ELIJAH: Murder, and the Doom of Ahab

lal296535

So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and vexed, and came to Samaria.
–1 Kings 20: 43

IT is significant that the words describing Ahab’s state of mind on returning from Jezreel to Samaria after his unsuccessful negotiation with Naboth for his vineyard…

…are precisely the same as those formerly used in regard to the impression made on him by the prophet’s message (1 Kings 20: 43).

god-idolatry-discipleship-1-GoodSalt-stdas0022-254x300On both occasions he “was much [and rebelliously] excited and angry.” The identity of terms indicates identity of feelings. The same self-assertion, dependence of God, and want of submissiveness which had led to his release of, and covenant with, Ben-hadad, and inspired feelings of rebellion and anger on hearing the Divine message, now prompted his resentment Naboth’s conduct.

The summer palace of Jezreel was the favorite retreat of King Ahab and Jezebel. The present somewhat marshy plain of Esdraelon, the almost bare mountains of Gilboa, and the miserable village which now occupies the site of Jezreel, and overlooks the ruins of Bethshan, can afford no adequate idea of what the place was in the days of Ahab and Jezebel and of their immediate successors. Then the mountains of Gilboa were richly wooded, and sweet springs brought freshness to the air and luxurious beauty to the vegetation of Jezreel, even as they carried fertility into the great plain beneath, which in the summer light shimmered and trembled like a sea of golden corn. At the northern declivity of Gilboa, where it descends, steep and rocky, on a knoll about 500 feet high, stood Jezreel. Protected from the fierce southern sun by the delicious shade of Gilboa, that rises up behind, it looked “as a place suited to a summer-residence in the East” northwards, across the plain to the mountains of Galilee, to Tabor, and in the distance to snow-capped Hermon. The height descended into the valley of Jezreel, where a sweet spring rippled, and close by gathered into a pool. Eastwards, you would look down on Bethshan, and, across the deep depression of the Jordan valley, to the mountains on the other side on which rested the blue and purple light. To the west you might sweep those fifteen miles to Mount Carmel, and perchance the westerly breeze might carry up the plain the fresh scent of the sea. Such was the Jezreel of Ahab and Jezebel” the nearest, the safest, the sweetest summer- retreat from Samaria.

Naboth's VineyardOn the east and south-east, where the hot Limestone rock shelves into the valley beneath, are to this day wine-presses. They mark the neighborhood of where the vineyards of Jezreel must have been, among them that of Naboth. Right above was the royal palace, narrowed and cramped within the city walls, of which indeed it seems to have formed part. Manifestly it would be object of desire to acquire the land nearest to the palace, with the view of converting it into a garden. What such a garden might bear, and what sweet outlook on it could be enjoyed from the windows of the palace, may be judged from the lemon-groves still existing in the near neighborhood. But Naboth, the owner of the coveted piece of land, could not be tempted to part with it by the king’s offer of either a better vineyard or an equivalent in money. It was the ancestral possession of the family of Naboth, and piety towards God combined with reverence for the memory of his fathers to forbid the unholy bargain. It is a healthy sign to find such stern assertion of principle so fearlessly uttered. Israel could not be wholly sunken in corruption and idolatry so, long as it numbered among its peasant proprietors men like Naboth, nor could the service of Jehovah have left its households when even in Jezreel a burgher could appeal from the demands of an Ahab to the authority and law of his God. And it affords happy evidence of what the legislation of the Pentateuch had secured for Israel, that even in the worst times an Ahab dared not, like a heathen monarch, lay hands on Naboth, nor force him to surrender the inheritance of his fathers.

