2 Kings 7-8: Revelation of the Sons of God

1 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.”

2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

3 Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die?

4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.”

5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there.

6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.”

7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives.

8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.

The hope in the twilight is a theme consistent throughout Scripture.  Here, the beneficiaries of such hope are not the king of Israel, nor the teachers or the sons of prophets.  Rather, they are the four lepers, who have made the decision which most men have failed to do – to not sit here until we die.

It is an insightful proposition and very revealing of our common sin, the sin of idleness in waiting for death. Instead of succumbing to a slow death, the lepers go to the camp of the Syrians upon twilight – where instead of death, they find life (Exodus 12:6, 16:12; representative of the Passover).

9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.”

10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.”

11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household.

12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’”

13 And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.”

14 So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.”

15 So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.

Is this not the picture of Christ’s resurrection?  Such a plain gospel, yet so rarely received in child-like innocence.  Instead of understanding that Christ has died and is resurrected for our sins, we are like the king who is doubtful of divine good news (v.12).  Note however that instead of the king hopefully desiring the birth of the Saviour, such good news is given by the lepers to the servants; by the servants to the king; by the servants to the king again for purpose of persuasion (v.12-15; Luke 24:10).  The wealth of the Syrians is thus given first to the lepers, then to the servants, then to the king; not to the king first (Romans 11).

16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.

17 Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. And the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died, as the man of God had said when the king came down to him.

18 For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two seahs of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,”

19 the captain had answered the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died.

So, the prophecy is fulfilled according to the Word in Elisha’s mouth – yet this is commenced first and foremost by the four lepers who asked themselves the important question of the purpose behind sitting and waiting for one’s death.  In their humble obedience to the LORD, they have obtained plentiful inheritance (Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5).  Indeed, the LORD has made windows in heaven, and the windows have not merely brought in plunder and food – but has brought in our LORD Jesus Christ who resurrected against the expectations of the kings of this world, but much to the adoration of the marginalized, to the lepers, to the women – to those who do not doubt the LORD’s might (James 1:6).  Such is the exaltation of man in the glory of Christ’s rejected exaltation.

II Kings 8:

1 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the LORD has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.”

2 So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.

3 And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land.

4 Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, “Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.”

5 And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.”

6 And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

The exaltation at the end of chapter 7 continues here, the restoration of the humble, the exaltation of the meek, the rising of Mordecai after the death and resurrection of Christ (Esther 8) – the revelation of the true reality of the robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10-11).   In the opening verses of 2 Kings 8 we immediately see a type of the life of a Christian after the resurrection of Christ, until we move to verse 6 – the revelation of the son of God (Romans 8:19).

7 Now Elisha came to Damascus. Ben-hadad the king of Syria was sick. And when it was told him, “The man of God has come here,”

8 the king said to Hazael, “Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the LORD through him, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this sickness?’”

9 So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, all kinds of goods of Damascus, forty camel loads. When he came and stood before him, he said, “Your son Ben-hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this sickness?’”

10 And Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover,’ but the LORD has shown me that he shall certainly die.”

11 And he fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was embarrassed. And the man of God wept.

12 And Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.”

13 And Hazael said, “What is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” Elisha answered, “The LORD has shown me that you are to be king over Syria.”

14 Then he departed from Elisha and came to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me that you would certainly recover.”

15 But the next day he took the bed cloth and dipped it in water and spread it over his face, till he died. And Hazael became king in his place.

The heart of Hazael is plain for God to see – His name, whom God sees, is exactly what Elisha has done with this future usurper of the throne of Syria.  Note the divine perception which Elisha is blessed with (v.11-12) – as if Hazael’s false innocence could not be pierced by the Spirit-filled insight (Mark 2:8, 5:30).  “You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women”.  In the face of such prophecy, Hazael leaves unfazed and without remorse.  This is the Satan who contends against the LORD, despite instant rebuke.  The juxtaposition of v.14 and v.15 immediately informs us that Hazael is a man to pray protection from.

16 In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign.

17 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.

18 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

19 Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

Elisha is but one man, a glimmer of promise – but the chapter never strays to allow us to focus on Elisha’s strength, but on the promise of the lamp to him and his sons.  Elisha belongs not to Judah, nor to Israel – but to those who follow Jesus – he favours those who follow the lamp of God (Revelation 21:23).

20 In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own.

21 Then Joram passed over to Zair with all his chariots and rose by night, and he and his chariot commanders struck the Edomites who had surrounded him, but his army fled home.

22 So Edom revolted from the rule of Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time.

23 Now the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

24 So Joram slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.

What a contrast from the days of David (2 Samuel 8:14).  In the failures of the king Joram, in his failure to walk with Christ (Proverbs 21:31), Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own (v.20).  Quite contrary to the true meaning of his name – whom Jehovah has exalted.   However, it is rather the events which transpired through Joram, the king of Israel (rather than the king of Judah) which brought true exaltation to the marginalized in Israel by way of the anointed king Jehu in the following chapters:

25 In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign.

26 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah; she was a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel.

27 He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was son-in-law to the house of Ahab.

The blood of murderers runs thick in the line of Omri (1 Kings 16:25) – for the first time, both kings walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  In the immediacy of the likelihood of the destruction of Israel as neither king walked with Jesus, the injury of king Joram would lead to the imminent downfall of those who walk in the way of the house of Ahab.  The counsel of the wicked join together to be healed of their physical pain, but the counsel of the holy will join together to destroy and bring healing to those suffering from the same birthpains of creation (Romans 8:22).

28 He went with Joram the son of Ahab to make war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead, and the Syrians wounded Joram.

29 And King Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick.

2 Kings 7-8: Revelation of the Sons of God

2 Kings 5-6: Prophet of Israel, for the Gentiles

II Kings 5:

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.

3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.”

5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

 

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes.

6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

 

Consider the perilous times in which Elisha persisted for the LORD.  Even the Christ had this to say about Naaman in Luke 4:24-27 –

 

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.”

Indeed – who is Elisha sent to except to the Israelites?  And yet, if not for Jehoshaphat, the king of Israel would be ignored because Elisha and Elijah have been similarly persecuted.  In the same vein as their object of desire, Christ, they have walked in a path honouring to the Gentiles in bringing them closer to the LORD:

 

There were many widows After throwing back upon themselves the blame of their being deprived of miracles, he produces two examples to prove, that they ought not to think it strange, if God prefers strangers to the inhabitants of the country, and that they ought not to find fault with him for obeying the call of God, as was formerly done by Elijah and Elisha. He throws out an indirect hint as to their vanity and presumption, in entertaining a dislike of him, because he had been brought up among them. When there was a great famine for three years and a half, there were many widows in Israel, whose want of food Elijah was not commanded to relieve, but he was sent to a woman, who belonged to a foreign nation, Zidon, (1 Kings 17:9.) In like manner, Elisha healed no lepers among his countrymen, but he healed Naaman, a Syrian, (2 Kings 5:10.)

