Monday, September 30, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 16

 2 Kings 16(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Ahaz son of Jotham became king of Judah in the seventeenth year of Pekah's rule in Israel.
  2. He was twenty years old at the time, and he ruled from Jerusalem for sixteen years. Ahaz wasn't like his ancestor David. Instead, he disobeyed the LORD
  3. and was even more sinful than the kings of Israel. He sacrificed his own son, which was a disgusting custom of the nations that the LORD had forced out of Israel.
  4. Ahaz offered sacrifices at the local shrines, as well as on every hill and in the shade of large trees.
  5. While Ahaz was ruling Judah, the king of Edom recaptured the town of Elath from Judah and forced out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath, and they still live there. About the same time, King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel marched to Jerusalem and attacked, but they could not capture it.
  6. (SEE 16:5)
  7. Ahaz sent a message to King Tiglath Pileser of Assyria that said, "Your Majesty, King Rezin and King Pekah are attacking me, your loyal servant. Please come and rescue me."
  8. Along with the message, Ahaz sent silver and gold from the LORD's temple and from the palace treasury as a gift for the Assyrian king.
  9. As soon as Tiglath Pileser received the message, he and his troops marched to Syria. He captured the capital city of Damascus, then he took the people living there to the town of Kir as prisoners and killed King Rezin.
  10. Later, Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath Pileser. And while Ahaz was there, he saw an altar and sent a model of it back to Uriah the priest, along with the plans for building one.
  11. Uriah followed the plans and built an altar exactly like the one in Damascus, finishing it just before Ahaz came back.
  12. When Ahaz returned, he went to see the altar and to offer sacrifices on it. He walked up to the altar
  13. and poured wine over it. Then he offered sacrifices to please the LORD, to give him thanks, and to ask for his blessings.
  14. After that, he had the bronze altar moved aside, so his new altar would be right in front of the LORD's temple.
  15. He told Uriah the priest: From now on, the morning and evening sacrifices as well as all gifts of grain and wine are to be offered on this altar. The sacrifices for the people and for the king must also be offered here. Sprinkle the blood from all the sacrifices on it, but leave the bronze altar for me to use for prayer and finding out what God wants me to do.
  16. Uriah did everything Ahaz told him.
  17. Ahaz also had the side panels and the small bowls taken off the movable stands in the LORD's temple. He had the large bronze bowl, called the Sea, removed from the bronze bulls on which it rested and had it placed on a stand made of stone.
  18. He took down the special tent that was used for worship on the Sabbath and closed up the private entrance that the kings of Judah used for going into the temple. He did all these things to please Tiglath Pileser.
  19. Everything else Ahaz did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  20. Ahaz died and was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem, and his son Hezekiah became king.

Ahaz became king of Judah following the death of his father, Jotham. He was 20 years old. However, he had evidently served as coregent with his father for 12 years prior to this, so at the death of his father he became the sole king. To this point Judah's kings had not gone to the depths of apostacy that the kings of Israel had, but Ahaz took a big leap in this direction.

Ahaz was probably already predisposed toward pulling away from the Lord, but the big leap came when he aligned himself with Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria. Aram (Syria) and Israel had tried to get Ahaz to join them in an alliance against Assyria. When he refused, the two countries "waged war against Jerusalem" to force his hand. But they were unsuccessful in this effort. To protect himself against further assaults from the two nations, Ahaz voluntarily submitted to become a vassal to Assyrian control and also offered silver and gold to Tiglath-pileser from the Lord's temple to buy his favor. Tiglath-pileser complied and attacked Damascus, capturing it, deporting many of its people, and killing Rezin the king.

Ahaz then sought to become like Tiglath-pileser in his religious practices. He made a visit to meet the king of Assyria and when he saw the altar the king had he sent a drawing of it back to Uriah, the high priest. It seems Uriah had also apostacized and willingly built a replica of the altar and had it ready when Ahaz returned home. Ahaz made this his primary altar and then removed the bronze altar of the Lord from in front of the Lord's temple and placed it adjacent to this new altar. He used the bronze altar only "to seek guidance," evidently from the Lord. What a strange concept. He also resorted to the practice of sacrificing children and "made his son pass through the fire, imitating the abominations of the nations the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites." (16:3)

Nothing further is said about Ahaz' reign other than when he died he was buried with his fathers, but not with the other kings of Judah. This provides a hint that there were influential people in Judah who did not approve of his practices.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 15

 2 Kings 15(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Azariah son of Amaziah became king of Judah in Jeroboam's twenty-seventh year as king of Israel.
  2. He was only sixteen years old when he became king, and he ruled fifty-two years from Jerusalem, which was also the hometown of his mother Jecoliah.
  3. Azariah obeyed the LORD by doing right, as his father Amaziah had done.
  4. But Azariah did not destroy the local shrines, and they were still used as places for offering sacrifices.
  5. The LORD punished Azariah with leprosy for the rest of his life. He wasn't allowed to live in the royal palace, so his son Jotham lived there and ruled in his place.
  6. Everything else Azariah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  7. Azariah died and was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem. His son Jotham then became king.
  8. Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Azariah's rule in Judah, but he ruled only six months from Samaria.
  9. Like his ancestors, Zechariah disobeyed the LORD by following the evil ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
  10. Shallum son of Jabesh plotted against Zechariah and killed him in public. Shallum then became king.
  11. So the LORD had kept his promise to Jehu that the next four kings of Israel would come from his family. Everything else Zechariah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  12. (SEE 15:11)
  13. Shallum became king of Israel in the thirty-ninth year of Azariah's rule in Judah. But only one month after Shallum became king,
  14. Menahem son of Gadi came to Samaria from Tirzah and killed him. Menahem then became king. The town of Tiphsah would not surrender to him, so he destroyed it and all the surrounding towns as far as Tirzah. He killed everyone living in Tiphsah, and with his sword he even ripped open pregnant women. Everything else Shallum did while he was king, including his plot against Zechariah, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  15. (SEE 15:14)
  16. (SEE 15:14)
  17. Menahem became king of Israel in Azariah's thirty-ninth year as king of Judah, and he ruled Israel ten years from Samaria.
  18. He constantly disobeyed the LORD by following the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
  19. During Menahem's rule, King Tiglath Pileser of Assyria invaded Israel. He agreed to help Menahem keep control of his kingdom, if Menahem would pay him over thirty tons of silver.
  20. So Menahem ordered every rich person in Israel to give him at least one pound of silver, and he gave it all to Tiglath Pileser, who stopped his attack and left Israel.
  21. Everything else Menahem did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  22. Menahem died, and his son Pekahiah became king.
  23. Pekahiah became king of Israel in the fiftieth year of Azariah's rule in Judah, and he ruled two years from Samaria.
  24. He disobeyed the LORD and caused the Israelites to sin, just as Jeroboam son of Nebat had done.
  25. Pekah son of Remaliah was Pekahiah's chief officer, but he made plans to kill the king. So he and fifty men from Gilead broke into the strongest part of the palace in Samaria and murdered Pekahiah, together with Argob and Arieh. Pekah then became king.
  26. Everything else Pekahiah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  27. Pekah son of Remaliah became king of Israel in Azariah's fifty-second year as king of Judah, and he ruled twenty years from Samaria.
  28. He disobeyed the LORD and followed the evil example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
  29. During Pekah's rule, King Tiglath Pileser of Assyria marched into Israel. He captured the territories of Gilead and Galilee, including the towns of Ijon, Abel-Bethmaacah, Janoah, Kedesh, and Hazor, as well as the entire territory of Naphtali. Then he took Israelites from those regions to Assyria as prisoners.
  30. In the twentieth year of Jotham's rule in Judah, Hoshea son of Elah plotted against Pekah and murdered him. Hoshea then became king of Israel.
  31. Everything else Pekah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  32. Jotham son of Azariah became king of Judah in the second year of Pekah's rule in Israel.
  33. Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he ruled sixteen years from Jerusalem. His mother Jerusha was the daughter of Zadok.
  34. Jotham followed the example of his father by obeying the LORD and doing right.
  35. It was Jotham who rebuilt the Upper Gate that led into the court around the LORD's temple. But the local shrines were not destroyed, and they were still used as places for offering sacrifices.
  36. Everything else Jotham did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  37. During his rule, the LORD let King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel start attacking Judah.
  38. Jotham died and was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem, and his son Ahaz became king.

Though the kings of Judah were not without sin, as was the case with Azariah whose sin caused him to have a skin disease, they were, for the most part, godly kings. In contrast to the kings of Israel who were all apostates, we see stability in the leadership of Judah compared to instability and conspiracy in the leadership of Israel.

The following table shows the kings of both Judah and Israel that are listed in this chapter:

Judah Israel
Azariah (27th year of Jeroboam) Jeroboam
Zechariah (38th year of Azariah)
Shallum (39th year of Azariah)
         Menahem (39th year of Azariah)
Pekahiah (50th year of Azariah)
Jotham (2nd year of Pekah) Pekah (52nd year of Azariah)
Ahaz (17th year of Pekah)

Judah's kings during this period: Both Azariah (also known as Uzziah) and Jotham, kings of Judah were good kings as were their fathers. The only spiritual flaw in their leadership was that they allowed the high places to continue to exist in which the people worshipped the Lord in violation of the Mosaic law which required worship only at the temple. As noted in verse 5, Azariah had a skin disease the last years of his life. This was due to his pride. Details of his rule, which are provided in 2 Chronicles, indicate he was a strong king. Because of his successes he became proud and took it upon himself to usurp the role of the priests in the temple. Because of this brazen act, the Lord struck him with a skin disease. Nevertheless, Azariah reigned for 52 years. During the time in which he had the skin disease, his son Jotham ruled with him.

Little is noted in 2 Kings of Jotham's rule after his father died except that he reigned for 16 years, he did what was right in the Lord's sight, and he "built the Upper Gate of the Lord's temple." (15:35)

Israel's kings during this period: Jeroboam reigned in Israel 41 years and was and evil king has had been all those in Israel before him. He evidently died of natural causes. However, the next several kings in succession were assassinated by their successors. Shallum conspired and killed Zechariah in a public place. Even though the killing was witnessed, the people evidently supported him in becoming king, suggesting that Zechariah was not well supported by the people.

