The Last Kings of *Israel and *Judah
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (LEE level B) on the Book of 2 Kings
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible. In the Bible text, words in [ ] are part of the Bible text. Words in ( ) are explanations.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
The Books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings used to be one book. That book continued the account of the events that happened to *Israel. The events happened after those in the Books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. Some people translated 1 Kings and 2 Kings into Greek (the language that people spoke in Greece). They divided it into two books. They probably did that so that the text would fit into the scrolls. (Scrolls were very long pieces of paper. People wrote on them. Then they rolled them up.)
We do not know who wrote 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Many people think that the author was an unknown *prophet from Babylon. The author (or authors) used a lot of information from Isaiah, Jeremiah, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles. (Chronicles are lists of events. The events are in the order in which they happened. The Books of Chronicles in the Bible are also about *Israel’s and *Judah’s kings.) The author refers to some other books too, which are unknown today. He refers to the ‘book about Solomon’s acts’. The author also refers to the official records about *Israel’s kings and *Judah’s kings. And he uses collections of stories about the *prophets Elisha, Micaiah and Isaiah.
The Book of 2 Kings is a history of *Israel’s and *Judah’s kings. Until Solomon died, there was one nation called *Israel. But after his death, the nation divided into two *kingdoms. The southern *kingdom was called *Judah. The northern *kingdom was usually called *Israel.
The author of 2 Kings writes about the events in both of these *kingdoms in turn. The author writes much about the kings that affected the religion in each *kingdom. In 1 Kings, the author said a lot about the *prophet called Elijah. In 2 Kings, he says a lot about another *prophet called Elisha.
The author of 2 Kings believes that the people should obey the laws in the Book of Deuteronomy. The important question is whether they did so or not. His opinion about them depends on that.
· In the northern *kingdom called *Israel, all the kings refused to obey God’s law. They did not give honour to God at Jerusalem. They *worshipped false gods. These kings were evil men; and most people in that *kingdom imitated their behaviour.
· In the southern *kingdom called *Judah, the behaviour of the kings and the people varied. Some of them obeyed God’s law; but many did not.
In the end, the rulers of both *kingdoms became very evil. So God allowed their enemies to attack them and to defeat them. This happened because the kings and the people refused to obey God.
The author records all these events. His purpose is to remind people in future centuries about the importance of God’s law.
(The notes at the start of our Commentary on 1 Kings explain more about the books.)
While Ahab was king of *Israel, he also had control over Moab. After Ahab’s death, his son Ahaziah became king. It seems that the people in Moab considered this to be a good opportunity to *rebel against *Israel.
Soon after this happened, Ahaziah had a serious accident. He fell through a window in his palace.
The god of Ekron was a god of the people called Philistines. Ekron was a city in the region where they lived. Ahaziah asked this god whether he (Ahaziah) would recover. The god’s name, Baalzebub, means ‘ruler of the flies’ or ‘ruler of the dirt’. However, some Bible teachers think that it may mean ‘the great ruler’.
So Ahaziah wanted to contact a false god. Like his parents, Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah preferred false gods instead of the real God. This was a terrible *sin against the *Lord. He is the only real God. And he was especially the God of *Israel, because of the promises that he had made to *Israel’s people.
God told Elijah what was happening. So Elijah sent back the people who were going to Ekron. He told them to tell the king about his (the king’s) *sin. The king had made a clear decision to *rebel against the real God. And the king would not avoid his punishment. Elijah explained that the king would die.
Those people went back to the king. The king asked them who sent that message to him. They described what the man was wearing. Their description was of a man who wore simple, rough clothes. Such clothes were the usual choice of a *prophet. So the king realised that it was Elijah.
Even Ahab, Ahaziah’s wicked father, had been humble when Elijah *prophesied his (Ahab’s) death (1 Kings 21:17-29). But Ahaziah was not humble. He wanted to arrest Elijah.
The king sent soldiers to arrest Elijah. Elijah sat on top of a hill. In the past, Elijah had to escape from Ahaziah’s mother (1 Kings 19:3). But he did not try to escape now. He did not hide from Ahaziah’s soldiers. Instead, Elijah trusted God and he (Elijah) was bold.
Earlier, too, Elijah had called for fire from the sky. In that case, he called the fire to burn his *sacrifice (1 Kings 18:36-38). Now he called for fire to kill these *sinners. He was confident that God was on his side.
All three officers called Elijah ‘man of God’. They all knew who Elijah was. But their attitudes to him were very different.
The first two officers were very proud. If Elijah really was a ‘man of God’, then he was God’s servant. And only God has the right to give orders to his servants. So these army officers had no right to try to control Elijah. They were trying to claim a right that belongs only to God. They were not just opposing Elijah. They were opposing God. That is why their punishment was so severe.
The first officer was guilty of this *sin. Fire from the sky killed him and his men.
The second officer was worse than the first one. The second one told Elijah to come at once. Fire from the sky killed him and his men.
But the third officer was genuinely humble. He urged Elijah to be merciful to him. (In other words, the officer did not think that he deserved any kindness from Elijah. But still, the officer asked for kindness.) The officer gave attention to what had happened. He did not try to order Elijah to do anything. Instead, this officer asked Elijah to save the lives of himself and his men. An *angel spoke to Elijah. And the *angel told Elijah not to be afraid of this officer. So Elijah went with the officer to the king.
Elijah repeated to the king the message that he had already told the king’s servants. The king would certainly die.
King Ahaziah was a proud man who opposed God’s rule in his life. In the end, the king could not avoid his punishment. And his proud officers also opposed God when they tried to arrest Elijah. The result of their wrong attitudes was the deaths of themselves and their men. But we can learn much from the behaviour of the third officer. He was humble. That is the right attitude for a person to have in front of God. This officer respected God’s servant. And by that means, the officer respected God.
Even in the *New Testament, proud people who lied to God suffered a terrible punishment (Acts 5:1-11). So we must always respect God. He deserves the greatest honour. But God is not cruel. He wants to show kindness to people. Once, some people in Samaria would not allow Jesus into their town. James and John were very angry. They wanted to ask God to sent fire from the sky to kill those people. But Jesus told James and John that their attitude was wrong. We can read about that in Luke 9:54. And in John 12:47, we learn this. ‘The Son of Man did not come to punish people, but he came to rescue them from *sin.’
So we should not try to punish people who oppose us. Instead, we should pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Sometimes we may have to warn people about their *sin. But we should always try to help people. God wants them to confess their *sins to him. He wants them to invite him into their lives. Then he will forgive them.
Ahaziah died. His brother Joram became the king. Here the writer mentions a date when that happened. But it seems not to be the same date as the one in 2 Kings 3:1. Sometimes two kings ruled a country at the same time. They shared the royal authority until one of them died. Then the other king ruled alone. If that happened here, it may explain the different dates.
· God had promised Elijah that Elisha would continue his work (1 Kings 19:16). In this chapter is the end of Elijah’s work as a *prophet. But there is also the beginning of Elisha’s work as a *prophet. Because of Elijah’s work, there were now groups of people in *Israel who were loyal to God. Elisha would make those believers stronger. And he would deal with some of the troubles that remained in that country.
Elijah went to say goodbye to the groups of *prophets. These were groups of people who were loyal to God. It seems that they lived together. And their families lived with them. Some of the members of these groups were able to *prophesy. But it is unlikely that they were all *prophets. In the original language, the name for these groups is ‘the sons of the *prophets’. That name may simply mean that these groups were loyal to the *prophets’ message about God.
The groups of *prophets already knew that Elijah would go to heaven on that day. Elisha also knew it. However, he did not wish to talk about it. This was both a serious and a holy moment for him. Soon, Elijah would leave Elisha, and Elisha would become *Israel’s main *prophet. Elisha did not want this to be a matter for public conversation.
Elisha refused to leave Elijah. Elisha wanted to be with Elijah for as long a time as possible. Elijah seemed to encourage Elisha to leave him. But long before, Elisha had decided that he would be completely loyal to Elijah (1 Kings 19:19-21). At that time, he had left everything in order to serve Elijah. Elijah had protested then too. But Elisha’s decision on both occasions was definite. Elisha wanted to serve God, and Elisha would do this as the servant of the *prophet Elijah. Elisha would continue to be Elijah’s servant until the end. (Compare Ruth 1:8-18.)
Elijah crossed the Jordan river on dry ground. Joshua also crossed the river like that. In that way, Joshua entered the country that God had promised to the *Israelites (Joshua 3:15-17).
Elijah asked Elisha what he wanted Elijah to give to him. Elisha asked for the oldest son’s share of Elijah’s power. (When someone died, his oldest son would receive the largest share of his property.) Elisha knew that he needed that power in order to continue Elijah’s work. Elijah said that it was a difficult request to grant. Only God could do that. However, Elisha could receive what he had asked for. He would receive it if he saw Elijah go up to heaven. By that means, God would show Elisha that he had received that power.
As they continued to talk, horses and a *chariot appeared. *Chariots were powerful vehicles for war, and horses pulled them. But these were not normal horses, and this was not a normal *chariot. They seemed to burn like fire. People who have seen an impression of God’s greatness often describe it as fire (Isaiah chapter 6; Ezekiel chapter 1). So this extraordinary event had a clear meaning for Elisha. God was taking Elijah away. But God’s great army of *angels would continue to fight against evil forces. That would be the power that Elisha needed in order to continue Elijah’s work.
The horses and *chariots of fire separated those two men. Elijah had once prayed for death (1 Kings 19:4). Now he went straight to heaven. He did not die. That only happened to one other man in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). His name was Enoch – Genesis 5:24.
Elisha tore his coat. When Elisha became Elijah’s servant, Elisha destroyed his tools. Elisha did this to show that he would never return to his former work (1 Kings 19:21). And now there would be an even greater change in Elisha’s life. Elijah had used his coat as a sign of the *prophet’s authority. The coat was not a pretty coat. Its material was rough. But people recognised Elijah by that coat (2 Kings 1:8). Now Elisha would have the same authority that Elijah had. So Elisha did not want to keep his own coat. He destroyed it. He was ready to begin his new work for God.
When Elijah first invited Elisha to join him, Elijah placed his coat on Elisha’s shoulders. This was a way to promise Elisha that he would become a *prophet (1 Kings 19:19). Now Elijah had gone to heaven. And all that remained was his coat. But that coat was the sign of the *prophet’s authority. So Elisha took it. He wore Elijah’s coat. And that showed that Elisha was now doing Elijah’s work. Elisha struck the water and God acted on his behalf. He divided the water. Elijah’s last *miracle was similar to Elisha’s first one. Elisha did not ask for the power of Elijah. He asked for the power of Elijah’s God.
The men from the group of *prophets gave honour to Elisha. That is why they bent their bodies down in front of Elisha. They gave honour to him as they had given to Elijah. However, they had not crossed the river. They had not seen God take Elijah up to heaven. So they asked Elisha to let them search for Elijah. At first he refused, but they continued to ask him. So they did not yet respect him completely. They thought that their own ideas were better than Elisha’s. In the end, he allowed them to go. But, of course, they did not find Elijah.
These men from the group of *prophets were sincere men. But they showed a lack of *faith. They knew what God was doing (verse 5). But they did not really trust God to do that thing. In the end, of course, they found out that Elisha was right. When they did, they were ready to trust him. And they wanted him to use God’s power on their behalf.
Joshua had spoken a *curse against Jericho (Joshua 6:26). That *curse was a type of *prophecy, which he spoke by God’s power. And it happened (1 Kings 16:34). So Jericho was a place where God did not want people to live. Its situation was good. But the water supply was a real problem. And it showed that God was still not pleased with the city.
The men from the city told Elisha about their water. They explained that it was bad. They had seen that Elisha, like Elijah, had God’s power. So they asked Elisha to help them. He could ask God to remove the *curse that still affected their water.
Elisha told them to bring salt to him in a new bowl. He added the salt to the water at the spring (place where fresh water comes up from the ground). Then the water became pure. Of course, it was the *Lord who cured the water. By means of the command to bring a bowl and salt, Elisha tested their *faith. Their actions would show whether they wanted to obey God. Salt had a special meaning. It meant that God would always perform his promises in his *covenant.
Jesus gave a similar test to a blind man. He put mud on the man’s eyes. Then Jesus told the man to go to the pool called Siloam. And he told the man to wash the mud off in the pool. The blind man became able to see. And he continued to see. Jesus had cured him completely (John 9:1-11). And the work that God does in our lives lasts also. For us, too, he will do what he has promised.
Elisha wanted, by God’s power, to rescue *Israel from its *sins. And he wanted to free it from the *curses that were a result of those *sins. He had already done this at Jericho. So next he went to Bethel.
But the people in Bethel loved their false gods. They laughed at God’s *prophet. Elisha could do nothing to help them. In fact, the opposite happened. Their wicked behaviour offended God. And 42 youths from that town suffered a terrible punishment.
Bethel was a town that was famous for its *idols. Jeroboam made those *idols so that people would not *worship the *Lord in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26-33). God sent a *prophet, who *prophesied a *curse against that place (1 Kings 13:1-2). And the kings in *Israel never stopped that *sin (2 Kings 17:21-23).
The youths in Bethel were doing something that was especially wicked. They were not merely insulting the *prophet. They were also insulting God. They told the *prophet to ‘go up’. So they were laughing at the way that Elijah went up to heaven. But that was not something that Elijah did by human power. God himself did that in order to take Elijah into heaven. So the youths were laughing at God’s deeds.
And the youths also called Elisha a ‘bald man’. The priests of many religions were bald because they shaved their heads. God warned his people not to imitate them (Deuteronomy 14:1). So when the youths called Elisha a ‘bald man’, they were insulting him. They were saying that he was no better than the priests of an *idol. And perhaps here was another meaning of the phrase ‘go up’. The *idols were on the hills above the town. So the real meaning of the insult may be: ‘Go up to heaven if you can! Otherwise, go up and *worship our *idols. You are already bald like our priests. So your religion is no better than ours.’
Elisha did not try to defend himself. He spoke in the *Lord’s name, that is, on behalf of the *Lord. These youths were insulting God, and God would act against them.
Bears are very dangerous animals. Our translation says that the bears killed the youths. Another possible translation is, ‘the bears tore the youths’ bodies open’. That may mean that the youths died. Or it could mean that they suffered terrible injuries.
The lesson for us today is clear. Nobody should ever insult God. And it is both foolish and dangerous to say anything evil about God’s servants.
But there was also a lesson for Elisha to learn. Like Elijah (1 Kings 19:14), Elisha had discovered that most people in *Israel would never obey God. Elisha could not remove all the *sin from *Israel. He could not end the *worship of *idols. He could only do what God sent him to do.
So Elisha left that place. He went to the mountain called Carmel, where Elijah won a great battle against the *prophets of false gods (1 Kings 18:16-40). There he could pray and prepare for his next task as a *prophet.
Joram was a bad man. However, he removed an *idol that his father had set up. That *idol was for the false god called *Baal. The *worship of *Baal was an evil religion that Elijah had done much to oppose. We do not know when or why Joram removed that *idol. Perhaps he did it to please Elisha, because Elisha helped the king on several occasions (3:12-19; 6:8-23).
So Joram was not as bad as his father (Ahab) or his mother (Jezebel). But Joram still followed a false religion. Earlier, Jeroboam had set up images that were like young *bulls. Joram continued to *worship those images.
Moab’s king Mesha had to pay a very large tax to *Israel’s king every year. When Mesha *rebelled, Joram’s older brother Ahaziah did nothing. Now Joram, however, prepared to attack. He asked the king of *Judah to help him. The king of *Judah was King Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was a good king who was loyal to God. But Jehoshaphat had established a close relationship with the wicked kings of *Israel, who belonged to Ahab’s family. Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, married Athaliah who was Joram’s sister. In the end, this close relation with wicked people would cause great troubles in *Judah.
So the two kings agreed that they would be on the same side. Their armies would be united in the battle. And they made their plans for the battle. They intended to attack Moab from behind. *Judah’s king advised Joram to go through the desert in Edom. This would mean that they would ask the ruler of Edom to help them. It seems that *Judah controlled Edom at this time (1 Kings 22:47). So there would be three armies to oppose the army from Moab.
The armies had expected to find water, but the stream in the area was dry. They were very desperate. There were three armies and many animals, so they needed plenty of water.
The king of *Israel was afraid. He thought that the *Lord had decided to act against *Israel, *Judah and Edom. He thought that the *Lord had arranged for the armies to be in this hopeless situation. When they were weak, the army from Moab could defeat them easily.
