Imagine that you’re walking along, minding your own business, when suddenly a stranger dressed in rags gets in your face and demands that you hit him! Naturally you take him for a crazy man, and decline to strike him. Then he threatens you, claiming that you will be killed for not having obeyed him!
A rather strange story, no? But one straight from the Bible book of Kings. Our lesson for today is all about prophets of Jehovah, and is taken from 1 Kings chapters 20 through 22.
It seems that if a stranger asks you to strike him you’d better do it; he might be a prophet, and you’ll be killed for having refrained from violence and for having shown compassion to the mentally challenged. Don’t thank me for this sage advice; I can’t take credit; it’s just another valuable Bible lesson on morality. Don’t believe me? Then we’d better open our Bibles to today’s text:
By the word of Jehovah, one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion: “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him. So he said to him: “Because you did not listen to the voice of Jehovah, as soon as you leave me, a lion will kill you.” After he left him, a lion came upon him and killed him.
— 1 Kings 20:35-36
It turns out that this prophet wanted to be struck so that he could practice a deception on Ahab, the king of Israel. He wanted to fool Ahab into thinking that he had come from battle.
He found another man and said: “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him.
Then the prophet went and waited for the king by the road, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes.
As the king was passing by, he cried out to the king: “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and there was a man coming out who brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is found missing, your life will have to take the place of his life, or else you will pay a talent of silver.’ And while your servant was busy here and there, suddenly the man was gone.”
The king of Israel said to him: “So your own judgment will be; you have decided it yourself.”
At that point, the prophet revealed the ruse he had played on Ahab:
Then he quickly removed the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized that he was one of the prophets. He said to him: “This is what Jehovah says, ‘Because you have let the man whom I said should be destroyed escape from your hand, your life must take the place of his life, and your people the place of his people.’”
Ahab had made peace with Ben-hadad, the king of Damascus. This is what the prophet of Jehovah was so pissed off about. Prophets of a god of war (“Jehovah of armies“) tend to hate peace since it presents no opportunity for their god to shine. So, Jehovah threatened to kill Ahab for his peace-mongering ways, and to kill the Israelites to boot!
“At that the king of Israel went home to Samaria, sullen and dejected.” But then he evidently forgot all about being murdered along with his people, and decided to buy a vineyard from Naboth. But Naboth refused to sell it, and Ahab was depressed all over again.
However, Ahab’s wife Jezebel decided to cheer him up by arranging to have Naboth stoned to death, after which she took his vineyard and presented it to her husband as a gift.
When Jehovah heard about this, he got mad at Ahab (instead of the perpetrator Jezebel) and had the prophet Elijah declare the following to Ahab:
“Have you murdered a man and also taken his property?” This is what Jehovah says: “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick up your own blood.”
According to the Bible, Ahab had not murdered a man nor taken his property: his wife had. Jehovah was being unjust in sentencing the wrong person to death.
As soon as Ahab heard these words, he ripped his garments apart and put sackcloth on his body; and he went on a fast and kept lying down in sackcloth and walking despondently.
It’s odd that Ahab got so upset at this second death sentence from Jehovah’s prophets; he was already condemned to die by Jehovah for not having killed a man (Ben-hadad). Now he was condemned to die by Jehovah for having killed a man he did not kill (Naboth).
Jehovah’s word then came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself on my account? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the calamity during his lifetime. I will bring the calamity upon his house in the days of his son.”
Jehovah must love sackcloth. Just don a garment made of this fabric (goat’s hair) and Jehovah will forgive you anything. In this case, he commuted Ahab’s death sentence (both of them.) However, being the just judge of all the universe that he is, he decided to punish Ahab’s son instead (despite what the prophet Ezekiel had declared about Jehovah not punishing a son for his father’s sin (Ez. 18:20).)
But Jehovah still wasn’t finished with having his prophets play tricks on this woe-begotten king. Even though he commuted his death sentences, and promised not to “bring calamity” upon him, Jehovah decided to kill Ahab anyway. It seems there was a war being considered against Syria in order to recapture the city of Ramoth-Gilead. All of the prophets told Ahab that he would succeed in this — though Jehovah was planning for his demise:
All the other prophets were prophesying the same way, saying: “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and you will be successful; Jehovah will give it into the king’s hand.”
But Micaiah said: “As surely as Jehovah is living, whatever Jehovah says to me is what I will speak.”
Then he came in to the king, and the king asked him: “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should we refrain?” At once he replied: “Go up and you will be successful; Jehovah will give it into the king’s hand.”
At that the king said to him: “How many times must I put you under oath not to speak to me anything but the truth in the name of Jehovah?”
Micaiah then said: “Therefore, hear the word of Jehovah: I saw Jehovah sitting on his throne and all the army of the heavens standing by him, to his right and to his left. Jehovah then said, ‘Who will fool Ahab, so that he will go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one was saying one thing while another said something else. Then a spirit came forward and stood before Jehovah and said, ‘I will fool him.’ Jehovah asked him, ‘How will you do it?’ He replied, ‘I will go out and become a deceptive spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ So he said, ‘You will fool him, and what is more, you will be successful. Go out and do that.’
And now Jehovah has put a deceptive spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, but Jehovah has declared calamity for you.”
Notice how Micaiah vowed that “as sure as Jehovah is living” he would say whatever Jehovah told him to say. Yet, at first Micaiah said that Ahab would be successful because Jehovah would “give it into the king’s hand.” But when admonished to keep his oath, Micaiah told Ahab that the unchanging god Jehovah had “declared calamity” for him, despite having previously stated “I will not bring the calamity during his lifetime.”
For having revealed the con, one of the other prophets struck Micaiah. But unlike the first prophet in our tale, Micaiah didn’t like being struck (an inconsistent, unpredictable lot, these prophets.)
Ahab decided to believe the majority of the prophets instead of Micaiah, and went to the battle, where he was mortally wounded and died, and the dogs licked up his blood “according to the word that Jehovah had spoken.” So, the Bible contends that Micaiah was right: Jehovah had sent a lying spirit into the mouth of all the prophets to fool Ahab into thinking that Jehovah would see him safely through the battle — all the while Jehovah intended to see him killed!
So, what do we learn from these three chapters of the Bible? Well, it seems Jehovah and his prophets practice deception, encourage violence, contradict themselves, and punish the peacemakers [despite another prophet who promised that the peacemakers were “blessed” and would be called — just like himself — “sons of God.” (MT 5:9).] They also punish the wrong people (the innocent instead of the guilty).
And, oh yeah: they lie, big time; no matter what oaths they take or vows they make.
So, it should come as no surprise that the organization that today claims to be “Jehovah’s prophet” engages in similar behavior:
- Demanding unthinking obedience to counter-compassionate orders (such as shunning family members and letting children die for want of a transfusion.)
- Commanding their people to rejoice at the thought of their coming longed-for ultimate war: Armageddon, where they envision billions of people dying horribly violent deaths.
- Upholding the time-honored prophetic traditions of deception and lying.
- Making false prophecies.
- Contradicting themselves.
- Punishing the wrong people:
- rape victims (who neglect to scream)
- parents who choose their children over the Watchtower
- whistle-blowers who expose their harmful policies and who point out their lies
- people who love one another (of the same gender)
So, when the Watchtower claims to be “Jehovah’s modern-day prophet on Earth,” I guess they really do have a point: in many ways they act just like the prophets in these chapters of First Kings.