THE BOOK OF 2 KINGS
Lesson 3: Chapters 6:8-8:29
Part I: The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
The Aramean Wars Continue and a Summary of the Reigns of Kings Jehoram and Ahaziah in Judah
In the fearful battles of our lives, please be our shield and our guide. Be with us in defeat and in victory, reminding us that both conditions can become manifestations of Your Presence when we submit ourselves to Your divine will for our lives and proclaim the glory of Your Kingdom. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson as we study the mission of Your prophet Elisha to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It was a kingdom composed of both the trusting faithful and the ungrateful and doubting apostates, not unlike our nation today. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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before the Lord and said, "Strike this people with blindness." And he struck
them with blindness according to the words of Elisha ... But Elisha opened the eyes
of the young man and showed him the ranks of fire that the Lord had erected
around him against the Aramaeans, and his fear disappeared ... This is the
symbolic meaning: God had predicted through the prophet Isaiah, "The heart of
these people was hardened; they have stopped their ears and have shut their
eyes, so that they cannot see with their eyes." The people of Abraham had been
blinded by a just sentence of God, because of their perverse will. They asked
that the Savior of the world be killed and tried to delete any memory of him
completely, but Christ has converted them from their perversity to good
behavior. He has delivered his persecutors from their blindness and has given
them the bread of heaven. Then he has scattered them through the earth to
announce his wonders.
St. Ephraim, Commentary on the Second Book of Kings, 6.18
Of all the Old Testament prophets, none of them can compare to Elisha for the volume of his recorded miracles or his gifts of prophecy and clairvoyance. The Fathers of the Church saw a number of typological parallels between Elijah and St. John the Baptist and between Elisha and Jesus Christ. The Catechism teaches: "The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the persons of his incarnate Son (CCC 128, also see 129-130). See for example St. Paul's teachings in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 on the typological link between the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and Christian baptism, and in Hebrews 10:1-18 where the inspired writer makes the typological comparison between the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant and the sacrifice of Christ, which they prefigured. There is also St. Peter's teaching in 1 Peter 3:21 where he makes the typological comparison between the Great Flood and Christian baptism.
|Typology of Elijah and John the Baptist||Typology of Elisha and Jesus Christ|
|St. John was given the spirit and power of Elijah from the womb.||Jesus succeeded the ministry of John the Baptist and became a greater prophet in the same way Elisha succeeded and became greater than Elijah.|
|John like Elijah lived apart from the people.||Jesus like Elisha lived among the people.|
|Both John and Elijah stressed obedience to the Law, judgment and repentance.||Both Jesus and Elisha emphasized grace, faith and hope.|
|John adopted a manner of dress like Elijah and ate a restricted diet.||Jesus and Elisha enjoyed communal meals with their disciples and with others.|
|John baptized on the east bank of the Jordan River where Elijah was translated into heaven.||Jesus like Elisha was a compassionate friend of the common people.|
|John like Elijah challenged the sins of a corrupt king and his wife.||Jesus and Elisha cured the sick, made feeding miracles, defended the poor and raised the dead.|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015|
Chapters 6:8 -8:15 ~ Elisha and the Aramaeans
The Aramaeans were a Semitic people who lived in ancient Syria and were originally descended from Aram, a son of Shem and grandson of Noah (Gen 10:1, 22-23; 1 Chr 1:17), just as the Israelites were descended through Abram/Abraham who was also a descendant of Shem (Gen 10:1; 11:10-30). All Semitic peoples are descendants of Shem. The Aramaean people held several small city-states that formed a confederation at the beginning of the first millennium, but never united sufficiently to create an empire. The most important of these Aramaean kingdoms was the city-state of Damascus, but there were also the smaller Aramaean kingdoms of Zobah (Aram-zobah north of Damascus; 1 Sam 14:47; 2 Sam 8:5; 1 Chr 18:3-9), and Geshur (2 Sam 3:3; 13:37-38). The Aramaean kingdoms were conquered by the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 B.C. The defeat and conquest of the Aramaean states removed the buffer between Israel and the advancing Assyrian empire.(1)
|Kings of Aram||Dates||Scripture|
|Herizon (Rezon)||c. 990 - 930 BC||1 Kng 11:23, 25; 15:18|
|Tabrimmon||c. 930 - 885 BC||1 Kng 15:18|
|Ben-Hadad I (son of Tabrimmon)||c. 885 - 860 BC||1 Kng 15:18, 20|
|Ben-Hadad II||c. 860 - 841 BC||
1 Kng Chapter 20;
2 Kng 6:24; 8:7, 9, 14
|Hazael||c. 841 - 801 BC||
1 Kng 19:15, 17
2 Kng Chapter 8; 9:14, 15; 10:32; 12:17, 18; 13:3, 22, 24, 25
|Ben-Hadad III (son of Hazael)||c. 807 - 780? BC||2 Kng 13:3, 24, 25|
|Rezin||c. 780? - 732 BC||
2 Kng 15:37; 16:5, 6, 9
Is 7:1, 4, 8; 8:6; 9:11
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015|
2 Kings 6:8-14 ~ A king of the Aramaeans threatens Elisha
8 The king of Aram was at war with Israel. He conferred with his officers and said, "You must attack at such and such a place." 9 Elisha, however, sent word to the king of Israel, "Be on your guard about such and such a place, because the Aramaeans are going to attack it." 10 The king of Israel accordingly sent men to the place which Elisha had named. And he kept warning the king, and the king stayed on the alert; and this happened more than once or twice. 11 The king of Aram grew very much disturbed over this. He summoned his officers, and said, "Tell me which of you is betraying us to the king of Israel." 12 "No one, my lord king," one of his officers replied. "It is Elisha, the prophet in Israel. The words you utter in your bedchamber, he reveals to the king of Israel." 13 "Go and find out where he is," the king said, "so that I can send people to capture him." Word was brought to him, "He is now in Dothan." 14 So he sent horses and chariots there, and a large force; and these, arriving during the night, surrounded the town."
