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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ahab's arrow

I recently began a series (don't know how long it will be -- I'll leave that up to chance) on whether anything really really really is due to chance, as opposed to directed by God. I'm not expecting to give a definitive answer to this question. Better minds than mine have failed to do this. Here's the first post. In it, I pointed out two uses of the word chance in the Bible.

There is only one occurrence of the word, random, in the Bible, or, rather, it occurs twice, in two places, as the same story is told in two of the historical books of the Old Testament. Here's one of them:

1 Kings 22:34 But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” (ESV -- the wording of 2 Chronicles 18:33 is identical.) There is a note at random, which says that the original Hebrew literally says "drew his bow in his innocence." The NIV also uses random here, in both books, but without a text note.

The story is this. Micaiah, God's prophet, told wicked King Ahab that he would die in battle. Ahab disguised himself so that he wouldn't be recognized. The man mentioned in the verse shot Ahab. He was propped up in his chariot for some time, and the battle continued, but he died of the wound.

Did the bowman have a choice in this matter? Was what he did really random? At least two versions of the Bible use the word, random, here, as I have pointed out, which implies that there is at least a weak case that the bowman did, indeed, act on his own. Here are the possibilities, as I see them. (I'm excluding another possibility, namely that this event never happened.)

1) The bowman had no real choice in the matter. God directed him, presumably without the bowman being aware of it.
2) The bowman had a choice. God is outside of time, so knew in advance that the bowman would choose to fire, and would hit Ahab, but didn't make him do it.
3) The bowman had a choice, and God, if you please, just got lucky in predicting that Ahab would die. I don't seriously believe this one, but listed it for completeness.

Now, if 1) is true, random wouldn't seem to be the right word in scripture. I know, maybe it isn't the right word, but over and over again, people in the Bible seem to have had real choices, so why not this bowman? Joshua told the Israelites to choose whom they would serve, for example. Solomon seems to have chosen to stray from worshipping God. The inhabitants of Nineveh seem to have chosen to repent, when they didn't have to. Ananias and Sapphira chose to lie to the church, or at least it sounds like they did.

If 2) is true, what would God have done if the bowman chose not to fire? Did He have a backup plan? The Bible says that Bezalel and Oholiab were given skill so that they could work on the tabernacle. It even says that Pharaoh was raised up so that God's glory could be shown when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, which doesn't sound like he had a choice in the matter.

I am, of course, musing on predestination and foreknowledge, which are knotty ideas. I don't have an answer to my own questions on this. Some people do, but they don't agree with each other. God knows.

Thanks for reading. Did you just happen to read this? Were you predestined to? Did you choose to? Let me know.


Anonymous said...

While I do have some reservations about the whole concept of theological predestination, I do believe God might have given me the desire to read your blog since God knows this is a topic of interest to me which I also believe He has given me the desire to study. Could I have resisted God and NOT read your blog? Perhaps...but I will never know since I didn't resist God and I DID read your blog...:)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. That's more or less why I posted on this topic (I think). . .

B Nettles said...

I believe there is a 4th option. Other locations of the Hebrew word are Job 21:23, 2 Sam. 15:11, Gen 20:5-6, Prov 13:6, Ps. 25:21. In those situations the context indicates integrity in the action being taken. That is absence of malice and guile.

God directed the arrow of the bowman (who would have been shooting arrows because that was his job--acting in integrity) to strike Ahab and mortally wound him. The passage also points out that it was a single shot from a single bowman, not a massive onslaught of arrows. Now the question becomes whether God influenced the arrow (by "arrowdynamics"--how's that for a BAD physics pun), or influenced the shot all the way back to the structure of the arrow, the bow, the location of the the bowman, etc. The bottom line: God directed that Ahab would die in battle. Nothing Ahab did would have prevented that.

Martin LaBar said...

June 27, 2008.

Thanks, B. Nettles!

I'm on hiatus, but I'll check out that Hebrew word when I have time.

That's two comments from you that require further study on my part. Splendid.