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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 1

 

 

Verse 1

A Summary Of Ahaziah’s Life (1 Kings 22:51 - 2 Kings 1:1).

And Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.’

One of the consequences of this was that Moab, parts of which had been tributary to Israel for ‘forty years’ (per the Moabite Stone), since the time of Omri, rebelled and obtained their freedom. The news of Ahaziah’s accident might well have been the spur to Mesha of Mob to make the attempt, although preparations for the rebellion may well have commenced during the last days of Ahab. Ahab may well have intended to crush the rebellion after he had reclaimed Ramoth-gilead. Details of this rebellion by Mesha of Moab are also found in the Moabite Stone (from his point of view).


Verses 1-18

The Reign Of Ahaziah King of Israel c. 853-852 BC (1 Kings 22:51 - 2 Kings 1:18).

Ahaziah, Ahab’s son and king of Israel, only had a short reign of a few months (two part years) but he amply succeeded during that short time in displeasing YHWH and bringing his wrath on him. He did this by walking in Ahab’s ways, and especially by consulting Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, instead of YHWH, after he had had an accident. His attitude resulted in two of Elijah’s fiercest miracles. This is the reason why his short reign is given so much space in the account.

Analysis.

a Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel, and he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin (1 Kings 22:51-52).

b And he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger YHWH, the God of Israel, according to all that his father had done, and Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab (1 Kings 22:53 -2 Kings 1:1).

c And Ahaziah fell down through the lattice in his upper chamber which was in Samaria, and was ill. And he sent messengers, and said to them, “Go, enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover of this illness” (2 Kings 1:2).

d But the angel of YHWH said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel, that you go to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” (2 Kings 1:3).

e “Now therefore thus says YHWH, ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but will surely die’ ” (2 Kings 1:4 a).

f And Elijah departed. And the messengers returned to him (Ahaziah), and he said to them, “Why is it that you have returned?” (2 Kings 1:4-5).

e And they said to him, “There came up a man to meet us, and said to us, Go, turn again to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says YHWH, Is it because there is no God in Israel, that you send to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but will surely die” ’(2 Kings 1:6).

d And he said to them, “What manner of man was he who came up to meet you, and told you these words?” And they answered him, “He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (2 Kings 1:7-8).

c Three military units in succession were then sent to arrest Elijah and haul him before the king. But the first two were engulfed with fire at Elijah’s word. To the third, which humbled itself before him, he responded more compassionately, going with them to meet the king (2 Kings 1:9-15).

b And he said to him, “Thus says YHWH, Forasmuch as you have sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, is it because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but will surely die” (2 Kings 1:16).

a So he died according to the word of YHWH which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram began to reign in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, because he had no son. Now 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? (2 Kings 1:17-18).

Note that in ‘a’ Ahaziah began his reign, and did evil in the sight of YHWH, and in the parallel he died according to the word of YHWH. In ‘b’ he served Baal and worshipped him, provoking the wrath of YHWH and in the parallel he is criticised for consulting Baal-ekron instead of YHWH. In ‘c’ the king sent his messengers to consult Baal-ekron, and in the parallel he received a threefold reply from Elijah. In ‘d’ YHWH sent a message through Elijah the Tishbite, and in the parallel the king recognises that his message has come from Elijah the Tishbite. In ‘e’ he was told that he would surely die, and in the parallel he was told the same. Centrally in ‘f’ Elijah stalked away from the messengers, while they returned and reported back to the king.


Verses 2-8

Ahaziah’s Accident And His Intention Of Consulting The Occult Instead Of YHWH Which Is Thwarted By Elijah (2 Kings 1:2-8).

2 Kings 1:2

And Ahaziah fell down through the lattice in his upper chamber which was in Samaria, and was ill. And he sent messengers, and said to them, “Go, enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover of this illness.’

But Ahaziah had an unfortunate accident. He lived in a two-storeyed palace in Samaria and he fell from the upper window or balcony, through the lattice screen which protected it from sightseers, to the earth beneath. Carried to his bed he sent messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, in order to discover whether he would recover, and no doubt hoping for the god to show leniency. It is probable that this god had a reputation for healing. Being an idolater and polytheist Ahaziah believed in many gods, including the family of Baal gods of which there were many. In this, of course, he was bringing discredit on YHWH, and treating Him as of no account.

Baal-zebub means ‘lord of the flies’. Some see it as a deliberate and contemptuous corruption of Baal-zebul, ‘the lord prince’. But there is no reason why there should not have been a god of ‘creeping things’ (compare Ezekiel 8:10), and he is mentioned by the Pharisees when speaking to Jesus in the New Testament as related to Satan (Mark 3:22).

2 Kings 1:3

‘But the angel of YHWH said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel, that you go to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” ’

The consequence was that the Angel of YHWH went to Elijah the Tishbite and told him to go and meet the messengers of Ahaziah in order to ask the king of Israel through them whether he was implying by his action that there was no living God in Israel Who could be enquired of, and called on. This was a crisis moment for Israel. The question was whether YHWH was no longer to be seen as relevant. The intervention of Elijah and the demonstration miracles that follow were necessary to bring Yahwism back from being side-lined and seen as irrelevant in court circles.

The Angel of YHWH was one of the forms through Which YHWH revealed Himself. We do not know why He is mentioned in this particular case, as usually Elijah appears to have received his prophetic information ‘direct’. It is probably because He was to be the arbiter of judgment, acting powerfully to demonstrate the holiness of YHWH (2 Kings 1:9-15; compare 2 Samuel 24:16-17). This incident is a warning to us all that we should not seek to the occult for guidance or healing, only to God.

“Is it because there is no God in Israel, that you go to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” The importance of this charge comes out in that it is repeated three times (see 2 Kings 1:6; 2 Kings 1:16). This was the question at issue, and it was a vital one.

2 Kings 2:1-4 a

“Now therefore thus says YHWH, ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but will surely die.’ ”

Elijah’s message from YHWH to Azariah was that because he had consulted Baal-zebub instead of YHWH he would never leave his bed, but would certainly die. The impression given is that had he sought YHWH he would have lived.

2 Kings 2:1-4 b

‘And Elijah departed.’

As with his entrances, so with his exits, Elijah was dramatic. Having spoken to the men he ‘departed’. We might translate ‘strode off’.

2 Kings 2:5

And the messengers returned to him, and he said to them, “Why is it that you have returned?” ’

The messengers obediently returned to the king without going to Ekron, something which Ahaziah clearly gathered from the short length of time that they had been away. So he asked them why they had come back without fulfilling their mission.

2 Kings 1:6

And they said to him, “There came up a man to meet us, and said to us, Go, turn again to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says YHWH, Is it because there is no God in Israel, that you send to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but will surely die.” ’

They explained to him about this man who with prophetic authority had told them to inform the king that he would certainly die because he had looked to the occult for advice and healing rather than to God.

2 Kings 1:7

And he said to them, “What manner of man was he who came up to meet you, and told you these words?” ’

The king, probably already aware of the truth in his heart, then asked them what kind of man it had been who had come to meet them and had said this to them.

2 Kings 1:8

And they answered him, “He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” ’

Sure enough their words confirmed his worst fears. A man wearing goatskin, with a leather belt around him. He well knew who that was. “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” This easy identification of him by his clothing is against the idea that all prophets wore such clothing, although see Zechariah 13:4.


Verses 9-15

The King Sends His Guards To Arrest Elijah (2 Kings 1:9-15).

If fifty assassins had burst in on the king with the intention of killing him, and they had been mown down by his guards, no one would have raised an eyebrow. But because Elijah, who was in equal danger of being executed, called on God for assistance, resulting in the slaying of the would be assassins by God’s fire, eyebrows are raised. We need to remember, however, that God was Elijah’s bodyguard. And the king would not have rested until Elijah had either rescinded the penalty, or was dead. This was an important part of the battle for the soul of Israel.

2 Kings 1:9

‘Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and, behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he spoke to him, “O man of God, the king has said, Come down.” ’

When Ahab had sent for Micaiah he had sent an official for him (1 Kings 22:9), thus the fact that Ahaziah sent not an official, but a military unit under a commander, in order to bring Elijah indicated his evil intent, and that he was ensuring, knowing Elijah’s extraordinary powers, that there could be no resistance. His intention was clearly malign. He intended to seize Elijah and execute him. An arresting party for one man did not usually consist of a whole military unit. We can compare the size of the party sent to arrest Jesus, because His miraculous powers were known.

The commander went to where he knew Elijah would be, and as he approached the hill he spotted Elijah sitting there on its peak. With great officiousness he commanded Elijah in a peremptory fashion (as officer of the arresting party), “O man of God, the king has said, Come down.” The address ‘man of God’ was probably intended to be sarcastic.

Both Elijah and he knew what this would mean, and the commander was taking no chances. As far as he was concerned he had to obey orders, and Elijah was expendable. On the other hand he was not in any doubt that he was dealing with a ‘man of God’, (a genuine prophet of YHWH), as his method of address makes clear. But as he was no doubt a Baal worshipper, his view was probably that prophets of YHWH were better dead. So there was no mercy in either his heart, or in the hearts of his men. Meanwhile the people would soon be aware of this challenge between YHWH and Baal, and would be very much affected by the outcome. In a sense the whole world was watching in order to see who would prevail.

2 Kings 1:10

‘And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume you and your fifty.” And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.’

Elijah, recognising the implications of the situation, and no doubt under divine instructions, determined to let God demonstrate once and for all that he, Elijah, was a true prophet of YHWH, and that YHWH was supreme in Israel. And he therefore cried, “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume you and your fifty.” This would be the proof that he really was a ‘man of God’ of YHWH. He knew that in this case it was him (and Israel’s faith) or them. And accordingly just as had happened on Mount Carmel (although this ‘hill’ was clearly near Samaria) fire came down from Heaven and consumed the arresting party, just as it had consumed the sacrifice on Mount Carmel previously. YHWH was demonstrating that He was with His servant, and saw the arresting party as a kind of burnt offering from the king. It may in fact have been a bolt of lightning, or it may have been the fire of the presence of the Angel of YHWH. Either way it was equally effective.

The significance of his action was clear. Just as YHWH had accepted his offering on Mount Carmel by consuming it with fire, so now He was manifesting His power in a similar way by accepting this ‘offering up’ of the arresting party. It was a grim but poignant reminder of YHWH’s victory on Mount Carmel over the forces of darkness, a victory which had only all too easily been forgotten. Now it was being brought back to mind most vividly.

(If a band of prophets had arrived and fought off the military unit in defence of Elijah, slaying them in the process, we would not have done anything but recognise the justice of it. Why then should fire from YHWH be seen as any different? Especially as it was a necessary reminder to the people that YHWH had not been replaced as the God of Israel, and was also a signal that His prophets should not be harmed by the authorities (who would as a result be more careful in future).

2 Kings 1:11

‘And again he sent to him another captain of fifty and his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, thus has the king said, Come down quickly.” ’

When the news reached the king he was no doubt infuriated, but on the basis that lightning never strikes in the same place twice he sent a further military unit, along with its commander, to arrest Elijah. He was not going to allow himself to be thwarted by a few deaths. This time the commander was even more peremptory and unsympathetic, and commanded Elijah to come down ‘at once’. Once again the authority of YHWH was being challenged by a worshipper of Baal, and his servant was being asked to put himself at the mercy of the soldiers, and of the king, neither of whom were reliable. If Elijah turned up with bruises on him it would not concern Azariah. Again YHWH grimly ‘consumed the offering’. It was similar to their being ‘devoted to YHWH’.

2 Kings 1:12

‘And Elijah answered and said to them, “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume you and your fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.”

The result was exactly the same, a complete repetition of the earlier event. The military unit went the same way as the first, consumed by the fire of YHWH. This activity of God in both these cases is a reminder that on the Day of Judgment all who have rebelled against God will be burned with fire. Then those who are consumed will be numbered in billions. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2 Kings 1:13

‘And again he sent the captain of a 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 to him, “O man of God, I pray you, let my life, and the life of these fifty who are your servants, be precious in your sight.” ’

The king was clearly convinced that all this was just an unhappy coincidence, and without any regard for his men sent a further arresting party. By this time the job had presumably lost its popularity, but the unit in question would be given no option and knew that they had to obey orders. However, they were fortunate in being commanded by a man who had learned to fear YHWH. Thus when he approached the hill he fell on his knees before Elijah and begged that the man of God would be merciful.

2 Kings 1:14

‘Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and consumed the two former captains of fifty with their fifties. But now let my life be precious in your sight.”

He acknowledged that he knew what had happened to the two previous units and prayed that his own life might be precious in Elijah’s sight. The indication was that he only wished him well.

2 Kings 1:15

‘And the angel of YHWH said to Elijah, “Go down with him. Do not be afraid of him.” And he arose, and went down with him to the king.’

Satisfied that Elijah would now be given a fair deal, and could safely go with the military unit, not as a man under arrest, but as someone who was being courteously escorted, YHWH withheld His fire. Instead the Angel of YHWH assured Elijah that he could go with the military party in safety without fear. Accordingly Elijah rose up and went with the men.


Verses 16-18

Elijah Confirms The Death Sentence On Ahaziah For What YHWH Saw As His Blasphemous Behaviour (2 Kings 1:16-18).

2 Kings 1:16

‘And he said to him, “Thus says YHWH, Forasmuch as you have sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, is it because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but will surely die.” ’

When he was brought before the king Elijah then declared to him YHWH’s sentence for the third time. Inasmuch as the king had insulted the God of Israel by turning to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron (in Philistia) for guidance and assistance, instead of to YHWH, he would not again rise from his bed but would surely die. By now the king had recognised the folly of trying to arrest Elijah and clearly allowed him to go (for he appeared later with Elisha).

2 Kings 1:17

‘So he died according to the word of YHWH which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram began to reign in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, because he had no son.’

And in accordance with Elijah’s ‘word of YHWH’ Ahaziah died of his injuries, and was replaced by his brother Jehoram as king of Israel, because he had no son. This occurred ‘in the second year of Jehoram, the king of Judah’.

The fact that it occurred in the second year of Jehoram king of Judah clearly indicated that Jehoram of Judah had in fact commenced reigning as co-regent while Jehoshaphat was still alive. (Jehoshaphat reigned for twenty five years (1 Kings 24:42) and Ahaziah had come to the throne in his seventeenth year, dying in little more than a year. Jehoram of Israel thus came to the throne in Jehoshaphat’s eighteenth year, as 2 Kings 3:1 informs us, with Jehoram of Judah as co-regent with Jehoshaphat. Starting with David and Solomon co-regency was the method by which the kings of Judah ensured relatively peaceful succession).

It will be noted that there is no record of his burial. This may have been because he was seen as ‘assassinated by YHWH’).

2 Kings 1:18

‘Now 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?’

The account of Ahaziah’s reign closes with the usual reference for those who wanted further details to the official annals of the kings of Israel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-kings-1.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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