1 Kings 19-20: Son of the Judge

I Kings 19

 

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”

3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

 

Unlike his boldness in chapter 18, we see Elijah cowering into fear by going back to Beersheba, the well of the oath made between Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 21:31), hiding in the region of Judah instead.  Again, this emphasizes on the weakness of the LORD’s election of a seemingly inappropriate and humble servant to do his bidding more clearly portrayed in the person of the rejected and humbled Christ.

 

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”

6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”

8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

 

It is under the shade and protection of this broom tree that the Angel, the Son of the Father, goes to feed Elijah for the journey is too great for him (v.7).  Look at the tenderness of our LORD God, reaching out to us intimately ensuring that we are not tempted beyond our abilities (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Such is the power of the food provided by the Son of God that Elijah went on to ensure the temptation and the trial for forty days and forty nights (c.f. Genesis 7:4, 7:12; Exodus 24:18, 34:28) until he reached Horeb, the mountain range of which Sinai was one of the summits (Exodus 3:1, 17:6, 33:6; Psalm 106:19).  This is a reminder of Moses’ standing before the Father on the same Mount, and here Elijah is hiding in the same remarkable place where Moses led the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt towards Canaan.  Back then, the tribes were united under the banner of the Angel who led them in the pillar of cloud and fire – and now, we return to the dire situation of the reluctant prophet leading the Israelites back to a restored faith in Jesus.

 

9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.

16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.

17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.

18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

 

Note, Christ coming to Elijah as “the word of the LORD” and questioning Elijah “What are you doing here…?” (v.9).  Elijah’s response is the same in v.10 and 14, as bookends to the mighty display of God’s synchronized power of might and intimacy.  Elijah is in nothing short of despair – a man who believes that he is the only one left and fears for the day when not one prophet remains to intercede for Israel.

 

Where, on the same Mount in the region of where the commandments were given through Moses; the same Mount where Moses met Jesus (Exodus 3); and it is on the same Mount that the Word of God, the Son of the Father, commanded Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD”.   Elijah witnessed the Father, just as Moses witnessed the Father on the third day (Exodus 19).  Yet, this time it is not the giving of the law – but it is a transition from “a great and strong wind” which tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before Him; then an “earthquake”; then a “fire”.  The Holy Spirit in the wind (ruach) (Revelation 7:1), to earthquake (Revelation 8:5, 11:13-19, 16:18), to fire (Revelation 20:14-15, 21:18).    It is after the passing of these prophetic elements of the book of Revelation that we reach the end: a low whisper (v.12).  It is to this low whisper that the same Angel, the Word of God, the Son of God – the qol of God (Hebrew literal translation of ‘voice’ – c.f. literal translation of Exodus 20:18 where the Voice is seen).  The question is repeated – and the Word is the LORD, just as the Word was with the LORD (John 1) in this majestic feat on the Mount of Horeb.  It is this joint connection between Elijah, Moses and Christ on Mount Horeb which explains their joint meeting at Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9.

 

It is interesting from v.15 onwards that we see the LORD’s hand over a nation aside from Israel – that he would appoint the prophet from Judah to anoint a king Hazael (whom God sees) to be over Syria.  Though he does not appear until 2 Kings 8 (under the observation of Elisha, the prophet in Elijah’s place), this prophecy pertains to the eventual preservation of 7,000 in Israel in light of the overarching defeat of the nation by Assyrians and Babylonians by the end of 2 Kings.

 

The LORD also cares for the appropriate election of Jehu (Jehovah is He), the son of the saved (Nimshi) to anoint as the new king over Israel, and the salvation of God (Elisha) as the son of the judge (Shaphat) of the meadow of dancing (Abel-meholah) as the prophet in Elijah’s place.  These pertain to things in 2 Kings 9.  The full meaning of the prophecy in v.17-18 would be made clear at that stage when the ultimate authority is not given to the king of Syria, nor to the king of Israel, but by the prophet Elisha (v.17) – reminding us that the spiritual Israelite is more authoritative than that of a king.  It is the LORD’s preparation of those who have either kissed Him, or kissed Baal – the romantic language used as a potent imagery against the faithlessness of the nations.  The importance of the appointment of Elisha is made apparent when the first focus here is his election, and not the anointing of Hazael nor the anointing of Jehu which is yet to come:

 

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him.

20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

Matthew Henry:

Elisha came to a resolution presently, but begged a little time, not to ask leave, but only to take leave, of his parents. This was not an excuse for delay, like his (Luke ix. 61) that desired he might bid those farewell that were at home, but only a reservation of the respect and duty he owed to his father and mother. Elijah bade him to back and do it, he would not hinder him; nay, if he would, he might go back, and not return, for any thing he had done to him. He will not force him, nor take him against his will; let him sit down and count the cost, and make it his own act. The efficacy of God’s grace preserves the native liberty of man’s will, so that those who are good are good of choice and not by constraint, not pressed men, but volunteers. 3. That it was a pleasant and acceptable call to him, which appears by the farewell-feast he made for his family ( 21), though he not only quitted all the comforts of his father’s house, but exposed himself to the malignity of Jezebel and her party. It was a discouraging time for prophets to set out in. A man that had consulted with flesh and blood would not be fond of Elijah’s mantle, nor willing to wear his coat; yet Elisha cheerfully, and with a great deal of satisfaction, leaves all to accompany him. Thus Matthew made a great fast when he left the receipt of custom to follow Christ. 4. That it was an effectual call. Elijah did not stay for him, lest he should seem to compel him, but left him to his own choice, and he soon arose, went after him, and not only associated with him, but ministered to him as his servitor, poured water on his hands, 2 Kings iii. 11. It is of great advantage to young ministers to spend some time under the direction of those that are aged and experienced, whose years teach wisdom, and not to think much, if occasion be, to minister to them. Those that would be fit to teach must have time to learn; and those that hope hereafter to rise and rule must be willing at first to stoop and serve.

