Renewed Commitment I believe that each one of us has a special place or location that is very dear because of some past experiences. It was to just such a location that God brought Elijah. At this time of spiritual emptiness in his prophetic career, God led him all the way back to the roots of Jehovah worship; to the very mountain where Moses had been given the law. To Elijah, and the people of the chosen nation, there was no more important or sacred spot on earth. It was there that the word of the Lord cameo Elijah
asking (vs. 9), What doest thou here, Elijah?” And Elijah replied,
I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the
children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down
thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I,
even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.
God patiently and gently commanded him to go outside. Suddenly, a
great wind shook the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind. The
gale was followed by an earthquake that ripped split the mountains, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. “And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a still small voice” (vs. 12). When he heard the voice, Elijah realized that he was in the presence of God. As he hid his face, God repeated His earlier question, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Elijah repeated his original answer word for word.
Two things were out of sync with Elijah’s feelings at that time.
First, he was feeling sorry for himself. He believed he was all alone and that the program of God was about to perish with him. In his self pity, Elijah believed he was in- dispensable. Secondly, he had expected a more dramatic display of intervention by God to bring about the demise of Jezebel and the monarchy of Ahab in Jezreel.
God was proving that neither one of those things was true or necessary. First of all, in His display of the wind, earthquake, and fire, God was, in effect, saying, “I do not need to use spectacular displays. The people of Israel attribute those kinds of phenomena to Baal. I can bring about My will without such physical phenomena. Therefore, Elijah, hear my answer to the two dilemmas you are facing.
The first part of God’s answer was: “Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt
thou anoint to be king over Israel” (vs. 16). We will discover later that Jehu is the one who carried out the demise of the house of Ahab. Part two (same verse) was: “and Elisha the son of Shalphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. “ Furthermore (vs. 18), “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. “ The ministry will not die out with you, Elisha; there will be someone to take your place. Neither are you alone, because I have seven thousand faithful Israelites who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Following this Divine encounter, Elijah continued on his mission.
He now knew that the house of Ahab would be exterminated, but that
it would not be by a spectacular Divine intervention, storm, earthquake, or fire; but at the hand of a man whom God had chosen for it-not by Divine but by human instrumentality. Also he now knew that he was not indispensable. God had told him that his ministry would continue through Elisha who was waiting unknowingly to take his place.
Ben-hadad’s War The last three verses of chapter 19 describe the call of Elisha. Then in chapter 20, we are introduced to Ben-hadad II, who was king of Syria from 860 to 841 B.C. He had gathered a huge army, allied with himself thirty-two king of neighboring city-states, and went to war against Samaria, Ahab’s capital. While he had the city under siege, he sent a letter to Ahab announcing Its plan and purpose.
Once again, we must understand the background of siege war-fare.
Ben-hadad’s message contained the conditions under which the
city could surrender to him. “Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives
also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine” (vs. 3). When Ahab agreed to the terms (vs. 4), Ben-hadad, in greed, decided to push Ahab a step further. Verse 6 says,
I will send my servants unto thee tomorrow about this time,
and they shall search thine house, and the houses of thy
servants; and it shall be, that whatsoever is pleasant in
thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away.
This final demand was too much for Ahab. After consulting with
his elders, he sent back a message of refusal. Ben-hadad’s response to Ahab’s refusal was, “The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me. “ In
Ben-hadad’s mind, he had more people than there was dust in the streets. But the battle of words was not over. Ahab’s reply to that is a
classic retort which is still used today. “Tell him, Let not him that girdeth
on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off’ (vs. 11). Ahab was
saying that when you are putting on your armor, you do not know
whether you will take it off yourself or be brought back on your shield.
Ben-hadad received Ahab’s message while he was in the midst of
a drunken orgy with his officers. Nevertheless, he ordered his men to
take up battle positions. Meanwhile, a prophet of the Lord went to Ahab and promised that his city would be delivered. The balance of the chapter, down through verse 25, describes how the victory was won.
Ahab knew the Syrians would come back and they did. But the
second time, they devised a new strategy, a logical one considering their henotheistic theology. Instead of confronting Ahab on the hill of Samaria, they chose another arena, saying, “Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.”
Again (vs. 28), a man of God went to Ahab with a message of
victory. He said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore
will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and
ye shall know that I am the Lord.
Rather than insulting Ahab, the Syrians had insulted God with
their plan of strategy. Therefore, He would show them that He is God
of all creation. Hill, valley, or plain, made no difference to Jehovah. This was to be His victory, just as the earlier battle of Jericho.
But, Ahab foolishly played the role of the benevolent victor.
Although it had been God’s battle, Ahab, in pompous kingly generosity, spared the life of Ben- hadad for much the same reason that Saul had spared Agag almost two hundred years before. Because of that act of self pride by Ahab, God sent a prophet with a warning. The prophet acted out a parable much as Nathan had done with David. When Ahab pronounced judgment on the man the prophet was pretending to be, he was told that he had pronounced judgment against himself.
Naboth’s Vineyard In chapter 21, there is a further example of Ahab’s wicked personality. Numbers 26:7 makes it very clear that an Israelite was not to transfer his inheritance outside of his immediate family, but these laws of God made no difference to Ahab. As he walked around outside his palace in Jezreel, he happened upon the small vineyard of Naboth and he coveted it for himself. Approaching Naboth he tried to strike a bargain (vs. 2): Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it
a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will
give thee the worth of it in money. Naboth, doubtless a God fearing man, understood the law better than Ahab, for he replied (vs. 3), “The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
Ahab, the evil despot, was accustomed to having whatever he
wanted. He was so vexed by Naboth’s refusal, that he returned to his
palace, laid down on his bed, turned his face to the wall and refused to eat. He sulked like a spoiled cud because he could not have the godly Israelite Naboth’s little vineyard for a personal vegetable garden. We now discover that Jezebel was the real power behind the
throne. When she saw Ahab in this demented state, she taunted lam,
“Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?” Jezebel had no concept of God’s ideal of the king as a shepherd or servant of the people. Then she added (vs. 7), “Arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry, I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” At this point the reader’s heart must go out to Naboth; knowing that this satanically inspired queen of Israel would stop at nothing to get her way. Naboth’s doom was sealed from the very moment that the wicked Queen Jezebel promised to acquire the vineyard. She wrote official letters accusing Naboth of sin and announcing a fast because of his “evil” deeds. She hired worthless men to testify against lam, and had him set “on high”; that is, on trial.
They held a kangaroo court, and innocent Naboth, framed by Jezebel, lost his life There was a scriptural basis for such a court. In that regard, they were fulfilling the law as stated back in Deuteronomy 17:2-7, for trying a man accused of the crime of blasphemy. But in Naboth’s case he was framed. The false witnesses perjured themselves by accusing Naboth, an innocent man, of blaspheming God and the king. If Naboth had been guilty of any other crime worthy of death, his property would have gone to his heirs; but since he was declared guilty of blasphemy, it was confiscated by the state. Through this trumped up trial and execution, the vineyard of Naboth was stolen, and his inheritance taken by an ungodly king and Ws wicked Baal-worshiping wife.
No sooner had Ahab gone, down to inspect his newly stolen property,
than he met Elijah. His greeting to the prophet was certainly not cordial, “Hast thou found me, 0 mine enemy?” Elijah was not his enemy, but he certainly was his nemesis. It seems that he was on the scene whenever Ahab committed a particularly flagrant sin. This time he pronounced judgment against the house of Ahab. Contrary to his normal demeanor, this time Ahab humbled himself and although God spared him, He promised that He would carry out the judgment after Ws death; and: “In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (vs. 19).
Ahab and Micaiah A word needs to be said about the prophetic office. In I Samuel, we are introduced to Samuel who, although a
prophet, was also a judge and a priest. Then in I Kings, we were introduced to Elijah, a man who fully personified the prophetic office. In ancient times there were two different categories of prophets. There was the professional prophet, who was not only in the land of Israel and Judah, but in the surrounding nations as well. The professional prophet was in the business for personal gain. He was not called by God, but personally chose his vocation to be a professional “yes” man.
Contrary to the professional prophet, the classical prophet was one
whom God had called to the prophetic office. He was a prophet regardless of financial gain, opposition, even if his message would cost him his fife. So far, we have seen only the non-writing classical prophets. Elijah did not write a book; neither would his successor Elisha author a book. At this period in the middle ninth century B.C., we are only exposed to the confrontations between the classical non-writing prophets and the professional Prophets.
Ahab and Jehoshaphat Chapter 22 is the first example of such a personal one on one confrontation, although Elijah’s encounter on Carmel qualifies in a larger sense. During this time period, Israel
and Judah were united in an alliance against their common
enemy, Syria. Verse 2 records that “it came to pass in the third year, that
Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. “ If that sounds a little strange, remember that one always goes “down” from Jerusalem even to go north, and “up” to Jerusalem even from the north.
Ahab had a military exploit in mind. He had said, “know ye that Ramoth
in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria? Turning to his southern counterpart, he proposed to Jehoshaphat, “Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-gilead?” Jehoshaphat agreed with a single reservation.
Jehoshaphat was a godly king and in 22:43, we were told that “he
walked in all the ways of Asa his father” who was also a godly man. Verse 44 records about Jehoshaphat that he “made peace with the king of Israel. Being a godly man, Jehoshaphat wanted assurance that the Lord was in agreement with the proposal made by Ahab. So, before making his agreement official, he requested of Ahab, “Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord today” (vs. 5). Ahab called Its four hundred professional prophets together and asked, “Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? “ These professional prophets knew what the king wanted to hear and they answered as one man, “Go up, for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
The unanimous agreement of four hundred prophets should have
been convincing, but Jehoshaphat was more discerning than that.
Recognizing them to be prophets of Baal, he asked Ahab, “Is there not
here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him?” There was one, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, but Ahab said, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. Even so (perhaps now even more so) Jehoshaphat wanted to hear from him regarding God’s will in the proposal to go against Syria.
Verse 10 is an interesting picture of what court life in that time was
like. While waiting for Micaiah to appear,
the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat
each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void
place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the
prophets prophesied before them.
They were not in the palace, but at the city gate while the prophets
of Baal were performing there publicly. One of them, named Zedekiah, made a set of large iron horns which he put on his head, then bent down and ran around like someone practicing for a bull fight. Pretending to gore everyone, he shouted: “With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.
Meanwhile, the messenger who had been sent after Micaiah, tried
to influence God’s prophet, saying (vs. 13), “Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. “ Micaiah’s stem reply was, “What the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.
Prophecy of Micaiah When he came before the two monarchs, Ahab again shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? “
Micaiah’s first reply was said with tongue-in-cheek. “Go,
and prosper, for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. “ Even
wicked Ahab recognized that Micaiah was being sarcastic and
demanded his true answer. Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, These have no master,, let them return every man to his house in peace. “ He went on to explain that the Lord had put a lying spirit into the mouths of the prophets of Baal because “the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee “ (vs.23). Zedekiah was incensed at that remark and struck Micaiah on the cheek, asking, “Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? “ He meant by this that “You are the liar, Micaiah. “ Ahab was angry at the response and had Micaiah put in prison on limited rations until, he said, “he returned.” He never did!
Death of Ahab Nevertheless, the king was nervous over Micaiah’s words. When they went up to the battle, Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “I
will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. “
When the Syrians saw Jehoshaphat, they thought for a moment that he was Ahab and as a result, the king of Judah very nearly lost his life. Ahab, disguised, thought he was safe. However, in verse 34, the Scripture explains, “A certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness. “ God was behind the direction of that shaft which gave him his mortal wound. Immediately, Ahab began to bleed to death, but to keep up morale, his aides propped him up in the front of his chariot while his fife blood drained out, until as the day faded toward evening, he died. How ironic that he was killed on the orders of Ben-hadad, the king he had spared.
His body was taken back to Samaria, the blood was washed from
his chariot and his armor washed in the pool of Samaria where the
harlots bathed, “and the dogs licked up his blood ... according to the
word of the Lord which he spake by Elijah the prophet. The year was
XLVIII SOME NORTHERN KINGDOM
The history of the monarchy in Judah is rather straightforward.
Except for one seven-year period of usurpation by Athaliah, the fine of David continued uninterrupted through dynastic succession generation after generation, without dramatic change or rebellion from without or within.
The situation was quite to the contrary in the northern kingdom
of Israel. Many of the kings who ruled there usurped the throne by
assassinating their predecessors. As a result, nine different dynasties
ruled in Israel, of which only two-the house of Omri (fourth dynasty)
and the house of Jehu (fifth dynasty)-achieved any long-term stability.
None of the others were able to hold the throne for more than two
generations, and some for only one. Another important consideration for following the history of Israel concerns its relations with its neighbors.
An Ungodly Alliance Israel’s relationship with Judah also made an about-face after the early years of warfare. In I Kings 22, we read that Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel. Now Jehoshaphat was a godly king who did “that which was light in the eyes of the Lord” (vs. 43). Nevertheless, he made one tragic mistake. It is not recorded in Kings but it is recorded in Chronicles. In II Chronicles 18:1, we read that “Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. “ Actually, he had allied himself with the house of Ahab by marriage.
In addition to Ahab’s two sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram, who both
succeeded him on the throne, Ahab and Jezebel had a daughter named Athaliah. Keep in mind that Jezebel was the mother of these three, and Athaliah seems to have been as fervent a Baal worshiper as was her evil old mother. Through a miscalculation, or in a moment of weakness, Jehoshaphat agreed to a marriage between Athaliah and his son Joram. Joram, or Jehoram as he is also called, was the heir to the throne of Judah. Athliah’s brother Ahaziah succeeded his father Ahab on the throne in Israel. For the first time in their histories, the rulers of the two kingdoms were brothers-in-law. With this background in mind, we can begin with the narrative in II Kings 1. The year is 853 B.C.
Ahaziah vs. Elijah Ahaziah, while walking around his roof one day, accidentally fell through the lattice work. Glass windows were unknown in that time, and a braided wood, looking something like the decoration on a gazebo, kept the birds out and still allowed the wind to blow through. Evidently, Ahaziah tripped and fell, injuring himself severely on jagged pieces of broken latticework. To obtain the prognosis for his recovery, he called for his messengers and ordered them to go to Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, to see whether or not he would recover from his injuries. Baalzebub was a Philistine god and Ekron was a Philistine city. Evidently, Ahaziah was not as wise as his predecessor of seventy-eight years before who founded the nation of Israel. When King Jeroboam’s son had become in, he sent his wife to Ahijah, the prophet of God, to learn what the prognosis would be. But, things have continued to deteriorate spiritually in the northern kingdom, and King Ahaziah inquired of a pagan god.
The angel of the Lord informed Elijah that Ahaziah was inquiring
of a pagan god and he immediately confronted the messengers. In fear, they returned to the king who asked, “Why are ye now turned back?” (II Kings 1: 5). They explained, “There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, . Is it because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?”
When Ahaziah asked the man’s identity, they described “an hairy
man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. “ Ahaziah knew,
to his dismay, that it was Elijah. He sent a cohort of fifty men to arrest
the prophet, but because of their insulting attitude, Elijah called down
fire upon them, killing the captain and his fifty. However, Ahaziah was
not deterred. He sent out a second fifty men with the same deadly
result. Still, in fury, he sent a third fifty. But, in fear and respect, this
captain approached Elijah with caution and instead of issuing a command, implored him to spare his men and then to accompany him to
the king. Elijah may have said to himself, “That’s more like it!” To
assure him, the angel of the Lord said: “Go down with him. “ Elijah
personally delivered God’s sentence of death on the king for his evil life and for attempting to consult a pagan god. Verse 17 says,
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 son.
Joram and Jehoram For a time, there were two kings with the same name on the thrones of Israel and Judah. “Jehoram” and “Joram” are variant spellings for the same Hebrew name. Both forms are used in various passages for each king. Almost certainly, one was named after the other during a time of close friendship between the two nations.
The official synchronism for Joram’s accession in Israel, which is
given in II Kings 3: 1, is the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat. However, at the close of the account of Ahaziah (11 Kings 1:17) we read that he was succeeded by Joram in the second year of Jehoram of Judah. From this we know that the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat’s reign was the second year of Jehoram’s co-regency. These two synchronisms for Joram’s accession have often been regarded as contradictory and taken as evidence of the bungling by scholars involved in biblical chronology. We can see that this was true in the early centuries before the Christian era because of the variant data in the Greek text for these reigns. In the Septuagint, the synchronism of II Kings 1: 17 has been altered from the second year of Jehoram to the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat to make it agree with 11 Kings 3: 1. It should be noted that if Jehoram had been the sole ruler of Judah for two years before Joram came to the throne in Israel, then Jehoram began in Judah before Joram began in Israel. In such a case, Jehoram’s record should have preceded that of
Joram in the book of Kings. Such, however, is not the case. As we discussed earlier regarding the development in Kings of the stepladder approach, if this were not true the system would be inconsistent.