An Unusual Instance of Potty Mouth

The three satans (adversaries) raised by God against Solomon in 1 Ki 11:14-40 are filled with echoes of some of the OT’s most famous characters. Hadad (vv. 14-22) sounds like Joseph and Moses, while Rezon’s career as an outlaw king (vv. 23-25) who fled from his master reprises David’s early career. The most complete set of allusions, however, are reserved for the rise of Jeroboam (vv.26-40).

The story of Jeroboam’s ascent involves Jeroboam, Solomon, and a prophet named Ahijah. These three correspond rather closely to David, Saul, and Samuel. Both Samuel and Ahijah are prophets from Shiloh. Both Saul and Solomon came to the throne by means of a prophetic anointing but are disobedient. Both David and Jeroboam are commoners who serve in the courts of Saul and Solomon, respectively, both are very talented, both become the object of royal jealousy, and both must flee.

The deliberate parallels suggest that Jeroboam’s rise is to be interpreted as was David’s enthronement, as a new beginning. Jeroboam can become a new David if he models himself after David (v. 38). But the most interesting insight concerns God. God simply does not give up – he is ready to try again and again to create a loyal people under an anointed ruler.

Now fast forward to the end of Jeroboam’s reign as it is narrated in chapter 14. Jeroboam sends his wife in disguise to enquire about the health of their son Abijah with the prophet Ahijah who originally anointed Jeroboam. This suggests a significant rift between Jeroboam and Ahijah over Jeroboam’s idolatry. When the unnamed queen arrives, she is greeted not by a word concerning the son, but by a word for the father:

Go, tell Jeroboam, `Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: “Because I exalted you from among the people, and I made you leader over my people Israel, 8 and I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and I gave it to you; and still you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments, and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes, 9 but you have done evil above all that were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods, and molten images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back;

The drumbeat of the first person pronouns in v.7-8 drives home God’s act in Jeroboam’s kingship. In response to this grace, Jeroboam has not only created and worshipped other gods, he has worshipped them in place of Israel’s God. This earns him the epithet “evil above all that were before you,” a distinction he will eventually share with Ahab and Omri. Since Jeroboam did evil, God will bring evil upon him and upon his household:

10 therefore behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every one who pisses against the wall, both bond and free in Israel, and will utterly consume the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone… “‘

Referring to the males of the king’s household as those who piss against the wall is a pretty crude form of self-expression. Creating an image linking the household of Jeroboam with dung is even coarser. This is God talking…or at least Ahijah’s prophetic insight of God’s state of mind.

In the light of God’s earlier refusal to give up, how shall we understand this passage? What might the use of these vulgar expressions tell us about God? Or if God is not the source of these specific expressions, what do we learn about the relationship between God and the OT prophets?