II Kings 1:2 Elijah and Ahaziah
At the beginning of this book Elijah the prophet’s ministry comes to a close and in chapter two we find the “changing of the guard” as Elijah is taken to heaven without dying in a brilliant heavenly chariot and his mantle fell on his understudy Elisha. Both ministered to the northern kingdom which was the apostate kingdom.
Keeping things straight regarding the divided kingdom is made the more difficult because there are so many similar names. (Example: A King of Judah is also named Ahaziah in II Kings 8:24-29). The helpful guides to look for are what I call the “book ends.” For example there are two important ones in the last chapter of I Kings (22). These generally tell us when a son inherits the throne from his father naming both the father and the son. Secondly, these “ books ends” usually give the ages of the kings and the length of their rule as well as often giving the king’s mother’s name. Finally, and very helpful, comparisons are made in these “book ends” between the kings of the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah).
For example (22:40) Ahab dies, his son Ahaziah begins to reign and it is this man about whom we read in the first story of II Kings. In verse 41 (continuing for the moment in I Kings 22) we are told that Jehoshaphat the son of Asa had begun to rule in Judah during Ahab’s 4th year. The next verse gives us genealogical information about Jehoshaphat.
The second important “book end” is also found in this last chapter of I Kings in verses 50-51. Note Jehoshaphat’s death and the beginning of his son Jehoram’s reign. Again before we launch into II Kings we are told about Ahab’s son Ahaziah beginning to reign over the northern kingdom (Israel) during Jehoshaphat’s 17th year. Samaria was Ahaziah’s capital as Jehoshaphat’s was Jerusalem and he only reigned 2 years. All the northern kings were evil.
Remember, the kings of Judah are all related and this history is given to show the background of our Lord Jesus, the root and offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). I challenge you to draw a chart of I Kings from David to the end of the book using the “book ends” from scratch. (No helps! - except perhaps a concordance).
II Kings 2:15 “The Spirit of Elijah Doth Rest on Elisha”
Somehow Elisha knew that the big day had arrived and he planned to stick around and watch the proceedings. Was he being tested as he followed his mentor first to Bethel then to Jericho and finally to the river Jordan? What is the significance of this route and the groups of the “sons of the prophets” in each place? Were these Bible Schools that Elijah wanted to address with some final words? They were certainly very interested in what was taking place on this day and we wonder how they knew so much about it. It is impressive that there were 50 of them gathered together at some point where they could watch what happened. We wonder if they saw the chariot of fire and horses of fire take Elijah in a tempest (Hebrew) to heaven or somewhere, they weren’t sure. They saw Elisha use the mantle that had fallen upon him to part the river Jordan and rightly concluded that the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha. In fact he had been told that if he saw Elijah go up, a double portion of his spirit would be upon him. (The Scripture records twice as many miracles for Elisha than Elijah).
Was it the same fifty prophets that searched the mountains for three days in case Elijah had fallen out of the chariot?
While Elisha tarried a while at Jericho he had an opportunity to help purify the water supply which was accomplished with salt, which normally produced an opposite condition (Ezekiel 47:11). The river Jordan is often a picture of the death-life process as when Israel crossed into the promised land. The stones left in the river pictured Israel’s death and burial while those on the Canaan side which had been carried up out of the river represented a new beginning for the nation (resurrection- as baptism) (Joshua 4:20).
Here we have Elijah’s passing associated with crossing Jordan and a new beginning of abundant life and power in the person of Elisha who perhaps pictures the victorious Christian life in the fulness of that spirit which had rested on Elijah (Christ). Just a suggestion.
II Kings 3:1 Jehoram and Jehoshaphat
As we have said before, duplicate names for both northern and southern kings may tend to confuse, but hang in there and work at it a bit and it will all come out in the wash. Ahab’s second son Jehoram is the one who is king of Israel during this story of the three kings. It takes place during the 18th year of Jehoshaphat whose son (also named Jehoram - 1:17) reigned with his father which explains the seeming contradiction.
The scenario is as follows. Moab saw a chance to rebel when Ahab died and his first son (who had no son of his own- 1:17) was sick. When Jehoram (Ahab’s number 2 son) decided to whip him back into line he besought the aid of Jehoshaphat who probably helped him because he too was having trouble with Moab(Thompson Bible gives the year as 896 B.C. for both chapters). You should take note of the fact that Jehoshaphat has been on his throne since I Kings 15:24 and his reign does not end until II Kings 8:16 thus it spans 16 chapters and twenty-five years (II Chr.20:31) .
The two kings decide to go around the southern end of the Dead Sea, a more difficult route but picking up an ally in the deputized king of Edom (I Kings 22:47) and probably attacking Moab from a less defended and more unexpected position.
Trouble arises however, for there is no water for this great host. God had His man at the ready however and he doesn’t miss an opportunity to chide Jehoram (v.14). God expects us to always be a faithful witness against evil and in defense of truth. A miracle takes place and the result is exceeding abundantly above their expectations as Elisha promises them victory over the enemy in addition to deliverance from annihilation as feared by Jehoram(v.10).
Jehoshaphat’s reign is also covered in II Chr.17:1-21:1. His son Jehoram is Judah’s 5th king while Ahab’s son Jehoram is Israel’s 9th king (if Tibni is not counted- I Kings 16:22). Sometimes the Jehoram of this chapter is also called Joram, a shortened form of the name. (Compare II Kings 9:23& 24 where both forms are used.)
II Kings 4:40 Death in the Pot
This inspiring portion of Scripture needs little commentary. The schools of the prophets, the itinerant ministry of Elisha and the miracle of life tell of wonderful days in a dark period of Israel’s history.