 

I Kings 20:

1 Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his army together. Thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots. And he went up and closed in on Samaria and fought against it.

2 And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, “Thus says Ben-hadad:

3 ‘Your silver and your gold are mine; your best wives and children also are mine.’”

4 And the king of Israel answered, “As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have.”

5 The messengers came again and said, “Thus says Ben-hadad: ‘I sent to you, saying, “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.”

6 Nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants and lay hands on whatever pleases you and take it away.’”

 

The son of the Syrian god – Ben-hadad, the king of Syria demands “the best wives and children, and silver and gold” (v.3) – followed with a greater demand of what is in the houses of Ahab’s servants’ houses, and lay hands on whatever pleases them (v.6).  It is to the grander and more ‘unreasonable’ request of v.6 that Ahab refuses, though he had wholeheartedly given the king himself and “all that [he has]” (v.4).  Ahab has suffered much – that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slaughtered in chapter 18, that these false gods have failed Israel in the battles against Syria.  Yet, this is but a natural progression of reliance on self-made gods which are dead – affecting not only himself but the nation of which he is the head.  Israel, if united as one (Judges 20:11), would otherwise prosper under the Anointed King who unites them under the banner of the Heavenly Father.

 

 

7 Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, “Mark, now, and see how this man is seeking trouble, for he sent to me for my wives and my children, and for my silver and my gold, and I did not refuse him.”

8 And all the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen or consent.”

9 So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, “Tell my lord the king, ‘All that you first demanded of your servant I will do, but this thing I cannot do.’” And the messengers departed and brought him word again.

10 Ben-hadad sent to him and said, “The gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me.”

11 And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself like he who takes it off.’”

12 When Ben-hadad heard this message as he was drinking with the kings in the booths, he said to his men, “Take your positions.” And they took their positions against the city.

 

The exchange between Ben-hadad and Ahab is an exchange based on empty pride.  Ben-hadad who swears by “the gods” (v.10), and Ahab who preaches humbleness (v.11) are both victims of their own demise.  Ahab and Jezebel are exactly those who have assumed the victory of their Baals and Asherah; Ben-hadad was wrong to assume victory over Israel.  Yet, the victory still comes to Ahab not because of his idolatry, but because of the LORD’s faithfulness to Israel from which the Son will be born and cut off.

 

13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

14 And Ahab said, “By whom?” He said, “Thus says the LORD, By the servants of the governors of the districts.” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” He answered, “You.”

15 Then he mustered the servants of the governors of the districts, and they were 232. And after them he mustered all the people of Israel, seven thousand.

 

Yet, in face of the various kings (33 kings including Ben-hadad himself v.1), a prophet came near to Ahab and preached what Ahab needed to hear.  Victory by the servants of the governors of the districts; as if such men were not already humble by their stature, the numbers were also humble (v.15 – mere 232).  The battle, however, must be started by the king of Israel (v.14) – and achieved by the humble servants, by those (likely those who haven’t yet bowed their knees nor kissed Baal) 7,000 (1 Kings 19:18), to ensure that glory is given to the true LORD (Proverbs 21:31):

 

 

16 And they went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the booths, he and the thirty-two kings who helped him.

17 The servants of the governors of the districts went out first. And Ben-hadad sent out scouts, and they reported to him, “Men are coming out from Samaria.”

18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive. Or if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

19 So these went out of the city, the servants of the governors of the districts and the army that followed them.

20 And each struck down his man. The Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them, but Ben-hadad king of Syria escaped on a horse with horsemen.

21 And the king of Israel went out and struck the horses and chariots, and struck the Syrians with a great blow.

22 Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, “Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what you have to do, for in the spring the king of Syria will come up against you.”

23 And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

24 And do this: remove the kings, each from his post, and put commanders in their places,

25 and muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so.

 

It is thus preached to Ahab that this victory was clearly in the LORD’s hand, though should not be taken lightly (v.22) and to be continually equipped and not to become complacent:

 

Matthew 12:43-45

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.

44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.

45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

 

What superstition that the Yahweh of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – the God of relationship with men, is labeled as a mere ‘god of hills’ – god of a dead inanimate object.  That, again, reveals the poor theology of Ben-hadad, for him to believe that gods are ‘governors’ of a piece of land.  Yet, our God is our Saviour, personal, intimate, and corporate.

 

26 In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel.

27 And the people of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went against them. The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country.

28 And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”

29 And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day.

30 And the rest fled into the city of Aphek, and the wall fell upon 27,000 men who were left.

Ben-hadad also fled and entered an inner chamber in the city.

 

Aphek is a royal city of the Canaanites meaning ‘strength’ – the same place where a Canaanite king was killed by Joshua (Joshua 12:18), a place constantly used by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1; 1 Samuel 29:1), marking off the eventual demise of Syria in Ben-hadad’s choice to fight against Israel there.  For the strength lies in the LORD.

