What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, February 3, 2023):
• 1 Kings 18-22 ~ 2 King 1-2
• Job 26-32
• 1 Chronicles 18-24
Notes on 1 Kings
Elijah’s name means “the Lord, he is God!”(see 18.39!) The story of the prophet’s confrontation with the false prophets on Mount Carmel never gets old (chapter 18). Jezebel sent not only 450 prophets of Baal, but 400 prophets of Asherah, as well. Following their humiliation, the prophets of Baal were all killed (18.40). However, the prophets of Asherah escaped that day.
The short narrative of the man called Obadiah (not the prophet who wrote the book) in chapter 18 shows us how God embeds his people in strategic places in order to fulfill his purposes, even deep within the administration of wicked leaders. Daniel is another example.
Elijah was given the authority to give the word of God to the rulers of nations other than Israel. In 19.15-16, he sends a word to the nation of Aram (and even appoints a king for them). We get the first view here of Elisha, who will succeed Elijah.
Following this great victory, Elijah actually became depressed (a very common human reaction following extremely high emotion). Like us, he complained and exaggerated. He claimed to God that he was “the only one left.” However, God told him there were at least seven thousand others on his side (19.14, 18).
In chapter 20, God orchestrates a mighty military victory for Ahab, the wicked king of the northern kingdom. Ahab foolishly accommodates Ben-Hadad, the king of the just-defeated Aram people, like an old friend. An unnamed prophet condemns Ahab for this action. Ahab is one of the most inept and incompetent people to ever hold a nation’s leadership role. The horrible story of Naboth and his vineyard is found in chapter 21. Here we see the real power behind the throne (Jezebel), and the wimpiness of the king. And here we see the vicious, cold-blooded nature of Jezebel in her prime.
After this senseless murder, Elijah confronts Ahab. We see the king actually repenting (21.27-29). This buys Ahab a few years, and a reprieve from the destruction to come by way of God’s judgment. This is as close to a righteous king that Israel (northern kingdom) would ever see. But it didn’t last (see the next chapter). One of my favorite Bible stories is found in 1 Kings 22 (as well as 2 Chronicles 18). The prophet Micaiah is called upon to give his advice regarding going to war against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat is a really fun character. I like to think of him as the Old Testament version of Peter: rash, lovable, humble, and empty-headed at critical times (yet God preserves him). He goes to meet Ahab and says, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” (22.5). Their horses might have been the same, but he and Ahab were miles apart spiritually. Jehoshaphat was one of the most godly kings—even if clueless— in all of Judah’s history, while Ahab would garner many votes for being the very worst. The kings tried to forge an alliance, but the one true prophet Micaiah and the false prophets (apparently the 400 who survived Mount Carmel—see 22.6) were casting contradictory visions to the two kings. Micaiah promised Ahab sure death if he went to battle, so Ahab went into battle in disguise, while he encouraged Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes. Duh! This ruse was not able to deceive God, who killed Ahab with a random arrow, while protecting the oblivious Jehoshaphat in his folly (22.30-35).
Notes on 2 Kings
Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, learned nothing from his father. When he had an injury, he tried to consult the god of Ekron, sending messengers to find out about his condition. Elijah, notified of this by an angel, found and turned around the messengers and sent them back to the king. Then the king sent a company of fifty men to the Elijah, who were struck and killed by fire that he called down on them. Fifty more sent, fifty more burned to death. Wow! The leader of the third party begged for his life and the life of his men, which Elijah honored. See 1.1-15. Not all of the kings of the north had sons, so various people and families wormed, clawed, and fought their ways into positions of power. However, the southern kingdom not only retained a direct line of male descendants, but also were all part of the heritage of Messiah.
Elisha asked for, and received, a double portion of the spirit that was upon Elijah (see 2.9). We then find about twice as many miracles in the Scripture that he performs as we do of Elijah. However, Elijah will forever be the representative and archetype of the Old Testament prophet. I have often heard of Elijah taken up in the chariot of fire. However, the record does not indicate that he actually rode in the chariot, only that the chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared, and the prophet ascended in a whirlwind (2.11).
Notes on Job
Through the middle of this book, there has been a circular dialogue going on. First Eliphaz, then Bildad and then Zophar lodge their accusations against Job. Job responds after each one speaks. This pattern was repeated three times (except for Zophar taking a pass in Round Three). This week takes us to the very end of the discussion. In chapter 26, Job responds to Bildad’s last (but very short) rebuke. Job gives amazing scientific detail of the universe in this chapter. Job then launches into his “closing statement” in chapter 27. The arguments of his “friends” have completely failed to change his mind: “I will never admit you are in the right; till I die I will not deny my integrity” (27.5). In 29.12-17, Job completely contradicts the nasty accusations lodged against him by Eliphaz in 22.6-11. Being that these were his supposed friends, how could they have missed all of this? This is a poetic book, and Job makes the most of metaphors. I like this one in 30.11: “Now that God has unstrung my bow…” Job had been a very wealthy man yet had remained godly. The Lord could trust him with riches. Job’s attitude toward wealth is found in 31.24-28. He got it right. We find that a young man named Elihu has somehow silently entered into the small group at some point, and begins an amazing dialogue in chapter 32. He will call Job out in an entirely new way. Keep in mind that at the end, Job will need to repent for his three friends (they were way off in their assessments), and Job himself will be rebuked by God, but Elihu will not be mentioned. His message to Job seems to be in complete congruence with God’s coming rebuke. And we to this day have no idea who this young man was.
Notes on 1 Chronicles
Many of David’s military conquests and victories are detailed in the next few chapters, beginning in 18. I wonder why he destroyed so many horses? (18.4) It seems they could have been of great benefit somewhere in Israel.
Joab, his commander, shows his military prowess in 19.10-13. His heart is basically wicked, but he was great in battle situations. We read, “In the spring, at the time when kings go out to war…” in 20.1. This upcoming battle is the one where David stayed home and sinned with Bathsheba instead of leading his army. But there is no mention of this sorry part of the story in 1 Chronicles, only of the military victory. David also sinned by counting the fighting men (21.1-2). God gave him three options for his discipline. But the good king wisely said, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands” (21.13). Looking up and seeing a huge angel with a sword strong enough to destroy Jerusalem must have been an amazing and terrifying sight (21.16). However, God received David’s repentance, and responded powerfully to his confession by answering with fire from heaven upon his sacrifice (26). If you ever wonder what happened to the tabernacle that the Israelites carried around in the wilderness for forty years, we read that it was kept in Gibeon, the city that had been the nation’s capitol under Saul (21.29). I wonder if it were a tourist attraction? It could have been a great field trip for Hebrew school. At least, we don’t read of it being used as an idol. David hired a host of full-time musicians to worship before the Lord day and night. I love this guy! See 23.4-5 and 25.1. . Details of the work of the Levites during David’s tenure are marked out in 23.28-31. This was probably included in the text to help the returned Jews (the first recipients of this narrative) to prepare to re-institute Temple worship during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah after the restoration of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple.
There were many, many Levites who served in a pastoral role for the rest of Israel. Lots were cast to determine which of the priests would minister before the Lord and when (24.3). We see this process still in place hundreds of years later, as Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) is serving his round in Luke 1.8.