 

Though his reproofs strike the inhabitants of Nazareth with peculiar severity, yet he charges the whole nation with ingratitude, because, for a long period, almost all of them had proceeded to more shameful contempt of the Lord, in proportion as he had approached nearer to them. For how did it come about, that a woman, who was a foreigner, was preferred by God to all the Israelites, but because the prophet had been rejected by them, and compelled to seek refuge in a heathen land? And why did God choose that Naaman, a Syrian, should be healed by Elisha, but to put a disgrace on the nation of Israel? The meaning, therefore, is, that the same thing happens now as in former times, when God sends his power to a great distance among foreigners, because he is rejected by the inhabitants of the country.”

 

Note, however, that Elisha’s reputation to Naaman is simply that of the healer.  However, to the servant girl of Naaman’s wife, Elisha is the prophet!  In this chapter, it is this servant girl who acts as the Jehoshaphat, who ushers in Christ working through Elisha.  Neither Naaman, nor the king of Israel, recognize Elisha as a man of God but the girl who recognizes his power.  Yet, Elisha’s decision to heal Naaman is indirectly a service to ensure that Israel is protected; so also, Christ’s choice to reach out to the gentiles is not to replace Israel but rather to restore Israel (Romans 11:25-26).

 

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house.

10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”

11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.

12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.

13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

 

Naaman’s reaction is indeed revealing of the presuppositions surrounding the Christian faith then (v.11).  It would appear that the reputation of prophets is (i) the calling upon the name of the LORD, and (ii) waving of the hand.  However, Elisha as prophet undercuts these presuppositions.  Instead, he simply says “Wash, and be clean” (c.f. Matthew 9:5).  This is a direct affront to the religiosity of the day, the formula and systematic theology of Christianity in Naaman’s time.  Yet, the LORD is not to be contained in human predictions, though He stays true to His triune personalities by healing Naaman in ways unconventional even to the Pharisee’s understanding.  By dipping himself in the symbolic Jordan river, Naaman is partaking in the act which turned the Israelites from mere tribal men to princes of a chosen country (c.f. Joshua 3).  The restoration of his skin, in a number of times representing rest (c.f. Genesis 2:2), is but a firstfruit of new creation.  We too shall see Naaman with child-like rather than leprous skin in New Jerusalem.

 

 

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.”

16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.

17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mules’ load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD.

18 In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.”

 

It is important to see that Naaman was only addressed by Elisha’s messenger; and upon his cleansing, he goes to see Elisha, face-to-face.  This new life is again a theme explored in the previous chapter, where Elisha brings the Shulammite woman’s son back to life, face-to-face.  Naaman’s conversion is therefore complete – he declares that there is no God in all earth but in Israel, for God is the Healer and Physician (v.15).  His theology is precise – he did not offer anything for his cleansing, but his free-will offering comes out of a heart of gratefulness in having partaken in God’s glory.  For once, we see Elisha’s view of missions – there is no justification for Naaman to stay in Israel as a spiritual Israelite; the truth of Elisha’s mission, as described by Jesus in Luke 4, is that the Christian is to go to all men, and not just to Israel.  Thus, in v.19, Elisha tells Naaman that he is to go in peace, back to Syria a land of false worship – yet, in doing so, Elisha has made a new disciple who would proclaim but one thing – that the God of Israel, the God of Elisha, is the only true God in all the earth.  As symbolic of the importance of the land of Israel, Naaman’s request is not so strange:

 

“He that awhile ago had spoken very slightly of the waters of Israel ( 12) now is in another extreme, and over-values the earth of Israel, supposing (since God has appointed altars of earth, Exod. xx. 24) that an altar of that earth would be most acceptable to him, not considering that all the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. Or perhaps the transport of his affection and veneration for the prophet, not only upon the account of his power, but of his virtue and generosity, made him, as we say, love the very ground he went upon and desire to have some of it home with him.” – Matthew Henry

 

The irony that he should not wish to worship the idol Rimmon, which intimates fruitfulness (meaning literally ‘pomegranate’) but that he rather settle with the waters of Jordan and the earth of Israel.  He has begun to see through the falsities of religion and grasp at the beauty of Israel because of her God.

 

 

19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance,

20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”

21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?”

22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two festal garments.’”

23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two festal garments, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi.

24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.

25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.”

26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?

27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

 

It is a sad affair that Gehazi’s name is in direct contradiction to the illness of leprosy.  This ‘valley of vision’ is has lost sight of the LORD and had clung onto the silver and festal garments instead.  This deceit was plain in Spirit-filled Elisha’s eyes.  This is not the right time to accept money and garmens, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants – such is but the extrapolation of what Gehazi truly wanted from Naaman’s gifts.  The extent of spiritual sight is a divine measure of our heart’s motivation:

 

“Had Gehazi yet to learn that prophets had spiritual eyes? or could he think to hide any thing from a seer, from him with whom the secret of the Lord was? Note, It is folly to presume upon sin in hopes of secresy. When thou goest aside into any by-path does not thy own conscience go with thee? Does not the eye of God go with thee? He that covers his sin shall not prosper, particularly a lying tongue is but for a moment, Prov. xii. 19. Truth will transpire, and often comes to light strangely, to the confusion of those that make lies their refuge. (2.) What he designed, though he kept that in his own breast. He could tell him the very thoughts and intents of his heart, that he was projecting, now that he had got these two talents, to purchase ground and cattle, to leave Elisha’s service, and to set up for himself. Note, All the foolish hopes and contrivances of carnal worldlings are open before God. And he tells him also the evil of it: “Is it a time to receive money? Is this an opportunity of enriching thyself? Couldst thou find no better way of getting money than by belying thy master and laying a stumbling-block before a young convert?” Note, Those that are for getting wealth at any time, and by any ways and means whatsoever, right or wrong, lay themselves open to a great deal of temptation. Those that will be rich (per fas, per nefas; rem, rem, quocunque modo rem–by fair means, by foul means; careless of principle, intent only on money) drown themselves in destruction and perdition, 1 Tim. vi. 9. War, and fire, and plague, and shipwreck, are not, as many make them, things to get money by. It is not a time to increase our wealth when we cannot do it but in such ways as are dishonourable to God and religion or injurious to our brethren or the public.” – Matthew Henry

 

He is therefore revealed in his true form, being a sinful man, unclean inside and out.

 

II Kings 6:

1 Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us.

2 Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.”

3 Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.”

4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.

5 But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.”

6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float.

7 And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

 

This episode is most unusual and seemingly out of place.  Why did the narrator decide to include the miracle in v.1-7 here?  If anything, removing v.1-7 would enable the story from chapter 5 to flow naturally into v.8 of chapter 6 directly.  Rather, the restoration of the axe head leads me to two other places in the Word:

Deuteronomy 19: 4-6 – If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6lest(D) the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past.

