Day 170 (June 19): Jehoahaz and Jehoash rulers of Israel, Jehoash weak on Elisha’s command, Elisha died, King Hazael died

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Kings 13:1-11

2 Kings 12:17-21

2 Chronicles 24:23-27

2 Kings 13:14-25

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 13:1): Jehu was mostly good.  I wonder why his son turned evil?

A. There’s no way to tell, and that’s not really the focus of the story anyway.  It is not why you do evil (though that matters to God, just not to this author!), but what evil you do that matters.

Q. (12:18): I would call Joash a wimp!  I wonder why he didn’t ask God for help with enemies like the other kings before him.

A. That would have seemed to be a wise thing to do, but Joash appears to not be in relationship with God at this point.  A similar move by King Asa (back in 1 Kings 15) secured their survival, and it appears that this is what Joash is doing here.

Q. (2 Chronicles 24:23-24): Was the only purpose of God being with the Aramean army to conquer Judah?  The people weren’t following God, he just helped them fight, right?

A. God’s purpose in using other nations, to this point, is to get the attention of the either Israel or Judah.  Israel is further gone at this point, but it appears in this case that Judah needs some reminding as well.  So, no, the Arameans are not following God, He is using them as a “rod” to discipline His people for going astray.

Q. (24:25): Why would Joash’s officials seek revenge for Joash killing Zechariah, the son of Johoiada the priest when the leaders plotted to kill him (2 Chronicles 24:21).  Aren’t officials and leaders one in the same?

A. We are not told.  But it appears that even though they were his officials, they did not agree with the decision he made to have Zechariah murdered, and they looked for a time to avenge this murder.  The assassination can also be seen as divine judgment on Joash, which is what Zechariah asked for as he was dying (24:22)

Q. (24:25): Some kings were buried in the City of David and some weren’t, some in the royal cemetery and some not.  I don’t see a rhyme or reason to who was buried where.  The really bad ones were left for the dogs, but some who were kind of bad were still buried in the royal cemetery and some weren’t.

A. I’m not sure what the selection criterion is either, but it looks like the “royal cemetery” is the hall of fame, if you will: its where the best of the best are buried.  Others in David’s line (the major reason they are buried there at all) are buried in his city, Bethlehem, but not given the ceremonial burial.  So basically, it appears you got the royal burial for being fairly close in popularity and righteous action to the great ancestor, David himself.

Q. (24:26): I have noticed that mothers of kings and here, assassins are sometimes listed.  Why?  Is it because of royal bloodlines?

A. In some cases.  I suspect part of the reason has to do with this being an archive of sorts, so if a family member is known (or worth nothing!) they are listed.

Q. (2 Kings 13:14): 2 Kings 13:11 says that Jehoash did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.  So, it surprises me that he visited Elisha and wept because he was dying.

A. I suspect many of these men had moments of character show, and this appears to be one of those moments for these two men.  Even evil people — which on some level, we all are — are capable of great good and mercy.

Q. (13:19): There are so many riddles.  And if you don’t do them just right, you don’t get the full prize.  Why?  He obviously had more arrows and when Elisha told him to pick up his “other arrows,” he meant all of them?

A. Jehoash’s response to the challenge was half-hearted: instead of using ALL of his arrows, he only uses three.  This timid, unenthusiastic response is probably what upset Elisha.  Jehoash could not even muster a strong response when challenged.

Q. (13:23): I wonder if it weren’t for His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, if God would have given up on the Israelites.  I would say “no” because Jesus is prophesied to come from there.

A. Let’s hold on to that one for a few chapters, ok?

Q. (13:24): Hazael kills Ben-Hadad, but then names his son the same thing?  Maybe Ben-Hadad means like strong warrior or something?  That brings up another question.  There are so many kings whose name starts with a “J”.  Do the names have a meaning?  Like mine means “meadow” or something glorious like that.  I just wonder how people in Bible times decided on names for their children.

