Heart of the Story: Oded was God’s prophet who objected to the Israelites enslaving 200,000 wives, sons and daughters of Judah after Israel defeated Judah’s army.
BackStory: During wicked king Ahaz’s 16-year reign (735-715 AD) over Judah, kings Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel joined forces and attacked Judah. Although Jerusalem’s walls weren’t breached, Pekah killed 120,000 Judah soldiers including some of the most significant men in Judah’s army. Both Aram and Pekah took captives from Judah back to their countries.
StoryLine: As Israel’s army approached Samaria with 200,000 captives and much plunder, Oded, a prophet of God met them. He declared to the Northern Kingdom (Israelite) army:
• That their victory over Judah only occurred because God was angry with Judah
• Their rage in slaughtering Judah’s soldiers reached to heaven, e.g., to God
• They intended to make slaves of men and women captives from Judah
Then Oded asked a simple question, “But aren’t you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God?” (2 Chronicles 28:10 NIV). Emphatically, Oded demand that the army send the captives back to Judah for fear that God’s fierce anger would rest on them and the nation of Israel.
Several leaders from the tribe of Ephraim also confronted the returning army. Their message was the same as Oded: a) don’t bring the captives here or we will be guilty before God, b) the army’s guilt is already great, and c) God’s fierce anger rests on Israel.
The Israelite army responded to the prophet’s and Ephraim leaders’ warnings. They gave up their prisoners and plunder. From the plunder, the Ephraim leaders clothed all who were naked. The captives were given food, drink and healing balm. Then, they were taken to Jericho in Judah and restored to fellow countrymen.
Pondering Relationships: Despite the kings of Israel worshipping manmade gods, some inhabitants continued to worship God. Oded was God’s prophet who apparently lived in Samaria (2 Chronicles 28:9). Oded called the prisoners, Israel’s “fellow countrymen” which suggested he viewed Israel and Judah as one nation.
Normally, when a prophet speaks out, he begins the message with, “thus says the Lord” putting his message in the context that God, not himself, is speaking. Oded didn’t use this format. Possibly, he was not relaying God’s message, but his own, to the army. More likely the Chronicler assumed readers knew that the prophet spoke God’s words.
Samaria was in tribal lands of Manassah but the Israelites army passed through Ephraim to get to their capital city. The Ephraim leaders may have delivered their warning as the army and captives passed through Ephraim. On the other hand these Ephraim leaders could have been in Samaria and delivered their message after Oded delivered his as the chronology is presented in Second Chronicles. Being in Samaria explains how the four Ephraimites were available to take charge of the captives and get them to Jericho.
Clearly, the Israelite soldiers accepted Oded’s and Ephraim leaders’ messages. They gave up their captives but all the plunder they took from Judah. The value of 200,000 slaves and plunder would have been equivalent to millions of dollars. It is tempting to think that king Pekah conscience was stimulated by Oded’s words about enslaving fellow countrymen; however, more than likely he feared God’s displeasure and the power of Ephraim’s leaders.
Every time I read this story, I wonder: would the Israelite army have given up their captives and plunder just on the word of God’s prophet Oded? Chronologically, the Bible passage showed that the king and army responded to the Ephraim leaders’ warnings rather than solely to God’s prophet. On the other hand perhaps it was Oded that gave Ephraim’s leaders courage to speak out against enslaving fellow Hebrews.
Reflection: Oded is the only prophet who spoke out against the enslavement of 200,000 wives, sons and daughters of Judah. This story demonstrates how God can use even a lone voice to stimulate a ruler, an army, and civilian leaders to do the right thing. Was there any time in your life that you were or you could have been a lone voice for God?
Copyright: September 21, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth