Friday, May 31, 2013

CLIII - II Kings 18,19 - Hezekiah, King of Judah

The Northern Kingdom of Israel, which included ten of the twelve tribes of the nation Israel, was totaly wiped out of existence by Assyria.  After ignoring centuries of repeated warnings from God and His spokesmen, this entire nation was allowed to be overtaken by a foreign power.  To add to its humiliation, all of the Israelite citizens were taken captive and brought to Assyria to be used as slaves.  The cities and towns in the nation Israel were re-populated by foreigners selected by the Assyrians.  This is a sad state of affairs for God's chosen people.  Of the entire Promised Land given to the twelve tribes of Israel (named for the twelve sons of Jacob), only Judah and Benjamin remained as portioned out by Joshua.  Now Judah stood alone as a relatively small nation sitting in the middle of hostile nations, all of which were large and aggressive in their quest for expansion of their respective kingdoms.  Judah must have been looked upon as "easy pickings".  But, as I've mentioned before:  Leaders Matter.  And we'll see in today's post that the great king Hezekiah was just the Godly and wise leader Judah needed for these frightening times.

Hezekiah is heralded as one of the most Godly kings to have ever served in Judah or Israel.  To have one's name placed in the company of kings such as David and Solomon is no small deal.  As we look at chapter 18, we see that Hezekiah began his twenty-nine year reign with the removal of the "high places", which his predecessors failed to do.  Also he destroyed all images of othe gods and he had the groves cut down.  This was a gutsy way for him to begin his reign.  By his actions he "shouted" that he would not reign as his father Ahaz did.  {Remember, Ahaz was considered the most ungodly king in Judah's History, leading the citizens in idol worship.}  Among all the kings in Judah, Hezekiah was second to none in his devotion to the Lord.  As a reward for his faith and obedience, the Lord prospered him, especially militarily, early in his reign.

Hezekiah was painfully aware of what Assyria had done to his sister nation Israel, but Hezekiah refused to submit to any of the nations, and actually defeated the Philistines to the southwest.  Verses 9-12 gives a brief recounting of Assyrian king Shameneser conquering Samaria and taking Israel's citizens as slaves.  This took place in the 4th through 7th year of Hezekiah's reign.  So he was aware of Assyria's aggression and military might.  The Scripture goes on to describe Hezekiah as a wise king who trusted in God wholeheartedly.  Hezekiah was a military genious and a shrewd politician.  He knew when to fight, when to negotiate, and when to stall.  In verses 13-16 we see that when Assyria marched on Jerusalem, Hezekiah avoided an all-out confrontation by paying tribue to Assyria.  He was not surrendering.  He was buying time.  Judah did not have the resources to pay the Assyrians what they demanded and Hezekiah ended up using gold that was used in building the Temple.

Verses 17-35 - Assyria Threatens Again

Shalmeneser was no longer king of Assyria at this time.  Sennacherib was their king, and he was as aggressive in expansion as his predecessor.  He marched his army against Judah a second time.  This time Hezekiah refused to surrender to his demands.  But before Sennacherib attacked, he sent a delegation to the walls of Jerusalem to persuade the Israelites to ignore Hezekiah and join the Assyrians.  These Assyrians promised prosperity and peace to these soldiers if they defected.  But the Israelite soldiers did not fall for this deception.  When this matter was reported to Hezekiah, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sack cloth, and went to the Temple to seek God.  {As mentioned earlier, to tear ones clothes and wear sack cloth was a sign of mourning and/or desparation.  Sack cloth was an extremely uncomfortable material, much like thick burlap.  Very scratchy and unforgiving, not suitable for having against skin.}  He pleaded with God to help him, as the odds against him were overwhelming, and Hezekiah knew that if Jerusalem fell, all of its citizens would be taken into slavery just like their cousins in the Northern Kingdom.
18:36-19:7  Hezekiah not only prayed to God in the Temple, but also sent for Isaiah, the famous prophet of God.  Isaiah assured Hezekiah that God would give them victory over the Assyrian army.  God indeed protected Judah from Assyria two ways.  Firstly, He used the military might of the nation of Cush to attack the Assyrians.  {Cush was in the southern region, just north of Egypt.  I don't know much about them, but they were strong enough to make Sennacherib pull his forces away from Jerusalem to make sure he could defend against them.}  So Sennacherib's attention was drawn away from Judah, at least temporarily.  But before the Assyrian troops were relocated, their commander decided to make one last effort to bully Hezekiah into surrendering, knowing that Hezekiah was probably unaware of the war with Cush.  As you can see in this passage, the commander so disrespected God in his efforts to persuade Hezekiah to surrender.

Verses 8-17  -  Hezekiah's first  move was to go to the Temple and lie prostrate on the Temple floor before God.  Hezekiah was not only frightened of the Assyrians, but he was offended for God's sake that the commander used such disrespectful words about the Lord God.  The Scripture provides us with much detail about Hezekiah's prayer.  Note in verse 16 how Hezekiah employed strong, yet respectful language when he was praying to God.  He said, "Give ear Lord, and hear.  Open Your eyes."  In common language he was saying "Pay attention.  This is extremely important."  {Ever pray like that?  I have.}  After that, Hezekiah asked God, "Did You hear what they said about you?".

Verses 18-34  -  God's response is given through the prophet Isaiah in these verses.  Much like Isaiah's words, he describes in detail what God is going to do.  At first reading it may sound redundant.  But there is little doubt that God is going to deliver Jerusalem, and will not even allow the Assyrians to shoot a single arrow in the direction of Jerusalem.

Verses 35-37  -  Isaiah's Prophesy Fulfilled

This short passage wraps up this crisis with the Assyrians.  It says "that night" an angel of the Lord went into the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 soldiers.  Some texts suggest a plague.  I submit it was the angel of death, like the one God sent to Egypt during the first Passover.  When this happened, Sennacherib immediately broke camp and returned to Ninevah, not to bother Judah again.  In the final verse, Sennacherib's sons conspired against their father and killed him.  They then escaped to Ararat (Turkey) until they could return safely to Ninevah.

Next post:  Hezekiah's Foolish Act

Thursday, May 30, 2013

CLII - II Kings 17 - The End of Israel

I mentioned in the last post that Ahaz had become king of Judah.  Ahaz, unlike other kings of Judah, did evil in the sight of God.  He did much to lead Judah in Israel's path of destruction.  It was during Ahaz's reign in Judah that Hoshea would become king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom).  Hoshea would be the last king of Israel.  Hoshea did evil, but not as badly as the other kings of Israel.  It was early in Hoshea's reign that Shalmaneser V of Assyria made Israel subject to him, forcing them to pay taxes to Assyria.  Assyria's capital is believed to have been in Nineveh, a city we'll learn more about later in our study.  {Assyria and Syria are often considered to be the same country, which is not true.  At this time in History the Assyrians were a large and powerful empire.  The land they occupied was massive, as it included modern-day Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  The nation of Assyria no longer exists, but there are many descendants, who still proudly proclaim to be Assyrian.  They reject being referred to as Arab, Jew, or Persian, but insist on being referred to as "Assyrian".  By and large the dominant religion among the modern-day Assyrians is Christianity.}  Shalmaneser's father was Tiglath-pileser III, who is credited for much of the Assyrian rise to power.  Shalmaneser and his brother Sargon II merely carried forth their father's policies of land expansion through military strength.

