02 January 2016

Maacah / Micaiah: The Measure of Power

2. Chronicles 11:18-23 | 2. Chronicles 13:1-2

"My little finger is thicker than my father's loins." (Rehoboam, 2. Chr 10:10b)

Do you know my name?
Or have you confused me,
exchanged me
with someone else?
Am I truly your beloved,
or just another pretty face,
a number in your race
to be the mightiest king of all?

You measure your power
like the heathen kings:
by the women in your bed
and the children you produce.
And I become a means to the end
of proving your virility.

Do you know her name?
Or have you confused her,
exchanged her
with me?
Can you keep track
of all your beloveds,
all your wives and concubines,
all your mistresses and lovers -
or do we morph into one face,
numbers in your race
to be the mightiest king of all?

And we become
the means to the end
of proving your virility,
of proving your little finger
is thicker than your father's loins,
of proving you mightier than all the rest.

You measure your power
like the heathen kings -
why don't you seek greatness
in the ways of our God?
Our God who chose
an impotent man
and made him great;
our God who chooses
goodness over power
and weakness over virility.


[1. January 2016]

I've been wanting to write this for months...
Upon reading the story of Rehoboam, I was intrigued by the fact that in 2. Chr 11:21-22 says his son and follower Abijah was the son of Maacah (Rehoboam's favourite), but in 2. Chr 13:1-2 Abijah's mother is said to be Micaiah. That got me wanting to write about these women.

Rehoboam had a total of 78 wives and concubines, and 28 sons. Back in the day, it was normal in Ancient Near Eastern culture for kings to prove their power by collecting a lot of women. On the one hand, marriages secured allegiances with other kingdoms. On the other hand, the power of a king was believed to be reflected in his virility: having a lot of women and producing a lot of sons.

Especially after reading 2. Chr 10, which tells of Rehoboam's choice of power over mercy which he summed up with his statement in 10:10 ("My little finger is thicker than my father's loins" - something I read as a bit of a lewd joke hinting at that power/virility connection), I get the impression that Rehoboam is a pretty "macho" kind of guy. He goes with the culture of the surrounding nations and collects a lot of wives and concubines to prove how powerful he is - a kind of "arms race" (hence the "numbers in your race" bit).

The polygamy of the Israelite kings had its consequences... one being the confusion / conflation of Maacah and Micaiah, another the threat of the "throne prince" by his many brothers who had to be sent all over the country and kept satisfied (11:23).

But is that really how it's meant to be? I had to think of Abraham, the man God chose to begin His chosen people: a childless man (in the p.o.v. of the day: impotent, weak, unimportant). Also of how God called His people not to adapt to the culture of the other nations - the "natural" human way of thinking which brings us harm instead of good. They were to be something different, showing the world that there are other ways - e.g. that true greatness is not reached through power and force, but through mercy and kindness (which are central elements of the character of God).

Picture by Hans Holbein the Younger.

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