Sunday, September 8, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 18 and Augustine's Treatise on Profit of Believing 21

2 Chronicles 18 – Jehosphaphat had great riches. He made a marriage alliance with Ahab – had his son Joram marry Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. A few years later, he goes to visit Ahab. Ahab offers sacrifice for him and asks for Jehoshaphat’s help in fighting to recover Ramoth-gilead.  The Jerusalem Bible note says the unlawful sacrifice—not at the authorized sanctuary, will prove disastrous.  


Jehosphaphat asks Ahab to consult “the word of the Lord” (18:4) to see what they should do. Ahab calls together four hundred prophets to advise them.  But Jehoshaphat is not satisfied. He asks if “there [is] no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” (18:6)


Ahab says there is Micaiah, son of Imlah, “but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me but only disaster” (18:7). They are sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor before the gates of Samaria with the prophets all around them. The messenger who has gone to get Micaiah advises him to “speak favorably” about the proposal like as the others have, but Micaiah says, “As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak” (18:13).


When he arrives, he does as he has ben advised; but Ahab knows him and says, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” (18:15) And Micaiah respond, in that case, “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing to the right and to the left of him. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice King Ahab of Israel, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ Then one said one thing, and another said another, until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ The Lord asked him, ‘How?’ He replied, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ . . .So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you” (18:18-22). 
Zedekiah slaps Micaiah, and Ahab orders him returned to Amon, governor of the city and to Joash, the king’s son to be put in prison “until I return in peace” (18:26). Micaiah tells him if he returns, then the Lord has not spoken through him. So they go up to Ramoth-gilead.

Ahab convinces Jehoshaphat to put on his robes while he (Ahab) disguises himself to go into battle. He is slyly acting on the truth he heard from Micaiah, trying to avoid the fate Micaiah has prophesied. The king of Aram, has instructed his men to only go after the king of Israel, so it looks at first as if Ahab’s strategy will save him. The Aramaean soldiers come after Jehosphaphat, but the Lord helps him (18:31). The captains see it is not the king of Israel and turn back.  Then “unknowingly, a man draws his bow and [strikes] the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. . . .” (18:34). At sunset he dies. Chronicles focuses more on Jehoshaphat than Kings does—Kings focuses more on Ahab. His focus is on the Judaean monarchy.

Augustine’s Treatise on the Profit of Believing
21 - This, you will say, is ridiculous – to turn to the church Augustine calls "Catholic" for instruction on the teaching “that has flowed down from Christ Himself through the Apostles even unto us” - whereas all profess to hold and teach this: all heretics make this profession, I cannot deny it; but so, as that they promise to those whom they entice, that they will give them a reason concerning matters the most obscure: and on this account chiefly charge the Catholic [Church], that they who come to her are enjoined to believe; but they make it their boast, that they impose not a yoke of believing, but open a fount of teaching. You answer, What could be said, that should pertain more to their praise? It is not so.

So, OK – this is not easy stuff to unravel – he has just spoken in the last section of having turned to the church that teaches what has flowed down to us through the apostles and teaches it in a certain authoritative way, not open to a lot of speculation or personal interpretation. While they – Augustine and Horatius – have been similar in the past in not wanting to trust to “a yoke of believing” now Augustine believes that this yoke is more to be trusted than an “open fount” which the Manichees boast of having.

For this they do, without being endued with any strength, but in order to conciliate to themselves a crowd by the name of reason: on the promise of which the human soul naturally is pleased, and, without considering its own strength and state of health, by seeking the food of the sound, which is ill entrusted save to such as are in health, rushes upon the poisons of them who deceive. For true religion, unless those things be believed, which each one after, if he shall conduct himself well and shall be worthy, attains unto and understands, and altogether without a certain weighty power of authority, can in no way be rightly entered upon. What Augustine calls “true religion” rests in an essential way on the authority of those who have come before us – their testimony.

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