So the king of *Israel was without hope. But King Jehoshaphat was not without hope. He probably realised that his actions had been very foolish. He had agreed to support an evil king in battle. (This was not the first time that he made this error – 1 Kings chapter 22.) Jehoshaphat had taken his army into a desert. That was a dangerous place for a large group of people to be. In addition, Jehoshaphat did not ask the *Lord for advice when he did all that. So Jehoshaphat made many mistakes, but he was still loyal to God. And Jehoshaphat trusted God. So Jehoshaphat knew that God is kind. He is pleased to help his people. He wants to forgive.
At last, Jehoshaphat was ready to ask God for advice. And a servant of *Israel’s king told the three kings that Elisha was there. God had arranged that his servant, the *prophet, would be there to help them.
So the kings went to see him. By that simple action, they showed that they were humble. Usually a king would order a *prophet to come. (Compare 2 Kings 1:9-17). But these three kings went to Elisha’s tent.
Elisha made it clear that he did not approve of the king of *Israel. That king’s father (Ahab) and mother (Jezebel) had introduced false gods to *Israel. And the king himself belonged to a false religion. Of course, Elisha did not really mean that the king of *Israel should pray to false gods. Elisha was showing the king that those gods were without power. And the king had to agree that only the *Lord, the real God, could help him now.
But Elisha did approve of Jehoshaphat, the king of *Judah. Jehoshaphat, like Elisha, *worshipped the real God. And Jehoshaphat was trusting God to help him. So Elisha explained that he would pray on behalf of Jehoshaphat.
Elisha asked a musician to play. That would make Elisha’s *soul quiet. Then he would receive God’s message.
So Elisha began to pray. Then he felt God’s power upon him. And God gave him a message for the kings. God would do two things. Firstly, he would provide plentiful water for them, their armies and their animals. And secondly, they would win the battle against Moab. That water would supply proof that they would win the battle. They would overcome Moab completely. And these things would show the kings that the *Lord is the only real God.
Elisha told the kings to order their soldiers to dig ditches for the water. In Jerusalem, the priests offered the first *sacrifice daily soon after dawn. At that same time, water came from Edom into the desert where the armies were camping. However, nothing else showed that it might have rained. Perhaps there was a storm in the mountains that were in Edom. And the result was a sudden flood. It was a great relief for the armies when they got the water. Soon afterwards, their success in the battle would be even better news for them.
Water came early in the morning. The sun was red at that time, and it was shining on the water. The people from Moab did not expect to see any water there. And they thought that the water was blood. They imagined that the three armies had fought each other.
The people from Moab hurried in to take the goods from the camp. But then their enemies, the *Israelites, attacked them. The *Israelites chased them back into Moab, into their own cities. The *Israelites destroyed the cities. And they made it impossible to get water. The people in Moab could not dig the ground either because of the stones in their fields.
The *Israelites did not destroy the city called Kit Hareseth, which was the capital of Moab. But they surrounded it and they attacked it.
The king of Moab tried to escape from the city. Perhaps he hoped to persuade the king of Edom to help him. Or perhaps he thought that Edom’s army would be weaker than the other armies. But the king of Moab failed in that. His situation was very desperate. So he took his oldest son. That son would have been the next king of Moab. But the king of Moab killed that son, in public. He did it on the city wall where everyone could see, including the surrounding armies. That was how the king *sacrificed his oldest son to his god called Chemosh.
The king of Moab hoped that in this way he would get help from his god. But it was a very terrible thing to do. It frightened the *Israelites so much that they went back to their own country. Perhaps they were afraid of what Chemosh might be able to do. Or perhaps they were afraid of what God would do as a result.
There is an old story that the widow had been the wife of Obadiah. (Look at 1 Kings 18:4.) He had hidden 100 *prophets so that King Ahab would not find them. So perhaps Obadiah received money from other people to feed the *prophets. And he would have to pay it back to them. That is the story. But we cannot say whether it is true. Jesus himself said that there were many poor widows in *Israel in those days (Luke 4:25). And we can see that very many people were poor. Wars were frequent in *Israel. And the rulers were evil men who did not hesitate to steal property from poor people. On several occasions, there was not enough food for all the people. So people had to obtain loans in order to afford food.
If people could not pay back those loans, they or their children might have to become slaves. And that is why this widow became so desperate. Many people are desperate but they still do not ask God for help. But this woman had *faith in God. Her husband had been loyal to God. And she too trusted God to help her. So she went to Elisha. He was the *prophet whom God had appointed in *Israel at that time. So she trusted that God would give Elisha the power to help her.
Elisha’s reply was God’s message to the woman. God would help her. She only had one small jar of oil. But God would use what she had.
Elisha told the woman to collect small jars from her neighbours. He told her to fill those jars with *olive oil from her small jar. Then she could sell the oil and she could pay her debt. She would also have enough money to live on.
This *miracle is like something that Jesus did in the *New Testament. He fed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes (Mark 6:30-44). God has enough resources to help us. So he can supply whatever we need.
The widow believed what Elisha had told her. She obeyed his commands. God supplied what the widow needed. He used the small amount that she had. And he increased it so that it was sufficient to deal with the situation.
Shunem was a village that was a few miles north from Jezreel. It was between Samaria and Carmel.
Elisha often travelled on the road that went through Shunem. A wealthy woman invited him into her home for a meal. He visited the woman and her husband very often. So they decided to build an extra room. They built it on the roof of their house. Elisha wanted to show his thanks for the woman’s help. He asked if he could speak to the king or the officer of the army. Perhaps they would give a gift to her husband. But the woman refused that idea. (Later, in chapter 8, she did need the king’s help.)
Elisha asked his servant how he should reward the woman. This servant was called Gehazi. Elisha was the servant of the *prophet Elijah before he (Elisha) became a *prophet. So Gehazi could have become a *prophet too. In the end, Gehazi will disappoint us (see 5:20-27). But here, Gehazi answered Elisha well. Gehazi realised that the woman did not need any human help. She needed the help that only God could give. She needed a son. That was because her husband was old. It seems that they were unable to have a child. Also, the woman’s husband might die soon. Then she would need a son to provide for her. God gave Elisha a promise for the woman. And in less than a year, the woman had a child.
We cannot always do something to help people. But we can pray for them. In that way, God can supply the things that they need.
Suddenly, the child became ill. And soon afterwards, he died. The woman's actions in this passage were very unusual. But they show her *faith. God had promised that she would have a son. Like Abraham, she trusted that God would bring about that promise. She had *faith even when the situation seemed impossible. (Compare Hebrews 11:17-19 and Hebrews 11:35.)
So the boy was dead. The mother did not bury him but she went to fetch Elisha. Earlier, Elijah had helped the son of a widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-23). Perhaps this woman from Shunem had heard about that. The God of Elisha was the same as the God of Elijah. And it seems that the woman realised that.
Her husband asked her why she was going. It seems that his *faith was never as strong as hers. His religion was for special occasions, for example *Sabbath days and *festivals. But she wanted to serve God at every opportunity (verses 9-10). She told her husband that everything was all right. Of course her child was dead. But she insisted that everything was all right. She said this because she was trusting God. God had made a promise to her by his *prophet (verse 16). And she knew that God is able to perform his promises.
The journey from Shunem to Carmel was 25 miles long. The woman’s servant made the *donkey move quickly. Elisha sent his servant to discover what the problem was. The woman replied with a statement of her *faith. She did not want to talk about her problem. She was trusting God.
Elisha did not know what the problem was. God did not tell everything to his *prophets. The *prophets were only human. They did not know everything. It was then that the woman spoke. The woman said to Elisha that she had not asked for a son. And she had also told him not to tell lies to her. The woman did not explain her problem, but Elisha understood. She was reminding Elisha about the promise that God gave to her. That is, the promise that she would have a son. Elisha saw that it was necessary to act immediately.
Elisha told Gehazi to run. He must put Elisha’s stick on the child. (The stick was something that showed Elisha’s authority.) Perhaps Elisha hoped that the action would bring the boy back to life. But that did not happen immediately. Then Gehazi showed a serious lack of *faith. He did not continue to pray. (Compare Luke 18:1-8.) Perhaps he had already decided that the situation was hopeless. He left the body and he returned to Elisha. Gehazi told Elisha that the boy was dead. Gehazi had done what Elisha told him. But Gehazi had acted without *faith. Good actions without *faith achieve nothing (James 2:18).
When Elisha reached the room, he spread himself upon the boy. Elijah did similar things in 1 Kings 17:21. These actions may seem strange to us, but they show a desperate state of prayer. At first, the boy became warm. That showed that he was starting to become alive. Then the boy *sneezed. This showed that he was alive. God had answered his mother’s prayers. We shall read more about this family in 2 Kings 8:1-6.
Elisha was probably teaching the men from the group of *prophets when this event happened. They did not have enough food. It seems that this problem was affecting the entire region round Gilgal. So the men had to eat whatever they could find, including wild plants. One man picked a poisonous wild plant by mistake. Then the men began to eat the stew (meat, vegetables and liquid, which someone has cooked all together). It tasted awful. So the men realised that it was poisonous. Elisha added flour to the stew. And it did not hurt them any longer. But the flour did not do the *miracle. It was the *Lord who did it. He had provided for his people in their difficult situation.
Barley is the first harvest of grain in *Israel’s agricultural year. And this was the first barley from that harvest. There was an ancient tradition to give the first of everything to God. By that means, a person shows that God has the first place (is most important) in his life.
It seems that this was a special harvest. It probably came after the period when there was not enough food (verse 38). This man wanted to thank God for his harvest. So he baked his first barley into loaves. And he travelled to Gilgal in order to give it to Elisha, the man of God.
Elisha did not keep the food for himself. He wanted to use that food in order to show God's kindness to other people.
So Elisha ordered his servant to give the food to the group of *prophets. These loaves were small. 20 loaves were not enough to feed 100 hungry people. But they all ate and some food still remained. This story is like the time when Jesus fed 5000 people. Then too, everyone had enough. And some food still remained (Mark 6:30-34).
In his words and actions, Elisha was very like Jesus. And Elijah was like John, who prepared for Jesus’ arrival (Luke 1:17).
Naaman was an important man who led a powerful army. That army had success in many battles. The king of Syria had benefited greatly from Naaman’s skill. But the author is careful to remind us that Naaman’s success was not merely the result of human effort. Naaman was successful because the *Lord gave him that success. At that time, Naaman did not know the *Lord. But the *Lord was using Naaman to bring about his (the *Lord’s) purposes.
Verse 2 tells us a little about Naaman’s technique. He would send small groups of soldiers into other countries. These soldiers would return with goods that they had taken. They would also take people away to be their slaves. It seems that these attacks continued for several years. In the end, God would use Elisha to stop these attacks against *Israel (6:23).
Even the most successful person is still human. So even the strongest person is actually weak. Even a person who gains the whole world will lose his life (Matthew 16:26). Naaman knew that fact very well. His great success in battle could not keep him in good health. His skin was white because of a terrible disease. Probably he had paid doctors to cure him. And probably he paid priests and people who used magic too. But they all had no success. Naaman was still ill. And he was desperate to find someone who could cure him.
The girl in verse 3 was one of the people whom Naaman’s soldiers had taken from *Israel. She was just a slave in a foreign country. But like Joseph (Genesis chapter 39), she carried out her duties in a responsible manner. So she became a maid for Naaman’s wife. And, like Joseph, she did not forget God. She told Naaman’s wife about the *prophet Elisha. And the girl had *faith that God would use Elisha to cure her master.
Naaman discussed this with the king of Syria. Naaman did not want to leave the country unless the king agreed. The king strongly urged Naaman to go. The king wanted the leader of his army to be healthy. The king even wrote a letter to the king of *Israel in order to support Naaman. This letter was like a modern passport. The king of Syria urged the king of *Israel to help Naaman in every possible manner.
Naaman made careful preparations for his journey. He did not realise that the *Lord is God over the whole world. And he did not realise that the *Lord cares about people from every nation (Jonah 4:11). Naaman thought that he was asking a foreign god in a foreign country to help him. So Naaman hoped that the king of *Israel would introduce him to this great *prophet. Naaman did not realise that even the king of *Israel followed a different religion from the *prophet!
Naaman did not know that God’s *grace is free (Ephesians 2:8-9). But Naaman was willing to pay the *prophet well. He took a vast quantity of gold and silver for that purpose. Naaman wanted to be generous to the *prophet and his God. Naaman was not trying to get something for nothing.
Like the wise men who followed the star (Matthew 2:1-8), Naaman first went to the palace. Like them, he came from abroad in order to see a very important person. And like them, he discovered that the king was unable to introduce him to that person.
When Naaman produced the letter, the king of *Israel was in a desperate state. He thought that the king of Syria was trying to start a war. The king of *Israel had no power over what God did. The king of *Israel did not even *worship the real God. So it was clearly impossible for the king of *Israel to help Naaman. But the king of Syria would be very angry if the king of *Israel refused to help Naaman. So the king of *Israel tore his clothes. People used to do that when they felt very sad or desperate about something.
However, Elisha was not afraid when he heard about Naaman’s visit. Elisha knew that God could cure illnesses. He told the king to send Naaman. God would prove to Naaman that ‘there was a *prophet in *Israel’. In other words, the *Lord would prove that he is the real God. And Naaman would see that God was working by his *prophet.
Naaman expected that Elisha would show his power. He thought that Elisha would cure him in public. Naaman thought that he deserved a great ceremony. He intended to pay well for it. He was a proud man who commanded a great army. So he wanted Elisha to give him honour.
Instead, Elisha sent his instructions by means of a servant. That offended Naaman. He wanted to see the *prophet, not a servant! Also, Elisha told him to go and to wash himself in the Jordan river. That river was narrow and dirty. The rivers in Syria were wide. But we can only receive God’s *blessing and *forgiveness in the way that he tells us. Jesus said, ‘Nobody comes to the Father unless that person comes by means of me’ (John 14:6). In Acts 2:37-38 the crowds asked Peter, ‘What shall we do?’ He told them to *repent. And he told them to let someone then *baptise them. They had to be humble in front of God.
Elisha was dealing with Naaman’s proud attitudes. Naaman could give commands to his soldiers and servants. But nobody can give orders to God. God only accepts people who are humble. So in order to become well, Naaman would have to obey a mere servant. He would have to bathe in a river that seemed unimportant to him. He would have to wash 7 times. The Bible often uses the number 7 as a word-picture of something that is complete. So Naaman would have to be completely humble in front of God. And if Naaman was completely humble, God would cure him.
Naaman was very angry. It was not easy for such a proud man to do such a humble thing. He almost thought that he preferred to be ill. But his servants showed wisdom. They were not afraid to do humble things; they had to do such things constantly. Often unimportant people are more willing to obey God than important people are (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). And so Naaman’s servants urged him to obey the *prophet.
Naaman’s servants told him that he would have done a difficult action. Surely it was an easy thing to obey the *prophet. So Naaman followed their advice and he went to the Jordan river. He bathed, and God cured him.
Even as God cured Naaman then, God wants to rescue people from the power of *sin. Many people still want to do things in order to earn that freedom. But they must be humble in front of God. They must confess their *sin to him. And they must believe in the *Lord Jesus Christ. If they do so, he will make them free. It is impossible to earn that freedom, because it is a gift from God (Isaiah 55:1-2).
Naaman returned in order to offer a present to Elisha. But Elisha refused the present. He wanted to show that God’s love is free. You cannot work for it and you cannot buy it.
So then Naaman asked for enough earth to load two *mules. He now believed that the God of *Israel was the only real God. Naaman’s *faith in God was very simple. He wanted to *worship the God of *Israel on the soil of *Israel. So Naaman asked for a little soil that he could take back home. Naaman was humble now. He even described himself as Elisha’s ‘servant’ (verse 15). He was trusting God as a little child trusts (Mark 10:15).
Naaman had been such a proud foreigner. But he became very humble. And that is why God carried out this *miracle for him. This happened at a time when the *Israelites were not loyal to their own God. Many of them had the same illness, but they were not ready for God to help them. Jesus spoke about that (Luke 4:27). And it astonished Jesus when a similar thing happened during his own life on earth (Luke 7:9). Sometimes foreigners are more ready to show *faith than God’s own people are (Romans 11:11-12).