A. Ok, let’s see.  At least three people in our story have the name Ben-Hadad.  This is because, like the Egyptian “Pharaoh,” it is a title, not a name.  It means Son (ben) of Hadad — the god of the Arameans, also called Syrians in some translations.  So different people who rule as king of this nation carry this title — names like Hazael, who as king was also technically ben-hadad, probably help the readers keep up with who’s who.  So that’s why the name keeps popping up.

You’ve clearly noticed some pattern in the naming of Jewish men and to a lesser extent women.  One pattern we see is that many Jewish names are based upon the name of God in the OT — The Hebrew YHWH (which is given to us in English as Yahweh or Jehovah).  Note that those first three letters in “Jehovah” are the same ones showing up in most of the names (such as Jehoash, which means God (YHWH) has bestowed).  Many of the names that we have seen or will see come from that pattern.

The catch, if you will, is that since all of these names are translated into English from Hebrew, there have to be some editing choices.  So once you have settled on the name of God (Yahweh or Jehovah), then you have the “template” for all the other names based upon the name of God.  Feel free to ask about any names you see in the future.  I can usually find their translation from Hebrew.

Day 167 (June 16): The healing of Naaman, Gehazi’s greed, a floating ax, Elisha traps Arameans, Ben-Hadad captures Samaria, lepers visit enemy camp, Israel plunders camp, Shunem woman is proof, Hazael murders Ben-Hadad

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Kings 5-8:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 5:1): I am confused.  Aram was an enemy of Israel, right?  Why would God give the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, victory over Israel.  Is it because Naaman believed in God?

A. Aram and Israel were at war.  The story didn’t say that Naaman had victory over Israel, only that he was given victory by God.  I don’t think the reason for this had anything to do with Naaman’s belief in the God of his enemy Israel, but rather by God’s mercy.  Remember, God did not ordain this war between Israel and Aram.  The evil kings of both of these nations brought it about.  God is, in this case, not necessarily on one side exclusively.

Q. (5:2): Israel must not have been following God at this time because Israel has been pillaged.  Joram is the king of Israel at this time?

A. Yes, Ahab’s son.

Q. (5:7): Why would Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, think that Israel would help heal the commander of his army, after Aram had invaded Israel?

A. He believed it because Naaman told him so.  The whole reason Naaman even comes to Israel was because of his slave girl informing him about Elisha, who had the power, via God, to heal his leprosy.  I suspect your answer is that if that was good enough for Naaman, it was good enough for Ben-Hadad.

Q. (5:15): Why would Elisha not accept the gifts from Naaman?  Because of God’s grace, he does not require gifts?  But, he does like sacrifices, which include gifts.  I probably have this wrong?

A. God’s curing Naaman’s leprosy was a mercy, and did not require a gift.   I suspect it also had to do with the treasures were from Aram, and were probably acquired via pagan ritual.

Q. (5:18,19): So, since Elisha said, “Go in peace” to Naaman’s request of being pardoned when he, with his master King Ben-Hadad, bows to the god Rimmon?  I wouldn’t think God would appreciate this from someone who was just healed of leprosy.

A. Naaman is obligated to bow to Rimmon out of respect for his king; it was a requirement.  But what the text tells us is that Naaman understands who the true God is.

O. (5:20-27): Goes to show you what lies and greed will get you: not ahead like Gehazi thought, but behind with leprosy.

Q. (6:9): So you said that because the kings were not following God, Elisha and other prophets would step in to set them on the right path or give them a glimpse of what God can do if they remain loyal to him.

A. That is the purpose a prophet serves, yes.  In this case, Elisha is keeping Israel out of trouble with Aram.

Q. (6:21-22): Elisha had mercy on the soldiers who came to seize him.  I don’t know why he didn’t do this with the boys who were mocking him in 2 Kings 2:23-24?

A. Well, I don’t have a great answer to that, but part of the answer is the mocking itself: the soldiers were merely under orders to bring in Elisha, but were not disrespecting him.  By tricking the soldiers into basically coming into the capital, he was essentially making them prisoners of war.  Even in ancient society, there were rules about proper ways to treat POWs, and killing them wasn’t acceptable.