 

The prophet (v.13, 22), and the man of God (v.28) – are both people aside from Elijah who have reached out to Ahab, to ensure that he is walking in the LORD’s commands to ensure that Israel is not wiped out.  This is the LORD’s faithfulness carried out, for He is the God not merely of hills, but also of valleys (v.28), but even moreso the God of Elijah, Elisha, the prophet, the man of God.  A mere 7,000 odd people, by the LORD’s strength, defeating the 100,000 foot soldiers in one day.  This massacre is nothing short of a miracle.  As if hiding in a city called strength is a true refuge for Ben-hadad (v.30)!

 

31 And his servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads and go out to the king of Israel. Perhaps he will spare your life.”

32 So they tied sackcloth around their waists and put ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please, let me live.’” And he said, “Does he still live? He is my brother.”

33 Now the men were watching for a sign, and they quickly took it up from him and said, “Yes, your brother Ben-hadad.” Then he said, “Go and bring him.” Then Ben-hadad came out to him, and he caused him to come up into the chariot.

34 And Ben-hadad said to him, “The cities that my father took from your father I will restore, and you may establish bazaars for yourself in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.” And Ahab said, “I will let you go on these terms.” So he made a covenant with him and let him go.

 

Yet, this is where Ahab is clearly not aligned with the LORD who brought victory for Israel, to preserve Israel.  Ahab chose to enter a covenant with his “brother” Ben-hadad (v.33) – the same “brother” who tried to conquer Israel, take all things pleasing in their eyes (likely to include the items in the House of the LORD as well) – the same “brother” who relied on the little gods.  This is walking out of line of His command (Deuteronomy 7, 32), and an example already demonstrated by Asa in earlier years (2 Chronicles 16:7).  What heresy to enter into covenant with a country which does not acknowledge the LORD’s might and sovereignty.

 

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him.

36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have gone from me, a lion shall strike you down.” And as soon as he had departed from him, a lion met him and struck him down.

37 Then he found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” And the man struck him—struck him and wounded him.

38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes.

39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’

40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.”

41 Then he hurried to take the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets.

42 And he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’”

43 And the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria.

 

The remaining verses of chapter 20 is reminiscent of 2 Samuel 12 – Nathan’s rebuke of David by use of analogy.  What is interesting in both 2 Samuel 12 and with Ahab is that the word of the king is held accountable by the prophet (2 Samuel 12:5-7, compared with v.40).  This is therefore the judgment of the king who had weighed the LORD’s justice lightly; for sin is not a light matter, which must require the blood of the innocent divine Son of God to be entirely removed.  To let this man go, whom the LORD had devoted to destruction, is to directly spit on the work of Christ.  For His work is not a cheap, but an entirely costly grace.  Thus, Ahab is judged (1 Kings 22:34-35), but not until after he had eventually humbled himself (1 Kings 21:29).  Yet, it still seems that the prophet’s actions in v.35-37 are out of place compared to Ahab’s self-condemnation.  It is important, however, to understand the crux of Ahab’s sin.  The appearance of mercy on the man’s behalf in v.36, is the same type of ‘mercy’ which Ahab exercised in v.42; yet the LORD’s intent to strike is filled with wisdom, an understanding built upon His coming Son’s work that the LORD shall instead strike the Son, and those who stand outside of Him.  For the man to refuse the LORD’s striking of the prophet (who had requested it), it is akin to him usurping the role of the LORD in presuming that His judgment is too harsh; that His wrath is too much.  What lies that we should presume anything like that!  His wrath is deserving on us, as is His judgment.  Yet, His love overflows through His beloved Son, and we are the subject of such grand mercy.

 

Advertisements
1 Kings 19-20: Son of the Judge

1 Kings 17-18: Elijah the Baptist

We now come to life of Elijah the Tishbite.  He is undoubtedly one of the most famous prophets of the Old Testament, and most quoted saint of the Bible.  His showdown against the prophets of Baal and the constant references to him in the New Testament begs us to scrutinize Elijah’s life and understand the typology of his work in lieu of John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus’ salvific work on the cross.

 

Let us look at the various references to him throughout Scripture (my emphasis):

Malachi 4:

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

 

Mark 9:

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?”

12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

 

Luke 1:

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,

15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,

17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

 

Luke 4:

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”

24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land,

26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

 

Romans 11:

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”

4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

 

John 1:

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

 

 

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)

25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,

27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

James:

15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

 

It is thus clear that he was a man identified as turning the hearts of fathers to their children, the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 4:4-6) – the restoration of the first familial relationship between us adam, sons of God, in order for the restoration of our temporary familial relationship between ourselves and our earthly parents.  And that path shall be prepared by him, that the disobedient may turn to the wisdom of the just (Luke 1:17).  He shall come first, before Christ, to restore all things (Mark 9:12), suffering many things and treated with contempt like the Son of Man (Mark 9:13).  Elijah was a man rejected (Luke 4:24), and was sent not to the multitude of widows in Capernaum, but only to Zarephath – and his disciple Elisha only cleansed one leper out of many in that time – Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:25-27).  In a time of despair, he did not intercede but prayed against Israel, and it is the LORD’s faithfulness that reminded him of His grace in His salvation of the spiritual Israelites (Romans 11:2-4).  John the Baptist shall walk his path, making straight the way of the LORD by the baptism of water (John 1:23-27; Luke 1:17) – and yet, Elijah’s life was ultimately characterized not by his might for he was not a bold king of Judah, nor a king of Israel.  He was a man unknown, with no explicit genealogy in 1 Kings, yet we understand him “whose God is Jehovah”, this stranger (Tishbite) among strangers in Gilead (Tishbe in Gilead).  A godly man of strange origins, characterized by his fervent life of prayer and cleansing of Israel in lieu of the kings’ failures to rid Israel of its collection of foreign altars and idols (James 5:15-18).

