Wednesday, December 23, 2009

109: Ahab and Elijah

1 Kings 18-20
By the word of the LORD one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, "Strike me with your weapon," but the man refused. So the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you." And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him. - 1 Kings 20:35-36

Eventually Elijah goes back to Ahab (after staying in hiding). He goes to the people of Israel, who are now worshiping Baal, and tells them to prepare an offering for their God. Elijah does the same. They both put their offerings on the altar but neither set fire to it. Elijah tells them to pray that Baal will light their offering on fire and he will do the same with the "real" God.

Of course, Elijah's offering sets fire and the other prophets' offering doesn't. Then, like the ending to any good Old Testament story, Elijah has all the other prophets (over 400) slaughtered. Right after this something weird happens. Here is the quote:
And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
Elijah put his head between whose knees? Why is he putting his head between anyone's knees?

Elijah then flees (again) and talks to God about uninteresting things.

The rest of this section is about Ben-Hadad attacking Israel. Ben-Hadad's first attack fails. He musters another army in the spring and attacks again. This time he fails even more miserably. Wait a second, why is Ahab winning? He's not obeying God's word. Oh well, nobody ever said the bible wasn't incredibly inconsistent (ok, maybe someone said that).

The last few paragraphs of this section are strange (we're having a strange day). Here's what I understand. A prophet tells his companion to strike him with a weapon. The companion says no, so the prophet tells him he's going to be eaten by a lion. The other man is, in fact, eaten by a lion. Moral of this story: stab your friends when they tell you to.

The prophet finally finds someone willing to hurt him. The prophet then goes to the king and says this:
Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, 'Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.' While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.
Ok. So this prophet is pretending that he lost someone he was supposed to be guarding. Got it.

The king responds by saying:
That is your sentence, you have pronounced it yourself.
That is what sentence? Now I'm a little confused, but the confusion has only begun. The prophet takes off his disguise, revealing himself as one of the prophets and says this:
This is what the Lord says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.'
What? I don't even know what the king did, much less why he's being punished for it. Did I miss something here (I guess I must have)? If someone figures this out write me a comment and let me know.

*News*
Video games? Those are fun. The bible? Not so much fun. Let's put them together!

James Rolfe (or as most of you know him The Angry Video Game Nerd) has set his sights on bible games made for the Nintendo and Super Nintendo. If you don't know who he is, he finds old games that he finds particularly hard/bad and reviews them. As a forewarning, his entire act (yes, it's an act) is that he's incredibly pissed off at these games. Therefore the entire video is pretty much him cussing out his TV screen.

He has two bible game reviews Bible Games: Part I and Bible Games: Part II. (Not safe for work, school... home?)

(via Cinemassacre)

5 comments:

  1. Bryan,

    Some background plot development before I suggest an answer to your question.

    Death threatened the land by famine.
    Death threatened Elijah.
    Death threatened the prophets of God.
    Death threatened the widow and her son.
    Death overtakes the widow’s son.
    Death is feared by Obadiah (whose name means “servant of Yahweh”).

    The only individuals who seemingly are not fazed by “death” is Ahab, Jezebel, and the 450 prophets of Baal who are FEASTING in the midst of a FAMINE (I Kings 18:19). The “wicked” seem to be prospering while the “righteous” are suffering.

    Yet Yahweh demonstrates to Elijah (who is fearful and running) and the Northern Kingdom (who has departed from the word/covenant of the God) that man is to “live” or be sustained by the word of the Lord. Yahweh commands the ravens to feed Elijah and he is sustained. Yahweh commands the widow without sustenance to sustain Elijah and all are sustained. Yahweh reintroduces the breath of life to the son whose breath left him. There is death apart from living according to the word of the Lord (Gen 3 anyone?).

    By the end of the contest between Baal and Yahweh, however, Yahweh has been victorious over both Baal and death. Indeed it is Yahweh who lives. The phrase, “As Yahweh lives” is repeated throughout the story. Baal is shown to be “asleep” or really “dead” and non-existent. At Yahweh’s instigation, life giving rain returns to the land. And, Yahweh even uses death to rid himself of his enemies as Elijah slays the Baal prophets. Yahweh is master over life and death. And, He has demonstrated that His word is efficacious.

    All of this interaction by God is given graciously for the Northern king and kingdom to repent from their breach of the covenant/word and to encourage His servants (like Obadiah, Elijah, and His people) to persevere.

    Now all is good right? The Baal prophets are dead. The people declared Yahweh is God and not Baal. Elijah had been exalted. Yet Jezebel in 1 Kings 19 threatens Elijah’s life. Elijah succumbs to the fear of death after witnessing all that has happened before him. He flees. Where is the servant of God that perseveres and does not lose heart?

    Elijah runs and goes to Mount Horeb (Sinai) where the covenant between God and His people was established (Exodus). Elijah apparently expects more great manifestations of God’s power to convince Jezebel and her entourage to repent (i.e. earthquake, wind, fire) and save his life. God reminds Elijah that the discipline of the Northern Kingdom would come through the “still small voice” which is most likely a reference to the rising up of nations against the N. kingdom. In Hebrew, the word “still small” sounds like “Damascus.” God would not perform miracles but would execute His covenant promises of bringing nations against His people (Deut) to discipline them. So, Elijah, at Sinai where the covenant was established, is reminded of the covenant/word of God and the coming consequences. Thus he is commanded to anoint the king of Damascus and the new King of Israel who would succeed Ahab.

    Continued in next post...

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  2. ...Continued from previous

    Damascus is raised up against Israel and plunders the nation but Israel is “victorious.” However, Israel is not unscathed. God’s discipline is incremental. He allows a victory so that Ahab may again know that Yahweh is God (1 Kings 20:28). God even delivers the king of Damascus into Ahab’s hands, but Ahab makes a treaty with him and lets him go! (1 Kings 20:34). God has now done the following to Ahab: 1) sent famine into the land for three years, 2) demonstrated decisively that Baal is dead, 3) restored rain, 4) raised up Damascus against him, 5) given Ahab victory, 6) given Ahab the king of Damascus. But Ahab lets the king go, and most importantly does not seem acknowledge Yahweh. What will it take? What about repent and follow God does he not understand?

    Thus, another prophet is sent basically to picture/embody vividly what Ahab has done (let a prisoner go) and what the normal expectation of a soldier who lets a prisoner go is—death. Here is the annotated text….

    I Kings 20:35 By the word of the Lord (*** Notice the emphasis on the word of the Lord***) one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” (***to appear to be injured for the disguise coming up****) but the man refused. 36 So the prophet said, “Because you have not obeyed the Lord (***notice emphasis on the word of the Lord***), as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.” (****Notice the allusion to I Kings 13 an my note there****) And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him. 37 The prophet found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him (***the wound was to perpetuate the disguise coming up***). 38 Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, *****it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.(****This is the “sentence”****)’40 While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.” “That is your sentence,” the king of Israel said. “You have pronounced it yourself.” (***to die, this was an elaborate object lesson for the King***) 41 Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets.42 He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die (***the King of Damascus****). Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’ ”43 Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.

    Thus, Ahab will be killed. His dynasty will be cut off. There will be a “lion/death” on his path waiting to devour him because he continues to not heed the word of the Lord despite God’s gracious attempts to correct him. The next episode about Ahab (1 Kings 21) continues to show his corruption. Yahweh is master over life and death and man “lives” by the word of Yahweh which sustains him.

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  3. Ok I looked that section up and it really makes no sense to me either. I get the bit about the king saying "That is your sentence, you have pronounced it yourself." The prophet said that he was told that if he lost the prisoner then his life would take the place of the prisoner, though whether that mean he would be killed or be a slave is unclear, or he would have to pay a talent of silver.

    The King is clearly saying "well you lost the prisoner and you said yourself what the punishment for that is, so there you go. You either pay up or be killed/become a slave".

    However the bit that the prophet says in reply and why it pisses the king off I don't get. The king clearly wasn't setting anyone free, in fact he appears to have been saying that the prophet must face the previously stated consequences for letting the prisoner escape.

    The bit about the head between his knees I read as putting his own head between his own knees, as you do when you feel faint. Still makes no sense and isn't any way near as funny that way round.

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  4. Putting the head between his knees means he is praying.

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  5. Brent, why would God give his newly anointed king to the wicked one and be disappointed when the latter sets him free instead of killing him?

    Here's what I understood from your explanation:
    1) Ahab is wicked, and has been amply warned (and proven that Yahweh is the greater god)
    2) God appoints new king (through Elijah), but then lets him fail, even be captured (God likes to play coy?)
    3)Elijah plays an elaborate charade to admonish Ahab(on the part of God) for not killing the (presumably good) king?

    Is God really twisted, or has the narrative simply been made to fit the previous (perhaps historical) accounts of the victories and defeats of Ahab?

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