Reading Note – 1 Kings 22 – God and Evil

 Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”

That was what Micaiah the prophet said to Ahab, king of Israel before he went on his last battle. The passage is apt to generate discomfort. How would God deceive someone? I handle these sort of situations by starting from the beginning and listing what I know.

  1. Ahab had been a bad king who consistently refused to mend his ways. God, as the judge of all the earth, had decided that it was time Ahab died.
  2. Ahab wished to make war against the king of Aram and God intended to kill him in that battle.
  3. But there was evidently the chance that Ahab would change his mind, because God wanted to make sure Ahab walked into the trap. i.e. God had decided on the death of Ahab and was carrying out his judgment.
  4. One spirit offered to make liars of Ahab’s prophets, so as to lead him into a war that would kill him. God gave permission for that deception. This should not be surprising. Everything that happens can only happen if God allows it. (At least that’s what my mom told me). Lying is only one of the many evil things God allows to happen.
  5. God himself did not lie to Ahab or his prophets. He told the prophets what would happen. He told Ahab that his prophets were lying. He correctly calculated that Ahab, who already had a tendency to listen to the prophets who told him what he wanted to hear, would ignore the warning. This was a calculated take-down of an evil king.

Assuming that you agree that God has the right to sentence someone to death and carry out the sentence, the question is: Is God just to allow evil?

He knew that spirit was going to make Ahab’s prophets lie and he gave the go-ahead. I would argue that God did not command the evil; doing so would give the act legitimacy, the same as if he declared white to be black. He simply knew of an evil act that was about to happen and said to the spirit “go and carry out your evil plan”. The question then is: “Is it morally obligatory for God to put an end to an act of evil if he knows it is going to happen?” My emotions say yes, but I haven’t listened to them in forever. My head is too exhausted to ponder the question right now.

Advertisements

Reading Note – 1 Kings 21 – Naboth’s Vineyard

Ahab wanted to buy Naboth’s vineyard, but Naboth didn’t want to sell it. So, Ahab went home sulking and wouldn’t eat. His wife, Jezebel, when she learned the reason for her husband’s condition sent letters to the leader is Naboth’s town. Her instruction was: Get two people to falsely accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king. Then convict him and stone him to death. After this was carried out, she told her husband he was free to take Naboth’s vineyard. While he was reposessing the vineyard, he was found by Elijah, the prophet of God with this message:

This is what the Lord says: ‘Have you not murdered a man and seized his property? In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours! I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

  • Even though Jezebel ordered the murder of Naboth, God blamed Ahab. It is a similar principle as when David planned to have Uriah killed by the enemy in battle. Ahab might not have killed Naboth himself, but he lent his approval to his wife’s actions. He was supposed to be the leader of the people, and he gave power to a queen who led them to murder. If he had not made her queen and supported her actions up till this point, she would not have done as she had. And after the murder, he went to help himself to the spoils.
  • It seems God’s policy with evil is this: Don’t support it. Don’t even look like you approve of it. Don’t stand by and watch it happen. Don’t partake of whatever comes from it. In fact, stay as far as you can from it.
  • Jeroboam and Baasha were two kings I’ve previously written about who did evil like Ahab and received a similar punishment.

Ahab’s response to this was impressive. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted – the picture of contrition itself. So God had mercy on him and told him that while the curse would still play out, it would happen after his death. I suppose that was a good thing.

  • It’s never too late to repent. Even if you have the sin of an entire country on your hands, God will forgive you.

Does God Lie?

By Way of Deception
By Way of Deception

1 Kings 22: 20 – 23 

And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ”
‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
” ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
” ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’
“So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”

Introduction

Did God lie? It serves our purpose to first define a lie. In this post, I will defend the following definition of a lie:

A lie is

  1. An untrue statement
  2. Spoken knowingly
  3. With the intention to deceive
  4. In a context which does not justify untruths

Justified Contexts

Fiction:

Fiction is untrue. The writer writes it knowingly, and as convincingly as possible, but with the understanding that the readers know it is untrue. The intention is not to deceive, because the writer does not intend the audience to believe the untruth. The purpose (or context) is one of entertainment. It is perfectly acceptable to tell a story that didn’t happen for these reasons.

Magic Tricks:

Magic tricks present a reality that is untrue. The magician does it knowingly, in order to fascinate the audience. The audience know it is not true, but even if they didn’t, the purpose (and intent) of the act is to entertain. If the magician did it as a defense of the existence of magic, he would be lying.

