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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 1

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


Ahaziah's Illness. His Death Announced by Elijah - 2 Kings 1

After the Moabites had rebelled against Israel, Ahaziah became sick in consequence of a fall through a grating in his upper room, and sent messengers to Ekron to consult the idol Baalzebub concerning the result of his illness. By the command of God, however, Elijah met the messengers on the road, and told them that the king would die (2 Kings 1:1-8). When Ahaziah sent soldiers to fetch Elijah, the messengers were miraculously slain on two successive occasions, and it was only his humiliation before the prophet which saved the third captain and his host from sharing a similar fate; whereupon Elijah went with him to the king, and repeated the threat already announced on account of his idolatry, which was very soon fulfilled (2 Kings 1:9-18).

Verses 1-8

After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel (2 Kings 1:1). The Moabites, who had been subjugated by David (2 Samuel 8:2), had remained tributary to the kingdom of the ten tribes after the division of the kingdom. but when Israel was defeated by the Syrians at Ramoth in the time of Ahab, they took advantage of this defeat and the weakening of the Israelitish power in the country to the east of the Jordan to shake off the yoke of the Israelites, and very soon afterwards attempted an invasion of the kingdom of Judah, in alliance with the Edomite and other tribes of the desert, which terminated, however, in a great defeat, though it contributed to the maintenance of their independence. For further remarks, see at 2 Kings 3:4.

2 Kings 1:2

Ahaziah could not do anything to subjugate the Moabites any further, since he was very soon afterwards taken grievously ill. He fell through the grating in his upper room at Samaria. השּׂבכה , the grating, is either a window furnished with a shutter of lattice-work, or a door of lattice-work in the upper room of the palace, but hardly a grating in the floor of the Aliyah for the purpose of letting light into the lower rooms, as the Rabbins supposed. On account of this misfortune, Ahaziah resorted to the Ekronitish Baalzebub to obtain an oracle concerning the result of his illness. בּעל־זבוּב , i.e., Fly-Baal, was not merely the “averter of swarms of insects,” like the Ζεὺς ἀπομυῖος, μυίαγρος of Elis (Ges., Winer, Movers, Phöniz. i. p. 175), since “the Fly-God cannot have received his name as the enemy of flies, like lucus a non lucendo ,” but was Μυῖα θεός (lxx, Joseph.), i.e., God represented as a fly, as a fly-idol, to which the name Myiodes, gnat-like, in Plin. h. n. xxix. 6, clearly points, and as a god of the sun and of summer must have stood in a similar relation to the flies to that of the oracle-god Apollo, who both sent diseases and took them away (vid., J. G. Müller, Art. Beelzebub in Herzog's Cycl. i. p. 768, and Stark, Gaza, pp. 260,261). The latter observes that “these (the flies), which are governed in their coming and going by all the conditions of the weather, are apparently endowed with prophetic power themselves.” This explains the fact that a special power of prophecy was attributed to this god.

(Note: The later Jews altered the name Beelzebub into Βεελζεβούλ , i.e., probably lord of the (heavenly) dwelling, as a name given to the ἄρχων τῶν δαιμονίων (Matthew 10:25, etc.); and the later Rabbins finally, by changing זבוּל בּעל into זבל בּעל , made a fly-god into a dung-god, to express in the most intense form their abomination of idolatry (see Lightfoot, Horae hebr. et talm. in Matthew 12:24, and my Bibl. Archäol. i. pp. 440,441).)

Ekron, now Akir, the most northerly of the five Philistine capitals (see at Joshua 13:3).

2 Kings 1:3-4

But the angel of the Lord, the mediator of the revelations made by the invisible God to the covenant nation (see Comm. on the Pentateuch, vol. i. pp. 185-191, transl.), had spoken to Elijah to go and meet the king's messengers, who were going to inquire of Baalzebub, and to ask them whether it was from the want of a God in Israel ( אין מבּלי as in Exodus 14:11; see Ewald, §323, a.) that they turned to Baalzebub, and to announce to them the word of Jehovah, that Ahaziah would not rise up from his bed again, but would die. “And Elijah went,” sc. to carry out the divine commission.

2 Kings 1:5-8

The messengers did not recognise Elijah, but yet they turned back and reported the occurrence to the king, who knew at once, from the description they gave of the habitus of the man in reply to his question, that it was Elijah the Tishbite. האישׁ משׁפּט מה : “what was the manner of the man?” משׁפּט is used here to denote the peculiarity of a person, that which in a certain sense constitutes the vital law and right of the individual personality; figura et habitus (Vulg.). The servants described the prophet according to his outward appearance, which in a man of character is a reflection of his inner man, as שׂער בּעל אישׁ , vir pilosus, hirsutus . This does not mean a man with a luxuriant growth of hair, but refers to the hairy dress, i.e., the garment made of sheep-skin or goat-skin or coarse camel-hair, which was wrapped round his body; the אדּרת (2 Kings 2:8; 1 Kings 19:13), or שׂער אדּרת (Zechariah 13:4, cf. Matthew 3:4; Hebrews 11:37), which was worn by the prophets, not as mere ascetics, but as preachers of repentance, the rough garment denoting the severity of the divine judgments upon the effeminate nation, which revelled in luxuriance and worldly lust. And this was also in keeping with “the leather girdle,” עור אזור , ζώνη δερματίνη (Matthew 3:4), whereas the ordinary girdle was of cotton or linen, and often very costly.