Menahem was commander of the army and apparently considered Shallum a usurper of the throne. Thus he set out to force his way to become king. He led the army to attack an Israelite city, Tiphsah, insisting the peole recognize him as king and when they didn't he violently destroyed the city even killing pregnant women. This tactic evidently intimidated the people enough that they finally recognized him as king.

Menahem died naturally and was succeeded by his son, Pekahiah. Pekahiah was assassinated by his successor, Pekah, who led 50 men to storm the palace, killing the king and a couple of his officials.

Testing of Judah: During the reign of Jotham in Judah, "the LORD began sending Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah." (15:37) Verse 34 already noted that Jotham did what was right in the Lord's sight. Rather than being the Lord's judgment, this pressure from Aram and Israel proved to be a test of faith for the Jotham.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 14

 2 Kings 14(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Amaziah son of Joash became king of Judah in the second year of Jehoash's rule in Israel.
  2. Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he ruled twenty-nine years from Jerusalem, which was also the hometown of his mother Jehoaddin.
  3. Amaziah followed the example of his father Joash by obeying the LORD and doing right. But he was not as faithful as his ancestor David.
  4. Amaziah did not destroy the local shrines, and they were still used as places for offering sacrifices.
  5. As soon as Amaziah had control of Judah, he arrested and killed the officers who had murdered his father.
  6. But the children of those officers were not killed. The LORD had commanded in the Law of Moses that only the people who sinned were to be punished, not their parents or children.
  7. While Amaziah was king, he killed ten thousand Edomite soldiers in Salt Valley. He captured the town of Sela and renamed it Joktheel, which is still its name.
  8. One day, Amaziah sent a message to King Jehoash of Israel: "Come out and face me in battle!"
  9. Jehoash sent back this reply: Once upon a time, a small thornbush in Lebanon announced that his son was going to marry the daughter of a large cedar tree. But a wild animal came along and trampled the small bush.
  10. Amaziah, you think you're so powerful because you defeated Edom. Go ahead and celebrate--but stay at home. If you cause any trouble, both you and your kingdom of Judah will be destroyed.
  11. But Amaziah refused to listen. So Jehoash and his troops marched to the town of Beth-Shemesh in Judah to attack Amaziah and his troops.
  12. During the battle, Judah's army was crushed. Every soldier from Judah ran back home,
  13. and Jehoash captured Amaziah. Jehoash then marched to Jerusalem and broke down the city wall from Ephraim Gate to Corner Gate, a section about six hundred feet long.
  14. He took the gold and silver, as well as everything of value from the LORD's temple and the king's treasury. He took hostages, then returned to Samaria.
  15. Everything else Jehoash did while he was king, including his brave deeds and how he defeated King Amaziah of Judah, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  16. Jehoash died and was buried in Samaria beside the other Israelite kings. His son Jeroboam then became king.
  17. Fifteen years after Jehoash died,
  18. some people in Jerusalem plotted against Amaziah. He was able to escape to the town of Lachish, but another group of people caught him and killed him there. His body was taken back to Jerusalem on horseback and buried beside his ancestors. Everything else Amaziah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  19. (SEE 14:18)
  20. (SEE 14:18)
  21. After his death the people of Judah made his son Azariah king, even though he was only sixteen at the time.
  22. Azariah was the one who later recaptured and rebuilt the town of Elath.
  23. Jeroboam son of Jehoash became king of Israel in the fifteenth year of Amaziah's rule in Judah. Jeroboam ruled forty-one years from Samaria.
  24. He disobeyed the LORD by following the evil example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
  25. Jeroboam extended the boundaries of Israel from Lebo-Hamath in the north to the Dead Sea in the south, just as the LORD had promised his servant Jonah son of Amittai, who was a prophet from Gath-Hepher.
  26. The LORD helped Jeroboam do this because he had seen how terribly the Israelites were suffering, whether slave or free, and no one was left to help them.
  27. And since the LORD had promised that he would not let Israel be completely destroyed, he helped Jeroboam rescue them.
  28. Everything else Jeroboam did while he was king, including his brave deeds and how he recaptured the towns of Damascus and Hamath, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  29. Jeroboam died and was buried, and his son Zechariah became king.

The writer moves rather rapidly through the reigns of two kings of Judah, Amaziah and Azariah, and one king of Israel, Jeroboam. Because Azariah was coregency with his father, Amaziah, for a period of time and Jeroboam coregency with his father, Jehoash, for a period of time, there are references back and forth to these fathers making the narrative a bit difficult to follow at times while keeping straight the line of kings.

Chapter 13 tells of the reign of Jehoash in Israel. Chapter 14 begins with Amaziah becoming king in Judah in place of his father, Joash. Because Amaziah became king during the second year of king Jehoash's reign in Israel, the narrative goes back in time from where it ended in chapter 13. Amaziah's rule in Judah followed in the footsteps of his father, Joash. Both were good kings until the later years of their rule when they allowed pagan influences to corrupt them spiritually. Because of this, they both died at the hands of assassins as a result of God's judgment.

Amaziah's first act as king was to kill the assassins of his father. One of his most significant accomplishments was a decisive victory over the Edomites and taking possession of the city of Sela. This victory caused him to become prideful and over confident and he challenged Jehoash, king of Israel, to a show of strength. This very poor judgment by Amaziah led to the fulfillment of God's judgment against him because he had brought back Edomite gods after defeating Edom and began to worship these gods. Amaziah's invitation to Jehoash sounds innocent enough on the surface, "Come, let us meet face to face." (14:8) But it was, in fact, a challenge to battle. Jehoash's reply bruised Amaziah's pride reinforcing his resolve to fight the Israelites. Jehoash replied to him, "The thistle that was in Lebanon once sent a message to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, 'Give your daughter to my son as a wife.' Then a wild animal that was in Lebanon passed by and trampled the thistle. You have indeed defeated Edom, and you have become overconfident. Enjoy your glory and stay at home. Why should you stir up such trouble that you fall--you and Judah with you?" (14:9-10) This reply was no less a challenge than was Amaziah's invitation to meet.

Jehoash didn't wait for Judah to attack, instead taking the initiative to attack first, meeting Judah in battle at Beth-shemesh. Judah was routed, sending her army into retreat, and king Amaziah was captured and taken prisoner. The Israelites also went to Jerusalem and tore down a portion of the city walls and confiscated the gold and silver treasuries of the temple and palace, along with the taking of hostages. Amaziah remained captive in Israel until Jehoash died, at which time he was released. While he was a captive, his son, Azariah, ruled in Judah as coregency. Azariah was 16 at the time he began to rule. After Amaziah's release, he returned to Jerusalem and ruled with his son until a conspiracy against him was discovered. We are not told of the reason for the conspiracy. Amaziah fled to Lachish but was followed there and killed. His son, Azariah, was then made sole king.

When Jehoash, king of Israel died and Amaziah released, Jehoash's son, Jeroboam, became king in Israel. He followed in the footsteps of his father and the kings before him by doing what was "evil in the Lord's sight." (14:24) Though he was an evil king, he was a strong king, reigning for 41 years. He restored Israel's borders by defeating the Arameans and taking back territory they had taken. Though Jeroboam may have been an able military leader, the writer credits this accomplishment to the Lord, stating that, "The LORD had not said He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so He delivered them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash." (14:27)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 13

 2 Kings 13(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in the twenty-third year of Joash's rule in Judah. Jehoahaz ruled seventeen years from Samaria
  2. and disobeyed the LORD by doing wrong. He never stopped following the example of Jeroboam, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
  3. The LORD was angry at the Israelites, so he let King Hazael of Syria and his son Benhadad rule over them for a long time.
  4. Jehoahaz prayed to the LORD for help, and the LORD saw how terribly Hazael was treating the Israelites. He answered Jehoahaz
  5. by sending Israel a leader who rescued them from the Syrians, and the Israelites lived in peace as they had before.
  6. But Hazael had defeated Israel's army so badly that Jehoahaz had only ten chariots, fifty cavalry troops, and ten thousand regular soldiers left in his army. The Israelites kept sinning and following the example of Jeroboam's family. They did not tear down the sacred poles that had been set up in Samaria for the worship of the goddess Asherah.
  7. (SEE 13:6)
  8. Everything else Jehoahaz did while he was king, including his brave deeds, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  9. Jehoahaz died and was buried in Samaria, and his son Jehoash became king.
  10. Jehoash became king of Israel in the thirty-seventh year of Joash's rule in Judah, and he ruled sixteen years from Samaria.
  11. He disobeyed the LORD by doing just like Jeroboam, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
  12. Everything else Jehoash did while he was king, including his war against King Amaziah of Judah, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  13. Jehoash died and was buried in Samaria beside the other Israelite kings. His son Jeroboam then became king.
  14. Some time before the death of King Jehoash, Elisha the prophet was very sick and about to die. Jehoash went in and stood beside him, crying. He said, "Master, what will Israel's chariots and cavalry be able to do without you?"
  15. "Grab a bow and some arrows," Elisha told him, "and hold them in your hand." Jehoash grabbed the bow and arrows and held them. Elisha placed his hand on the king's hand
  16. (SEE 13:15)
  17. and said, "Open the window facing east." When it was open, Elisha shouted, "Now shoot!" Jehoash shot an arrow and Elisha said, "That arrow is a sign that the LORD will help you completely defeat the Syrian army at Aphek."
  18. Elisha said, "Pick up the arrows and hit the ground with them." Jehoash grabbed the arrows and hit the ground three times, then stopped.
  19. Elisha became angry at the king and exclaimed, "If you had struck it five or six times, you would completely wipe out the Syrians. Now you will defeat them only three times."
  20. Elisha died and was buried. Every year in the spring, Moab's leaders sent raiding parties into Israel.
  21. Once, while some Israelites were burying a man's body, they saw a group of Moabites. The Israelites quickly threw the body into Elisha's tomb and ran away. As soon as the man's body touched the bones of Elisha, the man came back to life and stood up.
  22. Israel was under the power of King Hazael of Syria during the entire rule of Jehoahaz.
  23. But the LORD was kind to the Israelites and showed them mercy because of his solemn agreement with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, he has never turned his back on them or let them be completely destroyed.
  24. Hazael died, and his son Benhadad then became king of Syria.
  25. King Jehoash of Israel attacked and defeated the Syrian army three times. He took back from Benhadad all the towns Hazael had captured in battle from his father Jehoahaz.

After giving attention to the reign's of Athaliah and Joash in Judah, the writer returns to the kings of Israel. While Joash was still reigning in Judah, Jehoahaz became king of Israel. Though Judah had several good kings, Joash being one of them, Israel had none. Jehoahaz was no exception. He "followed the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to commit." (13:2) As punishment for this evil, God "surrendered them to the power of Hazael king of Aram and his son Ben-hadad." (13:3) This punishment got the king's attention and he "sought the Lord's favor." (13:4) And the Lord was merciful and heard him and sent a deliverer enabling Israel to escape "from the power of the Arameans." (13:5) Before God sent Israel into exile, He was extending them mercy in hopes they would turn back to Him. As is always the case, God's mercy was unmerited. Israel did not deserve it. But "because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them." (13:23)

Reason would tell us that since Jehoahaz recognized their oppression by the Arameans was God's punishment and then because God delivered them in answer to his prayer that the king would turn to God and away from his idolatry. But idolatry is not reasonable. It defies reason. Verse 6 tells us that Jehoahaz "didn't turn away from the sins that the house of Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit. Jehoahaz walked in them, and the Asherah pole also remained standing in Samaria." The rest of Jehoahaz's reign was uneventful. He ruled in weakness for he had no army left except for a few horsemen and foot soldiers. When he died his son, Jehoash, succeeded him. He, too, "did what was evil in the Lord's sight." (13:11)

It was during the reign of Jehoash that the prophet Elisha became ill and died. Jehoash went to see him during his illness and mourned his coming death, saying to him, "My father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel!" (13:14) This statement was acknowledgement that the Lord, through Elisha, was the strength of Israel. But it was not the Lord who Jehoash worshipped. Again, there is no reason behind the king's idolatry.

During this visit from the king, Elisha tested his faith, telling him to take a bow and arrow and shoot the arrow out the window. Jehoash did this and Elisha said to him, "The LORD's arrow of victory, yes, the arrow of victory over Aram. You are to strike down the Arameans in Aphek until you have put an end to them." (13:17) The Lord offered to completely put an end to the Aramean oppression of Israel if the king demonstrated enough faith. The next test would show the extent of his faith. Elisha told him to take the remaining arrows and strike the ground with them. Rather than holding the arrows all together and hitting the ground with them as one might imagine, it is thought this meant to shoot all of the remaining arrows into the ground. But Jehoash shot only three of the arrows into the ground. This angered Elisha for it meant that instead of striking down Aram 5 or 6 times and completely doing away with them Israel would only defeat the Arameans three times.

After Jehoash died and his son Jehoahaz succeeded him, Jehoahaz defeated Aram three times, taking back three cities Aram had taken from Israel. But this did not eradicate the Aramean oppression of Israel.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 12

     2 Kings 12(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Joash became king of Judah in Jehu's seventh year as king of Israel, and he ruled forty years from Jerusalem. His mother Zibiah was from the town of Beersheba.
  2. Jehoiada the priest taught Joash what was right, and so for the rest of his life Joash obeyed the LORD.
  3. But even Joash did not destroy the local shrines, and they were still used as places for offering sacrifices.
  4. One day, Joash said to the priests, "Collect all the money that has been given to the LORD's temple, whether from taxes or gifts,
  5. and use it to repair the temple. You priests can contribute your own money too."
  6. But the priests never started repairing the temple. So in the twenty-third year of his rule,
  7. Joash called for Jehoiada and the other priests and said, "Why aren't you using the money to repair the temple? Don't take any more money for yourselves. It is only to be used to pay for the repairs."
  8. The priests agreed that they would not collect any more money or be in charge of the temple repairs.
  9. Jehoiada found a wooden box; he cut a hole in the top of it and set it on the right side of the altar where people went into the temple. Whenever someone gave money to the temple, the priests guarding the entrance would put it into this box.
  10. When the box was full of money, the king's secretary and the chief priest would count the money and put it in bags.
  11. Then they would give it to the men supervising the repairs to the temple. Some of the money was used to pay the builders, the woodworkers,
  12. the stonecutters, and the men who built the walls. And some was used to buy wood and stone and to pay any other costs for repairing the temple.
  13. While the repairs were being made, the money that was given to the temple was not used to make silver bowls, lamp snuffers, small sprinkling bowls, trumpets, or anything gold or silver for the temple.
  14. It went only to pay for repairs.
  15. The men in charge were honest, so no one had to keep track of the money.
  16. The fines that had to be paid along with the sacrifices to make things right and the sacrifices for sin did not go to the temple. This money belonged only to the priests.
  17. About the same time, King Hazael of Syria attacked the town of Gath and captured it. Next, he decided to attack Jerusalem.
  18. So Joash collected everything he and his ancestors Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah had dedicated to the LORD, as well as the gold in the storage rooms in the temple and palace. He sent it all to Hazael as a gift, and when Hazael received it, he ordered his troops to leave Jerusalem.
  19. Everything else Joash did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  20. At the end of his rule, some of his officers rebelled against him. Jozabad son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer murdered him in a building where the land was filled in on the east side of Jerusalem, near the road to Silla. Joash was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem, and his son Amaziah became king.
  21. (SEE 12:20)

This account in 2 Kings chapter 12 of the reign of king Joash is rather abbreviated compared to that given in 2 Chronicles. Joash was secretly raised in the temple by his uncle, Jehoiada, who was the priest in the temple of the Lord. This was necessary since Joash's grandmother, Athaliah, killed all of his brothers, and would have killed him so she could have the throne. Joash was only seven years old when he became king and ruled under the influence of his uncle Jehoiada. As long as his uncle was alive he was a godly king.

One of Joash's accomplishments was the restoration of the temple which had come into disrepair during the reign of Athaliah who turned everyone to Baal worship. His first attempt at restoration did not succeed. He instructed the priests, "All the dedicated money brought to the LORD's temple, census money, money from vows, and all money voluntarily given for the LORD's temple, each priest is to take from his assessor and repair whatever damage to the temple is found." (12:4-5) The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles makes these instructions a bit clearer: "So he gathered the priests and Levites and said, 'Go out to the cities of Judah and collect money from all Israel to repair the temple of your God as needed year by year, and do it quickly.' However, the Levites did not hurry." (2 Chronicles 24:5)

So the plan was to use a temple tax established by Moses for the repairs to the temple. However, the tax was evidently not sufficient for both the support of the priests and repair of the temple so the priests were reluctant to divert it to repairs. After considerable time had gone by and the repairs still were not done, Joash grew impatient and called the priests together to ask why his instructions had not been followed. We are not given their reply. Whatever the reply, the king gave new instructions. The priests were no longer to take money from the tax for their own use. It was all to go to the temple repair. The priests were to live off of the sin offerings. In addition, the responsibility for the repair was no longer theirs. It was handed off to others.

A hole was bored in the top of a chest and the people dropped their taxes into the chest when they came to the temple. As the chest became full the king's secretary and the high priest would count it and give it to those responsible for the repairs. Initially, the money covered only the structural repairs. When those repairs were made the money was then used for the temple articles such as the silver bowls, wick trimmers, etc.
This account of the temple restoration is all we are told of Joash's reign in 2 Kings except for an account of how he died. What we must learn from 2 Chronicles is that after the king's uncle died, he turned away from the Lord. During this period his cousin, Zechariah, who became high priest following the death of his father, spoke out against Joash's apostacy. Because of this, Joash had him killed. This sin led to his death. 2 Kings 12:17-21 tells of the events leading up to his death. We gather further details from 2 Chronicles chapter 24 for a clearer picture.

The Arameans sent a small army into Judah and the Lord gave them victory over Judah and they were able to kill many of the leaders. They also wounded Joash. After the king was wounded the Arameans retreated, but two of the king's servants conspired against him and killed him because he had killed the high priest.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 11

    2 Kings 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. As soon as Athaliah heard that her son King Ahaziah was dead, she decided to kill any relative who could possibly become king. She would have done that,
  2. but Jehosheba rescued Joash son of Ahaziah just as he was about to be murdered. Jehosheba, who was Jehoram's daughter and Ahaziah's half sister, hid her nephew Joash and his personal servant in a bedroom in the LORD's temple where he was safe from Athaliah.
  3. Joash hid in the temple with Jehosheba for six years while Athaliah ruled as queen of Judah.
  4. Joash son of Ahaziah had hidden in the LORD's temple six years. Then in the seventh year, Jehoiada the priest sent for the commanders of the king's special bodyguards and the commanders of the palace guards. They met him at the temple, and he asked them to make a promise in the name of the LORD. Then he brought out Joash
  5. and said to them: Here's what I want you to do. Three of your guard units will be on duty on the Sabbath. I want one unit to guard the palace.
  6. Another unit will guard Sur Gate, and the third unit will guard the palace gate and relieve the palace guards.
  7. The other two guard units are supposed to be off duty on the Sabbath. But I want both of them to stay here at the temple and protect King Joash.
  8. Make sure they follow him wherever he goes, and have them keep their swords ready to kill anyone who tries to get near him.
  9. The commanders followed Jehoiada's orders. Each one called together his guards--those coming on duty and those going off duty.
  10. Jehoiada brought out the swords and shields that had belonged to King David and gave them to the commanders.
  11. Then they gave the weapons to their guards, who took their positions around the temple and the altar to protect Joash on every side.
  12. Jehoiada brought Joash outside, where he placed the crown on his head and gave him a copy of instructions for ruling the nation. Olive oil was poured on his head to show that he was now king, while the crowd clapped and shouted, "Long live the king!"
  13. Queen Athaliah heard the crowd and went to the temple.
  14. There she saw Joash standing by one of the columns, which was the usual place for the king. The singers and the trumpet players were standing next to him, and the people were celebrating and blowing trumpets. Athaliah tore her clothes in anger and shouted, "You betrayed me, you traitors!"
  15. Right away, Jehoiada said to the army commanders, "Kill her! But don't do it anywhere near the LORD's temple. Take her out in front of the troops and kill anyone who is with her!"
  16. So the commanders dragged her to the gate where horses are led into the palace, and they killed her there.
  17. Jehoiada the priest asked King Joash and the people to promise that they would be faithful to each other and to the LORD.
  18. Then the crowd went to the temple built to honor Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal right in front of the altars. After Jehoiada had placed guards around the LORD's temple,
  19. he called together all the commanders, the king's special bodyguards, the palace guards, and the people. They led Joash from the temple, through the Guards' Gate, and into the palace. He took his place on the throne and became king of Judah.
  20. Everyone celebrated because Athaliah had been killed and Jerusalem was peaceful again.
  21. Joash was only seven years old when this happened.

Except for a brief passage toward the end of chapter 8 describing the succession of kings in Judah from Jehoram to Ahaziah, the narrative of 2 Kings has been about the kings of Israel. Now, in chapter 11, we turn to the kings of Judah. Athaliah was the mother of king Ahaziah of Judah and the daughter of Jezebel in Israel. She had married king Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, to form an alliance between the two kingdoms. But she influenced Judah toward Baal worship much as her mother had done in Israel. As we can see in chapter 11, she was a true daughter of Jezebel, every bit as wicked.

When Athaliah learned that her son, king Ahaziah of Judah had been killed along with Joram, king of Israel, she moved to take over the throne in Judah, becoming the only ruling queen in Judah. To make this possible, she had to get rid of any possible heir to the throne which meant killing all of her grandsons. In this we can see just how wicked she was. Though God allows wickedness to have an upper hand as long as people choose wickedness, it does not thwart His plans. God had made a covenant with David that there would be a line of his descendants rule in Judah from which would come the Messiah. Had Athaliah succeeded in killing all her grandsons, there would have been no more descendants of David remaining. But God did not allow her to succeed.

Jehosheba was a sister to king Ahaziah (but not a daughter of Athaliah), and an aunt to the grandsons being killed. As the killings were taking place, she secretly rescued Joash, one of the grandsons. Initially she hid the boy, along with his nurse, in a bedroom of the palace and later moved them to the Lord's temple where he remained in hiding for six years. The Lord's temple was probably the safest place in Judah to hide him since Athaliah had no interest in worshipping the Lord. But also, this arrangement was convenient and possible because Jehosheba's husband was the priest in the Lord's temple. In short, though, this was the Lord's plan.

In the beginning of Athaliah's seventh year of reign, Jehoiada the priest set in motion a plan to anoint the boy Joash as king. He made an agreement with the captains of the bodyguards who would be on duty on the Sabbath. According to the plan, when there was a changing of the guard with new guards coming on duty and others going off duty, their ranks would be increased by leaving the outgoing guards on duty. Instead of going off duty they moved to the temple to protect Joash. With the boy surrounded by guards, he was moved to the court of the temple to be anointed and crowned king. When the shout went up, "Long live the king!" Athaliah heard the noise and went to investigate. Realizing what was happening, she screamed "Treason!" But it was not those who crowned Joash, a legitimate heir to the throne, who committed treason, but Athaliah who had treasonously usurped the throne.

Jehoiada the priest had the guards take Athaliah outside the temple area and killed. Then he "made a covenant between the LORD, the king, and the people that they would be the LORD's people and another one between the king and the people." (11:17) After this the people tore down the temple of Baal and killed the priest of Baal at the altars. Then Joash was taken to the palace and seated on the throne. Verse 20 says that, "All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet, for they had put Athaliah to death by the sword in the king's palace."

Athaliah's actions in killing the heirs to the throne was a satanic attempt to break the royal Messianic line and she was Satan's agent in carrying it out. With Satan's agent dead there was now peace and quiet which do not characterize the presence of Satan through those over whom he has rule.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 10

    2 Kings 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Ahab still had seventy descendants living in Samaria. So Jehu wrote a letter to each of the important leaders and officials of the town, and to those who supported Ahab. In the letters he wrote:
  2. Your town is strong, and you're protected by chariots and an armed cavalry. And I know that King Ahab's descendants live there with you. So as soon as you read this letter,
  3. choose the best person for the job and make him the next king. Then be prepared to defend Ahab's family.
  4. The officials and leaders read the letters and were very frightened. They said to each other, "Jehu has already killed King Joram and King Ahaziah! We have to do what he says."
  5. The prime minister, the mayor of the city, as well as the other leaders and Ahab's supporters, sent this answer to Jehu, "We are your servants, Your Majesty, and we will do whatever you tell us. But it's not our place to choose someone to be king. You do what you think is best."
  6. Jehu then wrote another letter which said, "If you are on my side and will obey me, then prove it. Bring me the heads of the descendants of Ahab! And be here in Jezreel by this time tomorrow." The seventy descendants of King Ahab were living with some of the most important people of the city.
  7. And when these people read Jehu's second letter, they called together all seventy of Ahab's descendants. They killed them, put their heads in baskets, and sent them to Jezreel.
  8. When Jehu was told what had happened, he said, "Put the heads in two piles at the city gate, and leave them there until morning."
  9. The next morning, Jehu went out and stood where everyone could hear him, and he said, "You people are not guilty of anything. I'm the one who plotted against Joram and had him killed. But who killed all these men?
  10. Listen to me. Everything the LORD's servant Elijah promised about Ahab's family will come true."
  11. Then Jehu killed the rest of Ahab's relatives living in Jezreel, as well as his highest officials, his priests, and his closest friends. No one in Ahab's family was left alive in Jezreel.
  12. Jehu left for Samaria, and along the way, he met some relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah at a place where shepherds meet. He asked, "Who are you?" "We are relatives of Ahaziah," they answered. "We're going to visit his family."
  13. (SEE 10:12)
  14. "Take them alive!" Jehu said to his officers. So they grabbed them and led them to the well near the shepherds' meeting place, where they killed all forty-two of them.
  15. As Jehu went on, he saw Jehonadab son of Rechab coming to meet him. Jehu greeted him, then said, "Jehonadab, I'm on your side. Are you on mine?" "Yes, I am." "Then give me your hand," Jehu answered. He helped Jehonadab into his chariot
  16. and said, "Come with me and see how faithful I am to the LORD." They rode together in Jehu's chariot
  17. to Samaria. Jehu killed everyone there who belonged to Ahab's family, as well as all his officials. Everyone in his family was now dead, just as the LORD had promised Elijah.
  18. Jehu called together the people in Samaria and said: King Ahab sometimes worshiped Baal, but I will be completely faithful to Baal.
  19. I'm going to offer a huge sacrifice to him. So invite his prophets and priests, and be sure everyone who worships him is there. Anyone who doesn't come will be killed. But this was a trick--Jehu was really planning to kill the worshipers of Baal.
  20. He said, "Announce a day of worship for Baal!" After the day had been announced,
  21. Jehu sent an invitation to everyone in Israel. All the worshipers of Baal came, and the temple was filled from one end to the other.
  22. Jehu told the official in charge of the sacred robes to make sure that everyone had a robe to wear.
  23. Jehu and Jehonadab went into the temple, and Jehu said to the crowd, "Look around and make sure that only the worshipers of Baal are here. No one who worships the LORD is allowed in."
  24. Then they began to offer sacrifices to Baal. Earlier, Jehu had ordered eighty soldiers to wait outside the temple. He had warned them, "I will get all these worshipers here, and if any of you let even one of them escape, you will be killed instead!"
  25. As soon as Jehu finished offering the sacrifice, he told the guards and soldiers, "Come in and kill them! Don't let anyone escape." They slaughtered everyone in the crowd and threw the bodies outside. Then they went back into the temple
  26. and carried out the image of Baal. They burned it
  27. and broke it into pieces, then they completely destroyed Baal's temple. And since that time, it's been nothing but a public toilet.
  28. That's how Jehu stopped the worship of Baal in Israel.
  29. But he did not stop the worship of the gold statues of calves at Dan and Bethel that Jeroboam had made for the people to worship.
  30. Later the LORD said, "Jehu, you have done right by destroying Ahab's entire family, just as I had planned. So I will make sure that the next four kings of Israel will come from your own family."
  31. But Jehu did not completely obey the commands of the LORD God of Israel. Instead, he kept doing the sinful things that Jeroboam had caused the Israelites to do.
  32. In those days the LORD began to reduce the size of Israel's territory. King Hazael of Syria defeated the Israelites and took control
  33. of the regions of Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan River and north of the town of Aroer near the Arnon River. This was the land where the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh had once lived.
  34. Everything else Jehu did while he was king, including his brave deeds, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  35. Jehu died and was buried in Samaria, and his son Jehoahaz became king.
  36. Jehu had ruled Israel twenty-eight years from Samaria.

Jehu was God's instrument of judgment on the house of Ahab. We should not be mistaken, however, by thinking him a truly godly man. He knew he was carrying out the prophecies spoken against Ahab by Elijah and took pride in it, but he was also on his own crusade and no doubt thought he had God's blessing for all he did.

