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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
2 Kings 1

 

 

Verses 1-18

THE

SECOND BOOK OF THE KINGS

Commonly Called

THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE KINGS

2 Kings 1:1-18.

1Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab. And Ahaziah 2 fell down through a [window-] lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease 3 But the angel of the Lord[FN1] said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, Go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not [omit not] because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? 4Now therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed 5 And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back? 6And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Is it not [omit not] because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die 7 And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words? 8And they answered him, He was a hairy Prayer of Manasseh, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.

9Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of a hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down 10 And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a, man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty 11 Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered [lifted up his voice][FN2] and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly 12 And Elijah answered and said unto them, [him],[FN3] If [And if] I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty 13 And he sent again a [third][FN4] captain of the third [omit the third] fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight 14 Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore [but][FN5] let my life now be precious in thy sight 15 And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king 16 And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, is it not [omit not] because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die 17 So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead, in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no Song of Solomon 18Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel?

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1 Kings 22:41. And Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, &c 2 Chronicles17-21gives a more detailed account of the reign of this king, which our author here treats with remarkable brevity. On 1 Kings 22:43, cf. 2 Kings 15:9 sq. The statement in the last part of 1 Kings 22:43 is not contradictory to 2 Chronicles 17:6, for the latter place refers to the idolatrous worship of Baal and Astarte, on the high places and in the groves, while here the author is speaking of the worship of Jehovah upon the high places, as in 2 Chronicles 20:33. (Cf. notes on 2 Kings 2:3). Jehoshaphat had peace ( 1 Kings 22:44) as a result of his matrimonial alliance with Ahab ( 2 Chronicles 18:1), not only with that king himself, but also with his successors, Ahaziah and Jehoram. On 1 Kings 22:45, cf. 2 Kings 15:23, and on 1 Kings 22:46, cf. 2 Kings 14:24, and 2 Kings 15:12.

1 Kings 22:47. There was then no king in Edom. This observation simply serves to introduce what the author desired to add, in 1 Kings 22:48-49, as especially important, from the history of the reign of Jehoshaphat. As Edom at that time had no king of its own, but merely a governor, Jehoshaphat could build a merchant-fleet in the Edomitic port, Ezion-geber, as Solomon had done before ( 2 Kings 9:26). The Edomites had been subjugated by David ( 2 Samuel 8:14), but attempted, in the latter part of the reign of Song of Solomon, to regain their independence under the leadership of Hadad (chap 2 Kings 11:14 sq.); we have no information whether at all, or to what extent, this attempt succeeded. Keil and Ewald are of the opinion that the Edomites joined themselves to the Ammonites and Moabites in their war with Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 20:1 sq.), but were conquered by him, and then placed under a governor. There is not, however, the slightest mention of the Edomites in 2 Chronicles20. There is just as little foundation for the supposition of Thenius, that Hadad’s family had died out before the time of Jehoshaphat, and that the’ latter profited cunningly by the quarrels which arose about the succession to Revelation -establish the sovereignty of Judah over Edom. Only this much is certain, that circumstances had arisen in Edom under Jehoshaphat which brought about the appointment of a governor, and rendered possible the Revelation -establishment of the trade with Ophir, which had existed in the most nourishing period of the kingdom.—On Ophir and the Ships of Tarshish, see notes on 2 Kings 10:22. The latter wore wrecked, as it seems, before leaving the harbor of Ezion-geber, by a storm. According to 2 Chronicles 20:35 sq., Jehoshaphat caused these ships to be built in company with Ahaziah, and the prophet Eliezer interpreted their destruction to him as a divine punishment for his connection with the apostate Ahaziah ( 1 Kings 22:52) after he had received a warning on account of his alliance with Ahab ( 2 Chronicles 19:2). Probably he hoped and believed that Ahaziah had better purposes than Ahab, and therefore he did not at first reject his propositions. When, however, Ahaziah made a second proposal to him ( 1 Kings 22:49) he declined to enter into it. In this opinion Keil also now agrees, although he formerly assumed that the ships were twice destroyed—first, those which, according to the passage before us, were destined for the voyage to Ophir, and then those which, according to 2 Chronicles 20:36, were intended for that to Tarshish (in Spain). The death of Jehoshaphat is somewhat anticipated in 1 Kings 22:50, for 2 Chronicles 3:7 sq. relates how he made an expedition against the Moabites with Jehoram, the successor of Ahaziah.

