Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CXLIV - II Kings 4:1-6:7 - Eight Miracles

I don't think the prophet Elisha has gotten his due.  I don't remember a lot of Bible studies revolving around Elisha.  He is hardly ever listed among the great prophets or men of God, such as Isaiah, Samual, or Moses.  But I believe you might have a different opinion about this man after we have completed our study of II Kings.

Elisha was a servant and understudy to the great prophet Elijah.  Before Elijah was taken to Heaven, he asked Elisha what he wanted.  Elisha responded that he wanted a double portion of Elijah's spirit.  That meant twice the power, twice the authority, and twice the influence on God's people, all in the service to the Lord and to His glory.  As we saw in the last post, Elisha has already been influencial in his prophesy against Moab.  He has already been a part of several miracles.  In this post we will see Elisha be a part of eight more miracles, many of which are similar to those which Christ Himself performed in His ministry here on earth more than 800 years later.  As we study the circumstances surrounding these miracles, we'll see that Elisha caused these miracles to take place because of his compassion for people.  There is no doubt in my mind that Elisha had a Christ-like attitude toward mankind.  I'm anxious to see if you agree.

The Widow's Olive Oil  -  4:1-7

We have seen mentioned several times "a band of prophets", which meant a group of Godly men who sought God's will and counciled the people of Israel and Judah accordingly.  Apparently one of the prophets lost his life.  As all men who died at a young age, he was in debt.  His widow had no source of income to satisfy her late husband's debt.  By law, her only recourse was to sell her two sons into slavery.  She approached Elisha for some kind of help.  She sure got it.  He asked her what, if any, possessions she had.  All she had to her name was a small jar of olive oil.  Elisha instructed her to gather from her neighbors, friends, and relatives all the empty containers they could spare for her.  They were generous in helping her, as empty containers were somewhat plentiful.  {It was the full ones that were rare.}  She poured olive oil from her small jar into all the empty containers until they were all full.  She could then sell the olive oil to not only pay her husband's debts, but have enough money left for her and her sons to live on.

The Barren Womb Made Whole  -  4:8-17

This passage tells of a Shunammite woman who showed kindness to Elisha.  She was a well-to-do woman who lived in a large house and was married to an older gentleman.  They had not been blessed with children, but had accepted it as God's will and did not seem to harbor resentment.  {As mentioned before, a barren womb signified God's judgment on a man and/or his wife.  There have been many women in our study thus far who's womb God had opened, beginning as far back as Abraham's wife Sarah in Gen. 21.}  This Shunammite lady made certain that Elisha always had provisions when his work took him to Shunam.  After a while she even had living quarters built for him on the roof top of her home.  So appreciative of this was Elisha that he sent his servant Gehazi to find out what he could do for her to repay her for her kindness.  He even offered to talk to the king's officers in her behalf (perhaps related to taxes).  She continued to refuse to acknowledge a need or desire for anything, but Gehazi found out that she had no children.  In verse 16, Elisha called for her and told her that next year she would be holding her son in her arms.  The lady pleaded with him not to give her false hopes about so serious a matter.  In verse 17, she gave birth to a son.

Boy Brought Back to Life  -  4:18-37

This same child grew up old enough to be in the fields with his father, but was still a very young boy.  When he was in the field helping his father, he suddenly had a severe headache.  As the father was helpless do anything for is son, he sent the boy to his mother. She comforted him as much as she could, but he died sitting on her lap that same day.  This lady then took the boy up to Elisha's living quarters and laid him on Elisha's bed.  {I don't think she told her husband about the boy dying because when she said she was going Mount Carmel, her husband said, "why are you going today?  It is not the New Moon or the Sabbath."}  So she went in haste to find Elisha, who recognized her from far off, and could tell she was distressed.  Note verse 28:  She said to Elisha, "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?  Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"  {She was righteously indignant, but maintained a respectful tone with the man of God.  Elisha acted immediately.  He gave Gehazi his staff and told him to go as fast as he could to Shunam and place the staff on the dead boy's face.  The woman all but demanded that Elisha himself go to the boy.  In verse 32, Elisha arrived shortly after Gehazi had gotten there, and although Gehazi had placed Elisha's staff on the boy's face as instructed, he was still dead.  Elisha's first action was to pray.  The word "pray" translated here is from the Hebrew word "intervene".  Then Elisha did as his mentor Elijah did in First Kings 17:21.  He literally laid on the boy, mouth-to-mouth, eye-to-eye, palm-to-palm.  Elisha wore himself out with such intense prayer that he had to take a break.  He did the same thing a second time.  This time, the boy's body warmed, he sneezed seven times, and then opened his eyes.  Elisha then called for the boy's mother and told her to take her son.  Imagine what went through this woman's mind when she saw her son was alive.  The Scripture doesn't bless us with describing what happened in that house during the rest of that day and into the evening.

The Poisoned Pot Cleansed  -  4:38-41

When Elisha had gone to Gilgal he discovered there had been a drought and famine in that region.  He was with a company of prophets and instructed one to gather some ingredients for stew.  {They did as Elisha instructed because he was the chief prophet in all of Israel and Judah.  He had proven himself to have the power of God at his disposal.  These prophets of Gilgal were desparate for Elisha's attention to their plight.}  In his haste to gather herbs for the stew, one of the prophets picked as many wild gourds as he could carry.  Little did he know that they were of the poisonous variety.  When the men started eating the stew, they knew it was poisonous as they cried to Elisha, "there is death in the pot".  Elisha  threw some flour into the pot and it miraculously made the pot non-poisonous.

The Feeding of the Hundred  -  4:42-44

This is another miracle similar to one which our Lord performed more than eight hundred years later.  You should read this short account.  Elisha took twenty loves of barley and some heads of new grain and fed a hundred men.  They ate their fill and had some left over.

Naaman Healed of Leprosy  -  5:1-14

Naaman was a commander in the army of the king of Aram.  An important man and valiant soldier.  But Naaman was afflicted with leprosy.  {Leprosy was from the Hebrew word that was used for any disease or suspected desease involving the skin.  There was no known cure for these skin deseases, and those afflicted were forbidden to associate closely with other people, as most of these skin deseases were highly contagious.}  One of Naaman's servants was a little Hebrew girl.  She must have been fond of Naaman because she mentioned that if he would go to Samaria and find the prophet Elisha, his leprosy could be healed.  Naaman was convinced and asked for permission from his king to go to Samaria.  His king not only granted him permission, but also sent a letter to the king of Israel to announce Naaman's arrival along with his best wishes.  Of course idiotic king Joram totaly misunderstood the letter (vss 6-7) and accused the king of Aram of picking a fight with him.  Anyway, Naaman took with him 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of clothing.  He wanted to be in the position of expressing his appreciation to the prophet in tangible terms.  When Naaman was able to get audience with Elisha and asked for his help, Elisha gave him instructions to (vs 10) wash in the Jordan River seven times.  Upon hearing these instructions, Naaman went away angry and insulted.  {Remember, Naaman was a powerful man from what was then a powerful country.  He considered the rivers of Damascus (Abana and Pharpar) to be far superior and cleaner than any river in Israel.  He also just wanted Elisha to simply say the word and Naaman would be healed without going through any difficult or strange procedures.}  But after Naaman settled down, his servants were able to persuade him to at least try Elisha's way, which he did.  And after he washed himself in the Jordan seven times, his skin was like that of a young boy (verse 14).

Leprosy Cast on a Greedy Man  -  5:15-27

Naaman wanted to pay Elisha for performing this miraculous feat, but Elisha would accept nothing.  So Naaman went on his way.  But after Naaman travelled some distance, Elisha's servant Gehazi decided he would like to have some of that silver.  So Gehazi secretly rode after Naaman.  When Naaman saw who it was he of course welcomed Gehazi as a servant to the prophet who had just healed him of Leprosy.  In verse 21 Gehazi lied to Naaman and told him that two of the prophets who served under Elisha were in need of some money and clothing.  He asked Naaman for 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes.  Of course Naaman was anxious to pay such a small amount for such a life-changing blessing.  As Ghehazi returned with his ill-gotten gains, he detoured to his house to hide the silver and clothing.  But eventually, Gehazi met face to face with Elisha (vs 25) and Elisha confronted him with his crime, stating that the Spirit of God witnessed his entire act.  Elisha punished Gehazi by sending him away with leprousy worse than that with which Naaman was afflicted.

An Axhead Floats  -  6:1-7

This miracle is the one many people most closely relate to Elisha.  Again Elisha was in the company of a rather large group of prophets.  So large was the group that a more spacious meeting place must be built.  They began cutting trees from which to make the lumber for the building.  As one of the prophets was cutting down a tree, the head of his ax fell into the Jordan River.  He was very upset because the ax was borrowed.  Having compassion on his fellow prophet, Elisha threw a stick into the water and the axhead floated up to the surface so the man could retrieve it and return it to its owner.

As you can see, Elisha was powerful man of God.  The eight miracles we just looked at are among many acts performed by him.  In the next post we will continue to study the impact this man made on the Israelites during this difficult period in Israel's History.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CXLIII - The Moabites Rebel

In the last post (II Kings 2) we saw Elijah taken to Heaven in a whirlwind, and on his understudy Elisha was bestowed the authority of "Prophet" to Israel.  Elisha's status was quickly affirmed by the three miracles he performed.

This post will deal with chapter 3 of II Kings.  The subject abruptly changes and focuses on Israel's trouble with Moab.  However, before Moab is mentioned in this chapter, it reports that Joram, Ahab's and Jezebel's son, became king of Israel in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat's reign in Judah.  Joram was not a good king like Jehoshaphat, but he was not as bad as his father and mother.

The Moabites were located east of the Dead Sea, south of Israel.  They were descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot, which made the Moabites distant relatives of the Israelites (Gen. 19:36-37).  Lot had impregnated two of his daughters with sons.  The oldest daughter named her son Moab, the father of the Moabite people.  (The younger daughter named her son Ben-Ammi, the father of the Ammonites.)  Lot separated from Abraham and always seemed to be drawn to the large Caananite cities, which were bound to have been an influence on Lot and his family members.  Moab had been defeated by Israel in war quite a number of years earlier, placing Moab under subjugation to Israel.  This meant that they would pay taxes to Israel.  The Moabites were mainly shepherds, with many large flocks.  Therefore their taxes would be (verse 4) a hundred thousand lambs and the wool of a hundred thousand rams.  This tribute was to be paid to Israel every year.  Verse 5 tells us that after Ahab died, Mesha king of Moab, decided to rebel and get out from under their tax obligation to Israel.  {Mesha decided this was a good time to "test" Joram as the new king of Israel.  Evidently he knew that, due to Ahab's reputation, he and Jezebel would have responded with vicious aggression, but Joram was an unknown personality at this time.  Joram did the smart thing by recruiting help from Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and also the king of Edom.  These three armies would be too much for Mesha to deal with.

But verses 8-10 tells of a tacticle error.  The Scripture tells us that king Joram decided to attack the Moabites from the direction of the Desert of Edom.  (This is where he picked up the support of the king of Edom.)  But they did not prepare properly.  It says in verse 9, "After a roundabout march of seven days.....".  The term roundabout meant they marched in circles.  And as a result, they ran out of water for their soldiers and their horses.  The kings panicked and all but gave in to the Moabites, who could easily have defeated them had they been aware of their circumstances.  But as he did with Joram's father Ahab, Judah's king Jehoshaphat asked, "is there was a prophet through whom we could inquire of the Lord?"  It was reported by one of Joram's soldiers that Elijah was near.  Jehoshaphat was familiar with Elisha's reputation as evidenced by his response in verse 12, "The word of the Lord is with him."  So in the following verses the three kings went to find Elisha to ask him what the Lord's direction for them would be.  It's plain to see in the next two verses that Elisha thought little of Joram.  He actually said that he would not honor the request for Joram, but he would honor their request out of respect for Jehoshaphat.  {Although I've read this passage a number of times, I had never noticed in the Scripture that Elisha had a musician play a harp, during which time the Lord revealed His instructions to Elisha.  Interesting.}

In verse 16 the Lord through Elisha instructed them to have their soldiers fill the valley with ditches.  And although they would not see or hear any signs of rain, the ditches would be filled with water so that their soldiers and horses will have more than enough.  Elisha emphasized this is a light thing for God.  This was what the three kings needed to hear.  But Elisha had further word for them.  God had more blessings for them.  Elisha continued speaking and told them that they would be victorious in their battle with the Moabites, and gave detailed instructions.  They were to completely rout the Moabites, attacking every fortified city and major town.  They were to cut down all fruit-bearing trees, stop up all their water wells, and fill their crop-bearing fields with rocks.

Verse 20  -  The following morning at the time of their sacrifice, water started flowing from the direction of Edom, filling all the ditches with water.  {The "Meat Offering" was an early morning sacrifice, predetermined in the second Temple to be at the "first blush of dawn".  Also, it's important to note that God often uses weather (a miracle in itself) to perform many of His miracles.  I also believe that God uses weather to determine outcomes of battles and wars.  I could go on forever citing examples of this throughout recorded History.  The mountains of Edom are adjacent to the desert valley where they were camped.  I believe God sent a powerful rainstorm in those mountains (too far away for them to see).  This would have created a flash-flood, forcing the water into the valley, thus filling all of those hand-dug ditches with fresh rainwater.  The wisdom God uses is awe-inspiring.  Notice the kings and their soldiers must do their part in digging the ditches, which first of
all required faith.}

Verse 21-25  -  The Moabites Attack

The Moabites were aware that three kings had united against them and were going to attack Moab.  Therefore they put together as many men as they could to build an army to defend themselves.  They chose to fight rather than submit to continue the payment of tribute.  When the Moabites looked across the desert where the enemy soldiers were camped, they saw the ditches full of water, but the water appeared red to them, looking like blood.  They summized that the three armies began fighting each other, making such a blood bath that the blood could be seen from miles away.  {Remember, this was a desert where there was never any liquid of any kind.}  So Mesha, king of the Moabites ordered his army to attack and plunder what would have been a fraction of the three armies, all of which would be already battle weary and easy to defeat.  But when the Moabites reached the camp of the three armies, they found a massive number of soldiers, refreshed by the water and emboldened by the knowledge that the God of Israel had prophesied victory.  Needless to say the Israelites slaughtered the Moabites and obeyed all of the instructions handed down by God through Elisha.

The final verses in this chapter tell of the Moabite king Mesha being so desparate with the battle having gone bitterly against him and all of his cities being plundered and destroyed.  So desparate and so engulfed in paganism was he, that he offered his oldest son as a burnt offering to his pagan god (probably Melchor).  He performed this ritual on the wall of the city of Kir Hareseth.  This terrible ritual performed out of desparation was performed in the sight of the both the Israelite and the Moabite soldiers.  It suggests that the Moabite army was inspired and forced the Israelites into retreat.  One could also interpret this as the Israelite soldiers were so horrified at this terrible pagan ritual that they just wanted to get away from it.  I choose to agree with the latter.

Next post  -  Elisha's Ministry

Monday, April 22, 2013

CXLII - Elijah Taken to Heaven

In the last post we began our study of the Book of II Kings.  As mentioned, this Book continues the study of the kings of both Israel and Judah, but will lean more heavily on the prophets than in First Kings.  We've seen the power of the great prophet Elijah.  Elijah served as a spokesman for God, as does all true prophets.  It is important that you realize that Elijah was a prophet in Israel, not Judah.  He dealt with Ahab several times, and Ahab hated him, as he continually exposed Ahab for the evil king that he was.  One might conclude that Elijah made little impact against the downward spiral in the nation of Israel.  But we cannot properly measure the impact that Elijah had on the people of the nation Israel, as the text in I Kings was describing the nature and acts of the kings, more so than the citizens of Israel and Judah.

Chapter 2 dedicates itself to the prophets Elijah and his successor Elisha.  In the very first verse it says "When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, .........."  The human author of this Book used the act as a reference in time.  By the time of this writing, the act of God taking Elijah was a well known fact throughout Israel and Judah.  The following verses tell that Elijah wanted to go to Bethel, Jericho, and on to the Jordan River.  Before each journey, Elijah told Elisha that he was going by himself, and each time Elisha refused to stay behind.  Also, when they arrived at each location, there was a large group of prophets to greet them.  The prophets were true prophets because they knew that God was going to take Elijah "today".  They would make it a point to tell Elisha, but he already knew this, as he would respond, "I know".  On the third trip which was to the Jordan, Elijah performed one of his many miracles.  (vs 8)  He took his cloak, rolled it up, and struck the water of the Jordan with it.  The water divided and the two passed over on dry ground.  {This is the third such miracle documented in the Old Testament.  The first was Moses parting the Red Sea.  The second was when the Jordan River was parted to allow Joshua to lead the people of Israel across to enter the Promised Land.  The location where Joshua was must have been very close to the same spot in the Jordan as was this spot mentioned here, centuries later.  It must have been close because Joshua was leading Israel into the Promised Land toward the city of Jericho.  In this passage, Elijah had just left Jericho, and it indicated it was the same day.}  This time, there were fifty prophets meeting Elijah.  {I believe that Elijah parted the Jordan to allow him and Elisha to cross in order to separate them from the fifty prophets and any other people that may have been there.}

Verse 9-->  Elijah knew that the time for his departure was near.  Elisha had been with him for years and Elijah had become very fond of him.  Elijah asked him, "Tell me, what can I do for your before I am taken from you?".  Elisha's answer was simple.  He asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, which meant a double portion of his power and influence in representing God Almighty.  Elijah did not commit to granting such a difficult request.  Elijah wanted to leave that decision to God, so he told Elisha that his request would be granted if he was able to see Elijah being take to heaven.  Then in verse 11, as they were walking together, there was suddenly what must have been a tremendous sound when a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them.  It was at this time that Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a whirlwind.  {Contrary to centuries old popular opinion, the Bible does not say that Elijah's transition from Earth to Heaven was in a chariot of fire, but rather "by a whirlwind".  The chariot and the horses, both of fire, represented the power of God, and was used in this instance to separate Elijah from Elisha.  This was necessary because Elisha stayed very close to Elijah and he may have gotten caught up in the whirlwind with him.  It was from this event that the song was first sung by the weary slaves working hard in the fields, ♫"Swing low, sweet chariot.  ♪ coming for to carry me home ♫..........".  What a beautiful song.}  In Gen. 5:24 Enoch was taken much the same way as Elijah, but without witnesses.  When Elisha saw that Elijah was gone, he tore his clothes.  This was a customary gesture of grief and mourning.  After all, Elisha had spent years following Elijah as an understudy.  I'm sure it indeed grieved Elisha to realize he would never see Elijah again on this earth.

Verses 13-->  I'm sure Elisha was anxious to try out this God given power as promised by Elijah.  It says that Elijah's garment had fallen from him as the whirlwind took him up.  Elisha took the garment and went to the Jordan and struck the water with it.  The river divided just like it did for Elijah.  {The King James and subsequent versions took a slight short-cut in this passage.  The original Hebrew text says that Elisha struck the water twice.  The first time failed.  The second time Elisha was careful to "call on the name of the Lord".}  The group of prophets standing on the west side of the river witnessed this miracle performed by Elisha.  When Elisha crossed the river on dry ground, they greeted him by bowing to the ground before him.  They then insisted on searching the area on the east side of the river for Elijah.  Of course they could not find him, and upon their return Elisha said "I told you it would be a waste of time".

The Second Miracle of Elisha

Verses 19-22  -  The people of the city (I assumed to be Jericho) approached Elisha and told him the water in the well was bad, and the land was unproductive.  Having spoiled water would destroy a city and force its inhabitants to leave.  Elisha instructed them to bring him a new bowl with salt in it.  He took the bowl of salt and (being careful to call upon the Lord) poured it into the well.  This purified the well water, making it safe for the people, the livestock, and the crops.  {All cities back then had at least one water well, many of them had more than one.  These wells were protected and guarded around the clock.  Wells were dug by hand.  They were dug down until the diggers were literally standing in water at the bottom of the hole.  There were substances that could be put into the wells to spoil the water, but the fastest and easiest way for an enemy to contaminate the water to render it undrinkable was to throw a carcass of a large animal or human being down into the well.  Sounds gross because it IS gross.  Times were hard back then.}  So Elisha's presence and Godly authority had already begun to be a blessing to the people of Israel.

