Archive for the ‘Elisha’ Tag

The Death and Evaluation of Elisha   1 comment

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XCIII

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2 Kings 13:14-21

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It was Elijah who was covered by the whirlwind,

and Elisha was filled with his spirit,

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

and no one brought him into subjection.

Nothing was too hard for him,

and when he was dead his body prophesied.

As in life he did wonders,

so in death his deeds were marvelous.

For all this the people did not repent,

and they were carried away captive from their land

and were scattered over all the earth;

the people were left very few in number,

but with rulers from the House of David.

Some of them did what was pleasing to God,

but others multiplied sins.

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

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

He performed twice as many signs,

and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

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

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

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The Revolution and Reign of King Jehu of Israel   3 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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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 Aramean Siege of Samaria   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins of Samaria

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 LXXXVI

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2 Kings 6:24:-7:20

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Put not your trust in princes,

in a son of man, in whom there is no help.

When his breath departs he returns to his earth;

on that very day his plans perish.

–Psalm 146:3-4, 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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The Aramean siege of Samaria caused dire circumstances in the city.  People discussed cannibalism openly.  Food prices were high.  And King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, for a brief time, blamed the calamity on Elisha, whom he ordered executed.  Then the monarch changed his mind and assigned blame to God.  Elisha lived for a few more chapters of 2 Kings.

One may legitimately wonder how God delivered Samaria from the siege.  Did the deity deceive the Samarian army or did they perceive an invisible army from God?  The answer to that question may be interesting, but it is also irrelevant.  The germane answer is that God ended the siege.  “Who?” is the operative question in these stories.

Did God cause the siege of Samaria?  No.  Ben-Hadad I did.  God ended it.

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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This is post #2350 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Posted October 30, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 2 Kings 6, 2 Kings 7, Psalm 146

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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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The Healing of Naaman   Leave a comment

Above:  Naaman

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 LXXXIV

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2 Kings 5:1-27

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Pride was not created for men,

nor fierce anger for those born of women.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:18, 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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Given that I have already covered various elements of this story in previous posts, I choose to:

  1. narrow the focus on this post, and
  2. refer you, O reader, to follow the tag “Naaman” and the category “2 Kings 5” for other comments on this story.

The Gospel of Luke, with its pro-Gentile theme, is unique among the canonical Gospels in having Jesus cite the healing of Naaman in the Rejection of Nazareth story (Luke 4:27).  In that version of a story also present in Matthew and Mark, the hometown crowd turned on Jesus after he made comments indicating divine openness to Gentiles.  (For the other canonical versions of the Rejection at Nazareth, read Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-58.)

Perhaps the most overlooked theme in 2 Kings 5 is the sanctity of the land of Israel.  This sanctity explains the sufficiency of the River Jordan and the insufficiency of the rivers in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Naaman concluded that he could worship the sole deity only on the sacred land, and never in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Elisha had no objection to Naaman worshiping in pagan temples in Aram after having professed faith in the one God, YHWH.

I am a monotheist–a Christian, to be precise.  I worship God, my understanding of whom depends heavily on Judaism.  I worship God in the State of Georgia, U.S.A., far from Israel.  I also live within walking distance of the local synagogue.  I feel confident in saying that the members of Congregation Children of Israel worship God in Athens, Georgia.  I detect a change in theology between the time of the original telling of 2 Kings 5 and much of the rest of the Bible, as well as between the time of the original telling of the story of the healing of Naaman and today, October 29, 2020.  If one accepts that God–YHWH, Adonai, El Shaddai, et cetera–regardless of the name one prefers to use–is the sole, universal deity, one may also accept that one can worship God from any geographical location.  God is not a tribal or national deity, after all.

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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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 Reign of King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, with the Rebellion of Mesha   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoram/Joram 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 LXXXII

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2 Kings 3:1-27

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…in all his days [Elisha] did not tremble before any ruler,

and no one brought him into subjection.

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

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

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

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel received a mostly negative evaluation in 2 Kings 3:1-3.  His father, King Ahab, had ordered the construction of pillars in honor of Baal Peor.  King Jehoram/Joram ordered their destruction.  That was positive.  Nevertheless, Elisha had no use and little time for the King Jehoram/Joram.

The geopolitical situation was as follows:  Israel and Judah were allies.  Their royal families had married into each other.  Israel dominated Moab, the king of which, was Mesha.  Judah dominated Edom.  King Mesha of Moab sought to cease being a vassal of the King of Israel.  King Jehoshaphat of Judah feared that, if King Mesha succeeded, the King of Edom would also rebel.

Mesha’s revolt succeeded.  At first, the Israel-Judah coalition seemed poised to win the conflict.  When Moabites saw the reflection of red sandstone mountains in water, they mistook the sight for pools of blood.  Then the coalition forces attacked.  After Mesha made his firstborn sone and his heir a human sacrifice, the coalition forces lost and retreated.  The Mesha stele has confirmed some of these details.

Mesha assumed that this god Chemosh was angry, hence the subjugation of Moab to Israel since the reign of King Omri.  The King of Moab understood himself to be appeasing this deity.

One interpretation of the story assumes that the wrath of Chemosh against coalition forces drove them out of Moab.  Or maybe the story assumes that that the wrath of YHWH against Israel for violating the prohibition against scorched-earth warfare drove coalition forces out of Moab.  One may legitimately wonder, according to 2 Kings 3:27, whose “great wrath” came upon Israel.

In simple terms, the question is one of monotheism versus monolatry.  Monotheism, of course, affirms the existence of only one deity.  Monolatry accepts that other deities exist yet rejects the worship of them.  The question of whether the original intention of a particular verse in the Hebrew Bible indicated monotheism or monolatry is one a person can trace by comparing commentaries.

I cannot read the mind of the author of 2 Kings 3:27.  I know, however, that strict monotheism in Jewish folk religion (as opposed to priestly orthodoxy) became prominent after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile.  I know that, for a very long time, many Hebrews in ancient Judah and Israel assumed that other peoples had their gods.  I suppose that the author of 2 Kings 3:27 may have thought that Chemosh had power in Moab.

If so, I point to another example of why some ancient perspectives in the Bible should not define my thinking.  On the other hand, if the wrath was that of YHWH, according to the author of 2 Kings 3:27, my previous point does not apply in this case.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Two Stories of Elisha   Leave a comment

Above:  Bears Destroy the Mocking Children

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART LXXXI

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2 Kings 2:19-25

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With all your might love your Maker,

and do not forsake his ministers.

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

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

What is really going on here?

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

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

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

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

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

the possibility of blessings or curses, life or death.

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Posted October 28, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 18, 2 Kings 2, Joshua 6

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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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