Reading Note – 1 Kings 13 – Does God Change His Mind?

The Fine Art of Listening to God

For some strange reason, God instructed the prophet not to eat anything when he went to speak to Jeroboam. For some strange reason, the other prophet took it upon himself to get the prophet to eat. So he lied that God had told him to feed him. The 1st prophet accepted this and ate with the 2nd prophet. But apparently, God hadn’t changed his mind and he punished the 1st prophet for disobedience. I suppose he should have made sure he had God’s instructions correctly – assuming that God does change his mind.

So, Does God Change His Mind?

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? – Numbers 23:19

This verse is part of a prophecy the Balaam spoke. Balak hired Balaam, a prophet of God, to curse Israel, but Balaam ended up blessing them. Balak was upset, so God gave him this message through Balaam; that He has blessed Israel and he will not take back that blessing, because he always does what he says he will do. So, this says nothing about whether God can change his mind about instructions. It simply says that he keeps his promises.

Still, in all the years I’ve been reading the Bible, I’ve never seen God give an instruction and then take it back. I would be glad to get examples if anyone has them.

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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.

Judges 14 – Reading Note – Samson’s Marriage

The Israelites have sinned against God again so he let the Philistines oppress them. Eventually, God decides to rescue them. He goes “OK, those Philistines are going down!” Then he whispers into Samson’s ear “Pssst, Samson. See that Philistine girl? You like her. Tell your parents you want to marry her”. So Samson demands that his parents get the Philistine girl for him in marriage. Unable to dissuade him, his parents proceed to do as he asked. Over the course of the following weeks, Samson kills lion and finds bees making honey in the carcass.

That gives Samson a wonderful idea. At his 7-day long wedding party he gives the philistines a riddle:

“Out of the eater, something to eat

Out of the strong, something sweet”

If they can solve it, he tells them, he would give them thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. Otherwise, they would give him the same. After trying unsuccessfully for three days, the men approach Samson’s wife and threaten to burn her and her father’s house if she did not get the answer from Samson. By crying everyday and accusing Samson of hating her, the bride successfully gets the answer and gives it to the Philistines.

Samson was no idiot. He knew what had happened and was naturally angry. So (get this) he killed 30 other philistines and gave their clothes to the ones who had solved the riddle. Then he went home angry. His wife’s father then gave her in marriage to some other guy because he thought Samson no longer wanted her.

1. God prodded Samson into seeking the Philistine woman, because he knew that would give him an opportunity to confront the philistines.

2. God gave Samson the strength he needed to kill those thirty men. 14:30 says: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father’s home.”

It is not wrong for God to kill, but it was definitely wrong for Samson to kill innocent people in his anger. God did not make Samson kill the men (that was Samson’s choice) but he did enable Samson to. So, Samson would still bear guilt for his actions, but God bears none.

3. There seems to be a notion of family in the story. When Samson’s wife accuses him of hatred for not giving her the answer to the riddle, he replies: “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,  so why should I explain it to you?” The implication being that his parents should mean more to him than her.

Judges 10 – Reading Note

10: 6 – 18 reads like a love story. The Israelites forsake God and worship other gods, the gods of the people around them. Then, when they were being oppressed, they cried out to God, that they were sorry for their sins, begging him to save them.

God told them to go to the gods they prostituted with for help, saying ““When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

But, they were truly contrite (or truly desperate) because they put away all their false gods and kept crying to him for help. They said, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” until, the passage says, God “could bear Israel’s misery no longer”.

While, crying to God, the people were not lazy. The leaders promised that anyone who lead the attack against the Ammonites (their oppressors) would be king of Gilead. So, they were doing their best. I suppose, they simply realized that they were helpless if God did not help them.

Judges 7 – Reading Note

  • In the battle against Midian, God did not want the people to suffer the illusion that they won the battle by their own power. Not only would that be unjust – taking the praise that rightfully belongs to God – it would also hinder them from learning to fully appreciate God. So, God made Gideon reduce the size of his army to a paltry 300 men.
  • God didn’t reprimand Gideon for being afraid. He simply helped him regain his courage.

Judges 6 – Reading Note

  • The Israelites were unfaithful to God again so he let Midian oppress them. The Midianites were brutal. Every  harvest they would come in swarms and take all the crops and livestock of the Israelites. It was so bad that the Israelites built shelters for themselves in mountain clefts and caves.
  • The people cried out to God and he sent a prophet to tell them why he was punishing them.  Then he sent an angel to tell Gideon to attack the Israelites
  • Gideon wasn’t a very brave man. He was hiding from the midianites when the angel found him.  He did not think he was strong enough to defeat the Midianites. He asked for several signs that God would really be with him and was granted them.
  • The first thing he was asked to do was tear down his father’s alter to Baal, erect a new altar to God and make a sacrifice to God on it. He was scared, so he did it at night.
  • In the morning, the people wanted to kill him for what he had done but his father convinced them to let Baal fight for himself.

The Conquest of Canaan: The Data from Joshua & Judges

This article is part of a series on the conquest of Canaan
  • The book of Joshua and the first few chapters of Judges detail the actual conquest of Canaan.
  • There are specific battles detailed in the first few chapters, the most famous of which are Jericho and Ai.
  • One tribe – the Gibeonites – have the foresight and intelligence to trick the Israelites into making a peace treaty with them.

Two important issues are noteworthy

  • The first part of Joshua details his conquests and ends by saying that “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.  Then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 11:16-23).
  • Yet the second part says that a lot of the land was still unconquered when Joshua was old and Joshua had to divide the land between the Israelites and let them fight to clear it. (Joshua 13).  Similarly,the first chapter of Judges has the Israaelites struggling to drive out the Canaanites after Joshua’s death.
  • Secondly, certain lands are listed as conquered in the first part of Joshua and all the inhabitants killed, but the second half and the first chapter of Judges designates them as yet to be conquered. Examples are Hebron (Josh. 10:40), Debir (Josh. 10:38), the hill country and the Negev and the western foothills (Josh. 10:40). Judges (1: 9 – 11) details the conquest of those lands after Joshua’s death.

Other points:

  • While the first part of Joshua emphasizes that the land was conquered and every living thing in it killed, the second part and the first chapter of Judges emphasize driving out the Canaanites. In Judges 1, certain cities were listed in which the Israelites had trouble driving out the Canaanites, but it makes no mention of killing them. This is relevant to the previous note that God’s command to the Israelites was to drive out the Canaanites and to destroy them.
  • When the Israelites finally became strong enough, they did not drive out the Canaanites (Judges 1: 27 – 36), (Josh 16:10), (Joshua 17:12-13). Instead, they lived with them and subjected them to forced labor.
  • So, the Israelites disobeyed God and God responded as he had promised. He punished them.

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” – (Judges 2: 1- 3)

  • This was fair. Remember Numbers 33:55-56
    But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.
  • Stubborn Israelites