The Third Miracle of Elisha

Verses 23-24  -  Elisha decided to leave Jericho and go to Bethel, back the same way he and Elijah had travelled.  Along the way a large group of boys began to jeer him and tease him about being bald.  (Men even back then didn't care much for baldness.  It is written "Julius Caesar was bald, which displeasured him greatly.")  These boys were relentless with teasing Elisha, so much so that Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord.  As a result of the curse, two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty two of the boys.

The last verse of this chapter 2 says that Elisha continued his journey on to Mount Carmel, than returning to Samaria.  Elisha, through miracles and knowledge given to the prophets of that day, has now been well established as the main prophet and spokesman for God.  Notice he ends up going back to Samaria, the capital city of Israel, where the king's palace is located.  This should be the location from which the largest impact could be made in the name of the Lord.

Next post  -  Chapter 3  -  Moab Strikes Again

Friday, April 19, 2013

CXLI - II Kings

II Kings

Author:               Unknown
Date Written:     590-550BC During Exile
Place Written:    Babylon
Main Purpose:   Evaluation of Kings and Their Impact on Israel

I don't want to get too detailed with History of the writings of the individual Books of the Bible, but some information is helpful in understanding the Bible as a whole Book.  In the original Hebrew canon, First and Second Kings were one Book.  This Book of Kings was first divided in the third centure BC by the Jewish scholars who produced the Septuagint.  You have probably heard of the Septuagint.  It is a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek.  Since Greek includes vowels absent in Hebrew, the Septuagint was almost twice as long as the original Hebrew text.  Consequently, the entire Book required two separate scrolls to hold the volume of Greek text, named accordingly in chronological order.

Our last post finished the Book of I Kings.  I Kings took us from the death of David, through the reign of his son Solomon, through the division of the kingdoms, through the beginning of the downfall of both nations with their first individual kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and on through the reigns of Jehoshaphat and Ahab.  I Kings ended during the reigns of Jehoram in Judah and Ahaziah in Israel.  I Kings also introduced us to the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  The main thought we need to take from I Kings is the impact that leaders have on the people of their nations.  King David had set the bar very high by setting the proper example of Godly leadership.  Rehoboam and Jeroboam lowered the bar to a ridiculous state, and it just got worse, with a few exceptions.

As in I Kings, it is impractical to try to set to memory all of the kings in these two Books.  However, we will see two kings of Judah who somewhat stand out.  Hezekiah stands out as one who had an exceptional trust in the Living God.  Josiah stands out as one who devoted his reign to following in detail the Law of Moses.

As we enter the Book of II Kings, the nation of Israel has already started down a very dark road of self-destruction, due to turning its back on God and following the pagan Caananites in worshipping Baal and Ashteroth, the Caananite fertility gods.  The kingdom of Judah was also on the downslide, but not at such a rapid pace.  Although Judah was much smaller in population and land mass, it remained a sovereign nation 136 years longer than Israel.  It is clear that the reason Judah held on so much longer than Israel was because of its leadership.  Out of 20 kings, 8 of Judah's kings were men who tried to follow in David's footsteps as a king who followed God's commandments and laws.  On the other hand, all of Israel's 19 kings followed after Jeroboam, leading the nation's people away from the only true God and towards false pagan gods.  One difference between First and Second Kings is that our study of this book will concentrate a bit more heavily of the prophets, mainly Elisha who was Elijah's successor.
II Kings, Chapter 1  -  God's Judgement on Ahaziah

At the very end of I Kings we learn that Ahab's son Ahaziah did evil in the sight of the Lord during his short two-year reign.  The first verse of this Book tells us that Moab has reared its ugly head and was going to cause Israel a lot of problems.  Then in the second verse we see that Ahaziah had an accident and hurt himself.  {I have to wonder about that accident.  Fell through a lattice?  What was a king doing that he would have fallen through a lattice?  My guess is that he was doing something stupid.}  But look at the second part of verse 2.  This is an indicator of just how far Israel has drifted away from God.  The king of Israel sent a messenger to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, as to whether or not the king would recover from his injury.  {The name Baal-Zebub sound familiar?}  So concerned was God over this action that (vs 3) He sent an angel to instruct Elijah about this.  As instructed by the angel of God, Elijah intercepted the messenger who was on his way to find Baal-Zebub.  Elijah sent the messenger back to Ahaziah to ask, "Is there no God in Israel, that you must consult a false pagan god?"  Has Israel become so coorrupt that its king does not even give the One and Only God of the heavens, the earth, and the universe a thought?  This very act alone describes to us this period of darkness that has befallen God's chosen people.  Upon the messenger's return to king Ahaziah, he delivered Elijah's message.  Ahaziah immediately asked about the man who said this.  (vs 8)  "He had a garment of hair and a leather belt".  I don't understand how the king knew, but he immediately recognized the description as Elijah.  Just like his mother and father would have done, Ahaziah sent an army officer with fifty men to capture Elijah and drag him back to the king.  But as we see in the following verses, God burned these soldiers up with fire.  The king sent a second group of fifty soldiers to get Elijah and God burned them up also.  Then Ahaziah sent a third group of soldiers.  But this time when the captain approached Elijah, he fell to his knees out of fear and respect for God and His prophet, asking for mercy.  Due to this show of humility, Elijah went back with them to the king.  When Elijah arrived in the presence of the king, he repeated his question, then pronounced God's judgement on Ahaziah, which was death from the injury, ending his short and evil reign.

In the last two verses of this first chapter, we see that the reign from the house of Omri has now ended because Ahaziah had no sons to succeed him on the throne of Israel.  Instead, Joram took the throne.  {I've yet to find how Joram was selected to succeed Ahaziah.  My guess would be that there was violence involved.}

Next post - II Kings Chapter 2  -  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

{I realize I do not cover much of the Bible in any single posting to this blog.  I assure you that I am not trying to "stretch" this out.  You know that is not my style.  My reason for the way I write about the Scripture is best explained by referencing a preacher I heard while attending First Baptist Church of Suffolk, Virginia.  I forget who it was, but he told of one time being asked to speak at a ceremony of some sort, and the subject he was asked to speak on was the influence of the Holy Spirit on the lives of modern-day Christians.  He said he considered that to be an honor and asked how much time he would be expected to speak.  He was told that due to the crowded slate of speakers that each speaker was asked to limit his speech to ten minutes.  This preacher respectfully declined, saying "The ceremony I would be speaking at is to take place next week.  If I was to speak on the Holy Spirit with no notice, it would take three hours of speaking time.  If you wanted me to speak for an hour on this subject, it would take me a few days to prepare.  If I was to speak on this subject for ten minutes, I would need at least a month to prepare."  I understood then and I understand now why that preacher said what he did.  In any attempt to shorten a lesson of the Scriptures, the fear of omitting something important is overwhelming, and unless one is particularly gifted at writing, consolidating a lesson into a smaller space is laborious, time-consuming, and lends itself to confusion.} 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CXL - Concluding I Kings - Chapter 22

In the last post (chapter 21) we saw some more characteristics of Ahab, the king of Israel.  One being as a child who pouted when he didn't get what he wanted (Naboth's vineyard).  But also we saw how Ahab took on a repentant and humble spirit when Elijah told him of how God was going to punish him and his descendants because of the way he treated Naboth.  He was so sincerely repentant and humble that God decided to spare him of seeing all of his descendants punished for his actions.  Although God showed mercy to Ahab, it was merely a postponement of God's judgement.

Chapter 22  -  Macaiah Prophesies Against Ahab

This chapter's opening verse states that there has been peace between Syria and Israel for about three years.  The Historical documents say that after the battle of Karkar in 853 BC, Syria and Israel returned to being warring enemies.  Israel claimed the border city of Ramoth Gilead, but Syria controlled it.  Although Ahab and Omri had rebuilt Israel's military, it was still no match for that of Syria.  {During Ahab's reign in Samaria, Jehoshaphat had become king of Judah.  Jehoshaphat had taken steps to end the hostility between Judah and Israel.  The two nations made an alliance with each other, sealing it with the marriage of Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram, to Ahab's and Jezebel's daughter Athaliah.}  Evidently Ahab called for king Jehoshaphat to come to Samaria.  Verse 4-->  The reason for this summit was that Ahab wanted Judah to join Israel in battle against Syria to re-capture the city of Ramoth Gilead, which belonged to Israel before the Syrians assumed control of it a few years earlier.  Jehoshaphat agrees to support Ahab militarily, but he insists that they seek the Lord's approval first.  So in verse 6 Ahab summoned 400 prophets.  {Remember back in chapter 18 when Elijah was on Mount Carmel.  Ahab brought 450 Baal prophets to Mount Carmel to represent him and Jezebel.  But Jezebel had withheld 400 Baal prophets.  I submit that these 400 prophets mentioned in this passage are those same Baal prophets that Jezebel protected several years earlier.}  Of course all of these prophets told Ahab what they thought he wanted to hear.  They advised him to go to war against the Syrians.  Verse 7-->  But Jehoshaphat recognized these so-called prophets for what they were, and asked if there was possibly a "prophet of the Lord" anywhere in the land.  (I always have to chuckle when I read Ahab's response.)  He says, "Yes, but I hate him.  He never tells me anything good."  But he tells Jehoshaphat who it is:  Macaiah, son of Imlah.  {There are some Historians who say that Macaiah is another name for Elijah.  The time in History is correct, but I'm not so sure.}  So they brought Macaiah into the presence of both of the kings.  The servants of Ahab who brought Macaiah threatened him to say what Ahab wanted to hear.  When Ahab asked Macaiah if he should go to war against Syria, Macaiah said something like, "sure, go ahead".  Obviously his tone suggested an absence of sincerity, and the kings demanded truth in the name of the Lord.  Then Macaiah prophesied truthfully.  It was cerainly not what Ahab wanted to hear.  Ahab received from God's prophet bad news beyond anything he imagined.  Maiacah told him in verse 17 that Israel would be scattered like sheep without a shepherd.  The meaning of this metaphor was clear.  The sheep were Israel's soldiers.  "Without a shepherd" meant their king was dead.  In verse 18 Ahab barks at Jehoshaphat, "See, I told you he never tells me anything good!".  In verse 24, Zedekiah, a servant to king Ahab, slapped Macaiah and ordered him to be cast into prison.  Ahab told Macaiah that he would be in prison with only bread and water until Ahab's safe return to Samaria.  But look at verse 28 where Macaiah said, "If you would return safely, that would prove me wrong".  {Think about that.  Macaiah was correct.}

Verses 29-->  So in spite of Macaiah's prophecy, Ahab and Jehoshaphat went to Ramoth Gilead to engage in battle with the Syrians.  {I'm more than a little bit surprised that Jehoshaphat agreed to put his soldiers at risk by going against what a prophet of the Lord had said.}  As was the custom of the day, the enemy king was the biggest target in battle.  Syria knew that their aggressor was Ahab, not Jehoshaphat.  Therefore they commissioned their soldiers to go after Ahab.  {Here is where Ahab seems to sucker Jehoshaphat.}  He told Jehoshaphat (vs 30) that he would go into battle disguised as a foot soldier, but told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes.  {How could Jehoshaphat possibly fall for this ? ! ? }  This plan of Ahab's almost worked, but the Syrians recognized Jehoshaphat was not Ahab and stopped short of killing him.  Meanwhile, a stray arrow pierced Ahab in between sections of his armor.  Although it took almost the entire day, Ahab died from that arrow.  In verse 38, Elijah's prophesy (I Kings 21:19) was fulfilled as the dogs licked up the water used to rinse Ahab's blood from his chariot.

Verses 41-->  This passage tells a little about king Jehoshaphat of Judah.  He reigned in Jerusalem as king of Judah for 25 years.  His father was Asa, a very Godly king.  Jehoshaphat followed the ways of Asa and tried to do what was right in the sight of God.  One of Jehoshaphat's accomplishments was that he made peace with Israel, who for years before Jehoshaphat was a bitter enemy to Judah.  But later in his reign, their relationship began going backwards, which was evidenced by Jehoshaphat's refusal to allow Israel's sailors to sail on Judah's new fleet of ships.  Jehoshaphat reigned for 25 years and his son Jehoram succeeded him on the throne of Judah.

Verses 51-53  -   It was in the 17th year in the reign of Jehoshaphat that Ahab was killed by that Syrian arrow.  Ahab's son Ahaziah became king of Israel and reigned two years.  Ahaziah ruled just like his father Ahab.  But Ahaziah would be the last king being from the house of Omri.

This concludes our study of the Book of I Kings.  I hope you have found it interesting.  I have.  And as always, I consider it a privilege to expound on God's Holy Scripture.

In our next post we'll learn a little more about Ahaziah as we begin our study of the Book of II Kings.

Monday, April 15, 2013

CXXXIX - I Kings Chapter 21 - Naboth's Vineyard

Ahab, the son of Ornery Omri, gets a lot of Bible space compared to most other kings.  The Scripture says that Ahab was worst than all of the kings before him.  Ahab, mostly due to the influence of his wife Jezebel, advanced the worship of Baal and Ashteroth idols like the Caananite nations in the region.  In spite of Ahab, God has been merciful to him and the Israelites, but God's patience has its limits.  In this post, we'll see yet another side of Ahab and Jezebel.

Verse 1 says "some time later", which means perhaps years after God had blessed Israel with a successful military victory over Ben-Hadad and thirty-two other kings.  Naboth lived in Jezreel near Mount Gilboa.  Ahab, after having defeated Ben-Hadad had fortified this city against the Syrians to the north.  Ahab had built a palace there and probably made it something like a vacation home where there was a garden which bordered a vinyard belonging to a man named Naboth.  Evidently this vineyard was beautiful and well manicured, as it was very attractive to Ahab.  So Ahab offered to purchase this vineyard from Naboth and offered him a better vineyard as a trade or a straight purchase according to its market value.  Note that Naboth's response in verse 3 says, "The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors".  {In researching the customs of the times, it is reasonable to conclude that Naboth's land was a sacred allotment that had been in his family for generations.  Also in those days, owning particular allotments made Naboth a city elder.  Much of these privileges were attached to land more so than an individual person.}

So in verse 4 we see yet another characteristic of Ahab.  He went home and pouted like a spoiled brat.  He was so upset that he refused to eat.  So in comes Jezebel demanding to know what is wrong with him.  As he explains to her what happened, she takes charge of the situation.  {I think she did this frequently, as she was more cunning than Ahab and probably a stronger personality.  Also, here is a red flag for us:  Jezebel  DID NOT consider her and Ahab's status as king and queen to be positions of responsibility, but rather positions of privilege.  Beware of this in leaders.  It's a sign of character and indicates priorities.}  Jezebel told Ahab to "cheer up".  This is not a problem.  {Sometimes a solution is merely a matter of willingness to stoop low enough to outsmart your opponents.}  In verse 8 we see that Jezebel resorted to fraud, using Ahab's name and the royal seal so as to disguise her actions as coming straight from the king.  She wrote letters to elders and nobles of the city.  She's going to set up Naboth to be killed.  She instructs them to get two "scoundrels" to lie about Naboth and say that they heard him curse both God and the king.  With this, Naboth could be convicted of both blasphemy and treason.  Both of these offences were punishable by death, so one would have been enough.  But Jezebel wanted to make certain Naboth was put to death by the accusation of two crimes.  {Also, Jezebel did her homework.  The reason for TWO accusers (witnesses) was in the Mosaic Law.  Duet. 17:6 -  "On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness".}  So the elders and nobles did as Jezebel (or they thought the king) instructed, and Naboth was stoned to death.  In further research of the customs of the times I should mention that often times when a man was found guilty of a crime that is punishable by death, not only is he put to death, but also his entire family.  If not the family, most certainly the male members of the family.  I believe this was the case with Naboth, as the elimination of all male descendants would also eliminate any legitimate claims to the property, giving it up to public auction.  Ahab and Jezebel would have little trouble muscling their way through an auction.  In verse 16 we see that Ahab did not let himself be bothered by a legal public auction, but rather just went to the vineyard and claimed ownership, further abusing his power as king.

Verses 17-29  -  Elijah Re-enters Ahab's Life

God saw what Ahab and Jezebel did to Naboth.  He spoke to Elijah and told him what to say to Ahab.  He said that because of what they did to Naboth, he and his descendents would suffer the same fate as Jeroboam and Baasha, being killed and left for the dogs and birds to feed off their carcasses.  When Ahab saw Elijah coming, he refers to him as "my enemy".  Of course Ahab refers to Elijah as his enemy because Elijah always has news of judgement for him.  Any justice for Ahab would be bad.  Ahab wanted anything BUT justice.  {Personally, I would be extremely frightened if a prophet from God told me that He was going to pronounce justice on me.  I need mercy, not justice.}  Elijah proceeds to tell Ahab what God said, and added Jezebel to the same fate.  In verse 27 (this is important) Ahab showed true repentance.  He tore off his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted.  This was not only a sign of mourning, but also a sign of repentance.  This verse says also that Ahab went around "meekly".  VERY out of character for this man.  It seems to me that God is always moved by true repentance and humility, even from someone as despicable as Ahab.  The last verse in this chapter says that because of Ahab's sincere feelings of remorse for his actions, that God will not bring this judgement on Ahab during his lifetime, but will wait until after his death.

Next post - Ahab never changes

Saturday, April 13, 2013

CXXXVIII - I Kings 20 - Ben-Hadad the King of Aram

In the last two posts we saw Elijah come on the scene, dealing with king Ahab of Israel.  Elijah's commission was to prove to Ahab and the Israelites that Baal and Ashteroth were false gods, and there was only one true God, the Lord God of Israel.  Although Elijah was successful in carrying out this commission, its impact would be short-lived.  We will continue studying Ahab, and the negative influence he allowed his wife Jezebel to have on his reign and his life.  I've mentioned before that Ahab was one of the most unsavory characters in the entire Bible, but I must admit that he is an interesting and entertaining study.

Chapter 20 would be easy to breeze through on our way to studying about Ahab and Naboth.  But that is what most teachers of the Old Testament do, as this story is not well known.  I want to give this chapter some attention and thought.  It recounts an event that, on the surface, does not seem to have a large Historical impact, but in the whole scheme of things, it is significant.  The basic pagan thought of the day was "might makes right".  It permeated the minds of all leaders and Ahab was no exception.  Ahab's love for power and pleasure made it easy for his wife Jezebel to lure him to Baal worship, but Ahab was becoming aware that this commitment to Baal was going to eventually lead to facing God Almighty and His divine judgement.  Ahab seems to think the most pressing issue and biggest problem is Syria's tremendous power.  His father Ornery Omri had lost several cities to the north and northeast of Samaria to the Syrians.  And as Omri lost those cities, the Syrians had demanded and recieved certain concessions from Israel, which still remain.  The only way a nation could get out from underneath these concessions was through war.
Verse 1 introduces the powerful king Ben-Hadad of Aram, a Syrian territory.  He was evidently an influencial king, as he was able to persuade thirty two other kings and their armies to help him in his plan to conquer and overtake Samaria, Israel's capital.  {The Syrians already held so much control over Israel that to make further threats and demands seemed unnecessary, unless Ben-Hadad wanted to actually make the Promised Land part of the nation of Syria.}  Ben-Hadad sent word to Ahab that he wanted all of Samaria's silver and gold plus all of the "best" of their wives and children as slaves.  Ahab foolishly agrees to this ridiculously greedy demand.  {Sounds cowardly to me.  Women and children should be worth fighting for, no matter what the odds.}  But Ben-Hadad is not satisfied:  He sends another message that he wants his soldiers to come into Samaria and search every building and household and take anything the deem valuable.  {Ben-Hadad is clearly picking a fight.  He has amassed thirty two armies into one large one and wants to put it to good use.  If Ahab agrees to this second demand, Ben-Hadad will make yet another one, even more severe than the first two.}  Ahab summoned the elders for advice and they told him he must reject this demand, which he did.  Ben-Hadad recieved this news and I believe this is exactly what he wanted to hear.  He sends the messenger back to Ahab to tell him that the Syrians were going to attack Samaria and destroy the entire city, leaving it without even enough dust for a man to hold in the palm of his hand.  Ahab responded in verse 11.  He said to tell him,  "one who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off."  I know Ahab was shaking in his boots when he sent this message to Ben-Hadad.  The meaning was that Ben-Hadad was boasting prematurely.  Only the victors can take off their armor.  The losers die with it still on.  It says in verse 12 that Ben-Hadad and his men were in their tents drinking.  I believe they were celebrating that they finally got the response they wanted, and also celebrating a military victory before it happens.