Chapter 17:1-6  -  Samaria Falls

These six verses tell the whole story.  For six years Hoshea paid tribute (taxes) to Assyria.  Israel's military had been reduced to little more than a militia, certainly no match for the powerful Assyrian army.  Hoshea realized he and his subjects could not continue as they were because their tax burden was increasing yearly and soon there would be nothing left.  Hoshea was desparate.  So he tried to recruit help from Egypt.  {Egypt was always a military super-power in ancient times.  Had Hoshea succeeded in recruiting Egypt as an ally, the Assyrians would probably have left them alone.  But Egypt was far away and Hoshea had nothing of value to offer the Pharoah in return for Egypt's military support.  To place his military in danger in such a far-away land, Pharoah would have required an abundance of reward to match the risk.}  Even in ancient times, news travelled fast.  Shalmaneser had become aware that Hoshea tried to make a deal with Egypt.  Shalmaneser would not stand for a mutiny from one of his tributaries, as this could cause a chain reaction, or at the least make him look weak.  So Shalmaneser attacked Samaria and all of Israel.  It took him three years, but finally captured Hoshea and all the Israelites in the land.  {How sad.  Just think back of the nation that David made and Soloman turned into a world power, both economic and militarily.  How glorious Israel was as a nation, whose God was the Lord.  But now, 209 years and 19 kings later Israel no longer existed.}  The nation was destroyed and the Israelites were taken captive.  Customary in those times was to lead people out of their nation, stripped naked to enhance the vision of superiority through all of the area they travelled through.  Needless to say that probably only a small portion of the Israelites made it to their Assyrian place of exile alive.}  All the Israelites would become slave labor to their captives.

Verses 7-23  -  The Cause of the Fall

These verses explain in detail why God had allowed such a sad ending to Israel the Southern Kingdom.  He simply ran out of patience.  These verses list the progression:

1.  (Vs 7)  The people sinned against God and worshiped other man-made gods.  (1st of the Ten Commandments)
2.  (Vss 8-12)  They fell into idolatry of the Canaanites, building high places and making images.
3.  (Vss 13-14)  Rejected God's warnings through His prophets.
4.  (Vss 15-17)  Publicly abandoned Gods commandments in favor of Baal worship.
5.  (Vss 17-23)  Finally, God's anger was aroused and He wanted them no longer in His sight.

I'll not dwell on these verses too much, but I draw your attention to verse 12 and 13.  Idolatry was strictly forbidden, in no uncertain terms, as far back as Moses, and every prophet that followed him, spanning centuries.  It was stated in the Ten Commandments back in Ex. 20:3-4.  This prohibition was then repeated throughout the Law (Deut. 4:16; 5:8; 27:15).  Idolatry was the chief sin of the children of Israel.  We, like the children of Israel, must be diligent in rejecting idolatry.  Remember, an idol is anything we place ahead of God.  God explains in verse 13 that He did plenty to bring the people back to Him from their evil ways, siting the many prophets He sent them, from Samuel to Malachi.  So now was left only the Israelites in Judah.  Verse 19, somewhat parenthetically, states that Judah would eventually suffer the same fate as their cousins for the very same reasons. 

Verses 24-41  -  Resettlement in the Promised Land

When the Assyrians took the Israelites from the land, they then re-populated the land with people from many different cities.  (He wanted Israel's cities to be prosperous so he could continue to get taxes from them.)  But God was not please with foreigners occupying the Promised Land and He sent lions into those cities to kill and terrorize the inhabitants.  {WOW!  I think I would be packing up to go home.}  So the king of Assyria (Sargon II) summized that the gods of that territory was not pleased, therefore he had to do something to change that.  {It was typical that people considered gods territorial.}  So Sargon sent one of the Israelite priests back to teach the people how to worship.  Although I'm sure that priest did the very best he could, the people from the various nations still practiced the religions of their respective homelands.  There is listed five different nationalities of people occupying the Promised Land with five different languages and five different religions.  The five mentioned are the Babylonians, Kuthahites, Hamathites, Avvites, and the Sepharvites.  There may have been more.

Not to be redundant, but this is a sad ending for such a glorious beginning.

Next post  -  Hezekiah, King of Judah

Thursday, May 23, 2013

CLI - II Kings Chapters 15 and 16 - The Decline of Israel and Judah

We are now going to get to the rapid free-falling nation of Israel.  We have seen how they have thrown away one opportunity after another to go back to God and strengthen themselves as people, families, and a nation.  Remember that our leaders matter, and have more influence than sometimes we are willing to admit.

In the last post we briefly looked at Jeroboam II being king of Israel (the northern kingdom).  Jeroboam II reigned for forty-one years.  Although he was not a Godly man, he was a strong ruler.  His reign brought political stability, territoral expansion, economic prosperity, and religious activism.  In the twenty-seventh year of his reign in Israel, Azariah (Uzziah) became king in Judah, which brings us to today's post.

Chapter 15  -  Azariah's reign in Judah is recognized as a righteous one.  Although not perfectly, he followed God's leadership.  But note in verse 5 that he was stricken with leprocy, an unspecified skin disease.  It says he lived in a "separate house".  Lepers being separated from society back then was a rule strictly adhered to.  It included everyone, even the king, as this was God's law, not man's.  Azariah, although separated from the king's palace in Jerusalem, remained on the throne.  His son Jotham lived in the king's palace in Jerusalem and served as the king's spokesman.  Having the affliction of leprocy did not effect Azariah's length of life, as he reigned fifty-two years and lived to the age of sixty-eight.  That was well beyond the average life expectancy in those days.  After Azariah died, his son Jotham became king.  Jotham was well trained for this as he really served as "co-leader" for decades, acting as a surrogate for his his father.

Verses 8-16  -  As we look at some more of Israel's king's it might begin to sound like a broken record, as they all did evil in the sight of God and further damaged their people and their nation.  During Azariah's reign in Judah, Zachariah and Shallum reigned briefly in Israel.  Zachariah was the fourth and last ruler of the dynasty of Jehu.  {God promised Jehu that there would be his descendants on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation (II Kings 10:30).  Israel's kings (unlike Judah's) were generally selected by who was the most cunning conspirator who also had the backing of the most violent group.  So when God made that promise to Jehu, that was considered to be a promise difficult to keep.}  Zachariah was an evil king.  He ruled as king for only six months.  He was assassinated by Shallum who the Scripture says killed Zachariah in front of the people.  This tells me that Shallum made a public specticle out of killing him.  Shallum then pronounced himself as king.  He could not have accomplished much of anything because he ruled only one month before Menahem assassinated him and took the throne for himself.

