Preserving and Protecting the Line of David

13 When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the Lord to the people. 14 And when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to the custom, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” 15 Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, “Bring her out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the Lord.” 16 So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.

17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people, and also between the king and the people. 18 Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the Lord. 19 And he took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the Lord, marching through the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he took his seat on the throne of the kings. 20 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.

21 Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign. 2 Kings 11:13-21 ESV

For six years, Joash, the young heir to David’s throne, had lived in the temple of Yahweh – and right under Athaliah’s nose. The house of God proved to be the perfect hiding place for the young boy because it would have been the last place Athaliah would have ever looked. Like her parents, Ahab and Jezebel, she was a committed Baal worshiper. So, any chance of her running into Joash at the house of God would have been highly unlikely. In this story, the temple of the one true God plays a significant role. It is a reminder that, in Judah, Yahweh still played a major role in the lives of the people. While some of the kings of Judah had successfully introduced the worship of idols, the people had not abandoned Yahweh. The temple Solomon had built still stood, and the sacrificial system remained in place. Jehoiada and his fellow priests faithfully maintained God’s house and looked after the spiritual well-being of God’s people. And now, Jehoiada had provided sanctuary for God’s chosen king in the house that bore God’s name. And it must not be overlooked that the temple of God had direct ties all the way back to King David.

It had always been David’s dream to build a great temple in honor of Yahweh. But God informed David that He had other plans.

“And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:11-13 ESV

God went on to promise David, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV). God was going to build David’s house or dynasty.  But it would be David’s son, Solomon, whom God would give the privilege of constructing a house that would bear His name and in which His glory would dwell. And now, the house built by Solomon had become the means by which God fulfilled His promise to preserve the house of David. Joash, the descendant of David and the rightful heir to the throne of Judah, was alive because he had been given sanctuary and protection in the house of God.

When word got out that Joash was alive and that he had been crowned the king of Judah, the crowds flocked to the temple to see if the news was true. And it wasn’t long before Athaliah was told about the great commotion taking place at the temple of Yahweh. So, she went to see for herself.

Much to her shock and surprise, there stood her seven-year-old grandson, Joash, very much alive and well, and wearing a crown on his head. In a matter of seconds, Athaliah’s house of cards began to crumble. Her insidious plan to eradicate all the heirs to her son’s throne had failed. For six years she had lived under the delusion that she had successfully secured her place as the queen of Judah. But little did she know that God had been protecting and preserving the seed of David until he was ready to take the throne. And it must not be overlooked that when Jehoiada placed the crown on the head of Joash, he had also presented the young king with a copy of the Mosaic Law.

Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king’s son, placed the crown on his head, and presented him with a copy of God’s laws. – 2 Kings 11:12 NLT

This practice was in keeping with the commands of God concerning the kings of Israel.

“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.” – Deuteronomy 17:18-20 NLT

Athaliah, an ungodly and unauthorized queen, was standing before the God-appointed king of Judah. And this young man was backed by the law of God, the priests of God, and had the full support of the people of God. But declared the entire scene to be nothing less than an act of treason. She refused to acknowledge Joash as the rightful heir to the throne because she refused to acknowledge Yahweh as the one and only God of Judah.

But her claims of treason were met with an order from Jehoiada the priest, commanding that she be taken from the temple and executed. She was the one who had been guilty of treason and so, she was the one who deserved to die.

With her death, a spirit of revival broke out in the land of Judah. Jehoiada immediately “made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people” (2 Kings 11:17 NLT). In a sense, he called the people to repent and return to the worship of Yahweh. They had a new king but Jehoiada knew that it would mean nothing without a renewed commitment to God. Joash was just a seven-year-old boy with no leadership skills or experience. But if he and the people under his care would recommit themselves to the Word and the will of God, they would find themselves enjoying the blessings of God once again.

In a decisive demonstration of their renewed zeal for Yahweh, the people tore down the temple of Baal. Its very presence indicates that Athaliah and her ungodly relatives in Israel had played a major role in the declining spiritual state within Judah. The city of Jerusalem, home to the temple of God, also had a temple dedicated to Baal, the false god of Ahab and Jezebel. But in the revival-like atmosphere that accompanied Joash’s crowning, the people were moved to eradicate every last vestige of Baal worship from their midst.

They demolished the altars and smashed the idols to pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars. – 2 Kings 11:18 NLT

With Athaliah and her false god out of the way, it was time for Joash to move from God’s house to David’s palace. So, Jehoiada led a processional from the temple to the royal residence, where “the king took his seat on the royal throne” (2 Kings 11:19 NLT). And at that moment, God reaffirmed the promise He had made to David.

Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever. – 2 Samuel 7:16 NLT

God was committed to keeping His word because He had a far greater plan in store that would involve the line of David. His preservation of David’s house was crucial because there was to be one final descendant of David who would rule and reign, not just over Judah and Israel, but over all the kingdoms of the world. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this coming King and the day when He will bring salvation to the world.

In that day the heir to David’s throne
    will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
    and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. – Isaiah 11:10 NLT

Joash had been protected so that David’s line could be preserved. Despite the unfaithfulness of His people, God was faithfully keeping His promise to David so that His plans for the future redemption of the world could be fulfilled in Christ.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

A Gift From God

1 Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. And he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord, and he showed them the king’s son. And he commanded them, “This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king’s house (another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards) shall guard the palace. And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the Lord on behalf of the king, shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.”

The captains did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. 10 And the priest gave to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord. 11 And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king. 12 Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” 2 Kings 11:1-12 ESV

Meanwhile, back in Judah.

Once again, the author shifts the focus of his narrative back to the southern kingdom. While Jehu had been systematically and brutally eliminating the legacy of Ahab from Israel, a regime change had taken place in Judah as well. While the two nations operated independently of one another, they had developed close ties through intermarriage and military alliances. Ahab and Jezebel had a daughter, Athaliah, who had married King Jehoram of Israel. Her influence over him is readily apparent when you read how God assessed his reign and disclosed the nature of his death.

“…you have been as evil as the kings of Israel. You have led the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship idols, just as King Ahab did in Israel. And you have even killed your own brothers, men who were better than you. So now the Lord is about to strike you, your people, your children, your wives, and all that is yours with a heavy blow. You yourself will suffer with a severe intestinal disease that will get worse each day until your bowels come out.” – 2 Chronicles 21:13-15 NLT

And when Jehoram ending up dying just as God had predicted, he was replaced by Ahaziah, the son he shared with Athalia. During his reign, Ahaziah maintained a close relationship with his family back in Israel, even making a trip to visit his uncle, King Jehoram, who was recuperating from battle injuries at his summer palace in Jezreel. But the timing of his trip proved both ill-planned and ill-fated. He had arrived in Jezreel at the exact moment when Jehu was launching his coup against the house of Ahab. And his decision to be in Israel at that precise moment proved deadly.

When King Ahaziah of Judah saw what was happening, he fled along the road to Beth-haggan. Jehu rode after him, shouting, “Shoot him, too!” So they shot Ahaziah in his chariot at the Ascent of Gur, near Ibleam. He was able to go on as far as Megiddo, but he died there. His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem, where they buried him with his ancestors in the City of David. – 2 Kings 9:27-28 NLT

In a single day, Jehu had managed to kill the kings of Israel and Judah, creating an immediate power vacuum in both nations. He would end up filling the void left by King Jehoram in Israel, but the battle for control of Ahaziah’s empty throne would prove more complicated and deadly.

As soon as Athalia received the news that her son had been murdered by Jehu, she launched a brutal campaign to secure the crown for herself. Rather than mourn the death of her son, “she arose and destroyed all the royal family” (2 Kings 11:1 ESV). She callously eliminated any and all competition. And thanks to her husband’s sins against Yahweh, her work had been made much easier. As punishment for Jehoram’s ungodly leadership, God had brought judgment against Judah in the form of enemy raiding parties.

