I once made a silly offer: “Give me a random Old Testament passage, and I’ll show you how the 5 step process works!” So they offered me 2 Kings 10, the lovely story of the seventy heads offered to Jehu in baskets. (Read it yourself if you don’t believe me.)
My goal was to show how the 5 step process could take us from that passage to a sensible message I could preach in church on a Sunday. This podcast is a summary of what we did. (I say “we” because I made my listeners do much of the work, asking:
- What DID the story mean? (I.e. what was it supposed to communicate to its early hearers, Jews in or just after the exile.)
- What are the differences that make a difference? (I.e. what has changed that either makes us likely to misunderstand, or that make our situation significantly different from theirs. One that isn’t mentioned in the podcast, but should have been is that we will be shocked by this tale of mass murder, they probably cheered it on, politics was a rougher game there than for most of us today 😉
- What does it say about God? (If the Bible is about God then each passage will tell us something about God. And Scritpture IS about God and NOT about us.)
- How do we understand this in the light of Jesus? Or, since this is an Old Testament passage: How does Jesus complete or fill out what is here?
- How does that work today?
Listen and see if you think I succeeded, got a message for today, and one which is Christian, and one which is fair to the lovely passage of Scripture they gave me!
BTW my mate Jonathan has been writing about Christian Preaching of the Old Testament, I wonder what he thinks of this example 😉
Tags: old testament, preach ot, preaching, preaching old testament
good ‘cast Tim 🙂
I think a lot of those OT passages show the ruthlessness with which we need to confront and mercilessly destroy our enemies! 🙂 Except under the new covenant Eph 6:12 applies. Our enemies are not the broken people around us but the fleshly desires that war against our souls (1 Pet 2:11), it is them we need to put to death (Col 3:5) preferably in a gruesome manner! This could also be a useful strategy for reading those bloodthirsty psalms:
I still like your post, BUT aren’t you the one arguing that too much OT preaching reads into the text? Where in this text did you find approval for ruthless destruction of enemies? It is described, but where was it approved, much less held up as a model? OTOH Jehu does say:
Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the LORD has done what he said through his servant Elijah. (2 Kings 10:10)
And, God seems to agree, at least as concerned what he did to the house of Ahab. If (perhaps) not the rest of his bloodthirsty coup:
The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” (2 Kings 10:30)
Well that is the beauty of blogging, you can shoot me down before i make a terrible mistake in public!
A lot depends on how you spot your enemies, God approved the destruction of Ahab because of the effect he had on the righteousness of God’s people. It is the destruction of the enemies of our holiness rather than anyone we might feel to be opposing us generally that 2 Kings 10:10, 30 give us warrant for. Or have I over spiritualised it?
I’m still not convinced you should get that message from this text. I see the story underlining that God punishes and that what God intends happens. I don’t see much approval for Jehu though, still less a “God and do thou likewise!” instruction. I think you are moralising.
so why did God want Ahab’s family destroyed?
Did God want that? In 2 Kings 9:7 that detail is added by a student in Elishah’s class. It was not part of the prophet’s instructions in 2 Kings 9:3.
Similarly in 1 Kings 21:21f. Elijah adds this “detail” to what God had told him in 1 Kings 21:19.
You see time and again it is over-zealous humans, not God, that seek such violent solutions.
Furthermore, as Jonah recognised God is: “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment.” So if that murderous crew had repented even they would have been spared, if God had pronounced the death penalty!
I wonder if you couldn’t add a 6th and 7th test. Excuse my poor wording.
6. Could there have been a reason why that action might have been necessary that is not gone into in detail?
7. Was that specific action an error on the part of the doer and not something meant for us to copy?
Of course a person could add even a few more, I imagine. But as an example of other reasons, with the Canaanites even the animals were to be killed. Iit might have had to do with disease or even a plague. Also maybe we wouldn’t have the problems in the Mid-East we have today, if the Israelites had followed instructions. It might have saved even more killing in the long run. Just some thoughts I wonder about. People seem to have been pretty vicious back then and gross measures might be the only thing, as you have alluded.
[…] listen to my podcast 2 Kings 10: a really nasty text as a test for the 5 step process to hear my answer 🙂 Bible, Bible abuse, Biblical interpretation […]
Yes, there are certainly in any passage more questions to ask, especially with “difficult” texts. The issue of both possible human motives, and of possible factors that are not mentioned (sometimes perhaps becaue ancient readers took them for granted – but we don’t) are both important.
The five steps are a process that helps guide and restrain interpretation of any, and every, passage someone may look at, but the first step would include the sort of questions you suggest.