It makes me think of conditions in Maine in the early 1800's. Isaac Case, a young man in his early 20's, walked all the way from his home in Rehoboth, Massachusetts to Thomaston, Maine where there was no organized church of any kind and finding a few pious souls he began to hold preaching services in Oliver Robbins’ barn. Thus in January 1784, began a ministry which ended by his death in Readfield, November 3rd, 1852 spreading over eastern Maine and New Brunswick at a time when along the Maine coast from Ellsworth to Eastport there was not one settled minister.
Case married a girl in his church whose father was soon assisting in the service. I like his name! It was Elisha Snow, a prominent business man and builder of sailing vessels whose daughter Joanna had attracted Isaac’s interest. Eventually Elders Case and Snow became a team that started most of the Baptist churches in a radius of 50-75 miles of what is now Rockland where the Baptist church still hails the Robbins barn as its first home.
In 1802 the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Society began with Case as one of their itinerant preachers. I personally have in my possession magazines issuing from that date containing this history. Throughout Maine, then part of MA, exciting stories are recorded as a stream of life poured out upon its rock-bound coast. Vessels were filled to overflowing, the dead revived and the school of the prophets was nourished by the truth of the Word.
This latter reference is made concerning the small band of young men being trained by Elder Daniel Merrill, pastor of the Congregational church in Sedgewick. There was death in the pot in the form of the teaching of infant baptism but in studying, brother Merrill came to the conviction that believer’s baptism was the true way. As a result the largest church in Maine at the time became a Baptist church overnight (1805) and brother Case was involved in the proceedings as good stuff was added to the pot.
Soon one of the sons of the prophets, a student of pastor Merrill, Henry Hale was out on the gospel trail to be joined by P. Pilsbury, N. Norton, Amos Allen, Michael Carleton, Moses Merrill, Thomas Merrill and Daniel Dodge all ministers produced from one church. When Joshua Millet published his History of the Baptists in Maine (1845) this church had 260 members and had started 6 or 7 other churches in the area including the Blue Hill Baptist. What overflow of life from one pot!
II Kings 5:27 The Lying Leper
It was at camp Go-Tell near Presque Isle, Maine, when as a volunteer Vacation Bible school worker under the American Sunday School Union I heard and saw enacted the exciting story found in this chapter. I watched along with a large group of spell-bound children following the action in rapt attention as Pastor Phillip Hughey Sr. portrayed the 7-fold submerging of the mighty man of valor, the leper, Naaman. Coming up from the imaginary Jordan, shaking his head to disperse the droplets, squinting through the temporary veil of that imaginary liquid far inferior to Abana or Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, five times, six times and then the explosive joy when on the seventh, the skin was clean, like the flesh of a little child and the leprosy GONE!
What a wonderful story and well worth the retelling over and over again and what a powerful lesson when applied as it was that evening to a group of boys and girls sitting on the edge of their chairs as brother Hughey so expertly told what it was like to be a new born Christian. One of the reasons that I never forgot it, though it was over fifty-five years ago, is because I often retold it trying, before groups of children, to approximate his dramatic skills.
Those were great days during the two summers when under the direction of faithful A.S.S.U. missionaries Charlie Nute and Elsie Johnson we served teaching V.B.S. and working as counselors at camps Victory and Go-Tell. Paul and Eva Ramsdell were present also at the aforementioned meeting as they always were, to back up the good works of the single Miss Johnson. Good servitors were they all (4:43).
I knew Paul Ramsdell, District Superintendent of the A.S.S.U., from his frequent visits to Lubec, Maine and the Ridge Baptist Church where I got saved in 1944. Later it was the Ramsdells who recruited my co-worker and myself for those summer ministries, one of which ultimately led to 40 years of service at Bucksport. Praise God for faithful workers like Charlie, Elsie, Paul and Phil Hughey Sr. Poor Gehazi could have been one of them!
II Kings 6:17 “The LORD Opened the Eyes”
Was he just “seeing things” or were they really there? Well, did the iron swim or did Elisha “fish” it out? Is there a logical explanation for each of the miracles during this exceptional period as Israel’s history rushes to its close or did God actually raise up Elijah and Elisha to testify a final tribute to His miraculous power and are we to be “wooden headed” enough as fundamentalists to take this at face value?
If I write hoping to bless the hearts of readers who have no problem taking the Bible literally, well and good, however let us understand that as such we do so as a shrinking minority in a world where many so-called “evangelicals” are having a problem with biblical authority. Since the beginning of the twentieth century historical criticism with its roots in German rationalism, its stalk of blatant modernism, the flower of neo-orthodoxy and the fruit of new evangelicalism has emerged, according to Harold Lindsell in his book The Bible in the Balance as the “Bible’s greatest enemy.” I wish you all might have the benefit of reading chapter seven in this book. (Copyright, Zondervan, 1979).
One of our chief virtues as fundamentalists is that of being literalists and pity the poor soul who reads this chapter and is unable to appreciate the fact that Elisha’s new young servant actually “saw and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (v.17), a marvelous illustration of the Psalmist’s words, “the angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth them” (34:7).
As those who are heirs of salvation we all have angelic protection according to Hebrews 1:14 and what Satan quoted from Psalm 91 to the Lord Jesus may, as well, be applied to us all (vs.11&12). Have we not read accounts in missionary stories of similar occasions of deliverance?
Someday perhaps our eyes will be opened and we may be surprised and delighted to see what angels have done for us!
II Kings 7:2 “Windows in Heaven”
It was an “either/or” proposition that faced the four leprous men that evening, or so it seemed. “Let’s take a chance that the Syrians might spare our lives”. So they made their way to the enemy camp and taking the way of death found life for themselves but more importantly for the whole city. What a great lesson!
