The Word Made Fresh
1Elisha had told the woman whose son he had brought back to life that she and her family should leave and settle somewhere else. “The LORD has decreed that there will be a famine in the land, and it will last for seven years,” he said. 2She did as he suggested and took her family to settle in the land of the Philistines for seven years. 3When the seven years had passed she returned and went to make an appeal to the king for her house and her land.
4The king was speaking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God. He asked Gehazi to tell him about the great deeds Elisha had done. 5While Gehazi was telling him a story of Elisha bringing the dead to life, the woman came in to appeal to the king. Gehazi said, “My lord the king, here is the woman! And here is her son whom Elisha brought back to life!”
6The king asked her about it and she told him the story. Then the king appointed an official for her and told him, “Restore all her property to her, with the income from the fields from the day she left until now.”
7Elisha went to Damascus. Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was ill. When he was told that the man of God had come there, 8he said to Hazael, “Take a gift with you and go meet the man of God. Ask him to inquire of the LORD whether I might recover from this sickness.”
9Hazael went to meet him, and took forty camel loads of the goods of Damascus as a gift. When he came to Elisha he said, “Your son, king Ben-Hadad of Aram has sent me to ask you if he will recover from his illness.”
10“You can tell him that he will recover,” said Elisha, “but the LORD has shown me that he will surely die.” 11He stared at Hazael until Hazael was uneasy, and then he began to weep.
12“Why are you weeping, my lord?” he asked.
And Elisha answered, “Because I know the harm you will do to Israel. You will burn their forts and kill their young men in battle. You will dash their little ones to death and rip their pregnant women open.”
13Hazael said “I am nobody. Who do you think I am that I would ever do such great things?”
“The LORD has shown me that you will be the next king of Aram,” he answered.
14He left Elisha then and returned to his king. Ben-Hadad asked, “What did Elisha say?”
Hazael replied, “He told me that you will surely recover.” 15The next day, however, he took the bedspread, soaked it in water and covered the king’s face with it until he died. And that’s how Hazael became the next king of Aram.
16Joram son of Ahab was then king of Israel. In the fifth year of his reign, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign over Judah. He was thirty-two years old, and reigned for eight years in Jerusalem. 18He had married Ahab’s daughter, and followed the practices of the kings of Israel and was a wicked man in the LORD’s estimation. 19Still, the LORD would not destroy Judah for the sake of David. The LORD had promised David his descendants would always rule Judah.
20During Jehoram’s reign Edom rebelled and set up their own king. 21Jehoram took his chariot cavalry to Zair and attacked the Edomites at night, for they had come out against him with their horses and chariots. Jehoram’s army was defeated and they fled home, 22and Edom has been in revolt against Judah since then. Around that same time Libnah also revolted.
23The rest of Jehoram’s reign and all his deeds are written in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Judah. 24Jehoram died and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David.
His son Ahaziah succeeded him as king. 25His rule began in the twelfth year of king Joram in Israel. 26He was twenty-two when he came to the throne, and he ruled for a year in Jerusalem. His mother was Athaliah, a granddaughter of king Omri of Israel. 27Ahaziah also followed the ways of Ahab and his dynasty and did evil things in the LORD’s eyes just as Ahab had done, because he had married into Ahab’s family.
28He went with king Joram son of Ahab to attack king Hazael of Aram. The battle was at Ramoth-gilead. King Joram was wounded. 29He was brought back to Jezreel to recover from the wounds he had suffered at Ramah in the battle. King Ahaziah son of Jehoram of Judah heard that king Joram son of Ahab had been wounded, and visited him at Jezreel.
1-6: Elisha’s influence is felt even when he is not present. We return to the story of the Shunammite woman whose son Elisha had resuscitated (see 4:32-35). Elisha, you will recall, is a frequent guest at the house of her and her husband. A famine comes upon the land, and Elisha advises her to go somewhere else to live for awhile. Her husband, who was an old man the first time we met him, has evidently died, for he is not mentioned in this story. She goes and lives for 7 years in Philistine territory and then returns when the famine has ended. It is interesting that, although these kings were often at war with one another, the people seemed to be able to go and come from one territory to another without any problems – Elisha will soon travel to Damascus in Aramean territory and is able to move freely about. When the woman returns, she goes to appeal to the king to have her property restored, and it just so happens that at the very moment she arrives Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, is telling the king about the time Elisha brought her son back to life. She walks in and Gehazi says, “Here is the very woman I was telling you about.” The king is impressed, and when he hears her request, orders that not only will her land be restored but the value of the crops it produced for the last seven years (although in a time of famine) are to be paid to her as well. We are not told which king this is, but it must be a king of Israel, and it is interesting that he mentions “the great deeds Elisha has done.” He doesn’t seem to be at odds with Elisha at all.
7-16: We go now to Damascus, where King Ben-Hadad is sick in bed, poor fellow. Elisha, who seems to freely wander all over the Middle East, happens to be in the area, and the king asks his servant Hazael to go find out from Elisha whether his illness is a fatal one. Now, this is a king who worships other gods, so it is quite remarkable that he would seek Elisha’s advice. We have not met Hazael before, but we have certainly heard of him, for he is the very one Elijah was to have anointed king over Aram (see I Kings 19:15-17). Hazael takes loads of gifts to Elisha (we can’t escape the impression that Elisha has become a very wealthy as well as a very important man in Israel and beyond), and puts the question to him. Elisha tells him that Ben-Hadad is going to die, but instructs him to tell Ben-Hadad that he will live. Then he bursts into tears. Hazael questions him further and Elisha tells him that he is going to do Israel a great deal of harm. Hazael wonders how, and Elisha tells him that he is in fact going to be the next king of Aram. So, Hazael goes back home and tells Ben-Hadad the happy but misleading news about his imminent recovery, the king relaxes his security, and Hazael smothers him with a bedspread the next day and becomes the next king of Aram.
16-19: The chronology has gotten a bit mixed up, but now we are told that Jehoram (sometimes called Joram), son of Jehoshaphat, becomes king of Judah in the fifth year of King Joram (sometimes called Jehoram) of Israel. He marries one of Ahab’s daughters, Athaliah, who is a sister of King Jehoram of Israel and is influenced by her to “walk in the way of the house of Ahab.” In other words, he was a wicked, wicked man. He began to reign at age 32 and died at age 40. God didn’t destroy Judah in spite of him, though, because he was a descendant of David.
20-24: We find that now the Edomites are under Judah’s sway whereas before they had been ruled by Israel. They revolt during the time of Joram/Jehoram, and Judah musters an army to go to war against them, but is defeated. Libnah, another vassal state of Judah, also rebels. So, although God will not yet destroy Judah, Judah’s influence is certainly diminished.
25-27: Now Ahaziah, Jehoram’s son, comes to the throne in Jerusalem at the age of 22, but only rules for a year (we will read of his demise in the next chapter). The Queen mother, his mother Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri king of Israel, will turn out to be the one really in charge. Ahaziah, too, is a wicked king who is influenced by the religious heresies introduced by Ahab and Jezebel.
28-29: Ahaziah, in alliance with Jehoram king of Israel, his wife’s brother, goes to war against Hazael at Ramoth-Gilead. They are unsuccessful in retaking Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoram is wounded in the battle and withdraws to recover. King Ahaziah goes to visit him. He will never return to Jerusalem.
In spite of the unfaithfulness of Israel’s rulers, there are still a lot of ordinary people who are faithful, plus some extraordinary prophets who follow the will of God. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of being faithful to God; in worship, in prayer, and in action.