This Aramaean king remains unnamed unlike the Aramaean
king in the next episode (Ben-Hadad II in verse 24). It is likely that this
king is not Ben-Hadad II of Damascus, the master of Naaman, the Aramaean
general who was cured by Elisha. This king is likely one of the kings of one
of the other Aramaean city-states (see 6:23b and verse 24).
Question: This episode reveals which one of Elisha's unique prophetic gifts that is not mentioned as a gift of the prophet Elijah?
Answer: He has the gift of clairvoyance.
The Catholic Dictionary defines clairvoyance as "... the gift of seeing or knowing events occurring at a distance without the use of sensibly perceptible means of communication. As with telepathy, the available evidence indicates that this is a rare but natural phenomenon.... (Etym. French clairvoyant, clear seeing)." Catholic Dictionary, "clairvoyance", page 78-79. Elisha has the ability to see hidden events like the planned ambush of the Aramaeans made in the private rooms of the Aramaean king (verses 10-12) and the fiery cavalry of Yahweh (verse 17b).
In Elisha's role as an advisor to the King of Israel, he
warns the Israelites every time the Aramaeans plan a raid and the Israelites
are able to avoid ambush and entrapment. The king of the Aramaeans thinks
there is a traitor among his staff, but is informed that it must be the prophet
Elisha who is thwarting their efforts to take the Israelites by surprise.
Question: What does the king decide to do to solve his problem?
Answer: When he discovers where Elisha is staying, he sends soldiers into Israelite territory to capture Elisha, probably with the intent of killing the pesky prophet.
Word was brought to him, "He is now in Dothan." 14 So he sent horses and chariots there, and a
large force; and these, arriving during the night, surrounded the town."
Dothan was a town in the central part of the Israel where Joseph son of Jacob and his brothers pastured their flocks in Genesis 37:17. The site is believed to have been about ten miles north of Samaria and near the southern edge of the Esdraelon plain. It was close to the main commercial trade route, and the Aramaeans were probably staging raids on the caravans passing through Israel.
2 Kings 8:15-23 ~ Elisha captures the Aramaeans
15 Next day, Elisha got up early and went out; and there surrounding the town was an armed force with horses and chariots. "Oh, my lord," his servant said, "What are we to do?" 16 "Do not be afraid," he replied, "for there are more on our side than on theirs." 17 And Elisha prayed. "Yahweh," he said, "Open his eyes and make him see." Yahweh opened the servant's eyes, and he saw the mountain covered in fiery horses and chariots surrounding Elisha. 18 As the Aramaeans came down towards him, Elisha prayed to Yahweh, "I beg you to strike these people sun-blind." And, at Elisha's word, he struck them sun-blind. 19 Then Elisha said to them, "This is not the road, nor is this the town. Follow me, I shall lead you to the man you are looking for." But he led them to Samaria. 20 As they entered Samaria, Elisha said, "Yahweh, open these people's eyes, and let them see." Yahweh opened their eyes and they saw; they were inside Samaria. 21 When the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, "Shall I kill them, father?" 22 "Do not kill them," he replied. "Do you kill your own prisoners with sword and bow? Offer them food and water, so that they can eat and drink, and then let them go back to their master." 23 So the king provided a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them off and they went back to their master. Aramaean raiding parties never invaded the territory of Israel again.
Elisha appears to be made of sterner stuff than his
Question: What did Elijah do when threatened with death by Queen Jezebel? See 1 Kng 19:1-3.
Answer: Elijah ran away when faced with the possibility of capture and death, but not Elisha. Perhaps he has more confidence because of his gift of clairvoyance. He knows the outcome in advance.
Question: In addition to his clairvoyance, what
other gift does Elisha have that he uses to his advantage in these events? See
verses 17, 18, and 20).
Answer: He also has the ability to close and open the eyes of friends and enemies to see or not see the natural and the supernatural.
When his life is threatened, Elisha chooses not to run away but to outsmart the enemy by inflicting them with sun-blindness. Confused with sun-blindness, Elisha leads the raiders into the capital city of Israel that is about ten miles away. When he opens their eyes and they discover that they are surrounded by the enemy, the Aramaeans surrender.