ahab_2It is another mark of that self-willed and uncontrolled frame of mind which had determined the bearing of Ahab towards Ben-hadad, and then towards the prophet sent to rebuke him, that he could not brook the refusal of Naboth. It was utter and childish petulance, as well as unbridled selfishness to, act as he did on his return to Samaria. He turned his face to the wall and refused to eat bread. In Samaria at least all was submissive to his will” thanks to the strong hand of Jezebel. But, outside her sway, he was always encountered and opposed by Jehovah: now by His prophets, then by His worshipers. Here was a power which he dared not resist, yet to which he would not submit. But Jezebel shared neither the feelings nor the scruples of her husband. She dared what she would, and she would what she dared. She now spoke to the king as a strong unscrupulous woman to a weak and unprincipled man. She must have known what had prompted the refusal of Naboth –although it deserves notice that, in his account of what had passed, the king had studiously omitted all reference to it (verse 6). Similarly, Ahab must have known that when Jezebel demanded the royal signet, with which official documents coming directly from the king were stamped, she must have had in view some scheme of violence. And often does it seem more convenient –certainly more easy –to remain in willful ignorance, than to learn what would call for our active resistance, or, in the absence of it, fill our conscience with uneasiness. And while remaining in willful ignorance, Ahab may have flattered himself that he had not incurred responsibility in the murder of Naboth.

JESEBEL PLOTS MURDER77The measures of Jezebel were at least plain and straightforward old Mosaic civil order still continued in Israel by which jurisdiction, even in matters of life and death, lay in the first instance with the “judges and officers” of a place (Deut. 16:18). This local “senate,” consisting partly of elected life-members, partly of what may be designated a hereditary aristocracy, might in times of corruption become subject to court influence, especially in a small royal borough such as Jezreel. Jezebel knew this only too well, and with a terrible frankness wrote to each member of that senate what would seem the king’s directions. By these each recipient of the letter would become a fellow-conspirator, and each feel bound to keep the horrible secret. As if some great sin rested upon the city (compare 1 Sam. 7: 6), and, in consequence of it, some heavy judgment were to be averted, (2Chron. 20: 2-4; Jer.36: 6, 9), the eldership of Israel gathered the people to a solemn fast. If it had been so, and some great sin had been committed or were even suspected, it would have been the duty of the city thus to purge itself of guilt or complicity. For according to the deep and true idea which underlay all the institutions of the Old Testament there is solidarity (as it is called in modern language) between those whom God has placed side by side. There is solidarity between all the members of the human family –solidarity of curse and of blessing, of judgment and of promise, because all have sprung from a common stock. There is solidarity also in a city, since ten righteous men might have preserved Sodom from destruction; solidarity in a nation, since the sins or the piety of its rulers were returned in blessing or in judgment on the people” a solidarity which as it pointed back to a common ancestry, also pointed forward to the full and final realization of its inmost meaning in that great brotherhood of believers which Christ came to found. And hence it was that, when blood had been shed and the doer of the crime remained 21: 1-9), and that, as here, when a great crime was supposed to have been committed, all would humble themselves in fasting before they put away the evil-doer from among them.

1 Kings 21 Naboth StonedIn the assembly thus called Naboth was to be ”set on high,” not in order to assign him an honorable place, so as the more effectually to rouse public indignation when one so honored was convicted of such crime, nor yet to give the appearance [of impartiality to the proceedings that were to follow. Evidently the fast had been appointed in humiliation for a sin as yet unknown to the people, and the assembly was called to set before them the nature of this crime. For this purpose Naboth was “set on high,” as one incriminated before the elders, against whom witnesses were to rise and on whom judgment was to be pronounced by the people of his own city. This explains (ver.10) how these “two sons of Belial” who were to bear false testimony against Naboth were “set before him.” The sacred text only informs us that the two witnesses (compare Deut. 27: 6, etc.; 19: 15; Numb. 35:30) testified that Naboth had “blasphemed” “uttered blasphemous language against” God and the king.” It is scarcely conceivable that Naboth should not have made some defense, nor that the people would have given so ready credence to such a charge against one so well known, if some colorable confirmation could not have been found for it. May it not have been that the refusal of the vineyard to Ahab had become known to the townsmen of Naboth, and that these two sons of Belial were suborned to say that Naboth had at the same time pronounced in their hearing a curse upon Ahab –perhaps also that he had uttered threats of resistance? Such a solemn curse would be regarded as an act of blasphemy, not only against the king but primarily against God, Whose authorized representative the king was (compare. Ex. 22: 28). But blasphemy against God was to be punished by stoning (Deut.13:10; 17:5).

As in all such cases, the punishment was immediately carried out, and apparently in Naboth’s own vineyard, where the witnesses would, according to our suggestion, have located the “blasphemy” spoken in reply to the request of the king. It is not necessary to suppose (as some commentators have done) that the property of a man stoned for such a crime was treated like that of one on whom the ban was pronounced, since in that case it would have been laid waste, not given to the king (Deut. 13: 16). But it was quite natural that the property of one who had been found guilty of high treason should be forfeited to the Crown. And so when the elders of Jezreel informed Jezebel that Naboth was stoned, she could tell her royal husband to go and take possession of the vineyard that had been refused him for purchase by “the Jezreelite,” since Naboth was dead.

storyofahab_3There was bitter as well as haughty irony in the words of Jezebel, as if she had felt herself a queen whose wishes and commands were above all law, human or Divine, and could not be resisted by God or man (ver.15). The text gives no indication that she had informed Ahab of the manner of Naboth’s death; nor did the king make inquiry. But there was far more terrible irony of fact in what followed the words of Jezebel. On receiving the welcome tidings of Naboth’s death, Ahab “rose up” to go and take possession of the coveted vineyard, –perhaps the very day after the judicial murder (compare 2 Kings 9:26). But on that day Jehovah had bidden Elijah arise and meet Ahab with the Divine message, just as the king thought himself in secure possession of the fruit of his crime, as if there were no living God in Israel. We can picture to ourselves the scene. Ahab has come in his chariot from Samaria, apparently attended by his chief officers (2 Kings 9:25). Before entering his palace at Jezreel “on the way to it” he has reached the vineyard of Naboth. He is surveying with satisfaction his new possession, perhaps giving directions how it should be transformed into “a garden,” when of a sudden there stands before him not one of the sons of the prophets, nor an ordinary seer, but the terrible figure of the Gileadite, with his burning eyes, and clad in the rough cloak of black camel’s hair, girt about with a leathern girdle. It must have recalled to Ahab his first apparition in the midst of Samaria, when the prophet had announced to his startled hearers the three years’ drought, and then so suddenly and tracelessly vanished from sight. And the last time he met the prophet had been on Mount Carmel; the last glimpse had been when through the blinding rain he saw the dark figure running before his chariot to the very gate of Jezreel, as if he had come to herald the triumph of Jehovah, and to bring back a new God-devoted king. That had been a weird sight of the prophet, through the storm; and it had been a short dim dream of Ahab’s to make the scene on Mount Carmel a reality in Israel. With Jezebel came back to him the evil spirit of his “madness;” nay, it had even sought, or consented to, the destruction of him who but yesterday had visibly brought God’s fire on the broken altar, and God’s rain on the parched land.

images (6)And now Elijah stood once more before him and Ahab knew only too well why.

It was for briefest but unmistakable message. Its first sentence swept away all self-deception. It had not been Jezebel but Ahab who had killed. And now he had taken possession, as if there were not Jehovah in heaven, nor yet the eternal reflection of His Being, and the permanent echo of His speaking, in right and truth upon earth. Having thus not only wakened the conscience of Ahab, but vindicated the authority of Him in Whose Name he spoke, the next sentence of Elijah’s message announced stern, strict, even literal retribution.