All men face death. It is absolutely unavoidable. If only people would face it “head on.” If you stay where you are and do nothing, you are doomed, so why not take a chance that the Bible is true- what have you to lose? Obviously it is not that simple or our churches would be full. The natural man usually thinks it is foolish to believe that there is a personal God Who has always existed, Who loves us enough to send His Son to die for us and Who longs to have us with Himself to enjoy eternal bliss. So the alternative looks better? We just happened to evolve millions of years ago from protoplasm, we spend a few years in a world filled with many difficult problems and just when we finally think we have a few years to enjoy retirement we get sick from some disease or other and off we go into oblivion. End of story!
Those of us who have “stepped off the deep end” have found, what we consider, a sure footing in the quicksand of life’s morass. We foolishly trusted the Bible to be true, we abandoned our lives to trust Christ as Savior and found that He had tasted death for us at the cross and destroyed it. Like the lepers, we chose to die to our own lives and found life in Christ to satisfy us beyond all measure. The “windows of heaven are open.”
If I have been hoodwinked and Christianity is a hoax and I fly off into eternal darkness when my days have spun to an end – what have I lost? As Gypsy Smith said, “If I am dreaming, let me dream on.”
On the other hand, I think Edwin O. Excell has expressed it very well when he said in his song “I have a witness bright and clear, – – – – —– , Dispelling every doubt and fear,” etc. Can you fill in the blanks and are you convinced it is true? I hope so.
II Kings 8:5 “This is the Woman”
There isn’t any subject that is easier to write about than this one! Don’t we just love it
when we see the providential timing of God’s wondrous works? “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Four times these words are repeated in Psalm 107 and we should wisely follow the admonition, occasionally adding a little postscript, “and always right on time,” for that is the emphasis of the little story that opens our chapter today.
Remember now, this is the northern king Jehoram who here witnesses from Gehazi some of the “wonderful works” that God had performed through his servant Elisha. (Commentators are not in agreement as to the timing of Gehazi’s visit, whether before or after his becoming a leper). Check out the “book ends” of 3:1 and 8:16 to see that there was a king with the name Jehoram in the southern kingdom also and what makes it a bit more confusing is that sometimes they are each called by the shortened version of their name Joram. This story is one more instance of Jehovah’s gracious witness to the apostate northern kingdom.
As Gehazi was telling the story of the Shunamite woman whose son Elisha had “restored” (v.1), lo and behold, she suddenly appears on the scene to beseech the king for her house and land. The timing was perfect and even the wicked heart of the king (3:3) was touched.
I wish I had a record of how often God has intervened in my life just at the right time. When I was in first grade, at a school picnic, my mother actually pulled me out from a boat load of Lubec children just as it was ready to leave the dock. The boat upset and over a dozen children were drowned. God’s timing and my mother’s concern probably saved my life. Just a week ago after I had inadvertently scheduled a Dr.’s appointment on a day when a pastors’ fellowship was to be held, a nurse called telling me that the doctor reported in sick just in time for us to be able to make it to the Bangor area for the meeting which I really wanted to attend. How about those times in your life where you have seen His providential watch-care? Let us not fail to praise Him for His goodness!
II Kings 9:37 The Day Jezebel Went to the Dogs
It was back in I Kings 21:22 - 24 when Elijah was still alive that he pronounced the prophecy that is fulfilled in the chapter which you are reading today. The occasion was the acquisition of Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab has died and his son Joram (Jehoram) is reigning over the northern kingdom called Israel and Ahaziah (king of Judah) has decided to pay a sick call on his fellow monarch who is recovering from wounds received in battle with the Syrians.
Mean while some very interesting things are transpiring relative to Elijah’s prophecy. Elisha is now chief prophet having received the mantle at his master’s glorious ascension and he assigns a mission to one of his students who carries it out flawlessly. At Ramoth-gilead a high level conference was being held and a figure, new to us at this point, named Jehu, who is about to assume center stage, is among the captains. The nameless fledgling was to intrude himself upon this conference, call Jehu out and privately anoint him king over Israel, repeating to him Elijah’s prophecy commissioning him to carry it out. When comrade captains, skeptical at first, heard of his communication they immediately joined the conspiracy.
Perhaps Elisha knew of the meeting between the two kings at Jezreel but at any rate, the timing was perfect and the upshot was that Jehu speedily (v.20) and efficiently accomplished his given task, incidently taking out the king of Judah at the same time (v.27).
You will remember that because Ahab had humbled himself, God’s judgement was destined to fall upon his son and significantly it was carried out in the precise “plat of ground” extorted from Naboth (v.26).
The most dramatic feature of this scenario was what befell the infamous Jezebel. What she intended to gain by putting on her eye shadow and doing up her hair I guess we will never know but it might be said as the eunuchs threw her out the window, she went down in a blaze of glory! It was indeed to God’s glory as the letter of Elijah’s prophecy was carried out, the dogs eating her flesh in the portion of Jezreel. He will have His way!
(Note that the Jehoshaphat who was Jehu’s father was different from the one who was the illustrious king of Judah.)
II Kings 10:30 The Terminator
Jehu was a great terminator. Having slain in the accounts of the previous chapter, two kings and a queen he now sees to it that the seventy sons of Ahab are murdered by the leaders in Samaria who had brought them up. Next he slew the murderers, the priests and all of Ahab’s acquaintances (kinfolk), a clean sweep.
In the mop-up operation Ahaziah king of Judah had been eliminated and now 42 of his brethren (v.11). They were on their way to a party at Samaria when they said the wrong thing to Jehu and they were dispatched.