Question: Why didn't Elisha let Israelite king Jehoram
kill the Aramaeans?
Answer: The Aramaeans are not royal prisoners; they are Elisha's prisoners and it is his decision to extend God's mercy to them.
Elisha asks the king to give them bread and water, but taking his cue from the prophet, the king graciously makes a feast for his "guests" and then releases them.
raiding parties never invaded the territory of Israel again.
The end of the raids was either an act of reciprocity in response to the Israelites' mercy or their respect for the powers of Yahweh and His prophet. In any event, Elisha likely spared them expressly so they could, like Naaman, spread the word of the greatness of Yahweh and His prophets among their own people.
2 Kings 6:24-31 ~ The Siege of Samaria and resulting
24 It happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Aram, mustering his whole army, marched on and laid siege to Samaria. 25 In Samaria there was great famine, and so strict was the siege that the head of a donkey was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one quarter-kab of wild onions [possibly "pigeon dung"] for five shekels of silver. 25 Now as the king was passing along the city wall, a woman shouted , "Help, my lord king!" 27 "If Yahweh does not help you," he retorted, "where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?" 28 Then the king asked, "What is the matter?" "This woman here", she answered, "said to me, Give up your son; we will eat him today, and eat my son tomorrow.' 29 So we cooked my son and ate him. Next day, I said to her, Give up your son for us to eat.' But she has hidden her son." 30 On hearing the woman's words, the king tore his clothes; the king was walking on the wall, and the people saw that underneath he was wearing sackcloth next to his body. 31"May God bring unnamable ills on me, and worse ills, too," he said, "if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!"
The events in this part of the narrative take place in the seven years between 848 BC and 841 BC. 841 BC was a momentous year for the states of Israel, Judah, and Aram-Damascus, but in the worst possible way:
Ben-Hadad II, king of Damascus (c. 860 - 841 BC), invaded the Northern Kingdom and laid siege to the walled capital city of Samaria. The resulting famine was so severe that the people were paying exorbitant prices for the worse kind of foods: donkey's heads sold for about two pounds of silver and a half pint of wild onions/pigeon dung for two ounces of silver. According to the Law, the donkey was an "unclean" animal and forbidden as food (Lev 11:2-7; Dt 14:4-8), but the people of the Northern Kingdom fail to observe the Law in other ways so either this is another example or it is simply that the famine was so bad that they were disregarding the dietary laws. If the Hebrew can be translated "pigeon dung," it dramatically shows the desperate condition of the starving people.
A woman cried out to the king Jehoram for help. His response was that unless Yahweh helped her there can be no help since he cannot bring her food, mentioning two sources of food: the threshing floor and the winepress. When he discovered that the people were resorting to cannibalism, he was truly distressed and ripped apart his royal robes, a sign of mourning and grief, to reveal that underneath he was wearing sackcloth, a course, itchy material.
Cannibalism was apparently a terrible consequence of cities under siege. In the covenant judgments of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, sieges, famine, and cannibalism are prophesized for those who apostatize from the covenant as a consequence of God lifting His hand of divine protection (Lev 26:14-16, 23-29 and Dt 28:15, 53). The Jewish priest-historian Flavius Josephus records that cannibalism occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Jewish Wars, 6.3.4 [201-07]).
31"May God bring
unnamable ills on me, and worse ills, too," he said, "if the head of Elisha son
of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!"
It appears that the king, who has appreciated Elisha's help in the past, either feels Elisha has abandoned him or has misled him. Perhaps Elisha has encouraged the king to resist the enemy with the promise that God will vanquish the Aramaeans. Gratitude appears to be forgotten and the king swears to kill the prophet. The king's anger against Elisha recalls King Ahab's (his father) anger against Elijah (1 Kng 18:10; 21:20). However, there is no criticism of Jehoram probably because he has demonstrated penance in wearing of sackcloth. Still, it is anger against Yahweh and Elisha as God's agent that causes the king to threaten the prophet.
2 Kings 6:32-7:2 ~ The King of Israel blames Elisha and Elisha's reply
32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. The king sent a messenger ahead but, before the man arrived, Elisha had said to the elders, "Do you see how this son of a murderer has given orders to cut off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door; hold the door against him. Isn't that the sound of his master's step behind him?" 33 He was still actually speaking, when the king arrived and said, "This misery plainly comes from Yahweh. Why should I still trust in Yahweh?" 7:1 "Listen to the word of Yahweh," Elisha said, Yahweh says this, "By this time tomorrow a measure of finest flour will sell for one shekel, and two measures of barley for one shekel, at the gate of Samaria.'" 2 The equerry on whose arm the king was leaning retorted to Elisha, "Even if Yahweh made windows in the sky, could this word come true?" "You will see it with your own eyes," Elisha replied, "though you will eat none of it."
Notice that Elisha has remained in the city of Samaria. Elisha
knows the king is coming for him, but he calmly awaits his arrival, telling the
elders of the city who are in his company, "Do you see how this son of a murderer
has given orders to cut off my head?"
