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Last time we had a quick look into the future of the Kings of Judah, looking at Jehoshaphat son of Jehoram, and then his son Ahaziah. But now I’d like to go back about twelve years to Israel, following the death of Ahab. It seems that Jehoshaphat King of Judah, in the South, is still on the throne, but his son Jehoram who will succeed him may already have been acting as co-regent. It’s also a bit confusing because we now read about Ahab’s son who is also called Ahaziah.


1 Kings 22:51-53

51 Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel for two years. 52 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother and in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. 53 He served and worshipped Baal and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done.


So we enter a new chapter in the history of Israel, and we start a new book in the Bible: 2 Kings. We will shortly read about the death of Elijah, but there was still work for him: Chapter1 is headed (in the NIV) The Lord’s judgement on Ahaziah.


As you might expect, the occupied nations around Israel (and Judah) were continually looking to regain their independence. And when a king dies, and a younger inexperienced son has to take over, it provides the perfect opportunity for a nation to rebel. Let’s read 2 Kings 1:1-17


1 After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel. 2 Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.”

3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 4 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’ ” So Elijah went.

5 When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?”

6 “A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending men to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” ’ ”

7 The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?”

8 They replied, “He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt round his waist.”

The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”


9 Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’ ”

10 Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.

11 At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once!’ ”

12 “If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.

13 So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! 14 See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!”

15 The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.

16 He told the king, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” 17 So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.

Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.


Now I have always found this passage a bit confusing but hopefully we will come to see that it’s simple really.


So let’s start back at verse 1. Firstly, why mention that Moab had rebelled? Show on Map013

Not only was it financially and politically important to maintain control over this buffer state, but unchecked, they may well attack and take over Israel’s own tribal lands to the east of the Jordan. According to Moab’s own records (the Mesha Stele) they recaptured Dibon (Gad) and Jahaz (Reuben), but this is not mentioned in the Bible (See 2 Kings 3). Also at about this time Moab attacked Judah as well (2 Chronicles 20) Perhaps it precipitated the King’s need to know how long he would be incapacitated as the King would be expected to  lead his troops into battle.


First of all, did the Lord agree with the appointment of Ahaziah as King of Israel? (Note that God does not refer to him as King of Israel – only king of Samaria v3)

Who had God instructed Elijah to anoint as King? Jehu.

Why did God choose Elijah to bring this message now? Was it to remind Elijah of his own failings?

What had happened to the new king? He’d fallen from the first floor and probably broken something.

What medical help could he expect? External first aid, perhaps strapping an obviously broken bone, then pray to the gods.

But what god? We are told in 1 Kings 22:53 that He served and worshipped Baal and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done. The Priests of Baal in Israel had been killed and Baal-worship was slow to recover. Ekron, the Philistine town on the borders with Israel had a powerful god, Baal-Zebub. (Or Baal-Zebul – Zebub is a collective noun for flies and may be a deliberate corruption of Zebul – meaning High Place or Heaven)

And it was obvious that he had no intention of asking the one true God.

Why was that?

Did he perhaps think that his injury was a punishment from God?

Or did he just decide that Jehovah God was not for him?


For whatever reason, he decided that he didn’t want to hear God’s answer. But God was going to tell him anyway! (verse 3). Elijah intercepted the messengers and pronounced God’s judgement.


Like father, like son – Ahaziah’s response was ‘get Elijah’. In those days the belief was that if you had been cursed, the person cursing you might be persuaded to remove the curse, but then killing him would also have the effect of sending his curse with him to the grave.


So verse 9: Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’ ”


A simple command, backed by the power of fifty soldiers. But look at it: it’s in three parts:

Man of God

The King says

Come Down


Man of God: as far as the captain was concerned, that was his title. Rather like Vicar. He meant nothing more by it. He was simply there to arrest him.

The King says: That was his mandate, his authority to make the arrest.

Come Down: an interesting choice of words. We might have said ‘Come with me’. But we are told (verse 9) that Elijah was sitting on top of a hill. Living near Hay Tor, on Dartmoor, I can picture Elijah sitting on the top of the rocks at the summit. Yes, you could send soldiers up to bring someone down, but it would be much safer for all concerned to start by calling to him to come down.


But it also conveys the fact that the king wanted him to come down to his level where he could exert his power, and Elijah could never agree to that.  So we read (verse 10) Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.


Was that over-reaction or measured self-defence?

