The Wicked Messenger

Eli is apparently a variant on the name of God as spoken in Hebrew and Aramaic. It can also refer to the high priest of Shiloh. Either way this suggests the messenger is not wicked since he comes from God, or God’s representative. It would appear, then that we’d be wrong to trust the narrator when he refers to the messenger as wicked.

The question who had sent for him is irrelevant; what matters (and what the narrator has recognized, but is ignoring) is who he was sent by – God. Only the most ego-inflated would think God’s messengers should not be welcome unless ‘sent for’. The narrator proceeds to willfully misrepresent what the messenger says. He claims that the messenger is ‘multiplying’ (exaggerating) small matters, whereas it’s much more likely that he was characterizing important matters accurately – perhaps like how to behave morally. In the light of this, his so-called ‘flattery’ could perhaps have been a genuine attempt at diplomatic politeness, which is being deliberately misrepresented.

That the messenger is unwelcome is apparent from his having to make his bed behind the assembly hall – something the narrator mentions without further comment as if to cover his own guilt for being unwelcoming. ‘Oftentimes he could be seen returning’ associates him with Christ and the awaited ‘second coming’. The implication is that those who don’t pay attention to the messenger’s message are likely to suffer at the last judgment. That his feet are burning suggests the place to which he is delivering his message has hellish qualities – it’s full of evil. Since the messenger is from God, he notices it more than the intended recipients of his message. That the message is written takes up the idea that his ‘tongue it could not speak, but only flatter’. Having failed to get the message across in speech, due to being dismissed as a flatterer, he resorts to written words – perhaps symbolizing scripture.

In the third verse the reference to leaves beginning to fall is to an image from Isaiah of fallen angels going into hell. It suggests what the consequences are of the message not having been heeded. The seas parting would seem to be an image of God’s goodness – in saving Israelites after their escape from Egypt. That these things begin happening, i.e. at the time the narrator is speaking, and outside their original biblical context, suggests that both evil and God’s love are  timeless. The narrator appears unaware of the significance of what he’s saying, though, since he merely reports that the messenger was confronted, without any hint that confrontation is inappropriate. This man from God should have been welcomed, not ‘confronted’. The exhortation not to bring any news that isn’t palatable is also presented uncritically by the narrator, and is obviously absurd. These people  need to know the bitter truth. The comment that it opened up his heart would be both patronizing and untrue – wishful thinking on the part of the disingenuous narrator. That he is castigated for not bringing good news is also ironic in that what he is bringing almost certainly is ‘good news’ – i.e. the gospel; the word ‘gospel’ literally meaning good news.

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