Before we leave this passage, we should discuss the question of where to *worship God. Naaman thought that he should *worship on *Israel’s soil. And Elisha did not try to argue with this new believer in God. He allowed Naaman to act in simple *faith. In the *New Testament (John chapter 4), we read about a certain woman. She was from Samaria. She asked Jesus where she should give honour to God. Jesus replied that the question should not be ‘where’. It should rather be ‘how’. God is *spirit. Those people that give honour to him must do it in *spirit and truth. That means that they must *worship him in a genuine manner.
David too thought about this subject. David knew that God is present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-10). And David realised that he could not hide from God. So David asked God to be with him (Psalm 139:18). David wanted God to examine his heart and his inner thoughts (Psalm 139:23). Then God would guide David so that David’s life would please God (Psalm 139:24).
One duty that Naaman had was this. He had to go with the king to the *temple of the false god Rimmon. Naaman asked Elisha this question. ‘Will God forgive me when I do that?’
Naaman was just at the beginning of his life of *faith. He had become aware that the *Lord is the only God. And Naaman understood therefore that all other gods are false gods. Naaman could see that his new *faith would cause him problems. He was the leader of Syria’s army. So his master was the king of Syria. The king of Syria *worshipped a false god called Rimmon. The king expected Naaman to come with him to Rimmon’s *temple. Naaman did not intend to *worship the false god. But he would have to bend down when the king bent down.
Elisha did not tell Naaman not to do that. God had begun a good work in Naaman’s life, and God was able to complete it (Philippians 1:6). So Elisha simply blessed Naaman, and Naaman left.
People who serve God have often found it difficult to know when to obey their rulers. Paul taught people to obey their rulers and to pray for them (Romans 13:1; 1 Timothy 2:2). But we must not obey rulers if they order us to do evil things. Our duty to God is more important. Jesus told people to give to their ruler what is due to him. But they must also give to God what is due to him (Matthew 22:21). Soon after Jesus lived on the Earth, people persecuted Christians. That means that people were cruel to them because of their (the Christians’) beliefs. The Christians said, ‘Jesus is the Lord (master).’ They refused to say, ‘Caesar (the ruler of Rome) is the Lord (master).’ Many Christians died because they refused to say that. But they would not give to Caesar the honour that belongs to God alone.
Elisha’s servant Gehazi was like Judas, a man that followed Jesus as his teacher. Both Gehazi and Judas loved money (John 12:6; Matthew 26:14-15). That attitude is terrible. A person cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). The love of money causes much *sin (1 Timothy 6:10). And in the end, this attitude would ruin the lives of both Gehazi and Judas.
Gehazi was sad because Elisha had refused Naaman’s gifts. Gehazi did not think that Elisha should have been kind to Naaman. And Gehazi thought that he could make a personal profit from God’s *grace. It was terrible that he was thinking such things. These thoughts were so unlike the thoughts of his master, Elisha. Elisha gladly left all his possessions in order to become Elijah’s servant (1 Kings 19:21). Since that time, Elisha had to trust God for everything that he needed. And God provided both for him, and for other people (4:38-44).
Gehazi had to run in order to catch up with Naaman’s *chariot. Gehazi was a fast runner. Previously, he had to run to carry out the *Lord’s work (4:29). But now Gehazi was running for his own benefit. It was as if he was running away from God.
Now Naaman had learnt to be humble. It was a difficult lesson for him, but in the end he learned well. He even got down from his *chariot to show honour to the servant. Naaman did not know that Gehazi deserved no honour.
Gehazi told Naaman a lie. Gehazi made a big request. Naaman was generous. For him, this was an opportunity to give to God. Naaman wanted to thank God. And Naaman was pleased that the *prophet had allowed him to give something. Of course, Naaman knew nothing about the servant’s wicked scheme. He trusted the *prophet, so he trusted the *prophet’s servant.
Naaman gave to Gehazi twice as much as Gehazi had asked for. The gifts were so heavy that Naaman had to send two servants to carry them. Gehazi led the servants to the hill, that is, Samaria. And Gehazi hid the money in the house before Elisha could see it.
Then Gehazi went to serve Elisha as if nothing had happened. He lied to Elisha, but Elisha knew about Gehazi’s actions. God had shown Elisha what happened. Elisha even saw, in his spirit, that Naaman got down from his *chariot to meet Gehazi. Elisha knew what his servant had lied on his behalf. And Elisha knew that Gehazi intended to do this wicked thing against God.
There was no proper excuse for such behaviour. But it was not Elisha who punished Gehazi. Gehazi was responsible for his own *sin. And Gehazi was responsible for his own illness. He suffered for the rest of his life.
Gehazi thought that he could make himself rich. But *sin does not reward a person well. ‘The person who serves *sin will receive death instead of wages’ (Romans 6:23).
The groups of *prophets were groups of men who were loyal to the *prophets’ message about God. They were probably not all *prophets, but there were *prophets among them. They lived and worked together. And their families lived with them.
Elisha’s work for God had impressed many people in *Israel greatly. The result was that more people joined the groups of *prophets. So the place where this particular group lived was too small. They asked Elisha if they could build a larger place. When he agreed to that, they asked him to go with them. They were pleased that he could be present with them. And perhaps he helped to carry out the construction of the new building. Elisha was not a proud man – he would be willing to help.
During the construction, there was a slight accident. The head fell off one man’s axe. It landed in the river and nobody could see it. The man was very worried. Somebody had allowed him to use it. He intended to give it back afterwards. The man was loyal to God, so he cared about his responsibilities. He did not want to disappoint the lender.
By a *miracle, God caused the head of the axe to float. Of course, it is impossible for iron to float. But God can do things that people cannot do (Matthew 19:26). The story teaches us this lesson. God supplies what his people need. And God does not only supply great things. He even cares about the small things that his people worry about each day (Matthew 6:28-34).
In Matthew 17:24-27, Peter had no money to pay the tax for the *temple. Jesus ordered him to catch a fish. There was a coin in its mouth. That was enough to pay the tax for them both. That is another example of how God supplies things to his people.
Although the kings of *Israel were not loyal to God, God still helped them. He gave them many opportunities to change their attitudes. God still considered that the people in *Israel were his people. He had made promises to them and he had a special relationship with them.
There was a war between Syria and *Israel. The army from Syria made secret plans to attack the king of *Israel. But they could not succeed. It became clear that the king of *Israel was avoiding the groups of soldiers from Syria. But only the king of Syria and his officers knew where those soldiers were camping. So it was clear that, somehow, the king of *Israel had secret knowledge about the soldiers from Syria.
At that time, Elisha’s work as a *prophet was well-known across the whole region. The officer who replied to the king of Syria knew about Elisha. That officer believed that Elisha had extraordinary powers. Perhaps that officer believed in Elisha’s God. Or perhaps the officer merely thought that Elisha used magic. The officer was sure that Elisha was using special knowledge to warn the king of *Israel.
We know that Elisha’s knowledge was not human knowledge. Nobody told Elisha about the king of Syria’s plans. The officer’s reply makes that clear. Elisha did not only know the plans that the officers in Syria knew. Elisha even knew the plans that the king spoke about in his own bedroom. So Elisha’s knowledge could only come from God.
The king of Syria thought that he could *capture Elisha. That is strange, because he had been unable to *capture the king of *Israel. The king of Syria should have realised that God was on Elisha’s side. God would protect his loyal *prophet. It is a foolish man who decides to oppose God.
At this time, Elisha was staying at Dothan. This was at an important cross-roads. The king of Syria sent a large army to surround the city. He wanted his soldiers to *capture Elisha.
Elisha’s servant got up early and he saw the soldiers from Syria. They were completely surrounding the city. The servant was very afraid. But Elisha told him not to be afraid, because there was a bigger army on their side. It was bigger than the army that was against them.
Elisha was not referring to any human army. He was talking about the great army of *angels who carry out God’s work. We cannot normally see those *angels. But they are active and they are powerful. And they are fighting real battles to bring about God’s purposes (Joshua 5:13-15; Daniel 10:13; Revelation 19:14).
Christians do not need to be afraid even if powerful groups oppose them. ‘If God is on our side, then nobody can succeed against us.’ (Romans 8:31). Of course, that does not mean that God will always protect us from the troubles in this world (Daniel 3:17-18). But even if we die, we shall be safe with God in heaven (Philippians 1:23).
Elisha first asked God to open his servant’s eyes. Of course, nothing was wrong with the servant’s eyes. He could see well. It was he who saw the army from Syria. But the servant still needed the prayer, because he was unable to see a much greater army.
God’s powerful army of *angels was also present. Those *angels were so powerful that they seemed like fire. There were very many of them. And they surrounded Elisha. They were protecting the *prophet.
God answered the prayer and the servant saw those *angels. There was no reason to be afraid. God was in control of the situation.
As the enemy soldiers came nearer to Elisha, he prayed again. He asked God to make the soldiers blind. Perhaps God used the army of *angels to carry out this. All the soldiers became blind suddenly. They were unable to fight. They realised that they needed a guide. And Elisha offered to take them to the right place.
After they entered Samaria, Elisha prayed for the soldiers to see again. We can only guess at their emotions. Great and powerful things had happened to them that day. Probably they realised that the God of *Israel had done those things. Perhaps, like their officer (verse 12), they had already heard about God’s power. Perhaps their *Israelite slaves had spoken about him (5:3). And perhaps they had heard what happened to Naaman. But now they had an experience of God’s power. And perhaps like Naaman in 5:17, they were starting to realise that there is no other real God.
The king’s reaction is interesting. He was a cruel man who normally would not hesitate to kill. But even he could see that God had brought about this situation. So the king asked Elisha what he should do. Elisha did not allow the king to kill the soldiers. Instead, he told the king to feed them. It was not right for the king even to kill soldiers whom he had *captured in war. But the king did not *capture these soldiers; instead, they were the king’s guests. So the king gave them a large meal and he sent them home. He dealt with them as friends instead of enemies. And this had an important effect on the relationship between *Israel and Syria. The groups of soldiers were not still willing to enter *Israel to take away possessions and slaves. They respected the *Israelites too much. They wanted to have peace. We do not know how long that peace lasted. Sadly, it was not permanent.
The Bible teaches us to love our enemies. ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he does not have anything to drink, give him water. The most wonderful way to win against an enemy is to turn him into a friend’ (Romans 12:20).
These events (2 Kings 6:24-33 and chapter 7) happened some time after those in 2 Kings 6:23. The date was probably about 850 *B.C.. Since 6:23, the king of Syria had to use a different method to attack *Israel. He could not still persuade small groups of soldiers to attack. Instead he brought his whole army to Samaria. However, Samaria was a very strong city. So the soldiers from Syria decided not to attack the city. Instead, they waited outside. They allowed nobody to enter or to leave the city. Their plan was to make its people starve.
After a period of time, the inhabitants of the city ran out of food. And they became desperate to eat. Usually, people would not eat a *mule’s head. Now, however, it cost a large sum of money. In the original language, the seeds in 6:25 are called ‘bird dirt’. That awful name shows what people normally thought about such seeds. But in this terrible situation, people were buying those seeds to eat.
It was clear that the inhabitants could not continue their struggle for many more days. But they did not want to allow the enemy into the city. The soldiers from Syria would kill many of them. And those soldiers would probably take away everyone else to be their slaves.
When people suffer such terrible troubles, their reactions towards God differ. Sometimes people change their attitudes completely. For example, a proud person might become humble. An evil person might decide to confess his *sins and to pray. But other people become very angry with God. They blame God for all their troubles. And that was how the king of *Israel behaved.
One day, the king was walking along the city wall. The wall was like the wall of a castle. It was a strong wide wall, and there was a path on its top. The wall went right round the city. It was the reason why the city was such a strong city.
The king would be walking on the wall for various reasons. That position would provide a good view of the enemy soldiers. He would be able to see how strong their army was. Also, *Israel’s soldiers would be on the city wall. They would be trying to force the enemy to keep back from the wall. So the king would visit his soldiers there.
The king was wearing his royal clothes. He wanted to impress his own soldiers. If he seemed confident, they would not want to give in. But he also wanted to impress the enemy. The army from Syria could not know how desperate the people were in the city. They were waiting to enter the city so that they could take its valuable things. But they did not want to wait for a very long time. And if some of them went away, the king might be able to escape.
Of course, the inhabitants of Samaria could also see the king while he was on the wall. They were very desperate, and one woman used the opportunity to ask for the king’s help. The king heard the woman’s cry. He asked her what her trouble was. She explained that she and another woman had agreed to kill their children. And then they would eat their children. They had eaten the first woman’s son, but the other woman had hidden hers. That gave the king such a great shock that he tore his clothes. People used to do that when something upset them greatly.
Then people saw that the king was wearing rough cloth. People only wore that cloth when they were in a very desperate situation. The king had seemed so confident. But now people could see how he really felt. And really, he thought that he was waiting to die. He had no plan to save the city. There was no possibility of any success.
People sometimes wore rough cloth when they wanted to *repent. But the king was not sorry about his *sin and he did not want to *repent. Instead, he was very angry. He blamed God for the situation. And so he decided to carry out one final act to oppose God. He would kill the *prophet Elisha.
The king was not *repenting. But it seems that other people had a different attitude. Several leaders of the people gathered in Elisha’s house. We cannot be sure what they were doing. Perhaps they were listening to Elisha. Perhaps they were confessing their *sins. A *prophet would advise people to confess and to *repent. Perhaps these leaders were praying with Elisha. It is clear that they were turning to God. (Otherwise, there would be no reason for them to visit Elisha.) Because of their desperate situation, they were willing to be loyal to God and his *prophet.
Elisha knew that the king and his servant were coming. Elisha told the leaders not to allow the servant to enter the house.
So the king arrived. He told Elisha why he was so angry. He blamed God for his troubles. He had waited for God’s help, and God had done nothing.
The king had waited, but it is not enough just to wait. He waited, but he never became sorry for his *sin. He waited, but he never *repented. He waited, but he was not humble in front of God. And nothing happened. So now the king had another plan. He would not wait. Instead, he would murder God’s *prophet.
Then God gave a message to Elisha. The king should wait for one more day. Tomorrow God would act. And that would prove that he is God. Elisha promised that the next day corn would be available at a cheap price. The people would have plentiful food again. Their present troubles would end. It seemed impossible, but God gave that message. And he would perform his promise.
We do not know the king’s reaction. But he did not kill Elisha. Perhaps the king put the *prophet in prison like Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:27. If so, the intention was probably to kill the *prophet when his *prophecy did not happen. Or perhaps the king thought that the *prophecy might be true. But the king’s officer did not believe it. He laughed at the *prophecy. He insisted that even God could not carry out that *prophecy. Elisha told him that he (the officer) would see it happen. But he would not have any part of the food. That was a strange message. In verse 17, we will find out what happened to the officer. And what happened to him was another proof of the original *prophecy. It would prove to everyone that the next day’s events were God’s work.
These 4 men had a terrible illness. The law did not allow them to live in the city. So they had to live separately from other people. They lived together outside the city, near to its gate. When the army came from Syria, these 4 men were between the two armies. That is the most dangerous place to be in a battle. But the army from Syria did not attack Samaria. They just surrounded the city and then they waited. So the soldiers were not actually fighting yet.
It seems that this situation had continued for several months. And as matters grew worse, the 4 men tried to decide what to do. They could not escape, because the enemy surrounded them. The 4 men would die if they entered the city. They would die if they stayed outside the city. They would perhaps die if they went into the enemy camp. But perhaps the soldiers from Syria would allow them to live. So these 4 men had a little hope. We do not know whether they also had *faith. But we shall soon see that God was using these men. And that should not surprise us. God often chooses unlikely people to carry out his work (for example, Isaiah 53:1-3; Matthew 3:4; 1 Samuel 16:6-12).
As the 4 men approached the camp, God carried out a *miracle.
The *Syrian army heard a noise of *chariots, horses and an army. They felt great fear. So they all ran away.
We do not know how that noise happened. The *Syrians that surrounded Dothan became blind (6:18). That happened because God’s army of *angels was active. And this *Syrian army heard strange sounds. They thought that the king of *Israel had help from foreign nations. They imagined that the armies of the *Hittites and the Egyptians (people from Egypt) had come. But it was not the army of the *Hittites. And it was not the army of Egypt. Probably, it was the *Lord’s army that they heard. As in 2 Samuel 5:22-25, he was marching out on behalf of his people, that is, *Israel.
So it was these 4 men that first took possession of the enemy’s camp. People considered that the first person to enter an enemy’s camp was a hero (1 Chronicles 11:6). These men were weak, ill and unimportant. That showed that God had brought success to *Israel. No person did it. The 4 men were astonished that the camp was empty. But of course, they were very happy. They took food, drink and clothes.