Question: Who is the father that Elisha refers to as a murderer and why? 1 Kng 18:42; chapter 21; 2 Kng 3:1.
Answer: Jehoram is the son of Ahab and Jezebel who murdered the prophets of Yahweh and the innocent like Naboth.
Since the equerry is probably the one charged with killing Elisha, the prophet tells his companions to pin the military guard between the wall and the door so he will be unable to attack those present.
33 He was still
actually speaking, when the king arrived and said, "This misery plainly comes
from Yahweh. Why should I still trust in Yahweh?"
Jehoram was like many people who find faith in Yahweh easy when everything is going their way, but they fail in faith and trust when faced with personal suffering. But his question in verse 33 shows that his anger is being replaced by grief and supplication. This is the point at which God's prophet speaks his oracle in favor of Samaria.
7:1 "Listen to
the word of Yahweh," Elisha said, Yahweh says this, "By this time tomorrow a
measure of finest flour will sell for one shekel, and two measures of barley
for one shekel, at the gate of Samaria.'"
Question: Elisha says by the next day 7 quarts of (wheat) flour will sell for 2/5 ounces of silver and 14 quarts of barley (a less desirable grain) for the same amount. What is Elisha's prophecy?
Answer: The famine will end and prices will return to normal.
2 The equerry on
whose arm the king was leaning retorted to Elisha, "Even if Yahweh made windows
in the sky, could this word come true?" "You will see it with your own eyes,"
Elisha replied, "though you will eat none of it."
The king's attendant discounts Elisha's prophecy. His judgment, according to Elisha, will be that he will see the miracle but he will not live to partake of it.
The end of the Aramaean War and the end of the Famine
2 Kings 7:3-8 ~ The Aramaean camp
3 Now at the entrance to the gate, for they were afflicted with virulent skin-disease, there were four men and they debated among themselves, "Why sit here waiting for death? 4 If we decide to go into the city, what with the famine in it, we shall die there; if we stay where we are, we shall die just the same. Come on, let us go over to the Aramaean camp; if they spare our lives, we live; if they kill us, well, then we die." 5 So at dusk they set out and made for the Aramaean camp, but when they reached the confines of the camp there was not a soul there. 6 For Yahweh had caused the Aramaeans in their camp to hear a noise of chariots and horses, the noise of a great army; and they had said to one another, "Listen! The king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings against us, to attack us." 7 So in the dusk they had made off and fled, abandoning their tents, their horses and their donkeys; leaving the camp just as it was, they had fled for their lives. 8 The men with skin-disease, then, reached the confines of the camp. They went into one of the tents and ate and drank, and from it carried off silver and gold and clothing, these they took and hid. Then they came back and, entering another tent, looted it too, and took and hid their booty.
The four men probably suffer from leprosy since they have to remain outside the city gate (Lev 13:46; Num 5:2-3). Such outcasts had to rely on the kindness of family members or the charitable generosity of strangers to bring them food outside the city walls; however, with the siege of the city and the famine, there is no one to help them and they are starving. They decide it is worth the risk to go and beg at the Aramaean camp and approach the camp "at dusk." The word translated "dusk" in our passage is in Hebrew the word that is also translated as "twilight." It is a time marker that can mean either the morning twilight just before dawn or the evening twilight just before sunset. In this case, it is just before sunset that they arrive at the camp (see verse 9). When they arrived, they discovered that the Aramaean camp had been abandoned.
Question: What happened to the Aramaeans?
Answer: Because of God's intervention, they heard what sounded to them like the arrival of a great army, and they assumed the king of Israel had made a treaty with the Hittites and Egyptians who had come to his aid.
The Hittites were an Indo-European people who established a kingdom in east central Anatolia (modern Turkey). At this time the Hittites were in decline and will be absorbed by the Assyrians. The Egyptians were also in a period of decline (Third Intermediate Period ca 1075-656 BC). The four men make the happy discovery that the camp is abandoned with all the goods and some of the animals left behind.
2 Kings 7:9-15 ~ The Israelites discover the Aramaeans
9 Then they said to one another, "We are doing wrong. This is a day of good news, yet we are holding our tongues! If we wait till morning, we shall certainly be punished. Come on, let us go and take the news to the palace." 10 Off they went and shouted out to the guards on the city gate, "We have been to the Aramaean camp. There was not a soul there, no sound of anyone, only tethered horses and tethered donkeys, and their tents just as they were." 11 The gatekeepers shouted the news, which was reported inside the palace. 12 The king got up while it was still dark and said to his officers, "I can tell you what the Aramaeans have done to us. They know we are starving, so they have left the camp to hide in the open country. They will come out of the city,' they think, we shall catch them alive and get into the city.'" 13 One of his officers replied, "Five of the surviving horses still left us had better be taken, they would die in any case like all the rest. Let us send them and see." 14 So they took two chariot teams and the king sent them after the Aramaean army, saying, "Go and see." They followed them as far as the Jordan, finding the whole way strewn with clothes and gear which the Aramaeans had thrown away in their panic. The scouts returned and informed the king.
Question: The four lepers stop their looting to discuss
what two considerations that cause them to act differently?
