II Kings 1

 

 

The narrative of the Second Book of Kings follows on that of the First Book

in the closest possible sequence. The history of Ahaziah’s reign begins in

I Kings 22:51, and is carried on, without any real break or pause in the sense,

to v.18. How the two books came to be divided at this point is quite inexplicable.

The division is most unhappy. Not only does it, without apparent reason, draw

a strong line of demarcation in the middle of a reign; but it separates what

it was evidently the intention of the writer most closely to connect — viz.

the sins of the monarch and their punishment. Ahaziah began his reign by

openly showing himself a devotee of Baal — by “walking in the way of his

father and in the way of his mother,” the wicked Jezebel: therefore

calamity immediately smote him — first Moab rebelled, threw off the

Israelite yoke, and reestablished its independence; and then, within a short

space, Ahaziah himself met with an accident which produced a dangerous

illness. The writer relates barely the former fact, but enlarges on the latter,

which gave occasion for one of the most remarkable of the miracles of

Elijah.

 

                                    The Revolt of Moab (v. 1)

 

1  Then Moab rebelled;” -  literally, and Moab rebelled, but with an

idea, not merely of sequence, but of consequence. The “Moabite Stone,”

discovered in 1869, throws considerable light on the character and

circumstances of this rebellion. Moab had, we know, been subjected by

David (II Samuel 8:2), and had been very severely treated. Either in the

reign of Solomon, or more probably at his death, and the disruption of his

kingdom, the Moabites had revolted, and resumed an independent position,

which they had maintained until the reign of Omri. Omri, who was a

warlike monarch, the greatest of the Israelite monarchs after Jeroboam,

after settling himself firmly upon the throne of Israel, attacked the Moabite

territory, and in a short time reduced it, making the native king, Chemosh-gad,

his tributary. At the death of Omri, Ahab succeeded to the suzerainty,

and maintained it during his lifetime, exacting a tribute that was felt as a

severe “oppression” (Moabite Stone, line 6; compare ch. 3:4). The

death of Ahab in battle and the defeat of his army encouraged Mesha, who

had succeeded his father, Chemosh-gad, to raise the standard of revolt

once more, and to emancipate his country after a period of subjection

which he estimates roughly at “forty years.” The “Stone” is chiefly

occupied with an account of the steps by which he recovered his territory.

after the death of Ahab.” Probably, as soon as he heard of it. In Oriental

empires the death of a brave and energetic monarch is constantly the signal

for a general revolt of the subject peoples. They entertain a hope that his

successor will not inherit his vigor and capacity.

 

            The Illness, Impiety, and Death of Ahaziah (vs. 2-18)

 

2  Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in

Samaria,” -  rather, through the lattice. It is implied that the upper chamber had

a single window, which was closed by a single lattice, or shutter of interlaced

woodwork. The shutter may have been insufficiently secured; or the woodwork may

have been too weak to bear his weight, Compare the fall of Eutychus (Acts 20:9),

where, however, there is no mention of a “lattice.” – “and was sick;” i.e.

was so injured that he had to take to his bed.” -  “and he sent messenges to

inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron” - As a worshipper of Baal, bent on

walking in the evil way of his father and of his mother (I Kings 22:52), Ahaziah

would naturally inquire of some form of the Baal divinity. Why he chose “Baal-zebub

the god of Ekron,” it is impossible to say. Perhaps Baal-zebub had at the time

a special reputation for giving oracular responses. Perhaps the Ekron temple was,

of all the ancient sites of the Baal-worship, the one with which he could most readily

communicate. Philistia lay nearer to Samaria than Phoenicia did, and of the Philistine

towns Ekron (now Akir) was the mostnorthern, and so the nearest. “Baal-zebub

has been thought by some to be equivalent to “Beel-samen,” “the lord of heaven”

a divine title well known to the Phoenicians; but this view is etymologically

unsound, since zebub cannot possibly mean “heaven.” “Baal-zebub” is “the lord

of flies “ — either the god who sends them as a plague on any nation that offends

him (compare Exodus 8:21-31), or the god who averts them from his votaries and

favorites  whether I shall recover of this disease.” - rather, of this illness.

 

3  But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite,” - Elijah was,

apparently, in the low tract of the Shefelah, or in Sharon, when the messengers

started, and was thus commanded to go up and meet them, or intercept them on

their journey before they descended into the plain. God would not have the insult

to His majesty, carried out – “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the

king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God

in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub the God of Ekron?”  rather,

Is it that there is no God at all in Israel? The double negative is intensitive,

and implies that the king’s consultation of Baal-zebub, god of Ekron, is a complete

and absolute denial of the Divinity of Jehovah. To consult a foreign oracle is

equivalent to saying that the voice of God is wholly silent in one’s own land. This

was going further in apostasy than Ahab had gone (I Kings 22:6-9).