Q. (6:25): I read this verse to my husband.  His question is: Why would anyone want a donkey’s head and, especially, dove’s dung?

A. In the midst of a famine, it was apparently all that was left that was edible.  This rather gross imagery is meant to show the extent of the famine.

Q. (6:31): Why is burlap significant?

A. It was a symbol of mourning.  The king was in a state of mourning, but he was unwilling to go all the way and be exclusively dressed in burlap, which was probably a pride thing.  He wanted to mourn the terrible situation, but was unwilling to give up his majestic robes.

Q. (6:31): Is this a “be careful what you wish for” question?

A. It was pretty unwise, yes.

Q. (7:1): Bad flour is punishment for the king for ordering Elisha’s death?

A. Um, not bad flour, cheap flour.  What Elisha means is that the famine will be over, and crops, including flour, will be readily available.

Q. (7:19-20): They couldn’t eat the cheap flour because: A) they were mourning their kings death and had no appetite, B) the soldiers were away plundering so no matter what the price, there was no one to buy it or eat it, C) the people left behind were distracted and had no interest in going to the market, D) it was trampled just like the king, E) none of the above?

A. NOTA.  There’s no “they”, the prophecy only refers to the king’s servant who scoffs at Elisha’s promise.  The king does not die in this story, only this man, who is trampled at the gate by the people rushing to get food.  So he lived to see the cheap flour, and the end of the famine, but he was not able to enjoy it because he was trampled to death.

Q. (8:7-15): I guess being a prophet isn’t all fun.  It obviously has its hardships and requires a stomach of steel.  Hazael seemed to be blindsided by the news that he would be the leader of such destruction — which he did call “great things.”  Why would God cause such horror?  Will we learn why?

A. Well, you already know part of the reason: Israel and Aram are at war, and Hazael has just made himself king by killing the previous king.  But, yes, I believe the full reason will become clear.

Day 163 (June 12): Ben-Hadad’s second attack, prophet condemns Ahab, Jezebel tricks Naboth, Jehoshaphat (Judah) and Ahab (Israel) join forces against Ramoth-gilead

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Kings 20:23-22:9

2 Chronicles 18:1-8

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 20:23-34): Did God have a purpose for the conflict between Ben-Hadad and Ahab?  Was this God’s planning or was it just two kings rivaling?  The Bible tel us that Ben-Hadad wanted Israel’s riches?

A. While on some level it is just rivaling kings, God is attempting to get Ahab’s attention by giving him military victory and foretelling this victory through these anonymous prophets.  It does work, to some degree.

Q. (20:35-43): This story is troubling.  Why would anyone, especially a prophet, tell someone to hit them and why would the guy do it. Then, the guys dies because he wouldn’t hit the man.  And in v. 42, is the prophet telling of Ahab sparing Ben-Hadad?  If so, that means Ahab must die?

A. Yes, this is an odd story.  The striking thing and the penalty for not doing it are indeed troubling.  But the larger story it the prophet disguising an injury to get close to the king.  When he is there, he uses a very similar technique to how Nathan tricked David back in 2 Samuel 12: he gets the king to inadvertently confess to his sin, and reveal the guilt he should have known about.  In this case, it was sparing the life of Ben-Hadad, which would have cost him his own life, but his later humility and repentance spares him this fate.  His sin still cost him his dynasty, however.

Q. (21:8-10, 25): I don’t think there is any woman in the Bible more evil than Jezebel!  Where did she come from anyway?  From v. 25, we can see the meaning in the nickname “Jezebel.”  Ahab seems to struggle between his faith for God and being swayed by Jezebel.

A. She was the daughter of a foreign king — we don’t know exactly where, the guess is what is now known as Tyre — who was given to Ahab to seal an alliance between the king and Ahab’s father Omri.  That’s about all we know, other then she was apparently quite a powerful influence on her husband.

