Thursday, February 01, 2007

killed by a lion

Some of my favorite bible stories are the ones that shock and baffle me. Like the story told in 1 Kings 13 about someone who is simply referred to as a man of God. This man of God from Judah was urged by God to travel to Bethel where King Jeroboam was making an offering. Evidently, God told him where to go at a time when the king was present. And there it was his duty to prophecy against the alter, giving a sign that the alter would split apart and pour out its ashes. The king—angrily—stabs an accusative finger at him, intending to do away with him when the accusative arm suddenly shrivels up and the alter falls apart, pouring out its ashes!

Yet, the interesting part of the story is next. The man of God has been instructed to not eat till he returns home and that he must return a different way than he came. Rather random instructions—no? But the nameless man does his duty in addition to healing the king’s arm. His mission is nearly complete. He has yet to return home.

However, the son’s of a prophet from Bethel run home to tell their father. Their father, a prophet, comes after the man of God and persuades him to come and eat with them at their home, saying an angel had commanded him to invite him. The man of God eats and drinks, when suddenly the prophet receives a word from God against the man of God from Judah. Because he had disobeyed, he would die on foreign soil. The man saddles his donkey to return home when he is met by a lion which kills him on the road and then stands over his body, next to the man’s donkey, in the road until his host comes to get his body to bury him.

What does this mean? Talk about enacted symbolism of judgment. In Jeremiah 5:6 the attack of the lion is a picture of judgment—Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out... Nature itself cries out against the rebellion of humankind.
Why did the man from Judah die for being deceived by a prophet from Bethel?


Anonymous said...

From my youth this story always has intrigued me too, though I wouldn't call it my fav. At times I've felt very cynical about the outcome of the story. Angry at the unfairness. Angry at the old guy for messing it up for the younger one, and not being punished himself.. angry at God.

At this point in my experience, my best guess it that it was a test to see whether the man of God would trust in his own original connection with God or be swayed by the voice of man (or man's reasoning?) who claimed to talk for God. Would he trust and stick to what he originally heard or would he be persuaded by --logical thinking-- whatever-- from others? A test. I've had some of those. If I'd have gone with my thinking that my upbringing put into me-- I'd have flunked.

Where it gets sticky for me is--- the place of listening to those who have more authority than we do-- what then? When is what we hear from God "trumped"? This other prophet was old, so it would be easy for the younger to assume he had the authority/connection with God to change the instructions. His error might have been in assuming-- not discerning.

Man of God from "praise" was deceived by the prophet from the "house of God"

Why did he die? Was his accountability higher than the older prophet's? That's what I would guess-- based on being killed by the lion. But what about mercy? Why no mercy?

I'm interested in your insights on this story.

espíritu paz said...

These stories in Kings usually give no commentary. It's a bit aggravating for the black and white folks. We want to know what God thinks.
I too would have (have had trouble) trouble with the deception of others. God says and my spirit tells me it is thus and such and I am persuaded with an intense look and and lying mouth that says the opposite. I am continuously frustrated with myself for this.
As for the story and who is to blame. I don't know. I drew the same conclusions as yourself for one of the options. Notice also how the prophet of Bethel behaves toward his fallen brother. He gives him a proper burial. And he tells his sons that they should bury their father with him once he dies. The dead prophet is respected and honored by his own kind.
Conversely, I also believe that our culture of the courtroom--prosecuting and sentencing the guilty party--is not about justice although it purports to be. God is the only judge who judges correctly. Our systems of justice and blaming the guilty party are more along the lines of the Adam, Eve, and the serpent finger pointing party in Eden. And along the lines of the crucifixion and martyrdom.
Ultimately my thesis is, I think, guilt is not so clear cut. We are all guilty. Or my mantra--we all sin together. Meaning, while it may be one person who is charged with the sin--most often everyone around that person has contributed to that individual's sin. Hence they are all guilty for his sin also. In a very individualistic culture, we have trouble understanding cooperate guilt and misplaced punishment. In the Old Testament, it was accepted as norm. The individual was not as self defined and as self directed.
(This discussion is originally from my other site)