Week of Proper 6: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Queen Jezebel

The End of Vengeance

JUNE 18, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Kings 21:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The following events] occurred sometime afterward:  Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard in Jezreel, adjoining the palace of King Ahab of Samaria.  Ahab said to Naboth,

Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it as a vegetable garden, since it is right next to my palace.  I will give you the price in money.

But Naboth replied,

The LORD forbid that I should give up to you what I inherited from my fathers!

Ahab went home dispirited and sullen because of the answer that Naboth the Israelite had given him:

I will not give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers!

He lay down on his bed and turned away his face, and he would not eat.  His wife Jezreel came to him and asked him,

Why are you so dispirited that you won’t eat?

So he told her,

I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and proposed to him, “Sell me your vineyard in exchange for money, or if you prefer, I’ll give you another vineyard in exchange; but he answered, ” I will not give my vineyard to you.”

His wife Jezebel said to him,

Now is the time to show yourself king over Israel.  Rise and eat something, and be cheerful; I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived in the same town with Naboth.  In the letters she wrote as follows:

Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the front of the assembly.  And seat two scoundrels opposite him, and let them testify against him:  “You have reviled God and king!”  Then take him out and stone him to death.

His townsmen–the elders and nobles who lived in his town–did as Jezebel had instructed them, just as was written in the letters she had sent them.  They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the front of the assembly.  Then the two scoundrels came and sat down opposite him; and the scoundrels testified against Naboth publicly as follows:

Naboth has reviled God and king.

Then they took him outside the town and stoned him to death.  Word was sent to Jezebel:

Naboth has been stoned to death.

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab,

Go and take possession of the vineyad which Naboth the Jezreelite refused to sell you for money; for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead.

When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out for the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite to take possession of it.

Psalm 5:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give ear to my words, O LORD;

consider my meditation.

2  Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I will make my prayer to you.

3  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;

early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.

4  For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,

and evil cannot dwell with you.

5  Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

6  You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

Matthew 5:38-42 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

You have heard that they were told, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  But I tell you not to resist injury, but if anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other to him too; and if anyone wants to sue for your shirt, let him have your coat too.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him.  If anyone begs from you, give to him, and when anyone wants to borrow money from you, do not turn away.

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/week-of-proper-6-monday-year-1/

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Mohandas Gandhi once observed that following the rule of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” leaves much of the world’s population blind and toothless.  He was perceptive.

The Mosaic Law, for all his harshness, was actually a moral advance.  The older Code of Hammurabi, to which it bears certain similarities yet more striking differences, established varying punishments for the same offense, depending on the class of the victim and the accused.  So, for example, a wealthy person convicted of a crime against a poor person got off lightly, but a poor person convicted of an offense against a rich individual faced a stiff penalty.  In the Law of Moses, there is one punishment per offense without regard to anyone’s socio-economic standing.  And there is, in some circumstances, a sense of proportionality, as in “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Nevertheless, the cycle of retribution must end for the common good.

The reading from 1 Kings is the first part of the story of King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and Naboth’s vineyard.  Naboth’s judicial execution was a great injustice.  He had no escape from the corrupted and manipulated court system.  Vengeance, however, belonged to God.  There–and there alone–it should remain for all time and circumstances.

KRT

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