Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, September 16, 2005

Infantilism and Evil

Daily Readings
Sirach 12 + I Kings 21 + II Chronicles 10 + Jeremiah 33

Quote of the Day
Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,
for the LORD is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!”
Jeremiah 33:11b

Daily Text: I Kings 21

Infantilism and Evil
Two matters of note: Ahab’s sullen nature and his identification of Elijah (and the LORD) as his enemy. First, his sullenness. After his own failure to require Ben-hadad’s life, even though the LORD had given it to him, and the prophet’s castigation of him he sets out toward home, ‘resentful and sullen’! This is behavior characteristic of a spoiled child. Again, when Naboth refuses to sell or trade him his ancestral heritage, Ahab pouts. The Scripture says, “Ahab went home resentful and sullen” [I Kings 21:4]. Not only are these his feelings, but he goes to bed, turns his face away from whoever is with him and refuses to eat! Finally, after Naboth’s stoning, following which Ahab stole his land, Elijah brings a curse upon him and his response is dejection [21:27]. This man is known as one ‘who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD’ [21:25]. Not only is his behavior evil, it is infantile. Perhaps this is why he seems to be subject to Jezebel’s influence.

Second, following Naboth’s treacherous betrayal, Elijah appears before him to accuse him simply of what he has done. Ahab’s immediate response is: “Have you found me, O my enemy?” The sense of it seems to be, “Have you found me out?, Have you seen through my treachery?” The idea that perhaps Ahab did not know fully what Jezebel had done in setting up Naboth’s legalized murder is given the full light of truth at this point. Yes, he knew all right and was very willing to enjoy the fruit of it, namely the piece of land he had wanted in the first place. There is no depression at this point! He has what he wants. And he recognizes that not only is Elijah his enemy, but so is the LORD; for Elijah is simply conveying the LORD’s words. There is a curse delivered succinctly in this case:
Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD:
• I will bring disaster on you
• I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel
• I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah
• The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel
• Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat
• And anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat

Ahab avoids immediate retribution by fasting and humbling himself before the LORD. The LORD may be his enemy, but he respects God’s ability to carry out the curse.

Ahab the Builder
John Elliott Bowman

The son of Omri built at Shomron
A pleasure house with ivory inlaid,
Whereof the bruit, o’er field and vineyard blown,
Reached Tyre and Sidon. Cities, too, of stone
Well hewn, he builded. Rain and wind have played
Millennia with their dust. One pile alone
Remains. Though realms have risen and decayed,
No shard can vanish of the fragments thrown
On Naboth’s mangled corpse at Jezreel’s gate.


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