Answer: They realize that they are acting selfishly when so many people in the city are starving, and they realize that they might be punished when it is discovered that the enemy camp is abandoned and they did not inform the king. The one consideration is based on selfless generosity and the other is solely in their self-interest.
It is probably the second consideration that motivates them to announce the news to the people in Samaria. The king believes it is a trap set by the Aramaeans to lure them out of the city. But when he allows two scouting parties to investigate, it is discovered that the enemy have indeed abandoned the siege and fled across the Jordan River back into Aramaean territory. In this miracle, God worked without witnesses to the event with the exception of the Aramaeans who did not understand it was a miracle. Something similar will happen to fulfill the prophecy Elisha made concerning the king's officer who accompanied the king to Elisha's house.
2 Kings 7:16-20 ~ The end of the siege and the end of
16 Then the people went out and plundered the Aramaean camp: a measure of finest flour sold for one shekel, and two measures of barley for one shekel, as Yahweh had promised they would. 17 The king had detailed the equerry, on whose arm he leaned, as commander of the guard on the gate, but the people trampled on him in the gateway and he died, as the man of God had foretold when the king had come down to him. 18 What Elisha had said to the king came true, "Two measures of barley will sell for one shekel, and a measure of finest flour for one shekel, but this time tomorrow at the gate of Samaria." 19 And the equerry in question had replied to the man of God, "Even if Yahweh made windows in the sky, could this word come true?" "You will see it with your own eyes," Elisha had answered, "though you will eat none of it." 20 And that was what happened to him: for the people trampled on him in the gateway and he died.
Everything prophesized by Elisha in 7:1-2 has been fulfilled including the death of the equerry who had been assigned the task as commander of the men guarding the gate. However, just as no one witnessed God's miracle that caused the Aramaeans to abandon their camp, the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the equerry was also probably overlooked.
Question: The direct cause of his death was that
he was trampled by the people rushing out of the city to get food and loot from
the enemy camp, but what does the inspired writer cite as the real cause of his
death and why did Elisha judge him so harshly
Answer: The real cause was an act of God that only someone who knew about Elisha's oracle understood and believed. Someone who is unbelieving in the miracles of God is unworthy to share in the salvation that the Lord proclaims through the miracle.
2 Kings 8:1-6 ~ Epilogue to the story of the woman of Shunem
1 Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had raised to life, "Move away with your family and live where you can in some foreign country, for Yahweh has called up a famine; it is already coming on the country, for seven years." 2 The woman hurried to do what the man of God had told her: she set out, she and her family, and for seven years she lived in Philistine territory. 3 When the seven years were over, the woman returned from Philistine territory and went to lodge a claim with the king for her house and land. 4 Now the king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God. "Tell me", he was saying, "all about the marvels which Elisha did." 5 Gehazi was just telling the king how Elisha had raised the dead child to life, when the woman whose son Elisha had raised lodged her claim with the king for her house and land. "My lord king," Gehazi said, "This is the very woman, and that is her son whom Elisha raised to life." 6 The king questioned the woman, who told him the story. The king then delegated one of the officials to her with this order, "See that all her property is restored to her and all the revenue from her land from the day she left the country until now."
The epilogue to the story of the Shunammite woman who was Elisha's benefactress interrupts the story of Elisha's dealings with the Aramaeans and provides the information that seven years have passed since the last Aramaean war. Elisha's warning to his friend concerning the famine is another example of his gift to see into the future. Famines were not uncommon in the ancient Near East. They were often the result of a lack of rainfall in the crop growing season, destructive hail storms, rain out of season, insect infestation, and the burning of crops during invasion. For example:
There were famines that were the result of natural causes:
While other Old Testament famines occurred because of divine judgment or war:
It is not mentioned by the inspired writer, but it is likely that this famine began as a result of the war with the Aramaeans who ravaged the country side during the siege. They would have prevented the local population from getting into the fields to either plant or harvest crops and then burned the fields during their retreat from Israel. But the famine continued as a result of God's divine judgment, probably because of the failure of the people to repent their sinful practices after God saved them from their enemy.
2 The woman
hurried to do what the man of God had told her: she set out, she and her
family, and for seven years she lived in Philistine territory. 3 When the seven years were over, the woman
returned from Philistine territory and went to lodge a claim with the king for
her house and land.
In the absence of her family, neighbors or perhaps even the king made use of her property. Now that her family has returned, she has come to the king to reclaim her land. Since only her son is mentioned as being with her and it is her husband who should have been the petitioner, it is likely that he has died.
Question: How does Elisha's fame as a prophet
continue to help the woman after her return to her homeland?
Answer: The king has been hearing stories of Elisha's great deeds, including the story of the resurrection of her son, just as she approaches the king with her petition. Just having heard her story inclines the king to a favorable decision concerning not only the return of her ancestral lands but the revenue collected from those years being paid to her.
Notice that it is Elisha's servant Gehazi who was telling the kings the stories of Elisha's mighty works. Despite the judgment against him for greed, lying and the resulting skin disease he carried, he has apparently continued in Elisha's service. Also notice that because of this and his access to the king, the skin condition of Naaman that he acquired in penance for his sins could not have been leprosy.
Elisha and Hazael of Damascus
Yahweh to Elijah: "Go,"
Yahweh said, "go back by the same way to the desert of Damascus. You must go
and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You must anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king
of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel-Meholah, as prophet to
succeed you. Anyone who escapes the sword of Hazael will be put to death by
Jehu; and anyone who escapes the sword of Jehu will be put to death by Elisha.
But I shall spare seven thousand in Israel; all the knees that have not bend
before Baal, all the mouths that have not kissed him."
1 Kings 19:15-18
2 Kings 8:7-15 ~ Elisha and Hazael of Damascus
7 Elisha went to Damascus. Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill, and was told, "The man of God has come all the way to us." 8 Then the king said to Hazael, "Take a present with you and go and meet the man of God; consult Yahweh through him, and find out if I shall recover from my illness." 9 So Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a present the best that Damascus could offer, a load for forty camels. He arrived and, presenting himself, said, "Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask you, Shall I recover from my illness?'" 10 Elisha replied, "Go and tell him, You might recover,' though Yahweh has shown me that he will certainly die." 11 Then the face of the man of God went rigid, and his look grew strangely fixed, and he wept. 12 "Why," Hazael asked, "does my lord weep?" "Because I know", Elisha replied, "what harm you will do to the Israelites: you will burn down their fortresses, put their picked warriors to the sword, dash their little children to pieces, disembowel their pregnant women." 13 "But what is your servant?" Hazael said. "How could this dog achieve anything so great?" "In a vision from Yahweh," Elisha replied, "I have seen you king of Aram." 14 Leaving Elisha, Hazael went back to his master who asked, "What did Elisha say to you?" He replied, "He told me that you might recover." 15 Next day he took a blanket, soaked it in water, and spread it over his face. So died Ben-Hadad, and Hazael succeeded him.
The mission Yahweh gave Elijah in 1 Kings 19:15-18 was only partially fulfilled in the anointing of Elisha. The other two parts were left uncompleted and will be fulfilled by Elisha and a disciple of Elisha. The Aramaean king is Ben-Hadad II, the same king in 1 Kings 20:1 and the probably the king of Aram who sent the letter to King Jehoram concerning Naaman (5:1-5).
7 Elisha went to
Damascus. Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill, and was told, "The man of God has
come all the way to us." 8 Then
the king said to Hazael, "Take a present with you and go and meet the man of
God; consult Yahweh through him, and find out if I shall recover from my
Elisha has come to Damascus to fulfill the mission mentioned in 1 Kings 19:15. King Ben-Hadad knows of Elisha's miracles (as in the case of the Aramaean army commander Naaman), and he also knows that the prophet has the gift of knowing future events. Therefore, he sends his minister, Hazael, with a costly present along with his request for the prophet to reveal his future.
He arrived and, presenting himself, said, "Your son
Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask you, Shall I recover from my
illness?'" 10 Elisha replied, "Go
and tell him, You might recover,' though Yahweh has shown me that he will
Elisha has the foreknowledge that Ben Hadad will not die of his illness, but he will die.
11 Then the face
of the man of God went rigid, and his look grew strangely fixed, and he wept. 12 "Why," Hazael asked, "does my lord weep?"
"Because I know", Elisha replied, "what harm you will do to the Israelites: you
will burn down their fortresses, put their picked warriors to the sword, dash
their little children to pieces, disembowel their pregnant women."
Question: What happens to Elisha as he is conversing with Hazael?
Answer: Elisha receives a vision concerning Hazael's future and the destruction he will bring on Israel.
13 "But what is
your servant?" Hazael said. "How could this dog achieve anything so great?"
"In a vision from Yahweh," Elisha replied, "I have seen you king of Aram."
Hazael's protest: "But what is your servant," is the admission that he is a non-royal person and not in any way in line for the throne of Damascus. Hazael's reference to himself as a "dog" is simply an expression of humility (see 1 Sam 24:15; 2 Sam 9:8).
Elisha, Hazael went back to his master who asked, "What did Elisha say to
you?" He replied, "He told me that you might recover." 15 Next day he took a blanket, soaked it in
water, and spread it over his face. So died Ben-Hadad, and Hazael succeeded
The next day Hazael assassinated King Ben-Hadad II by smothering him with a wet cloth. The question is: did Elisha give Hazael the idea of killing his king and succeeding him, or did Elisha's prophecy only encourage him in what he had already considered? Was his surprise because the prophet read his intentions, or because he was surprised by the prophecy of his future greatness? In any event, Elisha's prophecy was fulfilled.