1 Kings 22:51. Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, &c. For the chronological statement: “The seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat,” which does not coincide with the duration of Ahab’s reign ( 1 Kings 16:29), and the commencement of Jehoshaphat’s reign ( 1 Kings 22:41); see below, on 2 Kings 8:16—On 1 Kings 22:52, cf. 1 Kings 16:29-33.—On the groundlessness of the division, which commences the “Second book of the Kings” after 1 Kings 22:53, see § 1of the Introduction. Particularly the first verse of the second book stands in close connection with the three last verses of the first book, as is evident from the words After the death of Ahab. The death of this king and the accession of Ahaziah were the immediate causes of the attempt of the Moabites, who had been tributary ever since the time of David ( 2 Samuel 8:2), to separate themselves from Israel. We must therefore put this attempt before the rest which is related in regard to Ahaziah, especially before the construction of the merchant-fleet, which he attempted in company with Jehoshaphat. War with the revolted Moabites did not break out under Ahaziah, who did not reign for even two full years, but immediately after the accession of his successor, Jehoram (chap3). Keil thinks it clear that the revolt of the Moabites followed upon their alliance with the Ammonites, which is narrated in 2 Chronicles20. This alliance, however, was directed against Jehoshaphat and Judah, and in the entire account there is no trace whatever that Israel took part in the expedition of Jehoshaphat, whereas 2 Kings 3:4 sq. treats of a war between Israel and the Moabites. Piscator correctly states the connection between 2 Kings 1:1-2 thus: Ægrotavit, ac perinde nihil contra Moabitas tentare potuit.

2 Kings 1:2. And Ahaziah fell down through a (window-) lattice, &c. According to Ewald, with whom Thenius agrees, the passage ( 2 Kings 1:2-16) does not come from the same author as the other passages which treat of Elijah, viz, 1 Kings 17:18-19, and 2 Kings 2:1-18, but is of later origin than these, as “is clear from the difference of the language in regard to the descent of fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18:38, and 2 Kings 1:10-14, not to speak of the difference in the nature of the contents of the two passages.” When the narrative is correctly accepted, however, this latter difference disappears. Still less can we conclude, from the fact that נָפַל is used of the descent of fire in the first passage and יָרַד in the second, that they have different authors.—שְׂבָכָה is lattice-work, also snare ( Job 18:8). It can hardly be that we have here to think of the balustrade of the flat roof, but rather of the window-opening, which was provided with a lattice. For this interpretation בְּעַד through is also an argument. We may suppose that he leaned too far out through the low window, although he does not seem to have fallen very far, as it did not cost him his life; possibly only on to one of the galleries of the palace. That this took place on the occasion of a drinking-bout (Krummacher) is a groundless supposition. The Sept. render Baal-zebub [mentioned only in this passage in the Old Testament] by βάαλ μυΐαν θεὸν ’Ακκαρών, and Pliny says (Hist. Nat. 10, 28): Cyrenaici Achorem Deum (invocant) muscarum multitudine pestilentiam afferente quœ protinus interecunt postquam litatum est illi Deo. He is therefore the Baal who protects against the flies, which cause sickness and other calamities; “Defender against vermin,” like the Ζεὺς ἀπόμυιος, μυίαγρος of the Eleans (Pausan. viii26, 4). Against this commonly received explanation (Gesenius, Movers, Ewald, Winer, Real-Wörterbuch, i. s. 120), J. G. Müller (Herzog, Encyc. i. s. 768), with whom Keil agrees, maintains that the “Fly-god” cannot have his name as enemy of flies, but that he was Μυῖα θεός, i.e., the fly as god, and therefore an idol in the form of a fly, “who must have stood in a similar relation to flies, being a sun-god and summer-god, as the oracle-god, Apollo, who sent and warded off sickness.” Stark (Gaza, s. 260) remarks further: “They (the flies) seem, in their appearance and disappearance, which depend entirely upon the weather, to be themselves endowed with some prophetic power.” This view, however, cannot be made to agree with the words of Pliny, and Ahaziah was certainly anxious not only for an oracle, but also at the same time and especially for recovery from his illness through the help of the Fly-god.—Ekron, probably the present Akir, was the northernmost of the five principal cities of the Philistines ( Joshua 13:3), and so lay nearest to the royal residence, Samaria. [Cf. Robinson’s Biblical Researches, iii22–25.] Following Ephrem, Vatablus remarks that Ahaziah sent to the Idol at Ekron by the advice of Jezebel.

2 Kings 1:3. But the Angel of the Lord, &c. “Not an angel but the angel of the Lord who makes known all the revelations of the invisible God to the covenant people. Cf. Hengstenberg, Christologie, I:1, s. 219–232.” (Keil.) We have not to think of any external appearances. [מַלְאַךְ יה is the varying form under which God reveals himself on the earth, on different occasions. Indeed, in the older books there is often an ambiguity as to which is meant, God himself or some apparition, or the representations vary indifferently. Cf. Genesis 16:7; Genesis 16:10-11 (yet 2 Kings 1:14, “God of my sight,” i.e., “whom I have seen”); 2 Kings 21:9 sq.; cf. Genesis 17:15 sq., and Genesis 18:9-16. In Genesis 22. notice Genesis 1:12, at the end, “from me.” See also Genesis 31:11 sq., and espec. Genesis 1:13; also the story Genesis 32:24-32, espec. Genesis 32:30. Cf., further, Exodus 3:2; Exodus 3:16; Exodus 3:18; Exodus 4:6 sq.; Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19; Joshua 6:2; Judges 6:12 sq, espec. Judges 1:14; Judges 1:16; Judges 1:23; Judges 13:22-23. The latter passages seem to recognize the distinction more clearly. Judges 13:16, the angel distinguishes between himself and God. It follows that “whenever God appears, he does so in an angel, and whenever an angel appears, it is God who appears in him; so that appearances of the angel and appearances of God are the same.” Afterwards this method of revelation gave way to that of the prophets, with their “Thus saith the Lord!” In the poetical books we find a personification of Wisdom of Solomon, out of, and alongside of God, (cf. Job 28.), and all culminates in the logos-doctrine of St. John.—W. G. S.]—Where Elijah was then living we do not know. Thenius thinks “assuredly upon Mount Carmel;” but that is contradicted by the words, “Go up to meet the messengers!” for Ekron lay to the south and Carmel to the north of Samaria, in entirely opposite directions. We should have to suppose then that Elijah started much sooner, and came to meet the messengers immediately upon their coming out of Samaria.—And Elijah departed ( 2 Kings 1:4), i.e., he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded.

2 Kings 1:5. And when the messengers turned back unto him, &c. They must have received a powerful impression from the personal presence of Elijah, whom they did not know, since they felt themselves compelled at once to turn back and bring information to their master. The latter asks them in astonishment: Why are ye now turned back? as it was impossible that they could have been in Ekron. On the words that ye go ( 2 Kings 1:3), for which they say in 2 Kings 1:6 that thou sendest, Menken remarks, “They lay the blame entirely upon the king. The prophet, however, had spoken in such a way that they might observe that they also had incurred guilt, and had made themselves accomplices in another’s crime.”—מִשְפַּט ( 2 Kings 1:7) is not exactly figura et habitus (Vulgata), but the law or rule, as that which defines the entire personality, “the life-rule of the individual person” (Keil), his peculiarity, by virtue of which he is distinguished, and by which he may be recognized. That אִישׁ בַּעַל שֵׂעָר does not mean “long hair covered his head” (Ewald), is clear from the description of the later Elijah ( Matthew 3:4). The vir pilosus, hirsutus is the man who is clothed in a hairy (black) garment. Such was the peculiar dress of the prophets as preachers of repentance, and it was called (cf. Zechariah 13:4) אַדֶּרֶת שֵעָר. It appears that this costume commenced with Elijah, who was the type of all following teachers of repentance, and that he was distinguished among the prophets of his time by means of it. (The400 prophets of Ahab, 1 Kings 22:6, certainly did not wear this dress.) The girdle, generally the most expensive article of dress and the emblem of office, was made of leather only in the case of the poor and low (Winer, R. W. B. i. s. 448). In the case of the prophet the leather girdle signified self-denial and contempt for worldly ornament and grandeur, so that it corresponded perfectly to the coarse garment of hair (cf. the contrast, Matthew 11:8), Hebrews 11:37.

2 Kings 1:9. Then the king sent, &c. Elijah had immediately withdrawn again, whether unto Carmel remains uncertain; but certainly Ahaziah must have discovered his place of abode. The hostile intention of the king shows itself in the sending of soldiers; certainly some act of violence was proposed. Perhaps he feared lest the disciples of the prophets, or other adherents of Elijah, might offer resistance. Ewald thinks he was going “to have him brought down and then (as, of course, is clear) executed.” The army of Israel was divided up into bodies of1,000, 100, and50 ( Numbers 31:14; Numbers 31:48; 1 Samuel 8:12), each of which had its own leader, שַר (Winer, i. s. 683). The address of the leader has a military sound: Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down! That the designation, “Man of God,” was, in his mouth, not conviction, but scorn, is shown by the haughty and dictatorial “Come down!” (רֵדָה). The “and” with which the answer of Elijah begins ( 2 Kings 1:10) must not be omitted, as it is in the Vulg. and Luther, “since Elijah is thought of in this first answer (otherwise in 2 Kings 1:12) as joining his speech immediately to that of the captain” (Thenius). The sense of the answer is: Thou callest me contemptuously and scoffingly “man of God;” but the Lord will show thee, that I am such—thou shalt experience it. [Patrick quotes a gloss of Abarbinel to this effect: “If I be a man of God, as thou gayest, but dost not think, then I am not bound to obey the king but God, nor am I subject to his power, but to God’s, who will make thee know that He judges in the earth.”]—[And there came down fire from heaven, &c. These words do not convey an intelligible description of any physical event of which we can conceive. If we try to realize the incident in imagination we find it impossible. It is not the ordinary difficulty which attaches to an ordinary miracle. There we cannot tell how a thing came to pass, though we can see what the record means to assert. We can imagine that a man who never had spoken should open his mouth and speak, though we cannot conceive how he could be enabled to do so. Here, however, the words do not describe any external phenomenon which is conceivable, not to say anything about the difficulty which attaches to every miracle of seeing how it was done. We cannot tell what the author means to assert to have come to pass, for the words by which he refers to it do not give us a sufficient description of it. It is evident, therefore, that they refer back vaguely to a terrible judgment, the accurate literal details of which were lost. It was only thus remembered as something strange, shocking, and supernatural. See Histor. § 5, where Bähr seems inclined to take the statement figuratively, as a designation of the vengeance of God.—W. G. S.] The second captain who was sent ( 2 Kings 1:11) surpasses the first, instead of taking warning by his fate, in that he adds to the “Come down!” מְהֵרָה, “quickly,” thereby insinuating a threat. How the king received information of the destruction of his two expeditions we cannot determine, as no hint is given of it. The Berleburger Bibel says that the people of the neighborhood acquainted him with it.—שְׁלִשִׁים 2 Kings 1:13 cannot mean “for the third time” (de Wette). If it cannot be referred to the fifty, as Keil explained it in his earlier edition, then we must read שְׁלִשׁי as Thenius does, i.e., “a third,” according to the story which immediately follows.—Afraid of him ( 2 Kings 1:15), i.e., not, as Thenius would have it taken, “of the captain,” but “of the king” (Seb. Smith, Keil), for it is clear that מִפָּנָיו is opposed to אוֹתוֹ. He goes down with him to the king. One would be glad to learn something more about the meeting of Elijah and Ahaziah, but the account is here ( 2 Kings 1:16-17), as in fact throughout, very brief and even disjointed. On that very account, however, it is the more pregnant, and bears the more distinctly the character of genuineness and originality. In later times events were not narrated in such compressed form. Here, just as in other cases, Elijah reappears suddenly, and disappears again, and no one knows whence he comes or whither he goes. The manner in which Krummacher delineates Elijah’s meeting with Ahaziah (Elias der Thisb, s. 347) is indeed captivating, but, nevertheless, entirely arbitrary.—In 2 Kings 1:17, the Sept, the Syriac version, and the Vulgata and after “Jehoram,” “his brother.” (Cf. 2 Kings 3:1, where he is called the son of Ahab.) On the date of his succession, In the second year of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, which it is extremely difficult to fix, see notes on 2 Kings 8:16.

HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL

1. The reign of Jehoshaphat was a very successful and prosperous one for Judah, both internally and externally, as is clear from the detailed account of the Chronicles. The author does not enter more particularly into the details of its history, evidently because from the time of the division of the kingdom on, his main object was rather to give a representation of the monarchy in Israel until its downfall. When, however, after a more general description of the reign of Jehoshaphat, he states that that king caused ships to be built which were intended to bring gold from Ophir ( 1 Kings 22:48-50), that is not a disconnected statement which was inserted accidentally or arbitrarily, but it stands in immediate connection with the preceding general characterization, and supplements it in an essential point. One cannot fail to recognize that there is therein a reference back to the time of Song of Solomon, who first established a regular commerce with Ophir, and by that, as a principal means, laid the foundation for the wealth and prosperity of his kingdom ( 2 Kings 9:26-28; 2 Kings 10:11; 2 Kings 10:22 sq.; 2 Chronicles 9:21 sq.). Jehoshaphat’s aim, after he had established legal order in his dominions as far as possible, reduced the neighboring peoples to subjection again, and concluded peace with the brother kingdom, was to restore those times of prosperity, and to bring his realm up to the height of that of Solomon once more. The glory of the kingdom, however, as it had existed under Song of Solomon, was, according to the purpose of God, forever gone by (see 1 Kings12; Histor. § 2). Its return was not a part of the divine plan of salvation, and every human attempt to restore it must necessarily fail. The fleet of Jehoshaphat went down in the harbor of Ezion-geber, even before it had sailed out, and that, too, not by human fault, but by a storm, that is to say, by a dispensation of God.

2. As regards his relation to Jehovah, which was the main point for every Israelitish king, Ahaziah was one of the very worst of them. This is marked, in the general description, by the fact that it is said of him, not only that “he did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and “walked in the ways of Jeroboam,” but that it is also added, “in the way of his father,” nay even also (which is observed of no other king), “in the way of his mother,” the fanatical, idolatrous, and bloodthirsty Jezebel, who was still living, and perhaps controlled him even more than she had controlled his father. All the acts of God during the reign of his father, of which he had been eye-witness and ear-witness, the proofs of God’s power, long-suffering, and justice, even the tragical end of Ahab, had made no impression upon him. All had passed by him, and left no effect behind. For this very reason, then, in the first place, he is worse than Ahab. That he surpassed him in his alienation from Jehovah became apparent at the approach of his early death. So far from being brought to his senses by the unfortunate accident which ultimately caused his death, and seeking refuge in the God of his fathers, he sent messengers to a foreign divinity to seek counsel and help from him. He thereby transgressed not only the general and chief commandment ( Exodus 20:3), but also the special commandment ( Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11), which threatened with extermination those who questioned soothsayers and wizards. That was a public and practical declaration that he esteemed the Fly-god of the Philistines above the living God of Israel; and it was a formal degradation and contempt, even an insult, of the latter. Such a crime had not previously been committed by a king, and, if ever, then certainly now, the time was come for the zealous defender of the name of the God of Israel to “break forth like a fire” ( Sirach 48:1) from his concealment, and to announce to the bold scoffer the divine retribution. Even this terrible announcement, however, was not sufficient to humble the dying man or to bring him to repentance; it rather embittered him and filled him with anger, and even with plans of murder. He sends out a band of myrmidons, in order to get possession of the person of the prophet, and when these meet with a frightful fate, he does not even yet recognize in it the hand of the Almighty, but, with a display of impotent stubbornness, sends out a new hand of men. But neither does the destruction of this company also bend his hard and stubborn disposition; he sends out a third time a band of soldiers. All this he does while on his death-bed, face to face with death, so completely has all reverence for what is sacred abandoned him, and been supplanted by a stubbornness and wilfulness which extends even to madness. Ahab even had bowed himself and humbled himself ( 1 Kings 21:27) when Elijah announced to him the judgment of God; Jeroboam even sent, when his son was sick, to the prophet Ahijah ( 1 Kings 14:2); but Ahaziah perseveres in his senseless perversity, and so falls far below both of these. At last, however, he is obliged to hear his condemnation from the mouth of the prophet, when he Isaiah, as it were, bound hand and foot, and only death overcomes his stubborn heart.

