1 Kings 14 – Reading Note – The Wrath of God

Map showing the Kingdoms of Israel (blue) and ...
Map showing the Kingdoms of Israel (blue) and Judah (orange), ancient levant borders and ancient cities such as Urmomium and Jerash. The map shows the region in the 9th century BCE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I’ve learned in my reading so far is that God takes his honor very seriously. After God made David king of Israel and David disgraced him by killing Uriah for his wife, he was severely punished. See the reading note.  The crime of being put in a place of authority by God and abusing his power for murder was not treated lightly.

The same is true of Jeroboam. God gave him 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel to rule and he responded by building idols for the people to worship – a worse thing than David had done. God responded with the kind of sweeping destruction that he had brought on David.

The Crime: God gave him a kingdom and he used his power for evil and to turn the people away from God, forgetting who had given him that power in the first place.

“Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over my people Israel and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, and yet you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes, but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back…” – 1 Kings 14: 7 – 9

The Punishment: Complete destruction. God promised that there would come a time when there would be no male descendant of Jeroboam.

“…therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone. Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat, for the Lord has spoken it.”’ … Moreover, the Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam today. – 1 Kings 14: 10 – 14

The great flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, David and Jeroboam all bear one thing in common. They are examples of cases where God saw a sin so great that he ensured that the punishment would be visible to everyone. So they could look and say, “This is what happens to those who go against the God of the universe. See it and fear him”. Everyone who saw that destruction should have understood what a terrible thing it is to fall into God’s hands. But their mistakes were repeated over and over again.

The people of Judah also continued in the idolatry the Solomon in his later years had started. So, Solomon’s sin became the spark that would burn down Israel. The wealth he had built up by following God was taken away when king Shishak of Egypt attacked Judah. And it was downhill from there.

If we learn nothing else from this, we should all remember not to cross God – especially if he has given you authority. He will forgive you anything from murder to idolatry as long as you repent, but if you continue, he will make a very scary example out of you.

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Midweek Praise: The King of Glory Comes

Refrain
The King of glory comes,
the nation rejoices.
Open the gates before him,
lift up your voices.

1. Who is the King of glory;
how shall we call him?
He is Emmanuel,
the promised of ages.

2. In all of Galilee,
in city or village,
He goes among his people
curing their illness.

3. Sing then of David’s Son,
our Savior and brother;
In all of Galilee
was never another.

4. He gave his life for us,
the pledge of salvation,
He took upon himself
the sins of the nation.

5. He conquered sin and death;
he truly has risen,
And he will share with us
his heavenly vision.

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.

Tough Passages: 2 Samuel 21 – God’s Sense of Justice

During the conquest of Canaan, one group – the Gibeonites – had tricked the Israelites into an alliance. By virtue of that alliance, Israel was not supposed to harm them. But Saul broke that rule. In response, God sent a famine to Israel during David’s reign

  • Even though David and a good number of the Israelites had not been part to breaking the treaty, God still punished all of them. It seems to be a trend in the Bible – shared punishment for wrongs done. In the same way that the blessing God gave Israel when a good king ruled were shared by everyone.  (He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Mt 5:45)

In order to end the famine, David sought to make things up to the Gibeonites. They requested the death of seven of Saul’s male descendants and David obliged. Then  God sent rain.

  • The law required that children not be put to death for the crimes of their parents. But David did it anyway and somehow, the death of seven people was compensation enough for the death of a lot more Gibeonites.
  • God sent rain, indicating that he considered restitution given for the harm done to the Gibeonites. Restitution had been given. The question was whether the cure was not worse than the disease. It is as if I killed your son and then offered my son as restitution. If you’re into that sort of thing you will no doubt be satisfied; it’s a fair trade. It sufficiently does for the victim everything that justice should do.
    • It acknowledges that a wrong was done to them.
    • It acknowledges that the wrong should not have been done, thereby acknowledging the worth of the victims.
    • It takes steps to restore the balance that the wrong act disrupted (something that an apology could not have done).
  • But it did not provide justice to the descendants of Saul that were killed. One can say that God sent the famine for the Gibeonites and when their needs were met, there was no more need for it. But I would think that God would care about the descendants of Saul too.
  • On the other hand, we just talked about a God who sends rain on both the just and the unjust and sends a famine on a whole nation whose King acted wrongly. Something is definitely funky about the idea of justice here.
  • So, David broke one law in keeping another and God did nothing about it.

