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Ezekiel 27: Tyre

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Hot Springs and Arena in Ancient Tyre

Tyre is a city off the southern coast of present day Lebanon and it is linked to the mainland by a causeway, or siege ramp, built by Alexander the Great at the end of the fourth BCE.  It consists of both a mainland city and an island, has two harbors and most likely because of its vantage point, it was the leading city of Phoenicia in the millennium before Christ.  One can read about the early kings of Tyre in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus but it becomes important for scripture readers when Hiram, the king of Tyre, provides pine and the renowned tall cedars to David and Solomon for use in the construction of the Jerusalem palace and temple.  Tyre is eventually invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians.

Tyre is also famous as the hometown of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who convinced her husband to take over the vineyards of the peaceful man Naboth, who persecuted prophets, lured her husband into worshiping the gods of the Baals, and who came to an ugly death . . . just as had been predicted by prophets.  (1 Kings Chapters 16, 18, 19, 21 and 2 Kings 9)  Hers is a fascinating story of meteoric beauty, power and fame.  She was a princess of Tyre, rising and falling in a quick but dramatic arc across ancient history.

In today’s reading we read a lament for Tyre and a prediction of her downfall, with the wreck of the ship and all she carries as allegory.  The HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY describes this oracle as beautifully crafted, and Ezekiel laments the anticipated destruction of Tyre at the hands of the Babylonians.   This perfect, proud and stately beauty is lost to the storm and settles forever at the bottom of the sea. Thou art brought to nothing, and thou shalt never be anymore.

So much pride lost, so much sorrow experienced, so much pain endured.  Yet in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation we read: The heart of man, so deep for misery, is deeper far for happiness!  Misery comes to him from accident, happiness from his nature and his predestination.  Father Henri-Dominique Lacordaire

We are creatures meant for joy, not for sorrow.  We are children meant for resurrection, not for darkness.  We brothers and sisters of the same father meant for life, not for death.


Written on April 12, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite. 

To learn more about ancient Tyre click on the image above or go to: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/611914/Tyre

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.12 (2008): 129-130. Print.  

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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Thursday, September 19, 2019

This is a powerful story about how King Ahab and his wife Jezebel collude with scoundrels to trump up charges against the good man Naboth in order to take a vineyard which they coveted.  It is dreadful in its deep deception; it is horrendous in its horrible depiction of the violent frenzy of a plotting, conniving perseverance of evil.  It is human interaction in its basest form.

The prophet Elijah responds to God’s call but fears for his life when Ahab and Jezebel conduct a campaign with the goal of annihilating all prophets who speak with God’s voice; and in Chapter 19 Elijah even tries to run from the whispering voice of Yahweh.  In Chapter 20 we see how Yahweh brings success to the Israelites and favors them in battle.  Then Ahab wants something which Naboth has, a lovely beautiful vineyard.  Jezebel and Ahab conspire to attain it . . . so the innocent Naboth must die.

Yahweh steps in and we watch as he vindicates the faithful. We also watch as he delivers punishing blows to the wicked ones.  Ahab repents, and Yahweh softens the sentence he is about to deliver.  Jezebel does not . . . and if we read a bit further we discover Jezebel’s evil end.

Dear God, protect me from family and friends who would lead me to destruction as Jezebel did.  Remind me that repentance heals the mind and soul.  Bring me contentment rather than envy, humility rather than pride, love rather than hatred, restoration rather than destruction, and reaping of blessings rather than an arid life of self-gratification.  Surround me with holy people, God-fearing people, people who do not hide the light of the lampstand, people who honor, as Naboth did, their ancestral heritage.

Keep us from pride which inverts to shame.  Keep us from anger which turns inward to become melancholy.  Keep us from deception which leads to delusion.  Keep us from coveting Naboth’s Vineyard. 

Bring us peace, bring us joy, bring us hope, bring us your Spirit.  Amen.