3. The Prophet Elijah appears in general here, just as he always has up to this point, as the ἀνὴρ προφήτης δυνατὸς ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἐν λόγῳ (cf. Luke 24:19). He steps forth suddenly from obscurity, “as it were borne on by the storm, with his fiery strength and his fiery tongue” (Ewald). His weighty, irresistible personality, and his forcible, energetic speech, make such an impression on the messengers of the king, who do not know him ( 2 Kings 1:8), that they do not dare to carry out the orders of their despotic master, but turn back without further action. As always, so also here, “when they sought to seize him and make him a prisoner, he was not to be reached;” the emissaries came to disgrace. Without fear, courageous and unterrified, he appears before the king himself, as he had once done before his father, and announces to the fixed and stubborn man his approaching death. Moreover, in this case, where he has to deal with apostasy in its extremest form, one side of his peculiar calling and position in the historical development of the plan of salvation comes into especial relief, namely, the function of avenging judge. As the second Moses, and second founder of the broken covenant, it was his task, before all else, to bear witness, both by word and deed, to the wrath and fiery jealousy of God against anything idolatrous (see above, the Historical notes on 1 Kings17 § 1). He is the representative and instrument of the jealousy of the divine Judges, the herald of the divine retributive justice, and on that account the prototype of all the forerunners of the great and terrible day of judgment ( Malachi 4:5); so that Sirach ( Sirach 48:10), at the end of his eulogy of him, says: καταγραφεὶς ἐν ἐλεγμοῖς εἰς καιροὺς κοπάσαι ὀργὴν πρὸ θυμοῦ. It is characteristic that Elijah finishes his public activity, which had been directed against apostasy, by an act in the capacity of a Judges, and thereby seals, as it were, the position which he occupies in the history of salvation.

4. The two leaders who perish, together with their soldiers, are not to be considered “simply as tools of a will which opposed itself to Jehovah;” so that “the question whether their fate was a just punishment or not is an idle one” (Thenius). On the contrary, they participated in the feelings of their master (συμβαίνοντες τῷ σκοπῷ τοῦ πεπομφότος, says Theodoret justly), as is seen from the fact that they, as faithful myrmidons of their abandoned master, scoff at the greatest of all prophets, whom they, too, know to be such. They despised in him the holy and almighty God of Israel, whose servant he was. The third captain was also a “tool” of the king; but he did not share in his feelings, and was spared just on that account. Whereas in his case the address, “Man of God,” was an expression of conviction and respect, it had been conscious, intentional, and insolent contempt in the mouth of both the others. They are representatives of the apparent power of the apostate, godless monarchy, which seeks to oppose the divine purpose by human power, and which, when it has already experienced the uselessness of opposition, nevertheless still perseveres in its criminal obstinacy, until it proves its own impotence, and then finally perishes. That was destined to hold good here, which Moses once said in a similar case: “And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown those that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble” ( Exodus 15:7); and also what Isaiah prophesied of the astrologers, &c, of Babylon: “Behold they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame.”