 

4  Now therefore” – The word translated, “therefore” (ˆkel;) is emphatic, and

means “for this reason,” “on this account.” Because Ahaziah had apostatized from

God, God sentenced him to die from the effects of his fall, and not to recover. It is

implied that he might have recovered if he had acted otherwise  “thus saith the

LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up,

but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.” i.e. quitted the messengers, showing

that his errand was accomplished — he had said all that he was commissioned to say.

 

 

5  And when the messengers turned back” - , when the messengers returned;

i.e. when they reached the presence of Ahaziah, he perceived at once that they could

not have been to Ekron and come back in the time. He therefore inquired of them,

unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back? “Why have ye not

completed your journey?”

 

6  And they said unto him, There came a man” -  It is not likely that the

messengers did not know Elijah by sight. He was too prominent a person in the

history of the time, and too remarkable in his appearance, not to have been recognized,

at any rate by some of them. But they thought it best to keep back the prophet’s name,

and to call him simply “a man” (ish) — perhaps actuated by good will towards Elijah,

perhaps by a fear for their own safety, such as had been felt by Obadiah (I Kings

18:8-14) -“up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that

sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is

not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baalzebub the god of

Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou

art gone up, but shalt surely die.”

 

7  And he said unto them, What manner of man was he” -  literally, what was

 the manner of the man? What was his appearance? Were there any marks about

him by which he might be recognized and known? Ahaziah may have already

suspected that the man who had denounced woe on him would be the same

who had denounced woe on his father (I Kings 21:20-22).

 

8   “And they answered him, He was an hairy man,” ; literally, a lord of

 hair (r[;c" l["B"). Some take the meaning to be that he was rough and unkempt,

with his hair and beard long but the more usual explanation is that he wore a shaggy

coat of untanned skin, with the hair outward. Such a garment seems certainly to have

been worn by the later prophets (Zechariah 13:4; Matthew 3:4), and to have been

regarded as a sign of their profession. But there is no positive evidence that the dress

had been adopted by Isaiah’s time – “and girt with a girdle of leather about his

loins” - Generally the Israelites wore girdles of a soft material, as linen or cotton.  The

curious girdle” of the high priest’s ephod was of “fine twined linen,” embroidered with

gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet (Exodus 28:8). Girdles of leather, rough and

uncomfortable, would only be worn by the very poor and by the ascetic. Elijah may

have adopted his rough and coarse costume, either to show contempt for things

earthly or as a penitential garb indicating sorrow for the sins of the people, or simply

to chastise and subdue the flesh, as other ascetics. “And he said, It is Elijah the

Tishbite.” The description given is enough. The king has no longer any doubt. His

suspicion is turned into certainty. There is no living person but Elijah who would at

once have the boldness to prophesy the death of the king, and would wear such a

costume as described. Elijah is, of course, his enemy, as he had been his father’s

enemy” (I Kings 21:20), and will wish him ill, and prophesy accordingly, the wish

being “father to the thought.” It is not improbable that Elijah had withdrawn himself

into obscurity on the accession of Ahaziah, or at any rate on his exhibition of strong

idolatrous proclivities, as he had done on more than one occasion from Ahab

(I Kings 17:10; 19:8-8). Ahaziah may have been long wishing to arrest and

imprison him, and now thought he saw his opportunity.

 

9 “Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty” - “Captains of fifties” were

first instituted in the wilderness by the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18:21-25). Though

not expressly mentioned in the military organization of David, they probably formed

a part of it, and so passed into the institutions of the kingdom of Israel“with his

fifty.”  Some recognition of Elijah’s superhuman power would seem to have led

Ahaziah to send so large a body. His doing so was a sort of challenge to the prophet

to show whether Ahaziah or the God whom he represented was the stronger. The

circumstances recall those of the “band of men and officers from the chief

priests and Pharisees” (John 18:3), which was sent, “with swords and

staves,” to arrest another righteous Person.  And he went up to him: and,

behold, he sat on the top of an hill.” - literally, on the top of the hill - The

high ground where Elijah had met the messengers (v. 3) seems to be intended.