Chapter 9 describes Jehu's first wave of destruction on the house of Ahab. Chapter 10 tells of his next three waves of destruction, some of which were not of God's design. In the first wave Jehu killed Joram, the king, Ahaziah, king of Judah, and Jezebel, the king's mother. The second wave is described in the first 11 verses of chapter 10. This wave included the sons of Ahab. Jehu was rather crafty in the way he handled this phase of destruction. He sent letters to all those in charge of the 70 sons and told them to appoint a king from one of the sons and then "fight for your master's house." (10:3) In other words, defend them against Jehu's attack. Those in charge of the sons knew they didn't have a chance against Jehu so they wrote back "We are your servants, and we will do whatever you tell us. We will not make anyone king. Do whatever you think is right." (10:5) What Jehu thought was right was for each of those in charge of the sons to kill the son for whom they were responsible and send the head to Jehu by the next day. These orders were followed and Jehu had the heads all piled at the city gate.

The next morning he gathered the people at the gate and told them, "You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him. But who struck down all these?" (10:9) He gained the trust of the people by accepting responsibility for killing the king and proclaiming them innocent of any responsibility. With this trust he then had them believe that the death of the sons of Ahab was simply an act of God in which he had no involvement. Before he was finished with this wave of destruction, he went on to kill officials of Joram's administration along with close friends and priests. This was overkill which also left Jehu without experienced counsel in his role as king.

At the completion of this wave, Jehu set out for Samaria to execute the third wave of destruction. On the way he encountered an unexpected and unauthorized wave of destruction. He met an entourage of relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah on their way to "greet the king's sons and the queen mother's sons." This would also make them relatives of Ahab. Jehu took the liberty of killing this whole entourage - 42 people - not all of whom would have been relatives. Jehu was a bit too bloodthirsty.

Jehu's next wave of destruction was acted upon when he arrived in Samaria. This was not against the house of Ahab but against the worshipers of Baal. Though this destruction may have been to God's liking, there is no indication that Jehu was instructed by God to carry it out. He again used deception to gain the trust of the people, claiming that he would serve Baal even more so than Ahab. With this false claim he announced a solemn assembly for the worship of Baal. Word was sent throughout Israel for the gathering of "all the servants of Baal." On the day of the gathering he had all the servants of Baal dressed in the appropriate garments and made sure no "servants of the Lord" were present in the temple. Then he had his appointed men kill all those worshippers of Baal in the temple. Next he had all the implements of worship and the temple itself destroyed. He thus "eliminated Baal worship from Israel." (10:28)

This completed Jehu's destruction of the household and influence of Ahab. Because he had been faithful to carry out God's judgment on Ahab's house God rewarded him by allowing him to have a dynasty of four generations on the throne of Israel. But we are told that he did not turn completely to the Lord and did not "follow with all his heart the law of the LORD God of Israel." (10:30) God judged him for these sins by cutting off parts of Israel during his reign. He did not know peace while he was king.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 9

    2 Kings 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day, Elisha called for one of the other prophets and said: Take this bottle of olive oil and get ready to go to the town of Ramoth in Gilead.
  2. When you get there, find Jehu son of Jehoshaphat and grandson of Nimshi. Take him to a place where the two of you can be alone,
  3. then pour olive oil on his head to show that he is the new king. Say to him, "The LORD has chosen you to be king of Israel." Then leave quickly--don't wait around for anything!
  4. The young prophet left for Ramoth.
  5. When he arrived, the army officers were meeting together. "Sir, I have a message for you," he said. "For which one of us?" Jehu asked. "You, sir," the prophet answered.
  6. So Jehu got up and went inside. The prophet poured olive oil on Jehu's head and told him: The LORD God of Israel has this message for you: "I am the LORD, and I have chosen you to be king of my people Israel.
  7. I want you to wipe out the family of Ahab, so Jezebel will be punished for killing the prophets and my other servants.
  8. Every man and boy in Ahab's family must die, whether slave or free.
  9. His whole family must be destroyed, just like the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and Baasha son of Ahijah.
  10. As for Jezebel, her body will be eaten by dogs in the town of Jezreel. There won't be enough left of her to bury." Then the young prophet opened the door and ran out.
  11. Jehu went back to his officers, and one of them asked, "What did that crazy prophet want? Is everything all right?" "You know him and how he talks," Jehu answered.
  12. "No, we don't. What did he say?" they asked. "He had a message from the LORD," Jehu replied. "He said that the LORD has chosen me to be the next king of Israel."
  13. They quickly grabbed their coats and spread them out on the steps where Jehu was standing. Someone blew a trumpet, and everyone shouted, "Jehu is king!"
  14. King Joram of Israel had been badly wounded in the battle at Ramoth, trying to defend it against King Hazael and the Syrian army. Joram was now recovering in Jezreel, and King Ahaziah of Judah was there, visiting him. Meanwhile, Jehu was in Ramoth, making plans to kill Joram. He said to his officers, "If you want me to be king, then don't let anyone leave this town. They might go to Jezreel and tell Joram." Then Jehu got in his chariot and rode to Jezreel.
  15. (SEE 9:14)
  16. (SEE 9:14)
  17. When the guard in the watchtower at Jezreel saw Jehu and his men riding up, he shouted to the king, "I see a bunch of men coming this way." Joram ordered, "Send someone out to ask them if this is a friendly visit."
  18. One of the soldiers rode out and said to Jehu, "King Joram wants to know if this is a friendly visit." "What's it to you?" Jehu asked. "Just stay behind me with the rest of my troops!" About the same time the guard in the watchtower said, "Your Majesty, the rider got there, but he isn't coming back."
  19. So Joram sent out another rider, who rode up to Jehu and said, "The king wants to know if this is a friendly visit." "What's it to you?" Jehu asked. "Just get behind me with the rest of my troops!"
  20. The guard in the watchtower said, "Your Majesty, the rider got there, but he isn't coming back either. Wait a minute! That one man is a reckless chariot driver--it must be Jehu!"
  21. Joram commanded, "Get my chariot ready." Then he and Ahaziah got in their chariots and rode out to meet Jehu. They all met on the land that had belonged to Naboth.
  22. Joram asked, "Jehu, is this a peaceful visit?" "How can there be peace?" Jehu asked. "Your mother Jezebel has caused everyone to worship idols and practice witchcraft."
  23. "Ahaziah, let's get out of here!" Joram yelled. "It's a trap!" As Joram tried to escape,
  24. Jehu shot an arrow. It hit Joram between his shoulders, then it went through his heart and came out his chest. He fell over dead in his chariot.
  25. Jehu commanded his assistant Bidkar, "Get Joram's body and throw it in the field that Naboth once owned. Do you remember when you and I used to ride side by side behind Joram's father Ahab? It was then that the LORD swore to Ahab that he would be punished in the same field where he had killed Naboth and his sons. So throw Joram's body there, just as the LORD said."
  26. (SEE 9:25)
  27. Ahaziah saw all of this happen and tried to escape to the town of Beth-Haggan, but Jehu caught up with him and shouted, "Kill him too!" So his troops shot Ahaziah with an arrow while he was on the road to Gur near Ibleam. He went as far as Megiddo, where he died.
  28. Ahaziah's officers put his body in a chariot and took it back to Jerusalem, where they buried him beside his ancestors.
  29. Ahaziah had become king of Judah in the eleventh year of the rule of Ahab's son Joram.
  30. Jehu headed toward Jezreel, and when Jezebel heard he was coming, she put on eye shadow and brushed her hair. Then she stood at the window, waiting for him to arrive.
  31. As he walked through the city gate, she shouted down to him, "Why did you come here, you murderer? To kill the king? You're no better than Zimri!"
  32. He looked up toward the window and asked, "Is anyone up there on my side?" A few palace workers stuck their heads out of a window,
  33. and Jehu shouted, "Throw her out the window!" They threw her down, and her blood splattered on the walls and on the horses that trampled her body.
  34. Jehu left to get something to eat and drink. Then he told some workers, "Even though she was evil, she was a king's daughter, so make sure she has a proper burial."
  35. But when they went out to bury her body, they found only her skull, her hands, and her feet.
  36. They reported this to Jehu, and he said, "The LORD told Elijah the prophet that Jezebel's body would be eaten by dogs right here in Jezreel.
  37. And he warned that her bones would be spread all over the ground like manure, so that no one could tell who it was."

Events of this chapter were set in motion years earlier while Elijah was still alive. Following Elijah's showdown with the prophets of Baal he had to run for his life because Jezebel sought to kill him. While he was in exile, the Lord told Elijah, "You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu. (1 Kings 19:16-17) The Lord's instructions to Elijah were that he would anoint Jehu as king over Israel. Sometime later, when Elijah told Ahab of the judgment against him and his dynasty, Ahab humbled himself and repented for a time. During this time the Lord told Elijah, "Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? I will not bring the disaster during his lifetime, because he has humbled himself before Me. I will bring the disaster on his house during his son's lifetime." (1 Kings 21:29)

As we arrive at 2 Kings chapter 9, the time had come for the fulfillment of God's judgment on the house of Ahab. Elijah was gone by this time and the anointing of Jehu, the king's commander, to be king over Israel and to be God's instrument of judgment on the household of Ahab now fell on Elisha. Ahab's son, Joram, was the current king in Israel. The last verses of chapter 8 brought us up-to-date on the ruling kings in Judah during Joram's reign in Israel and at the time of this judgment, Joram's nephew, Ahaziah, was the king in Judah. Ahaziah was the son of Joram's sister, Athaliah, who was married to Jehoram, king of Judah, and son of Jehoshaphat.

The narrative for chapter 9 begins in verse 28 of chapter 8. Ahaziah, who was now king of Judah, joined his uncle Joram, who was king of Israel, and went to "fight against Hazael king of Aram in Ramoth-gilead." (8:28) In this battle, Joram was wounded and returned to Jezreel, the capitol of Israel, to recuperate. Meanwhile, Joram's army and officers remained in Ramoth-gilead keeping an eye on the movements of the king of Aram and his army. During this interlude, Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets on a mission to anoint Jehu as king over Israel. Furthermore, he was to commission Jehu to "strike down the house of your master Ahab" so the Lord could "avenge the blood shed by the hand of Jezebel." (9:7) When all of this was relayed to Jehu, he seemed to take his assignment seriously, not only to sieze the opportunity to be king, but to rid Israel of the influences of Jezebel. When Jehu went to carry out his mission to kill Joram, Joram asked if he came in peace. Jehu answered, "What peace can there be as long as there is so much prostitution and witchcraft from your mother Jezebel?"

