The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Saul is gifted and well-accepted by the people, but he proves unacceptable to God. Samuel then anoints David. Now there are two anointed kings of Israel at once! 1 Sam 16 - 2 Sam 5 (you don't have to read all of these chapters unless you want to) tell the story of Saul's pursuit of David, David's increasing favor with everyone, even with Saul's own children, Saul's eventual death in battle against the Philistines, the death of Saul's last heir, and David's acceptance as king by all of Israel. <<


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Read 2 Sam 7:1-17. This passage was interpreted by the Jewish people as

a.   a false glorification of kingship over the former times when judges ruled.
b.   a perpetual covenant made between the LORD and king David and his sons.
c.   of little significance in the life and history of the people of Israel.

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Read 2 Sam 7:18-29. The Catholic Church [CCC 2579] sees this passage as

a.   a model of prayer.
b.   important to Jews alone.
c.   of no importance.

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The destruction of Jerusalem and the Exile in Babylon caused the Jewish people to reflect more deeply on the promises God made to them, including the promise he made to David, of an everlasting kingship. (After the Exile, Israel no longer was ruled by its own king descended from David).

The Catholic Church professes that the Old Testament has a history in which God gradually reveals the fuller meaning of his promise to David of a kingdom as a promise of a universal kingdom for all men. This universal kingdom, secure forever, is the New Covenant, the union of Christ and his Church.

Jesus is the ''King of the Jews'' [read Mark 15:26], from the tribe of Judah and a true son of David [read Mathew 1:1], the King who from the Cross establishes the kingdom of the New Covenant in his blood. <<

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In spite of his success and wealth, David does what is displeasing to God. He has sexual relations with Bathsheba, the wife of his general Uriah, gets her pregnant, and arranges for Uriah to be killed in battle. The prophet Nathan is sent to show David his sins. Read 2 Sam 11-12:25. David does repent, and thus re-confirms his faithfulness to God. However, are there still consequences to David's sins against God? Solomon, we know, does grow up to be king. What does the rest of Second Samuel tell about two of David's sons, the half-brothers Amnon and Absalom?

a.   Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, Absalom kills Amnon in a revenge-killing, then plots against David until Absalom is killed in battle.
b.   Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, Absalom kills Amnon in a revenge-killing, then succeeds David until Solomon is ready to assume the throne.
c.   Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, Amnon peacefully assumes the throne from David, followed by Absalom, who is followed by Solomon.

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Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy || Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel >> 1 Kings 2 Kings << || 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah || Tobit* Judith* Esther 1 Maccabees* 2 Maccabees* Job


Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Songs Wisdom* Sirach* || Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch* Ezekiel Daniel || Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi

The Old Testament books with a star * are not any more or less important than the others. The star indicates that the Catholic Church definitively professes and knows these books to be part of the sacred writings, the inspired Word of God [cf. CCC 120], but that they are specifically rejected by the Jewish people, and called ''apocryphal'' (of doubtful inspiration) by Protestants.

First and Second Kings completes the series of books called by modern scholars the ''Deuteronomistic History'': Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. They say these six books, as they hand on ancient traditions between the death of Moses and the beginning of the exile, weave into their account a common theological viewpoint, the same one as in Deuteronomy. According to most modern scholars, what is this common theme that runs like a thread through these six books?

a.   Faithfulness to the LORD leads to well-being and success; unfaithfulness to him leads to punishment and ruin.
b.   Having more than one wife is a great offense against the LORD; it must be stopped or punishment will follow.
c.   The LORD forbids the taking of slaves and the slaughtering of prisoners in battle; he will punish transgressors.

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Read 1 Kings 2:1-4. On his deathbed David tells Solomon

a.   that he should be clever enough not to oppress the people as he rules.
b.   that if he is faithfully obedient to the LORD his kingdom will continue.
c.   to slaughter anyone who has transgressed against the law of God.

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Read a famous passage, 1 Kings 3:1-28. For ages to come, Solomon was renowned for his great

a.   power.
b.   wealth.
c.   wisdom.

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Read 1 Kings 11:1-13. Solomon is unfaithful to the LORD

a.   by having many wives.
b.   by overtaxing the people.
c.   by worshiping false gods.

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1 Kings 12:1-20 records the split of the kingdom into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Read 1 Kings 12:1-20. Knowing what you know about the thinking of the writers of 1 and 2 Kings, what is the ultimate reason for this split?

a.   Jeroboam was clever and resourceful.
b.   Rehoboam was inept and greedy.
c.   Solomon had been unfaithful to the LORD.

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According to the basic message of 1 and 2 Kings, unfaithfulness to the LORD would inevitably lead to a short life for the king and ruin for the kingdom. Also according to 1 and 2 Kings, all the kings of Israel (the northern kingdom) did what is evil in the sight of the LORD and thus suffered the consequences of their infidelity. Read 1 Kings 15:33. Baasha reigned as king of Israel for twenty-four years and was able to hand on his kingdom to his son. According to most scholars, is this completely consistent with the message conveyed by the writers of 1 and 2 Kings?

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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Many modern scholars note that 1 and 2 Kings is a history written by those who already know the fates of both the northern and the southern kingdoms. Unlike the kings of Judah, who (more or less) were able to maintain a continuous succession of kings each able to trace his lineage back to the house of David, the kings of Israel often succeeded each other through murder, and were not able to maintain a consistent family dynastic line (a house).

For example, read 1 Kings 16:8-13. Baasha's son is murdered after two years as king, and the house of Baasha is ended. Also of course, the northern kingdom was completely destroyed over a hundred years before the Exile, which the writers of 1 and 2 Kings also knew.

So, the sacred author of 1 and 2 Kings may not even have cared that Baasha himself seems to have had a very successful reign in human terms, and died knowing that his son would continue the line. The point may have been the general fate of the northern kingdom.

On the other hand, 1 and 2 Kings may be taking the attitude that Baasha was literally if only eventually punished for his own sins by what befell his son. Many scholars think that this second alternative, the ''literal punishment'' idea, was at least part of the sacred author's intended meaning. >>

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1 and 2 Kings certainly takes the attitude: faithfulness = good things happen; unfaithfulness = bad things happen. Is that the Catholic position? Given that the most innocent, sinless, and faithful man who will ever live died horribly on the Cross, the attitude taken by 1 and 2 Kings can only be seen by Catholics as one stage on the journey toward understanding the mystery and the consequences of sin, understanding that can only be complete with reference to Christ himself. [CCC 388]
So, what really happens to those who turn away from God? Catholics can look to the Fall for the true answer. Our first parents showed us exactly what the truth is. You really are free. You are not forced to move closer to Christ. You really can move away from him.

If moving farther from Christ is what you really want to do, then you really will get exactly what you want. <<

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If you are faithful to Christ your whole life,

a.   nothing painful or bad will ever happen to you.
b.   you will have a long life and much happiness.
c.   you will have intimate union with him forever.

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Read 2 Kings 18:1-8. Knowing what you know about the basic message conveyed by 1 and 2 Kings, what do you think is going to happen to Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah during his reign?

a.   It will never become clear what happened.
b.   The LORD will preserve his people from all harm.
c.   The LORD will punish his people's unfaithfulness.

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Read 2 Kings 18:9-12. During Hezekiah's reign, what happens to the northern kingdom of Samaria?

a.   It achieves a remarkable resurgence.
b.   It defeats the Assyrian army.
c.   It is destroyed by the Assyrians.

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The Rabshakeh is a leader of Assyria under king Sennacherib. Read 2 Kings 18:28-37. What does the Rabshakeh say to Hezekiah's kingdom of Judah?

a.   Hezekiah has no real trust in the LORD.
b.   Hezekiah's trust in the LORD is misplaced.
c.   Hezekiah's trust in the LORD will be rewarded.

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Hezekiah seeks consolation from the prophet Isaiah. Read 2 Kings 19:14-37. What happens?

a.   The Assyrian army is slain by the LORD and retreats.
b.   The Assyrian army lays siege to Jerusalem and captures it.
c.   The king of Assyria is used by the LORD to punish Judah.

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Josiah purifies and restores the temple desecrated by his predecessor, and the book of the law is found. On reading it, Josiah wonders: does the law of our fathers call down upon us a blessing, or curse us because we have strayed so far from the holiness of faithful obedience that it calls us to? Josiah calls on the prophetess Huldah to interpret. Her response: the law will be both blessing and curse. Read 2 Kings 22-23:1-27.

Read 2 Kings 24-25. Now re-read 2 Kings 25:27-30. It was an ancient custom for a new king to grant amnesty to prisoners. It is historically possible that Jehoiachin was actually released by the new king of Babylon. Some commentators see this ending to 1 and 2 Kings as a glint of hope - the house of David had not quite been snuffed out, and in fact is honored. The Catholic Church looks at Jesus and sees the complete fulfillment and completion of the promise God made to the house of David. <<

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The books

First and Second Chronicles

are often thought of as a unit because

a.   they give the history of the people of Israel after Moses's death until the Exile.
b.   they give the history of the people of Israel from Abraham to Moses's death.
c.   they trace Israel's history from King David until the rebuilding of the Temple.

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copyright (c) 2001 John Kelleher. All rights reserved.