Q. (21:17-24): Getting eaten by dogs is mentioned several times here.  That’s just a major insult?

A. Dogs were unclean animals in this era, and packs of wild dogs roamed outside of cities, scavenging and eating things that didn’t get properly buried or processed like bodies.  To be eaten by dogs would mean that you did not receive a proper burial, which as we mentioned was a major deal at the time.

Q. (21:28-29): Good for Ahab that he humbled himself and God spared him.  But, his descendants still get the punishment?  Will they have a chance to redeem themselves too?

A. Oh, that would be no fun to tell you.  You’ll see.

Q. (22:6-7): Here Ahab summoned 400 prophets and asked them if he should go into battle.  They said, “The LORD will give the king victory.”  But then, Jehoshaphat asked if there was a prophet of the Lord there.  But weren’t the 400 prophets that he already asked God’s prophets because they answered with the Lord’s name?

A. They were not prophets of God, even if they used His name.  They were some sort of pagan religious officials, but they understood that using God’s name would make their message well received.  They are basically “yes” men.  So you can probably see why Jehoshaphat asked for a “second” opinion as it were.

Q. (2 Chronicles 18:1-8): This account sure starts out more picturesque than the 1 Kings 22 version.  It’s nice to see Judah and Israel bonding together!  Will this continue?

A. To a certain extent, but in a few chapters, it won’t matter anyway.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading along.  We’ll keep going on tomorrow and the next day for more Bible knowledge to give us guidance in our own lives!


Day 162 (June 11): God Elijah and widow save one another, King Ahab and Elijah face off, Elijah flees to Mount Sinai, God isn’t done with Elijah, Ben-Hadad attacks Ahab, Ahab defeats Ben-Hadad

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Kings 17:8-20:22

Questions & Observations

O. (1 Kings 17:8-24): I have heard this story many times.  It’s a classic.  Through God bringing the boy back to life, God shows his love for man, his devotion and that man can trust in him and lean on him.  The way God weaved Elijah’s life into the widow and her boy’s life is very neat.  I was on a walk with my girls the other day.  Six or seven houses down we saw an elderly man using a walker and taking his trash out — not an easy task.  We stopped and helped him.  He told us about the medical issues he’s had lately, which have caused him to lose 20 pounds that he didn’t have to lose.  My daughter was wearing a shirt that says “God loves you a lot.”  He read it and affirmed the saying.  He said he was looking to God — I think for the first time — with all of his medical issues.  In the last couple days I have read Bible stories to both of my daughters: the good Samaritan and one where Jesus says that by helping others, we help Him.  So, my daughters and I agreed that we should knock on our elderly neighbor’s door and ask if he needs help.  We’ll give him our phone number and maybe even ask if we can knock every day to see if he’s all right and give him something.  There are those who need served everywhere!  Our church has a great prison ministry that I plan to help with soon.

Q. (1 Kings 18:1-40): The Bible is going through the kings so fast that it’s hard to keep them straight in my head.  Our last reading talked about Jehoshaphat.  He was king of Judah.  Now we have King Ahab.  He was king in Samaria?  Samaria was a part of Israel?

A. Samaria is where the kings of Israel established their throne and “base of operations,” since Jerusalem was in Judah and they needed somewhere else to be located.  Samaria will figure prominently in the rest of our story, including the NT (think Good Samaritan).  The location is in a hilly region in what is today known as the West Bank, near the edge of the border between Israel and Syria.

Q. (18:16): Did Ahab greet Elijah so coldly because he blamed God — and Elijah was a prophet of God — for the drought?

A. Yes, especially since at the beginning of 1 Kings 17, Elijah told Ahab that God was not going to allow any rain.  Ahab surely held Elijah responsible for what had happened.

Q. I would like to discuss prophets.  How did prophets get chosen?  We learn in this reading where Elijah was the only prophet left in his time.   Did there used to be lots of prophets?  We read in June 9th reading where one prophet sought out another.  And in 1 Kings 18:19, we read about the idol Baal’s prophets, who were a prophet by name alone, right?  There God was false, so they have to be false too?

