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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Jonah

The Bible presents the period leading up to the exile as one in which the people needed to change their ways as much as the kings.  Good kings come and go, likewise with bad kings.  But what is consistent, even with the good kings, is that the people continue to worship at the Asher poles.

Then there is Jonah.  In the story of Jonah, we are presented with the question: Would you be okay if the people changed?  He runs from his calling, but when he brings the message to Nineveh, he is successful.  And that is upsetting to him.  So the story also points out that the change is more dependent on the recipients of the message than the speaker.

I'm engaged in a course to develop authentic, soulful telling of our stories.  Many of the participants have a message that they are compelled to tell, but others are listening to find that message, or story.  I have a nagging notion, that maybe, perhaps, I have something to say to the society.  A society that I feel is not unlike the Divided Kingdom waiting for exile.

Friday, July 07, 2017

2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25

Amaziah was another mixed performance king of Judah. In 2 Chronicles failing to adhere to worship of the one true God is much more connected to his demise than it is in 2 Kings.  According to Chronicles he brings back the gods of Edom, which starts his downfall.  Kings is more vague.

This morning I am tired and so the story about another King falling into evil ways in old age makes me feel even more tired.  It is interesting to think about turns people make in the end of their lives that make little sense.  Martin Luther seems to have become anti-Semitic.  Einstein denied quantum mechanics.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

The demise of God's kingdom continues.  In today's reading, that is.  There is a significant bright spot in which Joash, who takes the throne at 7, restores the temple.  But even he does completely right the ship of state but allows the corrupting non-YHWH worship to continue.  So, he has to pay off the king of Syria/Aram with basically all the gold.  He's then murdered by his ministers.

Chronicles' account actually provides some extra details.  For example, it connects his turn toward evil with the death of his wise priest.  When that priest's son tries to step into the role of prophet, Joash has the man killed, and per Chronicles, that is the reason Joash's ministers rise against him.

Although I like the account of a worker driven economy--the Bible makes it clear that the taxes collected to restore the temple were immediately put to use by paying the workers--the rest of this stuff get tiring.  Good King, Bad King, Bad King, Good King who then turns Bad at the end . . .   Pretty monotonous.

Is the trick to break a pattern?  Is the trick to recognize it will just take a lot of trial and error to get that perfect king?  Is the trick to just recognize and accept there will be good kings and bad kings?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Women in the Bible

I don't shy away from the ugly.  In the passage I read today, 2 Kings 9-11, there is a lot of ugly.  Frankly, the slaughter of your political and religious enemies is ugly.  But we also have within a few passages some terrible images of women.

This is as Jehu and his army approach the city intent on murdering Ahab's son, Jezebel and all who are related or allied with them.
Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, “Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?”
After the death of Ahaziah at Jehu's hands, we have this:
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.
So, we get two misogynistic archetypes in rapid succession.  Jezebel is the whore and Athaliah is the witch.  Hell, perhaps Jehosheba is the virgin and we've got the trifecta.

I don't think the poor treatment of women in the Bible is proscriptive; nor do I think it is a unique product of the Abrahamic religions.  I think it reveals the presence of the patriarchy in our society. BUT, modern people of faith must acknowledge the presence of this deep seeded injustice and work to undo it.

2 Kings 9-11

Today's passage quite violent and quite misogynistic.  It reads like a bloody scene from an action movie.  Ahab is dead but his son and wife are still alive and ruling Israel.  The kind of Judah, Ahaziah, was cooperating with Israel.  So, Jehu is anointed by the community of prophets and kills Ahab and all his family and all his friends.  Jezebel is murdered and her body eaten by dogs, but not before she puts on eye makeup?  The power vacuum leads to Ahaziah's mother ruling for several years in Judah--after she kills all of her rivals, but one who slips through her figures.  Then she is killed.  Also everyone who worships Baal is killed.

I note that while these are not objective histories in the modern sense, they are also no whimsical fairy tales about slaying dragons.  They are pretty realistic.  Society's thrashing about searching for a leader to save it does not have a good track record.

Even the good leaders seem to always go bad after time--the corrupting influence of power.  Is there a different model?


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

2 Kings 5-8

 Another very rich selection from a narrative perspective. 

On a personal note, I'm contemplating how to better live out the mission that inspired this blog, prophetic progress.  Progress meaning moving society toward right living.  Prophetic meaning speaking truth to power. 

In 2 Kings 5:8, when the Syrian/Armenian King asks the Israelite King to heal his servant the King becomes distraught.  However, "When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: 'Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.'”

There is a prophet in Israel.

I reminded me of an earlier passage when the Kings of Israel & Judah were working together.  The King of Judah (a good king) asked the King of Israel, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”

Is there a prophet in Israel?

The rest of the passage is full of fantastical tales like making an axe head float, and afflicting a deceitful official with leprosy.  But this is one of the strangest, darkest passages of the bible, which rests along side the tale of the Levite's concubine as horrifically unresolved by the authors.
As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, “Help me, my lord the king!”

The king replied, “If the Lord does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?” 28 Then he asked her, “What’s the matter?”

She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.”

When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and they saw that, under his robes, he had sackcloth on his body. He said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!”
I can not find any clue about how this is Elisha's fault.  I left the King's reaction in because it demonstrates that there was no response to this.  It's just a vignette of awful. 




Also there is a lot of stuff about market forces in describing the siege in Samaria including details of the response when supply is returned to the city.  Elisha literally prophesizes about food prices returning to a specific lower level. 

Monday, July 03, 2017

2 Kings 1-4

First off, you have to listen to this. It's the theme to Chariots of Fire and it is way more eighties than I realized it was.

There's some nice hits in this reading.  The evil kings really are kind of in the background.  And we move from Elijah to Elisha.  Like Solomon, Elisha knew how to play the wish game.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
Sure enough he sees him and gets double the portion of the spirit.  Elijah, like Enoch--and evidently from some non-biblical story Moses--never dies.  Instead,
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more.
 Like Elijah, Elisha brings a child back to life, and performs a food miracle--purifies water for a town rather than bread for a widow.  Elisha even has a feeding the 100 miracle.  (Roughly 50 x less of the spirit than Jesus I guess.)  But this is the best part of the story,
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.
Who decided to keep this one in?  Joab son of Azriah is like, "Hezakiah, do we really want to keep this one?  I mean, should we at least spice up the insults and like have them blaspheme the Lord or something?"  Then Hezakiah--who happens to be thinning out a bit on top--is like, "Hell yes.  This is a very important component of our cultural heritage."

Sunday, July 02, 2017

1 Kings 12-22; 2 Chronicles 10-23; Obadiah & Psalms 82-83

I really lost my morning routine.  Oh well.

Since last updating, we've had the major events of Elijah, the rulers through Joash & Jehu.  Obadiah, which is about the fall of Jerusalem, and seems kind of out of order, and one of the most interesting Psalms.

God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:
“How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance.

I really dig how some polytheism has slipped into the canon.  I love the quotes around gods added by NIV.  Compare with the NSRV.

There is so much to say about Elijah and the histories, some of the richest story telling in the Bible, but I'll just make a couple of observations.  The extent to which Jesus is written of as a new Elijah is pretty amazing.  And, the empire in decline motif really hits home.