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2 Kings 22:11-20

When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she resided in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter, where they consulted her. She declared to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, I will indeed bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have abandoned me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place.” They took the message back to the king.

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  • Caravelle

    Heh. I’m sort of wondering why the Lord is so bothered by Manasseh, when it appears every single king after Hezekiah except for Josiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

    It’s also nice how a whole people keeps being held responsible for the actions of its rulers, even though from the story it hardly seems like they have any choice at any point.

    Although, you know what ? I notice how Amon is the only king who gets murdered by his servants, and Josiah succeeds him. And pretty young at that. Maybe the implication is if Amon had lived longer he would have corrupted Josiah too, and so it’s the people of Israel who caused Josiah to arrive by killing Amon.

    Does this suggest that if the people of Israel had been a little more pro-active in killing their ungodly rulers before and after Josiah the whole mess could have been averted ? I don’t know if I’d say that’s nice, or a good reason to hold them responsible, but at least seen this way they have some agency…

    Then again I guess this is all their fault for badgering the Lord into giving them a king in the first place. Don’t give in to peer pressure, kids !

    In other news, I’ve been going on this creationist forum lately, and I saw a post that contained this gem :

    1) Hungred and ye gave me no meat = The meat of the word for the more learned in Christ,

    2) Thirsty and ye gave me no drink = The milk of the word for the new in Christ.

    3) I was a stranger and you took me in = A stranger unto salvation. Taking them in is showing them the way unto salvation.

    4) Naked and ye clothed me = Giving someone the word so they can put on the armor of God.

    5) I was sick an ye visit me = Going to someone’s house to pray for them while they were sick.

    6) I was in prison and ye visit me = Christ came to set the captives
    free. You visit the unsaved because they are imprisoned by sin.

    How… literal. And how conveniently so. There’s none so blind as those who will not see, I guess.

  • NS

    This is, surely, one of the more objectionable stories in the Old Testament. A period of tolerant religious pluralism brought violently to a close by an unyielding literalist reading of scripture that just so happens to reinforce the power of a priestly hierarchy in cahoots with a government devoted to sectarianism…

  • Chris Kern

    Caravelle: If you interpret that part too literally you end up with the dreaded works salvation, so they have to do something to ignore it.

  • Lunch Meat

    I’m pretty sure part of the reason Fred posted this one was because “OMG! A female prophet!!! That’s impossible!!1!!”

    In other news, I’ve been going on this creationist forum lately, and I saw a post that contained this gem

    Yeah, because when Jesus is telling his followers about literally the most important thing they could be doing and the only thing that is pleasing to God, he’s really going to be cryptic and metaphorical about it, without leaving any clues that he’s being cryptic and metaphorical. Because he’s…sadistic? I don’t know.

  • Jurgan

    Given that many of the other religions practiced abominable acts like child sacrifice, I think it’s fair to say tolerance was not appropriate.  Also, “giving offerings to other gods” may be what God said, but if you read the rest of the text, it’s clear his main concern was ignoring the law as it applied to other people.  Over and over throughout the Old Testament, the fundamental sin of Israel was lacking compassion for or even exploiting the weakest members of society.  When God talks of “turning your back on me,” yes, it hurts him that they don’t give him praise, but it hurts far more that they are ignoring his commands to lift up the weakest members of society.  Maybe you disagree, and I suppose it’s possible that historical accounts will differ, but in the context of the Bible as a whole, it’s clear that ignoring God’s law led to a corrupt, uncaring Israel that deserved its fate.

  • Jurgan

    “It’s also nice how a whole people keeps being held responsible for the actions of its rulers, even though from the story it hardly seems like they have any choice at any point.”

    This is why I enjoyed reading the whole Bible straight through- I was better able to appreciate the context of these passages.  To me, it seemed the whole history narrative, especially Samuel and Kings, made a case for self-rule through contradiction.  It said “okay, kids, you think a king will help you out?  Look what happens to these people when they had one.”  I’m not saying God necessarily intended it that way.  He didn’t want them to have a king, but when he eventually gave them one, he was probably hoping it would turn out well.  What it says to me is that a corrupt ruler with absolute power can easily lead his entire people astray, and the only way to stop him is by violent overthrow.  Therefore, it’s better to have limits on a ruler’s power.  The judges certainly had problems as well, but their power was limited  and temporary, so the society as a whole was not corrupted by a bad judge.

    The moral, then, is that a society in a dangerous world should not give unchecked power to a ruler out of fear of dangerous external threats.  I’m trying to think if there’s any way to apply that lesson to today…

  •  

    in the context of the Bible as a whole, it’s clear that ignoring God’s law led to a corrupt, uncaring Israel that deserved its fate.

    Just so I understand the claim being made: is the idea here that some other nation, or Israel during some other period, was presented as attending to God’s law and consequently deserving a better fate? If so: who and when?

  • Michael Cule

    It’s interesting (and worth pointing out to ‘complimentarians’ and opponents of womens’ ordination) that it’s to a prophetess that they turn for The Word of what the Lord God intends. I’d not remembered Huldah, only Deborah, as a female among the prophets of the Lord.

