Trash talking

“Is it peace, Zimri?” When will the trash talking end?

After Elijah’s delivers his message of canine blood licking to Ahab and Jezebel, amazingly Ahab repents and puts on sackcloth (1 Kings 21:27).  YHWH is so impressed that he tells Elijah that he’s going to delay the judgment on Ahab’s house (1 Kings 21:28-29).  Ahab is still killed in battle after he ignores the negative prophecy of Micaiah, and the dogs do get to lick up his blood, just as was predicted in YHWH’s trash speech (1 Kings 22:37-38).

There’s an extended break in the trash talking action until Jezebel is confronted by the usurper, Jehu (see my monograph on his dynasty under “Other books”).  The connection between Jehu and Elijah goes back to when YHWH told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor and to anoint Jehu as king over Israel (1 Kings 19:16).  Elijah didn’t do that, and neither did Elisha, but eventually Elisha delegated the task to his apprentice (2 Kings 9:1-9).  And when that young prophet anointed Jehu he also repeated the canine dog licking curse, probably because it was so much fun to say (2 Kings 9:10).

As he approaches Jezebel, Jehu is fresh from a slaughter.  He has been on a rampage, killing both the Israelite king, Joram and the Judean king, Ahaziah (grandson of Ahab and Jezebel because of the intermarriage between the royal houses of Judah and Israel–yes, it’s complicated).  So Jehu finally comes to Jezebel who’s up in her tower.  She puts on her make-up (who was she trying to impress?) and then asks Jehu, “Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?” (2 Kings 9:31)

I don’t really like Jezebel, but this is amazing trash-talk.

How is Jezebel talking trash here?  By calling Jehu, “Zimri.”  Zimri isn’t very well known, so don’t be embarassed if you don’t know who he is.  He only reigned for 7 days (1 Kings 16:15-20).  Zimri and Jehu had a lot in common: both were military leaders (1 Kings 16:9; 2 Kings 9:5), and both took the throne by killing his predecessor.  Interestingly, Zimri was basically killed by Omri, father of Ahab, husband of Jezebel.  So, by calling Jehu, Zimri, she’s saying “You’ll only reign a week and you’ll be killed by one of my relatives.”

Impressive, although she was wrong; Jehu reigned 28 years, apparently died of old age and had the longest Israelite dynasty.  Jezebel died when she was throne from the tower by her eunuchs…and her blood spattered on the wall…and she was trampled by horses…and the dogs ate her corpse…and pooped it out onto the field (yes the Bible does say all that–2 Kings 9:33-37)

So, the OT trash talking blogs will probably end here, unless you have more requests…

Canine blood-lickers, avian flesh-pickers: the trash talking continues

Last time we saw Elijah trash talk Baal’s prophets, then slaughter them.  Jezebel then put out a hit on Elijah, who mysteriously flees and becomes suicidal (the other suicidal prophet is of course Jonah (4:3, 8)).  After YHWH told the depressed Elijah that he could replace him with Elisha (changing the plaque on the door would only involve a few letters), Elijah perks right up, finds Elisha and throws his mantle over him.

Some scholars think this mantle-toss counts as an anointing, but as anointings go, it seems pretty lame and Elijah’s words to his potential apprentice aren’t exactly encouraging–“Go back again; for what have I done for you?” (1 Kings 19:20).

Elijah disappears for a chapter (1 Kings 20), but after Jezebel orchestrates the death of their neighbor Naboth so her husband can take possession of his vineyard, he is called into action again by YHWH for some high quality trash talking (1 Kings 21:1-18).

YHWH tells Elijah to inform Ahab and Jezebel that dogs are going to lick up their blood (1 Kings 21:19-24).  During his interaction with Ahab, Elijah also tells him that if his family members die outside the city, the birds of the air will eat them.  That’s some nasty trash talking.  I’m still waiting for a good Christian book store to sell a poster of canine blood lickers and avian flesh pickers.

I’m sorry this is so graphic, but it is in the Bible and Paul tells us that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching” (2 Tim. 3:16).