We get the impression from this statement that while Jehu had commanded the king's army through the reigns of Ahab and two of his sons, he had not been sympathetic to the religious influences of their reigns. This statement also informs us that Jezebel not only brought Baal worship to Israel but also witchcraft. The word translated witchcraft refers to sorceries which suggests the seeking of information from demonic forces. From this we better understand the devastating influence Jezebel had in Israel.

At Jehu's reply to him, Joram realized Jehu's mission was one of treachery, and he turned his chariot to flee. But Jehu "drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders" piercing his heart. Jehu then instructed his aide to throw Joram's body "on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite." Jehu reminded his aide of the oracle the Lord spoke against Joram's father Ahab which they had both heard when riding with Ahab. The oracle was now being fulfilled against Ahab's son. When Ahaziah, king of Judah, saw what was happening he tried to escape, but Jehu killed him also. As Joram's nephew, he was also a part of the household of Ahab.

The first wave of Jehu's house-cleaning of the house of Ahab was not yet complete. He rode on into Jezreel and as he entered the gate Jezebel looked down on him from an upper window of the palace. She called down to him, "Do you come in peace, Zimri, killer of your master?" This was seemingly an effort by Jezebel to keep the upper hand when she clearly did not have it. In referring to Jehu as Zimri, Jezebel was reminding him of a man who had also killed his master and was himself killed seven days later. Jehu simply called up to those who were with Jezebel and asked, "Who is on my side?" Some eunuchs stood near the window with Jezebel and Jehu told them to "Throw her down." which they did, killing her in the street outside the palace. Jehu then rode his chariot over her body and went to get something to eat. When he sent someone to bury her they returned reporting that nothing was left of the body except "her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands." (9:35) At this report Jehu said, "This fulfills the LORD's word that He spoke through His servant Elijah the Tishbite: 'In the plot of land at Jezreel, the dogs will eat Jezebel's flesh." (9:36)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 8

    2 Kings 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Elisha told the woman whose son he had brought back to life, "The LORD has warned that there will be no food here for seven years. Take your family and go live somewhere else for a while."
  2. The woman did exactly what Elisha had said and went to live in Philistine territory. She and her family lived there seven years.
  3. Then she returned to Israel and immediately begged the king to give back her house and property.
  4. Meanwhile, the king was asking Gehazi the servant of Elisha about the amazing things Elisha had been doing.
  5. While Gehazi was telling him that Elisha had brought a dead boy back to life, the woman and her son arrived. "Here's the boy, Your Majesty," Gehazi said. "And this is his mother."
  6. The king asked the woman to tell her story, and she told him everything that had happened. He then said to one of his officials, "I want you to make sure that this woman gets back everything that belonged to her, including the money her crops have made since the day she left Israel."
  7. Some time later Elisha went to the capital city of Damascus to visit King Benhadad of Syria, who was sick. And when Benhadad was told he was there,
  8. he said to Hazael, "Go meet with Elisha the man of God and have him ask the LORD if I will get well. And take along a gift for him."
  9. Hazael left with forty camel loads of the best things made in Damascus as a gift for Elisha. He found the prophet and said, "Your servant, King Benhadad, wants to know if he will get well."
  10. "Tell him he will," Elisha said to Hazael. "But the LORD has already told me that Benhadad will definitely die."
  11. Elisha stared at him until Hazael was embarrassed, then Elisha began crying.
  12. "Sir, why are you crying?" Hazael asked. Elisha answered, "Because I know the terrible things you will do to the people of Israel. You will burn down their walled cities and slaughter their young men. You will even crush the heads of their babies and rip open their pregnant women."
  13. "How could I ever do anything like that?" Hazael replied. "I'm only a servant and don't have that kind of power." "Hazael, the LORD has told me that you will be the next king of Syria."
  14. Hazael went back to Benhadad and told him, "Elisha said that you will get well."
  15. But the very next day, Hazael got a thick blanket; he soaked it in water and held it over Benhadad's face until he died. Hazael then became king.
  16. Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat became king of Judah in Joram's fifth year as king of Israel, while Jehoshaphat was still king of Judah.
  17. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he ruled eight years from Jerusalem.
  18. Jehoram disobeyed the LORD by doing wrong. He married Ahab's daughter and was as sinful as Ahab's family and the kings of Israel.
  19. But the LORD refused to destroy Judah, because he had promised his servant David that someone from his family would always rule in Judah.
  20. While Jehoram was king, the people of Edom rebelled and chose their own king.
  21. So Jehoram and his cavalry marched to Zair, where the Edomite army surrounded him and his commanders. During the night he attacked the Edomites, but he was defeated, and his troops escaped to their homes.
  22. Judah was never able to regain control of Edom. Even the town of Libnah rebelled at that time.
  23. Everything else Jehoram did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  24. Jehoram died and was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem. His son Ahaziah then became king.
  25. Ahaziah son of Jehoram became king of Judah in the twelfth year of Joram's rule in Israel.
  26. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he ruled from Jerusalem for only one year. His mother was Athaliah, a granddaughter of King Omri of Israel.
  27. Since Ahaziah was related to Ahab's family, he acted just like them and disobeyed the LORD by doing wrong.
  28. Ahaziah went with King Joram of Israel to attack King Hazael and the Syrian troops at Ramoth in Gilead. Joram was wounded in that battle,
  29. so he went to the town of Jezreel to recover. Ahaziah went there to visit him.

Four event are noted in this chapter. Except for the first one, these events note the rearranging of leadership in the nations of Judah, Israel, and Aram, also known as Syria. Ill winds were blowing in the region.

The first event notes God's care of His faithful. God had not forgotten the Shunammite woman who provided an upper room in her home for the prophet Elisha. In a nation where apostacy was the rule, she was an exception as she remained faithful to the Lord. This event does not fit chronologically in the narrative of 2 Kings for in it Elisha's servant, Gehazi, was still healthy and serving Elisha. Though the events preceeding and following this account are chronolgical, this account seems to be inserted here to note the presence of those in Israel who were still faithful to God and to whom God was faithful. Because God was about to punish Israel with a famine because of her apostacy, He sent Elisha to this woman with the message to get out of Israel and go live in another country until the famine was over. God had told Elisha that the famine would last seven years.

Following the famine, the woman returned to Israel and went to the king to request the return of her property which had been taken over by someone else in her absence. In God's providence, she arrived at the palace when Elisha's servant, Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored her dead son to life. When she came before the king Gehazi told him, "this is the woman and this is the son." The king not only returned her property to her, but he gave to her the profits that had been earned from the produce of her fields.

The second event of the chapter tells of a change in leadership in Aram. Elisha arrived in Damascus, the capitol of Aram, when the king, Benhadad, was ill. Benhadad sent his official, Hazael, to Elisha to have him inquire of the Lord whether he would recover from his illness. Elisha told Hazael that the king would surely recover. But then he added that in fact, the king would die. When he said this, he stared at Hazael until he became ashamed, for the act of killing the king was already in Hazael's heart. The king would not die from his illness, but at the hands of his official, Hazael. After Hazael reported to the king that Elisha had said he would recover, Hazael took a heavy cloth, which he dipped in water, and spread it over the king's face, suffocating him. With the king dead, Hazael was appointed as king in his place. Elisha wept when he stared at Hazael bringing him to shame, for he knew "the evil you (Hazael) will do to the people of Israel. You will set their fortresses on fire. You will kill their young men with the sword. You will dash their little ones to pieces. You will rip open their pregnant women." (8:12)

Events three and four are told in rather quick order as they relate the succession of two kings in Judah during the reign of Joram in Israel. Both of these kings took Judah increasingly downward in her turn away from God. The first of these two kings was Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat. Though Jehoshaphat was a good king, his son married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and she took him in the way of her father, turning him away from God. Jehoram reigned only eight years and was succeeded by his son, Ahaziah. With Athaliah for a mother, he was an even more evil king than his father. But through these years of apostasy in Judah, God withheld punishment "because of His servant David, since He had promised to give a lamp to David and to his sons forever." (8:19)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 7

    2 Kings 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Elisha answered, "I have a message for you. The LORD promises that tomorrow here in Samaria, you will be able to buy a large sack of flour or two large sacks of barley for almost nothing."
  2. The chief officer there with the king replied, "I don't believe it! Even if the LORD sent a rainstorm, it couldn't produce that much grain by tomorrow." "You will see it happen, but you won't eat any of the food," Elisha warned him.
  3. About the same time, four men with leprosy were just outside the gate of Samaria. They said to each other, "Why should we sit here, waiting to die?
  4. There's nothing to eat in the city, so we would starve if we went inside. But if we stay out here, we will die for sure. Let's sneak over to the Syrian army camp and surrender. They might kill us, but they might not."
  5. That evening the four men got up and left for the Syrian camp. As they walked toward the camp, the Lord caused the Syrian troops to hear what sounded like the roar of a huge cavalry. The soldiers said to each other, "Listen! The king of Israel must have hired Hittite and Egyptian troops to attack us. Let's get out of here!" So they ran out of their camp that night, leaving their tents and horses and donkeys. When the four men with leprosy reached the edge of the Syrian camp, no one was there. They walked into one of the tents, where they ate and drank, before carrying off clothes, as well as silver and gold. They hid all this, then walked into another tent; they took what they wanted and hid it too.
  6. (SEE 7:5)
  7. (SEE 7:5)
  8. (SEE 7:5)
  9. They said to each other, "This isn't right. Today is a day to celebrate, and we haven't told anyone else what has happened. If we wait until morning, we will be punished. Let's go to the king's palace right now and tell the good news."
  10. They went back to Samaria and shouted up to the guards at the gate, "We've just come from the Syrian army camp, and all the soldiers are gone! The tents are empty, and the horses and donkeys are still tied up. We didn't see or hear anybody."
  11. The guards reported the news to the king's palace.
  12. The king got out of bed and said to his officers, "I know what those Syrians are doing. They know we're starving, so they're hiding in the fields, hoping we will go out to look for food. When we do, they can capture us and take over our city."
  13. One of his officers replied, "We have a few horses left--why don't we let some men take five of them and go to the Syrian camp and see what's happening? We're going to die anyway like those who have already died."
  14. They found two chariots, and the king commanded the men to find out what had happened to the Syrian troops.
  15. The men rode as far as the Jordan River. All along the way they saw clothes and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away as they escaped. Then they went back to the king and told him what they had seen.
  16. At once the people went to the Syrian camp and carried off what was left. They took so much that a large sack of flour and two large sacks of barley sold for almost nothing, just as the LORD had promised.
  17. The king of Israel had put his chief officer in charge of the gate, but he died when the people trampled him as they rushed out of the city.
  18. Earlier, when the king was at Elisha's house, Elisha had told him that flour or barley would sell for almost nothing.
  19. But the officer refused to believe that even the LORD could do that. So Elisha warned him that he would see it happen, but would not eat any of the food.
  20. And that's exactly what happened--the officer was trampled to death.