Then they felt that they must tell everyone else about the good news. It was their duty and their joy to tell other people. God had given them that wonderful news so that they could tell other people They were responsible to him for what they did with their good news. So the men went. They told the men that guarded the gate. The news quickly spread and it reached the royal palace. Similarly, we should not keep the good news about Jesus to ourselves. We should share it with other people.
The king had heard Elisha’s *prophecy. But even when the king heard the good news, he still had no *faith. He thought that the *Syrians were carrying out a trick. (A trick means that someone does something in order to confuse people.) The king thought that the *Syrians were hiding in the country. Then the people from the city would go out to find food. When nobody was guarding the city, the *Syrians would *capture it easily. One officer advised the king to send out a small group of soldiers. They would discover what had really happened. They might die, but so might the people in the city. So the soldiers went out. They found a lot of clothing and equipment. The *Syrians had thrown it away in their hurry. The soldiers came back and they told the king.
At last the king realised that the report about the *Syrian army was correct. The inhabitants of Samaria could safely leave the city. And they could take the things from the *Syrian camp for themselves.
The king sent his officer to act like a policeman at the city’s entrance. Then the soldiers opened the gate and everyone rushed out.
The people took everything from the *Syrian tents. So Elisha’s *prophecy became true. People sold flour and corn cheaply. But the king’s officer who laughed at God’s promise was not among them. The crowd had rushed through the gates to get the goods. The officer could not manage to control the crowd. They *trampled on the officer as they went. And he died.
The officer’s error was to laugh at God’s word. Actually, the officer was insulting God. The officer said that God was unable to perform his promise. His death warns us that we must always respect God’s word.
The behaviour of the people also teaches an important lesson. God carried out a wonderful *miracle. But the people were ungrateful. They set up a market immediately. They were already trying to make a profit from the things that God had given to them. They were so unwilling to share God’s good gifts. But the men who had the skin disease behaved better. They respected God because they did not want to suffer his punishment. So they acted in a proper manner. They shared what God had provided.
Many Bible teachers think that the events in chapters 4 to 8 are not in date order. Gehazi began to suffer a serious skin illness in 5:27. And a king would not want to be near a person with such an illness. People with that illness had to live away from other people.
But we also know some other facts. There was a large yard by the gate of Samaria. The king had his royal seat there in 1 Kings 22:10. And we can see from 2 Kings 7:3 that people with that skin disease also lived by the gate. Such people could not earn their money in the same manner as other people did. We do not know how they got their money. Probably they behaved as the poorest people in any society do. Probably they urged people to give them money. Perhaps they made music and they acted. And we know that people did such things by the gate of Samaria (1 Kings 22:11).
Gehazi had some astonishing experiences when he was Elisha’s servant. It is clear that Gehazi spoke well. People liked to listen to his stories. And they might pay him to tell stories. After Gehazi got his skin illness, people would not want to stand near him. But perhaps Gehazi could speak in a loud voice like an actor. We know that the yard by the gate of Samaria was very large (1 Kings 22:6).
Verse 1 refers to the events in 2 Kings 4:8-37. This woman had helped Elisha. Afterwards, God helped the woman to have a son. The son died, but God made him alive again. At some time after those events, God showed Elisha what would happen during the next 7 years. So Elisha warned the woman that there would be a serious lack of food in *Israel. She and her family went to live in the country called Philistia. They stayed there for 7 years.
While the woman was abroad, the government or some neighbours had taken her land. So she went to see the king about that.
The rights to land in *Israel were very ancient. Originally, God gave land to each family in *Israel. So there was a relationship between the land and God’s promises to *Israel. The land usually belonged to the male members of the family. This passage does not mention the woman’s husband, so perhaps he was dead. But this woman had a son. And that son had the right to own his father’s land on behalf of the family. So the woman brought her son with her.
The kings of *Israel did not serve God. So they did not respect the rights that God had given to the people (for example, 1 Kings 21:1-16). The woman could not be sure that the king would help her. But the kings acted as judges in *Israel. When the king sat on his royal seat in public, people could approach him. In Samaria, it seems that the proper place for this was the city’s gate (1 Kings 22:10). So the woman came here to ask the king to issue his judgement about this matter.
The king was sitting on his royal seat. But he was not issuing judgements at that time. Instead, he was listening to stories. Probably he did not care about the people. He preferred to enjoy himself. But God knows the perfect time to do his work. And this was God’s time.
Elisha’s servant Gehazi was telling the king about Elisha’s *miracles. And they were great *miracles. Even a dead person had become alive again. And at that moment, the woman arrived with her son. Gehazi recognised her. And he introduced her to the king. Of course, it was the right moment. The king was curious about her. He asked questions. She told the king how Elisha had brought her son back to life. And, of course, she had the opportunity to ask the king about her land. So the king was happy to give her land back to her. Also, people had sold crops that they had harvested from the woman’s land. The king made sure that she got money from their sale.
That is a good example of how God can make things happen at the right time. It is also an example of how God can even use an evil king to carry out his purposes.
This event happened after Elisha had cured Naaman. It happened after the battles and the *miracles in chapter 6 also. So Elisha was now well-known in Damascus. But we would not expect him to go there. Damascus was the capital city of Syria. It was a long journey from the cities that Elisha usually visited in *Israel. And Syria was a foreign country. Syria and *Israel were frequent enemies during Elisha’s life.
But a long time before, God had announced his intention to make Hazael king of Syria. God told Elijah to appoint Hazael (1 Kings 19:15). This became Elisha’s duty after Elijah went up to heaven. But this would not be a pleasant task. Hazael would be a cruel king. His rule would bring about a period of terrible punishment for the rulers in *Israel. God had sent powerful *prophets to warn them. But the rulers of *Israel still refused to obey God. They continued to *worship false gods. And their punishment was certain (1 Kings 19:17).
Benhadad heard that Elisha was in Damascus. So Benhadad told Hazael to ask Elisha whether he (Benhadad) would recover from his illness. Benhadad sent a very large present to Elisha. It is clear that Benhadad respected Elisha greatly. It is interesting to compare the behaviour of this foreign king with the actions of *Israel’s king in chapter 1.
Elisha told Hazael to say that Benhadad would not die from his disease. Elisha meant that in normal circumstances the king would recover. But then Elisha told Hazael that Benhadad would certainly die. Perhaps God showed that to Elisha at that moment. Elisha wept.
Hazael asked Elisha why he was weeping. Elisha told him this. Hazael would do terrible things to the *Israelites. Hazael did not say that those deeds made him feel disgust. He said that he was not an important person. He meant that he would never become powerful enough to do such things. Hazael probably already had great ambitions. Soon he would carry out a cruel plot against Benhadad. But Elisha did not argue with Hazael. Elisha simply replied that Hazael would become the king of Syria.
Hazael went back to Benhadad and he told Benhadad this. ‘You will recover.’ But the next day, he killed Benhadad and he took his place as the king.
God appointed Hazael to be the king, but Hazael was wrong to murder Benhadad. Sometimes God did tell someone to organise a revolution (for example, 9:7). But that did not happen here. After God chose David to be king, David had the opportunity to kill King Saul (1 Samuel chapters 24 and 26). But David refused to do such an evil thing. David realised that at the right time, God would carry out his promise to David. David had to wait for that time. But in the end, God did what he had promised.
Hazael had protested that he could not do such terrible things. But when the opportunity came, he did them. ‘The heart deceives us (makes us believe things that are not true) more than anything else. You cannot cure it. Nobody can understand it’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Only God can save us from the power of our own wicked intentions (Romans 7:24-25).
This is a short account about Jehoram’s life and his rule. He was among the worst kings of *Judah. His father, Jehoshaphat, was among its best kings. But Jehoshaphat made some very serious errors. These errors were the result of his very close relationship with some of *Israel’s most evil kings. In particular, Jehoshaphat allowed his son Jehoram to marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. Jehoram behaved in an evil manner, as Ahab’s family did. Jehoram did not behave well as his father Jehoshaphat did. Jehoshaphat made him a partner in his rule. That was a great mistake. Jehoram began to rule in 853 *B.C. and then he ruled alone from 848 *B.C.. He died in 841 *B.C..
The people in Edom *rebelled during Jehoram’s rule. Jehoram tried to defeat them, but they continued to be enemies of the *Jews. Libnah was a city in the middle of *Judah. Its people also *rebelled. The people there did not want to obey Jehoram. These troubles were the results of Jehoram’s *sin. And 2 Chronicles chapter 21 mentions other troubles during his rule. God allowed these people to *rebel against *Judah, but God did not destroy *Judah. That was because of what God had promised to David.
In 2 Chronicles 21:18-20, we can read how Jehoram died. And we read this. ‘Nobody was sorry when Jehoram died.’
King Ahab of *Israel had two sons, Ahaziah and Joram (who was also called Jehoram). First one son ruled over *Israel, and after him the other one ruled. King Jehoshaphat of *Judah had a son called Jehoram and a grandson called Ahaziah. They also ruled in turn.
This book only mentions King Ahaziah of *Judah briefly. He was a wicked king. He ruled in the same wicked manner as Ahab’s family did. One reason for that was because Ahaziah’s mother was Ahab’s daughter. Mothers have either a good effect or a bad effect on their children. Ahaziah’s mother had a bad effect on him. It is a great pity that Ahaziah imitated her evil behaviour. He could have behaved like his grandfather Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was a good king who was loyal to God.
Ahaziah went with his uncle Joram to try to *capture Ramoth Gilead. Ahab had died there during a previous battle against Syria. Joram did not die, but he suffered injuries in the battle. He returned to Jezreel and Ahaziah went to visit him. The result would be death for them both (9:14-29).
God told Elijah to appoint Jehu to be king of *Israel (1 Kings 19:16). After Elijah went to heaven, this became Elisha’s responsibility. It would be Jehu’s task to kill everyone from Ahab’s family who escaped from Hazael (1 Kings 19:17). In particular, Joram (king of *Israel) and Ahaziah (king of *Judah) had just escaped from Hazael (2 Kings 8:28-29). That was why it was necessary for Elisha to appoint Jehu at this time. God had firmly decided that he would end the rule of Ahab’s family. This very wicked family controlled both *Israel and *Judah. Jehu would be God’s agent to carry out that punishment. If Jehu failed to do that, Elisha himself would have to carry out that punishment. But Jehu would not fail.
We are not sure why Elisha did not go to Ramoth Gilead to appoint Jehu. There are several possible reasons. Perhaps Elisha was too old to go on the journey. Or perhaps Elisha wanted this to be a secret, but of course, everyone knew him.
Instead, Elisha sent a young unknown *prophet. He told the *prophet what to do. And he told him what to say. Elisha told the *prophet to *anoint Jehu in a private room. And he told him to leave quickly then. These instructions emphasised the importance of the task.
The young *prophet was very careful to obey Elisha’s instructions. The young *prophet took Jehu into a private room. The oil was part of the ancient ceremony to appoint a king. It was a sign to show that God’s Spirit came upon that person for a special task. The *prophet did not speak his own words. Instead, he spoke a message from God. That message was the same as the message that Elijah gave to Ahab (1 Kings 21:21-24). Jehu had been present on that occasion (9:25). But he did not know then that he would be God’s agent to carry out that punishment against Ahab’s family. But at last the right time had arrived.
The young *prophet told Jehu that he (Jehu) would be the king over *Israel. Jehu must kill all Ahab’s family, and in particular he must kill Jezebel. That was because she had killed the *Lord’s *prophets.
Jehu’s officers laughed at the *prophet. They said that he was mad. People who obey God have often suffered such insults. Jesus’ family thought that Jesus was mad (Mark 3:21). Festus told Paul that he (Paul) was mad (Acts 26:24).
Jehu did not want to tell the other officers what the *prophet had said. Perhaps he preferred to carry out a secret plot against Ahab’s family. Or perhaps he wanted to be sure that they would support him. But they insisted that he should tell them. They probably realised that the visitor was a *prophet. A *prophet would only come if he had a message from God. They might laugh at the *prophet, but they were desperate to know God’s message. Jehu was their leader. They could see that he considered the message important. They urged him to tell them.
So Jehu told them the message. And at once they all decided to be loyal to Jehu. They declared publicly that Jehu was the king. He was standing at the top of the stairs then. Because he was standing there, everybody could see him. And the other officers gave him honour
Jehu’s father was called Jehoshaphat. But he was not the same Jehoshaphat who had ruled *Judah.
Jehu was in Ramoth Gilead with *Israel’s army. He was the leader of that army. *Israel’s army was fighting the *Syrian army there. In the meantime, the kings of *Judah and *Israel were in Jezreel. Joram (the king of *Israel) was recovering from his injuries there. Amaziah (the king of *Judah) was visiting him. And they were waiting for news about the war against Syria. In fact, there was no news to report about that war. But there was other news from Ramoth Gilead. The army officers had appointed Jehu to be king of *Israel instead of Joram. In other words, revolution had begun in *Israel.
Jehu warned the officers that the news must not reach Joram. If Joram heard the news, he would order his soldiers to fight against Jehu. There would be a terrible battle and many people would die. Instead, Jehu wanted to carry out a surprise attack.
Jehu travelled quickly to Jezreel. He completed his journey before anybody could warn Joram. There was a guard on duty at Jezreel. The guard warned Joram that an army was approaching. Joram sent two men on horseback to discover who the people in the army were. Neither man returned. Then the guard noticed that the leader of the army drove like Jehu. People knew that Jehu drove very quickly.
Jehu would only come to Jezreel if there was very important news. So Joram was very worried.
Of course, Joram did not know how Jehu had replied to Joram’s horsemen. Joram had told those men to ask whether there was peace. Joram intended them to find out whether *Israel’s army was succeeding against Syria. So they asked Jehu, ‘Is there peace?’
Jehu’s reply to them was angry. He used a different meaning of the word *peace. The word ‘peace’ can also mean the calm and content attitude of people who have a right relationship with God. Ahab’s family had persuaded the people not to obey the real God. And so the people in *Israel were not calm or content. There was trouble everywhere. Joram and his relatives were responsible for this situation. And now Jehu had God’s authority to carry out a revolution. So Jehu refused to allow the horsemen to return to Joram. Jehu forced them to follow him. Joram would have to come himself in order to hear Jehu’s news.
Joram and Ahaziah went out to meet Jehu. They met him at the field that had belonged to Naboth. Joram asked whether Jehu came in *peace. Perhaps Joram thought that Jehu had defeated the army from Syria. Jehu said that there could be no *peace. That is, nobody in *Israel could live in a calm and content manner. Joram and the rest of Ahab’s family had spoiled the relationship between God and *Israel. People gave honour to *idols that Joram’s mother, Jezebel, introduced to *Israel. They used magic and they were wicked. Jezebel taught them to do such things. *Israel could not have *peace in such circumstances. ‘ “There is no *peace,” says my God, “for wicked people” ’ (Isaiah 57:21).
Joram and Ahaziah tried to escape, but Jehu killed Joram. He did that on the field that had belonged to Naboth. It was right that this event should happen there. This was the field that Ahab and Jezebel obtained by means of a wicked *sin (1 Kings chapter 21). This was the spot where God sent Elijah to issue judgement against Ahab (1 Kings 21:17-20). And this was the right place to begin the punishment of Ahab’s family (1 Kings 21:20-24).
Jehu then attacked Ahaziah. Jehu’s soldiers caused injuries to Ahaziah, but Ahaziah managed to escape to Megiddo. There Ahaziah died because of his injury. His grave was near Jerusalem, among the graves of the other *descendants of David.
Jehu fought against Ahaziah because Ahaziah imitated the behaviour of his mother, Athaliah. She was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and she behaved in a wicked manner like her parents. She brought Jezebel’s wicked practices to *Judah. And Athaliah would continue to rule *Judah in a very wicked manner for 6 years after Ahaziah’s death.
Jezebel had introduced to *Israel the idea that people could *worship *Baal. She had killed the *Lord’s *prophets. She had arranged the murder of Naboth. Jezebel had made her husband and sons do wicked things. In other words, she was responsible for many of the evil things that had happened in *Israel. And it was clear from the *prophecy in verse 7 that Jezebel had to die. So after Jehu attacked Ahaziah, Jehu went back to Jezreel to kill Jezebel.
Jezebel had heard that Jehu had killed Joram, her son. After the death of a son, a woman would usually act in a manner that would show her sad feelings. She would cry aloud and she would tear her clothes. She would neglect her hair. But Jezebel was much too proud to behave in such a manner.
