Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Second Kings: Just Get it Over With!

Well, for a number of reasons I haven’t been able to put up a post in about a month. This is partly due to life getting pretty crowded, and the late-but-welcome arrival of nice weather prompting me to spend more time outdoors that I’d otherwise spend writing. But there’s another reason as well: the rest of Second Kings is pretty damn boring. It’s just tough to find anything in the remainder of the book that I really want to write about. But, I’ll gamely give it a go.

So when we left off, Elisha had just died. Which gets attached to a cute little story.

2 Kings 13:20 So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.”

So yeah… I guess that’s, what, the third resurrection that’s been pulled off so far? How special! I wonder if people started bringing other dead folks to Elisha’s grave. I imagine it would have been tough to actually get him fully buried after that point, what with the likely demand for further resurrections. But then, oddly, nothing is ever mentioned about it again, one way or the other.

After that, it’s pretty much back to politics and wars. Amaziah becomes king of Judah (and he did what was good in the sight of God), and for no stated reason declares war on king Joash of Israel. Joash (who was one of the many kings who “did what was evil in the sight of God”) beats the everloving shit out of Amaziah’s army, takes him captive, sacks Jerusalem, and loots the temple. Guess God was a little off his defensive game that day. Or had, y’know, some of those famous “mysterious reasons,” for letting the king who worshipped him faithfully get spanked by the one who didn’t. Joash lives out the rest of his life reigning over Israel, while Amaziah is eventually returned to Judah only to be overthrown and murdered by a conspiracy of his own people.

Amaziah’s son, Araziah, becomes king. He’s another who “did what was right in the eyes of God.” His reward? God turns him into a leper. Seriously… the text specifically says that God turns him into a leper. Possibly because, while he was faithful to God himself, he wasn’t doing enough to oppress the people who worshipped other gods or who worshipped Yahweh incorrectly (though that’s only implied as the reason, and not stated outright).

What follows is a succession of kings in both Israel and Judah that are largely uninteresting. Some did “right” and some did “evil” in the eyes of God, some were usurped and murdered, some were not, some were successful in war, some were not. Dry stuff presented in very dry and cursory fashion.

So a few generations down, we run into Hoshea, king of Israel. And he gets spanked by the Assyrians, and forced to pay tribute. But when the Assyrians later find out that he’s conspiring with Egypt to rebel, they just flat out invade and conquer Israel. Hoshea himself is taken prisoner, and the people of Israel are forcibly relocated. So the kingdom of Israel ceases to exist, leaving only Judah as the sole bastion of Jewish sovereignty. And as per usual, after spelling out the exact political and economic reasons why something happened, the Bible then goes on to lay that blame squarely on the Israelites’ failure to worship God properly.

A few years later, the Assyrians are walloping on Judah as well. Hezekiah is king in Judah, and he’s been running a little pogrom of persecuting people who worship other gods and destroying their places of worship. So God likes him well enough to intervene when the Assyrians stage a full-scale invasion. And…

Aggh… fuck it! I’m sick of Second Kings! Sick or writing about it, sick of reading and re-reading it to try and find interesting things to say. It’s boring as shit, and I’m just gonna push through to the end so that today’s post can finish it up and we can move on. Ultimately, it’s just a long and incredibly tedious parable for “If you don’t worship God exclusively, he’ll fuck your shit up. Mostly in ways indistinguishable from normal politics and war.”

So… God tricks the Assyrians into going away. But they come back later and he kills 185,000 of them. Hezekiah gets sick, and God tell him he’s gonna die. But he prays and God changes his mind to let him live another 15 years. He also tells him that Judah is gonna get destroyed in a few generations, and Hezekiah is all like “That’s good. Everything’s fine for me, so fuck my descendants anyway.”

A couple generations later, Josiah is king of Judah and he goes whole hog on religious persecution. Not only does he do one of those purges that seems to happen every couple generations where the king tears down the worship places of every god other than Yahweh, but also…

2 Kings 23:19 And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking Yahweh to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done in Bethel. 20 And he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”

So yeah, human sacrifice again. Mind you, this is after God had already told him (through the prophet Isaiah) that he was going to destroy Judah anyway and that, because Josiah was such a good little toady, God would reward him by making sure he died before having to see any of the destruction.

Josiah is eventually killed by the king of Egypt. We get a couple more generations of kings before the Babylonians bitch-slap Judah into the ground and force them to pay tribute. A few years later, Judah rebels against Babylon, so king Nebuchadnezzar just all-out invades. Jerusalem is burned to the ground, and the temple with it, and a Babylonian governor appointed. Many of the people of Judah (including the king) are taken as prisoners back to Babylon, and the independent Jewish states are gone. This is, of course, entirely because the Jewish people had the wrong religious beliefs and practices.

And that’s it. We’re done with Second Kings. I apologize for the brusque manner in which I breezed through this last part, but I’d really had enough and had long since ceased getting anything out of it. With my next post, we’ll be moving on to the First Book of Chronicles. It is, unfortunately, a bit of a recap of stuff we’ve already read. But maybe that means we can skip through it fairly quickly, and perhaps it will provide some interesting comparisons.

Until next time, y’all take care!

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