2 Kings 1 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

2 Kings 1
Pulpit Commentary
Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
Verse 1. - Then Moab rebelled; literally, and Moab rebelled, but with an idea, not merely of sequence, but of consequence. The "Moabite Stone," discovered in 1869, throws considerable light on the character and circumstances of this rebellion. Moab had, we know, been subjected by David (2 Samuel 8:2), and had been very severely treated. Either in the reign of Solomon, or more probably at his death, and the disruption of his kingdom, the Moabites had revolted, and resumed an independent position, which they had maintained until the reign of Omri. Omri, who was a warlike monarch, the greatest of the Israelite monarchs after Jeroboam, after settling himself firmly upon the throne of Israel, attacked the Moabite territory, and in a short time reduced it, making the native king, Chemosh-gad, his tributary. At the death of Omri, Ahab succeeded to the suzerainty, and maintained it during his lifetime, exacting a tribute that was felt as a severe "oppression" (Moabite Stone, line 6; comp. 2 Kings 3:4). The death of Ahab in battle and the defeat of his army encouraged Mesha, who had succeeded his father, Chemosh-gad, to raise the standard of revolt once more, and to emancipate his country after a period of subjection which he estimates roughly at "forty years." The "Stone" is chiefly occupied with an account of the steps by which he recovered his territory. After the death of Ahab. Probably, as soon as he heard of it. In Oriental empires the death of a brave and energetic monarch is constantly the signal for a general revolt of the subject peoples. They entertain a hope that his successor will not inherit his vigor and capacity.
And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.
Verse 2. - Ahaziah fell down through a lattice; rather, through the lattice. It is implied that the upper chamber had a single window, which was closed by a single lattice, or shutter of interlaced woodwork. The shutter may have been insufficiently secured; or the woodwork may have been too weak to bear his weight, Compare the fall of Eutychus (Acts 20:9), where, however, there is no mention of a "lattice." Was sick; i.e. "was so injured that he had to take to his bed." Inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron. As a worshipper of Baal, bent on walking in the evil way of his father and of his mother (1 Kings 22:52), Ahaziah would naturally inquire of some form of the Baal divinity. Why he chose "Baal-zebub the god of Ekron," it is impossible to say. Perhaps Baal-zebub had at the time a special reputation for giving oracular responses. Perhaps the Ekron temple was, of all the ancient sites of the Baal-worship, the one with which he could most readily communicate. Philistia lay nearer to Samaria than Phoenicia did, and of the Philistine towns Ekron (now Akir) was the most northern, and so the nearest. "Baal-zebub" has been thought by some to be equivalent to "Beel-samen," "the lord of heaven" - a divine title well known to the Phoenicians; but this view is etymologically unsound, since zebub cannot possibly mean "heaven." "Baal-zebub" is "the lord of flies " - either the god who sends them as a plague on any nation that offends him (setup. Exodus 8:21-31), or the god who averts them from his votaries and favorites, an equivalent of the Greek Ζεὺς ἀπόμυιος, or the Roman "Jupiter Myiagrus," flies being in the East not infrequently a terrible plague. The Septuagint translation, Βάαλ μυι'αν, though inaccurate, shows an appreciation of the true etymology. Of this disease; rather, of this illness (ἐκ τῆς ἀρρωστίας μου ταύτης, LXX.).
But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?
Verse 3. - The angel of the Lord. It would be better to translate, with the LXX., an angel (ἄγγελος, not ὁ ἄγγελος). An angel had appeared to Elijah on a previous occasion (1 Kings 19:5, 7). Elijah the Tishbite (comp. 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 21:17, 28; 2 Kings 1:8; and for the meaning of the expression, hat-Tishbi, see the comment on 1 Kings 17:1). Arise, go up. Elijah was, apparently, in the low tract of the Shefelah, or in Sharon, when the messengers started, and was thus commanded to go up and meet them, or intercept them on their journey before they descended into the plain. God would not have the insult to his majesty, carried out. Is it not because there is not a God in Israel? rather, Is it that there is no God at all in Israel? The double negative is intensitive, and implies that the king's consultation of Baal-zebub, god of Ekron, is a complete and absolute denial of the Divinity of Jehovah. To consult a foreign oracle is equivalent to raying that the voice of God is wholly silent in one's own land. This was going further in apostasy than Ahab had gone (see 1 Kings 22:6-9).
Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.
Verse 4. - Now therefore. The word translated, "therefore" (לָכֵן) is emphatic, and means "for this reason," "on this account." Because Ahaziah had apostatized from Cod, God sentenced him to die from the effects of his fall, and not to recover. It is implied that he might have recovered if he had acted otherwise. And Elijah departed; i.e. quitted the messengers, showing that his errand was accomplished - he had said all that he was commissioned to say.
And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back?
Verse 5. - And when the messengers turned back; rather, when the messengers returned; i.e. when they reached the presence of Ahaziah, he perceived at once that they could not have been to Ekron and come back in the time. He therefore inquired of them, Why are ye now turned back? "Why have ye not completed your journey?"
And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
Verse 6. - There came a man. It is not likely that the messengers did not know Elijah by sight. He was too prominent a person in the history of the time, and too remarkable in his appearance, not to have been recognized, at any rate by some of them. But they thought it best to keep back the prophet's name, and to call him simply "a man" (ish) - perhaps actuated by good will towards Elijah, perhaps by a fear for their own safety, such as had been felt by Obadiah (1 Kings 18:8-14).
And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?
Verse 7. - What manner of man was he? literally, what was the manner of the man? What was his appearance? Were there any marks about him by which he might be recognized and known? Ahaziah may have already suspected that the man who had denounced woe on him would be the same who had denounced woe on his father (see 1 Kings 21:20-22).
And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.
Verse 8. - A hairy man; literally, a lord of hair (בַּעַל שַׂעָר). Some take the meaning to be that he was rough and unkempt, with his hair and beard long; and so the LXX., who give ἀνὴρ δασύς. But the more usual explanation is that he wore a shaggy coat of untanned skin, with the hair outward. Such a garment seems certainly to have been worn by the later prophets (Zechariah 13:4; Matthew 3:4), and to have been regarded as a sign of their profession. But there is no positive evidence that the dress had been adopted by Isaiah's time. Girt with a girdle of leather. Generally the Israelites wore girdles of a soft material, as linen or cotton. The "curious girdle" of the high priest's ephod was of "fine twined linen," embroidered with gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet (Exodus 28:8). Girdles of leather, rough and uncomfortable, would only be worn by the very poor and by the ascetic. Elijah may have adopted his rough and coarse costume, either to show contempt for things earthly, as Hengstenberg thinks; or as a penitential garb indicating sorrow for the sins of the people, as Keil supposes; or simple to chastise and subdue the flesh, as other ascetics. It is Elijah the Tishbite. The description given is enough. The king has no longer any doubt. His suspicion is turned into certainty. There is no living person but Elijah who would at once have the boldness to prophesy the death of the king, and would wear such a costume as described. Elijah is, of course, his enemy, as he had been his father's "enemy" (1 Kings 21:20), and will wish him ill, and prophesy accordingly, the wish being "father to the thought." It is not improbable that Elijah had withdrawn himself into obscurity on the accession of Ahaziah, or at any rate on his exhibition of strong idolatrous proclivities (Ewald), as he had done on more than one occasion from Ahab (1 Kings 17:10; 1 Kings 19:8-8). Ahaziah may have been long wishing to arrest and imprison him, and now thought he saw his opportunity.
Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.