When they were gone, the prophet took his seat on the highest point, conspicuous

on all sides, so avoiding any attempt at concealment, and awaiting the next step

that the king would take, calmly and quietly.  “And he spake unto him, Thou

man of God,” - The captain is thought by some to have spoken ironically; but there

is no evidence of this. The address is respectful, submissive. The miraculous powers

of Elijah (I Kings 17:22; 18:38) were probably known to the officer, who hoped by

the tone of his address to escape the prophet’s anger. In the same spirit he avoids

issuing any command of his own, and prefers simply to deliver the king’s

command“the king hath said, Come down.”

 

10  And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man

of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy

fifty.” - Elijah undoubtedly “commanded fire to come down from heaven”

(Luke 9:54), or, in other words, prayed to God that it might come down, and in

answer to his prayer the fire fell.  He was raised up to vindicate God’s honor, to

check and punish idolatry, to keep alive a faithful remnant in Israel, when all the

powers of the earth were leagued together to destroy and smother true

 religion. He was an embodiment of the Law — of absolute, strict, severe justice.

The fair face of mercy was not revealed to him. Already, at Carmel, he had

executed the Divine vengeance on idolaters after an exemplary fashion (I Kings

18:40). Now, Ahaziah, the son of the wicked Jezebel, had challenged Jehovah to

a trial of strength by first ignoring him, and then sending a troop of soldiers to arrest

his prophet. (It would be interesting to have a case study on each of these fifty – the

pushing and shoving, the back stabbing, the sacrifice of principles for temporary

gain to get in favor with the king or the system – you know how it is – dog eat

dog – I wonder, had there not been the threat of fire from heaven,  what their

attitude would have been if Elijah was captured and they had the opportunity

to present him to the king? - CY – 2011)  Was Elijah to succumb without

an effort, or was he to vindicate the majesty and honor of  Jehovah? He

had no power of himself to do either good or harm. He could but pray

to Jehovah, and Jehovah, in His wisdom and perfect  goodness, would either

grant or refuse his prayer. If he granted it, the punishment  inflicted would

not be Elijah’s work, but God’s. To tax Elijah with cruelty is to involve

God in the charge. God regarded it as a fitting time for making a signal example,

and, so regarding it, he inspired a spirit of indignation in the breast of His  prophet,

who thereupon made the prayer which He saw fit to answer. The judgment

was in accordance with the general tone and tenor of the Law, which assigns

tribulation and anguish to every soul of man that doeth evil” (Romans 2:9),

and visits with death every act of rebellion against God.  “And there came down

fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.”  Josephus says that the “fire”

was a flash of lightning (prhsth>r), and so the commentators generally.

 

11  Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty.

And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said,

Come down quickly.”  The king has grown impatient. It is conceivable that the

death of the first captain with his band of fifty had been kept from him, and that he

was only aware of an unaccountable delay. He therefore changes his order from

“Come down” to Come down quickly.”  12 “And Elijah answered and said

unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and

consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven,

and consumed him and his fifty.

 

13  And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the

third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah,

and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life,

and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.  14 Behold,

there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the

former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy

sight.”  This captain went up — i.e. ascended the hill on which Elijah was still

seated, and there fell on his knees, or bowed himself down, before the prophet, as

suppliants were wont to do, beseeching his compassion. The fate of the two former

captains had become known to him by some means or other, and this induced him

to assume an attitude, not of command, but of submission. He acknowledged that

the prophet held his life  and the lives of his fifty men at his free disposal, and begged

that they might be precious in his sight, or, in other words, that he would spare them.

What response Elijah would have made, had he been left to himself, is uncertain. But

he was not left to himself. An angel of God again appeared to him, and directed his

course of action.  (Does this not make you and I to stop and think?  Can not we

understand that “it is the goodness of God that leadeth thee to repentance”

[Romans 2:4] and that “It is of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed,

because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:  great is

thy faithfulness!”  [Lamentations 3:22-23] –CY – 2011)

 

15  And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him:

be not afraid of him.”  ; i.e. “descend the hill with him — have no fear of him,

accompany him to the presence of the king; do my will, and there shall no harm

happen unto thee.” “And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.

Elijah showed no hesitation, no fear, no undue regard for his own personal safety.

He had been contending for God’s honor, not for his own advantage. Now that

God bade him contend no more, but yield, he complied promptly, and ceased

all resistance.

 

16  And he said unto him,” - Elijah said to the king. Introduced into the royal

presence, as a prisoner, perhaps fettered and chained, the prophet in no way

lowered his tone or abated from the severity of his speech. “Thus saith

the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of

Baalzebub the God of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel

to enquire of his word?  Therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed

on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.”  Distinctly, in the  plainest

possible words, he warned the monarch that his end approached — he

would never quit the bed whereon he lay, but, because he had insulted Jehovah

by sending to consult the god of Ekron, would surely die. Apparently the king,

abashed and confounded, released the prophet, and allowed him to go his way.