5. The conduct of Elijah towards the captains has given offence on the supposition of their innocence, and has been made a ground of blame against the prophet. Winer (R-W-B. i. s. 318) fails to find the “moral” of it, and Ewald (Geschichte Israels, iii. s. 546; 3d ed, s. 588) sees in this action a proof that this narrative springs from a much later time than the other ones about Elijah, i.e., from a time when the history of the prophet had been expanded beyond the limits which had been observed earlier, and had been moulded in more and more gigantic proportions, and in a much stiffer manner; so that “one might almost say that a Brahminic-Indian legend upon the acts of some Jogin had been produced from it.” Even in earlier times it seems to have been believed that Christ, at least indirectly, expressed disapproval of Elijah ( Luke 9:55) when he rebuked (ἐπετίμησε) his disciples who wished to do ὡς καὶ ’Ηλίας ἐποίησε, so that these words are omitted in some otherwise important manuscripts, and in the Vulgata, in order not to endanger the reputation of the prophet. This view rests, however, upon an entire misconception of the narrative before us, and of the relation between the economy of the Old and the New Testaments. For we have here not the act of revenge of a prophet who was instigated by personal jealousy, but an act of divine judgment, and a revelation of God’s wrath against all godlessness and wickedness of men, who “hold the truth in unrighteousness” [restrain the truth in a spirit of unrighteousness]. ( Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5). All judgments of God are represented in the Old Testament as a consuming fire ( Numbers 11:1; Numbers 16:35; Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 21:9 sq.; Isaiah 26:11; Ezekiel 15:6-7; Job 20:26, &c). He himself even, in His retributive justice, is called a consuming fire ( Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; cf. Hebrews 12:29; Hebrews 10:27). It Isaiah, therefore, perfectly in accordance with the concrete and literal character which the Old Testament economy bears throughout, that this actual fire should be the form of revelation of the divine wrath, so that in many places we can hardly distinguish whether it is intended to be taken literally or figuratively. Just as once the rebellious host of Koran was consumed by fire, and so Moses’ authority, as the servant of God, was ratified ( Numbers 16:35), so the scoffing band of the idolatrous Ahaziah perished, and thereby the second Moses was corroborated as the man of God. As an act of divine judgment this catastrophe lacks “moral” so little that it is rather a revelation of the highest moral intensity—a testimony to the unchangeable justice and holiness of God. Whoever finds it shocking must be still more shocked at the prophetic declaration—“God is jealous and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him” ( Nahum 1:2-6). Christ does not blame Elijah, but His disciples, because in their dissatisfaction, which was just enough in itself, they did not distinguish between the time of Elijah and the time which had begun with Him, the promised Son of Man and σωτήρ, and entirely mistook Him, that is to say, His calling and station in the plan of redemption, as contrasted with that of Elijah. Menken remarks on the passage before us: “Any one who is acquainted, even in a slight degree, with the theocratical constitution of Israel; any one who sees how necessary such acts of God and of His prophets were, for the confusion and overthrow of idol-worship, and for the foundation and conservation of the knowledge and adoration of the one sole living God; any one who has a genuine love to God, and a zeal that the name of God shall be kept holy upon earth: such an one will not be repelled by this action of God and His prophet. Many, however, with whom this is not the case, who, themselves indifferent towards God and His kingdom, would gladly have all dispositions of men towards God regarded as insignificant, have been repelled by it; they have imputed to the prophet therein a carnal and unholy violence, and an angry-spirited and revengeful jealousy, and have blamed him accordingly.…. Elijah might do much which was not becoming for Jesus the suffering Lamb of God.…. In his position and in his time he had to be rather terrible and grand than mild and lovely; he had to punish, condemn, and revenge, rather than to teach, forgive, and console.…. His calling was to be, not a fire to warm, but a consuming flame against unrighteousness and godlessness.”

6. To try to explain and do away with what is miraculous in this narrative is vain labor, as it is in other and similar cases. The naturalistic explanation, which points to lightning or the fiery wind-simoom, or to a forcible scattering of the troops by the numerous “sons [disciples] of the prophets” (Exeget. Handbuch on the passage), has indeed been abandoned; but, on the other hand, the entire story has been explained as mythical or legendary, and reference has been made to “parallel passages in the classics.” “When the Persians advance against the temple at Delphi, lightnings descend from heaven upon them (Herod. viii37); and when the Gauls under Brennus are going to storm Delphi, there occurs an earthquake with storm and hail, whereby great destruction is caused among them (Justin. xxiv8).” The legend “expresses only the general idea that the Divinity protects His favorites at all times, even by unusual means, and hears their prayers even when they ask for what is extraordinary” (Knobel, Prophet. der Hebräer, ii. s. 82; Rödiger, Hall. Encyc., i33, s. 322). This view fails utterly to perceive, in the first place, that the thing to be accomplished here is a judgment upon the apostate and stubborn king and his emissaries, and that the protection which is given to Elijah is only a subordinate matter. What necessity was there then for just such a judgment, if nothing more was to be expressed by it than this general idea, which might have been affirmed in a hundred other ways? What parallel there Isaiah, finally, between the Persians and Gauls who advanced against Delphi, and perished by lightning and earthquake, and the soldiers whom Ahaziah sent out against Elijah, it is difficult to see, for one might as well find parallels to this narrative in all the accidents wherein men have perished, while on the way hither and thither, by lightning or earthquake.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1 Kings 22:41-50. Würtb. Summ.: All Christian rulers and governors ought to follow the example of the pious king Jehoshaphat—to do what is pleasing to God, to walk in His ways without departing from them, to maintain and extend pure religion, to remove and destroy what is evil, and especially not to permit whoredom, but with earnestness to do away with it and punish it, and to guard themselves from having too much intercourse with godless persons, or from entering into any covenant with them, because this leads to no good, as indeed Jehoshaphat got only danger and loss by it. Every one should profit by the life-experience of Jehoshaphat. All that he undertook according to God’s word and will went on fortunately and attained good success, and was attended with blessing; but all that he undertook in conjunction with Ahab and Ahaziah turned out unfortunately: there was no blessing upon that.

1 Kings 22:44-47. See notes on 2 Kings 15:12; 2 Kings 15:14.

1 Kings 22:49. The heart of man proposes its own way, but the Lord alone allows it to proceed therein. ( Proverbs 16:9.) He often confounds our purposes and destroys our plans, which reach so far and so high, that we may not become puffed up, but learn to yield to His holy will and to say: “It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good” ( 1 Samuel 3:18).

1 Kings 22:50. What God has clearly destroyed, as a punishment, that let us not build up again at the counsel or demand of any man; for, when He breaks in pieces, it cannot avail to build again ( Job 12:14).—So Jehoshaphat would not build again. The offers of a man who had departed from God, even if he offer thee ever so much profit and pleasantness, do thou reject with determined will; for “what is a man profited,” &c. ( Matthew 16:26.)

1 Kings 22:51-53. Starke: It is bad enough indeed when one or the other of one’s parents is godless, but how much more when neither fears God? How can we hope for the good nurture of children in that case? The power of example is not greater in any relation than in that of parents to children. The way in which the father or mother walks has more influence upon the children than all the doctrines and teachings which they give them.—Würtb. Summ.: It is not praiseworthy, nor a thing which one can satisfactorily answer for before God, if the parents and ancestors have been godless or the adherents of a false religion, that the children should do the same and follow in their footsteps;.… it will not suffice before God to say: “I believe what my parents and ancestors believed. They were of this religion, and I will not believe that they have been damned.”

2 Kings 1:2-8. Wirth: King Ahaziah on his deathbed, (a) The sending to Ekron; (b) the message of the prophet.

2 Kings 1:2-4. Krummacher: The journey to Ekron. (a) The seeking for refuge in Ekron; (b) the jealousy of God; (c) Jesus the only refuge (in Him rests our confidence and strength). 2 Kings 1:2-17. In Ahaziah we see the folly of godlessness ( Psalm 14:1-2). (a) In the dark valley, in which he must journey, he seizes, not upon the staff and support which could comfort him ( Psalm 23:4), but upon a stalk of straw; he makes a work of man’s hands his consolation in life and in death; that is the height of folly. (b) He will hear nothing of death, and hates and persecutes him who reminds him of death; death comes, however; it is inevitable. To avoid every thought of death, and to escape from everything which may remind us of it, is the greatest folly, for we must all depart sometime ( Psalm 39:5), and appear before Him who will give to each according to his deeds ( Romans 2:6). (c) He sends soldiers against the prophet who announces to him the judgment of God, and thinks that he can thereby set aside the judgment itself. But to attempt to do away with the truth of God, and to accomplish something perforce against the decision of God by means of human power and might, is the greatest folly.

2 Kings 1:1-2. God does not leave himself without a witness even in the case of those who have long ago abandoned Him and turned their backs upon Him. He seeks with all labor and care to call them home. Well is it for them, then, if they understand the testimony, and do not, like Ahaziah, become still more stubborn.

2 Kings 1:2. If a man has once torn himself away from the living God and His Word, he does not, as infidelity pretends, become wiser and more enlightened, but only too often he becomes the prey of the most insipid and foolish superstition. How many do not believe in an holy, omniscient, and just God, to whom they must give an account of all they do and leave undone, but on the contrary in ghosts, or in the word of a gypsy, and seize upon the most senseless means in need and sickness. It is possible to so lose God that one does not find Him even when face to face with death.—Krummacher: Instead of the oracle at Ekron we have to-day clairvoyants and mesmerists; and even if we do not have soothsayers and persons who foretell by cards (the number of whom, however, among the common people, is far greater than is commonly believed), still there are “signs” and dreams upon which people trust, and on which they rest the peace of their hearts, as if it were upon oracles from idols.… While people smile at the magicians of earlier times, and their arts, with a mien of superiority, they are not ashamed to take refuge in all sorts of amulets, or to expect help now from this and now from that sympathetic cure.…. Is that not “going to Ekron?” [Comprehensive Commentary: The inquiry of Ahaziah “was very foolish. We should be more thoughtful of our duty than our fortune, what will become of us after death, than how, or when, or where, we shall die; and more desirous to be told how to conduct ourselves well in sickness, and get good to our souls by it, than whether we shall recover.”]

2 Kings 1:3. Würtb. Summ.: All those who make use of formulæ of blessing or other irregular means, in sickness, seek help from Baal-zebub. God has given an example in the case of Ahaziah, how angry He is at this, and how severely He means to punish such idolatry.—Is it then because, &c. Wirth: The men of our time run hither and thither in their dissatisfaction and need of help. Is there then no longer any God in our nineteenth century, that men do not take refuge in Him? Is there then no Gospel, which is the power of God, and a light upon our pathway? Is there then no longer a Saviour Jesus Christ, who calls: “behold, I make all things new?”—The Word of God is the sole, true, and correct oracle, which we are to question, and to take counsel of, in every circumstance of life, and in all darkness and doubt. This generation, however, seeks light, Wisdom of Solomon, and truth among the Philistines, the wise and prudent of this world, who give out that the Word of the Lord is an old and unreliable book which no longer satisfies the existing grade of cultivation. [“They that will not inquire of the Word of God for their comfort shall be made to hear it, whether they will or no, to their amazement.”]—That ye go, &c. Who-soever lends himself to be the messenger and servant of superstition, and of contempt for God, makes himself a participant in the guilt of them; we must obey God rather than man.

