Friday, June 1, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 6-7 and Luke 8

2 Kings 6 – The prophets in Elisha’s company feel crowded and suggest that they go to the Jordan to collect logs for a new dwelling (one log per prophet). He goes with them at their request.  They cut the tree down and one of the men loses an ax head – it falls into the water (6:5). They want to get it since it was borrowed from someone.  Elisha performs a miracle by cutting off a stick and throwing it into the water; this makes the ax head float (6:7).
The kings of Syria and Israel go to war with each other; the Syrians (Aramaeans) camp somewhere and Elisha is able to tell the king of Israel where they are.  The Syrian king thinks one of his men is betraying him. 

When he learns that it is Elisha who is letting the king of Israel know everything, he sends men to seize him. When Elisha’s servant sees them coming, he is frightened; but Elisha tells him, “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them” (6:16). To the Lord Elisha prays, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see” (6:17). Then, when the Aramaeans attack, he prays that they may be blinded and they are; then he tells them that the man they seek is not there but that he will take them where they want to go.  He takes them right to Samaria.  The king of Israel asks if he should kill them, but Elisha says no, “Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master” (6:22). The raids on Israel stop.
Later, when Ben-Hadad is the King of Aram, they come again and lay siege to Samaria.  Hadad was the national god of Damascus—a storm god—and the name Rimmon mean “thunderer” (Asimov, 361]. Starvation sets in. A woman comes to complain to the king that another woman suggested that they eat their children—the complaining woman’s son one day and then hers the next.  They eat the first, but when it comes time to eat the second, the woman hides him.  The king gets enraged with Elisha because he thinks that all these troubles are from the Lord! Elisha knows he is coming.

2 Kings 7 – Elisha predicts to the king that the next day, food will be available.  The king’s captain doubts, and Elisha tells him that because he doubts, he shall see it but not be permitted to eat of it.  Four leprous men decide to go to the Aramaean camp to get food; they have nothing to lose—they will die somewhere, they figure.

But when they arrive, no one is there—the Lord had given them to hear the sound of on-coming horses and chariots.  Thinking that the king of Israel had hired mercenaries to go against them, they abandon their camp. The men eat the food left behind and also carry off silver and gold; but then they get a pang of conscience and go tell their king.  The king thinks it is just a trap, but they go to check. They find the Aramaeans are gone and their equipment is strewn about everywhere. They plunder the camp. So the prediction of Elisha is realized—but the king’s captain is trampled to death by the people rushing to get the food.

Luke 8Jesus’ entourage now includes the twelve and some women “who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities” of various kinds—May Magdalene (who had 7 demons taken from her); Joanna (from Herod’s household); Susanna and “many others who provided from them out of their resources” (8:3).

We hear the parable of the sower from Luke (also in Matt.13 and Mark 4), and Jesus’ explanation.  Again a distinction is made by him between those to whom ears have been given for hearing directly and those who cannot hear directly what it is Jesus is teaching.  Jesus says, “The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God has been given to you, but to the rest it comes by means of parables, so that they may look but not see, and listen but not understand” (8:10). I have to say, I do not really understand what he is saying here. Anybody have any ideas?

After the parable of the sower, he tells the parable of the “lamp” on the lampstand (“nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light” (8:17).

Then Jesus’ family comes as in Mark 3:31 and again they are relegated in importance by Jesus, who insists that it is “those who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21) who are his real mother and brothers. It is softened just a little by omitting the rhetorical “Who are my mother and brothers?” we read in Mark.

They leave for the other side of the lake and run into the storm which Jesus calms (8:24).

When they arrive on the other side, Jesus encounters the man named Legion who is filled with demons.  Jesus banishes them into the swine and they run madly into the sea and are killed.  In Luke they beg Jesus not to send them back “to the abyss,” so he gives them permission to enter the swine (8:32).

The people beg him to leave, they are so afraid of Jesus.  He goes back across.  There he meets the synagogue leader, Jairus whose daughter is at the point of death.  Here we learn she is about 12 years old.  On the way to his house, the crowds press in on him and the woman with the hemorrhage touches his clothes. The hemorrhaging has been a problem for her for about twelve years. She is cured.  Jesus feels the power go out from him and finds out that it was she who had touched him.  Then they learn that Jairus’ daughter has died, but Jesus tells them no, she is only sleeping.  When she is cured, he asks them not to tell anyone about it (8:55). All this is essentially the same as in Mark.  The things added by Luke to this point are the teachings and the stories about the woman of ill-repute, the discourse on the Baptist and the story about the centurion’s slave.

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