A. Ok, let’s clear a few things up: this era of Israel’s history corresponds with a large number of prophets chosen by God to bring His message.  There’s good reason: the people need to repent of their sins, especially idolatry as in this story, which is the job of a prophet (of God anyway, more on Baal’s prophets in a second).  If you speak to a Rabbi about “the prophets,” he will likely mention the Jewish thinking that this era is the so-called era of the prophets: figures such as Elijah and Elisha (our next prophet), as well as many other important figures such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel (Jews are divided on whether Daniel is a prophet, but we’ll ignore that for now).  There is no rhyme or reason to “how” they are selected other than to say God chose them — there is no selection process that we are privy too.  God speaks to the prophet Jeremiah (in Jer 1) of the man being set apart from birth for God’s purposes.  It’s a really cool passage.  Prophets come from all walks of life: Isaiah is a royal official, Ezekiel and Jeremiah are priests, Amos is a shepherd, we have no idea about Elijah (there’s an element of mystery about him that resonates with people), and as far as we can tell, Elisha worked the land as a farmer.  Remember our saying: God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.  As to the “other” prophets in this story, we don’t know exactly what they did, but the suspicion is that they could have just as easily been called priests.  They were likely the facilitators of the pagan worship of Baal.

O. (18:26): This is proof that Baal is nonexistent!

O. (18:27): I like to see humor in the Bible!

Q. (18:46): Wow, Elijah got super powers from God.  Why would Elijah run ahead of Ahab’s chariot?

A. To be in the city when Ahab got to tell his wife, Jezebel, the bad news about her prophets.

Q. (19:1): I didn’t think we read anything about Elijah killing the prophets of Baal.  And, I always thought Jezebel was a big character in the Bible.  Will we read more about her?  Why did she have authority?

A. 18:40 tells the tale: Elijah has the prophets of Baal, and presumably Asherah, killed.  Jezebel will be around for a few more chapters, and it appears she has authority by controlling her husband.

Q. (19:6): It seems that a lot of folks in the Bible got by on bread and water.  Here, Elijah did twice: once with the widow and here when he is fleeing Jezebel.  How can they get by on bread and water?  I am concerned about my girls getting all four food groups to keep their mind and body properly fed … according to today’s standards.  I know in the Bible it says not to worry about what you eat because God will provide. I don’t think he would provide French fries and ice cream though.  Does the Bible say anything about eating nutritiously or are we really supposed to not worry about it?  I think this verse just means that God will give us food.  We won’t go hungry.  But I am curious about the nutrition aspect.

A. The Bible writers would have had almost no concept of “overeating” because almost everyone, except the uber rich, lived from day to day on whatever they could find to survive.  The Bible is not a dietary book — in the sense that we understand dieting anyway — it has bigger fish to fry.  Nutritional information and intelligent eating are modern concepts that wouldn’t have made any sense in that day, so God doesn’t bother including that information.

You surely can survive on bread and water — though surviving might be the right word for it!  As it relates to Elijah’s two adventures: in the first one, they probably traded bread for other things to eat or drink — like meat or wine, which was safer to drink than water in that day — and in the other, the bread and water were for ensuring that he survived the long journey, it said nothing about being his “every meal”.

Q. (19:8): Why did Elijah think he needed to go to Mount Sinai?  He traveled for 40 days and nights.  How is the number representing completion here — something that we’ve talked about?

A. Apparently the reputation of Sinai as being the mountain of God carried down the generations.  It appeared to be a place where Elijah felt he would be safe, and frankly, where he could hide.  God, of course, still had work to do with Elijah, so He sent him back to work.

Q. (20:3-4): Why did Ahab agree to give up the silver, gold, women and children?

A. Probably he was attempting to appease the king of Aram by giving in to his demands.  It is only when the King got greedy that Ahab showed some spine and fought back.

Hope you are having a great summer!  We’ll keep blogging throughout.