Monday, May 23, 2016

1 Kings 18:20-39

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary Year 2 (most recently:  Nov 8, 2015).  This passage also occurs in year C of the RCL (most recently May 29, 2016)

Summary:  The coolest thing in the Hebrew is reconstruction of the altar by Elijah.  While Elijah is known in this passage for his courage, the Hebrew suggests he is also a healer.  In fact, Elijah's work on the altar could really be seen as a model for understanding the necessary healing of the church today.  First, it connects the people to God's work in the past; Second, it connects people to God in prayer.  Third, it symbolizes the intended transformation of the people:  a house of seeds, nourished by water and sent ablaze by fire.  I don't want to miss the counter-cultural courage of Elijah; I just want to uplift Elijah's capacity to rebuild.

Key words:

פסחים (from "pesach", meaning "hobble?"; 18:21 and 18:26)  This verb is crazy here.  This word is likely a homograph, where two words are spelled the same, but have different meanings.  (Like "bear" can have two meanings in English). The more common word with this spelling comes into English as "pass over", as "Passover."  Elisha is playing on this here?

More likely, it means "be lame" or "hobble."  In this sense you could translate this as "How long will you waffle between..."

The other possibility is "dance"  The TWOT suggest,
"1Kings 18:21, "how long 'halt' ye (KJV) between two opinions?" Another suggested translation is, "how long will you 'hobble' on two crutches?" (i.e., Yahweh and Baal). (3) 1Kings 18:26, "and they (the priests of Baal) 'leaped' upon/'hobbled' upon the altar, " presumably a reference to some kind of pagan ritual dance. V.P.H."
-> How long will you dance between two gods?!

Either way, waffle or dance could be pretty powerful stuff (okay, both a bit poetic, but we are talking about Elijah here.  Gird your loins and preach it.)

בשם ((really ב+שם), shem, meaning "name"; 18:24)  What is at stake here is really the "name" of the LORD.  The name of the LORD does not simply mean the pronunciation, but the reputation of the LORD.  Is the God of Israel the faithful God, the living God, the true God...the answering God?  Or not?

ענה (meaning "answer" or "respond"; appears 8 times in this passage).  Baal does not answer.  God does.  This is the crux of the matter for ancient Israel as it is for us today.  Does God respond to us?

רפה ("rapa", meaning "heal"; 18:30) This word is translated here as "repair."  However, it is normally translated as healing.  If we are to rebuild churches, we need to heal them.  Heal them first with their sense of the past by reaffirming God's presence in their history; second, heal them with prayer.  Third, heal them with water (Baptism); Fourth heal them with fire (Holy Spirit); heal them with hope -- expect the church to be the seeds of the future.

בית סאתים זרע (three words meaning "house of grain seeds"; 18:32)  Elijah has the people built a moat around the alter big enough for two bags of seed.  The Hebrew opens up another layer of interpretation.  The literal Hebrew is this:  "Make a healing (or trench) as a house of grain seed, two bags, circling the altar."  The altar will be circled as by a house of grain.  What a beautiful image of the church, an alter surrounded by a house of seed grain, nourished by water, by prayer and by the fire of God!
And yes, in 18:38 the actual Hebrew word does mean lick; the waters were licked!

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