Verse 9. - The king sent unto him a captain of fifty. "Captains of fifties" were first instituted in the wilderness by the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18:21-25). Though not expressly mentioned in the military organization of David, they probably formed a part of it, and so passed into the institutions of the kingdom of Israel. With his fifty. Some recognition of Elijah's superhuman power would seem to have led Ahaziah to send so large a body. His doing so was a sort of challenge to the prophet to show whether Ahaziah or the God whom he represented was the stronger. The circumstances recall those of the "band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees" (John 18:3), which was sent, "with swords and staves," to arrest another righteous Person. He sat on the top of a hill; literally, on the top of the hill (ἐπὶ τῆς κορυφῆς τοῦ ὄρους, LXX.). The high ground where Elijah had met the messengers (ver. 3) seems to be intended. When they were gone, the prophet took his seat on the highest point, conspicuous on all sides, so avoiding any attempt at concealment, and awaiting the next step that the king would take, calmly and quietly. He spake unto him; Thou man of God. The captain is thought by some to have spoken ironically; but there is no evidence of this. The address is respectful, submissive. The miraculous powers of Elijah (1 Kings 17:22; 1 Kings 18:38) were probably known to the officer, who hoped by the tone of his address to escape the prophet's anger. In the same spirit he avoids issuing any command of his own, and prefers simply to deliver the king's command - The king hath said, Come down.
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
Verse 10. - And Elijah answered... let fire come down. The LXX. render, καταβήσεται πῦρ - "fire will come down;" and so some moderns, who are anxious to clear the prophet of the charges of cruelty and bloodthirstiness which have been brought against him. But there is no need of altering the translation, Elijah undoubtedly "commanded fire to come down from heaven" (Luke 9:54), or, in other words, prayed to God that it might come down, and in answer to his prayer the fire fell. The narrative may be set aside as an embellishment of later times, having no historical foundation, by those who (like Ewald) deny that miracles are possible; but, if it be accepted, it must be accepted as it stands, and Elijah must be regarded, not as having merely prophesied a result, but as having been instrumental in producing it. We must judge Elijah, not by the ideas of our own day, but by those of the age wherein he lived. He was raised up to vindicate God's honor, to check and punish idolatry, to keep alive a faithful remnant in Israel, when all the powers of the earth were leagued together to destroy and smother true religion. He was an embodiment of the Law - of absolute, strict, severe justice. The fair face of mercy was not revealed to him. Already, at Carmel, he had executed the Divine vengeance on idolaters after an exemplary fashion (1 Kings 18:40). Now, Ahaziah, the son of the wicked Jezebel, had challenged Jehovah to a trial of strength by first ignoring him, and then sending a troop of soldiers to arrest his prophet. Was Elijah to succumb without an effort, or was he to vindicate the majesty and honor of Jehovah? He had no power of himself to do either good or harm. He could but pray to Jehovah, and Jehovah, in his wisdom and perfect goodness, would either grant or refuse his prayer. If he granted it, the punishment inflicted would not be Elijah's work, but his. To tax Elijah with cruelty is to involve God in the charge. God regarded it as a fitting time for making a signal example, and, so regarding it, he inspired a spirit of indignation in the breast of his prophet, who thereupon made the prayer which he saw fit to answer. The judgment was in accordance with the general tone and tenor of the Law, which assigns "tribulation and anguish to every soul of man that doeth evil" (Romans 2:9), and visits with death every act of rebellion against God. There came down fire. Josephus says that the "fire" was a flash of lightning (πρηστήρ), and so the commentators generally.
Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.
Verse 11. - Again also; rather, and again (see the Revised Version). He answered and said; rather, he spoke and said (ἐλάησε καὶ εἴτε, LXX.). Come down quickly. The king has grown impatient. It is conceivable that the death of the first captain with his band of fifty had been kept from him, and that he was only aware of an unaccountable delay. He therefore changes his order from "Come down" to "Come down quickly."
And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.
