In the first five verses of the chapter, we are three generations removed from Jared and his brother. That’s all it took for their children to be brought into captivity. It was the king who was brought into captivity. Perhaps this is why everyone except Orihah rejected the opportunity to be king, because there was an understanding that this curse would come upon the posterity of the king? And though Orihah spent his lifetime in executing his office in righteousness, it only took two generations after him (really just one) for rebellion to settle in.
There is not a lot of interaction in these verse between the Lord and those featured in these records. There is a verse that states the Lord sent prophets among the people to cry repentance. I find it curious that the king enacted laws to protect the prophets so that they could teach the people.
I have been praying about this particular chapter and am anticipating the upcoming chapters, and am wrestling with why this is important to me now.
The order of the kings that reigned area as follows:
- Orihah – credited with executing judgment in righteousness all his days.
- Kib – taken into captivity by his own son, Corihor.
- Shule – restores kingdom to his father, and is subsequently appointed as king. Also credited with executing judgment in righteousness.
It is hard to understand the depth and development of a people with such a cursory overview. But this account does point out one universal similarity, and I think this is why this included here: “The people were brought unto repentance.”
How? Through prophets which came “prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land…” Their success was secured through the king “executing judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.”
(There is more for me to internalize/digest in verses 25-26. What assumptions about these records am I making that make the Lord look transactional? Does this not really mean that the people began to progress again in that they repented?)
My thoughts go in couple of different directions this morning as I contemplate, and have contemplated now for several days these accounts of the affairs of the kings and their family power struggles. The question in my head though is this: does God preserve a nation because of the righteousness of the king or because of the righteousness of the people over whom the king governs?
And the immediate answer that comes to mind is the dialog between the Lord and Abraham concerning the righteous inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorah:
23 ¶ And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?Genesis 18:23-33
32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
During the reign of Shule, there came prophets among the people. Some of the people reviled against the prophets and mocked them. Shule responded by executing judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.
I am intentionally paying very close attention to the wording that is being used and the assumptions that I am interpreting from what is written. What kind of judgments? It is not described. Was this verbal warnings, monetary fines, imprisonment? Was it not a penalty or punishment, but some other type of judgment? It doesn’t say that the people were punished, but rather that judgment was executed against those who did revile the prophets.
This judgment, whatever its nature, cleared the way that the prophets had access “go whithersoever they would; and by this cause the people were brought unto repentance.” (vs. 25, emphasis added.)
At the end of my studies yesterday, I solicited my wife’s interpretation (which tends to be less justice/penalty oriented) on the phrase “execute judgement”. Another way of looking at this which leaves nothing hidden is to replace the word “judgment” with the word “decision.” And the word “execute,” aside from being associated with the death penalty in modern, American society, simply means “to carry out or put into effect”.
So we might safely say that a possible meaning of the latter end of verse 24 is simply “that king Shule did [put into effect a decision] against all those who did revile against the prophets.” And what was the decision? “He executed [or carried out] a law throughout all the land, which gave power unto the prophets that they should go whithersoever they would.”
I appreciate this because there is thence forth nothing mysterious about what kind of judgment King Shule executed against the reviler of the prophets. He simply enacted a law that gave free speech to the prophets. That’s all he had to do, and consequently repentance was brought unto the people and peace was restored to the land.
And as a secondary point of validation on “execute judgment”, the translation in to Spanish is thus: “sometió a juicio”. It means to be put on trial, but it also literally means to submit or subject to judgment. The word “execute” and its harsh interpretation that I brought with it is no where to be found in the translation.
In the last verse of the chapter, King Shule is accredited with having no more wars during the remainder of his days, remembering “the great things the Lord had done for their fathers,” and again (at it is listed here a consequence of his capacity to remember), “executing judgment in righteousness all his days.”
This is a echo to both President Hinckley from my childhood who spoke often about the pioneers and their struggles, and also the words of Alma the Younger in Alma 5 (vs. 3-13) who spoke of the conversion of their parents just one generation earlier.