The retort of Ahab we regard as a childish lament to the effect that Elijah, who had always been his personal enemy, had now at last “found him” in some actual sin, on which he might invoke Divine punishment. It was an admission, indeed, in that moment of surprise, of his guilt and apprehension of the Divine punishment announced. But it conjoined with it this –if not in excuse, yet as a counter charge –that Elijah was his personal enemy, and had lain in wait for the occasion to call down Divine judgment upon him. It was against this attempt to make it a merely personal controversy that Elijah’s answer was directed (ver.20). “I have found (not ‘thee’), because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of Jehovah.” What the prophet had spoken was not the outcome of personal enmity, nor was what had occurred the result of a sudden temptation or rash mood of the king, but of the whole direction of life which Ahab had deliberately chosen. And in this two elements were closely marked: that he had sold himself as a slave (Rom. 7: 14), so that he had no longer freedom of action, but had, as it were, images (4)to obey his master’s behests; and that he had so sold himself, consciously or unconsciously, “to do the evil in the sight of Jehovah.” Accordingly, the judgment which Elijah announced was not merely personal to Ahab, as what he said about the dogs licking his blood ; but it also struck his dynasty and doomed it to extermination for this twofold reason: “on account of the wrath which thou hast caused to go forth, and hast made Israel to sin.” On the other hand, this general judgment should not take the place of personal punishment upon the doers of such a crime as the judicial murder of Naboth. The dogs would “eat Jezebel at the wall of Jezreel,” while a similar fate would overtake all the posterity of Ahab in the city (as in regards, of Samaria) or in the field. These must be regarded as personal judgments denounced on personal sins. This is also indicated by the interpolated remarks of the writer of the narrative (in verses 25, 26). But the actual punishment might be averted or modified by personal repentance, although not as regarded that pronounced on the national guilt in which the rule of Ahab had involved Israel.

If evidence of the truth of this narrative –and, as connected with it, of this whole history –were required, what is told in conclusion would furnish it. For a legendary story would not have represented Ahab as repenting and yet not renouncing his former courses. But this also is true to life. As formerly what he witnessed on Carmel, so now the words of Elijah went straight to Ahab’s heart. He no longer disguised the truth from himself, nor sought to divert his mind by thoughts of personal animosity on the part of the prophet. It was against Jehovah that he had sinned, and before Jehovah he humbled himself. As a mourner he rent his clothes; as a penitent he wore sackcloth; as guilty he fasted; and as one staggering under a heavy load of grief and sin, he walked softly. And all this publicly –in the sight of all men. It was fitting, if we may venture on the expression, and in accordance with God’s previous declaration of judgment, that the living God Who had seen and avenged the crime done in secret should also acknowledge the repentance shown in public. Accordingly the word of Jehovah came once more to Elijah to declare that the personal repentance of the personal sin had brought remission of the personal punishment, though not of that denounced on the dynasty. The visible judgment, by which all were to perceive the retribution of God’s justice, was delayed to the time of his son, and would have been delayed still further had he shown like repentance. But only delayed “for retribution must follow such open sin. And so the remembrance of it was kept up; and even this, in merciful warning to Ahab’s son. But when the dogs licked up the blood of Ahab, as they washed the chariot stained with his gore, they recalled the yet unfulfilled judgment that hung like a dark cloud over the house of Ahab (1 Kings 22: 38). But this was in Samaria, not in Jezreel, nor in the portion of Naboth, for, as the prophet had foretold, God brought not “the evil” itself, only its warning remembrance, in the days of Ahab. But on Jezebel would it descend with the terrible reality of a literal fulfillment.

Jezabel-and-Ahab-Meeting-Elijah-in-Naboth-s-Vineyard

———————————————————

Taken from, THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH FROM THE REIGN OF AHAB TO THE DECLINE OF THE TWO KINGDOMS.
Written by, Alfred Edersheim, M.A., D.D., Phd.
Edited for thought and sense

———————————————————

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Alfred Edersheim (March 7, 1825 – March 16, 1889) was a Jewish convert to Christianity and a Biblical scholar known especially for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). 

Edersheim was born in Vienna of Jewish parents of culture and wealth. English was spoken in their home, and he became fluent at an early age. He was educated at a local gymnasium and also in the Talmud and Torah at a Hebrew school, and in 1841 he entered the University of Vienna. His father suffered illness and financial reversals before Alfred could complete his university education, and he had to support himself.