Verse 13. - A captain of the third fifty; rather, the captain of a third fifty (see the Revised Version). This captain went up - i.e. ascended the hill on which Elijah was still seated, and there fell on his knees, or bowed himself down, before the prophet, as suppliants were wont to do, beseeching his compassion. The fate of the two former captains had become known to him by some means or other, and this induced him to assume an attitude, not of command, but of submission. He acknowledged that the prophet held his life and the lives of his fifty men at his free disposal, and begged that they might be precious in his sight, or, in other words, that he would spare them. What response Elijah would have made, had he been left to himself, is uncertain. But he was not left to himself. An angel of God again appeared to him, and directed his course of action.
Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.
And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.
Verse 15. - Go down with him: be not afraid of him; i.e. "descend the hill with him - have no fear of him, accompany him to the presence of the king; do my will, and there shall no harm happen unto thee." And he arose, and went down. Elijah showed no hesitation, no fear, no undue regard for his own personal safety. He had been contending for God's honor, not for his own advantage. Now that God bade him contend no more, but yield, he complied promptly, and ceased all resistance.
And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
Verse 16. - He said unto him; i.e. Elijah said to the king. Introduced into the royal presence, as a prisoner, perhaps fettered and chained, the prophet in no way lowered his tone or abated from the severity of his speech. Distinctly, in the plainest possible words, he warned the monarch that his end approached - he would never quit the bed whereon he lay, but, because he had insulted Jehovah by sending to consult the god of Ekron, would surely die. Apparently the king, abashed and confounded, released the prophet, and allowed him to go his way. Thus saith the Lord. Elijah rehearses the words of the message which he had sent by the first of the three captains (see ver. 6). Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word! Therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. God's determinations are unalterable.
So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son.
Verse 17a. - So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. Not only did he die in consequence of his fall without once quitting his bed, but his death was, as Elijah had said, a judgment on his sin in sending to consult Baal-zebub. REIGN OF JEHORAM. Verse 17b. - And Jehoram - or, Joram LXX., "whom Jehovah exalts;" another evidence that Ahab did not regard himself as having abandoned altogether the worship of Jehovah (see the comment on 1 Kings 22:40) - reigned in his stead ("his brother," אחיו, has probably fallen out after "Jehoram," and requires to be inserted in order to give force to the last clause of the verse) in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat King of Judah. In 2 Kings 3:1 it is said that Jehoram, the son of Ahab and brother of Ahaziah, began to reign over Israel in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat himself. The apparent discrepancy is reconciled by supposing that Jehoshaphat associated his son Jehoram in the kingdom in his seventeenth year, when he was about to enter upon the Syrian war, so that the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat was also the second year of Jehoram. It is certain that association was largely practiced in Egypt at a date long anterior to Jehoshaphat, and David's proclamation of Solomon as king was an association, so that the explanation is not untenable. On the other hand, the difficulties of the chronology of 2 Kings are so numerous and so great as to defy complete reconciliation, and to lead to a suspicion that the numbers have either suffered extensive corruption, or have been manipulated by an unskillful reviser (see Introduction, p. 3.). Because he had no son; i.e. because he, Ahaziah, had no son, he was succeeded by his younger brother, Jehoram.
Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
Verse 18. - Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did. These may have included some months of warfare against Mesha, King of Moab, who seems to have rebelled at the very beginning of Ahaziah's reign (ver. 1 and 2 Kings 3:5). Mesha's war of independence consisted of a succession of sieges, whereby he recovered one by one the various strongholds in his territory, which were occupied by the Israelites - Medeba, Ataroth, Nebo, Jahaz, Horonaim, and others - expelling the foreign garrisons, rebuilding or strengthening the fortifications, and occupying the cities by garrisons of his own. On one occasion, at the siege of Nebo, he declares that he killed seven thousand men. He found in the town a place of worship containing vessels, which he regarded as "vessels of Jehovah" (Moabite Stone, line 18); these he took? and dedicated them to Chemosh, the special god of Moab. How much of the war fell into the reign of Ahaziah, and how much into that of Jehoram his brother, is uncertain. Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the tines of Israel? Mesha's stone is a striking testimony to the contemporary record of historical events by the Palestinian monarchs of the time, which has sometimes been doubted.

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