Verse 13 tells of an unnamed prophet coming to Ahab, telling him that Israel will defeat Ben-Hadan and his entire army.  But note the last phrase in the verse, "then you will know that I am Lord".  {This is the reason the prophet gives for God providing victory against a far superior military.  One wonders how many times must God prove Himself.}  As Ahab expresses some doubts, the prophet instructs him to send out 232 junior (young and inexperienced) soldiers.  These young men would act as something of a commando unit, assigned to engage Ben-Hadad's entire army in battle.  This was such a small group that Ben-Hadad did not even consider them to be anything more than a group of representatives of Ahab, coming in peace, perhaps even to surrender.  These 232 soldiers attacked and were so successful in their fighting that the Syrian army ran away, but Ben-Hadad escaped.

Verse 22 tells us that after Ahab's victory, the prophet returned and told him that the Syrians were going to attack again in the Spring.  Therefore Ahab was to fortify and prepare for a severe attack on Samaria.  In the meantime, Ben-Hada sought answers as to how his superior military could possibly have been defeated by Ahabs soldiers.  So, being pressed to come up with something, his advisors convinced him that Israels gods were gods of the hills (where the battle was fought) and if the
battle was to take place in the plains, Ben-Hadad would be successful.  This is the way these people's minds worked.  So they planned for their next attack, confident of victory.

Vss 26-->  The following Spring, just as the prophet foretold, Ben-Hadad gathered his army and marched toward Samaria.  Israel's army went to meet them and camped opposite of them.  Verse 27 says "the Israelites looked like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside".  The prophet returned to Ahab with some more good news.  Israel would again defeat the Arameans, but note the reason that God will give them victory.  Verse 28:  "because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys.....".  On the seventh day the two armies engaged in battle.  Israel killed 100,000 soldiers in that battle and again the enemy soldiers ran away and escaped to the city of Aphek.  While in Aphek, the walls of the city fell on the Aramean soldiers, killing 27,000 more, but Ben-Hadad survived.  Ben-Hadad dressed himself in sackcloth (a burlap-type of very uncomfortable clothing, which was a sign of humility and subservience) and asked Ahab to spare his life.  Ahab did spare Ben-Hadad, apparently against the instructions of the prophet.  This seemingly gracious act of kindness appears out of character for Ahab, but he made it conditional, forcing Ben-Hadad to make a treaty with him and Israel, the details of which are not given.

Vss 36--> the prophet confronts Ahab with his disobedience.  Ahab was supposed to execute Ben-Hadad, not strike a deal with him.  In verse 42 the said to Ahab through the prophet, "You have set free a man I had detemined should die.  Therefore it is your life for his, your people for his people."  {These kings must understand that when they disobey God, not only will they as individuals suffer punishment, but also many other people along with them.  Again, Leaders matter.}  In the last verse of this chapter Ahab returns to his palace sullen and angry.  {Ahab may or may not have admitted to himself that he did wrong, but he definately has learned to fear and respect the word of prophets who represent the Lord God.  But Ahab has always suffered from a short memory.}

Next post:  Chapter 21  -  Naboth's Vineyard

Thursday, April 11, 2013

CXXXVII - I Kings 19 - Elijah Faces God

The prophet Elijah has appeared in Israel during the terrible reign of Ahab, who is being made even worse by the influence of his wife Jezebel, the daughter of a Baal priest.  Elijah challenged the Baal priests to prove that Baal was indeed a true god, knowing they would fail miserably.  God displayed His power through the burning of the wet wood at the altar Elijah built on Mount Carmel.  This was a very convincing display to the many Israelites in attendance, and they slayed all 450 Baal priests who had participated in the failed attempt to show that Baal was a more powerful god.  Although Ahab was also in attendance at Mount Carmel, Jezebel was not.  In fact, she had withheld 400 priests and priestesses from the activities on Mount Carmel.

Chapter 19

Ahab reported all that had happened to his wife Jezebel.  Her response to it was to send a message to Elijah that she was going to kill him.  {At first reading, this puzzled me.  I thought, "why didn't she immediately have Elijah killed, instead of just threaten to kill him?"  One possibility was that Ahab had just witnessed the power of the Lord God of Israel.  Knowing Ahab's personality, he was probably frightened of such power, having just witnessed it.  That would have made him frightened of Elijah also, as Elijah had proven that he was God's spokesman, and Ahab would have forebidden any harm to come to him out of fear of retaliation by God Himself.  Therefore, Jezebel would have been forced to wait on revenge and settle on frightening Elijah enough to make him leave.  Which he did.}  The following verses show us that Elijah was human, and he was frightened for his life.  He knew that Jezebel was evil and eventually she would get her way and order Elijah's death.  So he fled Israel, hopefully for the safety of Judah.  But he left his servant in Beersheba (which is in Judah) and Elijah kept going in hopes of putting even more distance between himself and Jezebel.

Vss 4-->  {I began post CXXXVI by introducing the "great prophet Elijah".  I realize all of God's prophets are "great", but few have the distinction of having been placed in such devout circumstances as Elijah.  In this next passage, we're going to see how Elijah literally followed in the footsteps of none other than Moses.}  Elijah put too much on himself.  As he fled from Jezebel, he suffered
physical, emotional, and spiritual fatigue.  He even prayed (vs 4) for God to take his life, as Elijah felt he had failed God.  One evening when he fell asleep, an angel of the Lord woke him up and had provided food for him.  Elijah needed to eat in order to gain back strength.  After he ate, he lay back down.  After he slept some more, the angel woke him up again and had provided more food and drink.  Then in verse 8 God sent Elijah on a journey.  For forty days and forty nights, Elijah traveled through the wilderness that took him to Mount Horeb.  Sound familiar?  Moses traveled through this same wilderness.  Mount Horeb is where God appeared to Moses.  When Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb he went into a cave to spend the night.

Vss 9-18  -  God appears to Elijah

God asks Elijah "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  Elijah doesn't really answer His question, but rather pours his heart out to God (which is never a bad idea.  He understands).  Elijah seems to forget the great victory on Mount Carmel, defeating the Baal priests in the sight of Ahab and vertually all of Israel.  Elijah told God that he has been zealous for Him.  But Elijah goes on and admits failure.  {Elijah did not fail.}  Elijah was tired and frustrated.  Like the rest of us, when fatigue and frustration
really sets in hard, we are inclined to exagerate the negative.  He tells God in verse 10 that he is the only one left.  (He seems to forget about Obadiah and the other men of God mentioned in the previous chapter.)  On top of everything else, Elijah felt alone.  {Have you ever felt alone?  I have.   My wife and I have together felt alone.  It is a terrible and discouraging feeling.}  But God is merciful to Elijah.  And God is about to reveal Himself to him.  How many human beings have been
privileged to actually be in the direct presence of God?  These next verses have always been important to me.  God stirs up a great wind, but He was not in the wind.  God made a powerful earthquake, but He was not in the earthquake.  God sent fire down in Elijah's midst, but He was not in the fire.  Then God sent silence and Elijah knew that he was then in the presence of God Almighty.

{This passage always stirs my soul.  Please suffer me a moment to express a few personal thoughts.  I have always been one to experience my most worshipful moments feeling closeness to God during silence.  I realize we're all different.  (I don't want all the people on earth to be like me.  It would be a boring world.)  Ever since I've had a saving knowledge of our Lord and accepted His indescribable gift, I've observed people in worship, and I truly respect differences.  For example, I've observed people whose souls are stirred when they are actively involved in spiritual music.  I understand and respect this.  The older I get, the more respect I feel for human diversity, especially when it comes to matters of the Spirit.  I encourage anyone and everyone to find and experience closeness to God any way available to them.  But as for me:  Any noise, even the sounds of people singing songs of praise and worship, does not take my mind and heart closer to God.  I have always desired to allow myself deep concentration on Him and His greatness  It is at these times that I desire to express my grateful heart to Him.  Noise of any kind, even worshipful sounds, are but a disturbance when my soul seeks close fellowship with God.  I've heard very few people express this about themselves.  In fact, I haven't heard anybody at all express this about themselves.  This must be another area where I find myself in the minority.  But that's okey.  I know God made me the way I am, and in recent years He has comforted me with that knowledge.  And I am so thankful He has.  For years I experienced thoughts of spiritual inferiority because I didn't think exactly like most Christians.  (If there is any reader out there who has similar thoughts, please do me a gracious favor and let me know with a simple "me too".  merle_yates@yahoo.com.  I know there aren't very many of you, but I also know I'm not the only one, although sometimes I feel like I am.)  Allow me to share with you one of my greatest pleasures.  I'm not changing the subject.  Every time it is snowing heavily (which is not often here), I take a moment and step outside to just listen.  It is wonderful.  The silence is deafening.  I refer to it as "virgin silence".  Not a sound.  Not a cricket chirping.  Not a bird singing.  Not even a squirrel making noise in the twigs.  Just pure breathtaking silence.  I hold my breath and I can hear only the sound of my own heartbeat, and sometimes not even that.  My limited vocabulary cannot provide the words that can describe how wonderful this is.  More than once I have sensed God's greatness in this pure silence.  I recommend this to anyone who can place himself or herself  in this situation.}

In the remaining verse of this chapter 19 of I Kings, Elijah has a restored sense of purpose.  His spirit has been revitalized.  He receives and follows God's instructions.  He returns northerly toward the desert of Damascus.  There he anoints Hazael to be king over Aram; Jehu to be king of Israel; Elisha to succeed him as God's prophet.  Then God assures Elijah that He will reserve and protect seven thousand holy men who will have stayed loyal to God.