Verses 17-->  Menahem's ten-year reign in Samaria was marked by violence, idolatry, a treacherous alliance with Assyria, and heavy taxation of the people of Israel.  {Be careful to note that Syria and Assyria are two different countries.}  As you read vss 19-20, you will see how a cowardly king will not only make poor decisions in dealing with foreign leaders, but will impose taxes on its own citizens to pay for his mistakes.  Note how he takes the path of least resistance and imposed taxes first on those citizens who were considered wealthy.  {They were not necessarily wealthy, but probably were less poor than others.}  Menahem's reign was a complete disaster and lasted ten years.  It does not say how he died, but I don't think it was a violent take-over because his son Pekahiah succeeded him as king in Samaria.

There is not much written about Pekahiah, but it does say he "did evil in the eyes of the Lord."  He reigned only two years and one of his court officials, Pekah had him assassinated and made himself Israel's new king.  This happened in the final year of Azariah, king of Judah.  One could see the end was near for the nation of Israel at the time of Pekah.  It was during Pekah's twenty-year reign that Israel lost much of its territory (the Promised Land), mostly to the Assyrians.  Included in the land that Pekah had lost was Galilee and all the land of Naphtali.  This picture of Israel at this time is sad.  They had become smaller, their economy was in shambles, they hardly had any military at all and depended on their enemies to protect them from other enemies.  And worst of all, they had become a Godless society, at the mercy of violent groups who placed their own leaders on the throne in Samalia.  As Pekah had gained the throne of Israel through violence, it was through violence that he lost it.  Hoshea killed Pekah and stole the throne.  I'll have more on Hoshea in a later post, as he is the last king of the northern nation Israel.

Verses 32-38 - We shift from Israel back to Judah in these final verses of chapter 15 and all of 16.  It's usually refreshing to turn to the kings of Judah because most of them were good kings, especially when compared to the kings of Israel.  We see that Azahiah died and his son Jotham succeeded him as king of Judah when he was twenty-five years old.  Jotham's reign was a good one although he, like many of his predessessors, failed to remove the "high places" where people burned incense and animal offerings to please the pagan gods.  After reigning sixteen yeas, Jotham died and his son Ahaz became king of Judah.

Chapter 16  -  Ahaz, king of Judah  -  Ahaz was an exception.  He was a descendant of king David, but possessed none of David's good qualities.  Ahaz did evil in the sight of God, and actually patterned his reign after those kings of Israel.  He "thumbed his nose" at anything Godly.  Judah was not accustomed to such behavior coming out of their kings.  Their military had become weak like Israel's.  He stole treasures from the Temple and bribed the Syrians to help them militarily.  He had a drawing of a pagan temple in Damascus made so he could have one built just like it in Jerusalem.  He copied the pagan worship ceremonies and forced the citizens of Jerusalem to to the same.  Ahaz tore down sections of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem and removed from it the basins and the Sea of bronze, along with the bronze oxen.  {The Scripture suggests he did most of these things to please Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria, making himself little more that a puppet for a foreign king.}  And worst of all, Ahaz sacrificed his own son in the worship of Molech, the national god of the Ammonites.  {As I've mentioned before, a child was place on the outstretched arms of the image of Molech.  Then a fire was built below these arms, slowly burning the child to death.  Ahaz reigned for sixteen long years in Jerusalem.  When he died, his son Hezekiah became the king of Judah.  Hezekiah would be a breath of fresh air after the sixteen years of Ahaz.

Nest post  -  Israel Exiled

Monday, May 20, 2013

CL - II Kings 13-14 - Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II of Israel; Amaziah of Judah

We will continue our study of the kings of Israel and Judah.  In this post we will look at three kings, all of which had an impact on the History of Judah and Israel.  Caution:  The names are going to get even more confusing, as there are different kings who share the same names.  To add yet a little more confusion, the Scripture uses slight variations of spellings for certain names, ie Joash and Jehoash are the same person, but yet there are two of them.  I used the spelling "Joash" for the king of Judah in the last post.  In this post I will use the spelling "Jehoash" for the king of Israel who became king two years before Joash, king of Judah died.  In the next post Azariah and Uzziah are the same man.  {One could think that this is totally unnecessary and should have been simplified, but throughout History, this is not really unusual.  Just a few quick examples:  There have been how many King Henrys in England?  How many Pope Johns?  How many King Phillips of France?  And how many spellings of Phillip?  Philip; Phillipe'; Philipe.  We've had two presidents named John Adams and two named George Bush.  It's easy for us to differentiate because most of us have three names.  The Israelites in Old Testament times had only one name.}

Chapter 13

This chapter opens with the introduction of Jehoahaz, who was the son of Jehu.  Although his father was not what we might call a Godly man, Jehu obeyed God and did much to eliminate idolatry in Israel.  His son Jehoahaz reversed that trend and led the people of Israel away from God.  This angered God and I understand why.  The people of Israel were made to understand that the worship of Baal and other Caananite gods was absolutely wrong.  But yet when Jehu died and they had noone to steer them correctly, they (as though it was instinctive) turned right back to their idolatrous ways.  {Even considering the lengths of time that these transitions took place, I still don't understand what made them so disregarding to the God that loved them and cared for them so much.  But God always said that they were a "stiff-necked" people.  That term was used for stubbornness, as oxen or donkeys were referred to as "stiff-necked", meaning they would not allow the reins to turn their heads in the right direction.  Instead, they stiffened their necks and went the direction they wanted to go.}  God often deals with His people by placing them under the harsh rule of another nation.  When God was angered with these people He allowed Hazael of Syria to oppress Israel.  {Sorry, but another clarification is needed:  In verse 3 it says that Hazael and his son Ben-Hadad led the Syrians in their oppression of Israel.  Here again there are two men with the same name.  Although I am confused that Hazael named his son Ben-Hadad because it was the previous King Ben-hadad that Hazael overthrew violently to take the throne of Syria in Damascus.  This could be especially confusing because the previous king Ben-hadad was very recent in our study.}  Hazael had attacked portions of Israel so often and won all the battles that there was practically nothing left of of what was a huge and mighty military.  All that was left (vs 7) was fifty horseman, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers.  Remember the numbers in Soloman's military?  The chariots were in the thousands, so many that buildings and stables had to be built in many cities just to house them.  But back in verse 4 something unexpected happens.  Because of such terrible circumstances in Israel, Jehoahaz (the very king that has led his people away from God, and back to idolatry) humbles himself before God and asks for His help.  {God does not ignore the prayers of a humble or a righteous man.}  To honor king Jehoahaz's humility, God provided deliverence from the Syrians, and Israel was allowed to live in peace.  But the Scripture is careful to note that they still did not abandon their idolatrous ways.

