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

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