Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
2 Kings 8 – Elisha warns the woman who has provided him with a place to stay for years and whose son he had raised from death that a famine is coming, that they should go and settle elsewhere for a while. So she goes to the land of the Philistines for seven years. At the end of this time, she returns and asks the king for her house and land back. When she approaches the king (King Joram), he is talking to Elisha’s servant Gehazi about all the amazing things Elisha has done, and they particularly discuss the woman and her son. The king greets and restores everything to her.
Elisha goes to Damascus where Ben-hadad is ill. He (Ben-Hadad) sends a gift to greet Elisha in hopes it will mean a sure recovery. Hazael (apparently an official of the Aramean court) brings 40 camel-loads of goods for the prophet; but Elisha gives him a strange answer: “The Lord has revealed to me that he will die; but go to him and tell him that he will recover” (8:10). Elisha then weeps and Hazael asks him why. He answers that it is because he (Elisha) knows the evil Hazael will do to the people of Israel—he mentions horrors he will commit. Hazael says, “What is your servant, who is a mere dog, that he should do this great thing?” (8:13) and Elisha tells him that the Lord has shown him that Hazael will be king over Aram. Is he planting an evil idea in the mind of Hazael? Hazael returns to his master and tells him the good part of the prophecy, but the next day he takes the bedcover, soaks it in water and suffocates Ben-hadad (8:15). Isaac Asimov says that under Hazael, Syria rose to the peak of its power. The war over Ramoth-gilead is taken up again. It is this war that King Joram of Israel will die and Jehu will rise to power (363).
In Judah, Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, begins to reign at age 32. Jehoram is also a form of the name Joram. The Good News Bible uses Joram for the king of Israel and Jehoram for the king of Judah to help the reader not get confused, but other translations can be very confusing. Jehoram of Judah is married to Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab and a sister or half-sister of Joram, king of Israel. It can become even more confusing because some scholars think Athaliah was a sister of Ahab, not a daughter. She is a blood link to a bad guy. Jehoram will reign 8 years (849-842) in Judah, but he does the same bad stuff as the kings of Israel because of his connection with Ahab and Jezebel. Still, we are told, “the Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of his servant David. . .” (8:19).
During Jehoram’s reign, Edom revolts against Judah. Jehoram attacks them, but his army deserts to return home. Another town, Libnah also revolts.
After Jehoram of Judah, his son [and Athaliah’s son], Ahaziah reigns but only for one year (842 BC). He does what is evil too - he is after all connected to the house of Ahab. Together with Joram of Israel, son of Ahab, Ahaziah wars against Hazael of Aram over Ramoth-gilead. It is here that he is wounded and goes to Jezreel to recover. Ahaziah goes to see him.
2 Kings 9 – Elisha sends one of his company of prophets to see Jehu, son of a man named Jehoshaphat, and commander of Israel’s armies. Again, confusing territory! Judah’s king Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram of Judah, but this references a DIFFERENT JEHOSHAPHAT. The young prophet is sent to Ramoth-gilead, for the purpose of anointing Jehu as the next king of Israel. But when he anoints Jehu, he is to flee. So the young prophet goes and finds Jehu. He anoints him and prophesies that he shall “strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I [the Lord] may avenge on Jezebel the blood of all the servants of the Lord” (9:7).
When Jehu comes out, the commanders ask what the “madman” [the prophet] wanted, and Jehu just plays along, adopting their tone of contempt; when he tells them that the prophet said, “Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel,’” the men spread cloaks out in front of him and blow a trumpet [all mockingly] to proclaim, “Jehu is king” (9:13). This is evocative of the contempt and mocking directed at Jesus in Matthew 21:8. But when they press Jehu, he tells them what happened. Jehu enters into a conspiracy against Joram of Israel. Joram is recuperating in Jezreel, so Jehu sets out to go to Jezreel.
King Ahaziah of Judah is also visiting Joram in Jezreel. The sentinel reports to the king that Jehu and his men are approaching, “for he drives like a maniac” (9:20). Joram sends out two messengers to check and see if it is Jehu, but they do not return. So both Joram and Ahaziah go out to meet him, and they happen to meet “at the property of Naboth the Jezreelite” (9:21).