Verses 10-->  Jehoahaz reigned seventeen years in Samaria.  He died and his son Jehoash became the king of Israel.  He also did evil in the sight of God.  Although a ruthless and ungodly king, Jehoash was a strong ruler, who believed in the importance of a strong military.  There is not a lot written about Jehoash, but he was blessed during his reign.  Verse 14 mentions Elisha, who at that time was suffering from an illness that would eventually prove fatal for this magnificent prophet.  When king Jehoahaz learned that Elisha was ill, he went to visit him and actually cried over his sick body.  So touched by this was Elisha that he called on the power of God to bless the king with military victories, although Jehoahaz's lack of faith caused his victories to be limited to three, which although these victories did not provide peace, they did prevent Israel from being totally wiped out of existance by Syria.

Check out verse 20-25 - This is the last we'll read of Elisha, one of my favorite Old Testament characters.  Elisha died from that illness and was buried.  In this passage we see that even after his death Elisha was still in the miracle business.  After the death of Elisha, there were some men burying a body in the same burial grounds that Elisha's body was in.  At that moment some Moabite raiders rode up and frightened the burial crew such that they did not finish their job of digging a new grave.  Instead, in their haste, they threw the dead body into Elisha's grave.  When the dead body touched Elisha's body, it came to life.  Elisha's last miracle.

Chapter 14 - Amaziah, King of Judah

While Joash was reigning in Israel, Amaziah ruled in Judah.  He was a good king who did right in the sight of God, but he made a few mistakes in his twenty-five year reign.  The Scripture is always careful to mention that these kings of Judah failed to eliminate the "high places" where incense and sacrifices were burned to honor pagan gods.  In verse 5 and following, his first order of business was to capture all those responsible for killing his father Joash and have them executed.  {These conspirators should have done their homework.  God made a covenant with David that his descendants would always sit on the throne of Judah.  Therefore, killing Joash could not possibly have interrupted the family from ruling in Jerusalem.  This should have told them that justice against them would be served quickly, which it was.}  After he had successfully avenged his father's death, he took on the rebellious Edomites and killed ten thousand of them in the Valley of Salt.  To defeat the imfamous warring Edomites was no small feat.  Amaziah had quickly become known as a king who was a mighty conquerer.  {Some poeple cannot handle fame very well.}  After his decisive victory against the Edomites, he decided he wanted to go to war against Israel.  This was a mistake.  He had no reason to pick a fight with Israel because they were not enemies at this time.  He really wanted to flex his muscles, as was evidenced by the way he challenged Israel.  He actually sent a message to king Jehoash and told him he wanted to go to war with Israel.  Jehoash responded properly, showing a much higher level of maturity than did Amaziah.  To paraphrase Jehoash's response to Amaziah:  "You're feeling arrogant because you defeated the Edomites.  Stay home and enjoy your victory.  Be content with that.  Don't pick a fight you cannot win.  If you do, you will learn a hard lesson."  But Amaziah was too proud to take such advice.  They went to war and the army of Amaziah lost.  Not only did Israel defeat Amaziah's army, they laid seige on Jerusalem and plundered the entire city, including the Temple and its valuable furnishing, utensils, and artifacts.  Additionally, to teach Judah a lesson, king Jehoash took hostages back to Samaria with him as slaves to serve as a reminder to Judah and Israel of the seige on Jerusalem.

This chapter goes on to tell of Jehoash dieing and Jeroboam II replacing him on the throne of Israel.  Jeroboam II was much like his namesake, doing what was evil in the sight of God.  Then the Scripture also tells us that there was a conspiracy among Amaziah's enemies that led to his assassination.  His sixteen-year-old son Azariah succeeded him as king of Judah.  Shortly after that, Jeroboam II of Israel died and his son Zechariah succeeded him as king.
We'll continue our study in II Kings in the next post, which will begin with chapter15.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

CXLIX - II Kings 11, 12 - Joash, King of Judah

In the last post we studied about Jehu, king of Israel.  He was a violent warrior and I expressed that I thought that Jehu was exactly who and what Israel needed at that particular time.  Although he was not a Godly man like David, he was obedient to God in that he obeyed Him in fulfilling a difficult commission, under extremely difficult circumstances.  We concluded that God uses whomever is most able and willing to serve His purpose, which often is not the Godliest of people.

Now we shift focus from Israel to Judah.  We will study in this post an entirely different type of personality - Joash.  Joash reminds me somewhat of King Tutankhaman (King Tut) of Egypt because he was so young when he was crowned king of Judah.  He was only seven years old, but wise beyond his years.  But we will also discover what the death of a person in a leader's life can influence him.  When the priest Jehoiada died, Joash seems to have lost his "compass", and his reign as king took on a different face.

Chapter 11  -  In the very first verse of this chapter we're introduced to another personality, Athaliah.  She was the only woman who reigned in Judah or Israel.  She was Ahaziah's mother.  She took over the throne when Ahaziah died of the wound that Jehu and his soldiers afflicted him with.  Athaliah pronounced herself as queen of Judah and she became drunk with power, having no intentions of giving any of it up.  As we should already know, bloodlines have an impact on who we are and how we think.  Our parents and ancesters hand down traits that are difficult to ignore, and more difficult to change.  In this case, Athalia's parents were Ahab and Jezebel.  Her father Ahab was the king of Israel, and Athaliah married Jehoram, king of Judah.  She was treacherous in all of her dealings.  She was so desparate to keep her newly-acquired position of power that she ordered all blood relatives of her own son to be killed.  Her own grandchildren.  This eliminated any legitimate claim to the throne she declaired to be hers.  {Had she totally accomplished this, not only would all of her grandchildren be killed, but the bloodline of King David would have been eliminated.  That is the same bloodline from which our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus was born.}  Vs 2  -  Athaliah would have succeeded had it not been for her sister Jehosheba.  Jehosheba took a big chance and stole away the youngest of all of the heirs, Joash, who was an infant at the time.   Ahaziah had all of Joash's brothers, sisters, and cousins murdered.  Because Joash was just an infant, he was easy to hide and was kept in Jehosheba's bed chamber until he became too big to hide, at which time he was moved to the temple (vs 3) and successfully hidden there for six years.  This was a huge secret to keep for that long.  Just a very few realized this child being raised in the temple was the rightful king of Judah.

In verse 4 we see another important character introduced.  Jehoiada was the high priest in Jerusalem at this time.  Although being the busy high priest, Jehoiada must have become fond of Joash over the years, having watched him grow up in his presence.  Jehoiada chose this time to launch a revolution in Judah, which would overthrow Athaliah as queen and place Joash as the new king of Judah.  {I'm not certain of the reason Jehoiada chose this particular time.  I don't believe there is anything special about the age of seven.  That is still too young to rule an entire nation.  I believe Athaliah had just gotten increasingly evil and out of control, prompting Jehoiada to act immediately, which seems sudden.}  In verses 4--> we see how much care Jehoiada took in planning this revolution.  His highest priority was to assign the best soldiers to protect the young Joash, as he knew that queen Athaliah would quickly turn to violence.  He also used the military to spread the word quickly and with enthusiasm to all of Jerusalem that the rightful king did in fact exist and he was annointed and crowned king that very day.  Everything had gone as planned.  Joash was crowned king and there was jubilation in all of Jerusalem.  In the palace, Athaliah heard the noise of the celebration and rushed to see what was going on.  When she realized what was happening she cried, "Treason!", hoping to stir her military to action, but the military was already made aware that there was now a ligitimate ruler of Judah.  {As evil as Athaliah was, it is easy to assume that she ruled by fear.  Her court, military, and her subjects were probably relieved to see her reign come to an end.  Living under fear must have been terrible in Jerusalem for these seven years.}  Under Jehoiada's orders the soldiers took her into custody and executed her.  Judah had a new king - Joash.