2 Kings 1:4-8. If the messengers had brought to the king a declaration of the Fly-god, he would have accepted it with faith, but he rejected the word of the prophet because it did not conform to his wishes; nay, it even filled him with anger and plans of murder. Men value the falsehood which flatters their inclinations and wishes, higher than the truth which corrects them and demands sacrifices and penitence of them.

2 Kings 1:7-8. He who preaches penitence, conversion, sacrifice, and self-denial, to others, but still shows by all his conduct and external behavior, that he himself loves the world, and what is in the world, and that he is not above the world, such an one belongs to the false prophets, with whom we must be upon our guard.

2 Kings 1:9-17. Krummacher: The sermon in fire. (a) Ahaziah’s attack upon Elijah; (b) the prophet’s victory; (c) Ahaziah’s end.—Wirth: Elijah as messenger of the judgment of God. (a) The annihilation of the two fifties; (b) the sparing of the third fifty; (c) a visit to the sick-bed.—The judgment of God upon Ahaziah and his troops an image of the great and terrible day of the Lord (see the Historical section) for the warning of all scoffers and stubborn contemners of God.—Elijah in truth a Man of God. (a) How he sustains himself in that position in his relations to God (viz, by faithful obedience and faithful courage); (b) how God sustains him in it in relation to his enemies (viz, by powerful protection, and by the annihilation of his enemies, Psalm 91:1 sq.),

2 Kings 1:9. Every servant of the Lord who is really earnest in his office must make up his mind that rude, low, and godless men will scorn him and name him “Man of God” in mockery. Although no fire from heaven falls down to destroy them, yet the word of the Lord stands firm for all time: “He that despiseth you,” &c. ( Luke 10:16), and the Lord will not leave those unpunished who despise Him in His servants, and exercise their wit upon the calling of reconciliation ( Isaiah 41:10-11).—Great rulers always find people who will lend themselves as instruments of their perverted will, who execute, with exactness and without scruple, what “the king says,” but do not trouble themselves at all about what God says.

2 Kings 1:11 sq. Hall: It is the sure sign of approaching ruin when men will not allow themselves to be warned. Those deserve only to be made examples of punishment who will not take warning from the example of others.

2 Kings 1:13 sq. God does not let anything be forced from Him by pertinacity, but to the humble He grants grace. That which can never be gained by perseverance and resistance, is reached by earnest, humble, and sincere prayer.—Osiander: If we perform our duty, God has the hearts of men in His hand in such a way that He leads them whither He will. So it often happens that those who seek to kill us in our absence, in our presence dare not open their mouths ( John 7:44-46).

2 Kings 1:15-16. A minister of God must not fear to hold up their sins before sinners and scoffers upon the death-bed, and to draw their attention to the judgment of God, in order that, if possible, even in the last hour, they may come to a knowledge of that which belongs to their peace, for ( Ezekiel 33:8-9), to offer eternal blessedness to the rich and great, instead of calling them to repentance, is the worst transgression of a prophet.—To conceal the approach of his end from one who is sick unto death, and to hold all thoughts of it from him, or even to console him with false hopes of recovery, is no genuine love; for no man can be properly prepared for death who does not think of it often and much. He who in days of health has often, in the presence of God, thought upon death, does not shrink before the message: “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.” ( Isaiah 38:1.)

2 Kings 1:9-16. Elijah and the Disciples of Jesus who wish to imitate Him ( Luke 9:51-57). (a) The reason why He blames and rebukes them; (b) whereto He calls and encourages them (see Historical, § 5).

Footnotes:

FN#1 - The correct translation of יהוה, rendered in our version by Lord, would be The Eternal. This may be regarded as a standing correction.]

FN#2 - 2 Kings 1:11.—The Sept. [Cod. Alex.] have here καὶ ἀνέβη, καὶ ἐλάλησεν, so that they read וַיַּעַל for וַיַּעַן. Thenius and Keil adopt this reading, citing 2 Kings 1:9; 2 Kings 1:13.

FN#3 - 2 Kings 1:12.—[Sept. for אֲלֵיהֶם, πρὸς αὐτόν, a necessary emendation.

FN#4 - 2 Kings 1:13.—[שְׁלִשִׁי must be read for שְׁלִשִׁים with Thenius and Keil.

FN#5 - 2 Kings 1:15.—[אוֹתוֹ has the form of the accusative sign with suffix, instead of אִתּוֹ the preposition. The distinction is not observed in the later language. Ewald, Lehrbuch d. hebr. Spr. § 264, b. and Ges. § 103, 1. R1.—The suffix in מִפָּנָיו refers to the king.—W. G. S.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/2-kings-1.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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