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Chapter 16

Asa’s Infidelity. In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of King Asa, Baasha, the king of Israel, invaded Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the kingdom of Asa, the king of Judah. Asa then brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of his own palace, and he sent it to Ben-hadad, the king of Aram, who resided in Damascus.

“Let there be an alliance between the two of us,” Asa said, “as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending you silver and gold. In return, I am asking you to break your alliance with Baasha, the king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.” Ben-hadad approved the request of King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the towns of Israel. They ravaged Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all of the store cities of Naphtali.

When Baasha heard this, he discontinued his plan to fortify Ramah, and he abandoned any further improvements. Then King Asa ordered all the men of Judah to remove the stones of Ramah and its timber that Baasha had been using to fortify that place, and he used them instead to fortify Geba and Mizpah.

At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and did not rely instead on the Lord, your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your clutches. Did not the Ethiopians and the Libyans have a vast army with great numbers of chariots and cavalry? And yet, when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hands. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout all the earth to strengthen the hearts of those who are totally committed to him. You have acted foolishly in this instance, and from now on you will be forced to endure wars.” 10 Then Asa became enraged at what the seer had said, and he ordered Hanani to be imprisoned in the stocks. Furthermore, at the same time Asa treated some others of his people with great cruelty.

11 The history of the reign of Asa, from beginning to end, is recorded in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa was gravely afflicted with severe disease in his feet. However, even during his illness he did not seek the help of the Lord but rather resorted to taking the advice of physicians. 13 Then, in the forty-first year of his reign, he died and fell asleep with his ancestors. 14 They buried him in the tomb that he had hewn for himself in the City of David, having laid him on a bier that had been filled with spices and various kinds of perfumes. In addition they also kindled a very great fire in his honor.[a]

Chapter 17

Zeal of Jehoshaphat for the Law. Asa was succeeded as king by his son Jehoshaphat, and immediately thereafter he set out to strengthen his position against Israel. He stationed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah, and he placed garrisons throughout Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which his father Asa had captured.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat[b] because he had followed the example of his father from his earliest years and did not consult the Baals. Rather, he sought the God of his father, observing his commandments, and refused to follow the practices of Israel. As a result of this, the Lord made secure Jehoshaphat’s control of the kingdom. All Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, and his wealth and glory were exceedingly great. He took enormous pride in following the ways of the Lord, and he ordered the removal of the high places and the sacred poles from Judah.

In the third year of his reign Jehoshaphat sent his most learned officials—Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah—to teach in the cities of Judah. [c]With them he also sent the Levites—Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, and Tobijah. Accompanying those Levites were the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They taught in Judah, having with them the book of the law of the Lord. They traveled through all the cities of Judah, instructing the people.

10 The Power of Jehoshaphat. The fear of the Lord seized all the kingdoms of the countries surrounding Judah, and as a result, they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, as well as silver as a tribute, while the Arabs also brought him a flock of seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred he-goats.

12 Jehoshaphat grew steadily more powerful. He built fortresses and storage cities in Judah. 13 He also supervised great works in the cities of Judah, and he stationed soldiers, valiant warriors, in Jerusalem. 14 The soldiers were classified by ancestral houses. Of Judah, the commanders of thousands: Adnah was the highest-ranking commander, with three hundred thousand mighty warriors. 15 Next in line under him was Jehohanan the commander, with two hundred and eighty thousand mighty warriors, 16 and next to him was Amasiah, the son of Zichri, who had volunteered for the service of the Lord, with two hundred thousand mighty warriors.

17 Of Benjamin: Eliada, a mighty warrior with two hundred thousand men armed with bow and shield, 18 and next in line to him was Jehozabad with one hundred and eighty thousand men equipped for war. 19 These were the men in the service of the king, apart from those whom the king had stationed in fortified cities throughout all Judah.

Chapter 18

Alliance with King Ahab. When Jehoshaphat had accumulated great wealth and honor, he allied himself to Ahab by marriage. Some years later he went down to visit Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered an abundance of sheep and oxen for him and his retinue, hoping also to persuade him to join forces and attack Ramoth-gilead.