So far, we’ve seen trash talking from David, Elijah and now YHWH.  So, why is trash talking in Scripture?  I’m still waiting for a good answer to this.  Maybe we don’t really think trash talking should be in there?  Or at least it’s not profitable for teaching?

We’ll have a few more installments from this OT trash talking series.

A suicidal prophet: Still more OT trash talking

After Elijah had bumped off the prophets of Baal (see last blog and 1 Kings 18:40), Jezebel, who seemed to be the one who really wore the trousers in her marriage with Ahab, ordered a hit on Elijah.  Her trash talking message to Elijah was basically, “May I die, if I don’t kill you” (1 Kings 19:2)  (Her wish is partially fulfilled.)

At this point in time, you’d expect a tough guy like Elijah to just brush her threat off.  He’s been threatened before, prophets have been getting killed already, he just had this dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal.  As a bonus, his first venture into the realm of trash talking was an overwhelming success.

So, how does the mighty prophet of YHWH respond to Jezebel’s hit order on his life?  He fled in fear (2 Kings 19:3).  What?  Not only that, but he’s going to fulfill the commission for her.  He asks YHWH to kill him (or I guess we’d have to say that he asks YHWH to be the hitman; 2 Kings 19:4).  (Where else do we find a suicical prophet in the OT?  Answer in the next blog.)  Instead of answering Elijah’s prayer in the affirmative (sometimes it’s good that God doesn’t say “Yes”–tell that to your kids), YHWH sends an angel who feeds him a couple times, so he can run forty days and nights (a high carb meal-spaghetti probably) south to Mount Horeb (=Sinai).

When YHWH finally speaks to him Elijah complains, then repeats his complaint verbatim (1 Kings 19:10, 14).  YHWH ignores what Elijah says, but then he says something shocking.  It’s time to find your replacement, go anoint Elisha (1 Kings 19:16).  Not exactly the message you’d expect a sensitive God like YHWH to say–“You’re suicidal, but that’s OK, we can find a replacement.”

So, why do you think YHWH says this to Elijah? 

Baal’s bowel movement: Even more OT trash talking

Jezebel, wife of Ahab, has been slaughtering the prophets of YHWH in record numbers (1 Kings 18:4), so Elijah tells Ahab to gather the prophets of Baal and Asherah for a duel on Mount Carmel.  But it couldn’t really be a duel without a little trash talking, right?

The story is familiar from Sunday school (I decided to choose a Sunday school-esque image), so I’ll be brief, but the goal for each side is to provoke your deity to torch your altar.  Unfortunately for his prophets, Baal doesn’t seem to be responding to their petitions.  (Asherah, Baal’s “wife” isn’t mentioned in the rest of the story.)

So, Elijah thought, now’s the time.  “Perhaps, he’s relieving himself?” (1 Kings 18:27).  While the Hebrew is difficult here, so English translations give a wide range of translations, he is either “occupied” (NAS), “is deep in thought” (NIV) or “has wandered away” (NRS).  But if you approach it as trash-talking, which is the only thing that makes sense in this context, then the ESV’s “relieving himself” makes the most sense.  Holladay’s Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon says the verb could be translated as “bowel movement”.

But real trash talking wouldn’t use something quite so sophisticated as “relieving yourself.”  And “bowel movement” would be even worse.  “Your god’s having a BM” doesn’t really cut it.  Genuine trash talking uses slang, the hipper the better, so I’m still waiting for a translation that captures the essence of Elijah’s taunt.  Any suggestions?  “Taking a dump”?

Fortunately for Elijah, YHWH isn’t “busy” when the time comes and he responds to the prophets prayer, sending fire from heaven to torch the saturated altar.   Elijah then orders that Baal’s prophets be slaughtered, which begins a series of taunt speeches between Jezebel and various prophets of YHWH, which will be the focus of future blog posts.

What would you say if someone asked you about the appropriateness of Elijah’s slaughter here?  I’m getting a lot of these kind of questions lately, so I’m looking for some help.