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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Zealotry

Daily Readings
Sirach 22:27-23:27 + II Kings 10 + II Chronicles 21 + Jeremiah 44

Quote of the Day
Who will set a guard over my mouth, and an effective seal upon my lips,
so that I may not fall because of them, and my tongue may not destroy me?
Sirach 22:27

Daily Text: II Kings 10

Zealotry
Chapters nine and ten create the longest running narrative in the Book of Kings. Therefore, it was important to the Deuteronomists who edited it. This may be because it signaled the end of Ahab of Israel, the king with the greatest notoriety in the biblical record. Jehu is also not a figure to be admired. He was a ruthless military man, and his assassination of kings, their heirs and Israel’s Baal worshippers is a bloody story. In all of this he is given the cover of Elijah’s zeal against the Baal worshippers, and Elijah’s prophecies that Ahab’s line will be totally wiped out. Jehu does it all. It looks like radical leadership on the surface, but simultaneously, he is isolating himself from the surrounding nations. Moab, Edom and Aram already oppose him. Judah is cut off because of his treatment of their king and the king’s relatives. He is forced in his first year of rule to pay tribute to Shalmaneser III of Assyria and in 28 years of rule he never recovers. Radical and good leadership does not create such handicaps for the people. With all of his ‘zeal’ for YHWH, or was it zeal for bloodshed, he continues to honor the calves created by Jeroboam and was ‘not careful to follow the law of the God of Israel with all his heart’ [vs. 31]. The result was that Hazael of Aram, in particular, continually trimmed off cities from Israel defeating him throughout the land. As well, Shalmaneser's tribute must have cost him plenty.

One of the fascinating portions of his takeover is his relationship with Jehonadab son of Rechab. The Rechabites were a family, a tribe that swore off alcohol and stone houses, living in tents and seeking an extremely conservative form of YHWH worship. Their ancestors are recorded in I Chronicles 2:55 and they are praised by Jeremiah (ch. 35). Similar to the Nazirites, their vows were communal rather than individual. Formed during Jehu’s reign they are first seen here. One wonders if it was not the butchery that they fostered here that led to their vow of solicitous faithfulness to nomadic purity.

from An Essay on Man
Alexander Pope
1688-1744

For forms of government let fools contest;
Whate’er is best administered is best:
For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
His can’t be wrong whose life is in the right:
In faith and hope the world will disagree,
But all mankind’s concern is charity.
Ep. Iii, l.303 413:384:1

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