Then the Lord stirred up the Philistines and the Arabs, who lived near the Ethiopians, to attack Jehoram. They marched against Judah, broke down its defenses, and carried away everything of value in the royal palace, including the king’s sons and his wives. Only his youngest son, Ahaziah, was spared. – 2 Chronicles 21:16-17 NLT

Now, with Ahaziah out of the picture, Athaliah had few competitors for the throne. But she still went out of her way to eliminate anyone who might jeopardize her plan to rule over Judah. In doing so, Athaliah was going against the revealed will of God. He had made a covenant commitment to David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever.

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16 ESV

Athaliah was not a descendant of David, but she was not about to let that minor detail stand in her way. So, she set out to clear her path to power by systematically wiping out anyone who might claim to be the rightful heir to David’s throne. 

Having successfully eliminated the competition, Athaliah became the self-appointed queen of Judah, and she would hold that title for the next six years. But little did she know that all the while she sat on the throne, the true king of Judah was being protected in the house of God. During her ambitious and murderous power-grab, she had inadvertently overlooked one minor detail: A young boy named Joash. He was the son of King Ahaziah and, therefore, the rightful heir to the throne.

When Athaliah had begun her murderous spree, her step-daughter, Jehosheba, had risked her life by protecting Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah. The book of 2 Chronicles provides us with a detailed description of her brave rescue attempt.

Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed. She put Joash and his nurse in a bedroom. In this way, Jehosheba, wife of Jehoiada the priest and sister of Ahaziah, hid the child so that Athaliah could not murder him. – 2 Chronicles 22:11 NLT

Don’t miss the sovereign hand of God in all of this. It just so happens that Jehosheba was not only the daughter of the king and, therefore, the half-sister of Joash, but she was also the wife of Jehoiada the priest. These relationships were God-ordained and providentially established to not only keep Joash alive but to preserve the promise that God had made to David years earlier. After initially hiding Joash in a room within the palace, Jehosheba and her husband, Jehoiada, moved him to the temple. And for the next six years, the young boy would find protection in the house of God. Yahweh, the God of David, was preserving the seed of David so that He might fulfill the promise He had made to David. And what makes this so significant is that God was preserving David’s seed so that He might one day send His own Son as the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. The psalmist writes, “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne’” ( Psalm 132:11 ESV). And the apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus was the Son whom God had in mind when He made that promise to David.

God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 1:2-4 NLT

But had Jehosheba not been there to preserve the life of her brother, the line of David would have come to an abrupt end. And had her husband not been Jehoiada the priest, the young boy would not have been given sanctuary in the temple of God. All of this was the handiwork of God Almighty, who was operating behind the scenes in order to preserve and protect His covenant promise. Nothing was going to stand in the way of God’s long-term redemptive plan for the people of Israel and the nations of the world – including Athaliah.

And in time, Athaliah’s 15-minutes of fame came to an end. When Joash reached the age of seven, Jehoiada the priest called for the captains of the Carites, who served as royal bodyguards. He brought them into the temple and introduced them to Joash, the rightful heir to the throne. This would have been shocking news to these men. None of them would have had any idea that Joash was alive. Jehoiada’s decision to use the temple as the venue for revealing this exciting news was intended to remind these men that God was at work. He had them swear an oath before God that they would protect the new king at all costs, and they agreed. Then, as if to solidify their commitment, he equipped these men with “spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord” ( 2 Kings 11:10 ESV). This was intended as a not-so-subtle reminder that Joash was a descendant of the great king, David, and the rightful heir to the throne of Judah.

Having instigated plans to provide protection for Joash, Jehoiada took the next steps to make inaugurate the new king of Judah.

Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” – 2 Kings 11:12 ESV

After six years under the reign of Athaliah, the fate of Judah was about to take a dramatic turn. From the holy temple of God, a cry would go out, declaring that Judah had a new king. The sovereign plan of God was alive and well, and it was about to be revealed in the life of a seven-year-old boy named Joash. And it’s interesting to note that Joash’s name means, “given by the Lord.” He would be a gracious gift from God Almighty, providing immediate hope for the people of Judah and a link to the future promise of the Messiah.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Close, But No Cigar

18 Then Jehu assembled all the people and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. 19 Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests. Let none be missing, for I have a great sacrifice to offer to Baal. Whoever is missing shall not live.” But Jehu did it with cunning in order to destroy the worshipers of Baal. 20 And Jehu ordered, “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.” So they proclaimed it. 21 And Jehu sent throughout all Israel, and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And they entered the house of Baal, and the house of Baal was filled from one end to the other. 22 He said to him who was in charge of the wardrobe, “Bring out the vestments for all the worshipers of Baal.” So he brought out the vestments for them. 23 Then Jehu went into the house of Baal with Jehonadab the son of Rechab, and he said to the worshipers of Baal, “Search, and see that there is no servant of the Lord here among you, but only the worshipers of Baal.” 24 Then they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings.

Now Jehu had stationed eighty men outside and said, “The man who allows any of those whom I give into your hands to escape shall forfeit his life.” 25 So as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guard and to the officers, “Go in and strike them down; let not a man escape.” So when they put them to the sword, the guard and the officers cast them out and went into the inner room of the house of Baal, 26 and they brought out the pillar that was in the house of Baal and burned it. 27 And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.

28 Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. 29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. 30 And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.

32 In those days the Lord began to cut off parts of Israel. Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the Valley of the Arnon, that is, Gilead and Bashan. 34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehu and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 35 So Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his place. 36 The time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years. 2 Kings 10:8-36 ESV

Jehu’s meteoric rise to power left the people of Israel in a state of shock and confusion. Virtually overnight, he had radically altered the political landscape of the country, completely eradicating any vestige of the former regime. Ahab and Jezebel’s three-decade-long reign of evil had come to an abrupt and ignominious end. But what would happen now? What kind of king would Jehu prove to be? To most of the citizens of Israel, Jehu remained a mystery. He had not campaigned for office or taken time to communicate his particular political platform. This man had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, upsetting the status quo and creating a spirit of anxiety and confusion among the people. And he was far from done.

Jehu proved to be a clever and cunning individual who used his relative anonymity to his advantage. Having literally cleaned house by killing off every one of Ahab’s male descendants, as well as all of his relatives and former administrative officials, Jehu turned his attention to the godless citizens of Israel. And it appears he focused his attention on the capital city of Samaria.

The new king called for a solemn assembly, a mandatory gathering of all the worshipers of Baal. Since Jehu’s political and religious positions were unknown to anyone, he was able to leave the people with the impression that he was an ardent worshiper of Baal. He even pledged to outdo Ahab in his commitment to this false god of fertility.

“Ahab’s worship of Baal was nothing compared to the way I will worship him! Therefore, summon all the prophets and worshipers of Baal, and call together all his priests. See to it that every one of them comes, for I am going to offer a great sacrifice to Baal. Anyone who fails to come will be put to death.” – 2 Kings 10:18-19 NLT

He commanded that every priest and faithful adherent to Baal join him for a special assembly, to be held in the house of Baal in Samaria. He even sent messengers all over Israel, informing the people to gather for this great occasion. And as the news spread, the excitement among the people began to build. So, when the big day arrived, “They all came—not a single one remained behind—and they filled the temple of Baal from one end to the other.” (2 Kings 10:21 NLT).

Next, Jehu instructed that every Baal worshiper be given a special vestment or robe. And, as if to keep this solemn assembly free from contamination, he commanded that no worshipers of Yahweh be allowed in the building. This was going to be an exclusive, members-only service dedicated to the great god, Baal. You can almost sense the excitement and the air of eager anticipation as the people waited to see what would happen next. And when Jehu, their new king, offered up a sacrifice to their god, they had to have been beside themselves with joy and pride. Baal was being given a place of prominence and priority in the new administration. But little did they know that the whole affair had been nothing more than a clearly disguised ruse. They had been lured to their own deaths. When Jehu had pledged to make a great sacrifice to Baal, he had been talking about them. They were to be the sacrifice.