Verses 9-10

After having executed the divine command, Elijah returned to the summit of the mountain, on which he dwelt. Most of the commentators suppose it to have been one of the peaks of Carmel, from 2 Kings 2:25 and 1 Kings 18:42, which is no doubt very probable, though it cannot be raised into certainty. Elijah's place of abode was known to the king; he therefore sent a captain with fifty men to fetch the prophet. To the demand of the captain, “Man of God, the king has said, Come down,” Elijah replied, “And if I am a man of God, let fire fall from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty.” (The expression ואם , and if, shows that Elijah's words followed immediately upon those of the captain.) This judicial miracle was immediately fulfilled.

Verses 11-12

The same fate befell a second captain, whom the king sent after the death of the first. He was more insolent than the first, “both because he was not brought to his senses by hearing of his punishment, and because he increased his impudence by adding make haste ( מהרה ).” - C. a Lap. For וידבּר ויּען the lxx ( Cod. Alex.) have καὶ ἀνέβη καὶ ἐλάλησε , so that they read ויּעל . The correctness of this reading, according to which ויּען would be an error of the pen, is favoured not only by ויּעל in 2 Kings 1:9 and 2 Kings 1:13, but also by וידבּר which follows; for, as a general rule, ויּען would be followed by ויּאמר . The repetition of this judicial miracle was meant to show in the most striking manner not only the authority which rightfully belonged to the prophet, but also the help and protection which the Lord gave to His servants. At the same time, the question as to the “morality of the miracle,” about which some have had grave doubts, is not set at rest by the remark of Thenius, that “the soldiers who were sent come into consideration here purely as instruments of a will acting in opposition to Jehovah.” The third captain also carried out he ungodly command of the king, and he was not slain (2 Kings 1:13.). The first two must therefore have been guilty of some crime, which they and their people had to expiate with their death. This crime did not consist merely in their addressing him as “man of God,” for the third addressed Elijah in the same way (2 Kings 1:13), but in their saying “Man of God, come down.” This summons to the prophet, to allow himself to be led as a prisoner before the king, involved a contempt not only of the prophetic office in the person of Elijah, but also of the Lord, who had accredited him by miracles as His servant. The two captains who were first sent not only did what they were bound to do as servants of the king, but participated in the ungodly disposition of their lord ( συμβαίνοντες τῷ σκοπῷ τοῦ πεπομφότος - Theodoret); they attacked the Lord with reckless daring in the person of the prophet, and the second captain, with his “Come down quickly,” did it even more strongly than the first. This sin was punished, and that not by the prophet, but by the Lord Himself, who fulfilled the word of His servant.

(Note: Οἱ τοῦ προφήτου κατηγοροῦντες κατὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ προφήτου κινοῦσι τὰς γλώττας , as Theodoret very aptly observes.)

What Elijah here did was an act of holy zeal for the honour of the Lord, in the spirit of the old covenant, under which God destroyed the insolent despisers of His name with fire and sword, to manifest the energy of His holy majesty by the side of the dead idols of the heathen. But this act cannot be transferred to the times of the new covenant, as is clearly shown in Luke 9:54-55, where Christ does not blame Elijah for what he did, but admonishes His disciples, who overlooked the difference between the economy of the law and that of the gospel, and in their carnal zeal wanted to imitate what Elijah had done in divine zeal for the honour of the Lord, which had been injured in his own person.

Verses 13-14

The king, disregarding the punishing hand of the Lord, which, even if it might possibly have been overlooked in the calamity that befell the captain who was first sent and his company, could not be misunderstood when a similar fate befell the second captain with his fifty men, sent a third company, in his defiant obduracy, to fetch the prophet. ( שׁלשׁים after חמשּׁים is apparently an error of the pen for שׁלישׁי , as the following word השּׁלישׁי shows). But the third captain was better than his king, and wiser than his two predecessors. He obeyed the command of the king so far as to go to the prophet; but instead of haughtily summoning him to follow him, he bent his knee before the man of God, and prayed that his own life and the lives of his soldiers might be spared.

Verses 15-16

Then Elijah followed him to the king ( מפּניו , before him, i.e., before the king, not before the captain; and אתו for ?????? , see Ewald, §264, b.), having been directed to do so by the angel of the Lord, and repeated to him the word of the Lord, which he had also conveyed to him through his messengers (see 2 Kings 1:4 and 2 Kings 1:6).

Verses 17-18

When Ahaziah died, according to the word of the Lord through Elijah, as he had no son, he was followed upon the throne by his brother Joram, “in the second year of Joram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.” This statement is at variance both with that in 2 Kings 3:1, to the effect that Joram began to reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat, and with that in 1 Kings 22:52, viz., that Ahaziah ascended the throne in the seventeenth year of the reign of Jehoshaphat, which lasted twenty-five years, and also with the statement in 2 Kings 8:16, that Joram of Judah became king over Judah in the fifth year of Joram of Israel. If, for example, Ahaziah of Israel died after a reign of not quite two years, at the most a year and a half, in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat; as Jehoshaphat himself reigned twenty-five years, he cannot have died till the seventh year of Joram of Israel, and his son Joram followed him upon the throne. The last of these discrepancies may be solved very simply, from the fact that, according to 2 Kings 8:16, Jehoshaphat was still king when his son Joram began to reign so that Jehoshaphat abdicated in favour of his son about two years before his death. And the first discrepancy (that between 2 Kings 1:17 and 1 Kings 3:1) is removed by Usher ( Annales M. ad a.m. 3106 and 3112), Lightfoot, and others, after the example of the Seder Olam, by the assumption of the co-regency. According to this, when Jehoshaphat went with Ahab to Ramoth in Gilead to war against the Syrians, in the eighteenth year of his reign, which runs parallel to the twenty-second year of the reign of Ahab, he appointed his son Joram to the co-regency, and transferred to him the administration of the kingdom. It is from this co-regency that the statement in 2 Kings 1:17 is dated, to the effect that Joram of Israel became king in the second year of Joram of Judah. This second year of the co-regency of Joram corresponds to the eighteenth year of the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 3:1). And in the fifth year of his co-regency Jehoshaphat gave up the reins of government entirely to him. It is from this point in time, i.e., from the twenty-third year of Jehoshaphat, that we are to reckon the eight years of the reign of Joram (of Judah), so that he only reigned six years more after his father's death.

(Note: Wolff indeed boldly declares that “ the co-regency of Joram is a pure fiction, and the biblical historians do not furnish the slightest warrant for any such supposition ” (see p. 628 of the treatise mentioned at p. 187); but he cannot think of any other way of reconciling the differences than by making several alterations in the text, and inventing a co-regency in the case of the Israelitish king Ahaziah. The synchronism of the reigns of the Israelitish kings necessarily requires the solution adopted in the text. For if Joram of Israel, who began to reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat and reigned twelve years (2 Kings 3:1), was slain at the same time as Ahaziah of Judah (2 Kings 9:24-27), and Ahaziah of Judah reigned about one year and his predecessor Joram about eight years, so that the two together certainly reigned fully eight years; Joram of Judah must have ascended the throne four years after Joram of Israel, i.e., in the twenty-third year of Jehoshaphat, which runs parallel to the fifty year of Joram of Israel. Consequently the twenty-five years of Jehoshaphat are to be reduced to twenty-three in reckoning the sum-total of the years embraced by the period of the kings. It is true that there is no analogy for this combination of the years of the reigns of two kings, since the other reductions of which different chronologists are fond are perfectly arbitrary, and the case before us stands quite alone; but this exception to the rule is indicated clearly enough in the statement in 2 Kings 8:16, that Joram began to reign while Jehoshaphat was (still) king. When, however, Thenius objects to this mode of reconciling the differences, which even Winer adopts in the third edition of his bibl. Real-Wörterbuch, i. p. 539, on the ground that the reign of Joram is dated most precisely in 1 Kings 22:51 and 2 Chronicles 21:1, 2 Chronicles 21:5, 2 Chronicles 21:20, from the death of Jehoshaphat, and that an actual co-regency, viz., that of Jotham, is expressly mentioned in 2 Kings 15:5, which does not render it at all necessary to carry the years of his reign into those of his father ' s, this appeal to the case of Jotham cannot prove anything, for the simple reason that the biblical text knows nothing of any co-regency of Jotham and Uzziah, but simply states that when Uzziah was smitten with leprosy, his son Jotham judged the people of the land, but that he did not become king till after his father ' s death (2 Kings 15:5, 2 Kings 15:7; 2 Chronicles 26:21, 2 Chronicles 26:23). It is indeed stated in 1 Kings 22:51 and 2 Chronicles 26:1, 2 Chronicles 26:5, 2 Chronicles 26:20, that Jehoshaphat died and his son Joram became king, which may be understood as meaning that he did not become king till after the death of Jehoshaphat; but there is no necessity to understand it so, and therefore it can be very easily reconciled with the more precise statement in 2 Kings 8:16, that Joram ascended the throne during the reign of Jehoshaphat, whereas the assertion of Thenius, that the circumstantial clause יהוּדה מלך ויהושׁפט in 2 Kings 8:16 is a gloss, is not critically established by the absence of these words from the lxx, Syr., and Arabic, and to expunge them from the text is nothing but an act of critical violence.)

We have no information as to the reason which induced Jehoshaphat to abdicate in favour of his son two years before his death; for there is very little probability in the conjecture of Lightfoot ( Opp. i. p. 85), that Jehoshaphat did this when he commenced the war with the Moabites in alliance with Joram of Israel, for the simple reason that the Moabites revolted after the death of Ahab, and Joram made preparations for attacking them immediately after their rebellion (2 Kings 3:5-7), so that he must have commenced this expedition before the fifth year of his reign.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/2-kings-1.html. 1854-1889.
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