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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Kings 1

Verse 2

2 Kings 1:2. Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber Through the lattice into his upper chamber, Houbigant; who thinks that as he was walking on the top of the house the wooden lattice gave way, and he fell through. See Calmet's Dissertation upon the buildings of the ancient Hebrews.

Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron Baal-zebub is generally interpreted the god of flies; but why he was so called, there is no substantial reason given. Mr. Roque, in his 10th Dissertation, has treated at large upon this subject, and to him we refer. Mr. Jurieu is of opinion, that the Baal-zebub of Scripture was the same with the Pluto of the ancients. As זב zab signifies to flow, Parkhurst says, that זבוב zebub, signifies the flower, the Baal, lord or power (generally supposed to be the sun) which, always flowing forth himself, is the first mover and causer of all fluidity. See his Lexicon. It is plain enough from all antiquity, but from the hymns of Orpheus especially, that the ancient idolaters deified and worshipped nature in all her constituent and operating parts. Ekron was a city and government of the Philistines, which fell by lot to the tribe of Judah, Jos 15:45 but was afterwards given to the tribe of Dan, though it does not appear that the Jews ever had a quiet and peaceable possession of it.

Verse 4

2 Kings 1:4. Thou shalt not come down from that bed, &c.— At one end of each chamber in the eastern buildings there is a little gallery raised three, four, or five feet above the floor, having a ballustrade in the front, with a few steps likewise leading up to it. There they placed their beds; a situation frequently alluded to in the Scriptures. See Shaw's Travels, p. 211, &c.

Verse 5

2 Kings 1:5. When the messengers turned back unto him, &c.— It may seem something strange, that Ahaziah's messengers should stop their journey to Ekron at Elijah's command. But he was a man of such a venerable presence, and spake to them with such authority in the name of the Lord, that they were over-awed thereby to obey him rather than the king.

Verse 8

2 Kings 1:8. He was an hairy man Elijah being a hairy man may either denote his wearing long hair on his head and his beard, according to the manner of the ancient Greek philosophers, or it may denote his habit, which was made of skins, rough, and with the hair on; as the ancient heroes were clothed with the skins of tygers, lions, and bears; as the evangelist represents the Baptist, in a raiment of camel's hair; or as the apostle describes the prophets, wandering about in sheep-skins and goat-skins.

Note; 1. It is a vain curiosity to enquire when we shall die; but it is our best wisdom to be always ready. 2. If once we offer worship to any object below the glorious, self-existent Jehovah, a fly is as worthy a god as any other subordinate created being. The difference is inconsiderable between an Arian and an Ekronite. 3. They who will not sue to God for mercy, may expect to hear from him in judgment. 4. Neglect of God, or setting the affections on any thing upon earth more than on him, is practical atheism.

Verses 10-12

2 Kings 1:10-12. If I be a man of God, then let fire come down, &c.— We have before observed, that many of these prophetical denunciations might be rendered with equal propriety in the future; by which means they would no longer retain the appearance of revengeful imprecations, but be seen in their true light of prophetical denunciations. Many have been the objections made to this part of the sacred history. To set it in its true light, we must consider that the wickedness of Ahaziah and his people was extremely great. He was not moved by the untimely death of his father; but followed his pernicious example, still seducing the people, and provoking the God of Israel by his abominable idolatries. The author of the book of Chronicles informs us, that his impiety was so provoking, that God had abandoned him, and would not prosper the naval expedition of Jehoshaphat, because he joined the fleet of this vicious prince. And the wickedness of Ahab, so great in itself, was highly aggravated by his making the people to sin. By his evil example and authority, he corrupted their worship, and justly drew upon himself the guilt of their transgressions. Ahaziah and his people could not but know what judgments this prophet had denounced against his family on account of their idolatries. How great then must their guilt be, in persisting in them, notwithstanding these warnings? The king himself was certainly an incorrigible sinner; for, when he was dangerously ill from his fall through the lattice, he did not repent, but sent to inquire of Baal-zebub, the idol of the Ekronites. This fresh instance of his impiety so offended the true God, that he decreed he should not recover, and sent Elijah to foretel his death to the messengers. But even this message, instead of touching him with remorse, excited in him the wicked resolution of murdering the prophet. No one can doubt that he designed to take away his life, who reflects on the implacable hatred which his family bore this holy man for reproving their wickedness, the resolution his mother Jezebel had formed of cutting him off, and the obstinacy with which the king himself persisted in his sins. The manner of sending for him confirms this to have been his design. Why did he not send the same messengers as he did to Ekron? How came he to send a company of soldiers, if he had not the same design against him as the king of Syria had against Elisha? chap. 2 Kings 6:13. The captains commanded him to come down, but in a haughty manner, because they thought he must surrender himself; and had he refused to go with them, would undoubtedly have compelled him by force: and Josephus positively asserts, that the captain threatened as much. If the king himself was so obdurately wicked, though his life was endangered by the fall, we may justly presume that they who were employed on this occasion were not much better; for they must have been either idolaters, or the worshippers of the true God. If they were idolaters, their sin must have received no shall aggravation from their engaging in this attempt; and they could not but know that Elijah did not deserve death for predicting as a prophet the consequences of their master's indisposition. If they worshipped the true God, it was a great crime in them to go against the prophet of that God in whom they believed, and attempt his life, contrary to the dictates of their own conscience. Yet were they either, they could not be excusable; and, supposing them to have been idolaters, we may conclude that they executed this commission with pleasure. And if they who went first upon this design were culpable, what daring sinners must they be who made the second attempt, though such signal vengeance had overtaken those who preceded them! That it was the will of God to destroy these men, may be inferred from the presence of the angel who guarded this prophet. This is still farther evident from the nature of the punishment inflicted upon them. Though Elijah had been ever so much enraged, he could not bring down the devouring flames against them. Nor, had he prayed for this interposition, would his prayers have been heard, if he had desired what was unbefitting the conduct of infinite wisdom. The prophet appealed to this event for the truth of his mission, 2Ki 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12. If I be a man of God, &c. which seems to imply that they had styled him a man of God by way of derision; but to convince them of the reality of this claim, he assured them that God himself would vindicate his character by sending down fire from heaven. What he foretold happened, to the cost of those who called down this punishment upon themselves by persisting in their infidelity. Should it be asked, Why these men were singled out to suffer divine punishment, when the whole nation was plunged in the same idolatrous practices and immoralities? it is easy to reply, that these men suffered in the case before us because there was not the same reason why others should suffer, nor could the death of any others so well answer the ends of infinite wisdom. If this catastrophe was intended for the punishment of evildoers, who so fit to be made examples as those who were actually engaged in the wicked enterprize? It was done for the security of a righteous man, whose life was in almost inextricable danger. It would have been impossible for him to escape when beset by a whole company of soldiers; and if he surrendered, he lay at Ahaziah's mercy, who was his inveterate and implacable enemy. In this distress, God mercifully rescued him by destroying these wicked agents, and thus reserved him for future usefulness. This end was accomplished; for the third captain came with another view, and spake in a different manner, as appears from 2Ki 1:13 which plainly implies their danger in going before, and that the king himself was so impressed and so softened by the destruction of the first and second company, that there was no ground for the prophet to fear. This punishment was intended to confirm Elijah's mission, and vindicate the honour of the only God. The fire coming from heaven upon Elijah's denouncing it, manifestly proved that Elijah was inspired by the Creator of all the earth; and as it recalled to their minds the contest that he lately had with the priests of Baal, wherein the descent of fire had been used as a test of the supreme power of the God of gods, this occurrence could not but operate upon their minds with double weight, and convince them of the wickedness of their enterprize; and since they were convinced by the former manifestation of the divine power, the destruction of these men by a second and a third descent of fire from heaven, was sufficient to arouse them out of this lethargy. As these men were the king's servants, their punishment might more sensibly convince him of his wickedness in seducing the people, and the people of their sin in following his example. Had as great a number of idolaters been destroyed in another place, it could not have had so good an effect; but their being struck dead in their attempt upon the prophet's life, was proper to convince both the king and his subjects that he was really commissioned by God, and that the punishments he had denounced against their idolatries would certainly be inflicted. These few, therefore, were not only taken away to preserve the prophet, but also to reclaim the people, and to prevent the ruin of the whole nation. When the general depravity of the kingdom is duly weighed, the number of those who perished will appear very small. If it should be asked, why this severity was twice inflicted, the reply is easy; because the prince was so wicked, and his servants so daring, as to make a second attempt. Hardened as they were, when the same punishment was inflicted a second time, they began to relent, as appears from the address of the third captain, 2Ki 1:13 who speaks not in the imperious language of the two first, but in the style of a suppliant, who was convinced that Elijah was really a prophet of the true God. If we consider this judgment as an act of God, there is nothing in it unworthy of his perfections. That it was an instance of his power will not be contested, because it was what no man nor any superior being could inflict without his permission. His holiness and justice are conspicuously seen, because this catastrophe was intended as a punishment against enormous crimes, and the persons who suffered were engaged in a wicked attempt upon the life of his prophet. It could not be inconsistent with his goodness and clemency, because the death of these few was designed for the reformation of all the nation. His wisdom appears herein, inasmuch as by these means the prophet's life was preserved; and it was well adapted to the state of the kingdom, which called for some striking and alarming dispensation.

Verse 15

2 Kings 1:15. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king This is a great instance of Elijah's faith and obedience to God, in whom he trusted, that he would deliver him from the wrath of the king, and the malice of Jezebel. He had ordered, not long before, all the prophets of Baal to be slain; had sent a very unwelcome message to the king, and made a very terrible execution upon two of his captains and their companies: so that he had all the reason in the world to apprehend the utmost expressions of the king's displeasure; and yet, when God commands him, he makes no manner of hesitation, but goes boldly to Ahaziah, and confirms with his own mouth the unpleasant truth which he had declared to his messengers.

Verse 17

2 Kings 1:17. And Jehoram reigned in his stead, in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat His brother Jehoram reigned in his stead, because he had no son. To avoid confusion, the reader should take notice, that in the course of this history there is mention made of two Jehorams; one, the second son of Ahab, who succeeded Ahaziah, and wasking of Israel; the other, son and heir to Jehoshaphat, who reigned in Judah. By comparing chap. 2Ki 3:1 and chap. 2 Kings 8:16 a great difference in the reading of the dates will appear. We should just remark, however, that it is commonly supposed, that Jehoshaphat declared his son Jehoram king while himself was alive, and reigned in conjunction with him for the space of seven years; a supposition which, if allowed, will in some degree clear up the difficulty. See Archbishop Usher's Annals, sub A.M. 3106.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.