And Jehu ordered the slaughter of every single priest and parishioner. Within seconds, the standing-room-only crowd began to realize what was happening. Screams echoed through the halls as Jehu’s men made their way through the panic-stricken mass of humanity, striking down any and all who stood in their path. It was a virtual blood bath. Those who did not fall victim to the sword were likely trampled to death as they attempted to find the nearest exit. But Jehu had posted guards to ensure that no one escaped alive.

At some point, the killing ended, but Jehu was far from done. He ordered the destruction of any and all idols dedicated to Baal. If they were made of stone, they were demolished. If they were carved from wood, they were burned. In a sense, Jehu attempted to purge the memory of Baal from the nation of Israel. And in one last act of desecration, he ordered that the temple to Baal be converted into a public toilet.

And the author seems to give Jehu high marks for his actions that day.

Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. – 2 Kings 10:17 ESV

His campaign to eradicate the worship of Baal had been a rousing success. The false god of Ahab and Jezebel had been removed and reduced to a memory. But there was a problem. While Jehu had focused all his time and energy on the removal of Baal, he had failed to deal with the root problem that plagued the nation of Israel: Idolatry.

Baal had been a symptom, not the disease. The reason the people had so readily accepted the false god of Jezebel was that they had a long-standing track record for apostasy and idolatry. From the very moment when God had split the kingdom of Solomon in half, the ten northern tribes had dedicated themselves to the worship of false gods. Their newly appointed king, Jeroboam, had made the fateful decision to erect golden calves in the cities of Dan and Bethel. And while Ahab and Jezebel had promoted Baal as the premier god of the Israelites, the people had not abandoned the gods of Jeroboam. And, sadly, the author reveals that Jehu’s purging of Baal, while effective, was insufficient.

But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. – 2 Kings 10:29 ESV

The people of Israel remained idolatrous and unfaithful. And Jehu’s fervor for Yahweh proved to be far from perfect.

Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin. – 2 Kings 10:31 ESV

Jehu had addressed the symptom, but not the disease. In a sense, he had successfully removed the tumor, but the cancer cells remained. And it was only a matter of time before evidence of the deadly disease surfaced once again.

Jehu had done what God had commanded him to do. He had faithfully fulfilled the instructions of the prophet and was rewarded for his obedience.

“Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” – 2 Kings 10:30 ESV

But what Jehu had failed to do was reestablish the worship of Yahweh. He had removed Baal but had left the golden calves. He allowed the people to continue their pursuit of false gods rather than lead them back to the worship of the one true God.

For the next 28 years, Jehu would reign over Israel, but his kingdom would grow progressively weaker and smaller. His partial purging of Israel’s idols would allow the cancer of unfaithfulness to spread. Jehu had been successful in removing the foreign gods of Jezebel, but he had turned a blind eye to the home-grown gods of Jeroboam. And God had been very specific about his prohibition of false gods of any kind.

“You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” – Exodus 20:3-5 NLT

But Jehu refused to obey the command of God. He not only tolerated the gods of Jeroboam, but he also promoted them. As the king of Israel, he encouraged the people to give their affection and attention to something other than Yahweh. And, as a result, God diminished the extent of his kingdom and, eventually, brought his dynasty to an end. Jehu proved to be a good king, but not a great one. He had been faithful to purge the kingdom of Ahab’s evil influence, but he had failed to lead the people back to Yahweh.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Zeal is No Excuse for Disobedience

1 Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria, to the rulers of the city, to the elders, and to the guardians of the sons of Ahab, saying, “Now then, as soon as this letter comes to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, fortified cities also, and weapons, select the best and fittest of your master’s sons and set him on his father’s throne and fight for your master’s house.” But they were exceedingly afraid and said, “Behold, the two kings could not stand before him. How then can we stand?” So he who was over the palace, and he who was over the city, together with the elders and the guardians, sent to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, and we will do all that you tell us. We will not make anyone king. Do whatever is good in your eyes.” Then he wrote to them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you are ready to obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow at this time.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were bringing them up. And as soon as the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and slaughtered them, seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. When the messenger came and told him, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” Then in the morning, when he went out, he stood and said to all the people, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who struck down all these? 10 Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu struck down all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men and his close friends and his priests, until he left him none remaining.

12 Then he set out and went to Samaria. On the way, when he was at Beth-eked of the Shepherds, 13 Jehu met the relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah, and he said, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the relatives of Ahaziah, and we came down to visit the royal princes and the sons of the queen mother.” 14 He said, “Take them alive.” And they took them alive and slaughtered them at the pit of Beth-eked, forty-two persons, and he spared none of them.

15 And when he departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he greeted him and said to him, “Is your heart true to my heart as mine is to yours?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. And Jehu took him up with him into the chariot. 16 And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” So he had him ride in his chariot. 17 And when he came to Samaria, he struck down all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, till he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah. 2 Kings 10:1-17 ESV

Jehu was methodical and ruthless in carrying out God’s judgment against the house of Ahab. After killing King Jehoram and ordering the execution of the queen-mother, Jezebel, he turned his attention to Ahab’s 70 male descendants. Jehu knew that as long as any of them remained alive, his hopes of consolidating the kingdom under his rule would be in jeopardy. These boys and young men were under the care and protection of royal guardians who served in Ahab’s administration. More than likely, they had answered to Jezebel. But now that she was out of the picture, Jehu issued a challenge to these protectors of Ahab’s dynasty.

“…select the best qualified of your master’s sons to be your king, and prepare to fight for Ahab’s dynasty.” – 2 Kings 10:3 NLT

Jehu proposed that they do battle for control of the kingdom. He and his allies would go up against the chosen heir of Ahab and the forces of Israel, and whoever was left standing would become the next king of the northern kingdom. But his offer was quickly rejected. The elders and officials of Samaria recognized that Jehu had the upper hand and any attempt to defeat him in battle would be ill-advised and ill-fated.

So, these men informed Jehu that they had no intentions of protecting or promoting the heirs of Ahab. But he demanded that they prove their loyalty by beheading all 70 of Ahab’s sons. The next day, the elders and officials of Samaria showed up in Jezreel and presented to Jehu their rather macabre coronation gift. He ordered that the 70 heads be placed in two piles beside the city gate, as a gruesome reminder of God’s divine judgment against the house of Ahab. No one who entered or exited the city of Jezreel could miss the message this hideous sight was meant to convey.

But the next morning, Jehu called the nervous citizens of Jezreel together. These people were caught in the middle of a violent and deadly change in administrations. For more than 30 years they had lived under the rule of Ahab and Jezebel. But almost overnight, their way of life had come to an abrupt end. They had witnessed the assassination of their king, the violent death of his mother, and the annihilation of every living male heir to the throne. They had no way of knowing what kind of king Jehu would be. So, in an effort to assuage their fear and apprehension, Jehu took full responsibility for the death of King Jehoram but then vowed that he would avenge the deaths of Ahab’s sons. This rather disingenuous display of righteous indignation was intended to win over the hearts of the people. But he failed to admit that he had been the one who ordered their executions. In his zeal to carry out the command of God, Jehu overstepped his authority. Rather than simply punishing the house of Ahab as God had ordered, Jehu used his newfound power to enact a bloody purging that spread far beyond his original assignment.

Jehu killed all who were left of Ahab’s relatives living in Jezreel and all his important officials, his personal friends, and his priests. So Ahab was left without a single survivor. – 2 Kings 10:11 NLT

We are not told the motivation behind Jehu’s actions, but we are given God’s response to it. Over in the book of Hosea, God provides a glimpse into His displeasure with Jehu’s overzealous and bloody purge. In the opening verses of the book, the prophet Hosea has just discovered that he is a new father. His wife, Gomer, a former prostitute, has given birth to a son. And God informs Hosea that he is to call the boy Jezreel.

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” – Hosea 1:4-5 ESV

The entire book of Hosea is meant to display the unfaithfulness of Israel through the relationship between the prophet and his unfaithful wife. The name given to their son was meant to be a permanent reminder of Jehu’s ungodly actions that day in Jezreel. He had decided to do God’s will his way. By taking the lives of the elders and officials of Samaria, Jehu had overstepped his God-given authority. He had exceeded his role as an instrument of God’s judgment against the house of Ahab. Innocent people had died unnecessarily and he would pay for his costly mistake.

In a sense, Jehu was obedient to the command of God. He had been anointed by the prophet of God and given the task of eliminating the house of Ahab. And he did as he had been told. He killed King Jehoram. He ordered the death of Jezebel. He orchestrated the executions of all of Ahab’s heirs. He had even taken it upon himself to kill King Ahaziah of Judah because he was the grandson of Jezebel. The tentacles of Jezebel’s influence had reached all the way into the southern kingdom, infecting Judah and its people.

At one point, Jehu had an unexpected encounter with some of these royal relatives of Jezebel from Judah. Unaware of all that had transpired in Israel, they were on their way to visit the queen-mother. But when Jehu discovered their identity, he ordered their immediate executions.

“We are relatives of King Ahaziah. We are going to visit the sons of King Ahab and the sons of the queen mother.”

“Take them alive!” Jehu shouted to his men. And they captured all forty-two of them and killed them at the well of Beth-eked. None of them escaped. – 2 Kings 10:14 NLT

His determination to eliminate every last vestige of Ahab’s influence was comprehensive and commendable. He left no stone unturned. This dedicated servant of God did what he had been anointed to do.

…he struck down all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, till he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah. – 2 Kings 10:17 ESV

But in doing so, he had gone above and beyond his official commission, ordering the deaths of the innocent. While Jehu could justify his actions by claiming that the elders and officials had murdered the sons of Ahab, they had only done so because he had given them no other choice. Jehu had delegated to these men a responsibility that had been given to him alone. It was he who should have taken the lives of the 70 sons of Ahab. It was he who should have executed Jezebel. But he had ordered her death by commanding her servants to throw her down from the window of the palace. Jehu had used his newfound power and authority in ways that God had not ordered or ordained. He had chosen to accomplish God’s will according to his ways. And no amount of zeal, enthusiasm, or good intentions can justify disobedience.

Hundreds of years later, the apostle Paul would commend the nation of Israel for its enthusiasm toward the things of God. But he would also point out that their zeal was misplaced and misdirected. In their energetic effort to please God, they were actually living in disobedience to His will and in violation of His ways.

I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. – Romans 10:2-3 NLT

Zeal is never an excuse for disobedience.

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

God Cleans House

14 Thus Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. (Now Joram with all Israel had been on guard at Ramoth-gilead against Hazael king of Syria, 15 but King Joram had returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that the Syrians had given him, when he fought with Hazael king of Syria.) So Jehu said, “If this is your decision, then let no one slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.” 16 Then Jehu mounted his chariot and went to Jezreel, for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah had come down to visit Joram.

17 Now the watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel, and he saw the company of Jehu as he came and said, “I see a company.” And Joram said, “Take a horseman and send to meet them, and let him say, ‘Is it peace?’” 18 So a man on horseback went to meet him and said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?’” And Jehu said, “What do you have to do with peace? Turn around and ride behind me.” And the watchman reported, saying, “The messenger reached them, but he is not coming back.” 19 Then he sent out a second horseman, who came to them and said, “Thus the king has said, ‘Is it peace?’” And Jehu answered, “What do you have to do with peace? Turn around and ride behind me.” 20 Again the watchman reported, “He reached them, but he is not coming back. And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.”

21 Joram said, “Make ready.” And they made ready his chariot. Then Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah set out, each in his chariot, and went to meet Jehu, and met him at the property of Naboth the Jezreelite. 22 And when Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?” 23 Then Joram reined about and fled, saying to Ahaziah, “Treachery, O Ahaziah!” 24 And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart, and he sank in his chariot. 25 Jehu said to Bidkar his aide, “Take him up and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. For remember, when you and I rode side by side behind Ahab his father, how the Lord made this pronouncement against him: 26 ‘As surely as I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons—declares the Lord—I will repay you on this plot of ground.’ Now therefore take him up and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of the Lord.”

27 When Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled in the direction of Beth-haggan. And Jehu pursued him and said, “Shoot him also.” And they shot him in the chariot at the ascent of Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo and died there. 28 His servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and buried him in his tomb with his fathers in the city of David.

29 In the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab, Ahaziah began to reign over Judah. 2 Kings 9:14-29 ESV

Once Jehu had received the news that he was to be the next king of Israel, he wasted no time. Immediately after his anointing by the prophet of God, he departed Ramoth-gilead and headed straight to the winter palace in Jezreel, where King Jehoram was recovering from the injuries he had suffered in his battle against the Syrians.

Jehu had the full support of his fellow generals, so he ordered them to secure the city of Ramoth-gilead and prevent anyone from escaping and leaking his plans to King Jehoram. Jehu mounted his chariot and, accompanied by a contingent of loyal troops, he made his way to Jezreel. Guards posted on the watchtower of the city spotted them from a distance and gave notice to King Jehoram. Assuming it was his own troops returning from the battle against the Syrians, he sent out a messenger to meet them, anxious to know the outcome of the conflict. When the messenger road out to greet the returning soldiers, he asked them, “Is it peace?”, but Jehu gave him a rather cryptic, non-answer, and commanded him to ride along with them to the city.

After sending out a second messenger who failed to return, Jehoram became more anxious than ever to know what had happened. So, despite his wounds, he ordered his chariot and rode out to meet the returning troops. He was accompanied by King Ahaziah of Judah, who had come to visit him as he recuperated in Jezreel. When the two kings intercepted Jehu, Jehoram asked him, “Is it peace?” But Jehu’s response was not what he had been expecting.

“How can there be peace as long as the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother, Jezebel, are all around us?” – 2 Kings 9:22 NLT

Jehu called out King Jehoram, accusing him of allowing his mother, Jezebel, to lead the nation of Israel into apostasy with her idolatry and witchcraft. Though Ahab was long gone, Jezebel still continued to wield a powerful and deadly influence over the nation. Not only had she promoted the worship of false gods, but she had introduced occult practices that included the use of sorcery and incantations. And God had declared these things to be off-limits for the people of Israel.

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. – Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ESV

Jehu’s mention of Jezebel indicates that he understood just how decisive her role had been in leading the nation away from Yahweh. Any attempt he made to eradicate the evil influence of Ahab and his descendants would have to include her. As long as Jezebel remained alive, the nation would never recover from its state of spiritual apathy and apostasy.

Suddenly aware that his life was in danger, King Jehoram ordered his chariot driver to make a hasty retreat to the safety of the city. But they never made it. Jehu killed the escaping king with a well-placed arrow to the back. And then he ordered that Jehoram’s body be dumped on the land that used to belong to Naboth. This brings the story full-circle, linking the sins of Ahab with those of his son, Jehoram. Back in 1 Kings 21, Jezebel had arranged to illegally confiscate a vineyard that belonged to Naboth so that she could give the property to Ahab. She had Naboth falsely accused and convicted of cursing God and the king. The result was that the innocent man was stoned to death on his very own land. And God had warned King Ahab, “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood” (1 Kings 21:20 ESV). And he had pronounced a similar fate for Jezebel because of her role in the affair.

“The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.” – 1 Kings 21:23 ESV

But Ahab had eventually repented of his role in Naboth’s death and, as a result, God had chosen to spare him.

“Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” – 1 Kings 21:29 ESV

Now, years later, God was fulfilling His promise to bring disaster upon the house of Ahab. The blood of Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, would be poured out on the very same spot where Naboth had been stoned to death. Jehu, who had served as one of King Ahab’s generals, was familiar with the whole sordid affair concerning Naboth. He had even been present when God issued His divine judgment against Ahab through the prophet Elijah.

“Take him up and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. For remember, when you and I rode side by side behind Ahab his father, how the Lord made this pronouncement against him: ‘As surely as I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons—declares the Lord—I will repay you on this plot of ground.’ Now therefore take him up and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of the Lord.” – 2 Kings 9:25-26 ESV

In all of this, Jehu was acting as God’s hand of judgment against the house of Ahab. He had been anointed by God to deliver divine justice and cleanse the nation of Israel from the pervasive and pernicious influence of Ahab and Jezebel. God had had enough. The time had come to fulfill His pronouncement of judgment against the house of Ahab.

“Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin.” – 1 Kings 21:21-22 ESV

The purge had begun. God was cleaning house. And even King Ahaziah of Judah would not escape the purifying judgment of the Almighty. As he attempted to escape, he was struck by an arrow and only made it as far as Megiddo before he died from his wound. Ahaziah had close familial ties to the house of Ahab. His mother, Athaliah, was the granddaughter of King Omri of Israel. And it appears that he may also have married one of Ahab’s daughters.

He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was son-in-law to the house of Ahab. – 2 Kings 8:27 ESV

He was an unwise and wicked king who had aligned himself with one of the most infamous royal families in Israel’s sordid history. And he paid for his mistake with his life.

Because of the disobedience of Solomon, God had divided Israel into two kingdoms. This had been His punishment for Solomon’s foray into idolatry during the latter years of his life and reign. But the kings of Israel and Judah had decided to take matters into their own hands, attempting to realign the two nations through treaties and marital alliances. But they had neglected to fix the primary problem that had caused God to divide them in the first place: Idolatry. But God was not interested in a reunited nation that remained spiritually rebellious. So, He sent Jehu to bring an abrupt end to the man-made alliance between Israel and Judah by killing their two kings. It was time to start over. But as we will see, Jehu had one last piece of unfinished business.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The Lord’s Anointed

1 Then Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets and said to him, “Tie up your garments, and take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. And when you arrive, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. And go in and have him rise from among his fellows, and lead him to an inner chamber. Then take the flask of oil and pour it on his head and say, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee; do not linger.”

So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. And when he came, behold, the commanders of the army were in council. And he said, “I have a word for you, O commander.” And Jehu said, “To which of us all?” And he said, “To you, O commander.” So he arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” Then he opened the door and fled.

11 When Jehu came out to the servants of his master, they said to him, “Is all well? Why did this mad fellow come to you?” And he said to them, “You know the fellow and his talk.” 12 And they said, “That is not true; tell us now.” And he said, “Thus and so he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’” 13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” 2 Kings 9:1-13 ESV

In 1 Kings 19:15-16, we have the record of God’s final commission to Elijah. He had given the prophet three tasks to accomplish. One of them was to anoint Hazael to be the next king of Syria. A second was to anoint Jehu to be the king of Israel. And the third was to anoint Elisha as his own successor.

It’s clear that Elijah followed God’s instructions regarding Elisha. At this point in the story, the new prophet has fully established himself as Elijah’s God-ordained replacement. It would also appear that Elijah kept God’s command concerning the anointing of Hazael. In 2 Kings 8, the author revealed the morbid details concerning Hazael’s ascension to the throne of Syria. While King Ben-hadad was weak and recovering from a recent illness, Hazael murdered him by suffocating him to death with a wet sheet. And the prophet Elisha had wept when he realized the deadly consequences for Israel that would accompany this man’s rise to power.

“Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.” – 2 Kings 8:12 ESV

But as 2 Kings 9 opens up, it becomes apparent that there was one aspect of Elijah’s assignment he had neglected to complete. Either that, or he had chosen to pass on the responsibility to his successor. Jehu had not yet been anointed King of Israel. Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, still occupied the throne and was continuing his parents’ legacy of apostasy and unfaithfulness. But the time had come for God’s prophecy concerning Ahab and his descendants to be fulfilled. He had warned Ahab that his stubborn determination to lead the people of Israel into idolatry would not go unpunished.

“So now the Lord says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’” – 1 Kings 21:21-22 NLT

God had used the prophet, Elijah, to deliver this message of pending destruction. He was not going to allow Ahab and Jezebel to go unpunished for their blatant disregard for His law or their arrogant dismissal of His sovereignty over Israel. God would do to them what He had done to Jeroboam and Baasha. He would completely wipe out their hopes for establishing a dynasty by destroying all their male descendants.  When considering this curse that God leveled against Ahab, it is important to compare it with the promise God had made to King David.

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” – 2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV

While Ahab, Jeroboam, and Baasha would all see their dreams of establishing long-lasting dynasties come to an end, God had promised David that his house and throne would be established forever. And God was going to fulfill this promise through the southern kingdom of Judah. Despite the fact that most of the kings who eventually ruled over Judah proved to be just as godless and wicked as the northern kings, God would keep His promise to secure the Davidic dynasty. And He would do so through Jesus Christ, the descendant of David and the Messiah of Israel.

But God had something far less glorious in store for King Jehoram of Israel. As he sat in his summer palace in Jezreel, he had no idea that God was about to remove him from power and bring his father’s wicked legacy to an abrupt and permanent end.

Once again, it would appear that Elijah had never completed his assignment to anoint Jehu as the next king of Israel. So, Elisha was left with the responsibility of completing God’s three-part anointing plan. But even Elisha seems to have delegated this final job to an underling. He selected one of the prophets and gave him very specific instructions: “take this flask of olive oil with you. Go to Ramoth-gilead, and find Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. Call him into a private room away from his friends, and pour the oil over his head. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you to be the king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run for your life!” (2 Kings 9:1-3 NLT). That last sentence could not have left the young prophet feeling confident and encouraged as he made his way to Ramoth-gilead.

But despite the fact that Elijah had passed the buck to Elisha and Elisha had reassigned the responsibility to someone else, God’s will was going to be done. This young prophet, flask in hand, was going to be used to anoint Jehu as the divine instrument of God’s wrath against Ahab and his descendants.

When the prophet arrived in Ramoth-gilead, he found Jehu in a meeting with his fellow generals. He summoned Jehu into a private room, where he poured the oil on his head and informed the surprised general of his new position and commission.

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the Lord’s people, Israel. You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of my prophets and all the Lord’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out. I will destroy every one of his male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel.” – 2 Kings 9:6-8 NLT

All of this was unexpected news to Jehu. There is no indication that he had been plotting Jehoram’s death and his own ascension to the throne. But the shocking news of his kingship had to have been overshadowed by the clear conditions associated with it. He was to completely wipe out every last male descendant of Ahab. Not only that, he was to see to it that Jezebel met her end as well.

Dogs will eat Ahab’s wife Jezebel at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her.” – 2 Kings 9:10 NLT

God was commanding Jehu to launch an insurrection against the king and his family. And as Jehu sat with oil running down his head and the prophet’s words racing through his brain, the king’s generals waited with curiosity on the other side of the door. Having completed his assignment, the prophet fled for his life, leaving Jehu to rejoin his fellow generals and face their questions about what had just happened. He attempted to downplay his encounter with the prophet, but they sensed he was hiding something and pressed him for details.

Jehu wisely chose not to divulge all the specifics of his conversation with the prophet. He simply stated, “He said to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I have anointed you to be king over Israel’” (2 Kings 9:12 NLT). And, must to his relief and surprise, the reaction he received from his peers was positive and encouraging. 

