Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29

OT: 2 Kings 15:1-16:20

Two shifts in writing today made me ponder the idea of multiple authorship of Kings. First of all, I noticed that the author no longer feels compelled to analyze why God made certain decisions; he just notes that He did. For example, in 15:5, the author mentions that God afflicted the (relatively) righteous king Amaziah with leprosy until he died. Yet, unlike in the past, there is no further explanation provided on why God might have done that. Also, in 15:27, the author states that God "began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah," which was currently being ruled by the relatively righteous Jotham (15:37). Again, there was no mention of what Jotham or his father or the people did to deserve this attack. I must admit, I prefer this new style, as I have found many of the explanations for God's actions up to this point to be less than satisfying. I'm not saying that they aren't right; I'm just saying that I don't get them. I am much better with the idea that God did it, and we don't know why, and we just have to trust that God is in control of all things (a la Psalm 139).

The second shift was the abrupt change in usage of one of the king's names. The author had been calling him Azariah, right up until 15:30, when he started calling him Uzziah. In 15:27, it was Azariah. In 15:30, Uzziah. Might that abrupt change signal a new author? Or perhaps it just signals a new source. I don't know. The two shifts I've mentioned do not occur at the same time, so I don't know if the inconsistency in style and name usage comes from multiple authors or multiple sources or what. I'm sure there are other explanations, but I just can't think of any this morning.

Today was also another one of those "contrast" days, where Judah enjoyed a good run of righteous kings (Azariah and Jotham), while Israel suffered through a particularly vicious and tumultuous cycle of evil ones (Zechariah-Shallum-Menahem-Pekahiah-Pekah-Hoshea). Most of Israel's kings came to power in bloody coups, so the lineage was again ripped from family to family. And speaking of ripping, we had another horrific reference to the ripping open of pregnant women. This time, the slaughter was perpetrated by Menahem, who did so to all the women of Tiphsah because the city would not open its gates to him (15:16). I don't really want to comment on that practice except to say that it is revolting beyond my imagination. In fact, the whole concept indeed laid pleasantly beyond my imagination for the first 25 years of my life, when I had the misfortune of reading about it in a book about the Bataan death march. In the account I read, a Japanese soldier did that to a Philippine woman who was feeding the prisoners during the march. My point is, as awful and terrible as such a practice is, it is not simply a brutal relic of ancient times. Things like that make me shudder to realize that I am living in a world where people are capable of such creatively awful atrocities.

Two more quick, random things:

--Assyria comes on the scene today in a big way. I thought it was weird that Menahem made a treaty with them in 15:19, but that the support of the Assyrians was then easily bought by Ahaz in 16:8-9. It would appear that the Assyrians have no loyalty to either kingdom, and that this relationship will end very badly for Israel, in particular.

--I have begun to ponder the idea of each dead king going to "rest with his fathers." Since this descriptor is used uniformly for both good and bad kings, its usage indicates one of two things. Either the author had a seriously misguided notion of what happens when we die (I'm not sure that the wicked, in particular, get to "rest with their fathers"), or it is simply a euphemism written in deference to the kings who are still alive. Either way, it does not seem like an accurate description of life after death.

Acts 19:13-41

The emerging identity of Christianity was further refined in today's passage. First of all, the seven sons of Sceva were prevented from continuing to act falsely in the name of Jesus and Paul. Ironically, their practice was stopped by a hilariously impertinent and ultimately violent demon, who questions, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" (15). The demon then promptly beat and humiliated them (16). Furthermore, this incident prompted many in Ephesus to publicly confess their sins and to burn the scrolls that they used for sorcery.

When people began to fully catch on that Christianity involves a renouncement of all other gods, the Christians began to have a problem in Ephesus. Specifically, a man named Demetrius correctly feared that Christianity has no respect for the gods whom he makes for a living. He subsequently got the city into quite an uproar that, to me, had many comical elements. Among them were:

--Paul's desire to speak before the crazy crowd, and his having to be restrained by the other disciples. I admire that enthusiasm:). I picture a Scrappy-Doo-type, "Let me at 'em" mentality that just makes me laugh. "No, no guys. Trust me, I got this. It'll be fine...just let me talk to them..."

--The idea that "most of the people [at the assembly] did not even know why they were there" (32). The immense confusion was humorous.

--That the crowd shouted, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" for two hours, simply in response to learning that a speaker was a Jew (34). Two hours!!

--The city clerk's speech. Actually the clerk's speech was quite good and sensible. It's just that his argument fully exposed the ridiculousness of the gathering: "You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess...If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls...As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it" (37-38, 40). Ahh... funny. Humans crack me up:).

Psalm 147: 1-20

A nice, harmless praise psalm.

Proverbs 18: 4-5

I don't quite get verse 4: "The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook." If I had to hazard a guess at what that meant, I would venture that while man's words can have depth and a measure of understanding, they are no match for the eternal and life-giving nature of ultimate wisdom, which comes from God alone.

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