King Ahab of Israel, therefore, asked Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah: “Will you join me in attacking Ramoth-gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied: “I am united with you. My people are your people. We will join you in this war.” However, Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel: “First let us consult the word of the Lord.”

The Prophets. Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred in number, and said to them: “Shall we go forth to engage in battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” They replied: “Go forth, for God will deliver it into the king’s power.” However, Jehoshaphat asked: “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here from whom we may seek guidance?”

The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat: “There is still one other prophet here through whom we may seek the guidance of the Lord. However, I hate him, because he never prophesies anything that is favorable for me, but only disaster. His name is Micaiah, the son of Imlah.” Then the king of Israel summoned a court official and said: “Bring here quickly Micaiah, the son of Imlah.”

The king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah, arrayed in their robes, were seated on their respective thrones at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 10 Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, had made for himself iron horns, and he said: “Thus says the Lord: ‘With horns like these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ ” 11 All of the prophets were prophesying in the same vein, saying: “Attack Ramoth-gilead and you will triumph. The Lord will deliver it into your hands.”

12 The messenger who had been sent to summon Micaiah said to him: “Listen to what I am telling you. What the prophets have said is favorable to the king. I trust that you will also deliver a favorable decision.” 13 However, Micaiah replied: “As the Lord lives, I can announce only what the Lord instructs me to say.”

14 When the prophet arrived, the king asked him: “Micaiah, shall we go up to attack Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” Micaiah replied: “Attack and triumph. They will be delivered into your hands.” 15 However, the king said to him: “How many times must I demand that you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”

16 Then Micaiah said:

“I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains,
    like sheep without a shepherd.
And I heard the Lord say: ‘These have no master;
    let each one go home in peace.’ ”

17 Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat: “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only whatever is unfavorable?”

18 However, Micaiah continued: “Listen now to the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord seated on his throne with all the host of heaven sitting to his right and to his left. 19 The Lord asked: ‘Who will entice King Ahab of Israel so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ Then one said one thing and another said something in contradiction, 20 until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying: ‘I will entice him.’ ‘How?’ asked the Lord.

21 “The spirit replied: ‘I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.’ Then the Lord said: ‘You shall succeed in deceiving him. Go forth and do it.’ 22 So now you will see that the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these your prophets. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”[d]

23 Then Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, came up to Micaiah and struck him on the cheek. After he had done so, he asked: “Which way did the Spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?” 24 Micaiah replied: “You shall find out on the day when you run from room to room in order to hide.”

25 The king of Israel then ordered that Micaiah be seized and handed over to Amon, the governor of the city, and to Joash, the king’s son, 26 and said: “Throw this man into prison and give him only a meager portion of bread and water until I return home safely.” 27 Micaiah retorted: “If you ever do return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he added: “Mark my words, you peoples, all of you!”[e]

28 Ahab’s Death. The king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat: “I shall disguise myself when I go into battle, while you wear your royal robes.” Therefore, the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went forth into battle.

30 Meanwhile the king of Aram had issued this command to the captains of his chariots: “Do not engage in battle with anyone, whether small or great, except with the king of Israel.” 31 When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they shouted: “That is the king of Israel,” and they moved quickly to attack him. However, when Jehoshaphat cried out, the Lord came to his aid and drew them away from him.

32 Once the chariot commanders realized that he was not the king, they ceased their pursuit of him. 33 However, one man drew his bow at random, and without realizing it he struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. The king then ordered the driver of his chariot: “Turn around and carry me away from the fighting, for I am wounded.” 34 The battle grew ever more fierce as the day went on, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. He remained there until evening, and at sunset he passed away.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Chronicles 16:14 They burned aromatic plants.
  2. 2 Chronicles 17:3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat: the Chronicler gives special mention to this king and to his successors, Hezekiah and Josiah.
  3. 2 Chronicles 17:8 Jehoshaphat was disturbed by the people’s lack of knowledge about God, and he made it a priority to send learned men throughout Judah to educate them in the ways of the Lord.
  4. 2 Chronicles 18:22 Ahab was easily deceived by the prophets who lied to him because instead of seeking God’s truth, he went to those who told him only what he wanted to hear.
  5. 2 Chronicles 18:27 Mark my words . . . all of you: Micaiah’s words also appear as the words of Micah the prophet (Mic 1:2) in the next century.

