We are almost ready to begin with 2 Kings. Nothing demonstrates how this should be understood as the Book of Kings instead of two books (1 Kings and 2 Kings) better than the arbitrary place where the one ends and the next begins. The discussion that follows observes the Kings cycle that we discussed in the previous post on Kings.
The Ahaziah, King of Israel, cycle begins with the last three verses of 1 Kings and continues in 2 Kings.
Ahaziah, King of Israel (and Elijah the Prophet)
The cycle begins as expected by dating this King of Israel using the reign of the king of Judah. It continues as expected, “He did what was evil in the sight of YHWH and walked in the way of his father [Ahab] and in the way of his mother [Jezebel] and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done” (1 Kings 22:52-53). This departs from the normal formula by noting his father and mother’s “way.”
Before we look at the story, it is important to note that Baal-zebub means “Lord of the flies.” The author of Kings likes to corrupt such names. The god is actually known as Baal-zebul, which means “Baal, the prince” or “Exalted Baal” (cf., Leithart, 167, Provan, 170, etc.). Thus he is making fun of the false god by slightly altering his name. In the New Testament Satan is sometimes called by the same name, which transliterated from the Greek is Beelzebul. His name is explained as “the prince of the demons” (Mark 3:22) or “the chief of the devils” (Luke 11:15). The KJV makes fun of the devil by transliterating the Greek: Beelzebub.
And in the third part of the cycle it is the prophet Elijah who confronts Ahaziah and tells him that he will die (2 Kings 1:3). Ahaziah had sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron as to whether he will recover from an illness. Elijah intercepted the messengers and relayed the bad news from YHWH. The messengers then went back and told Ahaziah who asked about the identity of the prophet. The messengers did not know his name but described him this way: “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist” (2 Kings 1:8). And Ahaziah said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Elijah is the John the Baptist character of the book of Kings. And the king sent a captain and his fifty to bring Elijah to him, but fire came from heaven and consumed them. And the king did so again with the same result. And the third captain with his fifty men pleaded for his life when he went to Elijah. And the angel of YHWH told Elijah to go with him and not be afraid. The text says the following: “So he [Ahaziah] died according to the word of YHWH 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” (2 Kings 1:17).
There is something lost in the translation of 2 Kings 1:8. The phrase “a hairy man” in Hebrew is first the word for “a man,” and second is the word “Baal” and third is the word translated “hair.” Perhaps, “a man, a Baal of hair” or to change the word order to fit English: “a Baal of hair man.” They met a true lord – a prophet of YHWH. The contest is between the Baal of flies and Baal of hair. And then when we saw the “man of God” pray for the “fire of heaven” again something is lost in translation. Man and fire are puns in Hebrew. Elijah’s words are like fire (cf. Leithart, 168.)
The concluding formula is the next verse: “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?”
Elijah and Elisha
The Jehoram who became king of Israel was Ahaziah’s brother, son of Ahab and Jezebel. That cycle does not begin until 2 Kings 3:1. In a break from the pattern of addressing kings is 2 Kings 2, which is all about Elijah being replaced by Elisha. Jehoram became king “in his [Ahaziah’s] place” (2 Kings 1:17) and Elisha became prophet “in your [Elijah’s] place” (1 Kings 19:16).
It is worth noting that YHWH had told Elijah that Ahab’s house would be destroyed during the reign of Ahab’s son (1 Kings 21:29, cf. Provan, 169). The remarkable thing is that it would not be the end of his house with the reign of Ahab’s son Ahaziah but instead with the reign of Ahab’s son Jehoram. The text holds you in suspense by not identifying who this Jehoram is at the time he is first mentioned. But Elijah will not even get to see the end of the house of Ahab. The same pattern had earlier happened to the house of Jeroboam (prophecy of end of house, ill son dies, fall of the house under the second son, cf. Leithart, 166).
When Jeroboam’s son was ill, he sent his wife to the prophet of YHWH, but when Ahaziah was ill he sent messengers to Baal-zebub. This shows us the decline of Israel.
This pattern of the prophecy of end of house, ill son dies, fall of the house under the second son, is also true for the whole of God’s people. Israel is like the older brother, an ill son who dies, and then the full weight of God’s judgment falls on the younger brother who continues in the same path, here it is Judah, whose death is the end of the house (cf. Leithart, 167).
So Elijah is the Moses/John the Baptist of the book. And Elisha is the Joshua/Christ type. And they went to the Jordan River. And Elijah parted the water so that the two of them could walk through it on dry ground. This was a baptismal event – a new Exodus event. And Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit. Then chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. This was the invisible army of YHWH – as Elisha put it, “the chariots of Israel and its horsemen” (2 Kings 2:12).
Then Elisha went back to the Jordan River took Elijah’s cloak and struck the water with it and the water parted and Elisha went over again. This showed the “sons of the prophets” who were watching these things unfold that Elisha had the Spirit that had rested on Elijah (recall Joshua).