The narrative of the account given in chapter 7 began in 6:24. Israel was again under attack by the Arameans. This time the capitol city of Samaria was under siege and had been long enough that people were turning to cannibalism. Although the king was not a believer - at least in the God of Israel - when a woman cried out to him for help, he acknowledged that only the Lord could help. When he heard the woman's story he vowed to kill the prophet Elisha, blaming him for their plight.

The woman's story gives evidence of the cannibalism that was taking place. She and another woman had agreed to eat their babies, one of them on one day and the other on the next day. So they boiled and ate this woman's baby the first day but the other woman hid her baby the next day. This story illustrates how bad the conditions in Samaria had become under this siege, but I think it also illustrates how bad the situation was spiritually as well. What mother sacrifices the life of her child for her own survival, and do so by her own hand?

As mentioned, the king was so angry after hearing this story he vowed to kill Elisha before the day was out. His anger toward the prophet was perhaps due to Elisha's foretelling the circumstances that had occured. Thus the king saw him as responsible when it was his own apostasy that was responsible. Killing Elisha would not remedy their plight, but repentance by the king would. How many are willing to die and allow scores of others die as well, only to save their pride? Despite the king's unrepentant heart and even with his desire to kill the Lord's prophet, God had a plan to save the city. But He would do so to show His superiority to Baal to these non-believers, not because they deserved it.

As the king sent his captain to arrest Elisha, Elisha was at his house meeting with the elders of the city. No explanation is given for this meeting but we have to wonder if they had turned to Elisha, and thus God, for a solution to their situation even though the king refused to do so. God revealed to Elisha that the king's messenger was approaching and he told those gathered with him, "Do you see how this murderer has sent someone to cut off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door to keep him out. Isn't the sound of his master's feet behind him?" (7:32) When the king arrived and both he and his captain were allowed in the house, Elisha made a prediction, telling them, "About this time tomorrow at the gate of Samaria, six quarts of fine meal will sell for a shekel and 12 quarts of barley will sell for a shekel." (7:1) He was telling them that by the next day the siege would be over and grain would be plentiful. The captain expressed utter disbelieve at this possibility at which Elisha said that he would indeed see this with his own eyes but he would not eat of the food.

When we find ourselves in circumstances that seem to have no possible solution, we should remember this account when God provided a solution in a way no one could have imagined. It is also often at the point in which we are ready to give up that God provides His solution. In this account God's solution was merely a sound in the ears of the Aramean soldiers. This sound caused them to think, "The king of Israel must have hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to attack us." (7:6) With this thought they panicked and fled leaving behind everything, even flinging off anything along the way that hindered their flight.

It was three outcasts rather than anyone of importance who discovered that the city was no longer under siege and food was available in the deserted Aramean camp. After eating their fill they realized they were "not doing right," by keeping this to themselves. So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers of their find. Word spread throughout the city and soon arrived at the palace. When the king was awakened and told the news, his immediate response was to think it a trick by the Arameans. They were merely hiding outside their camp, the king thought, and when he sent his troops out to investigate they would gain entry into the city. It is obvious the king had given no credence to Elisha's prediction of deliverance. He had no expectation that this could be that deliverance. It was one of the king's servants who convinced him to at least send a few men out on horses to check it out. Anyone they sent would die anyway from starvation. If they were killed by the Arameans it would only hasten their death. So the king consented.

When it had been verified that the Arameans were gone, the city gates were opened and people swarmed to the deserted camp to plunder it. It was then, scripture tells us, "that six quarts of fine meal sold for a shekel and 12 quarts of barley sold for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD." (7:16) Elisha's prediction had come true and the captain who said it couldn't happen saw it, but as Elisha predicted, he did not eat of the food. He was assigned to keep charge of the city gate. When the people swarmed out of the city he was trampled to death.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 6

    2 Kings 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day the prophets said to Elisha, "The place where we meet with you is too small.
  2. Why don't we build a new meeting place near the Jordan River? Each of us could get some wood, then we could build it." "That's a good idea," Elisha replied, "get started."
  3. "Aren't you going with us?" one of the prophets asked. "Yes, I'll go," Elisha answered,
  4. and he left with them. They went to the Jordan River and began chopping down trees.
  5. While one of the prophets was working, his ax head fell off and dropped into the water. "Oh!" he shouted. "Sir, I borrowed this ax."
  6. "Where did it fall in?" Elisha asked. The prophet pointed to the place, and Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water at that spot. The ax head floated to the top of the water.
  7. "Now get it," Elisha told him. And the prophet reached in and grabbed it.
  8. Time after time, when the king of Syria was at war against the Israelites, he met with his officers and announced, "I've decided where we will set up camp."
  9. Each time, Elisha would send this warning to the king of Israel: "Don't go near there. That's where the Syrian troops have set up camp."
  10. So the king would warn the Israelite troops in that place to be on guard.
  11. The king of Syria was furious when he found out what was happening. He called in his officers and asked, "Which one of you has been telling the king of Israel our plans?"
  12. "None of us, Your Majesty," one of them answered. "It's an Israelite named Elisha. He's a prophet, so he can tell his king everything--even what you say in your own room."
  13. "Find out where he is!" the king ordered. "I'll send soldiers to bring him here." They learned that Elisha was in the town of Dothan and reported it to the king.
  14. He ordered his best troops to go there with horses and chariots. They marched out during the night and surrounded the town.
  15. When Elisha's servant got up the next morning, he saw that Syrian troops had the town surrounded. "Sir, what are we going to do?" he asked.
  16. "Don't be afraid," Elisha answered. "There are more troops on our side than on theirs."
  17. Then he prayed, "LORD, please help him to see." And the LORD let the servant see that the hill was covered with fiery horses and flaming chariots all around Elisha.
  18. As the Syrian army came closer, Elisha prayed, "LORD, make those soldiers blind!" And the LORD blinded them with a bright light.
  19. Elisha told the enemy troops, "You've taken the wrong road and are in the wrong town. Follow me. I'll lead you to the man you're looking for." Elisha led them straight to the capital city of Samaria.
  20. When all the soldiers were inside the city, Elisha prayed, "LORD, now let them see again." The LORD let them see that they were standing in the middle of Samaria.
  21. The king of Israel saw them and asked Elisha, "Should I kill them, sir?"
  22. "No!" Elisha answered. "You didn't capture these troops in battle, so you have no right to kill them. Instead, give them something to eat and drink and let them return to their leader."
  23. The king ordered a huge meal to be prepared for Syria's army, and when they finished eating, he let them go. For a while, the Syrian troops stopped invading Israel's territory.
  24. Some time later, King Benhadad of Syria called his entire army together, then they marched to Samaria and attacked.
  25. They kept up the attack until there was nothing to eat in the city. In fact, a donkey's head cost about two pounds of silver, and a small bowl of pigeon droppings cost about two ounces of silver.
  26. One day as the king of Israel was walking along the top of the city wall, a woman shouted to him, "Please, Your Majesty, help me!"
  27. "Let the LORD help you!" the king said. "Do you think I have grain or wine to give you?"
  28. Then he asked, "What's the matter anyway?" The woman answered, "Another woman and I were so hungry that we agreed to eat our sons. She said if we ate my son one day, we could eat hers the next day.
  29. So yesterday we cooked my son and ate him. But today when I went to her house to eat her son, she had hidden him."
  30. The king tore off his clothes in sorrow, and since he was on top of the city wall, the people saw that he was wearing sackcloth underneath.
  31. He said, "I pray that God will punish me terribly, if Elisha's head is still on his shoulders by this time tomorrow."
  32. Then he sent a messenger to Elisha. Elisha was home at the time, and the important leaders of Israel were meeting with him. Even before the king's messenger arrived, Elisha told the leaders, "That murderer is sending someone to cut off my head. When you see him coming, shut the door and don't let him in. I'm sure the king himself will be right behind him."
  33. Before Elisha finished talking, the messenger came up and said, "The LORD has made all these terrible things happen to us. Why should I think he will help us now?"

Chapter 6 continues to give accounts of God's mighty works through His prophet Elisha. The accounts not only illustrate God's power, but man's folly when choosing not to trust in God.

The first account of the chapter is a simple demonstration of God's power on behalf of one of the "sons of the prophets" who was part of what was evidently Elisha's school of prophecy. The number of students in the school had grown and their living quarters had become cramped so Elisha gave them permission to go to the Jordan to cut trees and build new quarters, agreeing to accompany them. One of the students, who was using a borrowed axe, lost the iron head of his axe in the river. He cried out to Elisha for help. Elisha asked where the axe head had gone into the river, then he tossed a stick into the river at that location and the axe head floated to the surface enabling the student to retrieve it.