  • Keromaru5

    “Just so I understand the claim being made: is the idea here that some other nation, or Israel during some other period, was presented as attending to God’s law and consequently deserving a better fate? If so: who and when?”
    Not really.  The idea is that God had a special covenant with the people of Israel, with the terms outlined in the Mosaic Law.  He would be their God, who brought them out of Egypt, and they would be his people.  When Israel turns away to other gods, and allows corruption to spread, they’re violating the contract they signed with God.

  • Jurgan

    Good question- I had to think about that one for a while.  But, as Keromaru says below, Israel was supposed to be different.  The idea, I suppose, is that all societies have sins, and all societies eventually decline.  Israel was intended to be a city on a hill inspiring the rest of the world.  When they failed to uphold God’s law, they became no better than any other nation, and as such lost their special protection.  How exactly that worked is up for discussion, but it seems clear that Israel’s exile was intended as a form of justice to teach them humility.  Now, you can say not everyone who was exiled was directly responsible, but in a society everyone is interconnected, and anyone who turns their back is guilty.  That goes for most people today, as well, and I don’t exclude myself from being guilty of sometimes neglecting societal victims.  Hopefully, this example helps us remember to be a more compassionate society.

  • Sorry, still not quite sure I follow. If I’ve understood you right, the periods when Israel failed to uphold God’s law and was therefore punished are not intended to contrast with other nations that did uphold it, but are intended to contrast with other periods when Israel did uphold it. Is that right?

    Cool. When were those periods?

    (As far as the rest of this goes, I don’t call collective punishment “justice,” but I don’t choose to argue that point here. If you do, or if you don’t generally but are willing to make an exception in this case because God is never unjust, that’s fine. We disagree, but there’s nothing wrong with that.)

  • Jurgan

    No, Israel never fully lived up to the covenant, but there were periods where they were better.  The early years of Solomon’s reign, for instance, were pretty good, and a few of the other, better kings (Josiah, I think?).  It wasn’t contrasted with “other periods when Israel did uphold it,” it was contrasted with the ideal society God intended.  While they never fully upheld God’s law, God was patient enough that he wouldn’t punish the society until it got really out of hand and could no longer be tolerated.  Even then, the punishment was only temporary.

    As for whether collective punishment could be just: I don’t really think so either, but a societal crime sometimes demands a societal response.  Unless you’re a complete pacifist, I imagine you can appreciate the need for a society as a whole to be defeated.  The prototypical example is, of course, the Nazis- was it just to fight a war against them even though innocent people suffered?  History has generally supported that decision.  And if Israel as a whole was exploiting the weakest members of society, it may have been necessary for society as a whole to face punishment.

  • Münchner Kindl

    “Just so I understand the claim being made: is the idea here that some other nation, or Israel during some other period, was presented as attending to God’s law and consequently deserving a better fate? If so: who and when?”

    No. It’s Insane troll logic to go from “criticsm of nation A not holding to their own standard” to “well nation B is just as bad”. Or standard diversionary tactic.

    But when nation A is being criticsed according to their own standards, then this is the point of discussion, not the behaviour of other nations. You can always find somebody worse (if you want to put yourself into the same class). You could also find other nations which follow similar standards and manage better, and how to learn from them (but apparently this is too foreign way of thinking).

  •  Re: what is being contrasted… OK, cool. Thanks for the clarification.

    Re: collective punishment… I am not a complete pacifist.

    I agree that when a group becomes a collective threat, and I lack the knowledge or the power to single out the responsible agents for punishment, sometimes all I can do is subject the entire group to punishment, and that is preferable to allowing them to go unpunished. So, sure, I would similarly agree that if God lacked the knowledge or power necessary to provide punishment proportional to degree of offense, its best option might have been collective punishment of a society as a whole.

    I also note that the threat of collective punishment is often a better way of controlling the behavior of people than the threat of individual punishment. Of course, this only works against people who care more about protecting others from punishment than they do about protecting themselves. But if I found myself in opposition to a group of such people, I might choose collective punishment as a threat even if I had the power to do otherwise. (In most contexts I would consider this an evil thing to do, but it is not impossible for me to do evil.)

  •  

    It’s Insane troll logic to go from “criticsm of nation A not
    holding to their own standard” to “well nation B is just as bad”. Or
    standard diversionary tactic.

    Sure.

    OTOH, “explanation of a bad thing that happened to nation A as God’s punishment of A for not following God’s law” and “criticism of nation A not holding to their own standards” aren’t quite the same thing either.

    If we were to leave God out of it and simply judge ancient Israel by the standards of ancient Israel, my question would, I agree, become irrelevant.

    Incidentally, I can’t be sure what effect you intend by the rhetorical barbs scattered throughout your comment, but I can tell you that they do, in fact, hurt my feelings. If that was your intent, you achieved it.

  • Jurgan

    I wasn’t going to say anything, but since you brought up harsh speech, you should know some of your comments came off as pretty condescending (especially ”
    Cool. When were those periods?”).  I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but that’s how it sounded.

  •  Good to know. Thanks for telling me.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The early years of Solomon’s reign, for instance, were pretty good, and a few of the other, better kings (Josiah, I think?).

    Yeah, Josiah was regarded as a good king. I always wonder if the unusual first name for President Bartlet was a quiet nerdy nod in that direction.