First written on September 7, 2007 , re-writtten and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://thedailychapter.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/

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1 Kings 19God is in the Whisper of the Wind

Monday, February 11, 2019

Elijah’s Cave

Written on February 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Elijah has just served as God’s instrument in the destruction of the gods of Baal.  Jezebel and Ahab are furious with him and they seek revenge in the most ruthless of ways . . . and Elijah knows this.  As we read Jezebel’s words at the opening of the chapter we can see that she throws her entire existence into seeking the end of Elijah.  The prophet, exhausted, pleads to his God for his own end.  He is drained.  He has done as God has asked, and now he feels empty.  But even as he seeks escape, Elijah turns to God . . . and God sustains him with cakes and water.  Elijah rests and sleeps in the shade offered by a desert broom tree.  An angel of God abides with him.  The angel bids him to rise and go and so he walks for forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai where Yahweh spoke to Moses.  And there Elijah curls into a cave to await his end.  But the unexpected happens.  Yahweh does speak to this tired prophet . . . not in the fierce and thrusting wind, not in the powerful and destructive earthquake, not in the consuming and searing fire.  The Lord speaks in the tiny whispering wind, and he brings news of restoration and legacy.  His words bring hope.

We must still our over-active lives; find a space of quiet in our hyper-speed days.  We must each day seek out a broom tree in the desert whose roots sink deep into the earth to find the rivers that flow beneath the sun-baked and wind-blown dryness.  We must find daily sanctuary in a small cave on God’s holy mountain of our busy world.  That is where we are fed, that is where we will tune ourselves to the voice that speaks in the whisper of the wind, the voice that speaks within, the voice that calls us to unity with the creator and creation.


A re-post from February 11, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.elijahscave.org/

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Jeremiah 51Adjusting to Reality

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“Jeremiah sends a ‘book’ of oracles against Babylon to Babylon with Baruch’s brother in about 594.  These are to be read publicly and then tied to a stone and cast into the Euphrates, symbolizing Babylon’s fate . . . It has been suggested that the original intention of Jeremiah’s action was to rebut the prophecies of Ahab and Zedekiah to the effect that the exile would be short (see 29:4-9, 20-23).  On this interpretation, reading and then destroying a set of anti-Babylonian prophecies would have the effect of stressing Jeremiah’s rejection of this optimistic view”.  (Mays 576)

Jeremiah knows that the exile will be long and harsh . . . yet no one believes him because it does not coincide with the false view many find easier to hold.  It seems that nothing much has changed in the intervening millennia since this story; we humans would rather cling to the falsehood that matches our view rather than change our thinking to the truth.  Today’s citation tells us that it is better to adjust ourselves to reality because no amount of manipulation or coercion will hide the obvious.   My dad liked to say: The truth comes out in the end so we might as well get used to it as soon as we can.

In today’s case, Jeremiah accurately predicts that even the conquerors will themselves be conquered and he predicts an unpleasant winnowing.   The imagery is brutal, the devastation complete.  There is no escaping the consequences that result from greed, corruption, and mollification.  The prophet Jeremiah sees collusion between his own leaders and those who of Israel’s pagan neighbors and while the “optimistic view” cited above may be popular, it is not honest. And so Jeremiah outs the lies.  He does as God asks and sends his prophecies to Babylon via the brother of his secretary, Baruch.

It is difficult to speak truth with respect, to express candor gently; and it may, in fact, even place us in danger.  When we see that everyone around us chooses to believe a myth created by the powerful and wealthy, we must speak honestly but with mercy no matter the cost to us.  It is in this way that we adjust ourselves to reality rather than follow the fashionable fairy story.  It is in this way that we honor ourselves and others who speak truth.  It is in this way that we praise and honor our God.

From today’s first reading at Mass, The Feast of Jesus’ Transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:16-19: Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved with whom I am well pleased”.  We ourselves heard this voice . . . Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. 

