The Book of Kings should (but usually doesn’t) make us ask: is God just? Will he punish the wicked?
The whole book relentlessly shows God’s mercy and patience as his people regularly abandon his ways, commit evil, and do great harm to one another.
God still calls them his people. He still sends prophets. He waits about 300 years before doing as he said by exiling Israel; he waits about 400 years to do the same for Judah.
That long patience towards Judah and Israel has its proleptic moments of judgment. As Jehu, Israel’s messianic figure, executes God’s judgment against the Omride dynasty.
Yet here it’s still a blip in this multi-century history of evil.
Here is the weird thing. God’s patience and goodness works out in ways we might think are unjust or don’t make sense.
For example, the foreigners that Assyria settle in Israel do not worship God; so God sends lions after them. After Assyria returns a priest to Israel to teach the foreigners, they merely adopt Yahweh into their ancestral worship. But God relents with the lions.
This kind of thing happens over and over. Even a sliver of faith makes God relent of his punishment. He is slow to anger over and over.
And if this does not make your eyebrows raise, read Chronicles. There, objectively bad people are called “good”. I mean, even Jehu for his slaughter of the Omride dynasty through deception is said to be good, right, and do all that is in God’s heart.
The Bible should surprise us. But I suspect it does in ways that we might not think it will (yeah, I know, that’s a surprise; bear with me!).
The Bible presents God as relentlessly merciful, even being slow to execute judgment that he himself promises (e.g. Deut 28)!
This reality conflicts with our impression of God as “mean” in the Old Testament. But that impression is partly because the Bible’s history moves in a flash—a page or two passes by hundreds of years.
We have so little information, but God’s acts of mercy and vengeance are reported, being vital to understanding who he is. That, I think, gives us this impression in part.
Leave a Reply