Luke 3:8-10 –

8Bear fruits(A) in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves,(B) ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from(C) these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.(D) Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

These two places are firm reminders for us that the axe head laid onto the woods in Jordan is a picture of the enlargement of God’s kingdom – the divine increase.  Yet, under Deuteronomy 19 and Luke 3, we are reminded that symbolically – the axe loses its purpose if its head is removed.  Under Deuteronomy 19, this may even lead to an innocent death.  Yet in Luke 3, the axe head is to remain on the axe to ensure that every tree that does not bear good fruit is to be cut down, as a forewarning of judgment.  Elisha’s presence ensured that the axes do not lose their purpose in ensuring the enlargement of God’s kingdom, but all the meanwhile a faint reminder of the coming verses of judgment against Syria.  In this manner, the story of Naaman’s healing, followed by the restoration of the axe head serves as a pretext to the destruction of the Syrian forces and the enlargement of spiritual Israel.

 

8 Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.”

9 But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.”

10 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.

11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?”

12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”

13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.”

14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.

 

Unlike the previous chapter where Elisha seems to be unknown even to Naaman, the reputation of Elisha has spread even to the ears of the king of Syria by way of one of his servants (v.12).  The servant recognizes Elisha’s power.  It is possible that Naaman, upon his return to Syria, was a twofold witness – he preached the Word in providing greater knowledge to the Syrians that Elisha possesses such might because of the LORD, and he was a living witness of a leprous man now with child-like skin (c.f. Matthew 8:4).

 

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.

19 And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.

 

 

20 As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

21 As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?”

22 He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”

23 So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.

 

Elisha’s gift of spiritual sight is thus transferred to his servant (who may not be Gehazi) as a reminder of the reality of the force of light in extinguishing darkness (John 1:5).  There was never a struggle against the Satan – Christ was victorious even before creation, even before the fall (Revelation 13:8).  Yet, the enemy who is the prince of air (Ephesians 2:2) is but a temporary illusion until our creation is renewed.

 

Further, instead of fulfilling the bloodthirsty nature of the king of Israel (which only led to the sacrifice of the firstborn in 2 Kings 3), Elisha preached the Christian message of loving one’s enemies, preparing a great feast in the land of Samaria.  What a wondrous picture of the LORD’s mercy in uniting the Syrians and Israelites in the residing land of Elisha, a foretelling of the removed divides between nations in their faith in Christ to gather in the place of the prophet, in the heart of mountains of Israel.  However, the Syrians were not accompanies by their king – and their head still clings onto Rimmon rather than Yahweh, the provider of the great feast of Samaria.

 

24 Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria.

25 And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.

26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!”

27 And he said, “If the LORD will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?”

28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’

29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.”

30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—

31 and he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”

 

What ignorance of the king of Israel – in his blood is only the message of violence and vengeance.  Yet, Elisha preached a message of vulnerable love only to be crucified in return, the lamb led to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), the true picture of a man of God.

 

The picture of Samaria, however, is indeed tragic.  The hosting venue of a momentous feast between Israelites and Syrians is now but a desolate place with a great famine (v.25).  Yet the LORD’s favour lies not only with Israel, but through Israel, is to bless Samaria.  The king of Israel could only think of murder, forgetting that it is Elisha who intercedes to bless Israel and in turn, bless Samaria.

 

32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Now the king had dispatched a man from his presence, but before the messenger arrived Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent to take off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?”

33 And while he was still speaking with them, the messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the LORD! Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”

 

It is interesting to see the messenger of the king of Israel speak such words of despair.  “This trouble is from the LORD!  Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”  That is exactly the difference between the loyalty of the king of Israel and the loyalty of Elisha, who was in the good company of the elders; whereas the king stands alone in his persecution of holy men.   Yet, is this not the remedy of the world, that we place our blame on others?  Surely it is the king who is to blame; the king who has not taken the sin upon himself as the head of the nation (Deuteronomy 17:18-19).  The trouble is not from the LORD – the trouble is from the Christless king.

2 Kings 5-6: Prophet of Israel, for the Gentiles

2 Kings 3-4: Overflowing Love

II Kings 3:

1 In the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twelve years.

2 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made.

3 Nevertheless, he clung to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from it.

4 Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams.

5 But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.

6 So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel.

7 And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?” And he said, “I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

8 Then he said, “By which way shall we march?” Jehoram answered, “By the way of the wilderness of Edom.”

9 So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. And when they had made a circuitous march of seven days, there was no water for the army or for the animals that followed them.

10 Then the king of Israel said, “Alas! The LORD has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.”

11 And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, through whom we may inquire of the LORD?” Then one of the king of Israel’s servants answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.”

12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the LORD is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

 

From the opening of 2 Kings 3 we are immediately brought again to the contrast between Jehoshaphat and Jehoram, the House of David against the House of Ahab.  Jehoram sought alliance with the king of Edom, yet it is the king of Israel that Elisha gives face to (v.14).  Jehoshaphat’s reliance is pure and innocent – “The word of the LORD is with him”.  Indeed, it is not with the human kings, nor in might, nor in strategy; it is in the prophet who can establish and destroy kings.  Jehoram’s word could only lead Israel to death, to the wilderness; but Elisha’s word could lead Israel to new life watered by the blood-stream of Jesus.

 

13 And Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No; it is the LORD who has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.”

14 And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you.

15 But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.

16 And he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’

17 For thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’

18 This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD. He will also give the Moabites into your hand,

19 and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.”

20 The next morning, about the time of offering the sacrifice, behold, water came from the direction of Edom, till the country was filled with water.

 

Just as David played the lyre to fend off the evil spirit in Saul (1 Samuel 16:23), so also Elisha asked a musician to come and dispel the devilish company by Spirit-led music.  Here, we see the living waters fill the dry streambed (v.16), the music of the LORD tied to the harmony of pure creation of living water arising neither from wind, nor rain, but from the ground – an image of the Edenic pools of waters (Genesis 2:6, 2:10).  Just as water came from the direction of Edom (meaning red), we are reminded that the blood stream is but once again a covering over Israel.  Just as Jacob had hidden himself in the covering which represented Esau’s firstborn stature (Genesis 25:25; 27), so also Israel (and the other houses) lay hidden in the blood-red streams of Christ the firstborn.  Although Ahab sought the support of king Edom, it is Jehoshaphat who sought the support of Christ, the God of Elijah and Elisha.

 

21 When all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them, all who were able to put on armor, from the youngest to the oldest, were called out and were drawn up at the border.

22 And when they rose early in the morning and the sun shone on the water, the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood.

23 And they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together and struck one another down. Now then, Moab, to the spoil!”

24 But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites, till they fled before them. And they went forward, striking the Moabites as they went.

25 And they overthrew the cities, and on every good piece of land every man threw a stone until it was covered. They stopped every spring of water and felled all the good trees, till only its stones were left in Kir-hareseth, and the slingers surrounded and attacked it.

26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not.