In verses  19-21 Elisha is introduced.  Per God's instructions, Elijah finds Elisha to anoint him as the next prophet of God.  Elisha was busy plowing his family's field.  He can feel the presence of God as Elijah approaches him.  When Elisha realized his business was now that of God, he drops what he is doing and quickly runs to kiss his father and mother goodbye, upon which he followed Elijah to be his servant and student.

Next post  -  Ahab and Ben-Hadad  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CXXXVI - I Kings 17:1-18:46 - The Prophet Elijah

In I Kings chapter 17, the great prophet Elijah is introduced.  This is just the first of much that we will see of Elijah in our study of the entire Bible.

A brief background:  Ornery Omri's son Ahab has just become king of Israel.  Ahab was more evil than any of the kings before him in either Israel or Judah.  He married the notoriously unGodly Jezebel, the daughter of a Baal priest.  She was an evil influence on Ahab and all of Israel.  Elijah was called to be a prophet of God and was given an understanding of a problem in the nation Israel.  There was a "religious" conflict among all the citizens of Israel.  Israel was confronted with three possibilities:  1)  The people could give their total loyalty to Baal Melkart, which was introduced and pushed upon the people by Jezebel.  2)  They could exclusively serve the Lord God of Israel alone, as stated in the first two of the Ten Commandments.  or 3)  They could take the what they considered the most favorable features of each and seek to serve both the true God and Baal.  Jezebel of course plus her following chose the first, giving total allegience to Baal Melkart.  Ahab, and most of the citizens of Israel opted for the latter, hoping to placate both the Lord and the Caananite gods.  But Elijah, a prophet of God, insisted that worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to be exclusive, and His commandments and statutes were to be strictly adhered to.  There were relatively precious few in Israel that shared Elijah's thoughts on this.  We're going to see how Elijah was forced to drastic actions to "wake up" Israel, knowing Ahab and Jezebel would try to discredit him and actually threaten his life.

I Kings 17:1-->  Without fanfare or introduction, Elijah suddenly comes on the scene, in the presence of Ahab and his royal court.  Elijah wastes no time in making an attention-getting statement.  He told king Ahab that the God of Israel will cause a drought of both rain and dew for the next few years, and it will go away only upon Elijah's spoken word.  The Scripture gives no account of Ahab's or Jezebel's immediate reaction to this statement, but it's easy to imagine the shock and anger they felt.  And they must have responded in something of a threatening manner because verse 2 tells us that God told Elijah to leave, turn eastward and hide.  God promised to provide for him through the ravens, which He did.  In verse 7 the brook from which Elijah was getting his water dried up due to the drought.  God instructed him to go to the region of Sidon and a widow would provide enough food and water for Elijah.  The proceeding verses tell the story of the widow having a jar with a little bit of flour and a jar with just a little bit of olive oil.  As she made bread with the flour and olive oil, the two jars never ran out.
Vss 17-24  -  This is one of a very few recordings of the greatest type of miracle ever performed:  The widow's son became ill and died.  The widow was of course distraught and cried out to Elijah, being a man of God.  She was angry that such a powerful man of God would allow this tragedy in her life.  Elijah took the dead body of the boy, laid him on his bed, stretched himself out on the boy three times, and pleaded with God to bring the boy back to life.  God granted Elijah's request and restored the boy to life.  Elijah brought the living boy back to his mother.  This story is not to be taken lightly, as God has not done this many times.

Chapter 18  -  The time has now come for Elijah to make a challenge to expose Baal for the fake that he is.  The drought has produced a famine throughout Israel, even in the capital Samaria.  Ahab and Obadiah (a Godly man) were out to find some grass to feed the horses.  {Horses must be fed and kept healthy, as they were the backbone of the army.  Even Ahab was smart enough to know that.}  While the king's wife Jezebel was having all the men assassinated that were loyal to God, Obadiah had hidden a hundred of them in two caves in a desparate attempt to save Israel.  {Obadiah knew that Israel could be saved only by the nation returning to God.}  Ahab and Obadiah went in two different directions in search of feed for the horses, and Elijah met up with Obadiah.  Elijah instructed Obadiah to tell Ahab that Elijah is here and wants to see him.  Elijah had to convince Obadiah that God would protect him from being killed by Ahab and Jezebel.  The meeting was arranged and when Ahab saw Elijah, in verse 17, he called him a "troubler of Israel".  Ahab blamed the famine on Elijah because of the initial warning given by Elijah about three years earlier.  (Three years of no rain or dew is a loooonnnng time.)  "Blame the Messenger" was popular even back then.

I Kings 18:17-46  -  The Battle on Mount Carmel

Ahab and Jezebel were loyal to the many gods of Baal.  Elijah was loyal to only the Lord God, Creator of the heavens, the earth, and the universe.  Elijah challenged Ahab to gather all of the Baal priests and all representatives from the ten tribes to meet on Mount Carmel and they can settle the question as to Who is the one true God.  He told Ahab that he alone would represent God, and Ahab could bring all 850 prophets and priests of Baal.  After they had all gathered on Mount Carmel, (vs. 20) Elijah asked the mass of people that had gathered there, "how long will you waver between two opinions"?  Make up your minds now.  Today!  {Only 450 Baal priests showed up.  Jezebel held 400 Ashteroth priests back in Samaria}  Elijah led the challenge.  He stressed that he by himself would stand for God angainst 450 Baal priests.  He said that both he and they would prepare a bull sacrifice and call upon God and Baal to bring fire upon the altar that held the bull.  He said "the God Who answers by fire - He is God".  The mass of people agreed that this test would reveal the true God.
Verse 25 - Elijah instructed the Baal priests to prepare their sacrifice, "But do not light the fire!".  But rather, they were to call on Baal to light the fire.  All 450 of them began calling on Baal, but there was no response.  They started early in the morning.  About noon (vs 27) Elijah began taunting them.  He laughed, scoffed, and ridiculed their ridiculous dancing and shouting.  In jest, Elijah said maybe he (Baal) is deep in thought and can't pay attention.  Maybe he is busy.  Maybe he is travelling.  Maybe he is sleeping.  (KJV) Maybe he is pursueing.  (that was a jestive term that meant maybe he was going to the bathroom.)  In verse 28, the Baal priests got more desparate and started slashing themselves "until the blood flowed".  {Elijah seems to be enjoying this, but he dares not disregard what is at stake in this.  Actually, all of Israel is at stake.)  They continued their shouts and dances until the evening.  This would have been about nine straight hours.  Then in verse 30, it was Elijah's turn.  He built his altar with twelve stones.  (Ever notice how the Bible places special emphases on numbers?  Especially 12, 7, and 3)  Elijah proceeds to arrange the wood properly, the place the sacrificial bull onto the altar.  Then, he calls for a barrell of water to be poured onto the wood three times.  The water completely drenched the wood and even filled up the trench that was dug around the altar.  Then, in verses 36--> Elijah calls on the name of the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  He asks God to let His power be known so that all of Israel could see Who is the true God, and that Israel would turn their hearts back to where they belonged.  Then (vs 38) the fire of the Lord struck the alter, the wood, even licking up the water in the trench, consuming everything.  When the people saw this they fell prostrate and cried "The Lord - He is God!  The Lord - He is God!"  Then Elijah commanded them to capture all the prophets of Baal.  They would be taken down off Mount Carmel and put to death.

Then in vs 41, Elijah tells Ahab to go, eat and drink, for there is heavy rain coming.  Ahab did as he was told, but Elijah went back up Mount Carmel.  There he told the people around him that the rain was coming from the sea (Mediterranean Sea), which it did, and scattered all the people, including Elijah.

So, it took a courageous prophet like Elijah to force the people of Israel to make up their minds.  He also proved to Ahab that Baal was a fraud, and the only true God was the Lord God of Israel.  One would assume things would then begin to turn around for Ahab and Israel, but not so fast................
.............next post  -  Ahab tells Jezebel what happened.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

CXXXV - I Kings 16:7-34 - Kings of Israel - Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab

As the previous post was a bit lengthy, this one will be fairly short, as I did not want to get started studying the great prophet Elijah until the following post.

The last post ended with Baasha being used as tool through which Ahijah's prophecy would be fulfilled concerning the descendants of Jeroboam.  Baasha killed every descendant of Jeroboam in such a fashion that their bodies could not be buried intact.  Therefore their bodies were (disrespectfully) left laying for the animal to feed from.  As we saw in the last post, Baasha ruled as king of Israel for twenty-four years, and his reign must have been full of terror and cruelty.  So much so, that the word of the Lord came through Jehu, saying that Baasha's descendants would suffer the identical fate as did Jeroboam's.  There was not much more than that said of Baasha.

Vss. 8-->  Baasha's son Elah succeeded Baasha as king of Israel.  This occurred in the twenty-sixth year of Asa's reign in Judah.  Elah ruled less than two years in Tirzah.  {After Israel separated from Judah, they set up Tirzah as their capital city from which the king would rule.  Jerusalem, of course, would remain as the capital and worship center for Judah.}  There is not much said about Elah in the Scripture.  There were only seven verses about him, and those verses told as much about Baasha, Jehu, Asa, and Zimri as they did about Elah.  Elah, much like Nadab, reigned for just over a year.  It says in verse 9 that Elah was in the home a Arza, a prominent citizen, getting drunk.  It was then that Zimri, an army commander of the chariots, assassinated king Elah.  {This was a brutal, out-of-control time in Israel's History.}  When Zimri killed king Elah, he pronounced himself as the new king of Israel.  Everyone was too frightened of him at this time to challenge his pronouncement.  {A personal comment:  Elah won't be mentioned any more in the Scripture.  His name was mentioned in this short passage, in the greatest Book ever to be written.  And the most memorable comment about him as king of Israel was that he was at someone's house getting drunk.  My name will probably never be written in any book, let alone a book holy like the Bible.  But if it would ever appear in writing, I hope I will have done something that would merit something better than that memorable comment about Elah.}  So Zimri is now Israel's new self-proclaimed king.  Here is an interesting tidbit:  He
only reigned seven days.  Seven days is not long, but it was long enough for him to fulfill the prophesy of Jehu.  Remember that Jehu prophesied to Baasha that he and his family would suffer the same fate as the descendants of Jeroboam.  During Zimri's brief seven-day reign, he killed off Baasha's entire family, which of course included Elah.