Joram asks if Jehu has come in peace, but Jehu says there can be no peace with “all the witchcraft and idolatry that your mother Jezebel started?”(9:22). So Joram flees but Jehu shoots him between the shoulders, piercing his heart, and soaking the chariot with his blood. Jehu orders his body thrown on the property of Naboth. Ahaziah flees too, but Jehu pursues him and shoots him too (he dies at Megiddo).
Jehu comes into Jezreel, and Jezebel (still alive) hears he is there. Jehu has Jezebel thrown out of the window. When they go later to bury her, they find that the dogs have eaten her.
Luke 9 – Jesus calls The Twelve together and commissions them to go out two by two to heal and spread the “good news” (9:6). In Mark they are to call people to repentance—here it’s not so clear what the “good news” is they are to preach.
Herod hears about Jesus and wonders who he is—John the Baptist, Elijah or maybe another of the ancient prophets. Herod dismisses the idea of it being John since he beheaded John. In Mark, Herod concludes right away it is John raised from the dead, which is interesting. Here he dismisses the John theory because he knows what happened to John. The others are more unknown factors to him.
When the disciples return from their preaching, he sees them in Bethsaida. Here the crowds catch up with him and we have the feeding of the 5000. It is the same as in Mark except one little detail is omitted—Jesus’ inward feeling of compassion for the crowd as “sheep without a shepherd.” Luke here skips the walking on water, the landing at Gennesaret, the Pharisees criticism of their eating with unwashed hands—the who teaching about the traditions they follow—the importance of inner holiness as the font of good actions, the episode with the Syrophoenician woman in Tyre, the story of the healing of the man with the speech impediment and the second mass feeding, the healing of the blind man in Bethsaida.
After the feeding of 500 in Luke, and some private prayer, Jesus asks his disciples who “the crowds say that I am?” (9:18) They go through the usual litany, but then Jesus asks them who they say he is (9:20), to which Peter responds “the Messiah of God.” He says nothing about founding his church on Peter, but he also omits Peter’s personal response of horror to news of the passion and the rebuke it earns him in Mark. He foretells his passion and then tells them his gospel: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (9:23-25). Those who are ashamed of Jesus now will be ashamed when he comes “in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (9:26). And he predicts that there are some present with him there who will not taste death before they see God’s kingdom.
Eight days later (note it is not Mark’s specific six, which conforms the story to the OT version of Moses’ ascent), Jesus takes Peter, John and James (the ones always with him) up the mountain to pray. There he is transfigured—Moses and Elijah talk to him about his upcoming departure for Jerusalem (9:31). Peter and the others are tempted to sleep, but they “saw his glory” because they stayed awake (9:32). The reference to sleepiness is absent from Mark.
Peter offers to make three tents “not knowing what he said” (9:33). In Mark, he doesn’t know what to say because he is so terrified. Then a cloud overtakes them all, and they hear a voice that says, “This is my Son, my Chosen (“Beloved” in Mark); listen to him!” (9:35). After this they find themselves alone. They keep silent about it then. In Mark Jesus tells them to keep quiet about it until he is risen from the dead, and they wonder what that means.
The next day they come down. A man approaches them to ask them to cure his only son, who has been seized by spirits that convulse him. The disciples were not able to cure him. Jesus calls them “faithless and perverse generation” and asks “how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” (9:41) The demon dashes the boy to the ground, but Jesus rebukes it and heals the boy. Mark has a fuller sense of this story—the confusion of disciples and scribes around the boy and his father, the history of the boy’s problem and the father’s confession of weak faith and finally Jesus’ telling the disciples that “this kind can come out only through prayer” (Mark 9:17-29).
Jesus gives a second warning of his coming betrayal to his disciples. His disciples argue about who among them is the greatest. Jesus, “aware of their inner thoughts,” takes a child and says “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest” (9:48).
Then an argument arises about other people casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The disciples try to stop them, but Jesus has no problem with it, “for whoever is not against you is for you” (9:50).
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). He sends messengers ahead. The Samaritans will not receive him “because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (9:53). His main three disciples want to punish them by calling fire down from heaven. This whole passage or paragraph seems to come from a different place or spirit than most of Luke. It is very mysterious. Also, it is not in Mark, so maybe it comes from a different mindset. Jesus rebukes them. They do not understand. People along the way are drawn to follow him. To one he seems to say he has nowhere earthly to offer as a resting place (9:58). To others, he tells them they cannot put anything else first but the following of him—not burying the dead, not saying good-byes, nothing.