In summation, Jehu “slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria” but there is yet more to do, Baal worship must be dealt with and so, feigning to be a fellow Baal worshiper himself, he calls for a great solemn assembly of every last one of them, and dresses them in special vestments so that there could be no question whose side they were on. With eighty men helping him, every Baal worshiper was slain (v.25) and with iconoclastic zeal they destroyed the house of Baal and turned it into a privy (center reference). “Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.” There remained some of it yet in Judah but that’s another story (11:18).
For terminating the house of Ahab and all that marriage with Jezebel had brought with it, Jehovah rewarded Jehu by personally telling him how pleased He was with the execution of His will and for doing all that was in His heart, He rewarded him by granting him four generations on the throne of Israel, the longest dynasty of the northern kingdom.
It is strange indeed that in spite of all the good he accomplished Jehu remained a worshiper of the ancient religion of the golden calves of Jeroboam, son of Nabat. We might say, he came close to doing right “with all his might” but failed. Of how many good people can that be said? So near and yet so far, they will, in spite of all the good they have done, spend eternity in Hell.
Finally, let us remember from this chapter how determined God is to terminate all evil men, and He will. He is the final Terminator!
II Kings 11:4 The Seventh Year
For six years it must have seemed to rulers in Judah that Jehovah’s promise to place an heir of David on the throne was forever thwarted. Certainly it would be Satan’s plan to do just that and thus discredit God’s Word. It would not be far fetched to believe that the very idea of destroying the “seed royal” was implanted in Athaliah’s mind by him in the first place. She, of course, was simply contriving to make sure that no heir would ever displace her.
For six years the secret had been kept while in the temple, in a chamber designed for the use of those who served there, a special child had remained hidden, having been “stolen from among the king’s sons which were slain,” by Jehoshaphat’s granddaughter Jehosheba (Jehoshabeath, I Chr.22:11). This brave lady was married to Jehoida the high priest who was obviously a very godly man and this plan was no doubt developed by him and carried out with the aid of his good wife and a faithful nurse (v.2).
Either there is a play on words or a great coincidence in the frequent occurrence in this story of the number seven. It is the seventh year since Athaliah began to reign and is also Joash’s birth year (v.21). Incidently it is the seventh year of Jehu Israel’s king. Whenever the term “oath” is used it involves the number seven (Shaba in Hebrew, which literally means “to seven oneself”) and has in it a sense of making something complete. When it says in verse four that Jehoida “took an oath of them in the house of the LORD” the sense is he had them “seven themselves” whether literally or figuratively. Joash’s aunt who had rescued him was named Jeho-sheba which contains this number seven and his mother was from Beer-sheba which was named for the well of seven or the oath. We consider the number seven to be the perfect number - this is why.
It must have been a thrilling moment for all of the rulers when they saw the “king’s son” and they knew “ as for God, His way is perfect” (Ps.18:30).
II Kings 12:9 Joash Chest
When dealing with a section of Scripture like we have just read in chapter 11 there has been little need to go over the details of the narrative for they are so straight forward as to be easily grasped and the moral of the story is pretty self evident so we take more time with nuts and bolts like, for instance, the meaning of the number seven. In this chapter, however, things are not quite that simple.
We all know about the Joash chest. Every church, it seems, has one and it is often used for special projects. What is not so easily understood here is why it was necessary. The fact is, the old ways were not working. Verses four and five deal with that subject. There were three ways for revenues to be gathered: “the money of everyone that passeth the account”, viz. ½ shekel per person; (see Ex.30:12-16); the value every man (was) set at” (Lev.27:2-8) and “money that cometh into any man’s heart to bring” (freewill offering).
It was evident that the priests just weren’t going to get it done for one reason or another even though they supposedly had these resources. Either the people were not responding or the priests were misappropriating the funds.
Not only did the problem of the “breaches” (a Hebrew word exclusively used here) need attention but the priest had to be by- passed (v.8).
Between Jehoida, the faithful high priest and his protege they devised a method of getting around the priest- problem and going directly to the common people. A box with a hole in it (probably with the lid screwed down and the hole so small no one could get their hand through it!) Once the people knew that the middle man was ruled out, the money flowed in.
It is great to see that the common laborer could also be trusted as it says “ they dealt faithfully” (v.15).
Joash had a wonderful mentor in Jehoida but unfortunately after he died the king’s true colors came out (II Chr.24:17-22). He paid dearly for his ingratitude. We will speak of it at a later time.
II Kings 13:21 Elisha’s Bones
First, let’s dispense with a couple of “book ends” – especially since they could be confusing. Verse one introduces us to Jehu’s son. Remember Jehu is the “terminator”that put the finishing touches on the “painted lady” Jezebel. His son’s name is Jehoahaz who incurred Jehovah’s anger (V.8) which bought on the oppression of the Syrians. In answer to his prayer his son Jehoash was, according to Gill, a deliverer which he actually lived to see since they shared the throne of the northern kingdom for several years. I quote John Gill: “Ver. 10. In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah, began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign over Israel in Samaria, &c. But inasmuch as his father began to reign in the twenty third of Joash, and reigned seventeen years, #2Ki 13:1 this king must begin to reign in the thirty ninth or fortieth of Joash; for the reconciling of which it may be observed, that two of the years of his reign may be supposed to be imperfect; or rather that his son reigned two or three years in his lifetime, being raised up before his father’s death to be a savior of Israel from the Syrians; and so his father lived to see his prayer answered, #2Ki 13:4,5.”