The second account involved the king of Aram and his army. Since the previous chapter gave account of the commander of the Aramean army, Naaman, being healed through Elisha, we must wonder if he is among these troops. We are told that the Arameans are once again waging war with Israel. Their tactic was to set up camp along the border of Israel and conduct raids into Israel. But these raids became unsuccessful when the Lord began telling Elisha where the Arameans were secretly camped and Elisha would pass along this information to king Joram of Israel and he would send troops to thwart the Aramean raids. Joram, however, was not a believer and did not trust Elisha, so the first time Elisha gave him this information he checked it out to see if it were accurate.

The king of Aram became enraged when his raids were repeatedly thwarted and suspected a traitor in his camp. When he questioned his servants about this, one of them told him, "Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in your bedroom." (6:11) Next, we see the folly of this unbelieving king. Even though God revealed to Elisha "the words you (the king) speak in your bedroom," the king was going to send a contingent of his army to "surprise" Elisha and capture him. But the one surprised would be the Aramean king. His large contingent went by night and "secretly" surrounded the city of Dothan where Elisha was at the time. When Elisha's servant awoke the next morning and looked out from the city he saw that the city was surrounded and excitedly went to Elisha and said, "Oh, my master, what are we to do?" (6:15) But Elisha calmly informed him that "those who are with us outnumber those who are with them." (6:16) When the servant's eyes were opened, he saw that the Aramean army was surrounded by horses and chariots of fire.

Elisha then prayed that the Arameans would be blinded, which the Lord did, and he convinced them they were at the wrong city and led them to Samarie, the capitol, and took them inside the gates. Once inside the city Elisha prayed for the Lord to restore their sight and they realized where they were. Joram, the king of Israel, was as surprised as the Arameans and didn't know what to do with them. He asked Elisha if he should kill them and Elisha told him to feed them and then set them free. For once, he listened to Elisha and made a feast for the soldiers and freed them. When they returned to the Aramean camp, they broke camp and returned to Aram, ending their raids of Israel. Both kings, who both were unbelievers, saw and recognized the Lord's power, but in their foolishness neither of them turned to worship the Lord.

As much as a none believer might want to believe and also have others believe that their unbelief is a choice based on reason, most often it has more to do with keeping control of their life rather than submit it to a God they cannot control. Being "religious" soothes their conscience while retaining control of their life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 5

    2 Kings 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army. The LORD had helped him and his troops defeat their enemies, so the king of Syria respected Naaman very much. Naaman was a brave soldier, but he had leprosy.
  2. One day while the Syrian troops were raiding Israel, they captured a girl, and she became a servant of Naaman's wife.
  3. Some time later the girl said, "If your husband Naaman would go to the prophet in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy."
  4. When Naaman told the king what the girl had said,
  5. the king replied, "Go ahead! I will give you a letter to take to the king of Israel." Naaman left and took along seven hundred fifty pounds of silver, one hundred fifty pounds of gold, and ten new outfits.
  6. He also carried the letter to the king of Israel. It said, "I am sending my servant Naaman to you. Would you cure him of his leprosy?"
  7. When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in fear and shouted, "That Syrian king believes I can cure this man of leprosy! Does he think I'm God with power over life and death? He must be trying to pick a fight with me."
  8. As soon as Elisha the prophet heard what had happened, he sent the Israelite king this message: "Why are you so afraid? Send the man to me, so that he will know there is a prophet in Israel."
  9. Naaman left with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house.
  10. Elisha sent someone outside to say to him, "Go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then you'll be completely cured."
  11. But Naaman stormed off, grumbling, "Why couldn't he come out and talk to me? I thought for sure he would stand in front of me and pray to the LORD his God, then wave his hand over my skin and cure me.
  12. What about the Abana River or the Pharpar River? Those rivers in Damascus are just as good as any river in Israel. I could have washed in them and been cured."
  13. His servants went over to him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. So why don't you do what he said? Go wash and be cured."
  14. Naaman walked down to the Jordan; he waded out into the water and stooped down in it seven times, just as Elisha had told him. Right away, he was cured, and his skin became as smooth as a child's.
  15. Naaman and his officials went back to Elisha. Naaman stood in front of him and announced, "Now I know that the God of Israel is the only God in the whole world. Sir, would you please accept a gift from me?"
  16. "I am a servant of the living LORD," Elisha answered, "and I swear that I will not take anything from you." Naaman kept begging, but Elisha kept refusing.
  17. Finally Naaman said, "If you won't accept a gift, then please let me take home as much soil as two mules can pull in a wagon. Sir, from now on I will offer sacrifices only to the LORD.
  18. But I pray that the LORD will forgive me when I go into the temple of the god Rimmon and bow down there with the king of Syria."
  19. "Go on home, and don't worry about that," Elisha replied. Then Naaman left. After Naaman had gone only a short distance,
  20. Gehazi said to himself, "Elisha let that Syrian off too easy. He should have taken Naaman's gift. I swear by the living LORD that I will talk to Naaman myself and get something from him."
  21. So he hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he got out of his chariot to meet him. Naaman asked, "Is everything all right?"
  22. "Yes," Gehazi answered. "But my master has sent me to tell you about two young prophets from the hills of Ephraim. They came asking for help, and now Elisha wants to know if you would give them about seventy-five pounds of silver and some new clothes?"
  23. "Sure," Naaman replied. "But why don't you take twice that amount of silver?" He convinced Gehazi to take it all, then put the silver in two bags. He handed the bags and the clothes to his two servants, and they carried them for Gehazi.
  24. When they reached the hill where Gehazi lived, he took the bags from the servants and placed them in his house, then sent the men away. After they had gone,
  25. Gehazi went in and stood in front of Elisha, who asked, "Gehazi, where have you been?" "Nowhere, sir," Gehazi answered.
  26. Elisha asked, "Don't you know that my spirit was there when Naaman got out of his chariot to talk with you? Gehazi, you have no right to accept money or clothes, olive orchards or vineyards, sheep or cattle, or servants.
  27. Because of what you've done, Naaman's leprosy will now be on you and your descendants forever!" Suddenly, Gehazi's skin became white with leprosy, and he left.

Chapter 5 provides another account of God's miracles through His prophet Elisha. On this occasion God did for a Syrian (Aramean) what He did not do for any Israelites due to their unbelief. (Luke 4:27)

Naaman was commander of the Aramean army and highly respected because "through him, the Lord had given victory to Aram." (5:1) This is an interesting comment which is thought, by some, to be a reference to Naaman being commander of the Aramean army that defeated Israel and killed king Ahab at God's direction. The Jewish Targum - explanations of the Hebrew scriptures - in it comment on 2 Chronicles 18:33 states that it was Naaman's arrow that randomly struck Ahab at the Lord's direction. Assuming this to be the case, it was providential that Naaman now came to know the God who directed his arrow.

But this successful and respected commander had a skin disease. Some Bible translations call it leprosy, though the term was used for a number of skin diseases not necesssarily leprousy as we know it today. Whether or not it was leprosy as we know it, his disease was a threat to his life. Another piece of God's providential puzzle in this account was an Israelite girl who had been taken captive by the Arameans in raids into Israel. This girl had become a servant for Naaman's wife. With concern for her master's welfare, the girl said to her mistress, "If only my master would go to the prophet who is in Samaria, he would cure him of his skin disease." (5:3) This, of course, was a reference to Elisha. Though the king of Israel paid no heed to this prophet of the Lord, this young girl did. Despite her unfortunate circumstances, having been kidnapped and taken into slavery, she still believed in the God of Israel and had confidence in Him to heal her master. God's providence often uses unsuspecting candidates to serve His purpose.

Naaman was evidently willing to try anything and so he sought permission from his king to go to Israel for healing. The king wrote him a letter of recommendation to the king of Israel and sent him on his way. Naaman took the king's letter and an abundance of gifts with him and set out for Israel. When Naaman presented his king's letter to Joram, king of Israel, rather than smoothing the way for Naaman, it posed a threat. Here was the commander of the Aramean army expecting the king of Israel to heal him of his skin disease! Joram said, "Am I God, killing and giving life that this man expects me to cure a man of his skin disease? Think it over and you will see that he is only picking a fight with me." (5:7)

Elisha came to the king's rescue, though. When he heard of the king's distress over this situation, he sent a message to the king to "Have him come to me, and he will know there is a prophet in Israel." (5:8) Joram disliked Elisha as his predecessors had disliked Elijah because they often prophecied events against them. Never mind that the prophecies always came true. Joram never considered that Elisha might be the answer to this request by Naaman. Naaman would see God's power on his behalf and go away a believer while the king of Israel witnessed God's power on many occasions and still did not believe.

Before Naaman could be healed he had to set aside his pride and humble himself to do what God asked of him. God must have credit for his healing and therefore it must be according to God's instructions. The first offense to Naaman's pride was the fact that Elisha did not even come out to greet him when he arrived at the prophet's house. Instead, Elisha sent a messenger with instructions for Naaman's healing. The instructions were the second offense to his pride. He was to wash himself in the Jordan seven times. He had rivers in Aram superior to this muddy Jordan, why could he not wash in one of them? Naaman was furious. But his servants appealed to his better judgment saying to him, "if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more should you do it when he tells you, 'Wash and be clean'?" (5:13) So Naaman humbled himself and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times. Following the seventh time he emerged not only healed, but his skin was restored to that of a child.

In gratitude, Naaman went back to Elisha and told him, "I know there's no God in the whole world except in Israel." (5:15) Furthermore, he vowed to "no longer offer a burnt offering or a sacrifice to any other god but Yahweh." (5:17) Though he offered gifts to Elisha, the prophet refused them. This miracle of God was to be distinct from anything experienced in the pagan religions, and the prophet would not profit by his service to God as did the prophets of Rimmon and other gods.

God had intended Israel to be a blessing to the whole world by pointing all nations to the Lord. This is what happened in the account of Naaman's healing but not as God had intended. Rather than being used as an intentional participant in God's purposes, Israel was an unintentional participant through those who would otherwise be considered insignificant, such as the servant girl.