Sunday, June 3, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 10-11 and Luke 10

2 Kings 10 – Jehu sends letters to the people responsible for overseeing the 70 sons of Ahab (Jerusalem Bible notes 70 is the number indicating “entire” and that sons here means all males heirs, particularly the sons of Joram) asking them to select one of them as king and get ready to “fight for your master’s house” (10:3). But they all respond that if he could beat the two kings he has already beaten – Jehoram and Ahaziah -- there is not much chance they will prevail against him.  He tells them if they really want to cooperate with him, they will send him the heads of Ahab’s sons the next day.  They do it and send him the heads at Jezreel. Jehu heaps the heads at the gate into the city, assembles all the people and announces, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him; but who struck down all these?. . .So Jehu kills all who were left of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his leaders, close friends, and priests; he leaves no survivor” (10:11). It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys here at this time. That must be why they cited Kings in the movie.
Jehu goes to Samaria.  On his way there he meets relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah on their way to visit the “royal princes” (of the house of Ahab or Joram). Jehu kills all 42 of them. Then he meets Jehonadab, son of Rechab (an ardent Yahwist). Jehu asks him to show his loyalty by coming with him to “see [his] zeal for the Lord” (10:16). They go into Samaria where Jehu kills “all who were left to Ahab. . .” (10:17).

He calls together the people and says Ahab offered Baal only small service compared to what he will do.  He calls together all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and priests on the pretext that he has a great sacrifice to offer to Baal. When they are all together in the temple of Baal, and Jehu has assured himself that no worshiper of Yahweh is in with them, he orders them all killed.  Afterward, they throw out the pillar that was in the temple and burn it and then make the temple itself into a latrine.  “Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel” (10:28). He does not do away with the calves, however, that Jeroboam set up in Bethel and Dan.  The Lord praises Jehu for doing well in getting rid of Ahab’s house, so he rewards him with a promise of four generations of kings in his line.
One of the problems Israel has during these days was the trimming off of certain parts of the country.  Hazael of Aram picks off Gilead, the Gadites, the Reubenites and the Manassites (all east of the Jordan). After Jehu (842-815 BC), his son Jehoahaz succeeds.

2 Kings 11 – Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, intends to slaughter all the royal family (why??); but Jehosheba, Joram’s daughter and Ahaziah’s sister—also wife of the chief priest Jehoiadatakes Ahaziah’s baby son, Joash (or Jehoash) and hides him away in the temple. Athaliah rules over the people for six years (843-837). In the 7th year, Jehoiada summons the captains of the Carites (mercenaries from Asia Minor, the cherithites of David’s guard—1 K 1:38) and the guards and brought them to the king’s son.  He has a plan to protect the young king, using the shifting of the guards that occurs on the sabbath (JB says that on weekdays 2/3rds of the guard is on duty at the palace and on sabbaths 2/3rds are at the temple). He gives them spears and shields that belonged to King David, and when the day comes, he brings forth the boy and crowns him with the protection of the guard (11:12).
When Athaliah sees it, she tears her clothes and cries treason, but Jehoiada has her killed when she leaves the temple.  Jehoiada makes a covenant between the Lord and the king and people “that they should be the Lord’s people” (11:17). They all go to the house of Baal and tear it down [the one in Judah] The priest of Baal, Mattan, is killed. The king is escorted to his palace and the people rejoice (JB says it is mostly the people of the countryside who are behind this renewal. The people of the city are compelled to accept it). Joash is seven years old.

Luke 10:1-24 Jesus appoints 70 (other accounts say 72) disciples to go out, telling them “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (10:2). He sends them out like “lambs into the midst of wolves” (10:3).  They are to do what he has done—cure the sick and say “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (10:9). If people do not want to hear, they should wipe the dust from their feet “in protest” and Jesus then in a rather harsh tone that sets Luke apart from the other gospels, tells them a judgment hangs over towns that refuse to receive them (10:12): “I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to Sodom than to that town!” (10:12).
When the 72 return, they are full of joy.  Presumably they have met with great success. “Lord, in our name even the demons submit to us!” (10:17) The word they bring has great power, especially over evil.  Jesus says, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (10:18) I never really heard this sentence before this reading.  This statement places Jesus with God before the creation of the world according to the Jewish story about the fall of Lucifer. The statement about giving them power to “tread on snakes and scorpions” also brings back the addendum to Mark (16:18), which seems to us moderns so “beneath” the text in a way—that his disciples will “pick up snakes in their hands,” and so on.  But Jesus is simply trying to say that the spiritual power he has bestowed upon them will give them amazing power.  But the power on earth they will have is nothing compared to the fact that their “names are written in heaven” (10:20).
Jesus also adds a word of thanks to his Father that he has seen fit to give knowledge of Him to “infants,” to the simple ones of the earth. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (10:22). This sounds pretty much like the Jesus we meet in John.
Then Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (10:23-24). All of these passages have great “claims” embedded in them—claims to pre-existence, to power over evil, to participation of the Son in the Father’s being, to fulfillment of ancient prophecies and promises.  How can theologians claim the gospels make no claim to divinity for Jesus??
Luke 10:25-42 - A lawyer in the crowd asks Jesus the same question the man in Mark 10:17 did—“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25) But instead of telling him he must give up everything, Jesus simply affirms the answer he gives, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (10:27). The challenge comes not in pushing self-denial to the point of giving up all possessions, but in realizing that one’s neighbor may include people one has not been taught to love—here the Samaritans. 

The lawyer pushes Jesus by asking him “And who is my neighbor?” (10:29) The parable of the Good Samaritan follows: A man going from Jerusalem to Jericho (a steep road descends 17 miles, providing many opportunities for brigands) falls into the hands of robbers, who beat him and leave him on the road half-dead.  A priest passes by him without doing anything to help him and then a Levite.  Finally a Samaritan comes by and is “moved with pity” (10:33). He helps bandage the man, brings him to an inn and pays the innkeeper to take care of him.  When Jesus asks the lawyer which one of the people in the story was a neighbor to the man, he rightfully answers the “one who showed him mercy” (10:37). Jesus tells him to go and “do likewise.” Again, we see the focus change here from the “ontic” concerns of Mark (concern for the state or spiritual condition of the believer—ascetic, self-denying) to the more practical, service-oriented model of redemption Luke is encouraging.
There follows the story of Mary and Martha, a story not in Mark at all. Mary is the listener in the story, the one who sits at Jesus’ feet and attends to his words.  Martha is the worker, the one who waits on him, gets the food.  When Martha complains that her sister has left her to do all the work, Jesus tells her she is “worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” (v. 41-42) Mary has “chosen the better part,” he says. This contradicts somewhat what I have said about the “doing” focus of Luke’s gospel, so he is not telling us to only do.  We must put Jesus first and what he teaches us when we attend to him with our whole selves.

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