17  So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had

spoken.”  Not only did he die in consequence of his fall without once quitting his

bed, but his death was, as Elijah had said, a judgment on his sin in sending

to consult Baal-zebub.

 

 

 

                        The Reign of Jehoram (vs. 17b-18)

 

“And Jehoram reigned in his stead” - or, Joram LXX., “whom Jehovah exalts;”

another evidence that Ahab did not regard himself as having abandoned altogether

the worship of Jehovah — reigned in his stead (“his brother,” wyja, has probably

fallen out after “Jehoram,” and requires to be inserted in order to give force to the

last clause of the verse)  “in the second year of Jehoram the son  of Jehoshaphat

king of Judah;” -  In ch. 3:1 it is said that Jehoram, the son of Ahab and brother of

Ahaziah, began to reign over Israel in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat himself. The

apparent discrepancy is reconciled by supposing that Jehoshaphat associated his son

Jehoram in the kingdom in his seventeenth year, when he was about to enter upon the

Syrian war, so that the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat was also the second year of

Jehoram. It is certain that association was largely practiced in Egypt at a date long

anterior to Jehoshaphat, and David’s proclamation of Solomon as king was an

association, so that the explanation is not untenable. On the other hand, the difficulties

of the chronology of II Kings are so numerous and so great as to defy complete

reconciliation, and to lead to a suspicion that the numbers have either suffered

extensive corruption, or have been manipulated by an unskillful reviser – “because

he had no son.”  - i.e. because he, Ahaziah, had no son, he was succeeded by his

younger brother, Jehoram.

 

18  Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did,” – These may have

included some months of warfare against Mesha, King of Moab, who seems to

have rebelled at the very beginning of Ahaziah’s reign (v. 1 and ch. 3:5). Mesha’s war

of independence consisted of a succession of sieges, whereby he recovered one by

one the various strongholds in his territory, which were occupied by the Israelites —

Medeba, Ataroth, Nebo, Jahaz, Horonaim, and others — expelling the

foreign garrisons, rebuilding or strengthening the fortifications, and

occupying the cities by garrisons of his own. On one occasion, at the siege

of Nebo, he declares that he killed seven thousand men. He found in the

town a place of worship containing vessels, which he regarded as “vessels

of Jehovah” (Moabite Stone, line 18); these he took? and dedicated them

to Chemosh, the special god of Moab. How much of the war fell into the

reign of Ahaziah, and how much into that of Jehoram his brother, is

uncertain.  are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings

of Israel?   Mesha’s stone is a striking testimony to the contemporary record of

historical events by the Palestinian monarchs of the time, which has sometimes

been doubted.

 

 

                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

  The Short Reign of Ahaziah: His Sins, and their Punishment (vs. 1-18)

 

For homiletic purposes we must attach to this chapter the last three verses of the

First Book of the Kings. We find in that passage a short but very complete account

of the general character of Ahaziah’s sins; we find in this chapter a tolerably full

account of one great act of sin, and a clear declaration of the manner in which that

act and his other sins were punished. It will be well to consider separately:  the sins;

their aggravations; and their punishment.

 

  • THE SINS. These were three in number:

 

ü      Walking in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat (I Kings 22:52),

                        or maintaining the calf-worship — the hereditary will-worship

                        of the northern kingdom, introduced by Jeroboam, the first non-Davidic

                        king, and thenceforth continued uninterruptedly by each successive

                        Israelite monarch;

 

ü      Walking in the way of his father — neglecting the worship of Jehovah,

                        persecuting his prophets, practically proscribing the old religion, and

                        ruling with harshness and cruelty; and

 

ü      Walking in the way of his mother“serving Baal and

      worshipping him (I Kings 22:53), maintaining the Phoenician

      sensualistic cult, which Jezebel had introduced from Zidon (Ibid.16:31),

      and which was of a most demoralizing and debasing character. It was,

      primarily, under this third head that the special act of sin fell which

      forms the main subject of this chapter under study.

 

  • THEIR AGGRAVATIONS. Ahaziah might have been expected to

            have learnt wisdom by experience, to have taken to heart the warning

            furnished by his father’s life and death, and at least to have avoided the

            sins which had brought down upon the king and upon the kingdom so

            terrible a blow, so signal and severe a punishment. But, on the contrary, he

            went beyond his father in the great sin for which his father was punished,

            viz. apostasy from Jehovah to Baal. Ahab had always been half-hearted in

            his irreligion — he would, and he would not; he strove to combine an

            acknowledgment of Jehovah with a practical devotion to his rival; he gave

            both his sons names which placed them under the protection of Israel’s

            true God; he at one time “humbled himself before Jehovah” and “fasted,

            and lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (I Kings 21:27, 29); he

            consented to inquire of a prophet of the Lord at the request of Jehoshaphat

            (Ibid. ch. 22:9); he had no dealings, that we know of, with the foreign

            Baalistic temples or oracles which abounded in Phoenicia and Philistia, and

            thus did not, at any rate, parade his contempt of Jehovah in the eyes of the

            adjoining nations. Ahaziah acted differently. He was a consistent,

            thorough-faced, out-and-out idolater. Jehovah was nothing to him; Baal

            was everything. We ought, perhaps, to view it as some extenuation of his

            sin that he would naturally be influenced to some extent by his mother,

            whatever her character, and that the strong, firm, and fierce character of

            Jezebel would naturally influence him to a large extent. But men are not

            mere creatures of circumstances; they have the power to resist influences

            no less than to yield to them, and are bound to consider the nature of the

            influences surrounding them, and to resist such as they perceive to be bad.

            There is no evidence that Ahaziah offered any resistance at all to

            Jezebel’s influences. He was the weak son of a wicked mother, and simply

            walked in her way and exhibited a far more decided inclination than Ahab

            had done to all sorts of heathenish superstitions. He made a parade of his

            Baalisticleanings. He was obdurate and persistent, and despised warning after

            warning. A cruel hardness of heart, quite equal to his mother’s, is shown in

            his exposing to probable death a second and a third body of fifty men,

            rather than submit to Elijah, and own himself in the wrong. Thus he would

            appear to have reached, in his comparatively short life, a deeper depth of

            moral evil than his father in his longer one.

 

  • THEIR PUNISHMENT. The revolt of the subject kingdom of Moab

            was the first punishment which befell the apostate king. He had to

            determine, on ascending the throne, what line he would take in religious

            matters — whether he would maintain or abolish the Baal-worship,

            whether he would maintain or abolish the worship of the calves, whether

            he would persecute or protect the adherents of the Jehovistic religion. He

            decided to “walk in the way of his father and of his mother,” and at

            once the first blow fell Moab revolted, and was successful. The mere attempt

            at revolt might have happened in any case, for Mesha would naturally have

            seized such an opportunity as the death of Ahab under such circumstances

            offered. But the God of battles determines success or failure, and Mesha’s

            unbroken series of victories (Moabite Stone, lines 9-33) were the

            consequence of Ahaziah’s guilt. As usual, “for the king’s offence the

            people bled.” Seven thousand Israelite warriors were destroyed in one

            siege; the women and children were taken prisoners, and “devoted to

            Ashtar-Chemosh.” There was widespread and extreme suffering. This

            should not surprise us. There is a solidarity between a king and his people,

            which unites them almost indissolubly in their fortunes and in their sins.

            The people follow the king’s example, and, partaking in his guilt, naturally

            and justly partake in his punishment.  The king’s second punishment was

            personal It was permitted that an accident should befall him. Sitting in an

            upper chamber, i.e. in one not upon the ground floor, which had a latticed

            window, opening out probably on a garden, he rashly leant against it, when

            the fastenings or the woodwork gave way, and he was precipitated to the

            ground. The hurt received was serious, and forced him to take to his bed,

            where he lay probably in much pain and discomfort. Here was an

            opportunity for considering his ways, for asking himself what was amiss in

            them, for mourning over the sins which he had committed, and renouncing

            them and turning away from them. God’s judgments are sent to lead men

            to repentance. Prolonged lying on a sick-bed is especially favorable to

            meditation, self-examination, self-condemnation, penitence. But Ahaziah was

            obdurate. He thought nothing of the goodness of God in sparing his life, for

            the fall might well have been instantaneously fatal; he thought nothing of

            God’s mercy in giving him a time for reflection and amendment. He

            was merely impatient of his affliction, and anxious to have done with it. And

            in his impatience and obduracy he added sin to sin.  Ignoring Jehovah and

            His prophets, through whom it was always possible to “inquire of the Lord”

            (I Kings 22:5-28), he makes his appeal to Baal. It is an ostentatious appeal.

