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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
2 Kings 1



Verse 15


‘And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, Go down with him.’

2 Kings 1:15

I. Ahab was succeeded by his son Ahaziah, and Ahaziah is one of those shadowy monarchs who make little impression upon history. In Jewish history the name of Ahaziah has little charm or brightness for the student. There are bad kings who impress us terribly; they are so full of daring and resource. And there are good kings, whose goodness is fragrant after many centuries. But Ahaziah is a shadowy and an impotent figure. His reign hardly lasted for two years. For much of that time he was a helpless cripple. He sent out a fleet, and shipwreck overtook it. His army was beaten back at every point by Moab. We might have said he was unlucky and unfortunate, if we did not remember that there was a doom upon his house. Then think what a mother Ahaziah had. Think what the home of his childhood must have been under the influence and spirit of Jezebel.

II. When Ahaziah was king, he was walking one day in an upper chamber of his palace, when he chanced to stop and lean against a window that looked inward on the palace-court. The windows in the East were not like ours. There was no glass in them, only a shady lattice-work, somewhat like our venetian blinds. It must have been pleasant to halt in the cool shadow while whatever breeze there was came stealing in. Here then Ahaziah halted, as he had done a hundred times before; but to-day the fastenings were insecure—the window opened outward on the court—and the king, grasping wildly at the walls, fell backward and heavily to the ground. Can you conceive the tumult in the palace? The cries and the hurrying of feet, and then the quiet? Can you imagine how the rumour would spread, till every street in the capital rang with it? Meanwhile Ahaziah was lying between life and death; the wonder was he had not been killed outright. Now our times of sickness often show what we are. We sometimes reveal our hearts when we are ill. So Ahaziah, helpless and weak and weary, gave up the secret of his poor, worthless heart. That secret was disbelief of God. He might have cast his burden on the God of Jacob, but he chose to send and consult the god of flies. It might seem so stupid as to indicate madness, if men were not making such choices every day. Did you never ask counsel of some foolish creature before you ever thought of praying about it? Have you not taken the advice of silly books, and quite neglected the teaching of the Bible? It is in such ways that we consult Baal-zebub, when the best of friends is waiting to be inquired of. So Ahaziah sent to Ekron, a city where once the ark of God had rested. And with not a little pomp and solemn show the embassy rode out of Samaria.

III. But they were destined never to get to Ekron.—For once ‘there was a lion in the way.’ They were met by a strange figure, whom there was no mistaking. It was Elijah, like a voice from the dead. Where had he been, and what doing, these past four years? It was in Naboth’s vineyard, four summers ago, that these courtiers of Israel had last seen the prophet. God forbid that he was here on a like errand! But a like errand it was, as they soon found. Ahaziah, for his idolatry, was to die. He would have been healed had he looked to the great Healer; but the wages of his sin was to be death. Do you think that Ahaziah believed the message? ‘All men think all men mortal but themselves.’ He despatched a captain with fifty soldiers to arrest the prophet. At Elijah’s bidding fire from heaven consumed them. Another band met with the same fate. A third was sent and would have shared it too, but the captain, in terror, pleaded with the prophet to spare them. And Elijah was now moved of God to go with them. He went to Samaria, entered the sick-chamber—did his heart smite him, I wonder, as he stood by the sick-bed, and gazed on this weak and worthless child of Jezebel? But the word of the Lord was as a fire in his bones. He was a voice; the will was the will of God. ‘So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken.’

IV. Let us remember a New Testament scene when this incident appears again.—Our Lord is on His way up to Jerusalem. He sends on disciples to the next Samaritan village. But the Samaritans refused to give a welcome to the Saviour. St. James and St. John were indignant at this churlishness. They recalled Elijah and these bands of Ahaziah. Would they command fire from heaven to punish the inhospitable villagers? Then Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.’ The spirit of Elijah was one thing. It was needed in those rough and restless days. There was a call for swift and signal judgment if the nation was not to become apostate. But Jesus says these times have passed away. A new and a nobler spirit is shed abroad. God had spoken in the tempest by Elijah; now He was speaking in the still small voice. When we think of Elijah, we think of scorching fire. But a wise saint says this of Jesus Christ, ‘He wrought miracles in every element save fire.’


‘It is impossible to understand this incident in the life of Elijah without bearing in mind two facts. The first is the infinite importance to Elijah of the struggle between Jehovah and the Baals, a struggle for life and death, beside which nothing else was of value. The second fact is the comparatively low value that was placed on human life in those days. The lives of a hundred men were of little consequence compared with the subduing of a man who was working the ruin of the people; just as to-day, in many minds, the lives of thousands of soldiers are of little consequence compared with the subduing of a rebellious chief. Until we have purged our souls of the spirit of war, we cannot condemn the methods of warfare in Elijah’s time.’


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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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