There are three things that take place in the rest of this chapter. First, the sons of the prophets went and looked for Elijah but could not find him. Second, Elisha healed the water from a spring. And third, Elisha cursed some young “boys” who jeered at him as bald (i.e., without the Baal of hair) and they were attacked by bears.
This reminds me of how no one knows the place where Moses was buried, they can now drink water from the Promised Land, and the “boys” at Bethel are are the beginning of the conquest of the land. Indeed, Elisha is the new Joshua.
It is worth noting as well that Moses and Elijah are also types of Jesus and Joshua and Elisha are types of the apostles. So there are multiple ways the OT foreshadows the NT with these stories.
Jehoram of Israel
The cycle of Jehoram, the king of Israel, begins the normal way. Continues, as expected, “He did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from it” (2 Kings 3:2-3). Thus Jehoram did evil like Jeroboam but not as evil as his parents, Ahab and Jezebel.
In the previous cycle it had mentioned in passing that the king of Moab had rebelled against Israel. 2 Kings 1:1 says, “After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.” Then the story with Moab is related to us in 2 Kings 3:4ff. “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. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat….” This alliance had been mentioned in 1 Kings 22:44.
Jehoshaphat, also had an alliance with Jehoram’s father Ahab. And you will remember then that Jehoshaphat called for a prophet and Micaiah prophesied against Ahab (1 Kings 22:1-28). Now Jehoshaphat calls again for a prophet and this time it is Elisha who is available.
He prophesied that they would have water for their livestock and that they would defeat the Moabites. And they did.
Back to Elisha
The text then shifts focus away from the king of Israel for a while to focus on Elisha. Elijah had made it so a widow’s jar of oil would not be empty. Elisha now will make it so that a widow will be able to fill all the jars she has with oil so that she can sell them and keep her children from becoming indentured servants. God provided a widow to house Elijah and Elijah raised her son from the dead. Now with Elisha a wealthy Shunammite woman gave him a place to stay and so Elisha prophesied that she who was barren and had an old husband would have a child.
And then when that Shunammite’s son died she took him up and laid him on Elisha’s bed and she shut the door and left to go find Elisha. And he resurrected her son. The story is fascinating, you should read it if you have not done so recently.
Next Elisha purified deadly stew during a famine. And he multiplied loaves of bread as well.
The next story is the healing of Naaman from leprosy. Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army. An Israelite slave girl, captured in war, mentioned “the prophet” who could cure Naaman of his skin disease. And Naaman asked for permission from his king to go to Israel to be cured so the king sent him to the king of Israel to be cured. The king of Israel, tore his clothes because he knew he could not cure Naaman of this skin disease. And Elisha told him to send Naaman to him. And Elisha sent Naaman a messenger that told him to dip himself into the Jordan River 7 times and he would be healed.
That skin disease would end up clinging to Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, and to Gehazi’s descendants forever, because Gehazi went to get payment from Naaman the Syrian for the cleansing. This would mean that Gehazi and his descendants would not be able to participate in the worship and society of Israel.
Next Elisha made an ax head float on the water. This is similar to his earlier provision for the widow of oil. He kept the man from becoming greatly indebted (so says Dillard, 126, Leithart, 200).
In the next episode we again get a glimpse of the heavenly army. Elisha had been helping the king of Israel (Jehoram) avoid Syrian raiders. When the Syrians discovered that Elisha was filling in the king of Israel about their secret plans they tried to go seize Elisha. They surrounded the city where he was with a vast army and when Elisha’s servant saw it, he asked, “What shall we do?” And Elisha’s reply was “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). Then he prayed that the young servant would be able to see the invisible army of YHWH.
Then he prayed that the Syrians would be struck blind and they were. And Elisha led them to Samaria (Israel), opened their eyes, did not let the king of Israel slaughter the captives but instead prepared them a great feast and then sent them home. So the Syrians stopped going on raids against Israel. But the king of Syria did muster his entire army and besieged Samaria and there was a famine that led two women to eat the one’s son but then the next day the other woman would not give up her son to be eaten. And so the king cursed himself if Elisha should survive that day.
The story continues with 2 Kings 7. And Elisha declared the word of YHWH that they would have food and it was fulfilled by YHWH who scared off the Syrians by making the sound of a great army and left everything behind. The reason this is set apart as a separate chapter is likely because it begins and ends with the captain who said to the man of God, Elisha, “If YHWH Himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” (2 Kings 7:1-2) And Elisha said that this captain would see it but not eat of it and the fulfillment then comes at the end of the chapter (2 Kings 7:18-20).
And the last episode we will examine today is the restoration of the Shunammite’s land. Elisha declared that there would be a seven year famine and told her to go elsewhere for the duration of the famine. And when she returned she went to the king and asked for her house and land back. And Gehazi was there telling the king about the great signs performed by Elisha, including raising the dead woman’s son to life, then she showed up asking for her land. And the king restored it to her.
More to follow…