The above verse (10) contains the second “book end” which introduces the reign of Jehoash about which several important points must be made. The first confusing point is that for a very short time there is a king Joash reigning over both kingdoms (compare verse 10 and 12 to see that two men by that name are being mentioned only the king of Israel is called by the longer version of his name in verse 10). This is confirmed by checking 14:1 and 14:15&16 which is a duplication almost word for word of verses 12 and 13 in this chapter only note that in one case we have his name as Jehoash and in the other it is simply Joash. Another confusing point is the fact that Joash’s death is recorded in verse 13 and followed by a story about him and Elisha in 14–19.
Speaking of Elisha, there is a wonderful tale here that emphasizes his power. For about 60 years he had served Jehovah and even after he died the very touch of his bones revived a dead man. We might write over this the words, “he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb.11:4). God may use us after we die by something we have said or done while living. Tapes of sermons by those who have long since departed are being used every day as a means of bringing life to men dead in sin. Praise the Lord!
II Kings 14:23 Jeroboam II
The “book end” in verse one indicates that Amaziah’s reign is beginning and though he reigned for 29 years it begins and ends in this chapter. As indicated (v.18) more can be learned about Amaziah in II Chronicles 25 but though you will find the story of the battle between Israel and Judah repeated there, don’t try to find it in the Chronicles of Israel (v.15) as you may remember, those chronicles were not preserved for us as were those of Judah, probably because of the fact that all of those kings were wicked and the northern kingdom was eventually wiped out.
The parable of the thistle and the cedar reminds us of how often in Scripture men are represented as trees, the example most commonly known, of course, is the picture in Psalm one of the godly man who is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water” (God). (See also: Psalm 90:12-15; Jeremiah 17:8 and Isaiah 61:3).
Strange as it may seem in this chapter we have a couple of situations where the kings of Israel had their better moments. First, the king of Israel, Joash, chides the king of Judah for the pride of his heart which induced Amaziah to go out to battle against him after having been successful against Edom. Amaziah is thoroughly defeated, demonstrating once again that “pride goeth before a fall.”
The second shaft of light that brightens the dark history of Israel is the record of Jeroboam the son of Joash of Israel. I call him Jeroboam II to distinguish him from his earlier namesake Jeroboam I, the infamous son of Nebat. (Note these two are both mentioned here in verse 23 and 24.) In verse 23 we have another “book end” where we learn that Jeroboam II reigned forty one years – a long time– and accomplished some exploits helping to prolong Israel by God’s grace. He recovered Damascus which had belonged to Judah in David’s day along with Hamath and restored the border of Israel all the way to the Dead Sea. Jehovah was not yet ready to blot out Israel and He saved them by Jeroboam’s hand.
Remarkably in verse 25 the Holy Spirit reveals two facts about the prophet Jonah who lived at this period. He was from Gath-hepher (Zebulon) so a prophet did come out of Galilee (John 7:52). Also he had prophesied before hand what Jeroboam II would accomplish in his homeland though the prophecy itself is not preserved. Critics would ask why, we simply ask was everything every prophet said or did preserved?
II Kings 15:1 Azariah Alias Uzziah the Leper
This is one of those chapters that makes you wonder at II Timothy 3:16. Notice I did not say “wonder about.” There is no question about the trustworthiness of that verse in my mind, nor these verses about which Paul was writing when he used the little word “all.” This history is God’s Word as much as any part of the Old or New Testament. We therefore, should read it, nay, study it for it is given to us by the very out-breathing of our Sovereign God and He declares it to be “ profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness...”
Since He is going to give us a whole chapter about Azariah (Uzziah) in II Chronicles (26) He chooses to keep the record here very short and since we intend, should the Lord see fit, to write on that in time, we too will be brief on the subject. The “book end” in verses one and two introduces us to this very interesting king of Judah whom we know better as Uzziah (v.13) the king who became a leper and whose death coincided with the commissioning of Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 6:1). No doubt he was commonly known by this more familiar name because the high priest of that period also had the name of Azariah (26:20). We wouldn’t want to be confused by duplicate use of names now would we?
Actually the most significant material in this chapter, I think, is the litany of insignificant kings of Israel as we wind down to the ultimate captivity of Samaria by the Assyrians in 17:6.
We are reminded of God’s faithfulness to His Word in verse 12 as we reach the end of the reign of Zachariah who, as promised, was the fourth generation from Jehu. “And so it came to pass” as Jehovah paid His debt to the “terminator” (10:30). Zachariah was, however, an evil king and he only lasted for half a year before he was publically assassinated by Shallum. In fact, it started a trend, for of the last six kings of this apostate nation (northern kingdom) four reigning monarchs fell by this means (verses 10,14,25 and 30). Along with this downhill slide of Israel in this chapter we also note that most of the kingdom was carried captive to Assyria (v.29) leaving only the city of Samaria yet to be vanquished. Nine verses (14-24) are given to describing the reign of the wicked Menahem- I suppose because the chronicles of Israel would not be preserved and this record punctuates God’s reason for His judgement.
II Kings 16:16 Ahaz and Urijah
The “book end” in verse one reminds us that we must glance backwards into chapter 15 to briefly note the reign of Jotham the son of Uzziah the leper. The “book end” there in verses 32 &33 speak of his reign of 16 years now to be followed by his son Ahaz who likewise is king of Judah of an equal period. The present chapter is given to set forth the reign of this wicked king whose name and deeds both remind us of Ahab the notorious vineyard thief (I K.21:18).
Since the Chronicles relate primarily to the southern kingdom of Judah a chapter each is allocated to Jotham and Ahaz (27 and 28 of II Chronicles) revealing a number of interesting facts that are found there that are not mentioned here in II Kings. I will write on these later but you have my permission to skip ahead and read up on them.