Vss 15-->  Remember, Zimri was the commander in charge of the chariots of Israel's army.  The Chief Commander of the entire army was Omri.  About all of Israel's army, including much of the chariot division was encamped in nearby Gibbethon, a Philistine city.  Their leader Omri was with them.  When news came of Zimri assassinating king Elah and proclaiming himself as king of Israel, the army decided they wanted Chief Commander Omri to become king.  Not Zimri.  So the army,
under Omri's command, marched on Tirzah.  By force they took the city and the throne away from Zimri.  I believe Zimri overestimated his popularity with the troops, don't you?  We can derive a few conclusions about Zimri.  While the whole army was encamped in Gibbethon, Zimri was plotting murder in the capital city.  He should have been busying himself with his responsibility as commander of the chariot division.  He must not have been much of a leader.  Also, he assumed he
could just take the throne by killing a drunk and defenseless man.  He didn't exercize enough forethought to secure his own kingly palace against seige.  Surely he knew he needed the support of people like Omri if he was going to do anything by force.  And lastly, when he saw his short-lived kingship was crumbling, he escaped to the palace and set it on fire, where he is assumed to have burned to death.  (If I can't have this palace, nobody can.)  As I said, Zimri wasn't what one would
consider to be a savory character.

Vss. 21-->  Now Zimri, who assassinatied king Elah and proclaimed himself king of Israel, only lasted seven days, just long enough for Omri to lead his army against Zimri and kill him.  {A quick word about Zimri and Omri:  Their family lineages cannot be found by Israel's Historians.  This brings many of them to conclude that these men were both Caananites.  On the surface this doesn't make a lot of sense that Caananites would be leading Israel's army.  But when thinking more deeply,
Israel had just recently separated itself from Judah.  Jeroboam had to put a military together quickly.  Judah still possessed the leadership and equipment.  Perhaps Jeroboam had to recruit Caananite soldiers and make a lot of deals to secure them and their loyalty.  Just a thought.  More on that later.}  I have tought this Scripture about Omri a number of years ago.  Our Sunday School class referred to him as "Ornery Omri".  This 21st verse mentions that Omri didn't have a very easy time securing the throne for himself.  There was another man named Tibni who also wanted to be king of Israel.  He apparently had a lot of civilian support behind him.  But Omri's strong military prevailed and he became the king.  Omri's struggle against Tibni's supporters lasted four years and was quite bloody, further damaging Israel as a nation.  Verse 22 states Tibni was killed by Omri's forces, which placed Omri as undisputed king.  There was one thing Omri did accomplish that was lasting.  After he had been king for six years, he built the city of Samaria and made it the new capital of Israel.  Samaria would remain the capital until Assyria took Israel captive a hundred and sixty years later.  Omri reigned for twelve years.  Then his son Ahab succeeded him as king of Israel.

Vss. 29-34  -  Ahab becomes king of Israel.

{Refering to the previous paragraph:  If those few Jewish Historians were correct about Zimri and Omri being Caananites, that means that there has been, and is now, a Caananite as the sitting king of Israel.  I am not insisting that this is correct, I am but suggesting the possibility.}

There is much to be told about Ahab.  He will appear elswhere in the Old Testament.  The Scripture tells us in verse 30 that he was worse than any of the kings before him.  In vs 31 it says he "trivialized" committing the sins of Jeroboam.  This tells me he publicly made a mockery of God's cammands.  You will find Ahab to be one of the most unsavory characters in the entire Bible.  Ahab was proud of himself for every sin against God that took place.  He championed the official following and worshipping of Baal and Ashteroth.  He married the notorious Jezebel.  She was the daughter of Ethbaal, a priest of Baal Melkart, to which children were sacrificed.  Jezebel was determined to turn the entire nation Israel into worshippers of Baal Melkar, further fanning the flames of God's anger.  I'll wrap up this post now, but first I must make one last comment concerning the last verse in the 16th chapter.  This verse tells us that Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.  It says, "Hiel laid its foundations at the cost of his firsborn son Abiram, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub".  This means that Hiel burned his oldest and his youngest sons in the arms of the idol that represented Baal Melkar in a ceremony dedicating the building of Jericho.  Back in the book of Joshua 6:26, Joshua pronounced a solemn oath:  "cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:  At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the
cost of his youngest he will set up its gates."

Next post  -  Elijah

Friday, April 5, 2013

CXXXIV - I Kings 14:21-16:7 - Leaders Still Matter

The kingdom of Israel is now divided.  Judah and Benjamin together is the nation of Judah.  The other ten tribes together make up the nation of Israel.  Solomon had built a nation that was the envy of all nations in the known world at that time.  They were a military super power, which gave them peace, as there could not be any serious aggression that could stand against the military that Solomon built.  Solomon had established an economy that, as a whole, made Israel the richest nation in the world, even dwarfing Egypt.  But even right before Solomon died, the nation showed cracks in its armor.

As we've studied, there are now two kings:  Rehoboam in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel.  Although the Scriptures describe Jeroboam as being much worse that Rehoboam, they were alike in that they not only gave their nations over to pagan worship, they actually led their nations to pagan worship.  This is mentioned about Jeroboam numerous times in future generations.  As these two kings have established their reign, their military and economic strength had already begun to show weaknesses.

Allow me to interject at this point about the pagan gods and their worship centers.  There are numerous gods in the pagan world throughout the times of the Old Testament.  To simplify, I'll use the names used as a basis for most of their gods.  That would be the fertility gods whose names are Baal (the male) and Ashteroth (the female).  To satisfy these gods, the people engaged in perverted sexual activity at their worship centers.  The worship officials (with various titles) were nothing but male and female prostitutes assigned to lead worshippers in perverted sexual activities.  {I don't wish to offend anyone, but my research tells me that there was much homosexual activity engaged in, plus sexual activity with animals.}  The people foolishly reasoned that the more disgusting the sexual activity was, the more it would please these gods, thus making the crops, herds, and even families to multiply and prosper.  {No wonder God considered this to be the most heinous offence against Him.}  As for their shrines and worship centers, they are often refered to as "high places" and "groves".  In this study I shall use the term most often used for their worship centers: "High Places".  There were literally multitudes of these high places for pagan worship.  They could be made quickly and almost anywhere.  In each high place was some type of altar, (which could be anything they could call an idol) stone pillars placed in some type of pattern, and wooden poles in the ground.  These three items marked a high place for worshipping Baal and Ashteroth.

Chapter 14:21-31 - Rehoboam, King of Judah

We've looked a bit at both of these kings, a little more about Jeroboam.  Now we will finish with Rehoboam, starting in the 21st verse of chapter 14.  Note that to introduce the kings of Judah, the writer followed a particular pattern.  He would state the king's name, the length of his reign, and his mother's name.   {This pattern was not used when naming the kings of Israel.  Perhaps because the king's mother held no office of importance in Israel as she did in Judah.}  Rehoboam's mother was Naamah, an Ammonitess.  {I'm sure she held much influence with Solomon to get her son named as his successor.  He had many sons.}  Verse 22 states very simply, but clearly.  "Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord."  Rehobaom had high places built for the purpose of pagan worship.  Look at vs 24.  There were male prostitutes located at each of these many "high places".  {KJV refers to these male prostitutes as "Sodomites", which had an official translation being "holy men".  How dare they disrespect God so much as to call anything holy "Sodomites".  That in itself is a clue as to the level of perversion and Godlessness that was dominant in Judah's society.}  The next verse (26) is a good example of why I study (and teach) the Bible by each verse, within a passage, within a chapter, within a book, within the Bible itself.  (It is so difficult to allow myself to omit anything, but I realize it takes a very long time to do it this way.)  Look closely at verse 26 - "He (king Shishak of Egypt) carried off the treasures of the Temple of the Lord and treasures of the royal palace.  He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made".  Remember the Scripture describing these gold shields and how much gold and time it took to make them?  They symbolized military might in the soldiers that were assigned to guard the Temple, the king, and his palace.  This verse is shocking as is raises many questions.  Did the Egyptians just walk in and take them?  Where was this large and powerful military that Solomon built?  Had it become so weak it couldn't even keep the enemy from the Temple?  Where were the Israelite soldiers that were with Jeroboam and serving under the mighty general Baasha?  Did the Israelite army so disrespect their cousins that they would not lift a finger to protect the Temple?  {They must not have cared because they might have been too preoccupied with worshipping Baal and Ashteroth.  This is a terrible situation.  It would be like us letting foreign soldiers in and we just stand by while they walked into the Smithsonian and walked right out with all that represents our nation's heritage.  I would like to think that this could never happen.}  Another reason this verse is so telling is that Solomon had just died a few years earlier.  Think about how fast that very powerful nation went from a feared military power to a nation
whose enemies could just walk in and take its most valuable possessions.  I find it difficult to imagine how that could happen in such a short time.  The Scripure is very clear about the reason.  God's chosen people had turned away from Him and worshipped false gods.

Verse 27-->  Solomon was very fond of these gold shields.  They were used by Solomon's guards when he entered the Temple.  After such a ceremony, the shields were returned to their place in storage.  Rehoboam was aware of how important these shields were to his father.  He had them replaced with bronze shields, as the economy was being so squandered he could not amass enough gold to replace them as they were.  It mentions in verse 30 that there was constant war between Judah and Israel during Rehobaom's seventeen year reign.  The chapter ends with Rehoboam's death and
Abijah his son succeeded him as king.

Chapter 15 - More kings.  Less Godliness

{To understand the timeline, please refer to CXXXI}  While Jeroboam was still on the throne of Israel, Rehoboam died and his son Abijah became king of Judah.  Abijah reigned only three years.  His mother was Maakah, the daughter of Absalom (remember him?)  The Scripture tells us that Abijah carried on in his father's footsteps which was not a good thing.  The kings of Judah and Israel were always compared to David, being the gold standard of excellence, and Jeroboam, being an
example of the worst, as he led his people away from God.  Note verse 5.  The Scripture speaks honorably of David as the standard but notes that he kept the Lords commands "except in the case of Uriah the Hittite".  {David was loved by God because God was loved by David.  David was not perfect, but his heart was always right.  That should be our goal.}  It mentions that there was constant war between Abijah and Jerobaom for the three years of Abijah's reign.  It does not say how Abijah died, but we know it was at a relatively young age.  His son Asa succeeded him as king of Judah.

