BiND: Day 26-27
Well, now we’ve met the first two major prophets—Elijah and Elisha. Sure, there have been prophets before (Nathan, anyone?). And we’ve met the “company of prophets” a bunch of times—those are the prophets who are in the employ of the king, who are members of the royal court, who get paid to say what the king wants to hear. They’re basically “close political advisors” under a different name. Elijah and Elisha are different. They are each talked about as “man of God” and they do more than just go into a prophetic frenzy. They tell the word of the Lord for the nation, they say the hard thing (not just the easy one), and they do miracles. Now, remember that Elijah is pretty much the premier prophet in the Jewish tradition. He’s expected to return to herald the coming of the Messiah. Every seder includes a ritual opening of the door to let Elijah in, many dinner tables include an empty place set for him. Clearly, the people who wrote about Elijah (to a nation in exile) needed to make clear who he was and what he meant. He was the one who called people to live by the covenant, and who encouraged the kings to follow in David’s footsteps. His miracles included raising the dead and parting the waters of a river. He heard the voice of God in the silence after an earthquake/fire/wind. His successor Elisha also (miraculously!) parted the water, raised the dead, fed the hungry, etc. These two prophets are the forerunners of those prophets who have their own books (coming soon!).
We have also read about many of the kings who succeeded David and Solomon. You may have noticed that all the kings of Israel (the northern kingdom) are talked about as being worse than anyone ever before—they just keep getting worse! They sin. They encourage the people to sin. They worship idols. etc etc etc. Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah has a few kings who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” but also a few who were surprisingly good—they insist on seeking out a true prophet, they take down idols (but not high places), they don’t sacrifice to foreign gods, they basically follow the covenant…notice anything interesting here? That’s right—the kingdom of Israel and its kings are illegitimate in the eyes of the deuteronomistic historians. Only Judah and the kings following in David’s bloodline and footsteps are the real deal, and the writers go to great length to show us just how true this is. Obviously, legitimacy is both dependent on and revealed by adherence to the covenant. Interesting…
Well, tomorrow we get into the big moments of Israelite history—the defining events of ancient Israel, the events that bring us Judaism rather than just a Hebrew religious cult. Check back!