She put colour round her eyes and she set her hair. She laughed at Jehu and she called him Zimri. That was an insult. Zimri had killed King Elah. And he had killed all the other people in King Baasha’s family. Then Zimri ruled *Israel, but he only ruled for 7 days (1 Kings 16:15-20). Zimri had done all that because he had chosen to do it. Jehu had attacked because God had told him to do it.
Jezebel was still proud, but she had no power to oppose Jehu. Nobody supported her. Jezebel’s servants simply threw her down from the window. So she died.
Jehu did not care about Jezebel. And he did not care about her dead body. There were dogs in the area. But Jehu did not order anyone to guard the body. Instead he went into the palace. He ate and he drank. Then Jehu said that someone should bury Jezebel. She should have a proper grave because her father was a king. Jehu did not mention that her husband and sons were also kings. Jehu did not respect those kings because they were from Ahab’s family. In Jehu’s opinion, Jezebel only deserved a proper grave because her father was a foreign king (1 Kings 16:31).
Jehu’s order was too late. In the time while he was eating, the dogs had eaten Jezebel’s body. Jehu remembered that God had spoken about this event (1 Kings 21:23). Jehu said that God had punished Jezebel. And that was why the men could not bury Jezebel. Nobody would ever be able to point to a particular place and say, ‘This is Jezebel’s grave.’ Nobody could show honour to her in the future. Jezebel deserved no honour whatever. God had declared a *curse on her.
The *Lord appointed Jehu to carry out his punishment against Ahab’s family. But Jehu was not a good man (verse 31). He served God when he acted against Ahab’s *descendants (verse 30). But Jehu was too cruel. He killed people whom he should not have killed (Hosea 1:4).
Jehu used two different methods to oppose his enemies in *Israel:
(1) He was a skilled politician. He used clever political language. He chose his actions well. He was able to persuade people to support him.
(2) He did not allow his enemies to become powerful. Instead, he killed them first. He killed them when they were too weak to defend themselves.
Jehu had already killed Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel. God had clearly told him to kill them as a punishment (9:7-10). They were Jehu’s most powerful enemies in *Israel. But God had also told Jehu that no male *descendant of Ahab should remain alive. So Jehu had more work to do.
At this time, Jehu ruled Jezreel. But the most important city in *Israel was Samaria. 70 male *descendants of Ahab lived there. They were all princes. The principal citizens of Samaria were bringing them up. Jehu could see that any one of them could try to become king. Jehu would not have a peaceful rule unless the inhabitants of Samaria supported him.
Jehu used a clever scheme to obtain their support. He told them to appoint a *descendant of Ahab as king. And Jehu invited them to fight for that king, if they dared. If they were loyal to Ahab’s family, they should fight on behalf of that family. But they refused to do that. They had seen that nobody was able to oppose Jehu. Instead, they agreed to do anything that he wanted. So they promised to be loyal to Jehu.
Jehu ordered them to bring the heads of Ahab’s *descendants that they were looking after. People could understand the instruction in two ways. It could have meant, ‘Bring the heads of Ahab’s most important *descendants.’ Or it could have meant, ‘Bring the heads of all Ahab’s *descendants.’
The leaders of Samaria did what Jehu hoped. They killed all those *descendants and they brought their heads in baskets. That was an awful thing to do. But they felt that they had to do it. Otherwise, Jehu might bring his army to surround Samaria. Such an event had already happened during their lives (6:24-30). They could not risk that it might happen again.
Of course, God had said that the male *descendants of Ahab could not remain alive (1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8). This was God’s punishment because of the wicked behaviour of Ahab and his family.
Afterwards, Jehu told the leaders that they were all on the same side. He told them that they were innocent of King Joram’s death. They had not killed Joram. But they had killed all the princes, and Jehu had not done so! Nobody could blame him for that, he said. He was careful not to remind them that he ordered them to do it. And Jehu showed how Elijah’s *prophecy had become true.
Jehu left the heads outside the city gates. That was probably to warn other people. He wanted the inhabitants of Jezreel to support him completely. There were more people in *Israel whom he wanted to kill.
Next, Jehu carried out the worst act during his rule. He had already killed all the male *descendants of Ahab. He had already killed anyone who might try to become king.
But still Jehu went through Jezreel (verse 11). And he killed everyone whom he did not like there. God did not tell Jehu to kill Ahab’s friends or his officers. God did not tell Jehu to kill any relatives of Ahab who were not Ahab’s *descendants. But Jehu did that because he wanted to control *Israel completely. In the end, God would punish Jehu’s family because of Jehu’s actions at Jezreel (Hosea 1:4).
Jehu met some relatives of Ahaziah. They had not heard what had happened. They were going to greet Joram’s family. Jehu killed Ahaziah’s relatives because they were also relatives of Athaliah. Athaliah was not only Ahaziah’s mother, but she was also Ahab’s daughter.
It is not clear whether God wanted Jehu to kill Ahaziah’s relatives. God told Jehu to kill Ahab’s male *descendants, but not other relatives. These people were probably other relatives. But their reply showed that they were loyal to Ahab’s family. Perhaps the explanation of this event is that Jehu did not care about such matters. He was carrying out a revolution. He was killing hundreds of people. He killed anyone who was not loyal to him. He was not asking what God wanted him to do. Jehu was doing whatever he (Jehu) wanted to do.
Jehonadab was the leader of a group of people called the Rechabites. This group of people believed that it was wrong to *worship *Baal. They lived in tents in the country. They did not drink wine. You can read more about them in Jeremiah chapter 35.
It seems that Jehonadab heard about Jehu’s actions against Ahab’s family. And so Jehonadab went to meet Jehu. They became friends at once. They had a common purpose. They both opposed the rule of Ahab’s family. They both opposed the *worship of *Baal. And they both wanted to fight against the *Lord’s enemies.
Jehu invited Jehonadab into his *chariot. Jehu had plans to fight against more of the *Lord’s enemies. Those plans pleased Jehonadab. The two men agreed to act together in order to carry out those plans.
Jehu and Jehonadab were in complete agreement about their plans to oppose *Baal *worship. But it seems that their reasons were different. Jehu opposed *Baal *worship for political reasons. He wanted to establish a strong government that he controlled totally. He could see that the *worshippers of *Baal would be against him. He had killed the family of Ahab. And it was Ahab who introduced *Baal *worship in *Israel.
It seems that Jehonadab’s reasons to oppose *Baal *worship were more sincere. We can read in Jeremiah chapter 35 about the attitudes of the people called Rechabites. They were very loyal people. So probably Jehonadab opposed *Baal because Jehonadab was loyal to the *Lord. And of course, that was how Jehu encouraged Jehonadab to support him in verse 16. Jehu always used political language well. He knew how to impress people.
First, Jehu killed all the members of Ahab’s family that remained in Samaria. Then Jehu plotted to kill all the people that followed *Baal. He said, ‘Ahab served *Baal in a weak manner. Jehu will serve him much more.’ So Jehu lied to them. His real plan was to end the *worship of *Baal in *Israel. But he pretended that he was going to *worship *Baal with them.
Jehu organised a special ceremony at *Baal’s *temple. People came from all over *Israel to attend the ceremony. Jehu made sure that all *Baal’s servants were in the *temple. He also made sure that no servants of the *Lord were there. When everyone was inside, he ordered his guards and officers to kill them all. Afterwards, the guards and officers broke the stone image of *Baal. They pulled down the *temple and they destroyed the stone.
Nobody ever rebuilt that *temple. People considered it an *unclean place. They did not still *worship there. But perhaps a youth might pass that place as he worked in the hills. He might go behind the piles of stone when he needed the toilet. His actions would show that nobody still respected the place.
God’s *prophecy about the punishment of Ahab’s family became true. The people destroyed the religion of the false god *Baal. But that religion continued in other places. And the people in *Israel would continue to *worship other false gods. Even Jehu *worshipped *idols.
In the end, God will stop all false religion. The Book of Revelation shows us the fate of all those people that oppose God. ‘Some people’s names were not in the book of life. Those people went into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:15).
Many things that Jehu did were good. He removed the things that people used to *worship *Baal. He made the people stop *worshipping *Baal. God promised Jehu that four *generations of his family would rule over *Israel. His family’s rule lasted nearly 100 years.
However, Jehu did not make the people stop *worshipping the images of young *bulls. Jeroboam had made those earlier. Jeroboam established those images for his own political benefit. Jehu continued that *worship. So people did not go to Jerusalem to *worship the real God. In that matter, Jehu did not try to please God.
Hosea 1:4 explains Jehu’s other important *sin. He was guilty of many murders at Jezreel. 2 Kings 10:11 explains what he did. It seems that Jehu acted for political reasons. He wanted to make his government stronger. But God did not tell him to kill those people. Jehu was a cruel man. And that *sin was the reason why Jehu’s family would only rule *Israel for 4 *generations. In the end, God ended the rule of Jehu’s family because of his wicked actions at Jezreel.
During Jehu’s rule, God allowed the *Syrians to take some land that belonged to *Israel’s people. And so the land that *Israel’s kings controlled became smaller. God had given *Israel many opportunities to be a great nation. But the people continued their *sin and they were not loyal to God.
Jehu tried to act like a man with two masters. Jehu served God when that benefited Jehu’s political schemes. But Jehu served false gods when that suited him. Jesus warned people not to have such an attitude. ‘A person cannot serve two masters loyally. That person will hate one master and he will love the other master. Or that person will obey one master and he will dislike the other master. So you cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew 6:24).
God had promised David that his family would continue to rule *Judah. Athaliah wanted to kill all the royal family so that she could rule the country. Athaliah intended to oppose God. She *worshipped *Baal.
Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. And Athaliah was the sister of the kings of *Israel called Ahaziah and Joram. Athaliah was the widow of King Jehoram of *Judah. And she was very wicked, like the other members of Ahab’s family.
Jehu had ended the rule of Ahab’s family over *Israel. But he did not control *Judah, although he had killed its king. That king was Ahaziah, who was Athaliah’s son. So Athaliah continued the wicked rule of Ahab’s family in *Judah.
Athaliah ordered her soldiers to kill everyone who had a right to become king. They obeyed her, and many people died.
However, Jehoram’s daughter, the wife of the chief priest Jehoiada, rescued Joash. She was Joash’s aunt. She hid him in the *temple. There were many small rooms by the yards that surrounded the *temple. And Joash’s nurse could look after him secretly there. So Jehosheba provided special protection for the young prince. She hid Joash as Moses’ parents had hidden Moses (Exodus 2:1-10). It should not surprise us that Joash later repaired the *temple. It was a special place for him. This story shows us how God prepares people for the future.
Athaliah ruled for 6 years. Jehu had made the people in *Israel stop *worshipping *Baal. He had removed from *Israel the things that people used in that *worship. But Athaliah established the *worship of *Baal in *Judah. All this time, Joash was hiding in the *temple.
Jehoiada led the revolution against Athaliah. He was the right person to do that. Jehoiada was the chief priest. His wife was the former King Jehoram’s daughter. Jehoiada made secret plans with the leaders of the army. He arranged the *rebellion to happen on the *Sabbath, when there were more soldiers on duty. Some soldiers were on duty in the new week. They began their work in the morning. The other soldiers did not stop their work until the evening.
Jehoiada told the soldiers to protect the young king and he told them to guard the *temple. When all the guards were on duty, Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king. He put the crown on King Joash. He gave the book to the king. The book showed what the king must do (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Jehoiada poured *olive oil on him. That act showed that the king had received God’s Spirit. The people clapped their hands and they greeted the king.
Athaliah heard the noise. She came to see what the matter was. She saw Joash, who was then the king. He was only a little boy. But he was wearing the royal crown. And he was standing by the *temple’s columns (1 Kings 7:15-22). The purpose of those columns was to remind the people about their relationship with God. The names of the columns were Jakin and Boaz. The first name means that God established their nation. And the other name means that God gave strength to their nation. The passage mentions that it became traditional for a new king to stand by one of these columns. Athaliah saw this. And then she knew clearly what had happened. Joash had become king. And her own rule had ended.
Athaliah tore her clothes. In that way, she showed that she was very angry. She tried to persuade people to support her. She said that the priest and the people were guilty of treason. (That is, the crime when someone starts a *rebellion against the ruler of a country.) But really, it was Athaliah who was guilty of treason. She had made herself the ruler of *Judah and she had murdered the rest of the royal family. And it was Joash who had the right to be *Judah’s king.
Athaliah then tried to escape back to the palace. She tried to pass through the lines of soldiers.
Jehoiada ordered the soldiers not to kill her in the *temple. He was the chief priest. So he would not allow anything to happen in the *temple that might affect its sacred state. In particular, he did not want Athaliah to die there during the happy ceremony to appoint Joash king. So the guards took her out of the *temple. They killed her in the area round the palace. They did it near the Horse Gate.
Jehoiada made a *covenant between the king, the people and the *Lord. The king and people promised to stop *worshipping *Baal. Instead, they would serve the *Lord. Then Jehoiada made a *covenant between the king and the people. The king promised to rule in the manner that God’s law ordered. And the people promised to obey the king. Then the people pulled down the *temple of *Baal, and they pulled down its *altars and *idols. Mattan the priest refused to make people stop *worshipping *Baal. So the people killed him. At last they took the king to his palace and he began his rule.
This was a great revolution. Jehoiada’s purpose was not just to appoint the proper person to be king. He also set out to mend the people’s relationship with God. Jehoiada destroyed their wrong religion. And he made them promise to serve God, and to obey his law. Those changes should remind Christians about the changes that they should make in their own lives. Paul told Christians to remove the wrong desires that they had. That was because they were now new people (Colossians 3:5-11). Those changes were necessary because of their new relationship with God.
Joash ruled for 40 years. Many people think that he ruled during the period 835 to 796 *B.C.. Joash pleased God while Jehoiada taught him.
Joash did not know either of his own parents. A nurse brought him up. And it seems that Jehoiada acted like a father to him. Jehoiada protected Joash. Jehoiada taught Joash. Jehoiada even chose wives for Joash (2 Chronicles 24:3). And Joash obeyed Jehoiada.
It is clear that Jehoiada impressed Joash greatly. But Jehoiada was a very old man (2 Chronicles 24:15). When Jehoiada died, Joash did not continue to behave in the same manner. The Book of 2 Kings does not tell us much about Joash’s *sins. 2 Chronicles 24:17-22 explains more about those *sins. It seems that Joash depended on Jehoiada’s trust in God. But our trust in God should not depend on other people. Each person needs to have his or her own relationship with God.
Joash did not remove the places where people *worshipped on the hills. Often people gave honour to other gods there.
During the early part of his rule, Joash did many good things. One of his most important decisions was to repair the *Lord’s *temple. The *temple was a special place for Joash. He lived there until he was 7 years old.
The *temple was in a very poor state. Previous rulers of *Judah had spoilt it. They had taken its sacred objects for the *temple of *Baal (2 Chronicles 24:7). But Joash decided to repair the *Lord’s *temple.
Joash told the priests to collect money for that purpose. The priests received some money with the gifts and *sacrifices. Joash wanted them to use that money for the repairs. But it was clear that the repairs would cost more than that. So Joash decided to collect a tax when he counted the people. That was an ancient tax which the people had to pay for the *temple (Exodus 30:11-16). Joash asked people from Levi’s *tribe to collect the tax (2 Chronicles 24:5). And he asked the priests to be responsible for the repairs.
Joash’s plan did not succeed. It seems that the priests needed the regular gifts for daily payments. And the people from Levi’s *tribe did not actually collect the tax. However, they did not refuse to collect it. It seems that they simply delayed (2 Chronicles 24:5). After several years, nothing had happened. Nobody had even started to carry out the repairs. In fact, the king waited for 23 years before he did anything about it.
Joash saw that he would have to collect the money by a different method. If he just waited for other people to collect it, nothing would happen. He realised that he would have to collect the money for the repairs separately from other money. So he ordered the people to bring their taxes to the *temple. The priests put all this money into a special box. All this money would pay for the repairs. Joash would not allow the priests to use this money for any other purpose.
The people were very pleased when they heard these arrangements (2 Chronicles 24:10). They were happy to pay their money for the repairs. Soon the box was full. The royal *secretary and the chief priest counted the money. They gave it to the men that would pay the workers. Those men were honest. They used the money to pay the workers. The men also used it to buy materials.