Peter knows that he cannot remain silent about the story he has witnessed and, like Jeremiah, he knows that he must speak so that others might adjust to the amazing reality that what seems impossible is real, that we are created and loved by God and that God wants nothing but goodness for us and from us.  We are called to seek truth, to cling to it and to celebrate it with others who are willing to adjust their vision to be in line with God’s.

Once we cease nodding in idiotic agreement with the myths woven by those who are vested in them, we will see and know God’s truth, and we will not be silenced.  We too, will write out the prophecy that God commands . . . and we will adjust ourselves to God’s vision.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 576. Print.

A re-post from August 6, 2011.

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2 Chronicles 18:14 – 27: Ignoring Truth

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Books of Chronicles, Samuel, Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah all record the events of the rise and fall of the Kingdom of Israel from its founding with Saul and David through to the Babylonian Exile. The point on the timeline where we find today’s reading is after the ten northern tribes secede to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel, leaving the two southern tribes to form the remnant Southern Kingdom of Judah with the old capital of Jerusalem. Today’s confrontation between king and prophet takes place just after the division of the kingdom and just before the death of Ahab. The Chronicler writes with a particular emphasis on Yahweh’s fidelity to the faithful – even when the faithful turn away and fall to worshiping idols. The writer wants the people to remember their heritage, to remember that they would be successful as a nation only if they were faithful to the covenant they had with God, and to remember that truth has a way of revealing itself.

Ahab and his wife Jezebel hunt down prophets to exterminate them; they cannot withstand the truth their own seers bring to them. As we recall from our reflection on Naboth’s Vineyard, we know that Ahab and Jezebel use any means to take what is not theirs. They lie, bribe, coerce, plot, scheme, and murder. And with all their attempts to ignore and hide the truth, they end their days in violence that kicks back on them. They suffer the consequences they have wished on others.

It is with a certain amount of irony that we hear Ahab say, “When you speak to me in the name of the Lord, tell the truth! How many times do I have to tell you that?” Ahab and Jezebel lie, believing they can bend reality to their will. They scheme, believing they control the universe. They bribe and suborn, believing they hold ultimate power.

King pits himself against Prophet . . . Ahab versus Micaiah . . . deceit in competition with light . . . damnation against resurrection. We remind ourselves that when we turn away from a truth we do not want to hear, we take our first step onto a path of sure destruction. If we twist and spin truth to fit our perspective, we walk away from the very lesson that will bring us redemption, union, and happiness.

This is the lesson of the prophets, that when we ignore truth, we only postpone the lessons we come to this world to learn. When we avoid truth, we refuse to walk the way of resurrection and light.


Adapted from thoughts recorded on February 25, 2007.

Image from: https://www.business2community.com/branding/using-social-listening-discover-truth-brand-01051545 

Reprise the story of Naboth’s Vineyard on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/08/26/naboths-vineyard/

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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Monday, May 21, 2018

Near King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel there was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth.

We know the goodness of the well-tended vineyard. The Master maintains a sturdy wall to protect the vines from those who would plunder the fruit of sun and soil. The crop flourishes under the caring hands of the workers who gather in the harvest in due time. Jesus uses the metaphor of the grapevine to explain to us the nature of our relationship with him; and yet, Jesus also knows the familiar story of how Naboth’s vineyard aroused envy and later fury in those who held power.

John Liston Byam Shaw: Queen Jezebel

One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard; it is close to my palace, and I want to use the land for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will pay you a fair price.”

We hold on to that which we hold dear; we cling to the beliefs that support us as we engage in our work and play.

“I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors,” Naboth replied. “The Lord forbid that I should let you have it!”

My father always advised us that the better we became at our work, the more enemies we would have. He also reminded us that there is a difficult line to walk between minding our own business and speaking up about injustice. My mother advised us to stay away from gossip and squabbles, and always, no matter the circumstance, to “kill your enemies with kindness”. My parents knew that these adages would not keep us safe from the world; but they also knew that in living with Christ, we would survive calamity with the more valuable gift: unity with Christ, transformation, redemption.