Then they quickly spread out their cloaks on the bare steps and blew the ram’s horn, shouting, “Jehu is king!” – 2 Kings 9:13 NLT

His fellow generals declared their overwhelming support of his anointing as the next king of Israel. Of course, they weren’t aware of the second half of the prophet’s message concerning the complete annihilation of Ahab’s family. But at this point, they were fully on board with Jehoram’s removal and Jehu’s rise to power. Some of their enthusiasm could have been the result of the king’s recent defeat against the Syrians at Ramoth-gilead. Jehoram had been wounded in the battle and was recuperating at Jezreel. These generals could have lost confidence in Jehoram’s leadership ability and welcomed the idea of having a king with a military background. The Syrians remained a threat to the nation and Jehoram had proven himself to be a less-than-reliable commander-in-chief.

But, as always, this was the sovereign hand of God orchestrating every single detail of the storyline so that His divine will might be accomplished. He had pledged to destroy Ahab’s dynasty and now He was about to implement His plan to make it happen. And that plan was going to include Jehu, who found himself in the unexpected but highly important role of the Lord’s anointed.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

No Match For Yahweh

16 In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign. 17 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 18 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 19 Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

20 In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own. 21 Then Joram passed over to Zair with all his chariots and rose by night, and he and his chariot commanders struck the Edomites who had surrounded him, but his army fled home. 22 So Edom revolted from the rule of Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time. 23 Now the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 24 So Joram slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.

25 In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign. 26 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah; she was a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. 27 He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was son-in-law to the house of Ahab.

28 He went with Joram the son of Ahab to make war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead, and the Syrians wounded Joram. 29 And King Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick. 2 Kings 8:16-29 ESV

At this point in the narrative, the author provides a brief summary of the dynastic legacies of the two divided kingdoms. While much of his time has been spent dealing with the interactions between the two prophets of God and the kings of Israel, he now gives an overview of the most recent lines of succession in both kingdoms.

Due to the extended emphasis he has given to the northern kingdom of Israel, the author seems compelled to step back and revisit the somewhat complex and overlapping nature of the two kingly lines. It was back in 1 Kings 15 that we were first introduced to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. He had succeeded his father Asa to the throne. But from 1 Kings 16 to 2 Kings 8, the vast majority of the content focuses on Israel, detailing King Ahab’s rise to power, his wicked reign, and the long line of kings who followed in his footsteps. But the author wants his readers to know that things had not fared any better in the southern kingdom. While Jehoram was ruling in Israel, a young man with the very same name was reigning in Judah. He was the son of Jehoshaphat and he served for five years as his father’s coregent. He would reign an additional eight years once the crown was his alone. But his reign would be marked by apostasy just like the kings of Israel.

Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. – 2 Kings 8:18 NLT

Jehoram had married into the ungodly and wicked family of King Ahab, taking as his wife, Athaliah, a young woman who would prove to be just as evil as her mother, Jezebel. In fact, 2 Kings 11 will chronicle how she rose to power, crowning herself the queen of Judah after having slaughtered all her sons who were legitimate heirs to the throne.

This woman had an obvious influence over Jehoram. His less-than-stellar choice of a marriage partner proved to be a contributing factor in the downward spiral of his reign. Yet, the author reminds his readers that there was a greater power at work behind the scenes. Despite Jehoram’s wickedness and stubborn refusal to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Yahweh was keeping the promise He had made to King David.

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. – 2 Kings 8:19 ESV

God was faithfully preserving the line of David, but not because they deserved it. It was because He had a much longer-term plan in place that He was going to fulfill. That is what He had told David long before Solomon ascended to the throne after him.

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV

This promise was partially fulfilled in Solomon. He would go on to build the temple of God in Jerusalem. But while was blessed by God with great wisdom and wealth, he would prove to be unfaithful in his later years, succumbing to the influence of his many pagan wives and their false gods. It would be because of his apostasy that God eventually split his kingdom in two, creating the northern kingdom of Israel and leaving Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the southern kingdom of Judah.

With each successive king of Judah, the problem seemed to worsen. Now Jehoram was king over and his apostasy deserved God’s divine judgment. But rather than destroy Jehoram, God graciously disciplined him by causing the neighboring nations of Edom and Libnah to revolt. His entire reign was marked by warfare.

And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the anger of the Philistines and of the Arabians who are near the Ethiopians. And they came up against Judah and invaded it and carried away all the possessions they found that belonged to the king’s house, and also his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, his youngest son. – 2 Chronicles 21:16-17 ESV

And his final days in office would be excruciatingly painful due to a divinely-ordained  disease that eventually took his life.

…after all this the Lord struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In the course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. – 2 Chronicles 21:18-19 ESV

Upon his death, his son, Ahaziah, ascended to the throne. This 21-year-old king proved to be just as wicked as his father. “He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done” (2 Kings 8:27 ESV). But this should come as no surprise because he was the grandson of Ahab. Wickedness was in his DNA. The fact that his mother was the daughter of Ahab ensured that Ahaziah maintained a close and, ultimately, deadly relationship with the northern kingdom. He would join King Jehoram of Israel in an ill-fated attack on the Syrian stronghold of Ramoth-gilead. King Jehoram was eventually wounded in that battle and forced to return to Jezreel in order to recuperate. And King Ahaziah would make a fateful decision to visit his uncle. But little did he know that this was all part of God’s providential plan for bringing an end to his wicked reign.

But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram. – 2 Chronicles 22:7 ESV

God was in control. The kings of Israel and Judah could sit on their royal thrones, issue decrees, flaunt their power and revel in their sovereign authority, but they were no match for Yahweh. Ultimately, their wickedness would come head-to-head with His holiness. Their rebellion would result in His judgment. The sovereign will of God would be done.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Famine to Feasting

24 Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.’ 26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” 27 And he said, “If the Lord will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?” 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body— 31 and he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”

32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Now the king had dispatched a man from his presence, but before the messenger arrived Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent to take off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” 33 And while he was still speaking with them, the messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” 

1 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”2 Kings 6:24-7:2 ESV

One thing that becomes painfully evident when reading God’s Word is that it tends to paint humanity in far-from-flattering terms. The characters found in the Bible are presented with all their flaws fully exposed. We get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of their character. There are examples of mankind’s more positive traits, but they seem few and far between. From the opening pages of the book of Genesis to the closing chapters of Revelation, the fallen nature of humanity is presented with painstaking accuracy. Throughout the book, we see a litany of vices on display, including all of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. There are countless stories that chronicle mankind’s stubbornness, arrogance, and selfishness. And they are intended to stand in stark contrast to the righteousness of God. All throughout the Bible, we see fallen humanity displayed against the stark backdrop of God’s incomparable holiness. Yet the stories of their unfaithfulness, arrogance, pride, and sin are seamlessly woven together with the countless examples of God’s power and sovereignty. We have one such example in today’s passage.

For some time, Ben-hadad II, the king of Syria, had been trying to develop secret plans to invade Israel. But each time he attempted to put them into action, the Israelites were one step ahead of him. He discovered that Elisha the prophet had been receiving secret intel on all their planning sessions, and it had come directly from Yahweh, the God of Israel. Since Ben-hadad couldn’t do anything to stop Yahweh, he decided to capture Elisha. But, once again, his strategy failed miserably. When his troops laid siege to the city of Dothan, where Elisha was living, God blinded them. Then Elisha led them to Samaria, where the king of Israel spared their lives and threw them a feast. These men returned home, grateful to be alive.

But then we read, “Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria” (2 Kings 6:24 ESV). We’re not told how much time transpired between Ben-hadad’s last failed attempt to attack Israel and this latest campaign. But it’s quite clear that he had not given up his intentions to conquer the nation of Israel. This man’s stubborn persistence is on display. Despite what had happened to his troops the last time they went into Israelite territory, he was determined to carry out his latest plans.

As a result of the siege, the conditions inside Samaria quickly deteriorated. Food became scarce and the people within the walls of the city became desperate. Price gouging was prevalent because there was nothing to eat. People were willing to pay exorbitant prices for anything that even remotely resembled food.

The siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver, and a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver. –  2 Kings 6:25 NLT 

These were desperate times. And to make sure we understand just how bad things had become, the author reveals that the people had resorted to cannibalism. And to make matters worse, it involved a mother sacrificing her infant son so that she and her friends could survive. This sickening story is told to King Jehoram as he walked along the walls of the city, surveying the worsening conditions of his people. What makes this incident all the more repulsive is that it involved deceit and dishonesty. Facing starvation, two mothers had agreed to kill their own children and eat their flesh in order to survive. One had followed through on her commitment, but when it came time for the second mother to kill her child, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

King Jehoram was sickened by what he heard and tore his clothes as a sign of mourning. Yet, rather than see the situation as a sign of God’s judgment against apostate Israel, the king decided to blame Elisha.

“May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t separate Elisha’s head from his shoulders this very day.” – 2 Kings 6:31 NLT

Jehoram was about to make the age-old mistake of killing the messenger. He knew that Elisha spoke for God, so he assumed that if he could eliminate the prophet, the conditions in Samaria would improve. But Elisha was not the cause of his problem or the source behind the judgment he was experiencing. It was the sovereign, all-powerful hand of God.

Jehoram’s decision to kill God’s prophet was doomed to failure. But fueled by anger, arrogance, and pride, the king sent a messenger to retrieve Elisha and bring him back to the palace. But Elisha was one step ahead of Jehoram, having been informed by God of the king’s intentions.

“A murderer has sent a man to cut off my head. When he arrives, shut the door and keep him out. We will soon hear his master’s steps following him.” – 2 Kings 6:32 NLT

When the messenger arrived, he found the door to Elisha’s home blocked. So, he delivered his message from the king.

“All this misery is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” – 2 Kings 6:33 NLT

Jehoram acknowledged that God was behind the siege, but he also revealed his doubt that God would ever rescue them. Since he couldn’t take out his frustration on God, he had decided to kill God’s prophet. He was following the same strategy his mother Jezebel had used. When Elijah had defeated and killed the 450 prophets of Baal, she had ordered his death (1 Kings 19:2). Now, years later, here was her son attempting to thwart the plan of God by killing the prophet of God. Jehoram’s pride, arrogance, and anger are on full display. But at no point does he take ownership of his godless leadership of the nation. He displays no remorse or repentance.

But the prophet delivered an unexpected and inexplicable message to the king.

“Listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, six quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and twelve quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver.” – 2 Kings 7:1 NLT

Things were about to take a dramatic turn for the better. In just 24 hours, God was going to miraculously reverse the conditions in Samaria. The long-lasting famine would come to an abrupt end and the people living inside the walls of Samaria would suddenly find food readily available and at affordable prices. But the king’s messenger found Elisha’s prediction to be far-fetched and refused to believe a word he said.

“That couldn’t happen even if the Lord opened the windows of heaven!” – 2 Kings 7:2 NLT

This arrogant man questioned the words of the prophet but, more importantly, he doubted the power of God. And Elisha warned him that he would pay dearly for his mistake.

“You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!” – 2 Kings 7:2 NLT

God was about to do something incredible but this emissary of the king refused to believe that any of it was possible. Like his boss, he had long ago given up any belief in the sovereignty and power of Yahweh. From his godless and apostate perspective, this problem was too big, even for God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

There is No Other God

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 2 Kings 5:1-15 ESV

Elisha appears to have been a prophet to the people. At this point in the narrative, his interactions with the kings of Israel have been few and far between. Yet, we have seen him provide the widow of Zarephath with a miraculous supply of oil that allowed her and her two young sons to escape poverty and avoid possible enslavement. Next, he rewarded the Shunammite woman’s hospitality by replacing the sorrow of her barrenness with the joy of motherhood. But years later, when that young son unexpectedly died, the prophet intervened again, raising him back to life and restoring the joy of his mother. And then there’s the story of the poisoned stew. A young prophet had inadvertently and innocently added wild gourds to a stew that Elisha’s servant had prepared, not knowing that they were poisonous. This deadly concoction could have resulted in the deaths of all the prophets who ate it, but Elisha had intervened, purifying the contents and protecting the lives of God’s messengers.

All of these stories are meant to reveal God’s interest in and interactions with His people. The average Israelite had to live in a land permeated by idolatry and under the judgment of God. On two separate occasions, God had brought famine on the land because of the apostasy of its godless kings. Yet, the stories of Elijah and Elisha reveal how God stepped into the lives of his people, graciously providing them with sustenance in the midst of His divine judgment. These stories are meant to showcase the mercy and love of God. Despite the ongoing unfaithfulness of Israel’s kings, the God of Israel remained committed to the covenant promises He had made to His people.

And in chapter five, we’re given another story that illustrates God’s sovereign hand over not only Israel but all the nations. While the kings of Israel continued to abuse their power by leading the people into idolatry and apostasy, God operated behind the scenes, demonstrating His unparalleled sovereignty over faithless kings, false gods, and even those outside the flock of Israel.

Suddenly, in chapter five, the author expands the scope of his narrative by including the plight of a Syrian general who suffered from the debilitating and potentially deadly disease known as leprosy. This story’s inclusion was meant to shock and surprise the Jewish audience to whom the author originally wrote. Their attention would have been piqued as soon as they read, “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria” (2 Kings 5:1 ESV). Why in the world would the God of Israel have given this pagan idol-worshiper a victory of any kind? This would have made no sense. And to make matters worse, this non-Hebrew is described as “a mighty man of valor” (2 Kings 5:1 ESV) who had led raids into Israel and captured and enslaved a young Jewish girl. To the Jewish reader, the only positive aspect of this story would have been that Naaman had leprosy.

Over the centuries, the Syrians had enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the nation of Israel. And ever since God had divided the nation in two, creating the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, the Syrians had made a habit of playing one against the other. Treaties had been signed and then broken. Alliances had been made, only to have been reneged upon. Syria had repeatedly taken advantage of the discord between Israel and Judah, choosing to align itself with one or the other based on what could be gained from the arrangement.

The Syrians were not to be trusted. They were self-promoting opportunists who regularly switch sides and deftly manipulated the strained relationship between Israel and Judah to their advantage. And yet, here we have the unexpected and shocking story about a Syrian general who receives healing from the prophet of God.

Everything about this story is intended to reveal God’s sovereign hand. He is described as the source behind Syria’s victory, and that victory was over the nation of Israel. Not only that, the victory included the capture of a young Jewish girl. But providentially, that same young girl ended up as a servant to Naaman’s wife. Like Moses being adopted into Pharaoh’s family or Joseph ending up serving in Pharaoh’s court, this young, unidentified Jewish girl found herself serving in the home of one of the most powerful men in Syria. Her plight, while difficult, had been God-ordained.

Because of her providential presence in Naaman’s household, she had become aware of his leprosy and was able to tell her mistress about a possible solution to his problem.

“I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.” – 2 Kings 5:3 NLT

Despite her predicament, she was still a faithful follower of Yahweh, and she believed that her God had the power to provide healing, even to the pagan commander who had enslaved her. Not only does this young girl display an amazing amount of faith, but she reveals a kind and compassionate heart. Rather than rejoicing over her captor’s plight, she expresses her desire that he be healed, even declaring her wish that he could meet the prophet of God.

Once again, God’s sovereignty is revealed through the rather strange chain of events that ensue. Naaman goes to Ben-Hadad II, the king of Syria, and received permission to visit Samaria. The king even provides Naaman with a letter of introduction to Jehoram, the king of Israel. And in an attempt to guarantee Jehoram’s assistance, Ben-Hadad II sends 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and 10 changes of royal apparel. Don’t miss the irony in all of this. At the suggestion of a young Israelite slave girl, a pagan Syrian general has made an appeal to his pagan Syrian king. And that idol-worshiping Syrian king has sent a sizeable tribute to an apostate Israelite king begging that he help his leprosy-stricken general get healing from the God of Israel. You can’t make this stuff up.