Hazael is one of the over 50 people named in the Bible whose existence is supported by ancient secular inscriptions. Hazael is named as the king of Damascus in Assyrian records where the Assyrians sources called him "son of nobody" because of his non-royal background. The records also noted his unsuccessful confrontations with Assyrian king Shalmaneser III in 841 BC (the year of his ascension) and again in 837 BC.(2)
2 Kings 8:16-24 ~ The reign of Jehoram in Judah (848 - 841 BC)
16 In the fifth year of Jehoram son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat became king of Judah. 17 He was thirty-two years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for eight years in Jerusalem. 18 He followed the example of the kings of Israel as the House of Ahab were doing; he had married one of Ahab's daughters; and he did what is displeasing to Yahweh. 19 But Yahweh was unwilling to destroy Judah, because of his servant David, and was faithful to the promise which he had made him to leave him a lamp forever in his presence. 20 In his time Edom threw off the domination of Judah and set up a king for itself. 21 Jehoram crossed to Zair, and with him all the chariots... Under cover of dark, he and his chariot commanders broke through the Edomites surrounding him; the people fled to their tents. 22 Even so, Edom threw off the domination of Judah, remaining free to the present day. Libnah also revolted at that time. 23 The rest of the history of Jehoram, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? Then Jehoram fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David; his son Ahaziah succeeded him.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 21:1-20. Jehoram of Judah was co-regent with his father, King Jehoshaphat for the last 4-5 years of Jehoshaphat's reign. He became the sole ruler after his father's death in c. 848 BC, ruling as the fifth Davidic king of Judah from 848-841 BC. His name means "Yahweh's exulted," but he did not live up to his name. King Jehoshaphat had 7 sons and tried to eliminate the possibility of rivalry for the throne by giving some degree of power to each son (2 Chr 21:2-3). However, Jehoram took care of the possibility of a rival usurping his throne by murdering all his brothers and a number of royal officials (2 Chr 21:4). He married Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab of Israel and granddaughter of King Omri, the founder of the fourth Israelite dynasty, becoming the brother-in-law of King Jehoram of Israel. Jehoram of Judah is called "Joram" in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:8, a shortened form of his name. Through the influence of his wife, Jehoram abandoned his father's faith in Yahweh and followed the tradition of Ahab and Jezebel in promoting idol worship.
18 He followed
the example of the kings of Israel as the House of Ahab were doing; he had
married one of Ahab's daughters; and he did what is displeasing to Yahweh. 19 But Yahweh was unwilling to destroy Judah,
because of his servant David, and was faithful to the promise which he had made
him to leave him a lamp forever in his presence.
Question: For what reason did Yahweh withhold divine judgment on the Kingdom of Judah and its Davidic king? See 1 Kng 11:12-13, 34; 2 Kng 8:19.
Answer: God's mercy was for the sake of David whose faithfulness to God granted mercy to his descendants.
Question: What is the symbolic meaning of the
"lamp" that must be kept burning forever in God's divine Presence? The Hebrew
word can mean both "lamp" and "light." See 2 Sam 7:11-16, 29; 23:5; Sir 45:24;
47:11/13; Mt 1:1, 6; Lk 1:31-33; Jn 8:12. Also see the same phrase in 1 Kng 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kng 8:19 and 2 Chr 21:7.
Answer: The "lamp" is a Davidic heir to carry on the Davidic line. For the sake of God's covenant promise to David, He will not destroy David's dynasty. It is a dynasty over which a Davidic king is to rule forever, and that promise is fulfilled in Jesus, son of Mary, son of David, Son of God and "Light" of the world.
The inspired writer of 2 Chronicles records that Jehoram received a letter from Elisha: It said, "Yahweh, God of your ancestor David, says this, Since you have not followed the example of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah, but have followed the example of the kings of Israel and have led Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem into apostasy, just as the Hours of Ahab has led Israel into apostasy, and have even murdered your brothers, you own family, who were better men than you, Yahweh is going to afflict your people, your sons, your wives and all your property with a great calamity, and you yourself with a severe disease affecting your bowels, as a result of which disease, continuing day after day, you will suffer protrusion of your bowels'" (2 Chr 21:12-15).
crossed to Zair, and with him all the chariots... Under cover of dark, he and his
chariot commanders broke through the Edomites surrounding him; the people fled
to their tents. 22 Even so, Edom
threw off the domination of Judah, remaining free to the present day. Libnah
also revolted at that time.
King Jehoram of Judah and his chariots crossed the Jordan River at Zair, an unidentified site in the Transjordan. Part of the narrative is missing from the end of verse 21. But while he was successful in routing the Edomites, he was not successful in regaining control of the region. Edom, a Semitic kingdom at the south end of the Dead Sea, was conquered by David and reduced to vassal status (all descendants of Shem, son of Noah, are Semites). Edom rebelled along with Libnah, a Levitical city in Judah (Josh 21:13; 2 Chr 6:57).
Question: Why did the citizens of Libnah revolt against the rule of Jehoram of Judah? See 2 Chr 21:10. How does the city play a role in the future of the Davidic kings? See 2 Kng 19:8; 23:31; 24:18.
Answer: The citizens of Libnah, most of whom were chief priests and Levites, rejected Jehoram's authority because he rejected Yahweh as the one God and encouraged the people to apostatize from the covenant. The city was later restored to Judah, and it was the home of Hamital (Hamitul), Queen Mother/Gebirah of two Davidic kings: Jehoahaz and Zedekiah.