            He sends a public embassy to consult the Baal of a foreign town. Then his

            final punishment is decreed. Hitherto his life had hung in the balance — his

            fate had been in the hands of Him with whom are the issues of life and

             death (Psalm 68:20), now his own act had shut the gate of mercy. The

            sentence went forth from the mouth of God’s prophet, “Thou shalt not

             come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely

            die.” Cut off in his youth, childless (v. 17), Amaziah pays the fitting

             penalty of  obstinate persistence in sin, and, after weeks or months of

            suffering, “goes to his own place.” He “whom Jehovah upholds” becomes

            he whom Jehovah destroys” — destroys after a short reign of little more

            than a year — a reign disgraceful to himself and disastrous to his

            country.

 

 

     A Contrast of the Spirit of the Old Dispensation and the New (vs. 9-16)

 

  • THE SPIRIT OF THE OLD DISPENSATION. The spirit of the Law

            was strict, stern, inexorable justice.

 

ü      “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image....

      Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother....

      Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor’s landmark,”

                        (Deuteronomy 27:15-26);

 

ü      “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death”

      (<022117>Exodus 21:17);

 

ü      Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

       burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”

      (Exodus 21:24, 25);

 

ü      “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall surely be put to

      death (Exodus 21:12);

 

ü      “He that smiteth his father or his mother, shall surely be put

       to death” (Exodus 21:15);

 

ü      “He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, shall surely be put

       to death” (Exodus 21:16);

 

ü      “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18);

 

ü      “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death”

      (Exodus 22:19);

 

ü      “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only,

       he shall be utterly destroyed” (Exodus 22:20), etc.

 

Man was so far gone from original righteousness, had so corrupted and depraved

himself, that only by the strictest possible system, by the most solemn warnings, the

most awful threats, and the sternest possible execution of the threats when the

occasion came, could wickedness be repressed, crime prevented from becoming

rampant, mankind be reclaimed, society saved. Hence the severity of the Mosaic

code, the frequency of the penalty of death, and the strictness with which the penalty

was in almost every case exacted. (Contrast the wicked in American society and the

world and the progressive attitude to so-called barbaric regulations – a sure sign

that the system here instituted is once again needed“Because sentence against

an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men

is fully set in them to do evil” – [Ecclesiastes 8:11] - CY – 2011) 

 

ü      The first idolatry was punished by the death of three thousand by

      the sword (Exodus 32:28).

 

ü      Nadab and Abihu, for offering strange fire, were destroyed by fire

      from heaven (Leviticus 10:1-2).

 

ü      When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses, the earth

      gaped and swallowed them up (Numbers 16:32).

 

ü      The iniquity of Peor was avenged by the slaughter of all the heads of

      the people (Numbers 25:4-5).

 

ü      The sin of Gibeah cost the lives of twenty-five thousand Benjamites

                        (Judges 20:46).

 

Elijah, in calling down fire from heaven upon the minions of an idolatrous tyrant sent

to arrest him for declaring to their master the sentence of Jehovah, was but acting in

the general spirit of the Law, which regarded all opposition to Jehovah as deserving

of death, and looked upon the inspired prophets of God as the ministers of an

avenging righteousness. From time to time some signal display of Jehovah’s anger

against rebels and his power to punish them was requisite to preserve among the

people any respect or reverence at all for true religion. The fire that fell from heaven

at his word showed that that time had come.

 

 

  • THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW DISPENSATION. The new dispensation

            opened with the proclamation of “peace on earth, good will toward

            men (Luke 2:14). The curses of the Law were replaced by the Beatitudes”

            (Matthew 5:3-10). The gentle and tender Jesus destroyed nothing but a

            single senseless tree (Matthew 21:19). He went about doing good. He

            was “sent to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the

            captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that

            were bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

 

When men rose up against him, when his life was threatened before His hour was

come, He was content by an exertion of His miraculous power to withdraw

Himself, to pass through their midst, and go His way. On one occasion He Himself

pointed the contrast between the two dispensations in the most distinct and

remarkable manner. It was when He and His disciples were proceeding on a journey

through this very district of Samaria, where Elijah had shown forth the justice of

God, that His disciples, James and John, the “Sons of Thunder,” as they were called,

desired to repeat the Tishbite’s act for the punishment of some Samaritans who

would not permit him to enter their village. “Lord,” they said, “wilt thou that we

command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as

Elias did?” But they little knew the Master they addressed. Jesus “turned

and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.