The men who paid for the repairs did not use the money to buy gold and silver objects. The *temple needed these things, but these funds were not for that purpose. But after they completed the work, some other money became available for that purpose (2 Chronicles 24:14).
And the men did not use the money from the *offerings. That money belonged to the priests. So they continued to use that money for the *temple’s daily payments.
Clearly, the king cared very much about the *temple building. The repairs that he carried out were impressive. And he also made the building stronger (2 Chronicles 24:13). However, Joash cared more about the *temple than he cared about its God. Joash’s real attitudes would become clear after Jehoiada died.
2 Chronicles 24:15-16 emphasises how great Jehoiada was. He lived until he was 130 years old. Nobody had lived so long since the people in the Book of Genesis. The people buried him like a king. His grave was among the royal graves in David’s city.
When Jehoiada died, Joash’s character changed. The officials of *Judah persuaded Joash not to remain loyal to God. And King Joash, who repaired the *temple so well, began to neglect both the *temple and the *Lord (2 Chronicles 24:17-19).
Hazael, the king of Syria, came through *Judah. He came to *capture Gaza. He intended to *capture Jerusalem when he came back. Joash gave gold and other valuable things to Hazael, to stop his attack on Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 24:23-25 contains more information about Syria’s war against *Judah. Although Syria had a smaller army than *Judah, God allowed Syria to overcome *Judah. God allowed this because King Joash and the people in *Judah were not loyal to God after Jehoiada’s death. The *Syrian army killed the leaders of *Judah. And Joash himself had severe injuries from the war. That is why Joash was so desperate. He took the valuable things from the *temple and the palace. He even took back the gifts that he and the previous kings had given to the *Lord. And Joash gave all these things to Hazael in order to make a peace agreement with him.
(However, some people think that the Books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are describing two different wars between Syria and *Judah. If those people are right, Joash gave the precious things to Hazael at the end of the first war. And the *Syrians killed the leaders of *Judah and they also caused Joash’s injuries during the second war.)
2 Chronicles 24:17-22 gives more information about the state of *Judah after Jehoiada’s death. The officials of *Judah persuaded Joash to allow false religions in *Judah. Then God gave a *prophecy to Zechariah, who was Jehoiada’s son. Zechariah told Joash that he (Joash) was wrong. Joash was causing God to be angry with *Judah. And Zechariah warned Joash about the results of his *sins.
Joash should have confessed his *sins to God. And Joash should have become loyal to God again. But Joash was too weak to change his attitudes. And he was too proud to be humble in front of God. Joash did not even respect Zechariah, whose father Jehoiada had been so kind to Joash. Instead, Joash killed Zechariah.
After Zechariah’s death, the *Syrians attacked *Judah. They caused injuries to Joash, but they did not kill him. It was Joash’s own officials who killed him, in his bed. Those officials murdered Joash because he had murdered Zechariah.
Joash began well, but he ended badly. He probably did not have his own belief in God. He probably depended on Jehoiada for that. After Jehoiada’s death, we can see how weak Joash’s character became. His officials could easily persuade him to do wrong things. He was not grateful for Jehoiada’s kindness to him. And Joash was not willing to change his attitudes even when God warned him. 2 Chronicles 24:25 mentions an interesting fact about Joash’s grave. Although people buried him near to his *ancestors’ graves, they did not put his body in the royal graves. After their terrible defeat, the people in *Judah did not still respect Joash.
It is interesting to compare Joash with Josiah. (Look at 2 Kings chapter 22.) Josiah also repaired the *temple. But Josiah did not merely mend the buildings. Unlike Joash, Josiah set out to mend the people’s relationship with God. Josiah found the book that contained the *covenant. Josiah aimed to encourage people to obey God. He removed the places where people *worshipped on the high hills. That was something that Joash had neglected to do.
Jehoahaz ruled from 814 to 796 *B.C.. He behaved in the same ways as Jeroboam had done. The result was that God allowed the kings of Syria to attack *Israel. Then Jehoahaz prayed for God’s help. Like many people, Jehoahaz only thought about God when he (Jehoahaz) was desperate. But God was kind to him. God still cared about the *Israelites. Their *covenant with God still existed. And so God acted on their behalf.
God listened to Jehoahaz’s prayers. God sent someone to free the *Israelites. It seems that God used a foreign king to do this. In 803 *B.C., the king of Assyria attacked Syria. The *Syrian army had to leave *Israel in order to defend their own country. And then the *Israelites had peace.
This shows how kind God is. Even if we do not obey him, he wants to forgive us. He even sent his son, Jesus, to suffer the punishment for our *sins. But we must be humble. We must confess our wrong deeds to him. And we must invite him into our lives. If we do these things, he will forgive us.
Jehoash ruled from 798 to 782 *B.C.. He and his father probably ruled together from 798 to 796. Jehoash was not the worst king. But he still *worshipped *idols, as Jeroboam had done. We can read about his war with Amaziah. It is in 2 Kings 14:8-15.
Elisha had been a *prophet for more than 60 years. There had been a period of about 45 years since he selected Jehu as king. We do not know what Elisha did from that time until this event. King Jehoash came to visit Elisha. He came to receive Elisha’s advice and *blessing before he (Elisha) died.
The king wept. He used the same words that Elisha had used earlier. Elisha had spoken them before God took Elijah away. Elisha used those words to express his *faith in God. Elisha had seen some of God’s powerful army of *angels. And Elisha realised that the *chariots and horsemen of that army were *Israel’s real defence.
But Jehoash seemed to use the same words with a different meaning. Jehoash was weeping because Elisha would soon die. Jehoash did not have *faith in God; and Jehoash did not see the army of *angels. So his words were a cry of despair. He did not know who would defend *Israel against the *Syrians. He respected Elisha as a great man, but Jehoash did not trust Elisha’s God.
Elisha said that King Jehoash would succeed against the *Syrians. He ordered Jehoash to shoot an arrow towards the *Syrians. Elisha put his own hands on the king’s hands. In that way, he was showing that the king would not succeed by his own efforts. Instead, the king must trust God for success. Elisha ordered the king to shoot towards the east. That was because the *Syrians had *conquered that area. To shoot an arrow in that way meant to declare war. Jehoash would defeat the *Syrians at Aphek, where Ahab had defeated them 60 years earlier.
Then Elisha told King Jehoash to strike the arrows on the ground. In that way, he tested whether Jehoash would attack the *Syrians more strongly than Ahab. Jehoash only struck the ground 3 times. That showed that he would not win completely against his enemies. Even as Ahab had not won completely, Jehoash too would not have complete success.
We do not know why Jehoash did not continue to strike the arrows against the ground. Some people have thought that he did not want to defeat Syria completely. Another country called Assyria was becoming very powerful. And in the future, Syria might support *Israel in their battles against Assyria. Probably however, Jehoash’s reason was simpler. Jehoash did not trust God. And he did not really believe that the *prophet’s words had much value. Jehoash had already struck the ground three times because Elisha asked him to do that. But Jehoash did not think that the action had any purpose. He thought that it was nonsense. He did not have any *faith that God would fight on his behalf. So he did not continue to obey the *prophet.
Elisha was angry. The king’s actions showed that he did not trust God. God wanted to fight on behalf of *Israel. God loved the *Israelites and he had made special promises to them. But, like all the kings of *Israel, Jehoash would not trust God completely. All these kings *worshipped the *idols at Bethel and Dan which Jeroboam established. They loved their *sin more than they loved God. The *Israelites would never be completely loyal to God.
Elisha died and the people buried him. A short time afterwards, a group of soldiers from Moab attacked. This happened often in the Spring. They would steal whatever they could take. And they would lead people away to be their slaves. So the *Israelites had to watch carefully as they carried out their daily tasks. They did not know when they might need to run away.
Some people were burying a dead man. But before the grave was ready, someone saw a group of soldiers from Moab. The people who were burying the body would have to run away. So they threw the body quickly into Elisha’s grave. The dead man became alive again and he stood up. That shows that God’s power makes people alive. That was an astonishing *miracle. It showed that, even after Elisha’s death, his God was still alive. It proved that God was still active in *Israel. He would still work on behalf of his people.
This is also a very special *miracle because God used something dead (Elisha’s bones) to give life. For Christians, that is an exciting idea. It reminds them how God gave new life to them by means of Jesus’ death. And God even gives life to people’s bodies by that same event. In Matthew 27:52-53, we read that after Jesus’ death, this happened. ‘Many among God’s people that had died became alive again. They left the graves.’ And that will happen again in the future (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).
Jehoash was successful because God was kind to *Israel. But although God did all these wonderful things for Jehoash, Jehoash still did not trust God. Jehoash *worshipped false gods as all the kings of *Israel had done. God was kind to *Israel because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God always performs his promises. So although the *Israelites were not loyal to him, his special relationship with them continued.
Jehoash took back the cities that Benhadad had taken from Jehoash’s father. But Jehoash only defeated the *Syrians three times, as Elisha had *prophesied.
Amaziah was a strong king. He started well, but he did not finish well. He was not as good a king as his *ancestor David. Amaziah did what his father had done. It seems that Amaziah continued to *worship God at the *temple. But Amaziah did not remove the places where people *worshipped on the high hills. Amaziah killed as a legal punishment those officials who had murdered his father. He did not do that until the *kingdom was under his control. At that time, Amaziah obeyed the laws of Moses. He did not kill the children of the people that had murdered his father. (Look at Deuteronomy 24:16.) We should not punish people for other people’s crimes.
The people in Edom had *rebelled against *Judah. That had happened at the time when Jehoram ruled (2 Kings 8:20-22). However, Amaziah defeated them on the plain near the Dead Sea. That plain was called the valley of Salt. Amaziah also *captured a city. Some people think that it was the city called Petra.
Everything that we read about Amaziah’s religion before this battle was good. He obeyed God’s law (verse 6). He followed a *prophet’s advice (2 Chronicles 25:7-10). But after the battle, Amaziah’s character changed. He *worshipped *idols (2 Chronicles 25:14). He refused to listen to a *prophet (2 Chronicles 25:15-16). And Amaziah became proud. Those proud attitudes would cause great trouble for him, as we shall see below.
This was the second man called Jeroboam that was a king of *Israel. This Jeroboam was the most successful king of *Israel. That is, he ruled for a longer period than any other king of *Israel. Also, his military successes were greater than any other king of *Israel achieved. Jeroboam ruled together with his father for about 12 years (793 to 782 *B.C.). Then Jeroboam started to rule alone as the king. He ruled alone in 782 to 753 *B.C.. That period began in the 15th year of Amaziah’s rule. In total, Jeroboam ruled for 41 years (793 to 753 *B.C.). Like all the kings of *Israel, Jeroboam did not serve the *Lord. Jeroboam *worshipped images of *bulls, as the first King Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, had done.
We can read about the state of religion during Jeroboam’s rule in the Books of Hosea and Amos. These *prophets lived at the same time as Jeroboam. They record that the *sins of the people in *Israel were very severe (Amos 1:6-8; Amos 4:1-5). The important people in *Israel were especially guilty (Amos 5:10-12). Such *sins would cause the end of the country called *Israel. But that did not happen until 50 years after Jeroboam’s death.
During Jeroboam’s rule, God decided to help the people in *Israel. God saw that everyone in *Israel was suffering because of the power of their enemies. So God used Jeroboam as his agent to rescue the people in *Israel. That was the reason for *Israel’s military successes during Jeroboam’s rule. But we can see from the *prophecies in Hosea and Amos that the people were not grateful to God. They continued their *sins. And Jeroboam continued to lead the people to *worship *idols.
God sent a *prophet to *Israel before Jeroboam’s military successes happened. God often sent a *prophet to announce what would happen in the future. Then afterwards, people would realise that God brought about the event (compare 2 Kings chapter 7). So the event did not happen merely by chance or by human effort. It happened because God promised it. It interests us to see the name of this particular *prophet. He was Jonah. The Book of Jonah records his visit to Nineveh. Some people have guessed that the Book of Jonah is just fiction. But in fact, Jonah was a real man. And he appears here in a book about *Israel’s history.
During Jeroboam’s rule, the *prophets began to write down their *prophecies. The first one among these *prophets was Amos.
Uzziah (also called Azariah) began to rule together with his father in 790 *B.C.. He became the king alone after his father died in 767 *B.C.. Uzziah did what was right. He *worshipped God at the *temple. But he did not remove the places where people *worshipped on the high hills.
Like his grandfather Joash and his father Amaziah, Uzziah was loyal to God during the first part of his rule. A man called Zechariah taught Uzziah to serve God. But after Uzziah’s successes, Uzziah became proud.
2 Chronicles chapter 26 gives further information about Uzziah’s rule. He defeated the army of Philistia. And he defeated an army from Arabia. Uzziah built tall buildings to protect Jerusalem. Soldiers could stand at the top of those buildings. From there, they could see their enemies a long distance away. Uzziah’s soldiers even invented new military equipment. They had machines that could shoot arrows. And they had machines that could throw stones. So there was much progress during Uzziah’s rule.
Uzziah had many skills. He built new buildings. He encouraged people to work with agriculture. He had a large and powerful army. But he also wanted to do the work that the priests did. He tried to burn *incense in the *temple. That was a terrible *sin. The *Lord had ordered that only the *descendants of Aaron could be priests. So Uzziah’s action was *rebellion against God. The priests tried to stop Uzziah so that he would not carry out his *sin. They told him that he was not loyal to God. They urged him to stop. But Uzziah became very angry. Immediately, Uzziah became ill. The front of his head became white because of a serious skin disease. When everyone saw this, they hurried him out of the *temple. For the rest of his life, he had to live alone. His son became the king. This story warns us too: we must not become proud. We must only *worship God in the manner that he wants us to.
Uzziah’s punishment was less severe than the punishment of other people who were guilty of similar *sins. Nadab and Abihu died in Leviticus 10:1-2. Korah and his followers died in Numbers 16:31-35. But God was kind to Uzziah. That is why his punishment was less severe. God allowed Uzziah to live. Of course, Uzziah had to be humble after that event. Because of his illness, Uzziah could not enter the *temple again. He could not continue to rule. And even when Uzziah died, his grave was not among his *ancestors’ graves. People considered that he should have a separate grave because of the circumstances.
This passage explains how the rule of Jehu’s family ended. Their rule lasted for 4 *generations (2 Kings 10:30). Zechariah only ruled for 6 months and then Shallum murdered him.
The final period in the history of *Israel (the northern *kingdom) had begun. The country would exist for only another 30 years. During those years, there was a series of kings. Most of those kings obtained power when they murdered the previous king. There were many revolutions and many wars. In the end, the army of Assyria would overcome *Israel.
Shallum only ruled for a month. Then Menahem killed him. Menahem was very cruel, as we learn from the story. He attacked Tiphsah because its inhabitants would not support him. He wanted to frighten anyone else who might try to oppose him.
By the time of Menahem’s rule, Assyria had become a very powerful country. Menahem realised that he could not defeat the army from Assyria. So he decided to pay the king of Assyria for a peace agreement (see Hosea 5:13). The price was large and, of course, Menahem did not pay the money himself. Instead, he forced the people to pay taxes. Menahem collected the silver then he paid it to Assyria’s king. Menahem realised that Assyria’s king would then support him. So Assyria’s king helped Menahem to deal with the people that opposed Menahem. Then the king of Assyria went away. But he only went away for a short time, as we learn later in this chapter.
When Menahem died, people buried his body. Then his son became king. Menahem was the last of *Israel’s kings to receive a proper grave among his *ancestors’ graves.
Pekahiah ruled for only 2 years. Then one of his own officers opposed him.
*Israel was in a terrible state at this time. The *prophets Amos, Hosea and Isaiah described how cruel the leaders of *Israel had become. It seems as if nobody trusted anyone else. The king could not even trust the leader of his army. They were all evil men. And they were all eager to carry out their ambitions. Pekah plotted his attack carefully. He entered the royal palace with 50 soldiers to support him. There, he murdered the king and two other important men. Then Pekah appointed himself to be the new king.
Pekah ruled for 20 years. He had a strong army. He made an agreement with the king of Syria. Together, they tried to attack *Judah (16:5; Isaiah chapter 7). And they had great success (2 Chronicles 28:5-8). But, as Isaiah *prophesied (Isaiah 7:16-17), God would send a much stronger army against both *Israel and Syria. That enemy was the king of Assyria. During Pekah’s rule, Assyria’s king *captured several cities in Pekah’s country *Israel. The king of Assyria also *captured larger areas of Pekah’s territory. He took some people away from those places. Those people included the entire *tribe of Naphtali. The king of Assyria forced all those people to leave their homes. He forced them to live and to work in Assyria. God had said that it would happen. So this *prophecy that God had given started to become true. ‘You must listen to what I say. If you do not listen, then… I will scatter you among the nations. Your enemies will destroy your cities.’ That is in Leviticus 26:27-33.