During the reign of Jehoram of Judah, both the Philistines and the Arabians invaded the kingdom and brought great hardship on the people. All Jehoram's sons were killed with the exception of his youngest son (2 Chr 21:16-17). Jehoram died of a terrible sickness of the bowels (2 Chr 21:18-20) in c. 841 BC and was succeeded by his youngest son, a grandson of Ahab and Jezebel of Israel; his name was Ahaziah (also called Jehoahaz).
2 Kings 8:25-29 ~ The reign of Ahaziah in Judah (841 BC)
25 In the twelfth year of Jehoram son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah son of Jehoram, king of Judah, became king. 26 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Athaliah granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. 27 He followed the example of the House of Ahab and did what is displeasing to Yahweh, as the House of Ahab were doing, to whom he was related by marriage. 28 He went with Jehoram son of Ahab to make war on Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth in Gilead, but the Aramaeans wounded Jehoram. 29 King Jehoram returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds which he had received at Ramah, fighting against Hazael king of Aram. Ahaziah son of Jehoram, king of Judah, went down to Jezreel to recover from the wounds which he had received at Ramah, fighting against Hazael king of Aram. Ahaziah son of Jehoram, king of Judah, went to Jezreel to visit Jehoram son of Ahab because he was ailing.
See 2 Chronicles 22:1-9 for the parallel passage on the history of Ahaziah. In c. 841 BC, Ahaziah, Jehoram's only surviving son, succeeded his father as king of Judah (2 Chr. 21:17). His mother was Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab of Israel of the "House of Omri." In some passages she is referred to as a "daughter of Omri" (2 Chr 22:2), meaning she was of the lineage of Omri, her grandfather and the founder of the dynastic house. Like her father Ahab, she promoted pagan worship and influence her son, Ahaziah, to apostatize from Yahweh.(3) Notice that once again the mother of the king of Judah, who holds the office of Gebirah (Queen Mother), is named by the inspired writer.
You will recall that in 853 BC, King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to war against Ben-Hadad II of Damascus to regain control of Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kng 22:1-38). Ramoth-Gilead, located in the Transjordan, was a Levitical city and city of Refuge in the territory of the Israelite tribe of Gad (Dt 4:43; Josh 21:38; 1 Chr 6:80). Ahab was killed in the battle for Ramoth-Gilead and the armies of Israel and Judah retreated (1 Kng 22:34-38). This region became the shifting border between Aram and Israel. Soon after his coronation (841 BC), Ahaziah and his uncle, Jehoram of Israel, decide to go to war against Ben-Hadad's successor, Hazael of Damascus, to again attempt to regain control of Ramoth-Gilead and Israel's Transjordan lands.
Question: What was the result of this second
attempt to regain Ramoth-Gilead?
Answer: Both kings were wounded and retreated from the fighting to Jehoram's palace at Jezreel.
The weakened condition of both kings is the prelude to an ominous turn of events for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and their dynasties. In next week's lesson, the year 841 BC becomes a year that marks a blood-bath for the royal houses of both kingdoms.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
In 2 Kings 6:33b, King Jehoram of Israel asked Elisha: "Why should I still trust in Yahweh?" What would you tell someone who asked you the same question when they were experiencing personal suffering?
1. The lasting impact of the Aramaeans on the region was their language, Aramaic. It was the common spoken language of Upper Mesopotamia and Syria during the early first millennium BC, and became the diplomatic language of the region. From the 3rd century BC to 70 AD, Aramaic replaced Hebrew and became the common language of the Jews and therefore the language spoken by Jesus during His ministry.
2. The account of rise to power of Hazael and his illegitimate claim to the throne of Damascus isn't only found in the Bible. A basalt statue of King Shalmaneser III of Assyria contains an inscription boasting of the king's victories over the king of Damascus. The inscription recounts how "Hazael the son of nobody" had taken the throne of Damascus. He is mentioned in other records of Shalmaneser III from the royal archives and his name is inscribed on objects taken as booty by the Assyrians. In addition, an Aramaic inscription discovered at Tel Dan in Northern Israel, dating to c. 841 BC, appears to have been commissioned by Hazael to commemorate his defeat of Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah at Ramoth-Gilead (see 2 Kng 8:28-29). The inscription claims that he killed [Ahaz]yahu son of [Jeoram kin]g of the House of David" (brackets enclose missing letters). Ahazyahu is another spelling of the name for Ahaziah of Judah. The most remarkable aspect of the Tell Dan inscription is that it substantiates the Bible's claim of the existence of the Davidic dynasty, the "House of David."
3. Archaeologists from the Oriental Institute of Chicago, excavating at Megiddo, which is near ancient Israel's capital of Samaria, found in the stratum of the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel the ruins of a temple of Ashtoreth, goddess wife of Baal. Near the temple was a ritual burial ground where many jars were found containing the remains of children who had been sacrificed in the temple. The prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth were official murderers of little children. The find illustrates the horrible nature of child sacrifice in Baal worship and helps us understand Elijah's execution of the prophets of Baal (1 Kng 18:40).
Typology: CCC 128-130
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