Archive for the ‘2 Kings 9’ Category

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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The Revolution and Reign of King Jehu of Israel   2 comments

Above:  King Jehu of Israel

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 XC

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2 Kings 9:1-10:30

2 Chronicles 22:5-9

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The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers,

and has seated the lowly in their place.

The Lord has plucked up the roots of the nations,

and has planted the humble in their place.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:14-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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

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

King Jehu of Israel (Reigned 842-814 B.C.E.)

Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 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

Dynasties in the northern Kingdom of Israel rose and fell.  I counted five dynasties, as well as four kings who belonged to no dynasty.  Three of the dynasties consisted of only two monarchs.  The House of Omri supplied four Kings of Israel and one Queen of Judah (Athaliah).  The House of Jehu supplied five Kings of Israel.

In 1 Kings 19:15-16, God had assigned Elijah to anoint Jehu the next King of Israel.  Elijah passed that task to his successor, Elisha.  Elisha, in turn, fulfilled it indirectly; he sent a disciple-prophet to anoint Jehu then to 

flee without delay.

The disciple-prophet of Elijah anointed Jehu then did not 

flee without delay.

Jehu presided over a bloodbath that claimed King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah, Queen Jezebel of Israel, all members of the House of Omri in reach, many Baalists in Israel, and 42 mourners of King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz from Judah.  However, Queen Mother Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, remained safe in Jerusalem.  She usurped the throne of Judah and purged as many rival claimants to the throne as she could find.  She did not, however, find her grandson, the future King Jehoash/Joash.  The revolution in Israel occurred during a war against King Hazael of Aram.  The threat of King Hazael persisted.

King Jehu received a negative review in 2 Kings.  

Finding someone to cheer for in this story is extremely difficult.  This is frequently the case in revolutions.  Yes, one says, Side A is terrible.  So is Side B, however.  It is lamentable that the population cannot have good government.  Pity the people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Reigns of King Jehoram/Joram and Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah   Leave a comment

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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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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King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and Naboth’s Vineyard   Leave a comment

Above:  The Stoning of Naboth

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 LXXVI

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1 Kings 21:1-29

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Do not give yourself to a woman

so that she gains mastery over your strength.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 9:2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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

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This is a story about perversion of justice, complete with forging evidence, making a false allegation, arranging for perjury, and having an innocent man executed–for a vineyard.  This is an account of the perfidy of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, both responsible for the death of Naboth and the seizing of his vineyard.  This is a tale of two very wealthy and powerful people not being content with what they had.

King Ahab’s offer to swap vineyards was legal, according to Leviticus 25:29-30.  Naboth, however, had no obligation to accept the proposal.  And he was attached to his inheritance.  That was Naboth’s right.  Besides, Naboth was no fool.  He, a man of independent means, had no desire to become a royal dependent and to reduce his status and that of his family.  Who would want to become a dependent of people of such bad character anyhow?

As one reads the Bible closely for a while, one notices recurring themes.  A few of them recur in this story.  The first theme I notice in 1 Kings 21 is using the letter of the law to cover up perfidy.

The dynamic in the royal marriage is also clear in this story.  Queen Jezebel’s domineering ways are plain.  I do not insist that a wife submit to her husband and that he lord over her.  No, I am too progressive to argue for that chauvinistic standard.  However, I note that Queen Jezebel’s domineering ways worked for injustice in I Kings 21, and that King Ahab was complicit.

On the surface, King Ahab’s offer to exchange vineyards seemed reasonable.  However, the plot to frame Naboth, convict him, execute him, and seize his land was never justifiable, not even superficially.  Nowhere did the Law of Moses forbid cursing a monarch.  Naboth’s sons also died (2 Kings 9:26).  King Ahab and Jezebel had the blood of more than one person on their hands in this case.

Looking ahead, 2 Kings 9 concludes much of the unfinished business in 1 Kings 21.  Perspective is essential when reading the Bible.  To use an anachronistic term, 1 Kings 21 leaves a few Chekhovian guns hanging on walls.  One of them fires in 1 Kings 22.

Another recurring theme in 1 Kings 21 is that we reap what we sow.  Repentance and remorse delay the timing of the sowing, but they do not prevent it.

One may also recognize a recurring theme regarding the falls of dynasties of the northern Kingdom of Israel, going back to the House of Jeroboam I and continuing with the House of Baasha.

The world is rife with injustice, much of official, therefore cloaked in institutional legitimacy.  Power often wears down those who do not have it.  When authority figures who should protect the rights of the people violate those rights, to whom can the people turn for justice?  The promise that God will depose a son of those who trample the people–or just some of the people–may seem like cold comfort indeed.

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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