Monday, June 20, 2016

Reading in Kings This Week #3 (2 Kings 1-11)

3478This week we move on to Second Kings accompanied by 1 & 2 Kings The College Press NIV Commentary by Jesse C. Long. 2 Kings continues the story of how the Davidic Covenant works out in the history of Israel. The kings and the nation progressively move farther and farther from God’s ideal and mission until both nations are exiled.  the exilic readers would thus be very aware of the dangers of idolatry.  Previous posts from Kings are here and here. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

2 Kings continues the story (originally Kings was one scroll) of 1 Kings by recounting the "ends" of both the family of Ahab and Elijah. The family of Ahab would be completely wiped out, while Elijah ascended in a "chariot of fire." The opening scene is a confrontation between Ahab's family, including their God Baal, and YHWH and his prophet Elijah, between "the Lord of the flies" and God's messenger, "the Lord of hair." YHWH and Elijah win that one and Ahaziah dies childless. Chapter 2 deals with the succession of Elijah by Elisha. The passage is framed around the ascension of Elijah. The locations and actions of Elisha and Elijah are matched signifying that Elisha truly has the mission, power and spirit of Elijah. Subsequent miracles will confirm this. As Ahab's family finds out, it is a dangerous thing to mess with God's true prophet.

The captain commands Elijah, “Come down!” So, the match is set between the power of the prophet, who said that the ailing king would not “come down” (yārad, vv. 4, 6) from his bed, and the power of the king, who commands the prophet to “come down” (yārad) from the mountain. 2 Kings 1.9-15, 284

Elijah’s miraculous power and single-minded commitment to Yahweh also prefigure the life of the Messiah. All of these connections come together and are reinforced in Elijah’s ascension to heaven in a whirlwind, which foreshadows the ascension of the Messiah and the victory over the forces of evil that event will signify. 2 Kings 2.16-18, 293–294

As Elijah called down fire from heaven, Elisha brings she-bears out of the woods. The taunt does not just concern Elisha’s appearance. The children are discounting his authority and calling for the downfall of Yahweh’s prophet. It follows that their actions are an affront not just to the man Elisha but also to the prophet as a representative of Yahweh...To flout a representative of Yahweh is to flout God himself. 2 Kings 2.23-25, 296–297

Chapter 3 begins the story of the breakup and destruction of Ahab's family and empire. When the Moabites revolt against the king of Israel, the kings of Judah and Edom rally to help him. Only Jehoshaphat is named in the story because, as Elisha says, God will not even look at the king of Israel. God gives a miraculous victory to the 3 kings but Moab is still lost for Ahab's empire. Judgment is beginning. Chapter 4 provides a contrast as God provides for the poor and faithful through the miracles of Elisha. There are several parallels between Elisha's miracles and those of Moses and Elijah. He also prefigures what Messiah Jesus will do.

In spite of the fact that Joram is not as bad as his parents, Yahweh has not forgotten Elijah’s word of judgment on Israel. Unwittingly, the king twice verbalizes the point of the story—Yahweh called the three kings together to hand them over to Moab (vv. 10, 13). The anger of Yahweh continues against the house of Ahab. The reader can anticipate that Joram will die like his father. 2 Kings 3, 307

Elisha reaches out to those who do not possess power or prestige and even to those on the periphery of society: a widow, a bereaved woman, poor prophets, and “the people.” In each story, a problem is solved by the prophet for the benefit of these representatives of the powerless in Israelite society...Elisha personifies the meaning of his name (אֱלִישָׁע, ˒ĕlîšā˓, “God/my God saves”) and prefigures the Messiah, not only as a miracle worker, but also as one whose mission includes the outcast of society. 2 Kings 4, 309

Elisha’s miracle of the multiplication of loaves resonates with Moses, who brought manna from heaven (Exodus 16), but also looks forward to the Messiah’s miracle of feeding the thousands...Is it too much to add that the connection the narrator makes between Elisha’s deeds of compassion and the word of Yahweh (v. 44) also prefigures the prophet who would come, “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19)? 2 Kings 4, 316

As the judgment of Ahab's family continues God keeps working to preserve and validate his prophet and care for the poor and outcast in Israel and even in the surrounding nations. The healing of the "great" man, Naaman, is remarkable in that God heals an enemy general who may have even been the one that is organizing the Aramean incursions into Israel. The "little" girl lives out the mission of the nation to bless the Gentiles by sending him to the prophet. While the kings manipulate one another, the prophet applies the word of God to bring life. There is a great contrast between the Gentile Naaman who repents of his former ethnic hatred and believes, with the king and Gehazi who refuse to repent. Elisha ministers to the small and the great without favoritism of either one. He captures armies singlehandedly and returns lost tools to poor prophets by the same power of God.

“Go in peace!” anoints the Aramean’s request with divine approval...these brief words of blessing highlight the actions of the prophet and call to mind the underlying tension of the story—Yahweh’s prophet heals and blesses an outsider. 2 Kings 5.15-19, 327–328

The unnamed “little girl” in exile represents the point of view of the storyteller. Natural animosities and prejudices must be subverted to Yahweh’s will and work among the nations. He is also God of “all the world.” Jesus uses the story in this way when he counters Jewish prejudices toward outsiders in his hometown of Nazareth: “There were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian” 2 Kings 5, 331

The storyteller artistically employs “seeing” as a vehicle for expressing the narrative’s theological level of meaning...The Arameans become blind, as Elisha had asked...With almost verbatim repetition, the narrator describes how Elisha’s servant and the Aramean army are both enabled with sight (“LORD, open his eyes …,” v. 17; “LORD, open the eyes of these men …,” v. 20). The reader is able to see that Elisha’s insight comes from Yahweh, who listens to the prophet. 2 Kings 6.8-20, 334–336