 

I Kings 17:

1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

2 And the word of the LORD came to him,

3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.

4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan.

6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

 

And upon the LORD’s command, this prayer-prophet begins his path of preparing the LORD’s way not in the way of proclamation.  Nor is it done by force.  The famous prophet begins by hiding by the brook Cherith, on the east of Jordan, away from Jerusalem, the city of peace.  What trust that the LORD provided such basic means (Luke 12:27), of bread and meat and waters from the brook of cutting / piercing.  It is in this drought that we see the LORD’s way being prepared, the chosen prophet in hiding rejected from the capital city of Israel.  This is a type of that worldly famine not merely of bread, nor of water, but of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11).  Is not Ahab and Jezebel’s time exactly that, for the prophet to hide on the east of Jordan away from Joshua’s crossing (Joshua 4)?

 

8 Then the word of the LORD came to him,

9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.”

11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

12 And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.

14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”

15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days.

16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

 

What strangeness indeed, that the LORD should further command Elijah to travel towards the land where Jezebel hails (Sidon), to Zarephath, the ‘smelting place’.  By no means a safe place, Elijah thus traveled further into enemy territory, outside of the camp (Hebrews 13:13) of Israel – but even a widow in Sidon is a servant of the LORD in service to this prophet (v.9).  Not any widow – but a widow of despair (v.12), by no means of great resources but very meek and humble (v.12).  Yet, it is by the LORD, through Elijah, that the miracle of creation is performed before the widow’s eyes – that the jar of flour and the jug of oil shall neither be spent nor empty, until the day of the LORD sending rain upon the earth, representing that great filling of the word of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Habbakuk 2:14).  This is the same LORD incarnate who spoke to the Samaritan, rejected, woman at the well, and instead of being served, He came to serve and provide the true living waters (John 4).  He is the same LORD who multiplied the provision of bread and fish (Matthew 15).

 

17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.

18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed.

20 And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”

21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”

22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.

23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.”

24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

 

What glory of resurrection of this widow’s son!  The type of ‘resurrection-stretching’ emulated by Elisha (2 Kings 4:34) and Paul (Acts 20:10).  Is not this resurrection future clearly understood by Elijah, that he cried and prayed (c.f. James 5) as a righteous man for the child’s life (נפש – soul) to come into him again?  Even the widow did not confirm the man’s prophethood by the miracle of the jar of flour and the jug of oil, until the definitive demonstration of the act of resurrection which could be performed by no other than God and a man of God (v.24).  Yet – note that she already recognized him as a man of God prior to the resurrection (v.18), as if the prophet came to condemn her.  Yet, Christ did not come to condemn, but to save – to confirm that what a ‘man of God’ entails is both the condemnation of those outside of Christ but the salvation of those who stand under His banner (John 3:16-18).  The truth of Elijah’s actions and words were sealed by resurrection which no false prophet could perform.

 

I Kings 18:

1 After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”

2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.

3 And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly,

4 and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.)

5 And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.”

6 So they divided the land between them to pass through it. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

 

After three and a half years, the famine came to an end after a symbolic period of time (c.f. Daniel 7:25, 12:7; Revelation 12:14), a recognition of the coming of the LORD on His straight path.  Elijah showing himself to Ahab is the reckoning of the LORD presenting Himself as the threat to Ahab’s heresies and mock rituals of the Christian faith.  Ahab’s response was not one of repentance, but one of self-salvation (v.5), and Jezebel’s tyranny is at its height as she paves a crooked way for the prophets of the LORD (v.4).  Only Obadiah (the servant of the LORD) and Elijah, the two Christians, could work together to bring in the LORD’s salvation.

 

7 And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him. And Obadiah recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?”

8 And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’”

9 And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me?

10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would take an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you.

11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here.”’

12 And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where. And so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth.

13 Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water?

14 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here”’; and he will kill me.”

15 And Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah.

 

Note Elijah’s words in v.15: he is standing before the LORD of hosts.  Obadiah, despite his fear and his deed of hiding a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets (v.12), still stood in fear.  Observe that Obadiah understands the LORD well – that by His Spirit we may be carried to where others know not where (Acts 8:39), for His Spirit works in wondrous ways with those who are fearful of His Anointed Son.

 

Elijah, however, is the man who rose a boy from the dead, and here is Obadiah a servant of the LORD fearful both of Ahab and Yahweh.  In the words of Luke, Elijah walked as one who fears the One who has authority to case into hell (Luke 12:4-5).  Elijah, and Obadiah, both need to bear the reproach of Christ when confronting Ahab (Hebrews 11:26, 13:13).  Such is the man who stood against the king of Israel, daring to label the king as the troubler of Israel clearly proclaiming that he has abandoned the LORD’s commandments and followed other lords (Baals).  It is only fitting that the contest between the one prophet (or two, including Obadiah) against 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah put together at Mount Carmel – a fruitful park of the circumcised lamb.  This is where the Lamb of God’s circumcision, the cutting of his flesh on the cross, demonstrates Elijah’s victory over those who eat at Jezebel’s table (contrast with Exodus 24:11, those who eat and drink with the LORD).

 

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.

