Archive for the ‘Naboth’s Vineyard’ Tag

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

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

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

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

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

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

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

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

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Good and Evil   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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

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

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace,

that they may be cleansed from all their sins,

and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 221

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1 Kings 21:17-25

Psalm 92

Acts 26:1-32

Matthew 21:28-44

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Your enemies, LORD, your enemies will perish;

all evildoers will be scattered.

–Psalm 92:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That was cold comfort for Naboth and his family.

We have evildoers in the readings this week.  Those of us who know the stories realize that justice eventually came for King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, that St. Paul the Apostle died as a martyr in Rome, and that the targets of Christ’s justifiably harsh words did not take those words well.

I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.

–Matthew 21:31b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Those are harsh words to direct at conventionally pious religious leaders.  After reading the four canonical Gospels many times, I conclude that our Lord and Savior, although capable of being very forgiving, had a low tolerance for malarkey.  Good for him!

Anyhow, punishment and reward in the afterlife are emotionally satisfying.  Given the injustice rife in this world, reversal of fortune in the hereafter (perhaps not the sweet hereafter) makes good the divine promise to punish the evil and to reward the righteous.

Evildoers come in three varieties:

  1. Those who know what they are doing is wrong,
  2. Those who think what they are doing is right, and
  3. Those who cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.

Circumstances are not always black-and-white.  Frequently, circumstances are gray.  Sometimes the choices are bad and worse.  In such cases, people need to do the best they can in a fallen world.

Yet evil remains evil, objectively.

May you, O reader, and I, by grace, pursue just and righteous courses in life.  May we do so regardless of the costs to us.  And, when we must choose between bad and worse, may we opt for God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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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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Tenants, Not Landlords   2 comments

death-of-naboth

Above:  The Stoning of Naboth, by Caspar Luiken

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:1-16 (Monday)

1 Kings 21:17-29 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:161-168 (Both Days)

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (Monday)

1 John 4:1-6 (Tuesday)

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Princes have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

I am as glad of your word

as one who finds great spoils.

As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law do I love.

–Psalm 119:161-163, Common Worship (2000)

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The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.

–Leviticus 25:23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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But we belong to God….

–1 John 4:6a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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As for brotherly love, there is no need to write to you about that, since you have yourselves learnt from God to love another….

–1 Thessalonians 4:9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the great lessons of the Bible is that we belong to God, the world belongs to God, and we are only tenants and stewards responsible to God and each other. The Law of Moses, in Leviticus 25:23-28, addresses the issue of the ownership, sale, purchase, and redemption of land in the light of that ethic. God is watching us and we have no right to exploit or trample each other. If God is our parental figure metaphorically (usually Father yet sometimes Mother; both analogies have merit), we are siblings. Should we not treat each other kindly and seek to build each other up?

King Ahab and his Canaanite queen, Jezebel, abused their power and violated the ethic I just described. Neither one was of good character. Jezebel plotted perjury, false accusations, and the execution of an innocent man. Ahab consented to this plan. His responsibility flowed partially from his moral cowardice, for he could have prevented his wife’s plot from succeeding. And he, of course, could have been content with what he had already in the beginning of the story. The man was the monarch, after all.

Many of us seek after wealth or try to retain it while laboring under the misapprehension that it does or should belong to us. Actually, all of it belongs to God. Yes, there is a moral responsibility in all societies to provide a basic human standard of living for all people, given the ethic of mutuality and the fact that there is sufficient wealth for everyone to have enough to meet his or her needs. (I do not presume that there is one way all societies must follow to accomplish this goal.) And, if more of us thought of ourselves as stewards and tenants answerable to God, not as lords and masters, a greater number of our fellow citizens would be better off. That is a fine goal to which to strive en route to the final destination of a society based on mutuality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-8-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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