1 - 6 The Shunammite Gets Back Her Field
1 Now Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life, saying, “Arise and go with your household, and sojourn wherever you can sojourn; for the LORD has called for a famine, and it will even come on the land for seven years.” 2 So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God, and she went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. 3 At the end of seven years, the woman returned from the land of the Philistines; and she went out to appeal to the king for her house and for her field. 4 Now the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, “Please relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.” 5 As he was relating to the king how he had restored to life the one who was dead, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, this is the woman and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.” 6 When the king asked the woman, she related [it] to him. So the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, “Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land even until now.”
In this history we have a striking picture of the fates of the people of Israel in the future. In Gehazi, the leprous servant of Elisha, we can see a picture of Israel in unbelief. The woman is a picture of the faithful remnant that has been among the nations for a full period, “seven years”.
Elisha receives a word from the LORD about the famine. Elisha does not bring that famine, as was done by Elijah (1Kgs 17:1). Elijah therefore is the man of judgment, while Elisha announces the famine and shows mercy to the woman by warning her of it. Elisha not only uses his power, which is God’s power, but also the knowledge he has received from God of future events in grace for the benefit of others.
As a prophet of grace, Elisha has a place of refuge for women. She is happy among her people, but must leave that place now. That must not have been easy. This is how Israel has been wandering among the peoples for two thousand years. The famine is no longer that of a particular place, Samaria (2Kgs 6:24-25; 7:3-4a), but of the whole people.
The woman leaves the country at the word of Elisha. She does obediently what has been told to her. By leaving the country she is bowing under the judgment. Elimelech also left the country because of a famine (Rth 1:1), but he did so without the order of the LORD. He wanted to escape the discipline of God. One time God’s people must resist the enemy, the next time they must go to the enemy (cf. Jer 27:11-17). Each time only the word of the LORD is decisive. It is about obeying.
The woman goes back when the famine is over. It is not said that she got a message about it. She will have kept track of the time. After seven years she can return. That is what she does. When she is back in the land, she goes to the king. It seems that after her departure her property has fallen to the king. He can therefore give it back. She has to ask for it, because she left herself. What kind of right can she assert?
The moment she comes to the king, the king is in conversation with Gehazi. He asks Gehazi to tell him about the miracles Elisha has performed. Perhaps he is like Ahasuerus who, out of boredom, lets himself be read (Est 6:1), or as Felix who, in search of financial gain, wants to hear Paul regularly (Acts 24:26). God uses both things for His plan with His own. To this end, He uses everyday things He controls in the way only He can. How Gehazi came to the court is not known. The fact is, he is there.
Gehazi seems to be someone who knows a lot about Elisha’s religion and the things he has done. He tells about it, but as someone who only knows about it externally, while he has no inner share in it. He is outside the things he can tell a lot about. Thus are the words of God given to the Jews and they have handed them over to us (Rom 3:1-2) without being converted.
There are many people who can explain the gospel without sharing it themselves. It must be clear to anyone who is working on it or hears that they share in it. It makes no sense, for example, to concern oneself with the question of whether people who have never heard of the Lord Jesus can be saved, without first dealing with this question for one’s own soul.
It seems coincidental that at this very moment the woman appears before the king. Of course God governs everything, but from our point of view it seems a coincidence (cf. Rth 2:3). The woman gets everything back. She is maintained abroad, but she is also paid for all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land even until now.
The woman receives everything back, by grace, but also because Gehazi just told about her dead son who had become alive. Thus we have received everything by virtue of the resurrection of the Son Who was dead, but Who has become alive again. So will it be with Israel when it is restored to the land, when the people see that their children are more numerous than they ever thought (Isa 54:1-3). That is because of the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the Son of God, as described in the previous chapter, Isaiah 53.
7 - 15 Hazael King of Syria
7 Then Elisha came to Damascus. Now Ben-hadad king of Aram was sick, and it was told him, saying, “The man of God has come here.” 8 The king said to Hazael, “Take a gift in your hand and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the LORD by him, saying, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’” 9 So Hazael went to meet him and took a gift in his hand, even every kind of good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ loads; and he came and stood before him and said, “Your son Ben-hadad king of Aram has sent me to you, saying, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’” 10 Then Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You will surely recover,’ but the LORD has shown me that he will certainly die.” 11 He fixed his gaze steadily [on him] until he was ashamed, and the man of God wept. 12 Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” Then he answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up.” 13 Then Hazael said, “But what is your servant, [who is but] a dog, that he should do this great thing?” And Elisha answered, “The LORD has shown me that you will be king over Aram.” 14 So he departed from Elisha and returned to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me that you would surely recover.” 15 On the following day, he took the cover and dipped it in water and spread it on his face, so that he died. And Hazael became king in his place.
Elisha stays in the background, his service is almost over. Yet he still has something to do, namely anoint Hazael. He must do so instead of Elijah to whom the commission was given (1Kgs 19:15). That this has not yet happened is a proof of God’s grace which gives the people a longer time to come to conversion. But then comes the time of the anointing of Hazael, as the LORD said to Elijah. Here the rod of God’s discipline is prepared by Him, for His grace is not accepted by His people. For that, Elisha comes to Damascus. At that moment the king of Aram, or Syria, is sick.
God uses Ben-hadad’s sickness to bring Elisha into contact with Hazael. Ben-hadad wants to know how things will end with him. He sees Elisha as a medium who will be prepared for a favorable conjuration through a purchase price. Maybe he has heard of the curing of Naaman. He sends Hazael, his servant, with a gift to Elisha to ask him about the outcome of his sickness. It is a huge gift. We see that when we compare this gift with the gift Naaman brought (2Kgs 5:5).
In his question Ben-hadad addresses Elisha as a father by addressing him as “your son”. Elisha has a double answer. On the one hand, he will recover from his sickness, because his sickness is not lethal. On the other hand he will die, but then by the murderer’s hand of Hazael. Healing is a word to Ben-hadad, his death is a word about him.
When Elisha sees it before by his spiritual eyes, he cannot hold back and bursts into tears. He sees the consequences of what Hazael will do. He weeps because his service has been in vain, and the people will come to judgment. That is ultimately the experience of every servant of the Lord. The situation has deteriorated despite his service. So it went with the apostles and the reformers and the men of the revival. It is still the case. This does not make the service attractive. At the end of the service, the judgement remains.
Do we know what will happen to the world, what will cause evil people to suffer, what evil false teachers will cause in Christianity, what spiritual suffering and spiritual death antichrists will cause? What does that do us, does it bring us to weep like Elisha?
Hazael pretends not to know what it is all about. He presents himself as someone who is unable to do anything like that. But inwardly his plan is brewing. Then Elisha says he will become king. The fact that God has determined that he will become king does not change his responsibility. Just like Jeroboam, who has also been told that he would become king, he takes the law into his own hands when it comes to the moment to become king.
When Hazael reports to Ben-hadad, he only tells half of the story Elisha told him. He tells Ben-hadad that his sickness will not end up in death. Hazael does not tell the other half of the story, but fulfills this part. He kills his king and becomes king in his place.
16 - 24 Jehoram King of Judah
16 Now in the fifth year of Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then the king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah became king. 17 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 18 He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab became his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD. 19 However, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a lamp to him through his sons always. 20 In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves. 21 Then Jehoram crossed over to Zair, and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck the Edomites who had surrounded him and the captains of the chariots; but [his] army fled to their tents. 22 So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time. 23 The rest of the acts of Jehoram and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 24 So Jehoram slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David; and Ahaziah his son became king in his place.
The history of the kings of Israel is interrupted to mention the history of some kings of Judah. This is because these kings are in contact with the kings of Israel. It begins with Jehoram, the son of the God-fearing Jehoshaphat, who marries Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. She has an extraordinarily bad influence on him. She is like her parents and makes him walk “in the way of the kings of Israel”, a way that is evil in the sight of the LORD. The details we read in 2 Chronicles 21.
By this marriage, the evilness of the house of Ahab penetrated into Judah, in the line of the lineage of David. Yet God’s grace is still over Judah. He remains faithful to His word to His servant David (2Sam 7:12-16; 21:17). For his sake the LORD does not destroy Judah, even though it should be deserved.
However, there is a form of discipline. We see it in the revolt of Edom. Whoever departs from God will face all kinds of setbacks. By this God wants to try to bring those who depart from Him back to Him.
In what seems like a clause, the uprising of Libnah is also mentioned. Libnah is a priest city. This city may have revolted because of the idolatry in which they do not want to and cannot participate. That too is a warning voice, a protest voice, against the deviations, intended to bring about a return to the LORD.
25 - 29 Ahaziah King of Judah
25 In the twelfth year of Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. 26 Ahaziah [was] twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name [was] Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. 27 He walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did evil in the sight of the LORD, like the house of Ahab [had done], because he was a son-in-law of the house of Ahab. 28 Then he went with Jehoram the son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth-gilead, and the Arameans wounded Jehoram. 29 So King Jehoram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Arameans had inflicted on him at Ramah when he fought against Hazael king of Aram. Then Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Jehoram the son of Ahab in Jezreel because he was sick.
Jehoram is succeeded by his son Ahaziah. The time when Ahaziah begins to rule is linked to the reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab. This man goes completely the way of the house of Ahab. For his mother is a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (verse 18). Here it says that she is “the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel” (verse 26). She breathes the spirit of this wicked man Omri, a spirit that also breathed her father Ahab, Omri’s son. This whole godless influence is only strengthened by the demonic upbringing of her mother Jezebel.
In verses 28-29 the Holy Spirit prepares the stage for the events described in 2 Kings 9-10. He leads the ways of these wicked people and prepares them to receive judgment.