In conclusion, we can say that God approved of David’s making things up to the Gibeonites because he ended the famine. But we cannot say that he approved of the means by which this rift was sealed. He simply did not react to it.

Skeptical response 1:

Isn’t God’s response in this case a sign of approval? He sent rain in response to David’s actions. That’s basically a thumbs up sign.

Response:

You’re making leaps in your logic. God sent the famine in response to the injustice done to Gibeon. When that injustice was righted, he withdrew the famine. In righting, the first injustice, though, another injustice is committed. The famine had nothing to do with that second injustice so withdrawing the famine says nothing about it.

Skeptical response 2:

Even if I grant that, God still did something wrong here. Seven innocent people were killed and he did nothing. At the very least he should have told David of his wrong actions.

Response:

If you’re going to stand in judgment against God, I might as well give you more ammunition. Innocent people are killed all the time and God does nothing – right from the times of Noah and Abraham, right up till the centuries long rampage of the Amorites. If he spent every moment dishing out punishment, we would all be dust. His technique had always been to let them accumulate, and give the person(s) responsible time to come to their senses. If they did, he forgave them – like he has done to us in Christ. If they didn’t, he eventually visited punishment – like in Noah’s flood (Genesis 6).

Yes, justice should be served for all wrongs done, but there is no law that says it must be served immediately. There is such a thing as mercy in God’s legal system.

Finally, we don’t know what God did or did not tell David following this encounter. These books do not record every single event that ever occured. They can’t. Like all historical texts, they must pick what to include. But if God did not chastise David for this, that’s hardly an issue – like the fact that you don’t get a call every time you run a red light telling you that you’re wrong. If you don’t know that it’s against the law tot run a red light, something is seriously wrong. David was the king, and as such, he was commanded to have a copy of the law and read it everyday. If he was still uninformed, then he had more important problems.

2 Samuel 19 – Reading Note

Reading Samuel is like reading an interesting history book. It sounds pretty much like the history of the world – love, betrayal, scandal, bravery, etc. Here’s the take on the characters so far.

David: The King of Israel. A very compassionate man, perhaps too compassionate. Even though his son Absalom tried to kill him and take his throne, he still ordered his troops to take him alive and mourned him when he died. He was also really soft, compared to every one around him. He would forgive those who hurt him. He didn’t try to kill Saul when Saul wanted him dead. In fact, he killed the person who killed Saul. He was described as a man after God’s heart and if gentleness is the prerequisite, he very much deserved the title.

Absalom: Son of David. As arrogant as they get and seemingly as cunning. When his brother Ammon, raped his sister Tamar, he had him killed. I don’t fault him alone for that, though. David didn’t do anything about the crime. Absalom later declared himself King and tried to have his father killed, but was killed by Joab in the ensuing battle.

Joab: Commander of David’s army – at least until he killed Absalom against the King’s orders. He has a reputation for being ruthless. The commander of Saul’s army killed his brother, so Joab killed him. Even though David ordered Absalom taken alive, Joab killed him too, Still, he was strange in certain ways. When Absalom was in exile after murdering Ammon, Joab successfully lobbied for his pardon. And he did serve David faithfully as a commander of his army – right down to killing Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) so that David could marry Bathsheba.