Verses 17-21  -  Jehoida was the High Priest, and truly a wise man of God.  He did "first things first".  Immediately following the coronation Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord, the king, and the people.  It called for a commitment of the king and the people to God and a commitment of the king and the people to each other.  {This was an important first step.  He was laying a foundation of Joash's rule that would have make his reign successful for decades to come.}  After ratifying this covenant the people destroyed the temple of Baal along with its altars and idols in Jerusalem.  They also killed Mattan, the priest of Baal in Jerusalem.  So Joash began his reign with a "clean slate", having had all the official parts of Baal worship in Jerusalem destroyed.  It says in verse 20 that the city was calm.

Chapter 12,  Verses 1-16  -  Repairing the Temple

It says early in this chapter that Joash did what was right in the sight of God, but is quick to remind us that he failed to rid the nation of the high places in Judah where people continued to burn sacrifices to strange gods.  However, as an expression of his zeal to reform Judah, King Joash attempted to repair the Temple, as it had been grossly neglected for years.  An offering was collected from the people to restore the Temple, providing the priests with the resourses to make the needed repairs as time allowed.  But this plan failed because the priests were not making the repairs as fast as new ones popped up.  And Joash made his displeasure known to the priests.  But Joash was wise enough not to place blame unfairly.  From that time forward, a continual collection was to be made at the Temple, allowing the people to give all the time as they felt led.  Joash made a wise decision that this money from these offerings was to be used only to hire skilled labor, and nothing else.  {When offering money is placed into a "general fund" and not isolated for its intended purpose, the money always seems to make its way to something else.  Not that anyone plans to abuse the money, but there is always a need arising, making it easy to rationalize using funds for the immediate.  After a while that money is gone and the original objective is never realized.  I think this is the reason Joash put it into Temple Law that the money taken from these collection chests were not to be used for anything else.  (Look what happened to our Social Security money.)  this very move that Joash made convinced me of his wisdom.}
Verses 17-21  -   Joash Falters

I want to make a point at this time that the parallel passage in II Chron. 24:2 says, "And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest".  This is significat toward the remainder of this chapter.  Up to this point, which I'll guess would be between the 25th and the 30th year of Joash's reign in Judah, there had been peace both from within and without.  Judah had experienced no serious threats from other nations.  So Joash had no experience in dealing with such threats, and his mentor Jehoiada had died a number of years earlier.  Even in the parellel passages of Chronicles, we don't get a lot of details about the reign of Joash.  However, at this time the Syrians, under Hazael, conquered Gath and was threatening to take Jerusalem.  Joash should have consulted God and wise council within his grasp.  But fear caused Joash to act in haste.  Joash decided to try to bribe Hazael, so he stripped the Temple of all its treasures and gave them to Hazael.  Although this bribe worked and Hazael withdrew his threat, the price Joash paid was too high.  These treasures were sacred objects dedicated to the Temple by many of his predecessors.

In brief conclusion to the reign of Joash, the "boy king", his reign began with violence when his grandmother Athaliah was overthrown, and it ended with violence, as Joash's own servants conspired against him and killed him while he was travelling.  His son Amaziah succeeded him on the throne of Judah.

Next post  -  Johoahaz and Jehoash, kings of Israel

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

CXLVIII - II Kings Chapters 9 and 10 - Jehu, King of Israel

I mentioned in the last post that Jehu's reign in Israel was significant in the History of the nation.  Although it was indeed significant, Jehu just didn't go quite far enough in setting Israel on the right track to being a true Godly nation.  Jehu is an interesting character study, as we will see that he is a man who truly believes in God and His power, but is not a Godly man.  He just cannot get away from the "Jeroboam Syndrome".  God, through Samual and David gave all future kings everything they needed to know in order to be a GREAT king.  But Jehu doesn't impress me as a student of History and the Law.

To prevent some confusion that might take place early in the study of Jehu:  Jehu's father's name was Jehoshaphat, who was the son of Nimshi.  We have just studied Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.  He was the son of Asa.  Of course these were two different men.  {There were many men named Jehoshaphat, just as there were many named Jehoram in those days.  It is not important that one memorizes all of the names of the kings of Judah and Israel, but I believe it's important that you don't confuse these two Jehoshaphats.  If one was to assume that Jehu was the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, that would mean that both Judah and Israel had kings of the Davidic lineage, which would cause much confusion.}

Chapter 9

Joram was currently the king of Israel.  Ahazia was the king of Judah.  Although Joram was wounded in battle, he was recuperating in Jezreel and his kingship showed no signs of weakening, especially considering that his military was in tact and dedicated to him.  Notwithstanding, the prophet Elisha appointed one of the men from the "company of prophets" to go to Ramoth Gilead and annoint  military officer named Jehu to be king of Israel.  {The men in these company of prophets belonged to a prophetic guild (organization).  These guilds were mainly study groups of men who sought knowledge and wisdom through the study of the Mosaic Law and the History of judges and prophets.  Such organizations of Godly men had been common in Israel since the time of Saul, Israel's first king (I Sam. 10:5).}  In the first verse is the phrase "tuck your cloak into your belt".  This is to be taken literally and figuratively.  KJV uses the common phrase "Gird up your loins", which means to "get ready for action" to meet physical challenges you are to be immediately confronted with.  {All men wore long outer robes, gathered with a belt or sash.  If a man was to fight, or run, or anything physically demanding, he needed to get the long bottom portion of his robe tucked into his belt in order to free his legs.}  When Elisha so instructed this man, he meant that he was to hurry.  This first passage in chapter 9 continues on with Elisha's detailed instructions, even telling him how he is to depart after the anointing of Jehu had taken place.  Vss 4--> The young man of God proceeded to do exactly as Elisha had instructed him.  Note that he insisted on dealing with Jehu in complete privacy.  This must have been an important step.  The young man being told to get out of that city immediately upon the completion of his task tells me that Elisha knew that annointing Jehu to be king could possibly cause an eruption of violence, especially with a man like Joram sitting on Israel's throne.  To add to that probablility of violence, Jehu was instructed to totaly wipe out the house (all descendents) of Ahab and also the house of Jezabel.  Bear in mind that Joram, king of Israel, had many loyalists, among whom were soldiers in Israel's military.

Vss 14-->  Jehu understood his commission and wasted no time getting started.  He immediately gathered an army and went to Jezreel where Joram and Ahaziah were.  When Joram saw Jehu and his army approaching the city he sent out messengers to inquire as to their intent.  Both times the messengers joined Jehu's ranks.  Finaly, both kings, Joram and Ahazia got on their chariots to go find out for themselves the reason for Jehu and his army to be marching on Jezreel.  In verse 22 Joram asked Jehu, "Have you come in peace?".  Jehu's response left no doubt as to his intentions, as he said, "how can there be peace as long as all the witchcraft and idolatry of your mother Jezebel abound?"  Upon hearing this, Joram immediately turned his charriot around and fled.  But Jehu shot him in the back with an arrow, killing Joram instantly.  I must draw your attention at this time to verse 25.  Jehu is speaking with Bidkar, who was Jehu's appointed captain and long-time "comrade in arms".  Jehu told him to take Joram's body and dump it in Naboth's field.  {remember Naboth and his vineyard?  Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard, so he and Jezebel had Naboth killed so Ahab could get it.}  Jehu then called on Bidkar to remember an event that happened twenty years ago.  They were in Ahab's army.  After Ahab and Jezebel killed Naboth and stole his vineyard, the prophet Elijah foretold of Ahab's family's blood to be spilled onto the vineyard.  Jehu knew that he was an instument in fulfilling God's prophecy.  The Scripture tells that Jehu continues on his obedient rant and also shoots an arrow at Ahazia, king of Judah, fataly wounding him.  So in this short passage, Jehu kills two evil kings in one day (although king Ahazia doesn't die right away).  But Jehu is not finished.  Jezebel still lives.  She is his next target.

Vss 30-37  -  It seems Jezebel was well aware of her fate.  She knew it was her turn and Jehu was coming.  So it says in vs 30 that Jezebel "prettied" herself up with make-up and hairdo to prepare herself for her own death.  {I think the reason for her taking such measures was pure vanity.}  She called Jehu "Zimri, murderer of your master".  {This was a reference to Zimri who had killed the entire house of Baasha.}  Jezebel was painfully aware of Jehu's mission.  Jehu's task with Jezebel turned out to be easy.  All he did was holler up to the window of Jezebel and ask "who is on my side?"  Upon hearing Jehu's question, two of Jezebel's servants threw her out of her own window, killing her and splattering her blood on the outside wall, which was another fulfillment of prophecy.  In the following verses Jehu showed he was willing to give Jezebel a decent burial, but when they went out to get her body to have it buried, they could find only her skull, feet, and hands as the horses of the soldiers trampled Jezebel's body to pieces.  Jehu had begun fulfilling his commission in record speed, but he was not yet finished.

Chapter 10

Verses 1-17  -  Jehu's commission as given by Elisha was to seek and destroy the entire house of Ahab, meaning all of his descendants and any loyalists to him or his family.  The first verse in chapter 10 indicates to me that Ahab knew of Elijah's prophecy and believed it.  Therefore Ahab made arrangements to protect his descendants.  {Nobody wanted their lineage destroyed.  That was very important to all of these people.  Rightfully, they considered this to be all they could leave behind when they died, without which, there would have been no meaning to their lives.}  There were seventy sons of the house of Ahab tucked away in Samaria, protected by loyal servants.  Jehu demanded that the servants kill all of Ahab's male descendants, which they did, and brought their heads to Jehu in baskets.  Jehu at this time starts to flex his muscles a bit and shows signs of enjoying this carnage.  I think you will agree with this assessment as you continue reading in this chapter.  God has used many great men to accomplish His goals, but He has also used some "not-so-good" men, such as Jehu.  But with all of Jehu's shortcomings, he continues to act with resolve.  He does not stop until he has hunted down and killed every blood descendant of Ahab, including all of Ahab's family's loyalists.

Verses 18-35  -  Jehu was not only commissioned to wipe out the house of Ahab, but also to destroy the temples of Baal and its followers.  Jehu was the right man for this job.  All those before him did not possess the resolve that Jehu had.  To purge all Israel of Baal was a mammoth job.  But not too mammoth for a fierce warrior-king like Jehu.  I believe Jehu welcomed all challenges.  You might think I am speaking too highly of this bloodthirsty man named Jehu, and perhaps you are correct, but if anything needed him right now it was Israel.  Baal temples, groves, and high places were everywhere in the entire land of Caanan, which enveloped all of Israel except Judah.  Worshippers of Baal were becoming the citizenry at large.  Baal worship had separated Israel from God and the only way to get them back on the right track was to remove the source.  God selected Jehu for this job because God knew Jehu was capable and willing.  And he was smart.  Vs 18-->  Jehu used deception to gather ALL Baal priests and prophets to their temple.  He lied and told them how dedicated to Baal he was and how he wanted to further advance the cause of Baal in Israel.  He made certain that ONLY Baal officials were left in the temple before he released his soldiers on them to slaughter them and burn them inside the temple itself.  He also destroyed all of the sacred artifacts pertaining to Baal.  He removed the burned rubbish of the Baal temple and made the location a public latrine.

Jehu did well in obeying God in his dealings with Baal, but he backslid into the worship of the Golden Calves at Dan and Bethel.  Notwithstanding, his impact on Israel was tremendous.  And God did not disregard him for his service.  Vss 30-->  God rewarded Jehu's obedience by promising that Jehu's descendants will sit on the throne of Israel for four generations.
Jehu died after serving twenty-eight years as king of Israel.  His son Jehoahaz succeeded him as king.

Next post  -  Joash, King of Judah

Friday, May 10, 2013

CXLVII - II Kings Chapter 8

This 8th chapter of II Kings serves as a short bridge from the current focus to the significant reign of Jehu.  As I use the word "significant" I am in no way diminishing the importance of any of the kings, but rather indicating that the reign of king Jehu served as somewhat of a watershed event in the whole spectrum of Israel's History.

In recent posts we've studied the prophet Elisha, and have seen just how powerful this man of God was and the impact he had made.  I see Elisha's efforts as brake, slowing down the rapid decline of the nation Israel.  Had it not been for Elisha, the nation and its people would have self-destructed within fifty years of its existance as the northern kingdom.  Had the kings and the people of Israel heeded Elisha's words, Israel could possible have existed as a powerful nation on this earth to this very century.  {Try to imagine if you will, what the world would be like today had Israel done as God had instructed them and Solomon's Israel would have continued to grow and prosper.  Seems to be a difficult task to take your mind in this direction, but not so much if you have studied world History, and if you are a natural born student of human nature.}

Chapter 8

Remember the Shunammite woman, whose son Elisha miraculously brought back to life?  Elisha had kept in contact with this lady throughout their lives.  God had told Elisha that there would be a seven-year famine in Israel.  Elisha told this Shunammite woman about the famine and advised her to go someplace else because the famine would be too severe for her and her family to survive.  Therefore she went southwest to the land of the Philistines.  {It doesn't say, but evidently she had some contacts there that would have provided a foothold for her to set up a family household.  Times were difficult then to pick up and move someplace and begin making a living among strangers.}  Verse 3 - At the end of the seven years, the Shunammite woman returned to her homeland in Israel.  She somehow was granted audience with king Joram, at which time she requested her property back.  {I'm not certain who or what had taken over her property during her absence.  But in Israel, a family's birthright was their property.  It was considered sacred, so much so, that a king was expected to honor this.  Also, remember Israel's record-keeping was excellent, bordering perfect.  Family lineage and land allotments were of the utmost importance in these records.}  However, if any king was to flex his muscles against the grain of society, Joram would be a prime candidate.  But these kings of Israel have learned by experience that anything related to the prophet Elisha was to be approached with caution.  Note in verse 4 that Joram consulted with Elisha's ex-servant Gehazi, who told Joram of this
woman's History with Elisha.  After Joram made certain of her identity he saw to it that her estate was not only restored to her, but along with it, all the income from her land for the previous seven years.  On the surface it appears as though Joram was a fair and benevolent king, but in reality, it was fear that drove this decision.  Make no mistake about it, Joram was afraid of Elisha and the power of God that was with him.

Verses 7-->  We've studied a good bit about Syria's king Ben-hadad.  He was a bitter enemy to Israel during his reign in Damascus, but History tells us that he did much to advance Syria as a powerful nation, however in its infant stages.  Ben-hadad had been stricken with an illness which could not be cured by conventional methods.  He was told that Elisha was close by, so he sent his servant Hazael to find Elisha and ask him if the king would recover from this illness.  { I was unable to find any background on Hazael.  The first mention of him was back in I Kings 19:15 when Elijah foretold that Hazael would be anointed king of Syria.  Between that time and this verse, there has been no mention of him.  However, it is safe to assume that he was one of Ben-hadad's closest and most trusted officers of the court.}  So Hazael approaches Elisha, taking with him an elaborate gift, which was customary.  (Although forty camel loads of the finest wares of Damascus seems rather excessive, but Ben-hadad didn't want to take any chances.  His health was at stake.  Quick comment on human nature:  When one's health is seriously threatened, nothing else holds any importance at that moment.}  Upon Elisha's focus on Hazael's question concerning Ben-hadad's health, God provided Elisha with a more in-depth look at what was to take place concerning Syria and its effects on Israel.  As Elisha came to understand what God was revealing to him, he wept.  When Hazael pressed Elisha to explain to him what troubled him so, Elisha explained (vss 9-13) that Ben-hadad would not die of his current affliction, and Hazael would cause horrible things to happen in Israel, specifically burning Israel's cities, killing the men and children, and ripping open their pregnant women.  Hazael was truly amazed and puzzled by the words of Elisha, but as we see in verse 15, Hazael actually murdered king Ben-hadad, and somehow managed to succeed him as king of Syria.
Verses 16-->  {There were two kings named Jehoram.  One in Israel, then one in Judah.  They ruled simultaneously for a short time.  This can be confusing in studying these kings.  Most writings of the Bible, including NIV, refer to the king of Israel as Joram, and the king of Judah as Jehoram.  I will try to stay in keeping with this.}  As we have seen, Jehoshaphat had reigned in Jerusalem as king of Judah for more than twenty years.  He was a king that did his best to do that which was right in the sight of God.  Jehoshaphat was strong in his convictions, but weak when it came to outside influences.  But God looks at the heart, and Jehoshaphat's heart was right.  But Jehoshaphat died and his son Jehoram succeeded him as king of Judah.  Jehoram did not follow in his father's footsteps, but rather reign like the kings of Israel, leading Judah away from God.  He also was a weak king, as it says that Edom revolted and fought its way out from under Judah's control.  Libnah also revolted like Edom did.  So under the reign of Jehoram, Judah was weakened spiritually, militarily, and economically.  {There is a lesson for us to learn in this very short passage.  Think about current events.}  Jehoram is written about in this short passage of nine verses, but he reigned thirty-two years, ten years longer than his father Jehoshaphat.

Verses 25-->  After the death of Jehoram, his son Ahaziah became king of Judah.  Ahaziah was as bad as his father Jehoram, but Ahaziah could not do too much harm to Judah, as he reigned for only a year.  At this time, Joram was still the king of Israel.  Joram reigned in Samaria during the reigns of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and now Ahaziah, all in Judah.  Ahazia, unlike his father, joined forces with the evil king Joram of Israel, taking Judah to war against Syria.  Judah and Israel together could not defeat the Syrian military in an all-out war.  Ahab and Jehoshaphat both knew better than to go to war against Syria on its own turf.  This passage wrapping up this chapter 8 also tells the beginning of the end of kings Joram and Ahaziah.  Their errant joint venture led to their demise.

Next post:  Chapter 9  -  Jehu

Thursday, May 2, 2013

CXLVI - II Kings 6:8-7:20 - Elisha is a Busy Prophet

In the last post we studied eight miracles that the prophet Elisha made happen.  Elisha isn't finished with his ministry to Israel as we will see in this post.  A timeline at this point is difficult to establish.  Although the Scripture is not specific as to the dates these events occurred, I think we can assume they were written in basic chronological order, although there seem to be some overlaps.  But trying to figure timelines can be a frustrating exercize in futility.

The Arameans have been mentioned a number of times thus far and will continue to be.  These Arameans are Syrians whose capital is Damascus.  Although there were some intermittent peaceful periods of time between the two nations, the Syrians were the aggressors against Israel during most of Elisha's ministry.  {One of the times when there was peace between these nations is when Naaman, Syria's Commander of the Army, went to Elisha to ask him to heal him of leprosy, which he did.}  The Scripture mentions them repeatedly and indicates that there were "marauding bands" of Syrians constantly reaking havok on Israel's villages and camps.

II Kings 6:8-19  -  Elisha Defeats Syrians

Ben-hadad was the king of Syria at this time.  {KJV refers to them as Syrians; NIV uses Arameans.}  As mentioned above, there was not what we would call an "all-out war".  But rather, the Syrians were sending bands of marauders to raid various towns and communities throughout Israel.  King Ben-hadad would personally direct this raiding parties.  But Elisha intervenes as God lets Elisha know the whereabouts of the marauders before they even arrived.  Elisha would send messages to the king of Israel and the king would side-step the Syrians every time.  {Jehoram (Joram) was the king of Israel at this time.  Although Jehoram and Elisha did not get along at all well, they seem to be on peaceful terms during the time period of this series of events.}  It didn't take Ben-hadad long before he realized someone was leaking information to his enemy Israel.  And he was enraged.  So (vs 11) he summoned all of his officers and councilors together to accuse and demand that the perpetrater confess.  But one of his officers steps forward and tells the king that Elisha is the one, because he even knows what is said in the privacy of the king's bed chambers.  So the king sends a sizable army to Dothan (where Elisha was at this time) to bring Elisha back to him in chains.  When all those soldiers arrived outside the city of Dothan, it was nightfall, so they waited till morning to attack the city and capture Elisha.