The Internal Decadence of a People

Chapter 2

Jerusalem, the Religious Center.[a] This is the vision seen by Isaiah, the son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
    the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be established as the highest mountain
    and raised high above the hills.
Then all the nations will stream toward it;
    many peoples will come to it and say,
“Come, let us ascend the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
so that he may teach us his ways
    and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion will go forth instruction,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and serve as an arbiter for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
One nation will not lift up a sword against another,
    nor will they ever again be trained for war.

The Lord’s Triumph Will Come[b]

Come, O house of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.
For you, O Lord, have abandoned your people,
    the house of Jacob.
They are surrounded by fortune tellers
    and by soothsayers like the Philistines,
    and they are allying themselves with foreigners.[c]
Their land is full of silver and gold,
    and their treasures are without limit.
Their land is filled with horses,
    and there is no end to their chariots.[d]
Their land is full of idols;
    they bow down before the work of their hands,
    before what their own fingers have fashioned.
Therefore human nature has been humbled
    and mankind has been brought low;
    do not forgive them.
10 Let them conceal themselves among the rocks
    and hide in the dust
in their terror of the Lord
    and from the splendor of his majesty.
11 The haughty looks of men will be brought low
    and human arrogance will be humbled;
the Lord alone will be exalted
    on that day.
12 For the Lord of hosts has ordained a day
    against all those who are proud and haughty,
    against all those who have been exalted and raised high,
13 against all the lofty and proud cedars of Lebanon
    and against all the oaks of Bashan,
14 against all the soaring mountains
    and all the towering hills,
15 against every high tower
    and every fortified wall,
16 against all the ships of Tarshish[e]
    and every stately vessel.
17 Human pride will be humbled
    and human arrogance will be brought low.
On that day,
    the Lord alone will be exalted.
18 The idols will completely disappear;
19     they will crawl into the caves of the rocks
    and the holes of the ground,
fleeing from the terror of the Lord
    and the splendor of his majesty
    when he arises to strike the world with terror.
20 On that day people will throw away
    to the moles and to the bats
their idols of silver and gold
    that they had made for themselves to worship.
21 They will crawl into the crevices of the rocks
    and the clefts in the cliffs
to hide from the terror of the Lord
    and the splendor of his majesty
    when he arises to terrify the earth.
22 Have nothing more to do with men
    who have only the breath in their nostrils.
    Of what value are they?

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 2:1 This theme, which returns often in the third part of the Book (Isa 56:6-8; 60:11-14) and in the Psalms of Zion, especially Ps 48, prepares the way for the expectation of a Messianic city in which all human beings are invited to share the joy of Christ (Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1; 21:10-26).
  2. Isaiah 2:5 Isaiah is probably referring here to the northern kingdom and its capital, Samaria, which were boasting of their prosperity at the very time when Assyrian invaders were already on the move (722 B.C.).
  3. Isaiah 2:6 Despite Israelite law and the preaching of the prophets, divination was widely practiced even in Palestine, as in the whole of the East.
  4. Isaiah 2:7 Chariots: war chariots, the use of which in Palestine went back to Solomon.
  5. Isaiah 2:16 Ships of Tarshish: Tarshish was perhaps Tartessos in Spain; the name was used for ships capable of lengthy voyages.

