Saturday, May 3, 2014

Adonai-bezek and the Law of the Harvest


And Judah went up; and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.
And they found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.
And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died. (Judges 1:4-7)

This is kind of a gruesome story, but it is also instructive, so we can see why it was recorded.  At the bottom of it we see the Canaanite king, this fellow Adonai-bezek, announcing that the suffering inflicted upon him is exactly what he deserves.  Even more, he sees the hand of the Lord in it, as the reward according to what he had done to others. 

The sad thing is that he waited too late to see the Lord behind things.  He could only see the Lord in the penalty; he was too hard-hearted to see the Lord in whatever warnings came his way, as they would.  The Lord allowed the thing that Adonai-bezek inflicted upon other conquered kings to come upon him.

Adonai-bezek thinks it was just.  But was it really?  It we look at Adonai-bezek’s case in terms of the Law of Moses eye-for-an-eye ethic, what was done to him was far less than he deserved.  He cut off the thumbs and big toes of 70 kings and he didn’t have enough digits for this to be revisited upon him.  Moreover, there were all the atrocities he committed in connection with the conquering of those kings, which, judging from those mutilations, would not have been as simple as just killing people. 

In short, Adonai-bezek thought God’s justice had been satisfied merely with his mutilation, but it was very far from being satisfied.  It was just Adonai-bezek’s idea of justice he was talking about, and even then he ignored those demands for a very long time.  If that is a king’s idea of justice, what kind of idea do we get about what his society was like?

In terms of justice, Adonai-bezek should have been executed.  And in fact, Israel had been commanded to kill all the Canaanites and Perizzites (and six other peoples in the land) but they disobeyed by sparing his life and mutilating him instead. 

I think a warning principle from this story that we can apply to ourselves is we do not feel the full extent of God’s justice for our sins in this life.  Like Adonai-bezek we may be punished a little bit and think we have experienced justice, but in actuality the full and very terrible weight is waiting for us on the other side.  If we all were given what we deserve right now, we would all perish because we have all sinned.   But our life is prolonged to give us a chance to choose to repent and have faith in Christ and follow him.