The only good thing that came of Ahaz was his son Hezekiah and one wonders about such matters. Hezekiah’s mother may have been the answer, as it says in 18:1 that she was a daughter of Zachariah, perhaps the one mentioned in II Chronicles 26:5, who apparently kept Uzziah straight. (The alternate spelling of Zachariah’s name is irrelevant.)
As to the wrong he did, there is plenty. He was the first king of Judah to be involved in worship “in the high places and on the hills and under every green tree” though most of them tolerated the travesty. He offered his sons to Molech and we are told in detail about the false altar, the design of which he copied from the Syrians. His philosophy was that since the gods of Damascus had helped them (II Chr.28:5) against him, they must be the stronger. Little did he realize that his God, Jehovah had actually delivered him into the hands of Syria. The high priest Urijah was a weak-kneed hireling priest, apparently, who cared more for his job than his relationship with his God. May we be delivered from such false shepherds.
It may be of interest to note that in verse 6 the word Jew is used for the first time in the Bible (Hebrew– Yehudi). Also there is little agreement among commentators as to the meaning of verse 18. I spent quite a bit of time on it and at this point do not have an opinion.
II Kings 17:18 “The LORD was Very Angry”
In verse one we have the last “book end” relating to Israel’s (northern kingdom) final king, Hoshea by name. In his ninth year and as a result of attempting to curry favor with the king of Egypt the king of Assyria, Shalmaneser, captured and imprisoned him. After a three-year siege, Samaria fell and with it what remained of Israel was taken captive never to be heard from again until God sealed 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes as recorded in Revelation 7:4.
Walvoord in his book The Revelation of Jesus Christ on p.143 indicates his belief that these 144,000 Israelites spoken of here in Revelation are to be taken as a literal company which are “sealed” and then preserved during the tribulation. Though there is no evidence in Scripture to base it upon, he theorizes (p.149) that these become channels through whom the gospel comes to the earth at this time and the result is that multitudes of Gentiles are saved out of the Great Tribulation (7:9&10). Though speculative, this could be the case.
Meanwhile, coming back to our text for today, the key verse I believe would be verse 18 which reveals Jehovah’s anger at Israel and His removal of them “out of his sight” until none were left but the tribe of Judah. It would be only a matter of time before they too would be sold by Him into captivity but only for 70 years.
The policy of the Assyrians in carrying away the Israelite captives (v.6) placing them in their cities and re-peopling the cities of Samaria with their people resulted in a low caste mixture thus producing the “Samaritans” of the New Testament times, a people so hated by the Jews that in order to avoid contact when traveling between Jerusalem and Galilee they would cross Jordan and travel on the east side of the river. This fact makes more remarkable the instance in John 4 of Jesus needing to go through Samaria where lived a race with whom Jews had no dealings (v.9).
As indicated in the latter part of this chapter a very hypercritical class of people developed here who supposedly “feared the LORD” but continued to serve graven images. Apparently they were much like many so called “church goers”in modern America today.
Check in I Kings 12:33 to see what a stretch it would be, if one of these priest-types was the kind brought to teach the manner of the God of the land, to think he would be of any use at all!
II Kings 18:1 King Hezekiah of Judah
This “book end” pertains to Judah and introduces us to the great king Hezekiah. The key verse, I think, is number five where we are told in no uncertain terms that he was the greatest of all the kings of Judah in exemplifying trust in Jehovah Elohim. He succeeded in throwing off the yoke of Assyria where Hoshea had not (17:4 and 18:7) and this chapter and the next are given over to that story. There are, in fact, three complete chapters in this book of II Kings dealing with Hezekiah and in addition there are four chapters (29-32)in II Chronicles plus four in Isaiah (36-39). Of course, some of the materials in these eleven chapters will be duplications as we seek, Lord willing, to go through them together, but there are distinctive portions found only once and these I will by comparison attempt to point out. For example, the material that I believe is the most significant, detailing the great revival under Hezekiah beginning the first year of his reign and occupying chapters 29-31 of II Chronicles, is hardly mentioned here in II Kings.
Sennacherib reigned over Assyria 24 years (705-681 B.C.) and his death is recorded in our next chapter (v.37), killed by his sons. His overthrow of Samaria is reiterated in our present chapter (v.10) and occurred in the 6th year of Hezekiah’s reign.
It is in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign that the record of his oppression of Judah began and the first part of the story is only mentioned here. At first Hezekiah tried to placate the aggressor stripping the gold from the temple doors trying to meet the tribute demanded of him totaling in value well over 1 ½ million dollars. I just read the 500 lines on Sennacherib’s Prism, a wonderfully preserved six-sided clay tablet currently located at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. He was a very powerful monarch defeating every city and king in his path until he came to Jerusalem. He mentions the 30 talents of gold found here in verse 14.
Bible scholar Robert Dick Wilson studied the Old Testament for 45 years and stated that he believed every page to be accurate and trustworthy. How thankful we should be for the preservation of His Holy Word.
In his early reign and in his old age Hezekiah compromised but was faithful most of his life. Youth and old age are times when we seem most susceptible to Satan’s wiles. Beware.
II Kings 19:21 The Virgin Daughter of Zion, Laughs at Sennacherib
We have a young married couple in our church that are expecting their first child and the wife passed her due date a few days ago. She is young and strong but if there is no birth by the end of the week, labor will be induced. As a matter of fact, Israel too had come to the point that something needed to happen, a delivery was needed and it appeared that there was not strength to make it happen (v.3). I wonder if this is often the case in the Church these days. We wish for power and we long to see God work but sadly the event we hope for just isn’t transpiring.
The formula for making things happen, for inducing the birth of great events, is certainly found in this chapter!
