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.

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2 Kings 3-4: Overflowing Love