdoms did not reunited, contrary to Hosea 1:11/2:2.

Nevertheless, I like what R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, DOMINICAN, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GLYCERIA OF HERACLEA, MARTYR, CIRCA 177

THE FEAST OF UNITA BLACKWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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Tobias and the Angel, On the Road Together   Leave a comment

Above:  Tobias and the Angel, by Wenceslas Hollar

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART VI

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Tobit  5:1-6:17/18 (depending on versification)

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The Book of Tobit is a novella with faulty history and geography.  Regarding geography, making the journey from Nineveh to Ectabana (about 450 miles) in a mere two days thousands of years ago would have been miraculous.  I realize that Azariah/Azarias means “God has helped,” but the geography in the story remains erroneous.

The dog is an odd detail, starting in Tobit 6:2 and again in 11:4.

  1. Dogs were unclean animals and not pets.  Biblical texts mentioned them in negative terms.  (Exodus 11:7; Judith 11:9; Luke 16:21; Proverbs 26:17; 2 Peter 2:22; Exodus 22:31; I Kings 14:11; 1 Kings 16:4, 21; 1 Kings 19:23-24; 1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 9:10, 36; Psalm 68:23-24; Jeremiah 15:3).
  2. “Dog” was a term of contempt for a human being.  (1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Kings 8:13; Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27)
  3. Sometimes “dog” referred to the wicked.  (Isaiah 56:10-11; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15)
  4. Sometimes “dog” also referred to a male temple prostitute.  (Deuteronomy 23:18-19)
  5. Mentioning a dog in positive terms in Tobit 6:2 and 11:4 was, therefore, odd.  Perhaps it was a remnant of an older folk tale.  In the context of the Book of Tobit, the dog was a second angel in disguise.  

The reference to the fish (Tobit 6:3) that tried to swallow Tobias’s “foot” is one aspect of the story one can explain easily.  We are in the realm of euphemism.  As elsewhere “feet” are really genitals.  (Exodus 4:25; Ruth 3:7; Isaiah 6:2)

The fish-related cure for blindness and method of repelling demons are fascinating aspects of this folklore.  What a fish!

In these two chapters we read of God indirectly setting the healing of Tobit and Sarah into motion.  We also read of Raphael preparing Tobias to marry Sarah.  God has a hidden hand in the Book of Tobit.  God works subtly in this story.  Many of us can cite examples of God’s subtle, hidden hand in our lives and in the lives of others.

The Book of Tobit is partially about wellness.  In this reading, Tobit, Anna, and Sarah are not well.  Tobit is blind, Anna is overwhelmed, and Sarah is at the end of her rope.  By the end of the book, all of them are well.

But what is true wellness?  The best answer I can find comes from Irene Nowell, O.S.B., writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1999):

True wellness is a consequence of humility, the recognition that life and health are gifts from God.

True wellness is heavily spiritual.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Elisha, the Shunammite Woman, and Revolution in Aram   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hazael of Aram

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 LXXXVII

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2 Kings 8:1-15

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If you do a kindness, know to whom you do it,

and you will be thanked for your good deeds.

Do good to a godly man, and you will be repaid–

if not by him, certainly by the Most High.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 12:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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

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

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2 Kings 8:1-6 is a sequel to 2 Kings 4:8-37.  The juxtaposition of the two stories in 2 Kings 8:1-15 reveals (not uniquely–see 2 Kings 6:1-23, too) Elisha’s concern for individuals and geopolitics alike.

Back in 1 Kings 19:15, God had commanded Elijah to anoint Hazael as King of Aram.  Elisha fulfilled that order in 2 Kings 8:7-15.  God’s choice grieved Elisha, properly.  King Hazael came to the throne via murder and went on to oppress Israel from 2 Kings 9 to 2 Kings 13.

The second story invites us to ponder uncomfortable questions about divine purposes.  In following that lead, I seek to strike a balance.  On one hand, I want to acknowledge that God refuses to fit into human theological boxes and categories.  Any God concept that does fit into them is merely an idol and an example of creating God in one’s own image.  On the other hand, I strike to be careful not to depict God as a callous figure.  Whenever I hear many people’s statements that a terrible event must have been the will of God, I cringe at the God of their faith.  No wonder many people reject belief in God!  If I thought that God was like that, I would seek solace in atheism, too.