In the end, another powerful man called Hoshea murdered Pekah. There is an account of Hoshea’s rule in chapter 17. Hoshea would be the last king of *Israel, that is, the northern *kingdom.
Jotham ruled well. He built the higher gate to the *temple. He *worshipped the *Lord. He could not stop all the evil things in his country. But he encouraged people to do the right things.
2 Chronicles chapter 27 contains a record of his successful war against Ammon. That chapter says that Jotham became a powerful king. And it adds that Jotham remained loyal to the *Lord.
Verse 33 says that Jotham ruled for 16 years. But verse 30 refers to the 20th year during his rule. Probably this means that Jotham ruled alone for 16 years. But afterwards he ruled for 4 more years while his son Ahaz was the official king. And then Pekah died in the 20th year of Jotham’s rule, as verse 30 says.
Ahaz probably started to rule with his father Jotham in 735 *B.C.. We think that Jotham died in 732 *B.C.. Jotham was a good king who remained loyal to God. But God allowed him to die at a fairly young age. We do not know how he died. But we do know that the people were not copying his good behaviour. Because of Jotham’s early death, he did not see the terrible results of their evil deeds.
Ahaz began to rule while his father was still alive. Ahaz was an extremely wicked king. Many of his wicked deeds were because of his religion. In fact, Ahaz served many different false gods. He even *sacrificed his son. That was part of the religion of a false god called Molech. God forbids that wicked practice in Leviticus 18:21.
Ahaz *worshipped another false god, *Baal, on the high *altars and hills. People thought that large trees produced a lot of fruit. So people *worshipped under those trees. They were *worshipping the gods of sex there. The people believed that they would have many children because of that. People did many wicked things as part of their *worship.
During Ahaz’s rule, *Judah became much weaker. First *Israel and Syria attacked *Judah. They had many successes, but they could not overcome Jerusalem. Ahaz paid the king of Assyria so that the king of Assyria would help him. But the king of Assyria actually caused many more troubles for Ahaz. We read more about these matters below and in 2 Chronicles chapter 28. When Ahaz had all these troubles, he began to *worship even more false gods. His wicked behaviour made the *Lord angry.
Because the people in *Judah were so evil, God allowed Rezin and Pekah to attack them. The two kings overcame many towns and cities in *Judah. They killed many soldiers and they took many prisoners. However, Rezin and Pekah still wanted to replace Ahaz with another king. But although they attacked Jerusalem, they did not remove Ahaz. We can read the complete story in 2 Chronicles chapter 28 and Isaiah chapter 7.
In verse 6, the writer mentions ‘Rezin, Syria’s king’. Many people believe that verse 6 should have ‘the king of Edom’ instead. They think that an army from Edom took that area. If these people are correct, the army from Syria did not take it. (See also 2 Chronicles 28:17.)
The *prophet Isaiah lived at this time. God sent a message to Ahaz by means of Isaiah. God told Ahaz that he (Ahaz) must trust God. *Israel and Syria seemed strong, but in fact they were weak. Soon God would send the king of Assyria as his (God’s) agent to attack them (Isaiah chapter 7).
Ahaz was not willing to trust God. Ahaz *worshipped many false gods, but he would not listen to the real God. God told Ahaz to trust him, but Ahaz only trusted his own resources. So Ahaz offered himself and his country to the king of Assyria. Ahaz took gold and silver from the *temple and the palace. He sent the gold and silver to Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser attacked Damascus city and he killed Rezin. Ahaz made himself like a slave to Assyria’s king. Ahaz did not trust God and he did not trust God’s promises. ‘A *curse will come upon the person that trusts in other people. He does not trust the *Lord. ...But the man that trusts in the *Lord is happy’ (Jeremiah 17:5-7).
Ahaz went to Damascus (the capital of Syria) to pay tax to Tiglath-Pileser. There, Ahaz saw an *altar that he liked. He ordered the chief priest to make a copy of it in Jerusalem. When Ahaz returned to Jerusalem, he *sacrificed *offerings on it. Ahaz was doing this in the inner area of the *Lord’s *temple. But Ahaz was not loyal to the *Lord. He had decided to import Syria’s religion and Syria’s gods to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 28:23). He had seen how, during the war, Syria’s army was stronger than his own army. So he supposed that Syria’s gods were more powerful than the *Lord.
The new *altar was much larger than the old one. Ahaz moved the old *altar to a less important place. But he did not want to destroy it. He still wanted it to be there so that he could ask the *Lord for advice.
Ahaz was a man who mixed different religions. He imagined that he could serve many different gods. He supposed that they would all be on his side. But the *Lord is the only real God. He is not like other gods. Such gods are mere images of wood, metal and stone. If they have any power, it comes from the devil. Such gods cannot help people. They cannot give good advice. They are without any value whatever (Isaiah 44:15-20).
But the *Lord is not like those false gods. He created the heavens and the earth. He alone deserves our honour and our *worship. And he has ordered that people must not serve any other god (Deuteronomy 5:7-10).
It is terrible that Uriah, the chief priest, allowed the king to do these things. The chief priest permitted the *worship of false gods in the *Lord’s *temple. This fact proves how wicked the people in *Judah were. We may remember how brave Uriah’s *ancestors were. They risked their lives to defend the *Lord’s *temple. For example, Azariah desperately urged King Uzziah not to offer *incense to the *Lord in the *temple (2 Chronicles 26:17-18). And Zechariah died in the *temple area because he spoke the *Lord’s message to King Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). But when King Ahaz wanted to follow false religions in the *temple, Uriah, this chief priest, agreed. And he even carried out the changes that were necessary for that false religion.
We do not know why Ahaz made the changes in verse 17. It was King Solomon who designed those objects for the *temple. They were works of art. Some people think that perhaps Ahaz wanted the metal in order to pay taxes to Tiglath-Pileser. But perhaps Ahaz simply wanted to make the *temple more modern.
Also, Ahaz took away the platform for the royal seat. That showed that he was not still in complete control of his country. Ahaz shut the king’s private entrance to the *temple. That action showed that he would not go through that entrance. The king of Assyria had become so important in *Judah that Ahaz could not still use his royal entrance. Originally, Ahaz was trying to give just a little control over *Judah to the king of Assyria. But the king of Assyria took more and more control over the country. Soon his control became complete.
If we allow *sin to rule over us, it will control us. In Genesis 4:6, God warned Cain. ‘If you do wrong things, *sin is waiting to control you. But you must overcome it.’ In Romans 6:12-14, Paul writes this: ‘Do not let *sin rule in your body so that you obey *sin. But offer yourselves to God… Because *sin shall not be your master.’
Ahaz died when he was 36 years old. Although Ahaz’s grave was near the royal graves, it was not among them (2 Chronicles 28:27). There were still some people in Jerusalem who were loyal to God. Perhaps those people decided that such an evil king did not deserve a royal grave. They did not want to give him that honour.
In this chapter, the writer tells us how the northern *kingdom (called *Israel) ended. God intended that this event would warn the southern *kingdom (*Judah). But the nation called *Judah did not learn from it. A similar thing happened to them later. King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria controlled Hoshea. Tiglath-Pileser said that he had helped Hoshea to become the king. Then King Shalmaneser became king of Assyria and he controlled Hoshea. Hoshea was not the worst king of *Israel. He allowed people from *Judah to enter *Israel so that they could invite the *Israelites to *worship the *Lord (2 Chronicles 30:5). And some *Israelites travelled to Jerusalem in order to *worship the *Lord there (2 Chronicles 30:11). But most *Israelites were as bad as they had ever been. Hoshea did not ask God for help to remove the army of Assyria. Instead, he stopped his payment of taxes to Shalmaneser. And he asked the king of Egypt for help. That was why Assyria’s king, Shalmaneser, put Hoshea in prison. Then Shalmaneser attacked Samaria city and his army surrounded it for 3 years. Finally, King Sargon *captured the city. He had become king of Assyria after Shalmaneser. Sargon said that he took away 27 900 people from Samaria. He left some people there, who were not important.
The writer tells us why the northern *kingdom (called *Israel) ended. He gives us all the details about it. God had done great things for the *Israelites. He had rescued them from Egypt. He had forced other people out from the *Israelites’ country so that the *Israelites could live there. But he warned the *Israelites not to *worship other gods. However, the people did not obey God’s laws. They made images of other gods and they gave honour to those gods. It did not matter whether a place was only a village without walls. People said that it must have an *altar. They *worshipped the false gods called *Baal and Asherah. And they *worshipped many other gods also. They did not listen to the people that God sent with messages. They followed the customs and religions of the people that had lived there before them.
The *Israelites did not listen to God. They did not obey him. They became slaves to their *sin. It seemed impossible for them to do the right things. They gave honour to the images of two *bulls. They gave honour to the stars, the female god Asherah and the god *Baal. They even *sacrificed their own children to give honour to other gods. They tried to discover the future by the use of *spirits. All these practices were very wicked. They are against God’s law. They caused God to become angry with them. In the end, their punishment was certain.
Paul says this. ‘God shows his anger against all the *sin and wicked things that people do... They know God. But they do not give him the honour that belongs to him... Those people say that they are wise. But they are fools... They desire things that ought to cause disgust. And so God has left those people alone so that they can do those things.’ (Romans 1:18; 1:21-22; 1:24). Jesus said this. ‘Everyone that *sins is a slave to *sin… But if the Son makes you free, you will be really free’ (John 8:34; 8:36). Only Jesus can free us from *sin’s power.
The writer gives his opinion about *Israel’s *rebellion. He says that *Judah’s people were almost as bad as *Israel’s people. Finally, God allowed the army from Assyria to take the *Israelites into Assyria. They were still there when the writer wrote this book.
Assyria’s king made some people from various countries live in Samaria. His plan was this. If he mixed the people from different countries together, they would not *rebel.
There were many lions in that country. There were probably not enough people to keep the lions under control. In addition to that, God allowed the lions to attack the people. By that means, God intended to warn them. The people asked the king of Assyria to send a priest to them. The priest would teach them how to give honour to God.
The king agreed and so a priest came. And he taught them about God. But they still did not stop their false religions. They gave honour to God and they gave honour to their own *idols as well. They made images of their own gods and they *worshipped the images as *idols.
In time, those different groups of people married each other. So they did not still belong to separate nations. People called them the ‘Samaritans’. Much later, they stopped *worshipping *idols. Then they followed what Moses had taught. They said that there was only one God. They believed that they should give honour to God on the mountain called Gerizim. But the *Jews believed that they should give honour to God in Jerusalem. The two groups disagreed with each other. (We can see that fact in a story about Jesus. It was when he met a woman from Samaria. It is in John 4:20-24.)
When the people in Samaria gave honour to *idols, their behaviour was wrong. There is only one real God. God wants us to serve him only. We must not serve other gods as well (Deuteronomy 5:7-10).
The *Israelites’ great *sin was this. They gave honour to *idols. They gave honour to other gods than the real God. They hoped that those gods would rescue them from their troubles. When the *Israelites had to leave Samaria, this *sin continued. The people who lived there afterwards gave honour to *idols as well as the real God. And they were still carrying on that *sin when the writer wrote this book.
We may not give honour to images that people have made out of wood or metal or stone. But perhaps we have other things that take God’s place in our lives. For example, we may do what other people tell us to do. And so we may not do what God tells us to do. Our possessions may be more important to us than God is. Jesus warned about such attitudes. He said, ‘You cannot serve God and money’ (Matthew 6:24).
Hezekiah’s father Ahaz was among the worst kings. Hezekiah was among the best kings. Ahaz was a bad model for his son. But Hezekiah did not behave like Ahaz. Instead, Hezekiah behaved like his *ancestor David. Hezekiah had seen all the trouble that Ahaz’s *rebellion against God caused (2 Chronicles 29:8-9). And so Hezekiah decided to be completely loyal to God.
Hezekiah made the *kingdom better. He removed the images of male and female gods. He removed the places where people *worshipped on the high hills. Hezekiah even broke the metal snake that Moses had made. In Numbers 21:8-9, we see that God ordered Moses to make that metal snake. God told people to look at it. Then God cured them after the snakes had bitten them. Jesus said that the metal snake was like himself. It showed how he came to rescue people (John 3:14-15; John 12:32). But in Hezekiah’s day, people gave honour to the metal snake itself. They did not give honour to God. So Hezekiah destroyed the metal snake. We should not give honour to any images. We should not even give honour to images of the cross. (The cross is the sign of the Christian religion. It has the same shape as the wooden cross where Jesus died. So what happened on the cross is very important to Christians. But they must be careful to give honour to Jesus himself, and not to any image, model or sign.)
Hezekiah did not only make changes in religion. He made political changes as well. His father, Ahaz, had given control over *Judah to Assyria (16:7). But Hezekiah refused to serve the king of Assyria. That decision caused serious trouble, as we shall see below. Hezekiah also defeated the people in Philistia.
In verses 9-12, the writer repeats what he described in 2 Kings 17:3-8. This information helps us to understand why *Judah’s inhabitants did not continue to give honour to *idols. They saw what had happened to *Israel. Those *idols did not save *Israel. And this information also helps us to understand why *Judah was so weak. Previously, the kings of Assyria had to attack *Israel before they could attack *Judah. But now *Israel did not exist, and Assyria controlled its land completely.
King Sennacherib was ready to attack *Judah. He took control of all the important towns on the border. Or he took control of most towns there. The towns that had strong defences were the ones on the border.
King Hezekiah was desperate. He could see that, without the protection of the border towns, Jerusalem was very weak. So he offered to pay a large sum of money to make peace. The king of Assyria asked for a considerable amount of silver and gold.
Hezekiah did not only take money from the safe place where the government kept its valuable things. He took it from the *Lord’s *temple as well. That decision should surprise us. Hezekiah was very loyal to the *Lord. We would not expect such a man to take things from the *Lord’s *temple for any purpose. And especially, we would not expect him to take back things that he himself had given to the *Lord.
Bible teachers disagree about whether Hezekiah should have done this. Some teachers say that Hezekiah’s situation was very desperate. Unless he paid, the King of Assyria would destroy both the city and the *temple. Hezekiah only took these things so that he could save much more important things, especially the *temple.
Other teachers say that Hezekiah was not really trusting God. When Hezekiah was successful, it was easy for him to serve God. But when the situation became serious, Hezekiah became weak. During his successful early years, Hezekiah made many great changes in *Judah. But although he changed people’s actions, perhaps their belief in God remained weak.
However, Hezekiah’s plan to pay the king of Assyria to go away failed. The king of Assyria took the silver and gold. But then, as we shall see below, he did not leave *Judah. There was no peace. The king of Assyria wanted to destroy *Judah completely, as he had already done to *Israel.
Although the king of Assyria accepted Hezekiah’s money, Assyria’s king did not take his own army away. Instead, Assyria’s king sent three chief officials to persuade the people in *Judah to give up their resistance. Assyria’s king did not want the nation called *Judah to continue to exist. He wanted to take its inhabitants away to Assyria. There they would live with people from other nations.
So these three chief officials came to Jerusalem with a large army. They brought this message to Hezekiah. The people in *Judah had said that they had military strength. But those were just words. Really, *Judah’s army was weak. The people in *Judah thought that the king of Egypt would help them to fight Assyria. But Assyria’s king laughed at that idea. He compared the king of Egypt to a broken walking stick. A man who depends on such a stick would only hurt himself. So if the people in *Judah trusted Egypt, they would only damage themselves. Therefore, Assyria’s king said that the people in *Judah could not trust either their own army or Egypt’s army. But that was not all. Assyria’s king tried to prove that God was supporting him and not Hezekiah. Hezekiah had destroyed the places where the people *worshipped. So they could not trust God to help them.
The official tried to persuade *Judah’s officials and its people to oppose Hezekiah. He tried to show them that *Judah’s situation was hopeless.
Then the official reminded them how weak *Judah’s army was. If he gave *Judah 2000 horses, *Judah’s army would be unable to find 2000 men to ride on them. Even Assyria’s weakest officials would be powerful enough to defeat *Judah’s army. Then, he said that God had told him to attack the country. Perhaps he had heard about the *prophecies that Isaiah and Micah had given.