19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.

21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.

23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it.

24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”

26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.

27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.

29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

 

Elijah understood clearly the precepts of the sacrificial bull – and demonstrates that zeal in religion is not inherently a virtue, when the object of worship is dead (v.27).  Their own custom of self-mutilation is exactly contrary to the purpose of the sacrificial bull: as if their own blood could satiate the LORD’s wrath!  These sinners could not have dared believe that their sinful blood could atone themselves!  Yet, such ravings is exactly a revelation of what their dead religion portrays – that of a dead god.  The resounding words: “No one answered; no one paid attention” (v.29).  No fire consumed the sacrifice as a testament to the Christ whom Elijah understood to have died on his behalf, without Elijah’s need to self-mutilate for the Father’s attention.

 

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down.

31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,”

32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed.

33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”

34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time.

35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

 

It is deliberate that Jacob is now referred to as Israel (v.31) – for the taking of the twelve stones acts as a symbolism of the unity of Israel under the LORD who gave birth to Israel as His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22).  The wood is cut in shape with the same bull in pieces, laid carefully on the wood, 12 jars of water poured onto the burnt offering and the wood.

 

Yet, note that this is a large amount of water – 12 jars for 12 tribes.  It should be noted that this rain water is exactly the subject of desire of Israel, the reason for the famine.  Now, the famine has not yet ended and there is hardly plenty of water to spare (c.f. v.41-46), suggesting once again the provision of the LORD (or the lack of) has its suggested purpose – and such miraculous provision of water is first applied on the bull, on the wood, and on the altar.  The LORD’s provision is plentiful – each painting a separate picture of Christ.  The bull as the Christ; the wood the cross; the altar built of the twelve tribes of Israel (despite the current split between Israel and Judah) – and the water as the combined judgment of the LORD by rain water (Genesis 7:4) and the provision of His Word after years of drought (c.f. Amos 8:12) – all completed on the third time (Genesis 22:4; Exodus 19:11-16).  This is no arbitrary arrangement of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross as Mount Carmel, the place of the circumcised lamb – for Elijah has done all these things at His word (v.36):

 

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.

37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.”

40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

 

Matthew Henry:

“He repaired this altar with twelve stones, according to the number of the twelve tribes, 31. Though ten of the tribes had revolted to Baal, he would look upon them as belonging to God still, by virtue of the ancient covenant with their fathers: and, though those ten were unhappily divided from the other two in civil interest, yet in the worship of the God of Israel they had communion with each other, and they twelve were one. Mention is made of God’s calling their father Jacob by the name of Israel, a prince with God ( 31), to shame his degenerate seed, who worshipped a god which they saw could not hear nor answer them, and to encourage the prophet who was now to wrestle with God as Jacob did; he also shall be a prince with God. Ps. xxiv. 6, Thy face, O Jacob! Hos. xii. 4. There he spoke with us…

 

…God immediately answered him by fire, 38. Elijah’s God was neither talking nor pursuing, needed not to be either awakened or quickened; while he was yet speaking, the fire of the Lord fell, and not only, as at other times (Lev. ix. 24; 1 Chron. xxi. 26; 2 Chron. vii. 1) consumed the sacrifice and the wood, in token of God’s acceptance of the offering, but licked up all the water in the trench, exhaling that, and drawing it up as a vapour, in order to the intended rain, which was to be the fruit of this sacrifice and prayer, more than the product of natural causes. Compare Ps. cxxxv. 7. He causeth vapours to ascend, and maketh lightnings for the rain; for this rain he did both. As for those who fall as victims to the fire of God’s wrath, no water can shelter them from it, any more than briers or thorns, Isa. xxvii. 4, 5. But this was not all; to complete the miracle, the fire consumed the stones of the altar, and the very dust, to show that it was no ordinary fire, and perhaps to intimate that, though God accepted this occasional sacrifice from this altar, yet for the future they ought to demolish all the altars on their high places, and, for their constant sacrifices, make use of that at Jerusalem only. Moses’s altar and Solomon’s were consecrated by the fire from heaven; but this was destroyed, because no more to be used. We may well imagine what a terror the fire struck on guilty Ahab and all the worshippers of Baal, and how they fled from it as far and as fast as they could, saying, Lest it consume us also, alluding to Num. xvi. 34.”

 

Thus is the confirmation that the LORD is a consuming fire indeed (Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3; Isaiah 33:14; Lamentations 2:3; Hebrews 12:28-29).  He is also the visible LORD, the Son of God and the Angel who appeared to Moses in a flame of fire of a bush not consumed.  This fire is the same wrath the Father bore against the Son in propitiation of our sins, and all those who stood outside of the sacrifice were slaughtered at the bottom of Mount Carmel.  They were themselves circumcised, fulfilling the shadow of their own demise.  In their self-mutilation, nothing was further from pronouncing the same judgment upon themselves.  Even the final cry of “the LORD, he is God” no longer beckons the same response from the LORD as His favour towards a saint like Elijah – for He never knew them (Matthew 7:21).

 

41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.”

42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.

43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times.

44 And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’”

45 And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

 

Thus the chapter ends with what has already been confirmed – “the hand of the LORD was on Elijah” (v.46), the same hand that rose from the sea (v.43-44) for there is now the sound of the rushing of rain (v.41).

 

 

1 Kings 17-18: Elijah the Baptist

1 Kings 15-16: the failed Sons of David

I Kings 15:

1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah.

2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.