What other response would have left Elijah unharmed?


God always knows what he is doing: Here is an upstart King, not appointed by God, who – we are told – (1 Kings 22:52) did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother and in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. 53 He served and worshipped Baal and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done. And he managed to do that even though he was only on the throne for two years  and for part of that time he was confined to his bed!


God had a message for Ahaziah, and intended that he was going to hear it.

  

Back at the palace Ahaziah was in agony. He was dying from his injuries (although he didn’t know that yet). He was getting more and more frustrated. How long does it take to go up a hill and arrest an old man?

I assume that finally he sent a runner to find out what had happened. The runner  found the smoking remains of fifty-one soldiers and hurried back.

He told the king.


What was the king’s response?

Verse 11: At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men.


If Ahaziah stopped to think at all he may have guessed that there had been a freak lightening strike or something. He didn’t care. He was in agony. He wanted Elijah and he wanted him NOW!


So a second troop of soldiers was dispatched.


Remember that Samaria was a fortress city, and would have contained a small regular army for it’s defence. No-one would have commented on the departure of a troop, or a messenger going to and fro, or even a second troop being dispatched, but once the messenger could return to his unit, gossip would have started flying.


A whole troop of your fellow soldiers being slaughtered in mysterious circumstances would be worrying news. Couple that with the name Elijah and the fact that the soldiers had been burnt, and those who had recently witnessed the events on Carmel would start to come up with fanciful embellishments. Or perhaps the messenger had even called up to Elijah to ask what had happened.

It is certain that there would be many now who were interested in seeing the second troop of soldiers return.


As Ahaziah grew more and more impatient, the soldiers would have grown more and more worried. The order came down for another messenger. Now all eyes watched him leave, and many waited anxiously for his return.


As he returned many caught him at the city gate and asked for his news even before he could tell the king.


As the messenger reported to the king the entire garrison was buzzing with the news. Another fifty men burnt to death by Elijah!


Now when the order came for a third troop to be dispatched, the feeling amongst soldiers and officers alike was very different. No longer confident in their own abilities, now they were frightened for their lives. Some had personally watched Elijah call down fire from heaven on Carmel and were convinced that he had done the same to the soldiers.

 

So the approach of the third captain is very different – verse 13:

So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! 14 See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!”


Now the tables were turned. Now the soldiers were ready to act as a personal bodyguard, escorting God’s ambassador to Ahaziah. Probably each soldier would have been prepared to guarantee his safety – out of fear for his own life.


So now we can read:

15 The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.

16 He told the king, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” 17 So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.

Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.


And Elijah was allowed to leave the palace totally unscathed, as the people had again witnessed the power of the true God. and the renewed confidence of his ambassador.


There is still one thing more for Elijah to do before he is summoned home.


So far the kings of Judah (in the south) had been generally good. Now though, with the coming of Jehoram the whole Godly attitude of the people changed. We read a bit about him last time:


2 Chronicles 21:4-20

4 When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the princes of Israel.
5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eight years. 6 He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. 7 Nevertheless, because of the covenant the Lord had made with David, the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David. He had promised to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants for ever.

8 In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled against Judah and set up its own king. 9 So Jehoram went there with his officers and all his chariots. The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he rose up and broke through by night. 10 To this day Edom has been in rebellion against Judah.

Libnah revolted at the same time, because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord, the God of his fathers. 11 He had also built high places on the hills of Judah and had caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and had led Judah astray.


This is the first time since the division into Judah and Israel that a king of Judah has deliberately turned his back on the Lord God. And God is having none of it, so he tells Elijah to write a letter to the King.


12 Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet, which said:


“This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: ‘You have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah.
13 But you have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your father’s house, men who were better than you. 14 So now the Lord is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. 15 You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.’ ”


16 The Lord aroused against Jehoram the hostility of the Philistines and of the Arabs who lived near the Cushites. 17 They attacked Judah, invaded it and carried off all the goods found in the king’s palace, together with his sons and wives. Not a son was left to him except Ahaziah, the youngest.

18 After all this, the Lord afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. 19 In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain. His people made no fire in his honour, as they had for his fathers.

20 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eight years. He passed away, to no-one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.





1 Kings Elijah 181 Kings Elijah 20








ELIJAH 19   2 Kings 1:1-17 Ahaziah and three captains, each with 50 men. Jehoram

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