18 The Cost of Following Jesus.[a] When Jesus saw the great crowds around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man[b] has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another man, one of the disciples, said, “Lord, allow me to go first and bury my father.” 22 Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

23 Jesus Calms the Storm.[c] He then got into the boat, followed by his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a great storm came up on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But he was asleep. 25 And so they went to him and awakened him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are going to die!” 26 He said to them in reply, “Why are you so frightened, O you of little faith?”

Then he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 They were amazed and asked, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

28 Jesus Heals Two Demon-Possessed Men.[d] When he reached the region of the Gadarenes[e] on the other side of the lake, two men who were possessed by demons came out of the tombs and approached him. They were so fiercely violent that no one dared to pass that way. 29 Suddenly, they shouted, “What do you want with us, Son of God?[f] Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”

30 Some distance away a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons pleaded with him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 He said to them, “Go, then!” They came out and entered the pigs. The entire herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and they perished in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, and when they reached the town, they related the whole story including what had happened to the men who had been possessed. 34 Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their region.

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Footnotes

  1. Matthew 8:18 Jesus has subordinated family ties to the needs of his mission of salvation and requires the same sacrifice of those called to share that mission, while other members of the family can perform the deeds of filial piety. These are “dead” only in the sense that they have not received the same call to separate themselves from family responsibility in order to preach the Gospel of the kingdom. They can nonetheless be his disciples in another sense.
    Hence, following Jesus means Christians should be ready to make whatever sacrifice he asks of them. In the final analysis, they are followers of Christ, people who believe in him. They received faith in Christ at Baptism and are bound to serve him. By recourse to frequent prayer and true friendship with the Lord, they should strive to discover what Jesus asks of them in their service of him.
  2. Matthew 8:20 Son of Man: the most common and enigmatic title of Christ used in the Gospels (81 times) and in Acts 7:56—frequently by Christ himself. It was well suited to his purpose of both veiling and revealing his person and mission. On the one hand, it meant simply “man” (see Ezek 2:1) and emphasized the lowliness of the human condition (Mt 8:20; 11:19; 20:28), especially in Christ’s humiliation and death (Mt 17:22). On the other hand, it expressed the triumph of Christ’s Resurrection (Mt 17:9), his return to glory (Mt 24:30; Dan 7:13), and his Second Coming as judge of the world (Mt 25:31).
    Christ made use of this title at his trial before the Sanhedrin (Mt 26:64) when he prophesied that he would be vindicated and be seated in future glory at the right hand of God not merely as man but as Lord (see Dan 7:13; Mk 14:62).
    This title was employed by Jewish apocalyptic literature (1 Enoch, 2 Ezra, 2 Baruch) to describe a unique religious personage endowed with extraordinary spiritual power who would receive the kingdom from God at the end of the ages. Early Christians revered this title as a reminder of Christ’s twofold destiny of humiliation and joy, which was also their own (Mt 24:30f).
  3. Matthew 8:23 This passage attests to Jesus’ power over nature and its frightful forces. This fact is preserved as a sign, for the Church resembles a boat buffeted by so many storms. She is invited to place herself in Christ’s hands with great trust.
  4. Matthew 8:28 The sense of the anecdote about the pigs who serve as refuge for the demons and perish by drowning is that the Messiah has come; he triumphs over the evil powers that keep human beings in bondage and oppose the kingdom of God. The deliverance of the mentally ill signified that the “time” of the devil had come to an end. Thus, this is another account calling for confidence and courage in the struggle against evil. It must have especially delighted the Jews for whom pigs were unclean animals according to the Law (Lev 11:7) and who saw the pagan owners of the accursed flock suffering a loss.
  5. Matthew 8:28 Gadarenes: the city of Gadara was eight miles south of the lake.
  6. Matthew 8:29 Son of God: on the lips of the demons, this phrase is tantamount to “Messiah,” for they would scarcely set themselves in opposition to him if they knew his full divinity. The same title is given to Jesus in Mk 3:12. To torment us before the appointed time: to confine us to hell (see Lk 8:31) before the Last Judgment. Until then, the demons have a certain freedom to roam about the world (see 2 Pet 2:4 with 1 Pet 5:8).