Archive for the ‘Elijah’ Tag

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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Tobit’s Blindness and Prayer   Leave a comment

Above:  Tobit and Anna with the Kid Goat, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART III

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Tobit 2:9-3:6

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Dystrus 7 was in late winter, in February.  Dystrus, a Hellenistic month, was also a literary anachromism.

In the story, Tobit was ritually impure after having buried a human corpse (Numbers 19:11-14).  So, he slept outside after washing himself ritually.  In the story, sleeping outdoors led to his blindness.  After two years, nephew Ahikar ceased to support Tobit then moved away.  The titular character, reduced to depending financially on his wife, wrongly accused her of having stolen an kid.  She justifiably objected to his attitude.  Anna, angry with her husband (not God, as was Job’s wife in Job 2:8), questioned Tobit’s virtue.  Then Tobit, like Jonah (Jonah 4:3, 8), Moses (Numbers 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Job (Job 7:15), prayed for death.

The Theory of Retribution, which I have already mentioned and explained in this series, holds that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous.  This perspective pervades the Old and New Testaments.  Without rejecting the Theory of Retribution, I propose that life is more complicated than that.  Many of the wicked flourish and many of the righteous suffer in this life.  One way out of this conundrum is to relocate the ultimate reward or punishment to the afterlife.  Yet the Book of Tobit does not indicate belief in postmortem reward or punishment.

However, I remind you, O reader, of the meaning of the title of this book.  “Tobit” means “YHWH is good.”  The Book of Tobit, in its entirety, depicts YHWH as being very good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 421

THE FEAST OF JAMES MILLS THOBURN, ISABELLA THOBURN, AND CLARA SWAIN, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES TO INDIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COOKE AND BENJAMIN WEBB, ANGLICAN PRIESTS AND TRANSLATORS OF HYMNS

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Jonah’s Anger and God’s Reproof of Him   Leave a comment

Above:  Israeli Stamp of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JONAH

PART IV

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Jonah 4:1-11

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Jonah 4 contains an echo of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4.  One may recall that Elijah, on the run from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel after the events of 1 Kings 18, fled to the wilderness and prayed for death.  One may also recall the tree under which Elijah sat in 1 Kings 19:4.  One may recall, furthermore, that God told Elijah to stop whining and to get back to work.

Jonah was no Elijah.  Jonah was a petty, resentful character.

Many of us may be more like Jonah that we like to admit.  We may become angry at God for forgiving our enemies, or at least those different from us.  We may want to see those sons of so-and-sos get what they deserve, or at least what we think they deserve.  And we may be sufficiently oblivious to our own faults not to realize what we deserve.  We may identify ourselves primarily by who we are not.  Therefore, when those against whom we constitute our identities repent, we may experience a psychological crisis.

God’s words in Jonah 4:10-11 end the book.  The contents of those two verses challenge us who read the Book of Jonah.  Replace Nineveh with a contemporary reference, O reader.  Ask yourself,

Which group of people would I not want to see repent?”

When you have your answer, you will have identified another reason you need to repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT KUNTSEVYCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR, 1623

THE FEAST OF JOHN TAVENER, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN THEN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 12, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 18, 1 Kings 19, Jonah

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The Death and Evaluation 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 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 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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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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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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