Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nothing New about Blind Politicians

Reference: I Kings 20. For context, see
  • II Samuel 7
  • I Kings 11-12
  • start at I Kings 16:23 when you read chapter 20
God is pro-death penalty. In fact, God once pronounced the death penalty upon a politician when he made a treaty instead of executing a captured invader.

You can find more than one situation like this in the Bible, but today I focus on Ahab from my daily reading in I Kings 20. Ahab descended from a split and broken line of heretical politicians that started with Solomon.

All this rebellion, destruction, and death started with an interfaith marriage. King David had unified Israel and passed it along to his son Solomon in 1015 BC. We think the "fundamentalist" Mormon cults in the Rocky Mountain states are bad, but Solomon left them in the dust with his 700 wives and 300 concubines. God never explicitly judged anybody for having multiple wives -- perhaps He sees the resulting family conflicts as judgment enough. Polygamy -- more specifically, interfaith political marriages -- led to something far worse: apostacy, breaking up with God.

Solomon's wives, many being from other nations (one nation being Sidon) and other religions, convinced him to worship the gods of their homelands. I suppose a thousand of the most beautiful women in the known world could do that to the average guy. Way to man-up, Sol.

God responded to this spiritual adultery by filing for divorce. God could not remove Solomon from office because He had given His word to David that his son would sit on the throne after him. So the divorce came posthumously in -975 AD. Like a judge who gives the girls to the wife and the boys to the husband, God divided Israel.

Solomon's son Rehoboam got to keep the south while a rebel, Jeroboam, got to take the north. The area of one tribe, Judah, made up the south, while the areas of ten tribes made up the north. (The twelfth and priestly tribe of Levi dispersed among the other eleven tribes.) Naturally, Judah became known as... Judah; and the ten tribes got to keep the family name of Israel. In the successions of rulers, north and south, few learned their lessons.

Ahab had no excuse for not believing God. Ahab ("father's brother") grew up in the home of his idolatrous home of his father, but he also knew of the Torah and had exposure to the prophets of God. As we approach I Kings 20, we find three events that should have convinced anybody:
  1. He had lived through a drought that the prophet Elijah had declared (I Kings 17:1).
  2. In a competition between 850 prophets of idols and one prophet of God, he had seen Elijah pray down fire from God to devour water-drenched sacrifices (18:17-39).
  3. He saw the drought end per Elijah's declaration (18:41-45).
But Ahab perfectly illustrated Jesus' saying, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:31)

When Ahab married Jezebel, he followed Solomon's error by marrying into the family of the King of Sidon, the capitol of Phoenicia. Ahab had grown up in a house that worshipped foreign gods with fornication and sodomy among their sacraments. Mr. and Mrs. Ahab and Jezebel, however, topped this. They added Baal-worship with its sacrament of infant sacrifice to Israel's sins.

According to I Kings 19:1, after the second and third events listed above, Ahab went home and told Jezebel about the signs God had shown. Jezebel responded by putting out a hit on Elijah. Considering that Ahab had converted once for love's sake, what might have happened if Jezebel had said, "Surely, the Lord is God!" like all the witnesses to the fire did?

Wives, don't underestimate your influence over your husbands. Behind every succussful man is.... Well, if you can make 'em, you can break 'em, too. He may one day give account for his leadership, but you will one day account for how you used your influence.

Meanwhile, back in today's reading (chapter 20), King Ahab finds himself quivering in his fortress as King Ben-Hadad ("son of Hadad," the Syrian sun-god) musters the army of Syria outside.

First Ben-Hadad orders Ahab to surrender all his silver, gold, wives, and children. Ahab agrees to comply.

Don't pretend shock. You already know that he practices infant sacrifice. In accordance with custom, Ben-Hadad would probably take the wives for his own and send the children to the best Syrian academies to eventually represent him in the conquered territory of Israel. With wives like Jezebel, Ahab probably thought he got the better end of that bargain. And winding up in the house of a mighty king like Ben-Hadad, Jezebel probably thought she was getting the better deal, too. It was a win-win-win.

However, Ben-Hadad changes the deal. He orders Ahab to let his soldiers pillage the city. Now, surrendering his money and his family is OK with Ahab, but surrendering his favorite stuff went just too dern far! Ahab ends the parleigh saying, "Let not one who puts on [as in donning armor for battle] boast like the one who takes [as in removing armor after successful battle]." In other words, don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

The king had put his foot in it. As shown in verse 14, he had no idea how he would defend against Ben-Hadad. God sends a prophet to Ahab to tell him that God will deliver the enemy into his hand, that Ahab may know that God is God.

At the prophet's direction, Ahab musters his little army of 7,000 men and marches out of the city to face Ben-Hadad's army of over 127,000. (How do I get that number? Ben-Hadad returned the following year with an equal number (vs. 24-25). More on that, later.)

In this battle, every Israelite "killed his man," so that's at least 7,000 Syrian foot soldiers. Then Ahab led an attack against Ben-Hadad's chariots, "and killed the Syrians with a great slaughter." Ben-Hadad and his army flee.

Things start to look up for Ahab. God fights on his side. Maybe he will start turning to God.

After the first battle, the prophet warns Ahab, get ready because they'll be back! Sure enough, spring comes and the prophecy holds true. Ben-Hadad returns, but with a new strategy.

The Syrian tacticians decide that the loss happened because God is a hillbilly. That's what you get when your tacticians worship heathen gods. Actually, chariots don't work well in hills country like that around Ahab's capital, and Israel's capitol gives them the high ground, so moving the battle to a plain makes a lot of sense. Once again, Ben-Hadad has vastly overwhelming numerical superiority. Enjoy the word picture:
Now the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, while the Syrians filled the counrtyside.
Military (or religious) tactics and numerical superiority do not stop God, however. A prophet tells Ahab,
Thus says the LORD: Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.
The battle begins. The little army of Israel kills 100,000 foot soldiers (vs. 29), the rest flee, and God kills another 27,000 in an "accident" (vs. 30). That's where I got the 127,000 for the first battle.

Ahab has seen miracle after miracle. Do you think maybe this trip from doom to miraculous victory would crack open Ahab's heart? Not a chance. When Israel captures Ben-Hadad, he and Uncle Ahab call each other "brother" and make a treaty. 127,000 men dead and they just walk away.

God hates false religions and false gods to which people give honor that belongs to Him alone. False gods keep people condemned and separated from God. God delivers into Ahab's hands the ruler of a region that God had once given to Israel, a man that oppresses Israel, a man with the conceit to call himself the son of a god, a man who insults God... and Ahab lets him go.

A prophet calls him on it, saying,
Thus says the LORD: Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.
God signed Ben-Hadad's death warrant and Ahab failed to execute the sentence. Doing so, Ahab signed his own death warrant.

Of all the lessons in I Kings 20, this one stands out to me tonight: One day, our judges, the politicians who appointed them -- and the people who elected the politicians -- will answer to God for the murderers, rapists, and traitors they allowed to live and even released to repeat their crimes. The jurisdiction to exact justice lies with God, not us. But, whether in this life or in the next, they will pay.

Copyright Richard Wheeler 2010. Permission granted for personal or non-profit use.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I was going to say something mighty boorish "If God is pro death-penalty, then God, sir, is an ..." in response to your words in red, but then I saw your comment about not being boorish, so I will leave the last word for you to figure out.

In an odd way, God is at least consistent. He also inflicted the death penalty upon Jesus. Was Jesus pro death-penalty? Think long and hard on that one...

And then think on this: punitive justice is horribly ineffective, and often gets the wrong person, and people who are poor and/or of color get the short end of the stick in the US judicial system.

Restorative justice (look it up) is a MUCH better solution, if the problem is to make sure that the crimes do not happen again. Not only is it more effective, it's less expensive. Punitive justice penalizes people (and those who love them) for what was often the single worst day of their life, whereas restorative justice seeks to make them whole again.

For the tiny few who are truly incorrigible and dangerous to society, quarantine them from the rest of the population.

Make no mistake, restorative justice is the true will of God.

Poorhouse Dad said...

I agree with restorative justice, but failing to partner it with punitive justice betrays justice itself.

First, "repairing the harm" cannot compensate the victim for intangibles such as violated security, emotional distress, and lost time. Any "justice" that does not greatly exceed the harm will not deter repetition of the crime.

Let me illustrate why: Suppose a pick-pocket steals a dollar each from 200 people. (For each criminal caught, dozens of crimes go unsolved, and dozens of criminals escape conviction.) Finally, he gets caught. Restorative justices says, make him give back the dollar to the guy who caught him. The pick-pocket still has $199 that he stole from others. He will pretend to go along with your mamby-pamby, touchy-feely counseling, go straight back to his theiving ways once he's done, and laugh at you for your foolishness.

Second, we have a restorative justice system. It's called civil court. So, some gangster takes your car (for which you traded a year of your working life) for a joy-ride and, when done, steals all the removable parts, dumps a gallon of gasoline over it, lights it, and pushes it into a ravine. Since he spent the money he got from selling your hub caps, just how much restoration do you think you will get out of him?

I will join Anonymous in favoring restorative justice for crimes against persons, just as soon as somebody can show me how to give back a murder victim's life and how to give back her loved ones all their years of heartbreak.

Tell me how you will have a Timothy McVeigh restore his victim's lives or heal KV's spine so she can walk and provide for herself again.

Tell me how your molly-coddled rapist will give a woman back her virginity and provide a father to the product of his crime.

Third, the "minorities get the most convictions" argument is racist. It's racist because it would leave most victims without justice. Why? Most crimes do not cross racial or economic lines. If convictions of a minority overrepresent their general population, it merely reflects that most victims belong to that minority. The fact that the rich more ably escape justice does not mean that fewer minority or poor should be convicted.

Fourth, don't rationalize opposition to the death penalty by changing the subject. So-called "wrongful convictions" are usually reversed on technicalities, not on hard evidence. Of the rest, most reversals fail to exonerate the convicts.

The solution to most mistaken convictions for capital crimes is not to devalue life by shirking our responsibility to execute justice. If a witnesses' lie or an investigator's or prosecutor's misconduct results in a wrongful conviction, they cause the imprisonment or even the death of the person convicted.

The solution, therefore, is to penalize crimes such as false testimony and withholding evidence with the same penalty that the falsely accused suffers (with appropriate reductions or exceptions for unintended error or so-called technicalities).

Did Jesus oppose the death penalty in human judicial systems? Read the Old Testament upon which Jesus based His life ("without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins") and the New Testament which reveals how He willingly submitted to the death penalty.

If you can hypothetically accept the Biblical Triune God (why not? accepting God at all may be hypothetical to you), then you have to accept God the Son's authorship of the Mosaic Law. Implying as you do that Christ opposes the death penalty implies that God contradicts Himself. Think on the implications of that if you think He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

To believe that God does not favor the death penalty, you only have to disbelieve everything God has revealed about Himself.