One of the attributes that we have seen in the writings of 1 & 2 Kings is that a picture will be given to us that will prepare for the events that follow. For example, we notice that Elisha caused an ax head to float for one of the prophets. Read by itself, it is a miracle that seems nonsensical. But when this miracle is connected to the events that follow, we see that this miracle was a picture of the restoration that God was offering to Israel by trying to open their eyes to see the invisible working of God. We are going to see another instance of this in 2 Kings 8-10. We are going to read an account that seems to be a one-off event. But we will see how it is deeply connected to the events that follow. As we have seen in each lesson, each point being made shows another aspect of God’s character and what he expects from us with that knowledge.
Restore It All (8:1-6)
The eighth chapter of 2 Kings opens with our attention returning to the Shunammite woman. We read about her in chapter 4. She was the one who was providing for Elisha as he traveled back and forth and also made a place for him to stay in her home. Elisha promised her a son, who was born, then died, and then was raised from the dead. She is the one who knew all was well if she could get to the man of God. We are told in 2 Kings 8:1 that Elisha had told her to go settle somewhere else for a time because there was going to be a seven year famine. We read about the famine’s devastating effects in chapters 6-7. So she and her family lived in Philistia for seven years just as Elisha told her to do. Once the seven years were over, she and her family returns to Israel and she goes to the king of Israel to appeal for her house and land. While she was gone it seems that someone else has confiscated the land.
It just so happened that the king of Israel was speaking to Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, about how Elisha had restored the dead to life. Now stop for a moment and consider. Why is Gehazi telling the king of Israel about how Elisha restored a dead person to life? I want us to see that Gehazi is teaching the king. God is still trying to reach this wicked king through the miracles and teachings of Elisha. While Gehazi is telling the king about this, the woman whose son had been raised from the dead walks in to appeal to the king for her house and land. Gehazi tells the king that this is the woman he was talking about. Notice the result. She receives what she needs. The command is given to restore all that was hers, including all the income from her land from the day that she left until now. This woman has had her son restored to life by the power of God. This woman had her house and land restored to her because of the power of God. This woman has her income from the past seven years restored to her. The command was to restore all that was hers. So this is the big message and we are going to see how this plays out in the rest of the events that are recorded for us.
Weeping Over Israel (8:7-15)
God is going to start moving pieces around for his purpose. Elisha goes to Damascus, which is in Syria. Syria has been the nation giving Israel all kinds of problems. But the king of Syria is ill. When he learns that Elisha is in Damascus, he sends Hazael to inquire whether he will recover from this illness. So he goes with gifts and asks Elisha whether the king will recover. In verse 10 Elisha tells him that he should tell him that the king is going to recover. But the Lord has shown me that he is going to certainly die. Then Elisha just stares at Hazael until Hazael feels ashamed. It seems strange on the surface. Tell he will recover but he is really going to die. We are going to see how this is going to happen.
Elisha then cries and Hazael wants to know why. Elisha tells him that he knows all the harm that he is going to do to Israel. Hazael asks how he would ever be able to do such a thing. Elisha tells him that he is going to be king of Syria. So Hazael leaves and tells the king that he is going to recover. But the next day he took a thick bed cover, dipped it in water, and smothered the king until he died. Then Hazael took over as king. This is explains the prophecy of Elisha and why he stares at Hazael. Elisha knew what Hazael was going to do. The king is going to recover but it is not going to matter because you are going to kill him. Then the weeping over Israel because of the judgment that Syria will execute against Israel.
Deserving Judgment (8:16-29)
An interesting shift takes place in 2 Kings 8:16. Our focus is turned to the southern kingdom of Judah. To make things really confusing, Jehoshaphat’s son is named Jehoram and Ahab’s son is also named Jehoram. So we have two Jehorams reigning over Israel and Judah, as verse 16 tells us. The son of Jehoshaphat walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, just like Ahab. We are told why in verse 18. Jehoram’s wife was the daughter of Ahab. This explains this devotion that Jehoshaphat had to Ahab and to helping Israel. Jehoshaphat’s son was married to Ahab’s daughter and this made a wicked mess. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Verse 19 makes an important point. Judgment against Judah is deserved. The implication is that the nation of Judah is no better than the nation of Israel. However, the only reason judgment is delayed is because of God’s promise made to David. God’s promise made to David over 200 years early is why judgment is not falling against Judah. The reason Judah will continue to go on is not because of the nation’s righteousness. Verse 19 says that the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah because he promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants. But the rest of this section is showing how the kingdom is disintegrating before their eyes. In verse 20 we see Edom rebelling against Judah and the Edomites winning when Jehoram tried to bring them back into submission. The nation of Israel has been disintegrating, losing nations and cities that surround it. Now the nation of Judah has the same disintegration of the kingdom occurring.
In verse 25 we see that the son of Jehoram, Ahaziah, begins to reign in Judah next. He reigned only one year. He also walked in the way of Ahab, doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Ahaziah and Jehoram of Israel joined forces to try to fight the Syrians, only to lose and for Jehoram to be wounded. So Ahaziah has come to visit Jehoram while he is wounded.
Executing Judgment (9:1-10:28)
Chapter 9 now opens with Elisha telling one of the prophets to go to Ramoth-Gilead, look for Jehu and anoint him as king over Israel. Please note that this is also confusing but Jehu is not the son of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. He is a different Jehu altogether and is commander of Israel’s army. This was God’s message to Jehu at the anointing. Jehu is to destroy the house of Ahab and avenge the blood of the prophets and servants of the Lord (9:6-8). Finally, the dogs will eat Jezebel in the open and no one will bury her. Jehu tells his men, the trumpet is blown, and the proclamation is made that Jehu is king.
So Jehu begins his mission to wipe out every person who belongs to the house of Ahab. Jehu takes his chariot to Jezreel where injured Jehoram is and Ahaziah, the king of Judah, who is visiting him. As the city tries to figure out who is coming, someone notes that he drives the chariot like Jehu because he is driving like a maniac. I try to visualize what that must have looked like. Jehoram and Ahaziah go out to meet him and ask if he has come in peace. Look at his answer in verse 22. “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?” Jehu draws the arrow and kills Jehu. Notice that he has his body thrown in the field that belonged to Naboth because he heard the prophecy given against Ahab for what he did to Naboth (9:25-26). Jehu also kills Ahaziah because he is intertwined with Ahab’s house through marriage. Jehu then approaches the palace where Jezebel lives. Jezebel looks out the window and sarcastically calls down to Jehu, saying, “Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?” Zimri murdered his master in 1 Kings 16:8-20 to take the throne but only lasted one week. Jehu calls up, “Who is on my side?” Two or three eunuchs look out the window. Jehu tells them to throw her out the window. So they do and her blood splattered on the wall and on the horses which trampled on her. Then he goes in and eats and drinks. Basically it is all in a day’s work. He tells them to bury Jezebel but they can only find her skull, feet, and hands because the dogs have eaten her flesh, fulfilling what Elijah prophesied about her end.
Chapter 10 is more of the same as Jehu has Ahab’s seventy sons killed according to the word of the Lord (10:10). Verse 11 says that Jehu killed everyone who was left in the house of Ahab, leaving no survivors just as he had been instructed to do (10:17). Notice he says in verse 16, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” With this, there is no one left in Ahab’s house. Finally, in verses 18-27 we see Jehu having all the prophets of Baal killed. Jehu demolishes the pillar to Baal, destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a public toilet. Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.
The day of vengeance that God had promised back in the days of Elijah had finally come. In our lesson last week we saw that we are supposed to believe in the word of the Lord. When God says it, it is going to happen. Notice that many prophetic judgments had been piled up against Ahab, Jezebel, and his whole house. But it took years later for the judgments to come to pass. Vengeance belongs to God and he will repay. I want us to think about why it took so long for these judgments to finally fall. Go back to 1 Kings 21:20-29. Elijah comes to Ahab and pronounces judgment on Ahab and Jezebel for their sins. Everything that we just saw was declared by Elijah. But when Elijah made this pronouncement, Ahab tore his clothes and put on sackcloth (21:27). God saw that Ahab humbled himself before him. Look at verse 29. “Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.” Why was judgment delayed? Judgment was delayed because Ahab turned to the Lord for a moment.
The first truth I want us to see God teaching us is that God’s judgment can be delayed because of a present obedience. People being repentant, humbling themselves before the Lord, or turning themselves back to God, even for a moment can delay the decreed judgment of the Lord. Sometimes we can wonder why wickedness is allowed to continue. Why does God not execute his judgment now? When will he avenge the righteous? One of the answers God gives to us is that judgment will wait when people turn back to God. This is the goal of God: for no one to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God will avenge his people. God will bring justice. God will restore his people. God will give the just recompense that is deserved. The reversal will come. But we have to wait for it. After the seven year famine, the woman whose son had been raised from the dead had all things restored to her. We are in the famine time now. When the time is right, God will judge, justice will be served, and we will have all things restored to us.
The second truth I want us to see comes from Jehu. The postscript for Jehu is a little surprising. In verse 29 we are told that he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam and the golden calf worship. However, the Lord said to Jehu that since he had carried out what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did all that was in God’s heart, his sons will sit on the throne to the fourth generation. But look at verse 31. Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord. Jehu did what was in God’s heart but was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord. So what happened? How can Jehu says, “See how I am zealous for the Lord” but not be careful to walk in God’s ways?
Here is the second truth God wants us to understand. Jehu was zealous for the Lord only when it was what Jehu wanted to do. He claimed to be zealous for the Lord and looked like he was going to do everything God wanted. But he only obeyed the Lord when the command aligned with his desires and values. This is a deception that is easy to believe. We can think that we are zealous for the Lord. We can think that we are doing the will of God. We can think that we are on God’s side. But in reality, all that we are doing is obeying when we agree with what God says. We are zealous for the things we want to do. You see that Jehu did not want to turn away from the sins of Jeroboam. He did not want to be careful to follow what God said. He wanted to carefully follow only the things that God said that he wanted to do. Being zealous for the Lord means carefully following what God says, even the things we do not want to do, do not understand, or do not agree with. God never came to us for our opinion regarding what we might want to do and not want to do. Being zealous for the Lord means completely following all that God says. Jesus said this very thing as well in the Sermon on the Mount.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21–23 ESV)
Lots of people are going to say they are zealous for the Lord but not do what the Lord said. They are going to say the things that sounds right. They are going to do things that are righteous. This is what Jehu did. But we will receive condemnation if we do not do all that God has told us to do. Bold faith does all that the Lord has said and waits for the restoration of God when the final judgment arrives. We need to consider our zeal for the Lord. Are we zealous for all God has said? Are we only zealous when we agree with what God says? There is a big difference. Are we saying, Lord, Lord? Or are we doing the will of the Father in heaven?