Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And so it fell out unto him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died.
King James Bible Kings II Chapter 7

If you want to read the story of which the above is the punch line, follow the little red link. It's a quick, easy read of about twenty verses. One of my Gideons Bibles says measures of such and such shall be sold for so many pieces of silver- the other that seahs ... shall be sold. So in this case, a measure is 6.659274893 dry quarts. I don't know which of the two printings is older, but I would expect that modernity demands something more specific than a measure. The printing which uses seahs also changes a lord into an officer, and takes some of the starch out of the writing by removing medieval turns of phrase of the sort which gladden a heart like mine. Don't ask me why- I just like the baby talk; I was pleased to find that the Gideons Bible website still uses the older, and more pleasingly archaic, text. The only reason I read this story at all was because the final sentence as printed above caught my eye and my fancy. But that's not what I want to talk about.

First, it seems that not only were the food and goods taken from the Syrians in this God-assisted victory to be sold to a famine-stricken people, presumably by their own king, but the prices for this wicked gouging were set by God. If that doesn't make you think about religion in general and the God of Moses in particular, you ain't thinking. Then there's the matter of murder. The sassy- and worse, doubting- lord (in the feudal sense, I suppose) or officer in the service of the king of Israel who gets trampled in the gate by the people has been cursed by God (through Elisha) for sneering at something- perhaps the pricing scheme? which is never specified, except by inference- and then sent by the king to die in a food riot. Was the king innocent of murder, though guilty of profiteering and price fixing? I don't know, I wasn't there. Now, unless the cursed man happened to be right that there was something fishy (and not in the good sense) about this deal, why would the people riot? Could it be that the people were a little fed up with starvation and didn't feel like giving up their silver pieces to pay for famine relief the king was getting for nothing from God? Further, though they might not have known it, there was also plenty of gold and silver right there in the abandoned Syrian camp, and therefore little or no need to charge the people for what a king should give to his people freely. Yes, I think this is a story about corruption trickling down from on high, since it is nigh inconceivable that anything could trickle heavenward from Earth.

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