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

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Vassal No Longer

Daily Readings
Sirach 11 + I Kings 20 + II Chronicles 9 + Jeremiah 32

Quote of the Day
My child, do not busy yourself with many matters; if you multiply activities, you will not be held blameless. Sirach 11:10a

Daily Text: I Kings 20

Vassal No Longer
Ahab may have been the vassal of Ben-hadad of Aram for as many as 19 years when the incident in chapter 20 occurs [cf. Gray 438:371-2, also 20:34]. Certainly, his response to Ben-hadad’s demands seems practiced and servile. It is when the second, harsher demand comes that Ahab rebels. This is the demeaning requirement that Ben-hadad does not trust him, so he will send his emissaries through his palace with the instruction that they may take anything that pleases them. Even then his rebellion takes the form of inquiring among his own elders as to their reaction and it is only with their support that he pulls together a few troops. This is not the brash and hostile man we see in the Elijah stories. This is a subdued and wiser man, one who does not rashly move into conflict with one who is much stronger than he is. He does that only after receiving the deepest insult and after inquiring as to whether he has support from his fellow countrymen. Even the prophets of the LORD, and the LORD himself come to his aid, but note that Ahab trusts the LORD.

Notice how small his numbers of troops are against Ben-hadad’s overwhelming force—7,000 men! Fifty years earlier at the break between Judah and Israel, Judah had 180,000 troops and they were insufficient to match Israel’s strength. Such an erosion of force! There is also the possibility that larger numbers are used when Israel is at its strength and smaller numbers used when it is completely dependent upon YHWH. It was certainly an enormous victory when 7,000 men can defeat to the death 127,000 men in one day! But then again, we are told that the LORD has given the victory. Only in the matter of sparing Ben-hadad’s life is there censure by the prophet of God for Ahab this day. Josephus declares this unnamed prophet to be Micaiah [437:470], whom we will see in chapter 22, a chapter that seems to be a sequel to the present one. This early in Israel’s history, any effort by the king to do the will of his God, is honored by intervention from God. Later, e.g. in Josiah’s time [II Kings 23:26], this is not the case.

Abraham’s Child
from Lines Scribbled on an Envelope
Madeleine L’Engle

Towards afternoon the train pulled into the station.
The light came grey and cold through the dirty glass panes of the terminal roof,
and the passengers on the platform blew upon their hands and stamped their feet,
and their breath came out like smoke.
In the comfortable compartment I leaned back against the red plush of the seat
and looked out the window. All the signs were in a language I could not read.
I got out my passport and held it, waiting in readiness.
My papers were in order and the train was warm.
The conductor slid open the door to the compartment and said to me,
“This is the last stop on this train. You will have to get out.”
I held out my passport. “No, no, my journey’s barely half over,”
and I told him the cities through which the train was going to pass.
He handed me back my passport and said again, “You will have to get out,”
and he took me by the arms and led me from the train. His hands were so strong
my arms cried out in pain. On the platform it was cold.
“But I don’t know where I am!” I cried, “or where I am going.”
“Follow me,” he said. “I have been sent to show you.”
Through the glass of the station roof I could see the sun was going down
and a horror of great darkness fell upon me.
“Come,” the conductor said. “This is the way you are to go.”
and he led me past the passengers waiting on the platform
and past the foreign signs and a burning lamp in this strange land
where I was a stranger. He led me to a train with no lights, and broken windows,
and a pale wisp of smoke lifting from a rusty engine, and said,
“Get in. This is your train.”
I fell upon my face and laughed and said, “But this train isn’t going anywhere.”
And he said, “Get in,” so I got in, and through a hole in the roof I saw the stars.
He said, “you may sit down,” and I sat on a wooden bench
and he put my satchel on the rack over my head. “I must have your passport.”
I gave it to him. “Where are we going?” I asked. The train was cold.
“The way will be shown,” he said, and closed the compartment door.
I heard a puff of steam. The old engine began to pull the dark car
and we ventured out into the night.


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