The Influence of Wicked and Righteous Leaders
1 Kings 12–14; 2 Chronicles 17; 20
LDS manual: here
Jeroboam and Rehoboam
This reading is taken up with the machinations of two of Solomon’s successors, his son Rehoboam, and Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s trusted men. Before you ask: no, -boam was not some sort of common additive on kids’ names, like -ayden is today. No, Jeroboam’s name might have meant ‘he increases the people‘, and Rehoboam’s name might have meant ‘he who enlarges the people‘. While similar, these names have an important distinction: Jeroboam wanted to make more people, while Rehoboam just wanted to make the existing people larger through better nutrition and so on. Jeroboam’s strategy would appear to have the better one; he soon found himself at the head of ten tribes, while Rehoboam’s tribes would dwindle down to two, probably because of lack of exercise, sex, and so on.
But we’re getting ahead of the story. In the last lesson, we saw that Jehovah/Jesus was going to punish Solomon for relaxing Israel’s monotheism and allowing religious pluralism — in other words, for being a generally tolerant guy. The punishment would be the dissolution of Israel, and it would be carried out some time after Solomon’s death.
1 Kings 11:11 Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.
11:12 Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.
Solomon must have been like, “Oh, no, God’s going to fracture my kingdom. Wait — after I’m dead? That’s great! We don’t even have a coherent concept of the afterlife yet!”
No, this would take place after Solomon’s death, thus continuing the tradition of punishing children for the sins of their fathers.
As our story begins, Jeroboam is hiding out in Egypt after trying (and failing) to become king of the ten northern tribes of Israel. He becomes part of a coalition to petition king Rehoboam for better conditions.
1 Kings 12:3 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,
12:4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
12:5 And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.
Rehoboam asks the smart old guys what to do, and they say: Be nice.
12:6 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?
12:7 And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
Wow — is the Bible encouraging leaders to be nice? This is a change.
He then asks the young dudes of his generation what to do, and their answer is: Be a dick.
12:8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
12:9 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?
12:10 And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.
If loins means what I think it means, this just became a big dick contest.
1 Kings 12:11 And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
“How about scorpions? Does scorpions sound okay with you?”
So Israel rebels. The rival Jeroboam becomes leader of Israel to the north, leaving Rehoboam to be king of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) to the south.
Interestingly, Jeroboam makes a break with monotheism by setting up golden calves. Israel loved those golden calves, you know.
1 Kings 12:26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:
12:27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.
12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
12:29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.
12:30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
The prophet who was tricked by a prophet
God’s up to his old tricks again. He’s commanded a “man of God” to tell Jeroboam off. He does so by talking to the altar.
1 Kings 13:1 And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense
13:2 And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.
13:3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
Steve Wells points out that God must be okay with some kinds of human sacrifice.
Jeroboam doesn’t like this, so he stretches out his hand — and God dries it up.
1 Kings 13:4 And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.
13:5 The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.
“Aaaah!” says Jeroboam. “Put it back!” So he does.
13:6 And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.
Jeroboam thinks this is a neat trick, so he invites the guy over for drinks.
13:7 And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
No dice, says the man of God. God told him not to eat or drink anything.
13:8 And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
13:9 For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.
13:10 So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.
Then, another prophet comes and makes the same offer.
13:11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
13:14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
13:15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
And again, “Nope, I’m not supposed to eat or drink.”
13:16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
13:17 For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
“Oh, yeah? Well, I’m a prophet too, and an angel told me to give you some dinner.”
13:18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
“Oh, you’re a prophet? That changes everything. Sure, let’s eat.”
13:19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
So Jehovah/Jesus killed him, with the help of a hungry lion.
13:20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back:
13:21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee,
13:22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.
13:23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
13:24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
The moral of the story: You can’t always trust prophets, which is probably the best lesson we could take from the Old Testament.