Note that in both examples above, the intent and context go hand in hand. In the context of entertainment, when the artist tries to make his act/story as convincing as possible in order to entertain the audience, untruths are justified. That is, after all, the whole point of the show.

Using Makeup:

They are in fact, making themselves look different from the way they really are. And they are often convincing enough. The intent is to produce an untrue reality – one different from the real. The purpose is to please the viewer. But whether or not the viewer knows it to be a deception, as long as the woman does not intend her act to be taken as a statement of what she actually looks like, the deception is justified by its purpose.

Sarcasm: 

“Tracy, should I use this money to buy food?”

“No. eat it.”

That’s a common conversation between my brother and I. It is not a lie chiefly because the purpose (and my intent) is not to tell him what to do. It’s to tell him that he’s being silly.

Hyperbole:

“Desmond, if you turn on that AC, I promise, I’ll strangle you in your sleep!”

He never believes me and rightly so. Once again, the purpose of the statement is not to communicate truth. It is to communicate anger.

Deception in War:

The Ancient Art of War
The Ancient Art of War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“All’s fair in love and War”, they say. I say not in love, but maybe in war. Deception is commonly used in war. Make the other side believe your number is larger than it is (Like Joshua did in the battle against AI). Make the other side think you are going to do something you are not (a feint). Distract the other side while you execute your true plan.

If war were to be fought without deception, it would hardly work. Telling the truth to your enemy does not serve the purpose of war. Imagine if Joshua said to the men of AI.

“Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to have some of my men on a hill with torches. And some of my men on the other side, blowing horns really loudly, so that it echoes and sounds like we have a lot of men. But I’ll actually only have 300 men.”

There would have been no deception then, but Joshua might as well have surrendered.

Unjustified Contexts

Wait, you say. But can’t that be used anywhere? A robber could justify tricking a man into opening his doors by saying “The purpose of my statement was not to communicate truth, but to aid my theft”. Of course not. An action done to support a wrong action is usually wrong because it is part of the wrong act. Stealing is morally wrong, so anything done in order to aid that theft counts as part of an attempt to steal in the same way providing a criminal with money for his crime counts as aiding a crime.

Summary

So far, I’ve made a definition of lying based on utility. A lie is an untrue statement, spoken knowingly and with the intent to deceive, where the context ( or purpose) does not justify speaking falsely.

  • Speaking falsely in a novel, or magic act is not lying. The purpose is to entertain.
  • Using makeup and body modification is not lying. The purpose is to please. No one wants to know what you really smell like. Use deodorant.
  • Speaking falsely in war or while robbing a home, etc. is wrong is the purpose is wrong. i.e. lying to entertain is not wrong because the purpose of entertainment justifies the untruth. Lying to steal is wrong, because the purpose of stealing does not justify the untruth.

So, Does God Lie?

Let’s look at the passage from the beginning, in context this time.

The King of Israel wanted the King of Judah to go with him to war.

So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”

Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.”

So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” (1 Kings 22: 4 – 8)

So Micaiah was brought to the King. And he said:

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...
English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left.

And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ”
‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
” ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
” ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’
“So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” (I Kings 22. 19-23)

Was that a lie? Think about the purpose – to punish Ahab for his many crimes. Think about the fact that God did warn Ahab. Was it his intent to deceive them. Are you deceiving someone if you warn them that you are deceiving them – perhaps, if it is part of the plan to deceive them. And think about who Ahab was.

“There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.” – 1 Kings 21:25, 26

Reading Note – Wise King Solomon( 1 Kings 1 -10)

Solomon was the love child of David and Bathsheba. Although he wasn’t the eldest, he became King because of David’s love for Bathsheba. In Solomon’s early years, he built a Temple for God and a palace for himself. Solomon seems to have been beholden to God. He loved God, as the story goes, and lived just like his father in that he obeyed God’s laws. God was impressed with his righteousness and blessed him with wisdom and riches, so that he earned about 25 tons of gold every year. But Solomon eventually turned away from God and God rewarded for that as well.

Lessons:

  1. Because Solomon loved God, God blessed him. God isn’t indifferent to our good deeds. While they cannot buy salvation and are far less than they should be, he loves* and blesses those who do good – like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. People like Jezebel (the evil Queen and wife of Ahab) weren’t loved* and blessed by God.
  2. God turned away from Solomon when he turned away from God. All of God’s promises up till this point were contingent on the people remaining true to God. If they kept his laws, he would keep David’s sons on the throne.

*love: By this I don’t mean the love that God has for us that drives him to save us all, but the special kind he had for people like Abraham and Isaac, people who (as much as they were humanly capable) lived for God.