And they went to another village” (Luke 9:51-56). The spirit of the Christian

dispensation is seen especially in such commands as the following:

 

ü      “Resist not evil but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right

      cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39);

 

ü      “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them

      that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you

                        and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44);

 

ü      “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in

      honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10);

 

ü      “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (Romans 12:17);

 

ü      “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is

      written; Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore

      if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so

      doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of

      evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

 

 

 

         THE CAUSE OF SEEKING AFTER STRANGE GODS.

 

What is the secret of that idolatry which in all ages has taken such a hold of the

human heart? Why is it that such a people as the Hebrews, descended from one

who lived so entirely under the power of the invisible God as Abraham did

they who in their Passover had a constant reminder of God’s existence

and power, and in their ten commandments a constant reminder of His mind

and will, — why is it that they so far forgot God as to sink into the

degrading worship of the heathen deities? Or, to bring it more home to

ourselves and our own surroundings, why is it that men and women who

know that Christ died for them, who therefore know the priceless worth of

their immortal souls, who bear in the very name of Christian a constant

reminder of the Son of God, and who have in the precepts of the gospel the

highest code of morality ever taught to man, — why, is it that they too

forget God, reject His mercy, set at naught His counsels, and will  have

none of His reproof? Why is it that in our Christian land so many are living in

practical heathenism? Why are they so few who read the Bible, and, of

those who do read it, so few who obey its teachings? Why so many

thousands who never enter the house of God? Why is it that a really

religious daily newspaper it is almost impossible to find, while nearly all

our daily newspapers largely devote themselves to advance the interests of

the theatre, the race-course, and the betting-ring? Truly it may be said that

our nation has gone after strange gods. What is the secret of it all? Largely

this, the love of what is seen, more than of what is unseen. (We fail to

take heed to the Spirit who tells us “not to look at things which are seen but

at things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal but the

things which are not seen are eternal  [II Corinthians 4:18] – CY – 2011)

This is at the root of all idolatry. It is this that makes men such an easy prey

to sin.  They are absorbed in the interests and pleasures of the body only. 

They forget the interests of the immortal soul. They live for the present,

but neglect the future. They live for self, but neglect God. They lay up

treasure on earth, but have no treasure in heaven thus ignoring the teaching

of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-20.  We see this love of what is seen — this

going after strange gods — in much of the philosophy of the present day.

Men deny God, the God of the Bible, the intelligent, wise, powerful,

provident, holy, loving Creator of the universe. (Thank God He will not

deny Himself [II Timothy 2: 13]  - CY – 2011) - And what do they

substitute for him? A mere negation. At best matter or force. Here plainly

they are absorbed in what is seen. They make a god of matter. They forget

that only mind could produce mind, only soul could produce soul, that only

an intelligent Being could produce the order and control the workings of

the universe. Strange gods, indeed — gods of which they have no certainty

they set up in place of the God of Heaven and earth. We see this love

of what is seen operating also in the case of the money-lover. It is not

wrong to acquire wealth, provided it is rightly won and rightly used. But

there are many who make a god of money. It occupies all their thoughts

while they are awake. When they are asleep, they dream of it. Even the

sabbath, supposed to be devoted to the worship of God, is often devoted

to meditations on money and how to get it. Yet even for the present life

there are things more precious than money. Men who sacrifice everything

for money soon find that they have lost things which money cannot buy.

 

                        “The world with stones instead of bread

                        My hungry soul has always fed:

                        It promised health; in one short hour

                        Perished the fair but fragile flower.

                        It promised riches; in a day

                        They made them wings and flew away.

                        It promised friends; all sought their owns

                        And left my widowed heart alone.”

 

And then what shall we say of the folly of those who, while making ample

provision for this short life, have made none for the life that is to come?

“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his

own soul?” (Mark 8:36) Let us beware of making a god of money. We see the

same love of what is seen entering even into the Church of God. There is too

much tendency, even in the Christian Church, to worship earthly rank, to

attend to the rich and neglect the poor. How often have our Churches

made a god of custom, of the traditions of men, of public opinion, of

expediency and worldly policy!   Images and pictures are set up to aid in the

worship of Him of whom it is said that “God is a Spirit: and they that

worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:24)  (Lest

that my contemporary friends think that I am on my high horse the above

was written 200-300 years ago – CY – 2011).

 

 

   THE CONSEQUENCE OF SEEKING AFTER STRANGE GODS

 

“But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet

the messengers of the King of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not

because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the

god of Ekron? Now therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come

down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” The

strange deity that Ahaziah sought after had not served him much. Strange

gods have never been much help to those who seek after them. They have

not helped the heathen nations, but their degrading and demoralizing

worship has always been a source of weakness and decay. It is the same

with all the strange gods that men serve everywhere — with all the

passions and desires to gratify which they spend their energies and time.