Rehoboam, for his part, is having his own problems. He’s fighting wars with the forces of Jeroboam, and soon Shishak (the pharaoh of Egypt who once protected Jeroboam, remember) is going to start his own offensive soon. What’s the problem? Sodomites!
1 Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
But David’s son Asa is going to fix that right up.
15:11 And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father.
15:12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
At this stage, I get the feeling that the Bible writer is just pulling ideas out of a hat. Every time something bad happens, he comes up with some arbitrary cause. Israel in tatters? Solomon’s idolatry. Israel lost a battle? Must be the sodomites.
Modern Christians follow Asa’s example by blaming gay people for all kinds of things.
God kills more children
Remember the city of Jericho? Joshua and friends were supposed to have destroyed with place with trumpets of sonic destruction. At the time, Joshua put a curse on anyone who tried to rebuild it. The curse was that if anyone did so, God would kill his oldest son, and his youngest son.
Joshua 6:26 And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.
Well, guess what: Someone did, and sure enough, his two sons died.
1 Kings 16:34 In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Lord never forgets his promises?
We now transition to 2 Chronicles, which repeats a lot of the foregoing chapters in 1 Kings.
The real lesson manual makes a contrast between the wickedness of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, and the righteousness of Jehoshaphat, Rehoboam’s great-grandson.
Three generations after Rehoboam, his great-grandson Jehoshaphat reigned over the kingdom of Judah. How did Jehoshaphat demonstrate his personal righteousness? (See 2 Chronicles 17:3–4, 6.)
It also asks this, rather frighteningly:
How does our private devotion affect our ability to lead others?
This is code for: Vote for Mormons.
What Jehoshaphat did was tear down the groves and the high places where other people used to worship their gods. In our day, as in ancient times, religious believers were big on deforestation.
Apparently Jehoshaphat tried to “help the ungodly” once, and a seer named Jehu called him out for it: “You shouldn’t have helped the ungodly. But you tore down the groves, so God still thinks you’re pretty awesome.”
2 Chr. 19:1 And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem.
19:2 And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.
19:3 Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.
And once again, Jehovah/Jesus helps Jehoshaphat commit genocide by confusing the Moabites and the Ammonites into fighting each other. Yes, it’s that story again.
2 Chr. 20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
20:23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
No one was left alive.
20:24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.
And the takings were incredible.
20:25 And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.
Main ideas for this lesson
According to the real lesson manual, the purpose of this lesson is:
To encourage class members to develop good leadership qualities so they can influence others to live righteously.
This got me thinking about good leadership qualities. I suppose I could make a list of what I think makes a good leader, and there would be nothing special about it. But right up at the top of my list would be: A good leader leads.
That seems simple enough: A good leader leads. But as I look at the leadership of the LDS Church in my lifetime, I have to say that they’ve failed in this, in two major ways.
LDS Church leaders do not provide good moral leadership.
There have been many cases where LDS leader could have led the way in helping Latter-day Saints be better, more moral people, in particular:
- Being less racist
- Being less sexist
- Being less homophobic
These are three issues where people in society have evolved to become more moral, more caring, and more progressive. Just about everyone now agrees that being less racist is a good thing, or at least the racists now have to drop their voices a few decibels when voicing their views. Similarly, public views on the status of women and LGBT people are advancing. An all-knowing god would have foreseen that these views would be better accepted over time, and a good god would have known that these views are important for the rights and well-being of the people he created. At the very least, such a god would have figured this out at the same time as humans did generally.
And yet, the LDS Church does not take the lead on these moral issues. Society has taken the lead, and church leaders have dragged their feet. In issues of moral leadership, society — and portions of the church’s own membership — is way out in front of LDS leaders, on the order of decades. This represents a failure of moral leadership.
LDS Church leaders do not provide clear spiritual leadership.
But not only does LDS church leadership fail to provide moral leadership to the world. It also fails to lead its own people.