The officials and leading citizens of Jezreel did what Jezebel had commanded. They proclaimed a day of fasting, called the people together, and gave Naboth the place of honor. 

The schemes of Ahab, Jezebel, and their powerful friends are insidious; these corrupt leaders strike at the heart of Naboth’s industry; they mock his fidelity, and ignore his goodness. They lure him to the feast only to betray him on the deepest level. When we put aside our negative emotions to read this story with patience, we see Ahab ride to his death in battle. Later, in 2 Kings 9; and we witness Jezebel’s gruesome end. We might be tempted to gloat over these outcomes that feel like divine justice. We may want to join in the chaos of war or the crowd’s frenzy; but rather than seek revenge, we might instead focus on Naboth’s goodness that despite the fact that it has the capacity to bring out the worst in his enemies, it also delivers redemption.

Thomas Matthew Rooke: Naboth Refuses King Ahab his Vineyard

During Eastertide, we heard several times the words Jesus speaks to his followers, words we will want to hear again today as we read about Naboth: If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

Be ready, Dad would say, to find that enemies accompany your successes. Be ready, Mother would remind us, to kill your enemies with kindness. This is our work in the vineyard. No matter the circumstances, we must cling to the vine that sustains us; we must produce good fruit in good time; and we must remain always in Christ who saves, transforms and redeems.


Tomorrow, Jesus is the alpha and the omega.

Compare the GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION with others for a better understanding of these verses.

For more reflections on Naboth, Ahab, Jezebel, or vineyard enter the words into the blog search bar and explore.  

How bad was Jezebel? Visit: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/how-bad-was-jezebel/

Images from: https://929chapters.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel and https://thetorah.com/the-story-of-naboths-vineyard-and-the-ancient-winery-in-jezreel/ 

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1 Kings 20: Victory

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ahab is an unscrupulous leader who does anything to gain advantage, and today we watch him violate a ban on war – an action for which he will later pay with his life.  In Chapter 21 is the famous story of his seizure of Naboth’s vineyard.  In Chapter 22 he will die in battle.  Ben-hadad, one of several men of this name in the Old Testament, attacks Samaria several times, is victorious once, but more frequently suffers defeat.

Reading through the ups and downs of the fortunes of individual men, we see a picture that is much like our own lives. Things go well for a while among nations, and then they sour.  Leaders agree in principle to a concept, later they back away.  Promises once looked to for hopeful solutions to grave problems become lost in pride and greed.

We might become caught up in the drama and tragedy of lives spent so quickly and thoughtlessly. 

We might become despondent when we watch good ideas wither from neglect.

We might become pessimistic or even cynical when we see goodness overtaken by evil. 

We might become hopeless as we witness continual injustice.

This will happen when we see as humans see . . . and this will not happen when we see as God sees.

Thomas Matthews Rooke: Elijah Prophesises to Ahab and Jezebel their End

When we see as humans see, we take today’s story and see a series of military and political victories and losses.  When we see as God sees we are cognizant of the many lives caught up in the machine of battle in which leaders engage coolly, moving war equipment and troops as if they were pieces on a chessboard.

When we see as humans see, we regard each day as a series of battles to be fought and won: getting to work on time through traffic, battling with colleagues for agendas, making certain that our perspective is the one seen by friends or colleagues.

When we see as God sees, we regard each day as a gift through which we experience many interchanges with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.  We see the wisdom in coming to consensus, of standing in solidarity, of witnessing to injustice and of handing over our problems to God.  These are the victories that nourish.  These are the victories that give life.

When we see as humans see, time and location are often stumbling blocks.  When we see as God sees, they are gifts to be received, shared and returned in gratitude to the one who gives us life.  These are the many small victories that build up as our treasure.  These are the victories that cannot be taken away, that cannot be reversed.  These are the victories that will last an eternity.

A Favorite from December 20, 2009.