We read of King Ahaz that he turned away from the true God to serve the

gods of Damascus, because Syria enjoyed prosperity. He said, “Because

the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them,

that they may help me? But, says the Bible narrative, they were the ruin of

him, and of all Israel (II Chronicles 28:23). [I recommend II Chronicles 28 –

Spurgeon Sermon – That King Ahaz  - this web site – CY – 2011] - How many

a man has done like Ahaz — turned his back upon God, and found that the strange

gods whom he served proved to be his ruin! Many a man has lived without God

when in health, who was very glad to seek Him when sickness came and death

 was drawing nigh. It is told of a skeptic called Saunderson, who was

a great admirer of Sir Isaac Newton’s talents, but who made light of his

religion when in health, that when on his death-bed he was heard to say, in

mournful entreaty, “God of Sir Isaac Newton, have mercy on me!” But, as

many a one has found, it may be too late then to seek the Lord. Such are

the consequences of seeking after strange gods. The same message which

was sent to Ahaziah will one day be sent to us — this part at least: “Thou

shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt

surely die.” The way to prepare for that message is to accept the messages

of life. (Today is the day of salvation  - Seek ye the Lord while He may be

found – I recommend:  # 5 – How to be Saved! – this web site – CY – 2011)

The way to prepare for sickness is so serve God while in health.

 

 

                                    AFTER THOUGHTS

 

King Ahaziah dies; Jehoram steps into his place. “So he died according to the

word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his

stead.” (v. 17) - One generation cometh, and another passeth away.” Places,

positions, and the various offices of life are no sooner vacated by death

than they are stepped into by others. Thus the world goes on, and the dead

are soon forgotten. The greatest man on earth today is but a mere bubble

on the great river of human life; he sparkles for a moment, and (WITHOUT

GOD) is lost forever in the abyss.

 

 

The Bible warns “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall

suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”  (Proverbs 29:1)

 

 

We cannot sufficiently ponder that our life hangs by the finest thread, and that any

trivial cause may at any moment cut it short (James 4:14).

 

 

Ahaziah was fairly warned. A remarkable illustration is afforded by the death of

Ahaziah’s own father. Fearing Micaiah’s prophecy, Ahab had disguised himself on

the field of battle, and was not known as the King of Israel. But he was not,

therefore, to escape. A man in the opposing ranks “drew a bow at a venture,”

 and the arrow, winged with a Divine mission, smote the king between the joints

of his armor, and slew him (I Kings 22:34). The same minute providence which

guided that arrow now presided over the circumstances of Ahaziah’s fall. There is

in this doctrine, which is also Christ’s (Matthew 10:29-30), comfort for the good,

and warning for the wicked. (See Isaiah 3:10:11)  The good man acknowledges,

“My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15), and the wicked man should pause

when he reflects that he cannot take his out of that hand.

 

 

Is it not a sufficient reason to live righteously and not pursue an evil course in life

because men in their distress feel impelled to go to God but they are often held back

by the remembrance of past wickedness. They know, if they come, it must be with

changed hearts and the renouncing of evil deeds, and for this they are not

prepared.

 

 

The craving after the supernatural in human nature is not to be stilled, and, if it

cannot be gratified in a lawful, it will seek gratification in some unlawful way.

Saul, forsaken of God, turned to the witch of Endor (I Samuel 28:6-7). “A notorious

infidel like Philippe Egalite, though in other respects a man of ability, could yet try

to presage his fate by the sort of cup-augury involved in examining the grounds

of coffee.”  In our own day, multitudes professing disbelief in God’s revelation turn

with eager credulity to the delusions of spiritualism and DRUGS.  It was to

supersede unlawful modes of consulting the invisible world that God gave “THE

SURE WORD OF PROPHECY.”  (Deuteronomy 18:9-22; II Peter 1:19).

 

Ahaziah died, and Jehoram his brother succeeded him. “The rest of his

actswere written “in the book of the chronicles of the Kings of Israel;”

but Scripture has not preserved them. Why should it? What was there in

the records of that brief and evil existence to entitle the memory of it to

live? “The memory of the just is blessed; but the name of the wicked

shall rot” (Proverbs 10:7). Enough is written to hold him up to after-ages as

an example of the certainty of retribution. Then Scripture buries him with

the epitaph, “So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah

had spoken.” (v. 17a)

 

 

 

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