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

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The 'Lying' Spirit of God

Daily Readings
Sirach 12:1-24 + I Kings 22 + II Chronicles 11 + Jeremiah 34

Quote of the Day
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, that all should set free their Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should hold another Judean in slavery. Jeremiah 34:8, 9

Daily Text: I Kings 22

The ‘Lying’ Spirit of God
Chapter 22 picks up where 20 left off, with peace between Ahab and Ben-hadad. It seems that Ramoth-Gilead has been promised back to Ahab, but the transfer has not yet occurred. That is what this passage is about, re-claiming Ramoth-Gilead. However, Jehoshaphat the new king of Judah, who has created peace between Israel and Judah by his actions, wants to know what YHWH recommends before they go off and end up in a military struggle. So Ahab asks the prophets of the LORD if they have a word from God and they do. To the man they recommend that Ahab go to claim Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat remains a little uneasy and asks if there is not another prophet. Oh, yes, says Ahab, there is one other, a man named Micaiah who never prophesies in my favor. He is one of these prophets, but he unfailingly contradictory. But if you insist, we will call him. And he does. Now Micaiah’s first words are “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” In my imagination I see that as being spoken dramatically, ironically, perhaps with Micaiah holding the back of his hand on his forehead! However he does this Ahab immediately understands that his leg is being pulled. So he insists on the ‘true’ word. That is very different. Micaiah relates a dream he has had where the spirits have come before the LORD about this very matter and one of the spirits volunteers to inspire the 400 prophets with a message that will lead Ahab awry and to his death. Only Micaiah is given the true word, and, of course, Ahab ignores this. The issue here is not 400 false prophets. It is that the word from the LORD has given to them is misleading. This passage may be unique in all of Scripture. The LORD has actually given the 400 a message and then given the true one to Micaiah. Ahab is ultimately killed in the ensuing battle and his blood having run into his chariot is washed out of the chariot near some pool in or around Samaria, his capitol.

Now there was a prophecy given by Elijah in chapter 21:19, that the dogs would lick Ahab’s blood. There is in verse 38 such a reference, but it is a strange one. It is suggested that the dogs licked his blood and the prostitutes washed in it. It is possible that the reference to ‘dogs’ is to male prostitutes, a common pejorative reference to them and the reference to ‘prostitutes’ to the female prostitutes. Blood in ancient Israel was considered to be the very life of the body and since this was the blood of the king it may have been considered to have some special value in it self [Leviticus 17:14]. It is also noted in I Kings 22 that Jehoshaphat rid Israel of the male prostitutes, and the coincidence of these references in the same body of material may be no coincidence at all. If this is logically acceptable, the reference to prostitutes in the same sentence with dogs makes good sense. We have only then to understand what it was they were doing, certainly not something honorable to the LORD.

The Death of Ahab
Richard Wilton

By robe or plume or equipage of king
All undistinguished, he eludes the eyes
Of captains bent to o’erpower him or surprise
When lo! an arrow from an unknown string
Drawn at a venture—on swift, silent wind
Right to a crevice in his armour flies.
God’s word of doom had fallen, and no disguise,
No power or wisdom could a respite bring.
So in life’s battle-field for each and all,
Or soon or late, the cloud of doom will lower,
But not at random will God’s arrows fall:
What though concealed from man the place and hour,
Enough that all has been arranged by Him
Whose eyes for us with mortal mists were dim.


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