And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” - 1 Kings 19:15-16
Today’s reading picks up in the middle of the siege of Samaria. The capital of Israel has been reduced to desperation as the king of Syria demands that the man of God – Elisha – be handed over to him.
So the king of Israel has two options: turn to the LORD for deliverance, or dispose of Elisha and satisfy the Syrians. By the end of chapter 6, he’s made his decision, but when the messenger from the king arrives, Elisha, like his predecessor, makes a courageous prediction: the LORD will again reveal his power to the king of Israel. The rest of chapter 7 demonstrates that Elisha knew of which he spoke.
Before we turn to the next episode, I want to point out the way the author refers to Elisha and Joram, the king of Israel. Throughout these stories, Joram is almost never named, instead referred to simply as “The King of Israel.” And Elisha is often called simply, “The Man of God.” This is perhaps just a literary flourish, or maybe something is being said about the respect, or lack thereof, the author has for them.
Nonetheless, chapter 8 opens with a closing bookend of the Shunamite woman’s story, whom we met in chapter 4. After this, the political intrigue reaches a new phase in both Syria and Israel, as Elisha reconnects with Hazael, whom Elijah had anointed to succeed Ben-Hadad in Syria. Events that Elijah foresaw a dozen years ago are spun into violent motion.
The middle episode of chapter 8 is intense. Elisha heads to Damascus, of all places, and Ben-Hadad calls on him, probably elated that Elisha was no longer in the service of Israel’s king. Listen intently to Elisha’s brief interchange with the king’s messenger (which seems to be a theme in these passages). The messenger is Hazael, who is told to go lie to Ben-Hadad, and then, tragically, is presented with all the horrors he will bring on Israel. Elisha’s emotions are jarring to his hearer, and will be jarring to us if we’re willing to meditate on what he could see, both before him, and in the distance.
Our verse for this week is Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
2 Kings 7 through 9. Now let’s read it!
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.