Tag Archives: punishment

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?”

The Light Within You

“Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.   Acts 9:17-19

Among the people I grew up with, the ‘scales falling’ from some one’s  eyes referred to their conversion.  The heart was considered deceitful, above all things.  Before conversion, through the deceitful twisting of their own heart, a person would be blind to important facts that proved why God was good and why they needed to follow him.  At the moment of conversion, God would take over their heart with his Spirit and protect them from its evil attempts to portray reality its own way.   From that point on God would begin to make sense to them in a way he never had before.

A few months ago. I was reading in the Old Testament.  I came across this.

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?  Deuteronomy 20

This was something God is supposed to have told the Israelites.   It sounds rather environmental friendly of him.  I don’t knock signs of environmentalism in anyone, particularly God, given his world destroying tendencies.  But here is the context.

…12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.  Deuteronomy 20

(In case you missed it- not leaving alive anything that breaths includes the women and children. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than being treated as plunder by a conquering army)

Theoretically- the Hittites, Amorites and related groups are being punished.  For their sin.  Their religions involved human sacrifice- child sacrifice even- and because of this, I was told growing up, they deserved to die.  Quite apart from the mental disconnect it takes to believe that murdering innocent children is somehow a just response to murdering innocent children, there’s another problem.

Its that footnote. Footnote [a].

  1. Deuteronomy 20:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.

The phrase comes from Leviticus 27.  The chapter is a list of the various things that may be dedicated to God and the rules for each type of object- fields, houses, people, clean or unclean animals.   With the instructions for each type of thing come instructions for ‘redeeming’ it: giving its monetary market value (this applies to the people as well) and keeping it for your own use. Then come verse 28-29.

28 “‘But nothing that a person owns and devotes[k] to the Lord—whether a human being or an animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the Lord.

29 “‘No person devoted to destruction[l] may be ransomed; they are to be put to death.

In case you were wondering here are foot notes [k] and [l].

  • Leviticus 27:28 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord.
  • Leviticus 27:29 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.

There is one other place where the phrase occurs, the story in Joshua chapters 7 & 8.

Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.  Joshua 7

Footnotes:

Joshua 6:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 18 and 21.

It would seem that, far from viewing human sacrifice- and child sacrifice!- as wrong, there are certain occasions on which God actually demands these things.  The sin of the Amorites, for which they were being destroyed, was to have sacrificed to the wrong God.

Here is the troubling truth.  Despite anything he or David ever said about God valuing humans, in practice, God doesn’t care about them.  For him, humans have about the same level of importance as houses, fields and animals.

And in certain circumstances, even trees deserve more consideration than we do.

I have never seen scales falling out of anyone’s eyes when they converted.   But I certainly feel as if, slowly and surely, something has been falling out of mine.   For my whole life so far, I thought of this God as good and loving.  Something had gone wrong, surely, that he treated us this way, but the fault was ours.

My whole life so far I have thought of this God as the light.  The Light of the World.

Now, a cryptic phrase of Jesus’ is making more and more sense.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6

If the Light within you is darkness, how great is that Darkness.