In this chapter, Benjamin delves deep into the guilt he felt from what slavery forced upon him – service first to decadent priests of a foreign god, then to Israel’s King Jeroboam II. The chapter offers very personal inflection, based on historical precedent.
Many archival accounts and archeological finds tell of ancient worship rituals that employed animal and human bloodletting, prostitution, exploitation, and other practices. The Hebrew faith embraced animal sacrifices and rejected the rest, condemning human fertility rites, infanticide, and other abhorred elements of religions practiced by other peoples in the promised lands.
While the Bible shares very little background about Jeroboam II, limited archeological finds offer some evidence for Israel’s economic and military success under his reign, as described in 2nd Kings 14:25. Analysts usually date his 40-year reign in two ranges: either around 793 to 753 BC or 786 to 746 BC. Historians also identified physical evidence that supports the condemnation of Jeroboam in those verses (and other biblical sources, such as the Old Testament book of Amos) for doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
That phrase, which appears more than 50 times in the Old Testament, usually refers to how individual Hebrew kings (or the people in general) rejected the Lord and participated in one or more worship practices adopted from neighboring cultures. For insight on this, read the books of Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, and Hosea.
These trends could support why Benjamin fears the king intends to exploit him in some form of debauchery – ideas fueled by taunts, insinuations, and innuendo from other attendants to Jeroboam. Notice Benjamin offers no direct evidence to support this – just fears from what he heard. Have you been the target of such rumors, or seen people who panicked over such gossip? How often did those fears or concerns prove true?
Benjamin admits to getting caught up in the romance and spotlight of serving at the king’s side. Have you experienced similar pride from working around people of perceived fame or power?
Upon learning Jonah’s identity, Benjamin marvels that their debate did not draw the Dove’s anger. Do you struggle to keep your temper in check when someone challenges your statements? If so, how do you handle this?
Benjamin tells Jonah how life as a slave never allowed him to build friendships. Many people today share similar problems, their lives enslaved by work, excessive habits, overspending, pride and vanity, unexpected hardships, divorce, poor self-esteem, loneliness, and many other factors. Do you suffer from such problems? How do you deal with them?