He converted to Christianity in Pest when he came under the influence of John Duncan, a Church of Scotland chaplain to workmen engaged in constructing a bridge over the Danube. Edersheim accompanied Duncan on his return to Scotland and studied theology at New College, Edinburgh and at the University of Berlin. In 1846 Alfred was married to Mary Broomfield. They had seven children. In the same year he was ordained to the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland. He was a missionary to the Jews at Iaşi, Romania for a year.

On his return to Scotland, after preaching for a time in Aberdeen, Edersheim was appointed in 1849 to minister at the Free Church, Old Aberdeen. In 1861 health problems forced him to resign and the Church of St. Andrew was built for him at Torquay. In 1872 Edersheim’s health again obliged him to retire, and for four years he lived quietly at Bournemouth. In 1875 he was ordained in the Church of England, and was Curate of the Abbey Church, Christchurch, Hants, for a year, and from 1876 to 1882 Vicar of Loders, Bridport, Dorset. He was appointed to the post of Warburtonian Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn 1880-84. In 1882 he resigned and relocated to Oxford. He was Select Preacher to the University 1884-85 and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1886-88 and 1888-89.

Edersheim died at Menton, France, on March 16, 1889.

ELIJAH: A pastor among wolves, and Ahab’s desperate decision

 

ElijahTitle

Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
–1 Kings 18:21

In the breathless silence that ensued upon this challenge Elijah now stood forward…

…and pointing to the white-robed crowd of priests over against him, he recalled to king and people that he and he only remained, that is, in active office and open profession –a prophet of Jehovah. Single-handed, therefore, he would go to the contest, if contest of power it were against that multitude.

Power! They worship as God the powers of nature; let them then make trial as to on whose side these powers which are in nature are arrayed. Let this be the test: the priests of Baal on their side, and he on his, would each choose a bullock and prepare it for sacrifice, but not kindle the fire beneath,” and it shall be the Elohim who shall answer by fire, He is the “Elohim.”

A shout of universal assent greets the proposal. Under the circumstances it would be of greatest practical importance that the futility of Baal-worship should be exhibited in the fullest manner. This explains the details of all that follows. Besides, after a whole day of vain appliance of every resource of their superstition, the grandeur of Jehovah’s majestic interposition would also make the deeper impression. But although from Elijah’s point of view it was important that the priests of Baal should first offer their sacrifice, the proposition was one to which no objection could be taken, since Elijah not only gave them the choice of the sacrificial animal, but they were many as against one. Nor could they complain so far as they regarded the test proposed by Elijah, since their Baal was also the god of fire, he was the very Sun-god himself.

Now commences a scene which baffles description. Ancient writers have left us accounts of the great Baal-festivals, and they closely agree with the narrative of the Bible, and only furnish further details. First rises a comparatively moderate, though already wild cry to Baal; followed by a dance around the altar, beginning with a swinging motion to and fro. The howl then becomes louder and louder, and the dance more frantic. They whirl round and round, running wildly through each other’s ranks, always keeping up a circular motion, the head low bent, so that their long disheveled hair sweeps the ground.

Ordinarily the madness now became infectious, and the onlookers join in the frenzied dance. But Elijah knew how to prevent this. It was noon, and for hours they have kept up their wild rites. With cutting taunts and bitter irony Elijah now reminds them that, since Baal was Elohim, the fault must lie with them. He might be otherwise engaged, and they must cry louder. Stung to madness, they become more frantic than before, and what we know as the second and third acts in these feasts then ensues. The wild howl passes into piercing demoniacal yells. In their madness the priests bite their own arms and cut themselves with the two-edged swords which they carry and with lances.

As blood begins to flow the frenzy reaches its highest pitch, when first one, then others, commence to “prophesy,” moaning and groaning, then bursting into rhapsodic cries, accusing themselves, or speaking to Baal, or uttering incoherent broken sentences. All the while they beat themselves with heavy scourges, loaded or armed with sharp points, and cut themselves with swords and lances, sometimes even mutilating themselves –since the blood of the priest was supposed to be specially propitiatory with Baal.

Two more hours of this terrible scene have past, and their powers of endurance must have been all but exhausted. The sun has long passed its meridian, and the time of the regular evening-sacrifice in the Temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem has come. From the accounts of the Temple-times left us, we know that the evening sacrifice was offered “between the evenings,” as it was termed, that is, between the down going of the sun and the evening.

In point of fact, the evening Temple service was to commence between two and three p.m. It must have been about the same time that Elijah begins the simple yet solemn preparations for his sacrifice. Turning from the frantic priests to the astonished people, he bids them to draw nigh. They must gather around him, not only in order to be convinced that no deception is being practiced, but to take part with him, as it were, in the service.

And once more Israel is to appear as the Israel of old in happier times, undivided in nationality as in allegiance to Jehovah. This was the meaning of his restoring the broken place of former pious worship by rolling to it twelve of the large pieces of rock that have strewed the ground, according to the number of the tribes. And as he builds the altar, he consecrates it by prayer: “in the name of Jehovah.” Next, the soft crumbling calcareous soil around the altar are dug into a deep and wide trench. Then the wood, and upon it the pieces of the sacrifice are laid in due order. And now, at the prophet’s bidding, willing hands fill the pitchers from the well close by. Once, twice, thrice he pours the water over the sacrifices, till it runs down into the trench, which he also fills.

This, as we suppose, was not merely to show the more clearly that the fire, which consumes the sacrifice in such circumstances, is sent from heaven, but also for symbolic reasons, as if to indicate that Israel’s penitent confession is being poured upon the offering. And now a solemn silence falls upon the assembly. The sun is going down, a globe of fire behind Mount Carmel, and it covers the mountain with a purple glow. It is time for the evening sacrifice.

mt carmel elijahBut Jehovah, not Elijah, would do this miracle; the Hand of the living God Himself must be stretched out. Once more it was prayer which moved that Hand. Such prayer was not heard before –so calm, so earnest, so majestic, so assured, so strong. Elijah appeared in it as only the servant of Jehovah, and all that he had previously done was only at His Word: but Jehovah was the Covenant-God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, manifesting Himself as of old as the Living and True, as Elohim in Israel: the conversion of Israel to Him as their God being the great object sought for…

He had said it as when first the Tabernacle was consecrated (Lev. 9: 24),or as when King Solomon (1 Chron. 21:26; 2 Chron. 7: 1) brought the first offering in the temple which he had reared to Jehovah, so now the fire of Jehovah leaps from heaven, consuming the sacrifice and the wood, wrapping and burning up the limestone rocks of which the altar was constructed, and with burning tongues lick up even the water that was in the trench. One moment of solemn silence, when all who has seen it falls in awe-stricken worship on their faces; then a shout which seems to rend the very air, and finds its echo far and wide in the glens and clefts of Carmel: “Jehovah, He the Elohim! Jehovah, He the Elohim!”

And so Israel is once more converted unto God. And now, in accordance with the Divine command in the Law (Deut. 13:13 ; 17:2, etc.), stern judgment must be executed on the idolaters and seducers; the idol-priests. The victory that day must be complete; the renunciation of Baal-worship beyond recall. Not one of the priests of Baal must escape. Down the steep mountain sides they hurried them, casting them over precipices, some fourteen hundred feet to the river Kishon, which is reddened with their blood. –But up on the mountain-top lingers King Ahab, astonished, speechless, himself for the time a convert to Jehovah. He also is to share in the sacrifice; he also is to eat the sacrificial meal. But it must be in haste, for already Elijah hears the sighing and low moaning of the wind in the forests of Carmel.

Elijah, himself takes no part in the feast. He has other bread to eat that they know not. He has climbed the topmost height of Carmel and out of sight of the king. None has accompanies him save his servant, whom tradition declares to be that son of the widow of Sarepta who was miraculously restored to life. A most fitting minister, indeed, he would be in that hour.

Once more it was agonizing prayer –not once, but seven times repeated. At each break, the faithful attendant climbs the highest knoll, and looks earnestly and anxiously over the broad expanse of the sea, which is there before him, glittering in full view. At last it comes –a cloud, as yet not bigger than a man’s hand.

But when God begins to hear a prayer, He will hear it abundantly; when He gives his blessing, it will be without stint. Ahab must be up, and quick in his chariot, or the rain, which will descend in floods, will clog the hard ground, so that his chariot would find it difficult to traverse the six miles across the plain to the palace of Jezreel. And now as the foot of the mountain is reached, the heaven is black with clouds, the wind moans fitfully, and the rain now comes in torrents.

But the power of Jehovah was upon the Tishbite. He girds up his loins and runs before the chariot of Ahab. On such a day he hesitates not to act as outrunner to this convert-king; nay, he would himself be the harbinger of the news to Jezreel. Up to the entrance of Jezreel he heralds them; to the very gate of Jezebel’s palace he goes before them, like the warning voice of God, ere Ahab again encounters his tempter.

But there the two must part company, and the king of Israel must henceforth decide for himself to whom he will cleave, whether to Jehovah or to the god of Jezebel.

———————————————————

Taken from, THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH FROM THE REIGN OF AHAB TO THE DECLINE OF THE TWO KINGDOMS.
Written by, Alfred Edersheim, M.A., D.D., Phd.
Edited for thought and sense

———————————————————

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Alfred Edersheim (March 7, 1825 – March 16, 1889) was a Jewish convert to Christianity and a Biblical scholar known especially for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). 

Edersheim was born in Vienna of Jewish parents of culture and wealth. English was spoken in their home, and he became fluent at an early age. He was educated at a local gymnasium and also in the Talmud and Torah at a Hebrew school, and in 1841 he entered the University of Vienna. His father suffered illness and financial reversals before Alfred could complete his university education, and he had to support himself.

He converted to Christianity in Pest when he came under the influence of John Duncan, a Church of Scotland chaplain to workmen engaged in constructing a bridge over the Danube. Edersheim accompanied Duncan on his return to Scotland and studied theology at New College, Edinburgh and at the University of Berlin. In 1846 Alfred was married to Mary Broomfield. They had seven children. In the same year he was ordained to the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland. He was a missionary to the Jews at Iaşi, Romania for a year.

On his return to Scotland, after preaching for a time in Aberdeen, Edersheim was appointed in 1849 to minister at the Free Church, Old Aberdeen. In 1861 health problems forced him to resign and the Church of St. Andrew was built for him at Torquay. In 1872 Edersheim’s health again obliged him to retire, and for four years he lived quietly at Bournemouth. In 1875 he was ordained in the Church of England, and was Curate of the Abbey Church, Christchurch, Hants, for a year, and from 1876 to 1882 Vicar of Loders, Bridport, Dorset. He was appointed to the post of Warburtonian Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn 1880-84. In 1882 he resigned and relocated to Oxford. He was Select Preacher to the University 1884-85 and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1886-88 and 1888-89.

Edersheim died at Menton, France, on March 16, 1889.

A Son’s promise honored, and God’s return promise fulfilled.

There was once a story about how the Rev. Joseph Wolff upon his arrival in Mesopotamia, was pointed to one of the ancient Rechabites by some of the Jews he saw there.

Davenport_1_35806_smHe stood before me, wild, like an Arab holding the bridle of his horse in his hand.

I showed him the Bible in Hebrew and Arabic, which he was much rejoiced to see, as he could read both languages, but had no knowledge of the New Testament. After having proclaimed to him the tidings of salvation, and made him a present of the Hebrew and Arabic Bibles and Testaments, I asked him,—” Whose descendant are you?”

“Mousa,” said he, “is my name, and I will show you who were my ancestors;” upon which he immediately began to read from the fifth to the eleventh verse of Jeremiah 35.

“Where do you reside?” said I.

Turning to Genesis 10. 27, he replied, “At Hadoram, now called Simar by the Arabs: at Uzal, now called Sanan by the Arabs;” and again referring to the same chapter, verse 30, he continued, “At Mesha, now called Mecca, in the deserts around those places. We drink no wine, and plant no vineyard, and sow no seed; and live in tents, as Jonadab, our father, commanded us: Hobab was our father too. Come to us, and you will find us sixty thousand in number; and you see thus the prophecy has been fulfilled,” ‘Therefore, thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me forever;'” and saying this, Mousa, the Rechabite, mounted his horse and fled away, and left behind a host of evidence in favor of sacred writ.
————————–
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Joseph Wolff (1795 – 2 May 1862), Jewish Christian missionary, was born at Weilersbach, near Bamberg, Germany. He travelled widely, and was known as the Eccentric Missionary, according to Fitzroy Maclean’s Eastern Approaches. He published several journals of his expeditions, especially Travels and Adventures of Joseph Wolff (2 vols, London, 1860).

Wolff’s father David Wolff (b. 1760), by 1790 rabbi in Weilersbach, then in KissingenHalle upon Saale und Uehlfeld, served as rabbi in Jebenhausen,Württemberg between 1804 and 1807, and sent his son to the Lutheran lyceum at Stuttgart.  He was converted to Christianity through reading the books ofJohann Michael von Sailerbishop of Regensburg, and was baptized in 1812 by the Benedictine abbot of Emaus, near Prague. In his writings the following story is told of his early conviction that Jesus is the Messiah:

When only seven years old, he was boasting to an aged Christian neighbor of the future triumph of Israel at the advent of the Messiah, when the old man said kindly, “Dear boy, I will tell you who the real Messiah was: he was Jesus of Nazareth, whom your ancestors crucified, as they slew the prophets of old. Go home and read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and you will be convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Conviction at once fastened upon him. He went home and read the scripture, wondering to see how perfectly it had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Were the words of the Christian true? The boy asked of his father an explanation of the prophecy, but was met with a silence so stern that he never again dared to refer to the subject. This however only increased his desire to know more of the Christian religion.

In 1821 he began his missionary wanderings in the East by visiting Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Mesopotamia, Persia, Georgia and the Crimea. He returned to England in 1826.

In 1828 Wolff set out to search for the Lost Tribes of Israel, travelling through Anatolia, Armenia, Turkestan and Afghanistan to Simla and Calcutta, suffering many hardships but preaching with enthusiasm. He visited Madras, Pondicherry, Tinnevelly, Goa and Bombay, travelling home by Egypt and Malta.

In 1836 he found Samuel Gobat in Ethiopia, took him to Jeddah, and himself visited Yemen and Bombay, going on to the United States, where he was ordained deacon on 26 September 1837 at Newark, New Jersey. Trinity College Dublin awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Laws. He was ordained Anglican priest in 1838 by Richard Mant, Bishop of Down and Connor. In the same year he was given the rectory of Linthwaite in Yorkshire.

In his travels in Bukhara he found the doctrine of the Lord’s soon coming held by a remote and isolated people. The Arabs of Yemen, he says, “are in possession of a book called ‘Seera,’ which gives notice of the coming of Christ and His reign in glory, and they expect great events to take place in the year 1840.” “In Yemen I spent six days with the Rechabites. They drink no wine, plant no vineyards, sow no seed, live in tents, and remember the words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab. With them were the children of Israel of the tribe of Dan, . . . who expect, in common with the children of Rechab, the speedy arrival of the Messiah in the clouds of heaven.”

In 1843 Wolff went to Bukhara (home of the Bukharan Jews) to seek two British officers, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart and Captain Arthur Conolly who had been captured by the Emir, Nasrullah Khan in June 1842. They had in fact been executed, and as Wolff later described, he was only spared death himself because the Emir laughed uncontrollably at Wolff’s appearance in full canonical garb. His Narrative of this mission went through seven editions between 1845 and 1852. This trip was retraced in 1938 by Fitzroy Maclean, then a junior diplomat travelling incognito. He wrote of Wolff in his memoir Eastern Approaches and almost fifty years later contributed a foreword to a biography of the missionary.