Asa  -  A breath of fresh air.

Asa became king of Judah in the last year of king Jeroboam of Israel.  Asa reigned forty one years and put them to good use.  In spite of public opinion, he proceeded to try to turn the nation back to God.  This is no easy task.  He got rid of the male prostitutes.  He deposed his grandmother Maakah because she was such a negative influince against God.  For forty one years Asa fought the good fight in the name of God.  The Scripture says in verse 14 that he did not remove all the high places, but that could mean that there were so many.  It sure wasn't because he was too timid.  This man had courage to do all he did.  {Just imagine if a president tried to bring our nation back to God.  Just for one small example, what would he have to do to discourage the type of sexual activity that we have not only accepted, but have embraced and encouraged through our entertainment industry and the media.  Just that alone would be so difficult, I don't think a president could survive just attempting it.  He would be booed right out of the white house.  Was it any easier for Asa?  I doubt it very seriously, which is why he is one of my favorite kings of Old Testament times.  I've always respected courage that stands against popular public opinion.  We sure could use someone like that right about now.}

At this time I must jump ahead a little and mention that shortly after Asa became king of Judah, that Baasha replaced Jeroboam as king of Israel.  Baasha was a might warrior.  Baasha warred against Judah successfully as Judah had become militarily weak under Rehoboam.  Asa did the only thing
he could do to protect Judah from Baasha.  He gathered all the silver and gold from the treasury and took it to Ben-Hadad, king in Damascus and paid him for protection.  Although Israel had a superior military to Judah, it was not enough to stand against the Syrians.  So Asa's actions brought peace from Baasha's aggression.  Asa worked really hard to bring his nation back to where it should be.  He deserves our respect.  Vss 23-24 tell us that he died at a very old age from desease in his feet.  The Scripture doesn't always give details of the deaths of many of the kings.

Vss. 25-->  Back to Israel

The remainder of chapter 15 tells of the end of Jeroboam's terrible reign in Israel.  Remember, Israel is much large that Judah in both land mass and population.  Jeroboam died in the second year that Asa was king of Judah.  His son Nadab became king of Israel.  He followed in the footsteps of his father.  But unlike Judah, God did not promise that there would be a royal bloodline in Israel.  Therefore, the king was always at risk of losing the throne.  Nadab was a perfect example for this. 
The commander of Israel's military was Baasha from the tribe of Issachar.  Since Baasha had charge of the military, it was easy for Baasha to kill Nadab and take the throne for himself.  (most guns win sydrome)

I Kings 15:29 - 16:7  -  Back in I Kings chapter 14, the prophet Ahijah foretold the fate of the descendants of king Jeroboam:  They would all be killed and would not even have the honor of being buried.  In this passage, Baasha fulfills this prophesy.  Baasha killed every known descendant of Jeroboam.  Just like Ahijah foretold.  Baasha saw to it that there would be no legitimate claim to his throne through the lineage of Jeroboam.  {This was not an uncommon practice in those times.}  This
chapter ends with telling us that Baasha was an evil and heathen king that followed the ways of Jeroboam and reigned twenty-four years.  But the Scripture continues with Baasha in chapter 16 with Jehu.  Jehu was a fearless prophet of God, whose ministry stretched over many years, even into the reign of Ahab and Jehoshaphat.  This passage tells us that Jehu (speaking for God) condemned Baasha for two reasons.  Firstly, he followed in Jerobaom's footsteps in leading God's people even further from Him.  Secondly, Baasha killed all of Jeroboam's descendants with such gruesome cruelty that God was appalled by it.  Jehu prophesied that Baasha would suffer the same fate as did Jeroboam.  The only difference was that Jeroboam was not a part of his fate.  Only his descendants.  Baasha, on the other hand would be included as one of the victims of this prophecy, which included death and the bodies scattered for the dogs and birds to feed upon.

Baasha's son Elah would succeed Baasha as king of Israel, but for a short time, as we will continue with our study of these kings in the next post.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

CXXXIII - I Kings 13:1-14:20 - More About Jeroboam

The nation Israel is now divided.  Rehoboam, Solomon's son is the king of only the Judah and Benjamin tribes of Israel.  This kingdom will be refered to as "Judah" for the next 345 years.  Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, is the king of the ten other tribes, which is refered to as Israel, and will exist as a nation with those boundries within the Promised Land for 209 years.  The reason I mention those length of times is that those two nations will cease to exist with their current boundries.  The last post and this one will describe how each began to seal their fates early, starting with their first kings, Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  In the last post we saw Rehoboam squander his opportunity to keep his father's entire kingdom intact by ignoring wise council and making a foolish decision.  We also saw how Jeroboam has turned his own people to pagan idol worship and has disregarded all of God's laws concerning idol worship and even the Levites. 

Chapter 13 - Jeroboam, The Man of God, and The Old Prophet

Look at the first verse.  It looks to me like Jeroboam was taking more than a casual part in sacrificing at the altar he had built in Bethel.  It almost gives the impression that he was "officiating" in some capacity.  Anyway, an unnamed man of God from Judah appeared.  Not much is said to tell us about this man, but he seems to suddenly appear out of nowhere.  Also, somewhat abruptly, he stated one of the Bible's prophecies:  He fortold Josiah's birth.  {We'll learn more about Josiah later.}  And he stated this prophesy in an unusual manner.  He told it to the inanimate altar to which Jeroboam was making sacrifices.  But the important part was that he made this prophesy in the presence of Jeroboam.  This man of God declared that the altar at Bethel was unacceptable to God and was destined to be destroyed by Josiah (a descendant of David).  This would take place in about 300 years.  Jeroboam's first response was to kill the man of God, but was unable to do him harm because God had paralized Jeroboam's arm and shriveled his hand.  After Jeroboam had realized this man represented the all powerful God of Israel, he sought to gain favor with him.  He actually invited the man to join him in a royal feast in his home and to accept a gift.  However, the man rejected the offer because God had instructed him not to eat or drink with anyone in Bethel, and to return a different route.

Then starting in verse 11, the Scripture suddenly changes subjects and introduces another character:  An old prophet who lived in Bethel.  {This man is somewhat of questionable character, based on his actions and attitude.}  This old prophet heard about what had happened at the altar and wanted to learn more about this man of God, by whom miracles had been wrought, even unto the king himself.  The old prophet cought up with the man of God.  He tried to persuade the man of God to stay at his house with him and share the evening meal.  Of course the man of God rejected the invitation for the same reason he gave Jeroboam:  God instructed him not to eat or drink in Bethel.  But the old prophet must have been desparate because he lied to the man of God and told him and an angel told him to have the man of God share the meal with him.  The man of God agreed to go home with the old prophet.  {Both men were at fault here.  Obviously the old prophet persuaded him by telling a lie.  The man of God was at fault because:  Since when did the word of an angel trump the direct word of God?}  Seemingly unusual, in verse 20 that the Holy Spirit spoke through the old prophet to pronounce judgement on the man of God for his disobedience.  His punishment would be that he would not be buried in the tomb of his ancestors.   Vss 23-32 tell of the man of God being killed by a lion, then buried in Bethel in a tomb owned by the old prophet.  {Not being buried with one's ancestors was a big deal to the Hebrews of this time period.  This prophesy probably upset the man of God terribly, not only that he would not be buried with his ancestors, but also that his death would be untimely, which it was.}

The last two verses in this chapter tells that even after Jeroboam had that contact with the man of God, he actually got worse at leading his people into pagan worship rather than better.

Chapter 14:1-20  -  Judgment Comes to Jeroboam

I'm not certain how much time has passed since Jeroboam had the encounter with the man of God.  Chapter 14 opens with Jeroboam's son Abijah having become ill.  Too ill for any known cure.  Jeroboam tells his wife to disguise herself and go to Shiloh to find the prophet Ahijah.  {Remember, Ahijah was the one who anointed Jeroboam to be king of the ten tribes of Israel?}  Vs 4b - Ahijah had grown very old and he could not even see.  But God told him that Jeroboam's wife was coming to see him and she had disguised herself.  In verse 6 when Ahijah heard her footsteps he said, "Come in, wife of Jeroboam.  Why the pretense?"  She now knows she has been busted, but Ahijah continues on by telling her he has bad news for her.  He proceeds to tell her of the sins of Jeroboam in light of all that God has done for him.  He goes on in verse 9, speaking of Jeroboam, "you have done more evil than all who have lived before you.......you have made other gods, you have turned your back on Me, you have aroused My anger........".  Ahijah continues in the following verses to say how God will punish the house of Jeroboam.  He will cut off the house of Jeroboam.  {To "cut off" meant all male descendants will die, thus the house of Jeroboam will be literally cut off from existence.  Not only that, but none of his descendants will even have the honor of being buried.  Instead, dogs and birds will feed on their carcasses.  This would have been horrible news for this woman to have to give to her husband Jeroboam.}  Before Ahijah sends her on her way,  he gives her one more bit of bad news:  When she stepped foot back into her house, her son Abijah would die.  {This was not a good visit for the wife of Jeroboam.  I find the latter part of verse 13 interesting.  God (through Ahijah) indicates that the Abijah, the son of Jeroboam will die although he was the only decent member of Jeroboam's family, immediate and extended.  Perhaps death was the most merciful thing that could happen to this boy in lieu of what God was going to do to the entire family.}

Verse 15 is an EXTREMELY important word of prophesy:  Ahijah tells that God is going to uproot Israel from the Promised Land and give her over to those beyond the Euphrates River.  {200 years later, Assyria conquered Israel and took all of them captive and took them as slaves to Assyria.}  But look at vs 16.  God states emphatically that this will happen because of Jeroboam leading his people into paganism.  In verse 17 she steps in her house and Abijah, her son at that moment died.

Vss 19-20 say that Jeroboam died, having reigned in Israel for twenty-two years, and Nadab his shon succeeded him as king.

Next post - More about Rehoboam, King of Judah.