Archive for the ‘Syncretism’ Tag

The Reigns of Kings Jehoahaz and Jehoash/Joash of Israel   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoahaz 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 XCII

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2 Kings 13:1-25

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Be wise therefore:  ye kings the more,

Receive ye wisdom’s lore:

Ye judges strong:  of right and wrong,

advise you now before.

The Lord in fear:  your service bear,

with dread to him rejoice:

Let rages be:  resist not ye,

him serve with joyful voice.

The son kiss ye:  lest wroth he be,

love not the way of rest:

For when his ire:  is set on fire,

who trust in him be blest.

–From Psalm 2, Archbishop Matthew Parker’s Psalter (1567)

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King Jehoahaz of Israel (Reigned 817-800 B.C.E.)

King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (Reigned 800-784 B.C.E.)

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

King Ben-Hadad II of Aram (Reigned 806-750 B.C.E.)

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According to The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth Edition (2001), King Hazael of Aram had grand imperialistic ambitions.  He proved successful at executing most of them.  His son, King Ben-Hadad II, however, presided over the beginning of the decline of Aram.  Ben-Hadad II’s son, King Rezin (reigned 750-732 B.C.E.), presided over the end of the realm.  Aram became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

That historical summary should contextualize the verses for this post.

I choose to focus on other aspects of this passage.

First, one who reads accounts of the (northern) Kings of Israel closely may notice a pattern.  We see it recur twice in the verses for today.  We have seen it already in previous evaluations of monarchs.  We will continue to see it as we read about Kings of Israel.  Consider 2 Kings 13:11, O reader:

He did what was displeasing to the LORD; he did not depart from any of the sins which Jeroboam son of Nebathad caused Israel to commit; he persisted in them.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeroboam I, the first (northern) King of Israel, had led his subjects in committing syncretism and worshiping at local shrines.  He did not want Israelite subjects to make their sacrifices and offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Judah.  These were political and religious decisions.  Jeroboam I had also made non-Levite priests.  At the time, priests did not have to descend from Aaron, but such descent was preferable.  Also at the time, worship at local shrines were acceptable for Hebrews.  Retrospective condemnations of Jeroboam I and his successors reflected later Deuteronomic theological concerns, such as the Temple in Jerusalem and the Aaronic priesthood.

The second theme on which I focus is the balance of divine judgment and mercy in the Hebrew Bible.  That balance is prominent in the passage for this post.  God judges, punishes, and afflicts.  God also forgives and delivers, often after having judged, punished, and afflicted.  This is classical monotheism.  There is no possibility of the polytheistic dodge of having one deity afflict and anther god deliver from affliction.

As much as I seek to maintain the balance between having an inadequate God concept and portraying God as a bully and a monster, I also derive comfort from monotheistic complexity.  The gods of polytheistic systems are inadequate and frequently incompetent.  They are also powered-down.  And they are imaginary, of course.

I recognize shifting theology within the canon of scripture.  My intellectual honesty requires me to do so.  However, I also affirm that God is constant.

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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King Josiah’s Religious Reforms   2 comments

Above:  King Josiah Hearing the Book of the Law

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART II

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2 Kings 23:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:19-33

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I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

–Psalm 119:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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If one pays attention to 2 Kings 22-23 and compares their contents to 2 Chronicles 34, one notices some irreconcilable differences, chiefly the rearrangement of material from 2 Kings 22-23.  The chronologies differ.  Some of the material from 2 Kings 22 shows up in 2 Chronicles 34:19-33.  Furthermore, 2 Kings 23 tells the story of Josiah’s religious reforms starting after the rediscovery of the Book of the Law in the Temple.  In contrast, the narrative in 2 Chronicles 34 is that Josiah had begun his reforms prior to the finding of the Book of the Law.

I generally consider the accounts in the Books of Samuel and Kings more reliable than those in 1 and 2 Chronicles.  I do this regardless of the internal contradictions present in the Books of Samuel and Kings due to the editing of different, sometimes mutually exclusive sources into one narrative.  Yet the Books of Samuel and Kings are brutally honest about the moral failings of characters who are supposed to be heroes.  However, 1 and 2 Chronicles put the best possible faces on heroes.  1 Chronicles 11 omits the civil war between Kings David and Ishbaal (2 Samuel 2:8-4:12) after the death of King Saul (1 Samuel 31; 2 Samuel 1; 1 Chronicles 10).  Also, 2 Samuel 11 and 12 tell of David and Bathsheba, a story absent from 1 and 2 Chronicles.

2 Kings 23:1-20 details how far folk religion had fallen during the reigns of Josiah’s grandfather (Manasseh) and father (Amon).  The text even mentions prostitution at the Temple in Jerusalem.  The text describes a folk religion that had assimilated with the cultures of neighboring peoples.  If one pays close attention to the Hebrew Bible, one knows that syncretism was an old pattern.  One may also recall that Elijah, after mocking Baal Peor in 1 Kings 17:20f, slaughtered the prophets of the Canaanite storm god.  Josiah resembles Elijah in 2 Kings 23:20.

2 Kings 23:15f refers to 1 Kings 13, in which an unnamed prophet, a “man of God,” from the southern Kingdom of Judah traveled to the northern Kingdom of Israel to condemn the altar in Bethel during the reign (928-907 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam I.  Shortly thereafter, we read, that prophet died because he disobeyed divine instructions.  That is an important detail, one to which I will return in another post before I finish writing about Josiah’s reign.  We also read that Josiah honored the memory of the unnamed “man of God.”

One theme present in both 2 Kings 23:1-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:19-33 yet more prominent in the latter is communal commitment to God.  This is imperative.

Raymond Calkins wrote in The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1954):

The people might perform acts of worship as prescribed, yet go their way as before, living lives of greed and selfishness.  True reform, in a word, is the reformation of inward motives, impulses, desires.  We must begin there.  No outside scheme of salvation will avail so long as men themselves remain self-seeking, materially minded, unbrotherly, indulgent.  The world for which we wait depends not on outward organizations but upon the revival of a true religion in the hearts of men.  Precisely what we are, the world will become.  The reformation of the world depends upon the reformation of the soul.  Such are the lessons taught us by the reforms of Josiah.

–323-324

No theocracy can effect this reformation and make it last, keeping in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  However, the imperative of spiritually-healthy collective action, paired with individual action, remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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