27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

 

Yet their ambition to destroy Moab goes beyond what the LORD has given them (v.18-19), until only the stones were left in the City of the Sun – Kir-hareseth.  Note Adam Clarke’s observation of v.27, in spite of the apparent victory by the blood of Christ:

 

The rabbins account for this horrible sacrifice in the following way:-

When the king of Moab found himself so harassed, and the royal city on the   point of being taken, he called a council of his servants, and asked them how it was these Israelites could perform such prodigies, and that such miracles were wrought for them? His servants answered, that it was owing to their progenitor Abraham, who, having an only son, was commanded by Jehovah to offer him in sacrifice. Abraham instantly obeyed, and offered his only son for a burnt-offering; and the Israelites being his descendants, through his merits the holy blessed God wrought such miracles in their behalf. The king of Moab answered, I also have an only son, and I will go and offer him to my God. Then he offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall.

Upon the wall] al hachamah. Rab. Sol. Jarchi says that the letter vau is wanting in this word, as it should be written chomah, to signify a wall; but chammah signifies the sun, and this was the god of the king of Moab: “And he offered his first-born son for a burnt-offering unto the sun.” This is not very solid.

There was great indignation] The Lord was displeased with them for driving things to such an extremity: or the surrounding nations held them in abomination on the account; and they were so terrified themselves at this most horrid sacrifice, that they immediately raised the siege and departed. In cases of great extremity it was customary in various heathen nations to offer human sacrifices, or to devote to the infernal gods the most precious or excellent thing or person they possessed. This was frequent among the Phoenicians, Romans, and Greeks; and it was the natural fruit of a religious system which had for the objects of its worship cruel and merciless divinities. How different the Christian system! “Wilt thou that we shall bring down fire from heaven and destroy them? Ye know not what manner of spirits ye are of; the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

 

Indeed, such is true.  Christ did not seek to have burnt offerings made to Him (Numbers 3:4), for He is the burnt offering.  Why did Jehoshaphat and Ahab, as kings of Israel, fail to preach the Word of the coming Son?  Rather, in allowing this to happen, the false gospel is preached for all to see – the sacrifice of the king of Moab’s firstborn reminding us of the death of all the firstborn in the Egyptian exodus (Exodus 11:5).

 

 

II Kings 4:

1 Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”

2 And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”

3 Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.

4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”

5 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.

6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

 

 

There is no doubt that the focus of 2 Kings 3 has always been on Jesus, witnessed by Elisha.  As such, the break from warfare is more natural when we immediately see that Elisha has moved from the battle plains of Edom to the wife of one of the sons of the prophets.  In chapter 4, we see Elisha’s Spirit-led work resembling that of Christ, as a continuation of chapter 3.  The double portion of Elijah’s Spirit is now on Elisha, a grand time of harvest – and the first of such miraculous signs is in the blood-red stream of Edom which pronounced judgment on Moab, but salvation for Israel.  Yet, the overflowing love of God continues (John 17:24-26) from the blood of Christ onto the overflowing vessels of oil (1 Kings 17; Matthew 25:29).

 

8 One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food.

9 And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way.

10 Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”

11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there.

12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him.

13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”

14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway.

16 And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.”

17 But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.

18 When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers.

19 And he said to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.”

20 And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died.

21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door behind him and went out.

22 Then she called to her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.”

23 And he said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” She said, “All is well.”

24 Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.”

25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite.

26 Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.”

27 And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.”

28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”

29 He said to Gehazi, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.”

30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.

31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed.

33 So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the LORD.

34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm.

35 Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

36 Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.”

37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

 

The distinction here is that the LORD is the same to the wealthy and poor alike.  So also his overflowing love pours out through his crucified and living Son onto the Shunammite women, who conceived miraculously (c.f. Genesis 18:13), who gives life out of death in abundance (v.16, v.35).  And this is the picture of our resurrection, that our Christ shall restore us face-to-face, and here – mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand on hand.  What intimacy in bringing a child (who the mother conceived, though living with the fear that he will be taken away v.28) to life.  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD (Psalm 127:3), for the Father’s heritage is His begotten Son.  In the miraculous birth, sudden death and resurrection of the Shunammite’s son, we see a glimpse of the LORD’s economy in saving this sinful world – that the virgin birth through Mary is but an overflow of His love for us, that the Son should be conceived as a God-man only to die the death of a sinner, but brought back to life into the intimate embrace of the Father’s bosom – eye-to-eye, mouth-to-mouth, hand-to-hand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

 

38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”

39 One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.

40 And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

41 He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” And there was no harm in the pot.

 

Here, we see again the healing of the food just as Elisha healed the water to be drinkable; instead of going by way of the salt covenant, Elisha goes by way of the grain offering.  The death in the pot is removed by the flour so ingrained in grain offering (c.f. Numbers 7, 28, 29).  Yet, the wild vine is but a representative of these faithless sons of prophets (c.f. Jeremiah 2:21), who shall one day be replaced by other Spirit-filled men and women like Elisha and Elijah who behold their Christ (Romans 11) despite their upbringing as apparent wild vines.  Instead, these wild vines shall enjoin the true vine of God by the grain offering, fully restored.  “And there was no harm in the pot” (v.41).  We see the blood of Christ in the end of chapter 3, followed by the oil of love in the beginning of chapter 4, leading to the resurrection of the only son of the Shunammite woman.  What is left in this grand gesture of gospel media, from Christ’s crucifixion to the overflowing giving of the Spirit found in the resurrection of the son?  What is left is fellowship and feasting with the LORD (c.f. Mark 8:19, Revelation 19:9):

 

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.”

43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”

44 So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.

2 Kings 3-4: Overflowing Love

2 Kings 1-2: Christ and His disciple

II Kings 1:

1 After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.

 

2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.”

3 But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?

4 Now therefore thus says the LORD, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.

 

The opening of 2 Kings is a stauch reminder of the king’s duties in ensuring the peace with neighbouring countries.  Under the reign of David and Solomon, Israel was reaching a golden era of peace.  However, under Ahab’s rule, his house was cursed like that of Jeroboam and Baasha.  Upon his death, the incestuous sister country Moab (c.f. Genesis 19) decides to rebel against Israel (v.1) – undoubtedly reminding us that the king has been unfaithful to the LORD, and the very fact of Moab’s rebellion is a pretext for Ahaziah’s curse in this chapter.

 

Ahaziah is much like his father’s image – but where Ahab acknowledged the LORD and was humbled by Him (1 Kings 21:27-29), Ahaziah not only ignored the LORD but instead opts to inquire of “Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron”.  This is the same as Beelzebub in Matthew 10:25, the “lord of the flies” – flies having a negative connotation akin to the curse in Exodus 8.  Ahaziah, rather than inquiring of the God in Israel, decides to inquire the god of the Philistines (v.3).  This pronouncement of the curse by the Angel of the LORD, Jesus, is early on in v.4 – a curse on the head and king of Israel by the prophet and man of God.  Like Ahab and Jezebel, so Ahaziah is the typical Adam, the cursed head.  Instead of enabling Israel to fulfill its calling as a priesthood to all nations (Exodus 19:6), it is now undistinguished to its neighbours.  He is not the true king of Israel – but is rather the self-proclaimed king of Samaria, far away from Moriah, the place of Christ’s redemptive work (c.f. Genesis 22).

 

Instead, the deliberate comparison is that this king of Israel is contrasted to the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, who had insisted on inquiring of the LORD at the end of 1 Kings.  Here, instead, Ahaziah is insistent on inquiring of Baal-zebub: the irony that is Ahaziah living out the character of Moab.  Though in the ‘family’, born not out of holiness but out of sin.  Ahaziah is but a ‘legal’ Israelite, but bears not the Spirit of God in living as the true Israelite.  The lamp of Jerusalem, emphasizing on the lamp to David and his sons which remains with Judah.

 

5 The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?”

6 And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the LORD, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”

7 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?”

8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

 

Here, Elijah the Baptist (c.f. Matthew 3:4) again is clearing the road for the true king.  Ahaziah, like Ahab, inquired of other gods.  Elijah’s role as prophet is to bring in the true king Jesus Christ (1 Samuel 2:10, 12:12) just as the judges and Samuel preceded the need for a Saul or David.  Here, there is a direct conflict between the ‘messengers of Baal-zebub’ (including the king Ahaziah, and his messengers and captains and their men) and the messenger of the LORD Elijah.

 

9 Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”

10 But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

11 Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’”

12 But Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

 

Note here the imagery – Elijah sits at the top of a hill, a biblical indication of heaven (Psalm 24:3, 44:3).  So we see Christ speaking through his messenger Elijah (as a type of Christ), to 2 sets of captains and their fifty men at the bottom of the hill.  This is a reminder of the time in the wilderness when the men were afraid to approach Mount Sinai and had to commission Moses to go.  There is nothing special about Moses – all the men, though ‘quarantined’ from breaking in to meet the Father, however were also invited into receiving the Father personally, rather than Moses himself (Exodus 20:18-21).

 

However, these captains and men did not seek to revere the LORD of Elijah.  In contrast, they asked Elijah to come down from the hill – mockingly using the title “man of God” whilst disbelieving the “God” of this man.  What they receive, instead of the warm embrace of the Father, is the wrath otherwise poured onto the Holy Son on their behalf.  This is but a foretelling of the events in Revelation – the ridicule of Christ leading to fiery destruction from the heavens (2 Peter 3:7-12).

 

Note the number fifty – the number of final deliverance (c.f. Jubilee – Leviticus 25) which concords with the imagery of Revelation and of Elijah on the top of the hill.  The first two sets (the two captains, and their respective fifty men – 102 men killed by the fire, two-thirds of the men sent by Ahaziah).  This is but a shadow of judgment in Christ’s ‘descension’, in the parousia – two thirds destroyed but one third spared, the ‘thirds’ being an important pattern of division in Scripture (Ezekiel 5:2-12; Revelation 8-9) – the man of God goes down the hill to be with the third captain.  This is because the man recognizes truly this ‘man of God’ is neither mere man nor an object of mockery.

 

 

13 Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.

14 Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.”

15 Then the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king

16 and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”

 

What is often omitted from 2 Kings 1 (v.15), let alone a portrayal of Elijah’s biography, is Elijah’s fear.  This creates a collective image of a prophet who has a tendency to fear man (1 Kings 19:3, 19:18).  Yet, Elijah’s weakness is supplanted by the LORD’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), a truly cruciform lifestyle (2 Corinthians 13:4) as he beheld the Angel of the LORD Who was with him at the top of the hill.

 

The captain and the third fifty were therefore spared – but the king died in fulfillment of Elijah’s word.  This scenario is again reflected in the New Testament (Matthew 8:5-13), the faithful centurion contrasted against the faithless master of the centurion (Matthew 23:11). In fact, the message had been clear since v.6-8.  The king could have gone out himself and pleaded with Elijah; instead, 102 men were murdered, and the only one spared in this chapter is the captain and his fifty humbled before Elijah, recognizing the LORD’s work in His prototypical judgment on the Day of Resurrection.  Though the king had the murderous intent (v.15 – do not be afraid of him), Elijah was the one who had the ‘last word’.

 

Although Ahaziah had no son, Jehoram his brother (and also son of Ahab and Jezebel) replaced him (v.17).  It is ironic that both kings’ name means “whom Jehovah has exalted”.  Neither the Jehoram of Judah (2 Chronicles 21-22) nor the Jehoram of Israel were fitting of this name.  This is therefore the way 2 Kings 1 opens – not by displaying the righteousness of men, but rather than the righteousness of the Angel of the LORD who brought judgment on all those against His anointed prophet.

 

17 So he died according to the word of the LORD that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son.

18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

 

II Kings 2:

1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.

2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

3 And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”

 

By way of how 2 Kings 1 ended, the narrator of 2 Kings 2 brings us back to the beginning – taking Elijah and Elisha through landmarks explored before the Israelites even entered Canaan.  From Gilgal to Bethel, Elijah and Elisha are brought to remember the reproach of Israel removed (Joshua 5:9), insodoing bringing the Israelites back to the house of God (Genesis 28, 35).  Like Enoch, the seventh in generation from Adam, Elijah is to be caught up into the Lord’s presence (Genesis 5:24); however, the method by whirlwind is unprecedented in the recording of the Word.  What is important is that the sons of the prophets’ knowledge of Elijah’s removal (and so reminded Elisha) is a foretelling of the Son of God ascending the ladder to third heaven (Genesis 28:12); the Son of God no longer ‘with’ His disciples, so also Elijah no longer with Elisha – the type of Christ and the type of the Church.  The giving of the Spirit resting on Elijah to Elisha, so also the giving of the Spirit resting on Christ (Isaiah 11:2), given to all flesh (Joel 2:28).

 

4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho.

5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”

 

So while the sons of the prophets remind Elisha of the anointed prophet’s ascension, we are brought to recollect that Jericho should not even exist – should not even be rebuilt (Joshua 6:26).  Yet, here it stands, as a result of Israel’s rebellion.  Not once, but thrice (after going to Gilgal and Bethel) are we to remember that the LORD has been faithful, but we have not.

 

6 Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

7 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.

8 Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.

 

From Bethel to Jericho to Jordan (Joshua 3-5), it looks like the Lord is walking Elijah in reverse through the history of Israel.  Rather, this is a walk through the restoration of the ancient borderless gospel.  The way out of Canaan through the Jordan, starting from the House of God.  In doing so, Elijah the Baptist is preparing the way of Christ (Isaiah 54:2), expanding the House of God beyond the Jordan!  Elijah is thus a walking example of Hebrew 13:13, walking through judgment (instead of entering judgment by the first entrance into Israel as under Joshua 3-5, it is symbolic of a removal of judgment in leaving Israel).  So in Elijah’s ascension, we see Christ’s ascension in His incarnate body, taking Israel with Him to the right hand of the Father’s throne.

