Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Rabbi Walked Into A Bar With A Box Of Oil


2 Kings 9 and 10 tell the story of Jehu. This is the funniest, brutalist, and yet, most moving of the escapades of Elisha recorded in the Bible. While the story is long in its telling, it is direct and to the point in its application. Jehu, realizing God’s call and acting upon it in timely fashion, is able to overthrow the brutal regime of Jezebel. More specifically, it ends the regime of Joram, Jezebel’s vassal off-spring of the hellish union between her and Ahab.

The specifics are bloody and brutal, Jehu starts off as a hero and winds up a bloodied tyrant of a king, Jezebel ends up a crumpled mess on the palace floor, eaten by dogs to the point of unrecognizableness. Seventy princes are slain at Jezreel, and the line of ungodliness continues.

But, if you look hard enough, perhaps even with head cocked to the right and eyes squinted just so, you can see and hear the God of Psalm 2, laughing and shaking His head in bewilderment at the saga and drama of the lowly creatures He made. Their deft attempts to bring Him low, allowing the angels to snigger just a bit. The comedy revolves around a young rabbi and a task fitting for a priest.

Elisha tasks one of his seminary students with the job of anointing Jehu king of Israel. This is not altogether surprising, considering he also sent Gehazi to answer the door when Haaman came knocking. But it is not quite as irreverent as it may first seem. The young prophet would not attract the same attention as the venerable old Elisha, whom no doubt Jezebel had a cruel and crooked eye on all the time. Treachery, as Joram would later call this, would be less likely seen in the young rabbi. So he anoints Jehu as king, using his “box” of oil. This would not have been a simple, modern anointing…touching of the finger to oil, then transference to the head. Oh, no. This would be Six quarts of oil, poured casually over the entire body, head first.

Leaving the empty box of oil, the young fled quickly. Treachery is a tricky business after all. The funny part comes from Jehu’s reaction. When asked about the youngster’s motives, Jehu plays it cool. “It was nuttin.” When pressed by his comrades, Jehu, dripping from a fresh bath in 6 quarts of oil, fesses up to the prophet’s motive. They pronounce their intentions to recognize him as king, and off the troupe heads to Jezreel to see about the coup in proper fashion. Spelled: High Treason and Execution. He rides furiously, still covered in oil. I can imagine the dust and horse hair sticking to his skin and clogging up the pores.

Perhaps I read the Bible differently than you, but this always makes me crack a smile, and, turning my head just right, I think I might hear Elisha chuckle a bit also. The thought of this brute, covered with dirt, oil, and fur, bring down the most beautiful, and wicked, women who ever lived…her face painted, hair tired, looking very much like an ancient Tammy Faye Baker…must have brought some satisfaction to the old preacher.

Hard as we try, we are just human after all! And seeing the downfall of folks who come against you has some satisfying elements—at least when the down fall is God’s doing, not your own. I can sympathize with Elisha. Jezebel’s comeuppance was long overdue. And to think, it all started when a young Rabbi walked into a bar with a box of oil in his arms, looking to do God’s will.

No comments: