They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek and fought against him, and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to gather up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me.” So they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there. (Judges 1:5-7 NASB)
History is one of those fields of study that vainly attempts a scientific approach, but which always fails to avoid a good story. After all, it’s the story of a culture that is the object of any anthropological study. Unfortunately, people can be distracted by the details and miss the point. I think that’s what happens way too often to this story.
Adoni-Bezek (or Adonai-Bezeq), is a person we can’t find. The city of Bezek was found (we think), but it’s not in Judah’s territory. At the end of this account, this king is taken to Jerusalem. I mention that because in Joshua, which most of Judges 1 repeats, there is a king referred to as Adonai-Zedek who is the king of Jerusalem. Maybe, though there’s no real evidence, there was a simple misspelling of the name, and this account in Judges refers to the same king in Joshua. I suggest this for two reasons.
First, Jerusalem is the city of Salem mentioned in Genesis 14. Melchizedek brought bread and wine out to Abraham after he rescued Lot, and Abraham gave him a tithe. Melchizedek was referred to as “king of Salem”, and “priest of God Most High”. So, this priest worships the same God as Abraham. The name of this peculiar character is most often translated as “king of righteousness”. I believe the name combines the two roles, priest and king, into one person.
Second, Salem becomes Jerusalem when the Jebusites inhabit it. At that point this “king/priest” role seems to change, or at least the god worshiped seems to change. Because when the Sons of Israel show up after 400 years, the people of Jerusalem are not on their side. The name of this king, Adonai-Bezek (or Adonai-Zedek) uses the term for “lord” instead of “king”. These two titles are not that far apart, so, it would be “lord of Bezek”, or “lord of righteousness”, instead of “king” of whatever. It’s somewhat semantic in difference.
Notice that this king still remembers the name of Yahweh (Lord). He knew the God of the Sons of Israel, but didn’t worship Him. He knew that becoming thumb-less was due to his treatment of others, a judgement on him by the God Most High his city used to worship. He knew, but too late. He didn’t act on what he knew.
What do I know, but don’t act on? I know in Whom I have believed, and I too am persuaded that He is faithful. I know that what I have entrusted to Him, He will keep until we meet in eternity. But do I live that way? Do I behave as if this is true, that I am persuaded of it? How confident am I in my Master that He truly has my back, and that He loves me? How much am I at His service? Would people with whom I work know that about me? Would the ones with whom I speak on the phone pick up on that?
The return on the investment of my life in my Master isn’t an improvement in my immediate surroundings. The return on the investment of my life in my Master is in a changed lifestyle. He changes me by my close association with Him. It’s not that I try to be better, or kinder, or more polite. By association, He changes me into someone who is simply more like Him. Or, at least, that’s what’s supposed to be happening. Sometimes I wonder.
What’s your view through the knothole this morning?