3 And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father.

4 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem,

5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

6 Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life.

7 The rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam.

8 And Abijam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place.

 

V.4 ties the kings of Judah together – “nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem…”.  This is the prophetic hope – the gospel, that David’s son Jesus Christ is set up in the lineage of kings to establish new Jerusalem.  For what other reason are the kings maintained in spite of their faulty relationships with the Anointed Son of David as sung in Psalm 2?  Theirs is the true covenant of God’s unfailing love to us, that we cannot be removed far and wide from His warm embrace (Romans 8:38-39).

 

Chapters 15-16 record the history of Abijah and Asa – and there are interestingly different depictions of him in 1 Kings 15-16 and 2 Chronicles 13-16.  The narrator of Kings jumps immediately to the summation of Abijah’s life; and notably, in the book of Kings, Abijah is called Abijam – a name which now means ‘father of the sea’ instead of ‘the Lord is my father’.  With the sea connoting negative implications in biblical terms (Jeremiah 5:22; Ezekiel 47:9; Jude 1:13), the usage of Abijam over Abijah is fitting in the narrator’s negative description of Absalom / Abishalom’s lineage.  “He walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God” (v.3 – my emphasis italicized).  Though not ‘wholly’ true, 2 Chronicles 13 makes specific reference to Abijah’s holy proclamation against Jeroboam.  Though the narrator recognizes the book of Chronicles as recording Abijah’s life account (v.7), nonetheless the account of his life in this book is short, and not sweet.

 

It would seem, however, that the focus is not on the merits of Abijah – but contrarily on the evils of Maacah (“oppression”), the daughter of Abishalom (“father of peace”).  She is mentioned in v.2 but is again mentioned in verses 10 and 13 – it is quite clear that these two chapters focus on the comparison of the relationships which Abijah and Asa respectively had with Christ.  Contrast the description above with the following text from 2 Chronicles 13:

 

4 Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel!

5 Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?

6 Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord,

7 and certain worthless scoundrels gathered about him and defied Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them.

8 “And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods.

9 Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are no gods.

10 But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. We have priests ministering to the LORD who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service.

11 They offer to the LORD every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken him.

12 Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”

13 Jeroboam had sent an ambush around to come upon them from behind. Thus his troops were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them.

14 And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was in front of and behind them. And they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets.

15 Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.

16 The men of Israel fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hand.

17 Abijah and his people struck them with great force, so there fell slain of Israel 500,000 chosen men.

18 Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers.

19 And Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages.

20 Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the LORD struck him down, and he died.

 

What happened to the man who exclaimed these words against Jeroboam?  This is what 1 Kings 15 seeks to clarify by its current focus on Asa.

 

9 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah,

10 and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.

11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done.

12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.

13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron.

14 But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days.

15 And he brought into the house of the LORD the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels.

 

Immediately, in v.11 Asa is described as ‘doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done’ – comparing Asa and Abijah to David as the ‘standard’.  However, it is important that we do not assume the kings to look at David as some “God-king”, though he is a commonly used type of Christ (Luke 18:38; Revelation 22:16).  What David had done was but a shadow of Christ, but moreso, David had faith in Christ.  Here is a man whose deeds bore Christocentric meaning because of the Christocentric faith he had (Psalm 2, 72, 110; Mark 12:35-37).  As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary on Mark 12:35-37:

 

“Christ shows the people how weak and defective the scribes were in their preaching, and how unable to solve the difficulties that occurred in the scriptures of the Old Testament, which they undertook to expound. Of this he gives an instance, which is not so fully related here as it was in Matthew. Christ was teaching in the temple: many things he said, which were not written; but notice is taken of this, because it will stir us up to enquire concerning Christ, and to enquire of him; for none can have the right knowledge of him but from himself; it is not to be had from the scribes, for they will soon be run aground.

1. They told the people that the Messiah was to be the Son of David ( 35), and they were in the right; he was not only to descend from his loins, but to fill his throne (Luke i. 32); The Lord shall give him the throne of his father David. The scripture said it often, but the people took it as what the scribes said; whereas the truths of God should rather be quoted from our Bibles than from our ministers, for there is the original of them. Dulcius ex ipso fonte bibuntur aquæ–The waters are sweetest when drawn immediately from their source.

2. Yet they could not tell them how, notwithstanding that it was very proper for David, in spirit, the spirit of prophecy, to call him his Lord, as he doth, Ps. cx. 1. They had taught the people that concerning the Messiah, which would be for the honour of their nation–that he should be a branch of their royal family; but they had not taken care to teach them that which was for the honour of the Messiah himself–that he should be the Son of God, and, as such, and not otherwise, David’s Lord. Thus they held the truth in unrighteousness, and were partial in the gospel, as well as in the law, of the Old Testament. They were able to say it, and prove it–that Christ was to be David’s son; but if any should object, How then doth David himself call him Lord?  They would not know how to avoid the force of the objection. Note, Those are unworthy to sit in Moses’s seat, who, though they are able to preach the truth, are not in some measure able to defend it when they have preached it, and to convince gainsayers.”