First, we must be sure that what we want is what God wants. In this situation, they humbled themselves (vs.1&2). There is no better thing to do, for the Lord will never despise” a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart”(Ps.51:17), as David well knew and so do you and I. Isaiah had the words of promise (vs.6&7) and for that matter, still does. Try 41:17-20; or 51:11; or 54:17 or 66:2. Say, friend, how long has it been since you read the whole book of Isaiah? Wouldn’t now be a great time to do it, for there are many, many more!
Well, as you know if you have read this chapter, Hezekiah spread the matter before the LORD (v.14) and had an argument with Him. If there is anything that will move God to action it is the reminder of v.19 and did he ever get results! The old folks called it knee work.
Through Isaiah God said, “I had heard” (v.20) and when we know He has heard, we know we have the answer (I John 5:15).
And wowee, as pastor Mike would say, what an answer! 185,000 choice Assyrian troops were wiped out in one night. When God is induced to labor, things move!
What happened to the haughty, violent, savage Sennacherib? Exactly as God had said (v.7). Read it in the last verse of our chapter.
II Kings 20:7 A Lump of Figs
Some say that it would have been better if Hezekiah had accepted Isaiah’s message from the Lord that he was going to die from severe sickness that had overtaken him. Actually, it is a tough one to call and I for one am glad that nobody asked me for advice. Basically it involves an issue relating to God’s foreknowledge. He not only knew what was going to happen, He had planned it. Go to Matthew 1:10 and tell me what would that tenth verse have said if Hezekiah had died before Manasseh was born? Obviously there could have been no link with Joseph, Mary’s husband, so there would be no point of this whole chapter. If Manasseh had not been born then there would have been no Amon, no Josiah and ultimately no Joseph. God would have had to find a different husband for Mary and he would have had no connection with David which Matthew, writing for Jewish readership, was anxious to prove.
In fact, if any one of our forefathers had died before having issue, we would not be here either. Considering all the young men who have died in all the wars of history besides all other causes of early death, we find that each of us is a link in a very select process, one superintended by God. We can be thankful that not only were we “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph.1:4) but all of the conditions that have ultimately led to our being born have been providentially arranged.
Hezekiah was a dead man, except for a lump of figs and let us not overlook the fact that his resurrection took place on “the third day.” What strange things God does sometimes to prove His point that He is in full control. Manasseh was born just three years after this episode occurred. We might think it would have been better for Israel if he had never been born, but would it have been better for Josiah? And he had to be born in order for the prophecy in I K.13:2 to be fulfilled as spoken by the nameless prophet as he cried against Jeroboam’s altar.
It was worth a lump of figs to keep all this straight– I am sure glad Isaiah found some when he needed them, aren’t you?
Oh yes, have you decided whether God made the sun move or did the earth stop revolving and back up ten degrees?
II Kings 21:1 Manasseh
When Hezekiah’s wife’s parents brought their little daughter into the world no doubt as all proud parents, they took great delight in their new born child. Perhaps in naming her they reflected on the hope that one day when she reached maturity, she would have a husband that would also take great delight in her. Surely the meaning of her name was in their minds even as later in Isaiah the prophet it was on Jehovah’s mind as He inspired the prophet to speak of Israel as Hephzibah (Isa.62:4). It certainly took a great deal of faith for Isaiah to call Israel Hephzibah in the midst of Manasseh’s reign. How could Jehovah possibly take delight in His people when they were guilty of sin far greater than those of the original inhabitants whom God had cast out before them centuries ago?
Yet, this was the very meaning of his wife’s name and when she bore little Manasseh Hezekiah must have delighted very much in them both. How could they know as they held their little darling in their arms that he would shed more innocent blood in Jerusalem than any other man and become the greatest cause of the removal of Judah “out of his sight” (24:3&4) and away to Babylon?
Perhaps when they named him they were thinking of how Joseph had called his son Forgetting (Heb.) for God had made him forget the maltreatment by his brothers (Gen.41:51). Did they think in so naming their child that he would make them forget the words spoken by Isaiah in prophecy concerning the future of their issue (20:18)?
Hezekiah knew that he had failed in the test God had given him regarding the princes of Babylon to whom he had shown everything in his house. As good a king as he had been, this test had exposed his heart (II Chr.32:31) for the selfishness it contained. Perhaps it was the prayers of his parents that ultimately resulted in Manasseh’s repentance, a final phase of his life only mentioned in II Chronicles 33:11-20 about which we shall speak later!
II Kings 22:14 The Word According to Huldah
Things really went south very rapidly after Hezekiah’s reform movement which took place in the early days of his reign about 100 years prior to Josiah’s repair of the temple, but in that length of time the book of the law had been mislaid until Hilkiah the high priest found it. As we would say in Maine, Josiah was some upset when he found out that this copy of Moses’ works had been right there in the temple all of these 18 years he had been trying to do things right with nothing to go by except the say so of the priests. Things had been let go so badly that it took a construction crew of masons and carpenters to make all of the necessary repairs. As to the instructions of just how thing were to be done, grandfather Hezekiah had seen the writings a century ago (II Chr.30:5) but in the interim someone had apparently stuck them away in the back of a closet or under some stuff and there it was lost until found by Hilkiah.
Let’s see, where is grandma’s Bible; up in the attic in that big chest full of old family pictures?
Is that why the teenagers have the latest music group’s picture pinned up on the wall of their bedroom and little kids know more about how to play video games than find a verse in the Bible? In the last hundred years in America, the Word of God has fallen into all but total ignominy. Even the so-called best of Christians in our churches think they have done their duty by it when they have read the Daily Bread. Study the Bible, who does that anymore? Even many preachers neglect important passages of Scripture relating to discipline or judgement so is it any wonder that the average person in the pew knows almost nothing about such subjects? In many churches the Bible comes second to the hymn book and the preacher doesn’t have much time left when the worship team gets through doing their thing. A 15 minute sermonette is about all they get once a week.