For more images by Thomas Matthews Rooke of the Ahab, Jezebel, Naboth and ELijah stories, visit: https://artuk.org/discover/artists/rooke-thomas-matthews-18421942

To learn more about Ahab, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/a/ahab.htm 

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2 Kings 9: Deception – Part V

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Willy Pogani: Ahab and Jezebel (detail)

Willy Pogani: Ahab and Jezebel (detail)

Death

“Here the death of Ahab is not grounded only in the Naboth’s vineyard incident (1 Kings 21:21-24) but is related to retribution against Jezebel for killing God’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4; 19:10, 14).  (Meeks 573-574)

These are very scary stories indeed.  Scarier still because this violence is a result of people’s individual and collective actions.  Ahab and Jezebel took God’s people in an ugly direction, and today we see their ugly end at the hands of God’s warrior, Jehu.  We do not like to have these images before us because they remind us of the darkest part of ourselves, and they demand that we make an accounting of our own actions before God.  Many of us use the strategy of denial when we are asked to look in the mirror. We put away what we wish did not exist. But this does not result in anything good.  Many of us wish to re-write reality without making any change in ourselves, but of course this only delays the inevitable.  And this is what we see today . . . the inevitable finally takes place.  In the earlier parts of this story, the wicked Ahab and Jezebel have things all their way.  Today that ends, and they are fully rewarded for their actions.

Williy Pogany - ''Ahab and Jezebel'' (300)

Willy Pogani: Ahab and Jezebel

We have come through Lent to rejoice in Easter light and the gift of eternal life as God’s promise against the clutches of eternal death. Today we have an invitation to avoid a fate like the one we read here.  Rather than hiding and hoping to have our own way, we will want to open ourselves to the healing light of Christ and ask for change. A change in our hearts. A change in our way of being. A change from death to life.

During the time of the prophets, Christ walked among his people through the hands and feet of his prophets as they carried out Yahweh’s promises. The sweet promise of eternal life in Christ is announced even during the dark days when Ahab and Jezebel hunted down those who spoke and healed in God’s name.  Through the prophets, Christ dwelt among us even before his birth in the stable, and Christ will continue to dwell among us.  When those who worship our modern Baals beset us, let us turn to Christ. Let us ask for God’s guidance and rescue in any darkness or sadness of the present time when the prophets among us are being murdered.  Let us turn to Christ who is the only hope of the world, the only antidote to death, the only life that is eternal. And let us make good on our Lenten promise to open ourselves to transformation. Let us receive the healing light that is the Easter promise. Let us receive the healing indwelling of the Spirit.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  (Meeks)

Adapted from a reflection written on April 5, 2011.

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1 Kings 18: Deception – Part IV

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel

The Prophets of Baal

Today’s Noontime is a story we hear read out to us at least once during the liturgical cycle; it is the story of the people’s relationship with God that takes place during a time when Yahweh’s prophets were being persecuted.  It is also a time of high political intrigue when the kingdom brought together under David’s leadership has split in two.  Ahab, Jezebel, Obadiah, and Elijah find themselves caught up in the kind of turmoil that guarantees suffering.

Elijah, the only surviving prophet of Yahweh, appeals to the people, and allows God to work through him to remind the split nations that despite their petty squabbles God is in charge.  The prophets of Baal bring all of their power and influence to bear and still they cannot best Elijah and Yahweh.  This is a good story and it deserves enough reading that we can apply it to our own lives.

What or who might be the Baal prophets in our lives?  Who is it we believe more than God who created us and cares for us beyond all human capacity?  Who is it we follow more eagerly than Jesus who redeems and saves us daily?   And who is it we love more intensely than the Spirit who guides us and counsels us every minute of our day and night?

The humor with which Elijah pits the Baal gods and their prophets against Yahweh makes today’s reading entertaining and authentic.  We may want to look for the humor in our own struggle to survive the droughts and famines of our days.  And we may want to ask ourselves the same question that Elijah asks his audience:  How long will you straddle the issue?  If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him. 

Written on June 14, 2010.

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