In verse 15 we see that the next morning, one of Elisha's servants was frightened by the huge army camped outside the city (I seriously doubt this servant is Gehazi.  Elisha punished Gehazi for stealing and lying by casting leprosy upon him.)  {I do not usually recommend memory verses, but verse 16 would be a good one.}  In verse 16 Elisha responds to his servant, "Don't be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."  It's similar to that which you have heard me say, "If God is with me, who can stand against me?"  That is ALWAYS true.  Then Elisha opened the servant's eyes to allow him to see the mountain full of multitudes of horses and chariots of fire.  WOW!  How breathtaking that sight must have been.  {We must continue to remind ourselves that the very same army of angels with horses and chariots of fire are always out there.  There is not an army or any force that can stand against these angels.  None.  As we'll see when we get to the Book of Revelation, angels do not look like the pretty little girls with wings as they are often portrayed.  These are frightening looking angels of war, and they are on OUR side.  I cannot say enough about this, but I must move on.}  Here comes another miracle.  When the Syrian army marched toward Elisha, he asked God to strike them with blindness, which He did.  {The Hebrew word for "blindness" in this verse occurs also in Genesis 19:11 (citizens of Sodom who wanted to force their way into Lot's house).  It was a blinding that did not involve the actual loss of sight, but rather it was a state in which a person was unable to recognize what he was looking at, sending him into a helpless state of confusion.}  When the soldiers were in this blind state of confusion, Elisha (vs 19) became their leader and guide.  Although the Syrian soldiers thought they were going to Dothan or perhaps Damascus, Elisha was leading them to Samaria, Israel's capital and strong-hold.  Upon arrival in Samaria (vs 20) the Lord opened the eyes of the Syrian soldiers.  Of course they were frightened because they were in the middle of their enemy's strong-hold and there was no escape.  Israel's king Jehoram asked Elisha if he should kill them.  I like Elisha's response.  In verses 22-23 he instructs the king to treat them like guests.  They were fed and released to return home.  After that, the Syrians stopped raiding Israel's territory.  (at least for a while)

II Kings 6: 24-7:19  -  Famine in Samaria

Peace didn't last long between Israel and Syria.  {An enmity had been allowed to grow and fester between these two nations, much like the enmity that exists today between the Israelis and the Arabs.  It is so difficult for peace to last very long between two factions that hold so much hate in their hearts, especially when hate is handed down from generation to generation.}  In verse 24 Ben-hadad once again marches against Israel's capital city Samaria.  At this time there is a great famine in Samaria.  A good description of just how bad a famine can get is in vss 25-29.  As you can see, people were starving to the point that they resorted to cannibalism.  As told in these verses, two women brought a dispute to king Jehoram.  He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth.  I believe he did this to mourn the terrible state of his own city, and he was powerless to do anything about it.  But, as usual, Jehoram was not as interested in solving the problem as he was in finding someone to blame.  {I guess all of us can be found guilty of this at some time during our lives.}  And he found someone to blame:  Elisha.  Jehoram sent his soldiers to arrest Elisha, but as when was approached, Elisha announced the end of the famine.  Elisha prophesied that "tomorrow" the best flour would be sold cheap enough for anybody in Samaria to purchase.  {At the current time, as told in vs 25, a donkey's head was sold for a small fortune because of the lack of food.}  This prophesy seemed hard for anyone to believe, especially since it was going to happen in twenty four hours.  One of the king's officers voiced doubt about Elisha's prophecy and in verse 2 of chapter 7 Elisha told him that he would see this prophesy come true, but would not get to eat any of the food that would be made available.

In verse 3, the story does not change, but the focus shifts to four lepors talking among themselves outside the gate of the city.  {Remember, Syrian forces were camped right outside the city preparing to lay siege on it.}  The lepors were not even allowed to enter the city gates and came to the conclusion that they were going to die no matter what.  So they decided to surrender themselves to the Syrians.  The worst that could happen would be quick death, which sounded pretty good compared to the continued slow death by starvation.  In vss 5-7 we see that God had made the entire Syrian camp to hear the sounds of multitudes of chariots.  The Syrians thought that Israel had hired Hittites and Egyptians to fight for them.  The Syrian soldiers hurriedly abandoned their camp along with all of its supplies, including food and livestock.  The four lepors entered the camp and found it abandoned so they helped themselves to the abundance.  The lepors eating and drinking and having a big time as they had the whole camp to themselves.  So much food was there that they decided they needed to share this bounty so they went to the city to report this.  Of course king Jehoram never could recognize a blessing and suspected this to be a trap set by the Syrians.  {I think you will find this whole passage to be interesting reading.}  So picture in your mind that this city was starving to the point of cannibalism.  The four lepors went to the city and announced to the guards on the walls that the Syrian camp was abandoned and there was plenty of food there.  Just think how quickly that word would have spread among the starving people throughout the entire city of Samaria.  And it so
happened that the main gatekeeper assigned duty for that night was the very officer that questioned the validity of Elisha's prophesy.  And in vs 2 Elisha told him that he would not get to eat any of the food that signaled the end of the famine.  So as the word spread, the people in mass rushed through the main gate of the city to go to the Syrian camp.  Such a mad rush was it that they trampled the gatekeeper to death when he tried to maintain some order.  The last verse of chapter 7 repeats the prophesy. then says "...and that is exactly what happened to him, ..."

Next post  -  Chapter 8  -  Elisha's Ministry Continues

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

CXLV - Think on These Things

As I mentioned before, on the first of each month I will send a list of things for you to think on as a review of what we've covered thus far.  If you are unable to bring to mind significant thoughts concerning each of these, you might want to scan the pertinent blog posting.  This list will get lengthy as we proceed through our study. 

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Cain Kills Abel
Noah and the Ark
Noah's Son:  Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Tower of Babel
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac Is Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham Tested
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Stolen Birthright
Laban, Rachel, Leah
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Cupbearer and Baker
Joseph and Pharaoh
Jacob's Son's Reunite
Israel Goes to Egypt
400 Years of Slavery in Egypt
Moses is Born
Moses Kills Egyptian - Becomes Fugitive
God Commissions Moses
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
Israel Through the Wilderness
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle
The Ark of the Covenant
The Golden Calf
Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by Night
Levitican Law
Forty Years in the Wilderness
Twelve Spies sent to Canaan
Moses Gives Final Sermons
Joshua Replaces Moses as Leader of Israel
Rahab the Canaanite Prostitute
Crossing the Jordan; 12 Stones
Battle of Jericho
Land Allotments for the 12 Tribes
Baal and Ashteroth
Gideon Lays Out the Fleece
Samson and Delilah
Ruth and Boaz
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
Saul - Israel's First King
David and Goliath
Jonathan, David's Friend
The Ark Returns to Jerusalem
David and Bathsheba
Solomon Crowned King
The Temple in Jerusalem
Rehoboam and Jeroboam
Leaders Matter