Sunday Message: Heralds of Good News

Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, by Muril...
Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, by Murillo, c. 1655 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:2-7 NIV

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In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man

named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said,

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,”Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:26-38 NIV

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Annunciation to the Shepherds
Annunciation to the Shepherds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:8-14 NIV

Deuteronomy 22 – Reading Note – Marriages, Sex, Rape and Kindness

Cover of "Marriage and Family in the Bibl...
Cover via Amazon
  • The law mandated kindness, although no penalty was prescribed for it. If someone lost something and you found it, you had to return it instead of ignoring or stealing it (22: 1 – 4).
  • It forbade other things like taking both a bird and its eggs, planting two kinds of seeds on the same land, mixing wool and linen in clothes and plowing with an ox and donkey together (22: 6 – 7; 9-11).
  • It also provides for the safety of member of the community, requiring the people to make parapets on their roofs to keep others from falling (22:8).
  • It forbids cross-dressing (22:5). It does not just forbid it as an aspect of the mosaic law, it says that God hates it and as we all know, we should probably avoid what God hates.
  •  Verses 13 – 21 discuss the issue of a man who accuses his new wife of promiscuity, specifically of not being a virgin on her wedding night. Her parents were to bring proof of her chastity if they had it. If it was proven that he had lied, then the man was to be punished and fined (ten years’ wages, I hear). If, however, the woman really had been promiscuous, she was to be stoned to death. Promiscuity was, after all, forbidden. The example in the text is one in which the girl’s parents present the blood-stained sheet from her wedding night, but I read somewhere that other sorts of evidence were often used – testimony of her good character, or evidence that girls in her family did not bleed for instance1.
  • Some other rules are on sex and marriage and seem pretty simple. Consensual sex between a married or betrothed woman and a man who was not her husband or fiancé was punishable by death for both participants. Rape of a married or betrothed woman by a man who was not her husband or fiancé was punishable by death for the man. Punishment of the woman was forbidden because it was like murder.
  • Rape of a woman who was not betrothed or married was a different issue. The man was to be fined (5 years wages) and had to marry her (22: 28-29). I have always assumed that this was because the girl needed a husband and who wanted to marry a girl who wasn’t a virgin? Better make the rapist marry her then and don’t let him get out of that marriage. But a lot of non-Christians (and even Christians) see this as a punishment for the girl or an act of injustice towards her because she is forced to marry her attacker. After all, who wants to marry their rapist? I know I wouldn’t. Here are my 2 cents:
    • This cannot possibly be a punishment for the girl because verses 25 and 26 already say that a girl who was raped was innocent and compares it to a man attacking and murdering his neighbor. The girl was the victim. That is the reason it forbade punishing raped betrothed or married girls.
    • I am not quite sure about the girl being forced to marry the rapist and I’ll give one rationale and one example.
      • Rationale: A somewhat similar case in Exodus allows the father to refuse the marriage.

“If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.  If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.  (Ex 22.16)

Fathers loved their daughters even in those days (2 Samuel 12: 1 – 3) so I expect that her father would do what he thought best for her taking into consideration her feelings towards her attacker– provide her with a husband or just take the fine and hope she finds someone else. It is a rabbinic principle that whatever applies in a minor case applies in a major one2 so if the father could refuse in the case of consensual sex, surely he could refuse in the case of rape.

  • Example: The case of Tamar and Amnon

“In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her. […]So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.’

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: ‘Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.’ So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

‘Send everyone out of here,’ Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food here into my bedroom so that I may eat from your hand.’ And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’

‘No, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’ ‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.’ But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, ‘Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.’ So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.” – 2 Samuel 13: 1 – 19

In that story, it is Tamar who begs Amnon to let her stay, saying that it would be wrong to now send her away. It is not her father or brother or even Amnon asking her to stay with him. Perhaps it is possible to interpret this in other ways and I would be happy if you presented your views on the issue, but it seems to me that Tamar did, in fact, want to remain with Amnon, and escape the status of being an unmarriageable woman. The text goes on to tell us what happened to her.

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.’ And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.”

For those interested in reading further, it’s very interesting. Absalom goes on to murder Amnon, run away to avoid punishment, set Joab’s fields on fire (I dislike Joab) and proclaim himself king. It’s fascinating.

1 Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine, 98 – 99 Tal Ilan, Hendrickson:1995.
2 Marriage and Family in the Biblical World. 48. Ken Campbell (ed). IVP:2003