IVP - Strangely Dim - Jehdeiah, Donkey Caretaker

October 17, 2008

Jehdeiah, Donkey Caretaker

In today's Donkey Tale we dive deep into 1 Chronicles, almost to the end of the book, to find out what we can about a little-known-but-clearly-important figure: the man behind King David's donkeys.

I bet you've never heard of Jehdeiah. His name, unlike Jacob and Matthew and Joshua (all in the top ten for 2007), has never been on the "Most Popular Baby Names" list. I didn't go to school with anyone named Jehdeiah. And I'm guessing even my friend Joel (who knows just about everyone; you probably know him too) doesn't know any Jehdeiahs.

Moreover, 1 Chronicles 27:30 is not the first verse we're generally told to memorize. Not even the second one, after John 3:16. And the whole verse isn't actually about Jehdeiah. He only gets half a verse; Obil gets the first part. But today, in this second Donkey Tale Fortnight at Strangely Dim, I would like to speak for Jehdeiah. But first, like any good exegete, we have to read the verse--well, half-verse--first:

Jehdeiah the Meronothite was in charge of the donkeys.
Simply stated. No bells and whistles and needless braying. Don't you feel like you know him already?

Here's a little context for you since the verse is a touch sparse when it comes to details. At the end of David's kingship, 1 Chronicles 23-27 gives somewhat of a "who's who in the kingdom" overview, almost as David might have told it to his son Solomon in passing over the crown. So amongst the lists of priests and Levites and gatekeepers and treasurers and officers and officials and singers, we find the list of David's overseers--the ones who took care of his property--and amongst the list of overseers, we find Jehdeiah, the one who took care of David's donkeys.

I know what you're thinking. Who cares? Now, granted, in the grand biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation, this isn't the most crucial verse. I highly doubt the next great worship song will mention Jehdeiah. But I love that this verse is in here, and here's why: It reminds me that people matter to God.

I'm guessing that Jehdeiah's job, while perhaps well-paying for the times, was not the most pleasant or glamorous job. As king, David must have had hundreds of donkeys, and all of them would have needed water and food and places to bed, and, being load-bearing creatures, they most likely had to be saddled and unsaddled frequently, and, being stubborn animals, they most likely didn't always want to be saddled and unsaddled. And he was in charge of them all. It's a job that, while messy and seemingly insignificant (both in Scripture and as we think about it today), needed someone responsible, someone David trusted. And Jehdeiah was the man who got it, and whose name is in the God-inspired Bible for doing it.

So maybe I'm making too much out of this half-verse. Maybe I picked it because we're nearing the end of our second Fortnight of Donkey Tales and it's slim pickins for donkey passages. Actually, no. There are, surprisingly, still plenty of verses left that mention donkeys. I picked this verse because I was intrigued that it's in there at all. As I started to ponder why it's there, though, other people recorded in Scripture started coming to mind--people who, while maybe more familiar to us than Jehdeiah, had positions or diseases that made them undesirable, that made others view them as insignificant and not important: Rahab, prostitute; Bartimaeus, blind beggar; a man covered with leprosy; a woman subject to bleeding for twelve years; Hagar, abused servant; Ishmael, bastard son; Ruth, immigrant. Over and over, Scripture devotes verses--from one verse to whole books of the Bible--to the poor, the cast-off and rejected, the "unclean" (whether literally, like Jehdeiah may have been, or ritually, according to Jewish law, or both).

Our society has a decidedly lopsided and narrow focus of who deserves to be noticed, and who deserves to have their name written down. The rock stars, the actors and actresses, the CEOs (though they're not winning any votes these days), the fashion designers who start the newest trends, virtually anyone wealthy. In comparison, it can be hard to know our own significance, and difficult to work hard at jobs that go largely unrecognized or unpraised by the rest of society.

But the fact that Jehdeiah is listed at all in Scripture reminds me what kind of God we worship--one who who notices the kings and the donkey caretakers, one who views us as significant no matter what we do, one who honors our faithfulness in the little things especially, and in all that we do, whether it's in our work or our play or our relationships. So whatever your title, whatever responsibilities you have--barista, bus driver, professional bowler, sandwich maker--take some encouragement from Jehdeiah, the Donkey Caretaker. Your work matters. And the One whose title is King of Kings and Lord of Lords notices you.

--Lisa Rieck, Editorial Assistant, Peanut-Butter Enthusiast, Introvert and Proud Owner of a Metal Lunchbox
Posted by Lisa Rieck at October 17, 2008 1:22 PM Bookmark and Share


Just realised I forgot to 'Post' so better do it again. I tried to guess what the 'lesson' would be, but was thinking too much about the many donkeys. He would surely be ceremonially unclean if he cleared up all those stables.
Fun to think if he's introduced by name in heaven soon, I'll know who he iks!

Comment by: D Pape at October 19, 2008 2:13 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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