Five men had to go to a lady prophetess to get a straight message from God. Probably that’s a good ratio of men to women in most churches when it comes to knowledge of the Book. What a shame!
II Kings 23:25 Josiah’s Reforms
The days of Judah were numbered but before God blew out their lights, He found a man that He could count on to do a thorough job of reform. We well might wonder how Hezekiah, who apparently did so well in straightening things out in Jerusalem, missed so much of what must have been the obvious (II Chr.31:20&21). It is hard to believe that the high places on the middle summit of the Mount of Olives, once known as the mount of anointing later becoming the mount of corruption, was still the scene of spiritual apostasy where it had been more than 300 years since Solomon had built thereupon the idols of Ashtoreth, Chemosh and Milcom to satisfy his wives (v.13).
It is absolutely amazing that Jehovah would put up with such abominable practices and even more amazing to think they were introduced by king Solomon, and here, after so long a time a man comes on the scene who finally brings an end to the use the high places by defiling them, that is, by burning human bones on them, thus effectively abolishing the use of such places because of superstition.
It is interesting that Josiah burned the vessels made for Baal and carried the ashes to Bethel. The Septuagint version says that he burnt the idolatrous priests which it terms Chemarim (black robed or blackened faces) also called the same name in Zeph.1:4. To think that these black robed priests, in contrast to the white robes of Levitical priests, were actually ordained by kings of Judah to burn incense in the high places in worship of the host of heaven. And, oh yes, the male temple prostitutes (sodomites) were back in full force after Jehoshaphat had dealt with them earlier (I Kings 22:46).
While at Bethel a most interesting episode took place (vs.15-18) which was a fulfillment of the prophecy of the man of God against Jeroboam’s false altar in the which he had spoken of Josiah’s reform (I K.13:2) 300 years before. A most remarkable fact confirming the providential happenings in the lives of Hezekiah and Manasseh. He is in control!
II Kings 24:6 Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin
Things are winding down for Judah, captivity by king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians is
in process and this chapter has to do with only puppet kings. They are the sons and grandson of Josiah and it was a merciful God Who took him out rather abruptly (23:29) so that his eyes would not see the evil He would bring upon the land (22:20).
The short story of the first son Jehoahaz is covered at the end of the previous chapter in which we see a brief reign of three months ending in deportation to, and death in, Egypt.
The story of the second son also begins in chapter twenty-three but extends into today’s text. His name originally was Eliakim but was changed by the king of Egypt to Jehoiakim. “In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up (against Jerusalem) and Jehoiakim became his servant three years.”
He was a despised man and a very wicked king. Against him were sent by Jehovah, bands of Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites and as indicated in verses 3 and 4, all of this was primarily the judgement of the LORD for the wickedness of his grandfather, Manasseh. Ultimately he was carried in chains to Babylon as foretold by Habakkuk (1:6&10) unlamented and cast like a dead animal into a ditch far from the gates of Jerusalem (Gill on Jer.22:18 &19).
The third relative of Josiah whose reign is mentioned in this chapter is the son of Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin. He apparently wasn’t much better than the others according to verse nine, however it must be said, to his credit, that he did take Jeremiah’s advice and surrendered to the king of Babylon. If there is a lesson to be learned from this chapter it seems it must be that of the good and evil figs parable of Jeremiah (24). It is said there that it was “for their good” that those who acquiesced to God’s judgement, did so and of course these were the remnant of whom some would return after 70 years of captivity.
We will speak of the third son of Josiah, Zedekiah, when dealing with the next chapter (25).
II Kings 25:7 Whither Bound Zedekiah?
When we have reached this chapter in working through the Bible, we are chronologically nearing the end of the historical Old Testament. All that is left to be covered are the two short books that tell the story of the return of the nation Israel from its seventy years of captivity. Ezra and Nehemiah alone must be mentally traversed to reach the 400 years of the silent intertestamental period and, voila, we see Jesus and are on so-called “gospel ground.”
Notice, I said the historically chronological Old Testament! All of the remaining books fit somewhere in that framework. We will soon plunge into I and II Chronicles in which we must shift gears and return to David and Solomon, plowing up ground already covered. The poetic books must be inserted into their proper historical setting as must all of the prophetic books which are categorized as relating to Israel’s 70 years of captivity and are either pre-exilic, exilic or post-exilic. To rightly divide the inspired text we should know where each of these books fits. Make it your goal as a meateater (Hebrews 5:14).
For example, in studying the Word, comparing Scripture with Scripture we learn that in addition to the parallel passage in II Chr. 36, there is much written in the prophets that relates to this period of Israel’s history particularly in Jeremiah as one sees in 1:3 and is borne out by the fact that between Jeremiah 21 and the end of the book there are nearly 50 references to Zedekiah. It was the events of these years that caused the “weeping prophet” his heart pain as well as the near loss of his life.
Ezekiel also saw these days (12:13) but it was to Jeremiah the message of hope was given that a remnant would return after “the land had enjoyed her sabbaths” (II Chr.36:21). The prophet suffered greatly being accused as a traitor because he delivered Jehovah’s message of acquiescence, but the sad judgement suffered by Zedekiah, as the last thing he saw before being blinded was the death of his sons, resulted directly from his being unwilling to obey God’s word delivered by His servant (32:5). It was at the occasion of this prophecy that the return is anticipated by a dramatic example of Jeremiah’s faith. Read it and rejoice.