 

Though Abijah fought and won military victories against Jeroboam, such victories are ultimately empty if the removal of such powers is not immediately replaced with God’s love through Christ (Romans 8:39).  Asa’s actions is therefore in stark contrast, by firstly his putting away of the male cult prostitutes, removing all the idols his fathers had made (fathers, notably linking this to Abishalom ironically titled the ‘father of peace’).  Instead, only Asa, the physician, can cure the nation of its sins by removing the idolatrous sacramental objects of their own faiths; by removing Satan’s stronghold within the church and cleansing it from inside out.  The key verse is v.13 – he removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because of her faith in Asherah.  By assumption, this means that Abijah did not remove his queen mother in-spite of her worship of Asherah – effectively making Abijah’s words of 2 Chronicles 13 empty if he did not carry out the implications of his proclamation against even the queen mother.  The stark image is that of Abijah’s omission and Asa’s proactive mission to destroy all that leads people astray, burning the image of Asherah in the brook Kidron – at the same time, the image of such burning burnt into the minds of his Israelite subjects.  The burning of the image of Asherah in this brook is especially symbolic, for it is a place of David’s weeping (2 Samuel 15:23, 30), frequently a place crossed by the LORD (John 18:1), and a place frequented by all types of impurities (2 Kings 11:16, 23:6; 2 Chronicles 29:16, 30:14; Jeremiah 26:23) but also eventually a place where the Jews would wish to be buried (Joel 3:2)

Remember the words of our LORD Jesus concerning idols, for He is the purifier of our spirits by the coming and filling of His Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 9:20).

 

V.14 is testament to the LORD not seeking ‘perfection’ for the purpose of salvation; in fact, what He seeks is a type of worship which understands His will for mankind.  Asa clearly understood this – setting himself apart from Abijah by focusing on the house of the LORD.  This is a House which is heavily neglected – aside from David, Solomon and Asa’s respective foci on this central Temple of Israel, we will not come back to this House until 2 Kings 11, approximately 100 years later, under the direction of Jehoiada.  Yet, it is also the place where the light of Christ shines the brightest – the Levitical system of sacrifice, pointing clearly towards the work of the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered for the sins of the church of spiritual Israel (Romans 11:25-26).

 

16 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.

17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

18 Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house and gave them into the hands of his servants. And King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying,

19 “Let there be a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.”

 

Yet, almost immediately after what had been a bold imagery of the focus on the temple and house of God – we witness the fall of Asa by his reliance on “the son of the Syrian god” (Ben-hadad), who in turn is the son of he “who believes Rimmon is good” (Tabrimmon), the son of Hezion – king of Syria.  Like Ahijah earlier in his life, and just as Asa had torn down the Asherah images in the midst of her mother’s forced abdication of the throne, Asa could have relied on the LORD to defeat the wicked Baasha.  Instead, Asa would relinquish the treasures of the house of the LORD, implying that the mere worship and sacrifice of the Temple is insufficient that he should rely on earthly rather than spiritual alliances (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 6).

 

20 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali.

21 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and he lived in Tirzah.

22 Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, none was exempt, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them King Asa built Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah.

23 Now the rest of all the acts of Asa, all his might, and all that he did, and the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? But in his old age he was diseased in his feet.

24 And Asa slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place.

 

How strange that the later history of Asa’s life is not reflected here, though Abijah’s wickedness is displayed for all to see?  For Asa, just like Abijah, did not rely on the LORD fully in his latter days – 2 Chronicles 16:

 

7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.

8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand.

9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time…

12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.

 

Asa’s victory here seems to be won by Yahweh – but note that this is not a war fought under the banner of Anointed One.  Even though Baasha is painted as an evil conspirator against the son of Jeroboam in the following verses, the narrator is not providing a full picture of what this king of Judah is like: however, it is clear that the kings of Israel are portrayed in a decidedly worse picture to promote the primary message of the King of Kings to come from Judah.  However, the Anointed King is not any of the ones mentioned thus far – as Chronicles clearly shows.

 

25 Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years.

26 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

27 Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him. And Baasha struck him down at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon.

28 So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah and reigned in his place.

29 And as soon as he was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam. He left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite.

30 It was for the sins of Jeroboam that he sinned and that he made Israel to sin, and because of the anger to which he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel.

31 Now the rest of the acts of Nadab and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

32 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.

33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah began to reign over all Israel at Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years.

34 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

 

Thus, the foretelling of the overcoming of Baasha bears the focused message of the author of this book of Kings – that the line of Judah prevailed over the line of Israel.  That the House of Judah overcomes the House of Israel which has been led astray by Jeroboam and Nadab and Baasha’s sins (v. 26, 34; 2 Kings 10:31, 15:9, 15:18 – constant reference to Jeroboam as causing Israel to sin, in fulfillment of Ahijah’s prophecy in 1 Kings 11-12).  Tirzah (pleasantness), an old royal city of the Canaanites, was destroyed by Joshua in Joshua 12:24.   Jeroboam chose it for his residence, and he removed to it from Shechem, which at first he made the capital of his kingdom. It remained the chief residence of the kings of Israel till Omri took Samaria (1 Kings 14:17; 15:21; 16:6, 8, etc.). Here Zimri perished amid the flames of the palace to which in his despair he had set fire (1 Kings 16:18) – and it is apparent that just as the brook Kidron was primarily a place of the burning of the Asherah image, so also Tirzah is a place where the kings of Israel can only find temporary solace before their ungodly demise (1 Kings 15:33; 16:6-23).

 

I Kings 16:

1 And the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying,

2 “Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins,

3 behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

4 Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

5 Now the rest of the acts of Baasha and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

6 And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried at Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned in his place.