Theological balance is essential.  I strive for it without knowing where it is sometimes.  Fortunately, I need not rely on my own powers in these matters; grace abounds.  Besides, I doubt that one must pass a canonical examination to receive salvation.  Faith and false certainty are opposites.  Faith leaves much room for many unanswered questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HUGH O’FLAHERTY, “SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF THE VATICAN”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARCELLUS THE CENTURION AND CASSIAN OF TANGIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 298

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLEKSA ZARYTSKY, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1963

THE FEAST OF WALTER JOHN MATHAMS, BRITISH BAPTIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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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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The Reign of King Ahaziah of Israel   Leave a comment

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

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

PART LXXIX

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1 Kings 22:51-53

2 Kings 1:1-18

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Listen therefore, O kings, and understand;

learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.

Give ear, you that rule over multitudes,

and boast of many nations….

Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly,

nor keep the law,

nor walk according to the purpose of God,

he will come upon you terribly and swiftly,

because severe judgment falls on those in high places.

–Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-2, 4-5, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahaziah of Israel (Reigned 852-851 B.C.E.)

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Now seems like a good time to mention duplicate royal names in the dynasties of Judah (southern) and Israel (northern).  Even a cursory scan of the names of monarchs of those kingdoms reveals duplicate names.  Distinguishing between Jeroboam I and Jeroboam II of Israel is easy.  Yet consider, O reader, the use of the names Ahaziah, Jehoram/Joram, Jehoahaz, Shallum, and Jehoash/Joash by monarchs in both kingdoms.  Furthermore, consider that Jehoram/Joram of Israel and Jehoram/Joram of Judah were contemporaries.  And, to make matters more confusing, there were two Jehoahazes and two Shallums of Judah, without Roman numerals to distinguish them.

King Ahaziah of Israel, son of King Ahab of Israel, was a chip off the old block.  The apple did not fall far from the tree.  He was, after, all a scion of two evil people.  King Ahaziah, a practitioner of idolatry, died after falling through the lattice in the upper chamber of his palace at Samaria.  (There was no glass in the windows yet.)  The monarch consulted Baal-zebub, the pagan of god of Ekron, not God.  This final act of idolatry set up a confrontation with Elijah.

The text conveys the meaning that, had King Ahaziah of Israel turned to God, he would have lived and recovered.

The throne passed to a brother, Jehoram/Joram of Israel, with whom we will catch up in 2 Kings 3:1-27 and continue with through 2 Kings 9, in time for the end of the House of Omri, thereby fulfilling 1 Kings 21:20-29.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Accession of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and His Alliance with King Ahab of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Ahab

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 LXXVII

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1 Kings 22:1-50

2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34

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Sovereignty passes from nation to nation

on account of injustice and insolence and wealth.

How can he who is dust and ashes be proud?

for even in life his bowels decay.

A long illness baffles the physician;

the king of today will die tomorrow.

For when a man is dead,

he will inherit creeping things, and wild beasts, and worms.

The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord,

his heart has forsaken his Maker.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:8-12, 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)

King Jehoshaphat of Judah (Reigned 870-846 B.C.E.)

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After the interlude in 1 Kings 21, the narrative left hanging at the end of 1 Kings 20 resumes.

King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah had much in common.  King Jehoshaphat’s son and heir, Jehoram/Joram (reigned 851-843 B.C.E.) had married Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18).  (Athaliah reigned in Judah from 842 to 836 B.C.E.  Read 2 Kings 11:1-20, O reader.)  And Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat shared an enemy–King Ben-Hadad I of Aram.

The verdict on King Jehoshaphat on the Bible is mixed.  2 Chronicles 17 opens by explaining that he was a good ruler zealous for the Law of Moses.  One reads of the strong geopolitical position of Judah and of the monarch’s increasing wealth.  Yet one reads of the alliance (marital, political, and military) with King Ahab.  And one notes the Chronicler’s disapproval of that alliance.

As I have commented in other Biblical contexts, certain texts certain words without explicitly stating the speaker’s tone of voice.  This is unfortunate, for tone of voice is frequently crucial in determining meaning.  Sometimes, however, a text contains hints regarding tone of voice.  One may safely assume, in context, for example, that when the prophet Micaiah spoke in favor of attacking Ramoth-gilead, he did so sarcastically.  

As for the false prophets, according to Micaiah, God spoke through them to lie to King Ahab, to tell the King of Israel what he (Ahab) wanted to hear, to lead to his (Ahab’s) death.  And Ahab died in battle.

Meanwhile, King Jehoshaphat of Judah reigned for a few more years.  And Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became the King of Israel.

One of the recurring themes in the readings for this post is God deceiving people.  Whenever the Hebrew Bible mentions God lying, a text makes clear that somebody deserved it.  The context may be to deliver Hebrews from an enemy or to complete divine judgment previously pronounced.  One makes of these stories what one will.  These accounts are what they are.

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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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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The Call of Elisha   Leave a 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 LXXIV

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1 Kings 19:19-21

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And another said, “I will follow you, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

–Luke 9:61-62, The New American Bible (1991)

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A prophet’s mantle (a robe) was his distinctive garment.  The mantle, made of skin and covered in goat’s hair turned outward, was also an object of power, much like the staff Moses carried.  The mantle of Elijah–later of Elisha–was an important element in some stories, including this one.  

God had given Elijah three tasks to complete in 1 Kings 19:15-18.  Selecting Elisha as his successor was the only one Elijah completed.  As I wrote in the previous post, Elisha completed the other two tasks in 2 Kings 8:7-15 and 9:1-15.

Elisha came from a wealthy agricultural family.  When Elijah arrived, Elisha was working as part of a team plowing a field with a dozen oxen.  His parents must have been upset to learn that Elisha had slaughtered valuable livestock.

Verse 20 contains ambiguous elements.

  1. Did Elisha visit his parents to say goodbye?
  2. Did Elijah rebuke him for asking to do so?

The long tradition of interpretation (both Jewish and Christian) includes many who have said “yes” and “no” in various combinations, as well as those who have answered consistently with “yes” or “no” to both questions.  After consulting commentaries and reading different interpretations, I am uncertain what the text says.  I am inclined, however, to apply Ockham’s Razor to the text.  In context, Elijah’s question seems like a rebuke.  And verse 21 is plain in its meaning that Elisha accepted the call to serve God.

The call to serve God overrides previous commitments that may get in the way.  This is also a theme in the Gospels.  When God calls, draw the boldfaced double lines through your life, O reader.  Label one side “before” and the other side “after.”

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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Posted October 27, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 19, 2 Kings 8, 2 Kings 9, Luke 9

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Elijah in the Wilderness   Leave a comment

Above: Elijah in the Desert, by Washington Alllston

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 LXXIII

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1 Kings 19:1-18

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The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe

and strips the forests bare.

–Psalm 29:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

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Except when the voice of God is a soft, murmuring sound.

There is much going on in 1 Kings 19.  For example:

  1. Let us not forget the hundred unnamed prophets hiding from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in two caves in 18:4.
  2. If Elijah had died in Chapter 19, the prophetic tradition would have continued.
  3. God provided for Elijah in the wilderness, as God had done for Moses and the former Hebrew slaves in Exodus.
  4. Elijah sheltering in the rock calls back to Moses sheltering in the rock (Exodus 33:13-33) when God passed by.
  5. The depiction of God in 1 Kings 19:1-18 is opposite of that of Baal Peor, a storm god.
  6. God told Elijah in so many words, “Stop whining!  Get back to work!”  Then God gave Elijah three tasks to complete.
  7. Elijah completed only one of those tasks.  Elisha completed the other two tasks in 2 Kings 8:7-15 and 9:1-15, after the assumption of Elijah into Heaven.  
  8. Elijah selecting his successor (Elisha) echoes Moses choosing his successor (Joshua son of Nun) in Numbers 27:15-23.

Germane texts offer a mixed critique of Elijah.  As with King David, his record in scripture is more ambiguous than his standard historical reputation.  Such overblown reputations result from the excesses of nostalgia.

Yet such ambiguity should comfort us.  If there was hope for Elijah, for example, there is also hope for us.  Heroic figures were human beings with great flaws and great virtues.  These heroes did much for God.  So can we mortals.

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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