 

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”

10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”

11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

 

This is a grand picture, a reality of inheriting double portion of the Spirit on Elijah is that Elisha may receive divine sight of the chariots of Israel and it’s horsemen (2 Kings 6:17; also reminiscent of the picture of judgment in Isaiah 66).

 

13 And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

 

When Elisha returns to Israel, he is the same Spirit-filled Elisha from before Elijah ascended into third heaven.  Rather, the distinction serves as a foretelling of the distinction before and after Christ’s ascension (c.f. Acts 2) – the distinction that Christ has been glorified (John 7:39) and the Spirit has now been imparted in a grander measure to all flesh.  Thus Elisha’s taking up of the cloak of Elijah is a picture of His garments of righteousness, his cloak of zeal, covering us (Isaiah 59:17, 61:10) – but also intimately a call back to 1 Kings 19:19-21 when Elijah chose Elisha as his disciple.  This cloak is not of any inherent supernatural quality – rather, it is a picture of the righteousness given to Elijah, the same righteousness and power of the Spirit passing through to Elisha his disciple.

 

V.14 is a direct prophecy of Christ’s same words on the cross – lema lema sabachthani – “Why has the LORD forsaken me?” – “Where is the LORD?”  The parting of the waters is a reminder of the parting of the waters in the exodus of Israel and in day two of creation, both pointing towards the stretching of the Son’s life on the cross.  His appeal is therefore not to Elijah as if he was some deity-saint through whom we reach Mary, through whom we reach Jesus, through whom we reach the Father; rather, Elisha appeals directly to the LORD who had clearly caused Elijah’s ascension:

 

“He applied to Elijah’s God: Where is the Lord God of Elijah? He does not ask, “Where is Elijah?” as poring upon the loss of him, as if he could not be easy now that he was gone,–or as doubting of his happy state, as if, like the sons of the prophets here, he knew not what had become of him,–or as curiously enquiring concerning him, and the particular of that state he was removed to (no, that is a hidden life, it does not yet appear what we shall be),–nor as expecting help from him; no, Elijah is happy, but is neither omniscient nor omnipotent; but he asks, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Now that Elijah was taken to heaven God had abundantly proved himself the God of Elijah; if he had not prepared for him that city, and done better for him there than ever he did for him in this world, he would have been ashamed to be called his God, Heb. xi. 16; Matt. xxvii. 31, 32. Now that Elijah was taken to heaven Elisha enquired, [1.] After God. When our creature-comforts are removed, we have a God to go to, that lives for ever. [2.] After The God of Elijah, the God that Elijah served, and honoured, and pleaded for, and adhered to when all Israel had deserted him. This honour is done to those who cleave to God in times of general apostasy, that God will be, in a peculiar manner, their God. “The God that owned, and protected, and provided for Elijah, and many ways honoured him, especially now at last, where is he? Lord, am not I promised Elijah’s spirit? Make good that promise.” The words which next follow in the original, Aph-his–even he, which we join to the following clause, when he also had smitten the waters, some make an answer to this question, Where is Elijah’s God? Etiam ille adhuc superest–“He is in being still, and nigh at hand. We have lost Elijah, but we have not lost Elijah’s God. He has not forsaken the earth; it is even he that is still with me.” Note, First, It is the duty and interest of the saints on earth to enquire after God, and apply to him as the Lord God of the saints that have gone before to heaven, the God of our fathers. Secondly, It is very comfortable to those who enquire of him; it is even he that is in his holy temple (Ps. xi. 4) and nigh to all who call upon him, Ps. cxlv. 18. Thirdly, Those that walk in the spirit and steps of their godly faithful predecessors shall certainly experience the same grace that they experienced; Elijah’s God will be Elisha’s too. The Lord God of the holy prophets is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and what will it avail us to have the mantles of those that are gone, their places, their books, if we have not their spirit, their God?” – Matthew Henry

 

15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the LORD has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.”

17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him.

18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”

 

Elisha, knowing full well that the whirlwind is the same Spirit of the LORD (as is understood by the sons of the prophets in v.16), is ashamed that the sons of the prophets fail to see the significance of Elijah’s departure (v.16-17).  What is the purpose in locating the ascended typological Son of God when even the sons of the prophets utter that the Spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha (v.15; c.f. Acts 1:11)?  Of course they would not find Elijah in the mountains, however plausible the Spirit’s work may be in teleportation (Acts 8:39-40).  This is because Elisha knew the event to foretell Christ’s ascension, and so also that Christ will return by way of the Spirit from the heavens.  Elisha’s shame is therefore tied fundamentally into the prophets’ failure to perceive the prophecy of the entire event, a mirror showing that these fifty men sent by sons of prophets has no clearer vision of the ascended Christ than the groups of fifty men sent by the false king.

 

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”

20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.”

22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.

 

One of the first acts which Elisha performs is, too prophetic – the healing of the bad water to bring in fresh water, the living waters of salvation.  This salt is implicative of the salt covenant with God laid down in Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19, yet salt inherently is associated with judgment and death (Genesis 19:26; James 3:12) and purification (Exodus 30:35) though it be a seasoning leading to new life (Ezekiel 47:8-12).  What Elisha preaches is therefore the gospel of the new bowl of fresh water, the new wine in new wineskins, the fulfillment of the law in Christ’s completion of his work on the cross.  No longer shall Israel be under the judgment of legal salt covenant, under the judgment of salty rain-water, but look forward to the fulfillment of the legal salt covenant in the Son who received the judgment of rain leading us to a new creation age of fresh water lakes with life-bearing fruit (Revelation 22:2).

 

23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”

24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.

25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

 

Here is a repeat of a similar event (1 Samuel 25), like Nabal against David.  Without knowing who he is, these small boys curse Elisha as the bald one – a negative connotation (Ezekiel 27:31; Isaiah 3:24; Lamentations 7:29).  So Elisha curses these children in return, in the name of the LORD, pronouncing the judgment the forty-two boys deserve (c.f. Genesis 12:3; John 20:23; compared with 2 Kings 10:14) in the House of God (Bethel).  From Bethel, he goes to Mount Carmel – the place of the destruction of Baal’s prophets, the name of the mount symbolically meaning circumcised lamb, a fruitful place; then he returns to Samaria, the watch-mountain and worship place of Baal  (1 Kings 16:32), reminding us that the watcher (Daniel 4) is protecting and guiding the Church in a world of idolatry, awaiting the day that all may behold the Christ, the God of Elijah and Elisha.

2 Kings 1-2: Christ and His disciple

1 Kings 21-22: Eve the head, Adam the body

1 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.

2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.”

3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

4 And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.

 

Naboth, the man of ‘fruits’ was given a portion in Jezreel – the place of kings yet also the place where God scatters (likely to be a reference to the destruction of Ahab’s house in 2 Kings 9).  Yet, this very contestation of inheritance is akin to the story of Jacob and Esau – the latter brother who sold his inheritance to Jacob over a simple meal.  Naboth however is no Esau – he is not selling his inheritance in new creation for mammon or the desire of his eye.  “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers” (v.3) – a basis built upon Numbers 26 and Numbers 36:7-9, that the inheritance of the Israelites are proportionately placed and kept within the tribes without transfer.