When Naaman presented his letter of introduction and the generous gifts from King King Ben-hadad, he was met with both surprise and suspicion. Jehoram thinks the whole thing is a set-up.

“Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? Why is this man asking me to heal someone with leprosy? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.” – 2 Kings 5:7 NLT

It never seems to cross Jehoram’s mind to seek the aid of Yahweh or His prophet. He simply panics, assuming the whole thing is a clever ploy by Ben-Hadad to justify military action in the guise of revenge. But while Jehoram decided to leave God out of the equation, Elisha got wind of what was happening and contacted the king.

“Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.” – 2 Kings 5:8 NLT

Once again, God’s prophet came to the rescue. But what happens next is almost humorous. The famous general from Syria had to get in his chariot and, along with his retinue, make his way to Elisha’s humble home. But before Naaman could get there, the prophet sent a messenger to meet him with a rather strange set of instructions.

“Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” – 2 Kings 5:10 NLT

But the proud military commander, who was used to having all his subordinates report to him, was offended that Elisha didn’t bother to meet him. And it’s clear that he had expected something a bit showier when it came to how he would be healed.

“I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! – 2 Kings 5:11 NLT

But to Naaman’s disappointment, Elisha’s only instructions had been to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. This sounded ridiculous to the general, and he let his frustration be known in no uncertain terms.

Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” – 2 Kings 5:12 NLT

But as Naaman was preparing to walk away in a huff, one of his own servants convinced him to do what the prophet had said. After all, what did he have to lose? Yes, the whole bathing-in-the-Jordan thing would be a blow to his pride, but it might very well be worth it. So, Naaman took the advice of his servant and obeyed the command of the prophet. And when he came up out of the water the seventh time, he was completely cleansed of his leprosy. In fact, the author describes the condition of his skin as that of a young child – no scars, scabs, or lesions of any kind. Naaman the Syrian had experienced a miracle, and he clearly recognized that it had been the work of Yahweh, the God of Israel.

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. – 2 Kings 5:15 NLT

That’s an amazing admission to come from the lips of a pagan Syrian general. He had spent his entire life worshiping Baal, and it’s likely that he had often petitioned his god for healing from his condition. But his requests had remained unheeded because they had gone unheard. His leprosy had been real, but his god was not. Yet, here was Naaman standing before Yahweh’s prophet, healed and whole, and declaring his belief in the one true God of Israel.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

When Dreams Turn Into Nightmares

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. 10 Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”

11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. 12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” 14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” 17 But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.

18 When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door behind him and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 And he said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” She said, “All is well.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. 2 Kings 4:8-25 ESV

When Elijah had been the prophet of God to Israel, his ministry seemed to focus on the royal household. Virtually all of the interactions he had were with King Ahab or his wife, Jezebel. And while Elisha had begun his own prophetic ministry with a confrontation between himself and King Jehoram, he seems to have been a prophet to the people. In the last story, Elisha came to the aid of a recently widowed woman who was facing the prospect of having her two sons sold into slavery because of an unpaid debt. In a sense, this woman represented the nation of Israel. She had been left destitute by her husband, a former prophet of God. While alive, this man of God had incurred a sizeable debt, and had he made no plans for its repayment in the case of his death. In a real sense, the people of Israel found themselves spiritually destitute and owing a large debt to God Almighty. Their kings had taken advantage of God’s love and mercy, using His resources to fund their own profligate lifestyles. They had lived for the moment, never considering what would happen when God called their debt due. Jeroboam, Ahab, Ahaziah, and now, Jehoram, all led the people into idolatry and left them with a debt they could not pay.

But Elisha had intervened on the widow’s behalf, providing her with a miracle that eliminated her debt, spared her sons, and met her needs for a long time to come. Through the actions of His faithful prophet, the God of Israel revealed His love and concern for His covenant people. Now, the story shifts to yet another encounter between Elisha and a woman in need. But this time, the woman isn’t even aware that she has a need.

For some unspecified reason, Elisha and his servant, Gehazi, made regular trips to the northern region of Israel that took them to the city of Shunem. In this city, Elisha made the acquaintance of a local woman who offered the prophet and his servant access to her home so they could rest. Realizing that Elisha was a prophet of Yahweh she showed him hospitality and even had her husband construct a room on the roof of their home where the two men could stay when they were in town.

Unlike the widow in the previous story, this woman was apparently wealthy and well-cared for. She had a husband and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. But she was also generous and willing to share what she had with others. The gracious hospitality she extended to the prophet of God reveals that, despite the apostasy all around her, she had maintained her dedication to Yahweh.

Desiring to thank the woman for her courtesy and care, Elisha sent his servant to ask what they could do for her. He wanted to repay her for her kindness. But it’s interesting to note that he offered to speak a good word on her behalf to the king or the commander of the army. Why would the prophet of Yahweh offer to act as an intermediary between this woman and these two apostate leaders of Israel? Perhaps it was a test, designed to see if the woman was a true follower of Yahweh. Would his offer of access to the king pique her interest and reveal a self-aggrandizing side to her personality? Or, instead, would she ask the prophet of God to appeal to Yahweh on her behalf?

But the woman simply responded, “I dwell among my own people” (2 Kings 4:13 ESV). This rather cryptic-sounding statement was her way of saying, “I’m just fine. I’m well-taken care of and in need of nothing.”

Yet, Elisha somehow senses that her answer was not quite honest. She was hiding something. And it was Gehazi who made the keen observation that she and her husband were childless. She had a husband and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, but she had no sons to carry on the family name. And Gehazi had recognized that her husband was advanced in years.

While the woman in the previous story had been without a husband, she had been blessed with two sons. But the Shunnamite woman had a husband but no children. For the moment, the woman had no perceived need, but the day was coming when her husband would die with no male heirs to whom he could leave his land and estate. In that culture, the inheritance could not be passed on to the wife. So, without a son, she would be left with nothing. She didn’t realize it, but her predicament was far more precarious than she imagined.

So, Elisha called the woman in and informed her, “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!” (2 Kings 4:16 NLT). Her reaction to this news reveals that she had long ago given up hope of ever having a son.

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.” – 2 Kings 4:16 NLT

When Elisha had asked the woman what he could do for her, she had hidden the desire of her heart. She gave the impression that she had no need and was perfectly fine. But she had lied. Her heart longed for a son but she had become convinced that her dream would never become a reality. So, she lived with a constant fear of the future. What would happen to her when her husband died? How would she survive?

But, once again, Elisha, operating on behalf of Yahweh, spoke a word of blessing over the woman, predicting that she would give birth to a son. And his words proved true. God did a miracle and gave the woman the desire of her heart. She conceived and gave birth to a son. But the story doesn’t stop there.

In the space of just a few verses, the author reveals that the storybook ending was about to take a dark turn. This precious gift from God was going to be suddenly and unexpectedly taken away. One day, while visiting his father in the fields, the young boy complained of a headache. He was rushed home and, later that same day, he passed away in the arms of his mother. Every detail of this story makes the reader want to ask, “Why?” None of this makes sense. Why would God give this woman a son and then allow him to be taken away? What good did it do for her to give birth to a son if he would never live long enough to become the heir? The woman was no better off than before. If anything, her sorrow was only intensified by the loss of her long-awaited son.

But the actions of the woman reveal something about her faith. Upon her son’s death, she took the body and laid it on the prophet’s bed. Then she ordered her husband to saddle a donkey so she could fetch the prophet. At this point, it seems that the boy’s father was unaware that his son had died. For whatever reason, the woman chose to keep him in the dark, assuring him, “All is well” (2 Kings 4:23 ESV). Her son was dead but she still had hope. She knew that the very same man who had predicted the birth of her son would know what to do. This time, rather than hide her need, she sought the one who could do something about it. And she found Elisha at Mount Carmel, the site of Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson