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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for 2 Kings 8

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New Kings in Syria and Judah

A. The restoration of the Shunammite’s land.

1. (2Ki 8:1-3) The Shunammite returns to Israel after seven years.

Then Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life, saying, “Arise and go, you and your household, and stay wherever you can; for the Lord has called for a famine, and furthermore, it will come upon the land for seven years.” So the woman arose and did according to the saying of the man of God, and she went with her household and dwelt in the land of the Philistines seven years. It came to pass, at the end of seven years, that the woman returned from the land of the Philistines; and she went to make an appeal to the king for her house and for her land.

a. Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life: 2 Kings 4 describes Elisha’s previous dealings with this woman. She and her husband were godly, generous people who helped the prophet. Through Elisha’s prayer they were blessed with a son, who was also brought miraculously back to life.

b. She went with her household and dwelt in the land of the Philistines seven years: On the advice of the prophet, the woman and her family left Israel because of a coming famine. In the land of the Philistines, they were spared the worst of the famine.

c. She went to make an appeal to the king for her house and for her land: Upon leaving Israel and going to the land of the Philistines, the woman forfeited her claim to her ancestral lands. She made this appeal so she would not be a loser for listening to God’s prophet and for saving her family from famine.

2. (2Ki 8:4-6) Her land is restored.

Then the king talked with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, “Tell me, please, all the great things Elisha has done.” Now it happened, as he was telling the king how he had restored the dead to life, that there was the woman whose son he had restored to life, appealing to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed a certain officer for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, and all the proceeds of the field from the day that she left the land until now.”

a. Then the king talked with Gehazi: This was the same servant of Elisha who was cursed with leprosy in 2 Kings 5:20-27. It seems strange that a severely afflicted leper would be a counselor to a king, so it seems that either Gehazi was granted healing from his leprosy or that this actually took place before the events of 2 Kings 5.

i. Of course, it is still possible that the king had this conversation with Gehazi when the former prophet’s assistant was a leper and the king simply kept his distance. “Some think that this conversation might have taken place after Gehazi became leprous; the king having an insatiable curiosity to know the private history or a man who had done such astonishing things: and from whom could he get this information, except from the prophet’s own confidential servant?” (Clarke)

b. Tell me, please, all the great things Elisha has done: Perhaps his motive was nothing more than curiosity, yet it was still a significant testimony to the King of Israel. He knew that God was with the actions of Elisha, giving evidence that He was also with the word of Elisha.

c. As he was telling the king: The woman came to make her request at the exact time Gehazi told the king about the miracles associated with her life. This was perfect, God-ordained timing.

d. Restore all that was hers, and all the proceeds of the field from the day that she left: The king understood that if God was obviously supportive of this woman, then it also made sense for him to support her and to answer her request. In the end, her obedience to God’s word was not penalized.

i. “This act was in striking contrast to the notorious land-grabbing of Jehoram’s father, Ahab.” (Dilday)

B. A new king in Syria.

1. (2Ki 8:7-9) Elisha is questioned by Ben-Hadad.

Then Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, “The man of God has come here.” And the king said to Hazael, “Take a present in your hand, and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord by him, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this disease?’ ” So Hazael went to meet him and took a present with him, of every good thing of Damascus, forty camel-loads; and he came and stood before him, and said, “Your son Ben-Hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this disease?’ ”

a. The man of God has come here: The leaders of Syria once tried to capture or kill Elisha. Since God miraculously delivered the prophet so many times, he was now respected and welcomed in the courts of the Syrian King. He was especially welcome on account of the king’s illness.

b. Take a present in your hand: Wanting to know the outcome of his present illness, the king of Syria asked the prophet – and with his extravagant gift did whatever he could to prompt a favorable message.

i. “Whether the prophet received it or not, is not here mentioned; but it is most probable that he did not, from his former practice, chapter 5, and because the reasons which then swayed him were still of the same force.” (Poole)

2. (2Ki 8:10-13) Elisha’s enigmatic revelation.

And Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover.’ However the Lord has shown me that he will really die.” Then he set his countenance in a stare until he was ashamed; and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, “Why is my lord weeping?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the children of Israel: Their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword; and you will dash their children, and rip open their women with child.” So Hazael said, “But what is your servant; a dog, that he should do this gross thing?” And Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you will become king over Syria.”

a. Go, say to him, “You shall certainly recover.” However the Lord has shown me that he will really die: God gave Elisha insight into more than the health of the king of Syria. He also saw the inevitable and ultimately God-ordained political machinations that would unfold.

i. Elisha rightly said that the king would certainly recover from his illness, and he did. However, he also saw that the same servant he spoke with at that moment would engineer an assassination and take the throne.

ii. This is how Elisha’s statement was true. The king certainly did recover from his illness, and he really did die soon – but not from the illness.

b. He set his countenance in a stare... I know the evil that you will do: This was a dramatic, personal confrontation between this prophet and the high official of the king of Syria. Elisha stared at him so because he had prophetic knowledge of future events, and how this man would trouble Israel in the future.

i. “The prophet gazed long and fixedly into the eyes of Hazael. It would seem that he saw far more in the soul of the man than any other had seen, perhaps more than the man himself was conscious of.” (Morgan)

c. And the man of God wept: God told Elisha more about the coming situation than he wanted to know. He showed the prophet that the messenger of the king (Hazael), after he took the throne from the present king of Syria, would do evil to the children of Israel.

i. Elisha’s prophetic calling and gift was at times more of a burden than a blessing. He could clearly see what would befall Israel through Hazael, but he was powerless to prevent it.

ii. “The nearer we live to God, the more we deserve to be known as men and women of God, the more will our tears flow for the slain of the daughters of our people.” (Meyer)

iii. “His tears were in themselves signs of his understanding of the necessity for those severe judgment which must fall upon the guilty nation; but they were the outcome of his deep love for his people.” (Morgan)

d. But what is your servant; a dog, that should do this gross thing? Perhaps Hazael had planned this assassination and simply acted ignorant at Elisha’s announcement. Perhaps he had not yet planned it, but did not know the evil capabilities in his own heart.

i. Either way, his offence was inappropriate. He should have taken this warning as an opportunity to confront himself and to do right, instead of turning an accusation back upon Elisha.

ii. “Our ignorance of the depravity of our own hearts is a startling fact, Hazael did not believe that he was bad enough to do any of the things here anticipated.... I appeal to you, Christian men and women, if anyone had told you that you would have loved your Savior so little as you have done; if any prophet had told you, in the hour of your conversion, that you would have served him so feebly as you have done, would you have believed it!” (Spurgeon)

e. The Lord has shown me that you will become king over Syria: It may be asked if Elisha should have told Hazael this; perhaps he set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy and actually inspired the assassination of the king of Syria.

i. However, there are many reasons for thinking that Elisha did exactly the right thing when he said this to Hazael.

· Elisha did not tell Hazael how the king would die; he did not reveal that it would be through assassination.
· Elisha did not tell Hazael how he would become the next king of Syria; he did not tell Hazael to assassinate the king.
· Elisha went against his own compassionate and patriotic interests in telling Hazael this, making it more likely that he did it at God’s prompting.
· Elisha perhaps hoped that this amazing prophecy would touch Hazael’s heart and turn him away from the evil he could later commit against Israel.

ii. As it turned out, God knew the actions of Hazael, but He did not make Hazael do it. “It was absolutely foretold that Hazael would be king of Syria. The prophet knew the fact right well, and he clearly descried the means; else, why should he look into Hazael’s face, and weep? God foreknew the mischief that he would do when he came to the throne; yet that foreknowledge did not in the least degree interfere with his free agency.” (Spurgeon)

3. (2Ki 8:14-15) The assassination of the King of Syria.

Then he departed from Elisha, and came to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me you would surely recover.” But it happened on the next day that he took a thick cloth and dipped it in water, and spread it over his face so that he died; and Hazael reigned in his place.

a. He told me you would surely recover: Which he certainly did or would have, had not the wicked Hazael committed murder.

i. “He represents the prophet’s answer by halves, that by his master’s security he might have the fitter opportunity to execute his treasonable design.” (Poole)

b. So that he died: Hazael took an evil inference from Elisha’s prophecy and seized the throne. He should have taken the prophet’s announcement as a warning to check his own heart; instead he acted on that evil – and was fully responsible for his own actions.

i. “The predestination of God does not destroy the free agency of man, or lighten the responsibility of the sinner. It is true, in the matter of salvation, when God comes to save, his free grace prevails over our free agency, and leads the will in glorious captivity to the obedience of faith. But in sinning, man is free, — free in the widest sense of the term, never being compelled to do any evil deed, but being left to follow the turbulent passions of his own corrupt heart, and carry out the prevailing tendencies of his own depraved nature.” (Spurgeon)

ii. “An ancient Assyrian inscription, called the Berlin inscription, says, ‘Hazael the son of nobody, seized the throne.’ This designation indicates that he was an usurper with no dynastic line.” (Dilday)

C. Two new kings in Judah.

1. (2Ki 8:16-24) The reign of Jehoram over Judah.

Now in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat having been king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat began to reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of his servant David, as He promised him to give a lamp to him and his sons forever. In his days Edom revolted against Judah’s authority, and made a king over themselves. So Joram went to Zair, and all his chariots with him. Then he rose by night and attacked the Edomites who had surrounded him and the captains of the chariots; and the troops fled to their tents. Thus Edom has been in revolt against Judah’s authority to this day. And Libnah revolted at that time. Now the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Joram rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.

a. Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat began to reign as king of Judah: The story of the kings of Judah really paused at 1 Kings 22:50, where Jehoshaphat the son of Asa ended his 25-year reign and his son Jehoram came to the throne. Now we pick up the story of Jehoram again.

i. This King Jehoram of Judah should not be confused with the King Jehoram of Israel mentioned in 2 Kings 3. That Jehoram is called Joram in this passage and following.

b. He walked in the way of the kings of Israel: This was not a compliment. While the southern Kingdom of Judah had a mixture of godly and wicked kings, the northern Kingdom of Israel had nothing but evil, God-rejecting kings.

i. The Chronicler adds that Jehoram made all Judah to sin according to the religion of the Canaanites (2 Chronicles 21:11).

c. For the daughter of Ahab was his wife: The wickedness of Jehoram was not a surprise, considering how much he allowed himself to be influenced by the house of Ahab. Perhaps this marriage made sense politically or socially, but it was a spiritual calamity for Judah.

i. Arranged by his father, Jehoram married the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel – her name was Athaliah. In order to consolidate his throne, he murdered his many brothers and many other leaders (1 Chronicles 21:1-6). “Josephus expands on this, indicating that he committed the murders at the prompting of Athaliah.” (Dilday)

ii. Perhaps some people thought that the marriage between the royal families of the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel would lift up the Kingdom of Israel spiritually. It didn’t work that way. Instead, it brought the Kingdom of Judah down spiritually.

iii. “It was all the result of his ill-advised alliance with the ungodly house of Ahab, and what he sowed he, by dread anticipation at least, reaped. And his posterity were made to reap it actually, in a most terrible way.” (Knapp)

d. Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of his servant David: The implication is that Jehoram’s evil was great enough to justify such judgment, but God withheld it out of faithfulness to his ancestor David.

i. “The lamp was more than a symbol of life and of testimony, it reminded the hearer of the covenant (Psalm 132:17, c.f. 2 Chronicles 21:7).” (Wiseman)

e. In his days Edom revolted against Judah’s authority: This is evidence of the weakness of the kingdom of Jehoram. He thought that the marriage alliance with Ahab and the Kingdom of Israel would make Judah stronger, but this act of disobedience only made them weaker.

f. So Joram rested with his fathers: It is easy to get confused with the variation between Jehoram and Joram, but they are two variant names for the same king of Judah. He died and was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the honored tombs of his ancestors (2 Chronicles 21:20).

i. According to 2 Chronicles 21:12-15, Elijah wrote Jehoram a letter, condemning him for his sins and predicting that judgment would come upon him and disaster upon the nation. At the age of 40, Jehoram was struck with a fatal intestinal disease and he died in terrible pain (2 Chronicles 21:19).

ii. “He is one of the most unlovely of all the kings of Judah. ‘Exalted by Jehovah,’ he was for his wickedness thrust down to a dishonoured grave.” (Knapp)

2. (2Ki 8:25-29) The reign of Ahaziah over Judah.

In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel. And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, like the house of Ahab, for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab. Now he went with Joram the son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth Gilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram. Then King Joram went back to Jezreel to recover from the wounds which the Syrians had inflicted on him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick.

a. Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign: The short life and reign of Jehoram (he reigned only eight years and died at 40 years of age) should have warned Ahaziah. His brief reign (one year) shows he was even less blessed than his father Jehoram.

i. “Ahaziah succeeded his father, Jehoram, in the critical year 841 b.c. He was not to survive the momentous waves of the political events that were to inundate the ancient Near East in that year. Indeed, in 841 b.c. Shalmaneser III of Assyria (859-824 b.c.) at last was able to break the coalition of western allies with whom he had previously fought a long series of battles (853, 848, 845).” (Patterson and Austel)

ii. Twenty-two years old: This is at odds with 2 Chronicles 22:2, which says that Ahaziah took the throne when 42 years old. “I am satisfied the reading in 2 Chronicles 22:2, is a mistake; and that we should read there, as here, twenty-two instead of forty-two year.... “Is there a single ancient author of any kind, but particularly those who have written on matters of history and chronology, whose works have been transmitted to us free of similar errors, owing to the negligence of transcribers?” (Clarke)

b. Now he went with Joram the son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Syria: His close association with the wicked house of Ahab developed into a war alliance with Israel against Syria. His connection with his mother’s family (she was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, 2 Kings 8:18) was so strong and sympathetic that he paid a visit to the injured and sick King of Israel (Joram).

© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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