When I was a missionary, there was a pattern I taught people in the first discussion (paraphrasing here):
- God speaks to prophets
- The prophets report what God said
- People are invited to obey
There are a lot of stories like that in scripture, but nowadays the church exists in a kind of revelatory vacuum. You only need to look at an incident like the Great Caffeine Manifesto of 2012 to see the reluctance of LDS leaders to make any kind of official clarifying statement on even the tiniest of issues. When we ask what the LDS prophet says, the answer has to be: As little as possible.
Instead, LDS leaders send out armies of surrogates:
- Apologists — professional excuse-makers — who try to explain away the holes in LDS theology, and whose explanations can be disavowed if they seem repugnant or run afoul of reality
- PR flacks such as Ally Isom; smooth talkers who try to handle the media and muddy the issues
- and, in the Tom Phillips case, lawyers who scarcely seem to be able to get the name of the church right.
The communication of modern prophets is typified by a reluctance to say anything definite that could later be proven wrong, as you’d expect from a normal non-prophet who is not really in touch with a god. Again, the moral questions facing the world and the LDS Church would be easy for a god to sort out with revelation — revelation that never seems to come from the leaders of the church. They do not show moral leadership. They show moral lassitude.
I look at people like Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and even Carol Lynn Pearson — people who, in their way, challenge the leadership of the church to be better leaders and better people — and you know who I see? In a funny way, I see prophets (even though I’m an atheist).
Let me explain. You’ll notice that lately, in these recent readings, Israel isn’t run by a prophet. It was in the days of Moses, Joshua, and so on, but now Israel is controlled by kings, who play the part of administrators. Isn’t that how LDS Church leaders seem? They don’t prophesy — they’re businessmen, running the corporation.
Okay, so then what happens? Well, when the king screws up, then some prophet or seer or man of God — call him what you will — pops up and calls him out on it! These guys must have been everywhere! They were the moral force of Israel. And the kings would listen to them.
Can you imagine that happening in the church today? Not on your life. Today, when a moral person pops up and tells uncomfortable moral truths, the Brethren see that person as a threat. That person gets excommunicated, marginalised, and put on a watch list. Ancient Israel had a place for its seers — the people who saw clearly — but modern Israel doesn’t. No wonder they’re morally adrift.
So what kind of leadership do church leaders use? In many ways, the same as cult leaders always have.
Ask: How many of the following tactics do LDS leaders avail themselves of?
Things God is okay with
This reading has a list of things that the god of the Bible approves of.
God is okay with polygamy
2 Chr. 13:20 Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.
13:21 But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.
God is okay with killing a million people (or trying)
2 Chr. 14:8 And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that bare shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand: all these were mighty men of valour.
14:9 And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.
14:10 Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.
14:11 And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee.
14:12 So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.
God is also okay with killing non-believers
2 Chr. 15:13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
15:14 And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.
15:15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about.
But God is definitely not okay with worshipping some other god in a bunch of trees.
It’s worth repeating yet again: The god of the Bible (who is Jesus of the New Testament) is not a good god. He doesn’t care for all of his children, and he’s okay with a wide variety of acts that we now find morally abhorrent. He kills people for trivial infractions of his arbitrary commands. The one sure-fire way to piss him off is to worship someone else. This is incredibly petty, coming from someone who is supposedly secure in his dominion of the universe. If this god were real, he would not be worth worshipping. The worst person on earth is better than this being.
Additional ideas for teaching
The Bible encourages people not to go to doctors
King Asa has a foot problem, and — would you believe it — he tries to fix it by going to doctors! He should have “sought to the Lord.”
2 Chr. 16:12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.
We know now, however, that taking an illness to the Lord is a good way to die. We’ve seen many recent cases where parents have sacrificed their children to faith healing. Many children have died of treatable causes because their parents did nothing but pray.
Faith healing doesn’t work, of course. Otherwise, doctors would use it.
God tells Jeroboam:
1 Kings 14:10 Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall,
Presumably this refers to males, but I always pee sitting down for this very reason.
And I stay away from walls.