In chapters 7-8 the story continues to alternate between Elisha working on a national scale and with needy individuals. Chapter 6 ends with the Aramean siege of Samaria. The famine is so bad that the city is in terrible distress so that mothers are eating their own children. The king goes through the motions of repentance (he wears sackcloth) but clearly does not believe that God will deliver the city. God will show him one more time that he can and will save them. The situation is so dire that the reader expects that the promised judgment on Ahab's family has arrived. The king wants to kill Elisha, but instead God uses four lepers to deliver the city from the mighty Aramean army. Elisha then uses his influence to return the lands taken away from the Shunnemite woman, focusing attention on the fact that he had raised her son from the dead. God then uses Elisha to begin the process of the destruction of Ahab's family as he anoints Hazael king of Aram. Finally the text notes the intermarriage of the kings of Judah with Ahab's dynasty. Members of Ahab's family now sit on David's throne. How will God be able to destroy Ahab's family and keep David's throne intact?

The carefully worded narrative insinuates that by the power of Yahweh, the Arameans flee at the sound of the four advancing lepers. Yahweh delivers Samaria with lepers! The outcast/ cursed become the vehicle for God’s salvation. An exilic audience would be encouraged. Perhaps Yahweh will be able to use the cursed in exile in a similar way? 2 Kings 7.1-20, 342

Yahweh uses Ben-Hadad to punish Ahab, but in the end the king of Aram is devoted to Yahweh and gets what he deserves. The “anointing” of Hazael is another example of how the storyteller uses an earlier episode to frame a story with ironic results. In this way, Yahweh is shown again to be working in history, this time in the affairs of Israel’s rival Aram—ultimately for the purpose of punishing his people. 2 Kings 8.1-10, 352

The storyteller’s statement has the effect of introducing once more the theme of delayed retribution (see comments on 1 Kgs 11:11–13). Yahweh is patient with Judah for the sake of David. While his sword of judgment will soon fall on the joined-in-marriage houses of Ahab and David and in the end on both Israel and Judah, an exilic reader is reminded of Yahweh’s unconditional, eternal covenant with the house of David. 2 Kings 8.18-19, 356

The rest of chapter 8 and chapters 9 and 10 describe the judgment on the house of Ahab accomplished by Jehu. Elisha has Jehu anointed as king by one of the prophets and he is commanded to execute God's judgment on Ahab's "house." Jehu accomplishes this as he executes Ahab's son Joram, Ahab's grandson, the king of Judah, Ahaziah, and Jezebel. However, Jehu goes far beyond God's command and executes others who might be rivals to his taking the throne of Israel. This purge brings up the question as to what will now happen to the "house of David," and the promises that go with that, now that they are joined to the doomed house of Ahab.

Because of the intermarriage between the two houses and the evil influence of the house of Ahab on the house of David, the two are interchangeable. Joram is Jehoram; Jehoram is Joram—and Judah has become Israel! 2 Kings 8.25-27, 359

When the king dies in his chariot at the hands of Jehu, he is Ahab. His body is thrown on the plot that belonged to Naboth, and Elijah’s word and Yahweh’s full intentions are fulfilled to the letter. Delayed retribution for the house of Ahab reflects Yahweh’s mercy (1 Kgs 21:27–29), but his judgment is enacted—his word comes to pass! 2 Kings 9.24-26, 367

Once more, Jehu associates his actions with the word of Yahweh. But, the calculating, somewhat underhanded way he construes the death of the seventy before the people of Jezreel suggests the possibility that he is also manipulating the word of Yahweh for his own benefit...In the eighth century, through the prophet Hosea, Yahweh indicts the dynasty of Jehu for what happens here...In verse 11, Jehu’s massacre moves beyond his charge to remove the house of Ahab. In an act that appears to be politically motivated, he kills all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor. 2 Kings 10.9-11, 377–378

Chapters 10 and 11 finish the story of the destruction of Ahab's line in both Israel and Judah. Upon taking the throne in Israel, Jehu purges the land of Baal worshipers with a deceptive mass killing. He invites the Baal worshipers to a "great sacrifice for Baal" and then "sacrifices" all of the worshipers. In chapter 11, Athaliah, Ahab's daughter, murders all but one of the Davidic line. Only baby Joash is hidden and protected in the temple of YHWH. 6 years later the priest, Jehoiada, launches a coup, displays the king and has Athaliah killed. To destroy the line of Ahab, "Jezebel" must be killed in both nations. However, this will not avoid final judgment. Jehu reveals his unfaithful heart with his revival of Jereboam's idolatry and Joash only remains faithful while Jehoiada is alive.

Regardless of the merit of the performance, only the righteous in heart get spiritual credit for their performance. 2 Kings 10, 384

As the house of Baasha was destroyed by Zimri because he became like the house of Jeroboam “and because he destroyed [the house of Jeroboam]” (1 Kgs 16:7), so the house of Jehu will be destroyed because he followed Jeroboam—and because of the way he destroyed the house of Ahab. The narrator commends Jehu, but in his indirect style allows the inconsistencies and ironies in his presentation (especially the ironic contrast with Jehoiada’s coup to follow, ch. 11) to negatively frame the elimination of the houses of Ahab and Baal and “cast doubts on [his] motives as well as his methods.” 2 Kings 10.30-31, 384

The promise to David of an eternal throne hangs on the bare thread of a child. As Moses was rescued from Pharaoh, and the Messiah from Herod, a child who embodies the promises of Yahweh is rescued from the clutches of Judah’s Jezebel. 2 Kings 11.1-3, 388

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