 

What is the value behind such a vineyard?  Quality?  No – it is a mere ‘vegetable garden’, which could have been replaced by a better vineyard (v.2).  Rather, it is simply because it is in a better location, because it is near Ahab’s house.  What nonsense!  Naboth’s adherence to the LORD’s command is exactly the type of faithfulness modeled from his following Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, the excellent wife in Proverbs 31:16; contrary to the sluggard, the vineyard of a man lacking sense, such as Ahab (Proverbs 24:30).  Such is the vineyard, the object of Christian love (Song of Solomon 8:12), modeled after the love the Father has for us through Christ:

 

Isaiah 5:7: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the men of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

and he looked for justice,

but behold, bloodshed;

for righteousness,

but behold, an outcry!

 

We are His vineyard!  We are the apple of His eye!  We are the treasure in the field!  He is the one Who protects, Who seeks, Who provides.

 

5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?”

6 And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

7 And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city.

9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people.

10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11 And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them,

12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people.

13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.

14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”

 

The events between v. 5-14 are but a repetition of Adam’s fall – Eve directing Adam’s actions, the man listening to the woman (Genesis 3:17) instead of being her head.  Naboth cared deeply for his vineyard, given to him by the LORD and commanded by the LORD to keep as his and his fathers’ inheritance.  Yet, the men, elders and leaders of the city from which Naboth belongs betrays Naboth.  The very people who are likely to know the same Naboth who stood up to king Ahab, and would cling onto his vineyard just as Christ clings to us that nothing shall remove us from His love (Romans 8:38).  They would spit in the face of a faithful man, in the face of the prophets like Elijah and Elisha, and instead listen to the false head, the false king who is not listening to Wisdom but to Folly (Proverbs 9:13).  Not only that, but two worthless men (witnesses) are set opposite the innocent Naboth, just as Christ was judged guilty in comparison to Barabbas (Matthew 27:20) by worthless men.  This flies in the face of the command in Deuteronomy 19:15-21:

 

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing,

17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days.

18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely,

19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you.

21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

 

V.13 is direct and blunt.  They did not place the dispute before priests and judges who are in office.  There was no diligent inquiry.  The two worthless men did not receive their due justice.  Instead, Naboth was innocently stoned.  He shall receive his true inheritance, as part of the LORD’s vineyard, in new creation and we will meet with him there, an inheritance which no man can purchase from him.  Yet, Ahab’s kingdom is on this earth and this is all he shall ever receive.  The nation Israel thus listened to a false king, whose headship had been influenced and subsumed heretically under the whore called Folly.  Yet, we are the spiritual Israelites called to listen to the true king, the “Son” of Solomon, who listens to the excellent wife the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 1:10; 31).

 

15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.”

16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,

18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession.

19 And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”

 

V.17 sees Christ speaking to Elijah – the Word of the LORD Who informed Elijah concerning the murder and false possession of Naboth and his inheritance.  The LORD shall not forsake Deuteronomy 19 – the wrath, which did not fall upon us Christians, still needs to fall upon Someone – that One being Christ Jesus.  Yet no one has paid the penalty for Ahab’s sins – he shall therefore experience the torment of Naboth by having the dogs lick his own blood (v.19, c.f. Romans 7:14).

 

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD.

21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.

22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin.

23 And of Jezebel the LORD also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’

24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.

26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)

 

The destruction of Ahab’s house does not fall upon him until 2 Kings 9:36-37, a fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy (his own fall fulfilled in 1 Kings 22:38).  In stealing another man’s inheritance, Ahab loses his own.  In conceding Jezebel’s actions and murdering Naboth, a holy saint and Christian in the city of Jezreel, Ahab’s household is itself the subject of God’s holy wrath.  Thus also Adam’s house is destroyed, so that the second Adam may rule – the removal of Satan, the false lord, the false Baal, in place of the true husband and our LORD Jesus Christ.

 

27 And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly.

28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,

29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”

 

Christ recognizes Ahab’s repentance before his end – yet, his end is but a proverb (Deuteronomy 28:37) to those who go after idols, stealing the LORD’s choice vineyard, selling himself to sin and listening to his wife instead of protecting and leading her in God’s word.  We are unsure whether Ahab himself has accepted the LORD personally, but the damage to his lineage cannot be undone.  Chapter 22 does not fare well for Ahab’s eventual death either, as he ended his life in sin and in defiance against the true prophets of the LORD.  He has led Israel to sin and only Christ, not Ahab, nor Adam, could redeem it.  The innocent blood of Naboth trickles on until Christ’s blood is itself licked by dogs like us.  Jezebel’s demise, unsurprisingly, is more graphic – the true instigator, the true folly of follies.  She is the temptress, the Babylonian prostitute (Revelation 14:8, 17:5).

 

1 Kings 22:  Prophets and Kings

1 For three years Syria and Israel continued without war.

2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.

3 And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?”

4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

5 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.”

6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?”

8 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”

9 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.”

10 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them.

11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.’”

12 And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”

 

We see in the final chapter of the first book of Kings what may seem to be a glorious attempt to unite Israel and Judah back into one nation, like the days of Solomon.  Israel and Syria are not in covenant (2 Chronicles 16:7), and instead, Ahab – the ‘king of Israel’ (unnamed until v. 20), decides to pursue the Syrians in the battle against Ramoth-gilead in unity with the king of Judah.  It is undoubtedly the case that the writer wishes to focus on the joint effort of this ‘king of Israel’ and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah.  Yet, as following in his vein of character, Ahab does not inquire the LORD – but Jehoshaphat (the LORD is judge) does (v.5).

 

It is interesting that these prophets (v.6) have been noticeably inactive up to this stage – to the point of Elijah’s despair (1 Kings 19:18).  Perhaps they are part of the 7,000 who have not yet bowed their knees to Baal?  I think not.  These prophets are flatterers coming in their own name rather than Christ’s Name, their power is in their eloquence and tongue rather than in the Word (1 Thessalonians 2).

 

What is strange is the omission of Elijah from this chapter.  Surely if there is one man by whom Ahab could inquire the LORD, it would be Elijah – the ‘enemy’ of Ahab (1 Kings 21:20), who is also hated by Ahab like this Micaiah (Who is like Jehovah?) the son of Imlah (whom God will fill up).  Like Micaiah, Elijah has not prophesied good concerning Ahab.  Yet, what is certain by their common prophecies is that Elijah and Micaiah are indeed of the LORD and filled with His Holy Spirit.  Zedekiah, though named a the ‘righteousness of Jehovah’ is not fitting of his name like Micaiah.  He is the son of a merchant, Chenaanah, and rather than being filled with the Spirit is instead a false prophet filled with gas (v.11-12).

 

13 And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”

14 But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.”

15 And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”

16 But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”

17 And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’”

18 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”

19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left;

20 and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another.

21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’

22 And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’

23 Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”

 

Micaiah’s prophecy in v.17 is a fulfillment of the name “Jezreel” – God scatters – during Ahab’s time.  The shepherdless and masterless Israel is a picture of the destruction of the house of Ahab.  Yet, Israel shall be shepherded and mastered by the LORD on His throne, all the hose of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left (v.19).  He is the One who allowed a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets to declare disaster upon themselves (v.21-23).  Micaiah’s prophecy in v.15 is filled with irony, and we can be sure that Micaiah’s intention is for the king to receive his due judgment on the battlefield.  Micaiah simply desires for Ahab to be removed, as the unrighteous king of Israel.  Even Ahab can tell from Micaiah’s tone that he is mocking the false prophets.  Adam Clarke notes Micaiah’s manner of exposing the false prophets’ lies shielded in ambiguity:

 

“This was a strong irony; as if he had said, All your prophets have predicted success; you wish me to speak as they speak: Go, and prosper; for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king. These were the precise words of the false prophets, (see 1Ki 22:6, 12,) and were spoken by Micaiah in such a tone and manner as at once showed to Ahab that he did not believe them; hence the king adjures him, 1Ki 22:16, that he would speak to him nothing but truth; and on this the prophet immediately relates to him the prophetic vision which pointed out the disasters which ensued.

 

It is worthy of remark that this prophecy of the king’s prophets is couched in the same ambiguous terms by which the false prophets in the heathen world endeavoured to maintain their credit, while they deluded their votaries. The reader will observe that the word it is not in the original: The Lord will deliver IT into the hand of the king; and the words are so artfully constructed that they may be interpreted for or against; so that, be the event whatever it might, the juggling prophet could save his credit by saying he meant what had happened. Thus then the prophecy might have been understood: The Lord will deliver (Ramoth-gilead) into the king’s (Ahab’s) hand; or, The Lord will deliver (Israel) into the king’s hand; i.e., into the hand of the king of Syria. And Micaiah repeats these words of uncertainty in order to ridicule them and expose their fallacy.”

 

24 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?”

25 And Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.”

26 And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son,

27 and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.”’”

28 And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”

 

As if the Spirit is only for Zedekiah to keep!  As if the Spirit only indwelt in a few Israelites!  No, the Spirit was shared amongst the holy, amongst the righteous, amongst the children of the LORD.  Behold, this truth shall be revealed not on the Pentecost in Acts 2, but on the day the false prophets are shamed (v.25).  This Joash is the son of Ahab, an agent of Ahab’s heresy.

 

29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.

30 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” And the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

31 Now the king of Syria had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, “Fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel.”

32 And when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is surely the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out.

33 And when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.

34 But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”

35 And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.

36 And about sunset a cry went through the army, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”

 

The irony is drawn out in v.29-36 – for Jehoshaphat is truly the one worthy of wearing this robe, and the king of Israel is but a man in disguise, a man posing as king though bearing no qualities of one.  It is interesting that the king of Syria in v.31 is only pursuing the king of Israel and no other, in fulfillment of Micaiah’s prophecy that Ahab shall be struck down.  In the LORD’s providence (v.34), the king is struck, for God’s wrath perceives through all disguises into men’s sinful hearts (Matthew 9:4; Mark 4:12).

 

37 So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria.

38 And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the LORD that he had spoken.

39 Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, and the ivory house that he built and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

40 So Ahab slept with his fathers, and Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.

 

The king therefore is buried in the same place where his father, Omri, was buried (1 Kings 16:28).  This is the watch-mountain, pride of Omri’s purchase in 1 Kings 16, where Ahab built an altar in worship of Baal.  Instead of being buried in the heart of Israel, in Jerusalem the place of the House of the LORD, Ahab was instead buried next to the altar of heretical worship.  This is highlighted in v.38 – this same pool of Samaria was where the dogs licked up Ahab’s blood, where the prostitutes (like Jezebel) washed themselves in.  It is thus the reign of Ahaziah, who instead of being held by Jehovah, follows in his mother’s footsteps.

 

41 Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.

42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.

43 He walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.

44 Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.

 

Instead of reveling in the history of Ahaziah, we are brought immediately to focus on the robed king who survived the battle against the Syrians.  He is the son of the physician (Asa), his mother the forsaken (Azubah), the daughter of Shilhi (armed), walking in the way of the true Physician Jesus Christ.  The peace made with the king of Israel (v.44) is a mark rare amongst the other kings of Judah who have fought against the kings of Israel since the times of Solomon.  This is the first hint of a re-unification of Israel as one man (Judges 20:8-11).  Yet, unless the king of Israel and king of Judah both worship the Physician, the holy Son (Psalm 2), it does not look like Israel would be restored.

 

45 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he showed, and how he warred, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

46 And from the land he exterminated the remnant of the male cult prostitutes who remained in the days of his father Asa.

47 There was no king in Edom; a deputy was king.

48 Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.

49 Then Ahaziah the son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Let my servants go with your servants in the ships,” but Jehoshaphat was not willing.

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

 

We see more of Jehoshaphat’s reign here – that he is a man under whom deputies were appointed in Edom, that Esau is fulfilling his role as the elder serving the younger Israel (Genesis 25:23).  However, as soon as Jehoram replaced Jehoshaphat, Edom rebels (2 Kings 8:22), marking the allegiance of Edom to Judah as granted by the LORD to the faithful king (which Jehoram was not).  It is interesting that the account in this chapter regarding Jehoshaphat’s refusal to join his servants with Ahaziah’s servant is recorded differently in 2 Chronicles 20:35-37.  It is likely that Jehoshaphat’s refusal to join the servants from Israel and Judah is a result of the pronouncement of judgment upon Jehoshaphat’s initial agreement to join with Ahaziah.  Upon recognizing the LORD’s wrath regarding Ahaziah’s sinful reign, thus Jehoshaphat became unwilling (v.49).  The writer omits this detail, likely because of his agenda to paint Judah as the lineage through whom the Messiah shall come – though the Chronicler focuses on the LORD as the true king sitting on the throne of Israel.

 

51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel.

52 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.

53 He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done.

 

And to what extent shall the nation be unified?  The picture looks grim at the end of the eventful book of Kings where the LORD had been quiet and has spoken more to prophets and through prophets than to the kings directly.  Yet, things are still looking hopeful for the kings of Judah (1 Kings 11:36) in order for the election of the Messiah to be fulfilled.  Though the LORD is angered by Ahab’s household, Jehoshaphat still walked in the LORD’s ways.  The light is still glimmering in Israel, though dim, the light is still shining through the Christian prophets like Nathan, Ahijah, Jehu, Eijah, Elisha, Micaiah – all men of God influencing the kings.  If only Israel could be united by the LORD as the King of kings and not by mere men.

1 Kings 21-22: Eve the head, Adam the body