7 Moreover, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it.

 

Thus, we finally receive the due intervention for Baasha’s act, for his emulation of the wicked bloodline of Jeroboam.  A Christian prophet Jehu (Jehovah is the living), the son of Hanani (God has gratified me), has effectively pointed out the generations to come – the anti-Christ house of Jeroboam, in the line of the kings of Israel.  Contrarily, the line of the kings of Judah has David, the type-of-Christ.  It is from this point forward that the antithesis is more pronounced – the Davidic king against the Jeroboam-like king.  The former leading the Israelites back to the law, back to the house of the LORD, back to Jerusalem; the latter leading the Israelites to the brook Kidron, to Tirzah, to Ramah, to the false altars of worship.

 

8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years.

9 But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah,

10 Zimri came in and struck him down and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place.

11 When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he struck down all the house of Baasha. He did not leave him a single male of his relatives or his friends.

12 Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet,

13 for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their idols.

14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

 

Elah of Baasha died by hands of Zimri the commander – contrast this continuity with David’s fear of killing the king (1 Samuel 24:6) because of his understanding of what the ‘king’ means in the Israelite context (Psalm 24, 72).  The king is not a mere human title; it is a dignified delegated position to cause Israel to live in grace, not in sin; to cause Israel to live in faith by placing her trust in the Day of Atonement, amongst the other Jewish festivals which were witnesses of the gospel truths in themselves (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

 

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days in Tirzah. Now the troops were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines,

16 and the troops who were encamped heard it said, “Zimri has conspired, and he has killed the king.” Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp.

17 So Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah.

18 And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire and died,

19 because of his sins that he committed, doing evil in the sight of the LORD, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin.

20 Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and the conspiracy that he made, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

 

Is it not apparent here that the life of Omri is very similar to that of Baasha’s life against Nadab at Gibbethon (1 Kings 15:27-30)?  This is the continuity and persistence of sin (1 Timothy 5:20), notably living under the father of lies (v.19; John 8:44).  What happened to the days when Israel was united as one man (Judges 20:11), but now it is divided into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah – but a third by the splitting of the people of Israel into two parts (v.21)?  That half should follow Tibni (straw / hay / intelligence), and half should follow Omri (pupil of Jehovah)?  That these false kings should build Samaria, a place of heresy – crafted by man and not God (Hosea 8:5-6)?

 

21 Then the people of Israel were divided into two parts. Half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king, and half followed Omri.

22 But the people who followed Omri overcame the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath. So Tibni died, and Omri became king.

23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel, and he reigned for twelve years; six years he reigned in Tirzah.

24 He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver, and he fortified the hill and called the name of the city that he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill.

25 Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him.

26 For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in the sins that he made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols.

27 Now the rest of the acts of Omri that he did, and the might that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

28 And Omri slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria, and Ahab his son reigned in his place.

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.

30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.

31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.

32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.

33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

 

And now we come to the 7th king since Jeroboam (inclusive of Jeroboam, from Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri) – who has allegedly done “evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him” (v.30).  Not only that, he took for his wife Jezebel (chaste) the daughter of Ethbaal (with Baal) king of the Sidonians and served Baal. The irony that Jezebel, as ‘chaste’ – is the daughter of he who serves and is with their ‘lord’ Baal.  He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, built in the evil city of Samaria – and he also made an Asherah, like Maacah the removed queen mother.  While Abijah and Asa promoted the reforms under Christ’s banner (in spite of their own deficiencies as types of Christ), the physical church of Israel continued to worship Baal, in their mock-house of their lord, with their mock elohim (Baal and Asherah).  This ends with the symbolic rebuilding of Jericho by Hiel of Bethel (life of God of the house of God), in fulfillment of Joshua’s curse in Joshua 6:26 –

 

26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he

lay its foundation,

and at the cost of his youngest son

shall he set up its gates.”

 

What further irony that the city of Jericho is rebuilt by a man who aligns himself with Ethbaal, with Jezebel, with Ahab – in their mock Bethel, their mock elohim and their mock city by the name of a man who is apparently the ‘life of God’.  This could not be further from the truth.  Yet, it is clear the narrator has one agenda by the end of chapters 15 and 16 – to portray the hypocrisy of physical against spiritual Israel; the hypocrisy of the kings of Israel against the kings of Judah.  By comparing Abijah and Asa’s life, we see that Asa’s faith followed through with the removal of idols, though he faltered in his walk with the LORD in a variety of times (highlighted in Chronicles instead of Kings).  And in highlighting Asa’s work, we see Abijah’s comparative deficiencies as to have the narrator identify him as ‘walking in the sins of that his father did before him’ (i.e. following in the line of Maacah and Absalom, though this is not the focus of Chronicles – see 2 Chronicles 13:2); whereas Asa walked in line with the heart of David v.11 and this is reflected in his removal of idols, of even his queen mother whom Abijah failed to remove.

 

Whatever glorious picture we see, however, is but a dim shadow of the Anointed Son whom David worshiped as no mere human king, but the Son of the Heavenly Yahweh.  Even in the heights of Asa’s reforms, these pale in comparison to the spotless work of the humble Lamb of God.  What we can say, though, is that their work points us firmly to Christ – who will remove all Asherahs, all Baals, all false kings, and that “All names will soon be restored to their proper owners.” (Aslan in the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia)  They will neither be Jezebel, nor Hiel – for the curse of Joshua will fall upon them as a mark against Satan, revealing Jezebel as the false prophetess (Revelation 2:20), and Hiel as the death cursed from God.

 

 

1 Kings 15-16: the failed Sons of David