the childrens’ teeth are set on edge

Ezekiel 18 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

“Why not?  He’s already said he’s going to kill us.” The newly made king Manasseh picked up the seal he’d been toying with, and looked over at Shebna.   “Nothing I do can make him happy now.  He’s angry with my father, not me.  I’m just the one who’s going to die for it.” He smiled bitterly.  “Or not die.  As the case may be. You all are the ones to whom he’s giving that privilege.  I’m going to be living in the lap of luxury- serving up my tender ass to the king of Babylon.” He put the seal down and looked up at the ceiling in mock rapture.  “Do you think he’s really as handsome as the images they make of him? I mean- the Assyrians had those stiff glossy beards that looked-”

Shebna could feel his face turning red.   He wasn’t young anymore and he hadn’t been for a long time. This was not to be tolerated.

“The House of David has sinned, Manasseh!   You didn’t win this kingdom for yourself- you inherited it.  You inherited its failures as well.  God is angry with us.  He will do as he pleases.  Your responsibility to your descendants and to your nation is to keep from angering Him further, and you-

“My descendants!?” Manasseh interrupted.  “By the Name- do you understand what a eunuch is?

“-you may convince him to relent.”

“And what can I possibly do that my father didn’t? My father-” his voice choked and he looked away.  His eyes were glistening.

“Hezekiah was a good king.  Maybe even a great one.  But he was not without his faults-”

“He was the greatest king we’ve ever had!  Even Isaiah thought so!”

“It is perfectly within His right to punish-”

“The violation of a rule that never existed?”

“He is within His right to do as He pleases!”  Shebna felt a twinge of long suppressed suspicion, even under his anger.  The priests had long said that they knew what the Lord required of His people.  That they had records.  But they never produced them.  He turned his irritation towards the young king.  “And it is not within your right to question! The Lord did great things, great and marvelous things, for your father’s sake.  He saved our nation-”

“So that he could destroy it himself!  How could He possibly let it be said that anyone but Him was allowed to touch His toys?  But that doesn’t mean He finds them amusing any longer. That doesn’t mean He isn’t going to throw them away.”

Manasseh put his head in his hands.

Shebna could feel his veins pulsing.  The shock was making his tongue feel woolen.

“Have you no fear of God?” He gasped.

“What has God left me to be afraid of, Shebna?  Tell me that!”

Shebna couldn’t answer.  The room was swimming around him.  When Manasseh looked up, Shebna thought he saw the face of a child.  A child who had played happily in the palace, spilling his ink and hiding behind him when ambassadors arrived and Hezekiah had to look stately.  Who had come running to him.

Manasseh caught him as he fell.  He lowered him gently to the floor, then ran to the door way, yelling.  He came running back, the tears he had forced down now flowing around his eyes.

Shebna kept trying to talk, as servants came and things were done frantically around them.

“Not like… idolaters… you are…  …sacrifice…  the king’s son… Hezekiah…”

Manasseh tried to shush him to get him to lay quiet, but the light was going out of the old man’s eyes.  The others kept trying long after Manasseh had sat back on his heels.

“You don’t want me to sacrifice my son to Baal for wealth and peace??” he asked the emptiness in Shebna’s eyes.  “But I’m just like my father.”

“How could I not?”

***

2 Kings 20:14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”

“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.”

15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”

“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

19 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

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