Hezekiah’s officials asked the army commander from Assyria to speak in the *Aramaic language. (Politicians spoke *Aramaic.) They asked him not to speak Hebrew (the language that the people spoke in *Judah). Then the ordinary people would not understand what he was saying. But the commander said that his message was for everybody. He wanted to make the people oppose their king.
The commander was behaving like the devil. The devil wants to make people oppose God. The devil made Adam and Eve doubt God. He asked them, ‘Did God really say that?’ He told them, ‘You will be like God.’ (Genesis 3:1-5).
The army commander continued to oppose Hezekiah. He told the people not to believe Hezekiah. On behalf of Assyria’s king, the commander promised *peace and wealth to the people, if they obeyed him. He told them to choose life, not death. No other god had rescued its nation from Assyria’s army. And the commander told the people that the *Lord would not be able to do it. The people did not answer the commander.
Notice this. The leader used the same words that Moses had used in Deuteronomy 30:19. Moses told his people that they could have life. That would happen if they obeyed God’s *commandments.
The army commander made a serious mistake. He thought that God was like other (false) gods. The devil wants us to think that God is not very great. The devil also promises good things to us. But God alone can give really good things to us.
Hezekiah was very sad, because the official had insulted God. Hezekiah went to the *temple to pray. Then he sent a message to the *prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah’s most important officials and priests took that message. Hezekiah asked Isaiah to pray for the people who were still alive in *Judah. And he wanted Isaiah to pray for Jerusalem city. Sennacherib had already *captured most cities in *Judah.
There were two reasons why Hezekiah wanted Isaiah to pray. The first reason was that Hezekiah was afraid. The second reason was that he had hope in God. He hoped that God would act against *Judah’s enemies. Those enemies had insulted God. So Hezekiah hoped that God would punish them.
Isaiah replied to Hezekiah with a message from God. God promised that he would make the king of Assyria very afraid. The king would return to his own country. There, somebody would murder him.
The army commander from Assyria left Jerusalem. He went to get further orders from King Sennacherib. The commander discovered that the king was fighting. He was fighting against the people in Libnah. Then, however, Sennacherib heard that King Tirhakah of Cush was coming with a large army. Today, we call Cush: ‘Ethiopia’ or ‘Sudan’. Cush was south of Egypt, but at this time, the kings of Cush also ruled Egypt. Therefore, Tirhakah was the same king of Egypt whom Sennacherib insulted in 18:21.
Sennacherib said that Tirhakah would never come to help *Judah. But now Tirhakah was coming to attack Sennacherib, and Sennacherib was afraid. Sennacherib realised that he could not continue his attack against *Judah. He did not have enough men in his army to fight firstly Tirhakah and then to defeat Jerusalem.
So, instead, Sennacherib wrote a letter to frighten Hezekiah. He tried to persuade Hezekiah to give the city into his control. Sennacherib reminded Hezekiah that he (Sennacherib) had *conquered many countries. Sennacherib had *conquered kings and gods. So he said that Hezekiah should not trust in his God to rescue him. Such an attitude would be very foolish, Sennacherib argued. (Of course, Sennacherib did not say that he himself was afraid of an attack by King Tirhakah’s army. Compare that with what Sennacherib said in 2 Kings 18:20-21!)
Hezekiah did not reply to the letter, but he went up to the *temple to pray. He placed the letter in front of God as he prayed. He praised God as the God of *Israel. *Israel was God’s special nation. And *Judah was the part of *Israel that still remained. God was also the one that made the whole earth. He also ruled over it. Hezekiah asked God to act because of the insults that Sennacherib had spoken. Hezekiah agreed that the army from Assyria had *captured many nations. He knew that they had destroyed those nations’ gods. But those were not real gods. They were only wood and stone. Hezekiah prayed that God would rescue the *Jews. Then everyone would know that he was the only God.
Especially, Hezekiah urged God to act so that God would receive honour. Sennacherib had insulted God. And God is the living God, who rules heaven and earth. People in other nations would see how God acted against Sennacherib. They would realise how weak Sennacherib was. And they would realise how great and powerful God is. So people everywhere would respect God after he rescued Jerusalem. And they would know that Sennacherib’s insults had no value whatever.
Hezekiah could be confident as he prayed. God had already promised, by his *prophet, that he would rescue Jerusalem (verses 6-7). So Hezekiah had *faith in God’s word. He believed God. And so he asked God to act as God himself had promised to do.
God gave his answer in the form of a song. Sennacherib and his officials had laughed at God. But in this song, God laughed at Sennacherib. And God described how the people in Jerusalem would laugh at Sennacherib too. Sennacherib had become too proud. He thought that he could defeat any god. But the Holy God of *Israel is not like a false god. When the real God opposed Sennacherib, Sennacherib would be very weak.
Sennacherib was proud because of his great successes in war. Sennacherib said that he had *conquered the highest mountains. He had cut down large trees. (The Bible sometimes refers to mountains and trees as word pictures for great nations and rulers. That may be the meaning here too. In other words, Sennacherib had defeated the greatest rulers and their nations.) And it was true that Sennacherib was very successful. Sennacherib had *conquered foreign countries. But he had only been able to do that because God had allowed it. He had *conquered other people, but God would *conquer him. Soldiers from Assyria often dragged their prisoners away like horses. They often put pieces of metal in the prisoners’ noses. And they put bits in the prisoners’ mouths. (A bit is a metal bar that people put in a horse’s mouth. They attach a band to it that someone has made of leather. So then they can control the animal.) But God would send Assyria’s soldiers back to their own country. And he would be as strict with them as they were with their own prisoners.
*Judah’s inhabitants would lose the harvest from two agricultural years. During the first year, the war was so severe that the people could not take care of their crops. So there was no harvest that year. But some corn would grow anyway, although nobody was able to look after it. So the people would eat that.
Because of the war, it would not be possible to sow corn during the second agricultural year. Because people could not collect the previous year’s corn easily, some seeds would fall into the ground. Those seeds would grow and they would yield some corn.
But in the third year, the army from Assyria would not still be there. They would go away before the time to sow seeds. So in the third year, the people would be able to sow seeds. And they would be able to harvest the crops. Those people that had escaped would be able to go back to their homes. They would continue to live there for a long time. So they could plant fruit bushes. Such plants take several years to yield a harvest. So the people would be able to live in the country for many more years. They would have peace.
God promised that the soldiers from Assyria would not enter Jerusalem. They would not even attack it. God would make that happen for his own honour. That would make his promise to David become true.
Many people believe that the soldiers in the army died because of a serious disease. Sennacherib returned to his own country. There, two of his own sons *rebelled against him. They killed him. Then they escaped. A third son became the king after Sennacherib. Nisroch may be another name for the god Marduk, whom people *worshipped in Babylon.
This event probably happened before the army from Assyria attacked. The attack happened in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s rule. That was in 701 *B.C.. Merodach Baladan (verse 12) died 2 years before that, in 703 *B.C..
Hezekiah had some kind of plague (a disease that kills many people.) The evidence of that disease was some kind of boils (things like hard painful lumps under the skin). The illness became so serious that the people were expecting Hezekiah to die.
During Hezekiah’s life, Isaiah was the main *prophet in *Judah. God sent Isaiah with a message for Hezekiah. God told Hezekiah that he (Hezekiah) should not expect to recover. Instead, he should prepare for his death. Therefore, he should appoint the next king who would rule after him. And he should make financial arrangements in order to provide for his family.
This message upset Hezekiah greatly. He began to pray desperately. And his prayer was so desperate that he wept much. Hezekiah later wrote a record of what he prayed on that occasion (Isaiah 38:9-14). He considered that he was dying too soon. He had not achieved everything that he needed to achieve during his life. If he died at this time, his work for God would not be complete.
Hezekiah was not asking God to cure him because of his (Hezekiah’s) good deeds. He was asking God to act because of his (God’s) great kindness.
Hezekiah got an immediate answer. God promised to cure him. In 3 days, Hezekiah would be able to go to the *temple to give thanks. He would live for 15 more years. And also, God would save Jerusalem’s people from an attack by Assyria’s army.
People often ask about Isaiah’s use of figs (fruit) in this passage. Figs were a very cheap and common remedy. But they are not a powerful enough remedy to cure a very serious illness. They certainly would not cure someone who is likely to die. Of course it is right to use medicines if they are available. God has provided medicines as the natural means to cure ill people. But it does not seem that the figs made Hezekiah well here. Perhaps Isaiah told Hezekiah to use figs as an act to show *faith. Or perhaps the figs would ease Hezekiah’s pain until God cured him.
It took 3 days before Hezekiah was well enough to visit the *temple again. Hezekiah was very grateful to God. And Hezekiah wanted to thank God for his kindness. That is why he went to the *temple. He probably offered a special *sacrifice there.
Soon afterwards, Hezekiah wrote his own record of these events. You can read it in Isaiah 38:9-20.
During his illness, Hezekiah asked God to give him some evidence that Isaiah’s *prophecy was correct. Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, had built a staircase. When the sun’s shadow fell on it, it had the same function as a clock. It showed people what the time was. Hezekiah asked that the sun’s shadow should go back. Of course, such a thing never happens. The sun always travels in the same direction across the sky. So shadows always move in the same direction too. But somehow, God actually made the shadow go back. We do not know how that happened. It was a *miracle.
After Hezekiah recovered, he became proud (2 Chronicles 32:24-25). And then God was angry with him. Perhaps that was when the army from Assyria attacked. Or perhaps it refers to the visitors from Babylon – see below. (The order of these events is not clear. Probably the visitors from Babylon came before Assyria attacked.) But afterwards, Hezekiah *repented and he became humble again (2 Chronicles 32:26).
Babylon was not an important country at this time. The kings of Assyria controlled it and, for a few years, the king of Babylon had to live abroad. After some years, Babylon would overcome Assyria and then Babylon became much more powerful. In fact, just 100 years later, Babylon would be the most powerful nation in the world.
There were several reasons why the king of Babylon sent this message to Hezekiah:
(1) He was pleased that Hezekiah had recovered after his illness. So the king of Babylon was being polite.
(2) The people in Babylon *worshipped the sun. They heard how the sun’s shadow had gone in the opposite direction. So they thought that they should give honour to Hezekiah. They wanted to ask him about this strange event (2 Chronicles 32:31).
(3) The people in Babylon wanted to *rebel against Assyria’s king. They hoped that Hezekiah would help them in that. So they wanted to have friendly relations with him. And they wanted to know about his military power. Then they could make an agreement with him.
2 Chronicles 32:31 explains what happened next. God was testing Hezekiah’s real attitudes. Hezekiah should have asked God for advice. It was very foolish to make a peace agreement without God’s advice. The *Israelites did that in Joshua chapter 9. But the people who requested that agreement were telling lies to the *Israelites. And Hezekiah would make a similar mistake.
Hezekiah was not wise when he showed all his wealth to those men. Perhaps he wanted them to tell their master what a great king he (Hezekiah) was. He tried to impress them. But it seems that he did not understand the importance of his actions. And of course, he did not know how important Babylon would become in the future. Only God knew that.
Isaiah asked what those men were doing. Hezekiah told him what he (Hezekiah) had done. Then Isaiah said that people would take away all Hezekiah’s wealth. Isaiah also said that Hezekiah’s *descendants would become slaves to the king of Babylon. (That actually happened to Hezekiah’s own son.)
Hezekiah agreed with God’s decision. God’s judgements are always right and fair. Hezekiah understood that, and he was humble. And Hezekiah was glad that God had not ordered those things to happen during Hezekiah’s life. There would be *peace while he was alive. Perhaps his *descendants would change their behaviour and the nation would trust God again. Then they might avoid *disaster.
King Hezekiah achieved many things. He built the pool called Siloam. (Look at John 9:7.) He built a tunnel (an underground passage) to bring the water to the pool. That would help the people in the city if other people attacked it. This tunnel still exists; its construction was an immense task. The workmen had to dig, by hand, through 1700 feet (518 metres) of solid rock.
The story about Hezekiah shows how God answers our prayers. But it also warns us not to have confidence in our own wisdom. And we must not have confidence in our own wealth. ‘You must trust the *Lord completely. Do not have confidence in your own wisdom. Remember the *Lord in everything that you do. He will show to you the right thing to do.’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Manasseh began to rule when he was 12 years old. If he began to rule after his father’s death, then Manasseh was born 3 years after his father’s illness. However, some people think that Manasseh ruled together with his father for some years. If they are right, Manasseh was born before his father’s illness. Of course, Manasseh did not rule alone until his father died.
After Hezekiah’s death, Manasseh’s true character became clear. Hezekiah had made great changes in *Judah, but he could not change the attitude of people’s hearts. People could not continue to *worship false gods in public during Hezekiah’s rule. But Manasseh’s rule gave them a new opportunity to establish their evil religions. Probably those people that had opposed Hezekiah’s changes persuaded Manasseh to do wrong things. Manasseh ruled for 55 years. That was longer than any other king ruled in *Judah. Part of that time he was a prisoner in Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11).
Earlier, Manasseh’s father had destroyed places where people *worshipped. But Manasseh built those places again. He made *altars to give honour to *Baal and *Baal’s wife Asherah. He put the image of Asherah in the *Lord’s *temple. Manasseh also put *altars to *worship the stars there. It was a very terrible *sin to establish these false religions in the *Lord’s holy *temple. Manasseh even *sacrificed his own son. That murder shows how wicked Manasseh’s religion was. He also practised magic. And he went to people that pretended to tell about the future. That too is against God’s law (Deuteronomy 18:10-14). Manasseh did more wicked things than any other king did.
By means of the *prophets, God warned the people that he would punish them. He would do that in the same manner as he had punished the people in the northern *kingdom. God would remove the inhabitants from Jerusalem. Jerusalem had become like a dirty dish. In order to clean that dish, nothing can remain in it. And so everyone would have to leave Jerusalem. God would allow the people’s enemies to *capture them. The enemies would take all the people’s possessions.
In the end, God had to punish *Judah. The *sins had become too terrible. They were even worse than the *sins of the original inhabitants of the country. God destroyed those nations when he gave their country to the *Israelites. And now the people in *Judah were carrying on the same *sins, and worse *sins too. Their punishment was certain. The Bible says, ‘If we continue to *sin, there is no *sacrifice for *sin. We can only expect punishment from God… The *Lord will be the judge over his people. It is a terrible thing to suffer God’s punishment.’ (Hebrews 10:26-31).
And it was not enough for Manasseh to *sin because of his evil religion. He also became a murderer. In fact, Manasseh killed many innocent people. They probably included those people that opposed his *sins. In the *Jews’ tradition, they say that Manasseh sawed the *prophet Isaiah in half. (Some people think that Hebrews 11:37 is referring to Isaiah’s death.)
In 2 Chronicles 33:11-13, we read that later Manasseh *repented of his *sin. That happened after Assyria’s army had taken him as a prisoner. They took him to Babylon. And because of his troubles, Manasseh became very humble. He prayed to God, who answered his prayer. God allowed Manasseh to return to Jerusalem, and there was a complete change in Manasseh’s attitudes. Manasseh removed the *idols that he had made. He *worshipped the *Lord, and he ordered the people to *worship the *Lord too. Manasseh allowed the people to *worship on the hills, but he would not let them *worship false gods even there. The changes that Manasseh made were astonishing. God can rescue even the most wicked people from their *sins. But they must be completely humble. They must *repent in a sincere manner. And they must invite God into their lives.
In 2 Kings, however, the writer does not mention that Manasseh *repented. The changes that Manasseh made were great. But still, they could not change the *Lord’s judgement against *Judah. Manasseh changed the people’s actions, but he could not change the attitude of their hearts. As soon as Manasseh died, the people began to *worship their *idols again.
People buried Manasseh in the garden of the palace. Perhaps people could not bury him in the royal graves because he had too many *sins for that. The result of Manasseh’s rule was that God punished *Judah.
Amon was as bad as his father was. But unlike Manasseh, Amon never *repented. We learn that fact from 2 Chronicles 33:23. Manasseh had made things better after he came back from Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:15-16). However, Amon brought back the old ways in which to *worship. He allowed people to *worship *idols again. And he himself *worshipped all those *idols.
After just two years, Amon’s officials murdered him. Then the people in *Judah killed those officials as a punishment. Amon’s son Josiah became king after him. We do not know why the officials plotted against Amon.
Josiah became king when he was 8 years old. He ruled for 31 years, from 640 to 609 *B.C.. He pleased God and he obeyed God’s laws. In 2 Chronicles 34:3, we learn this. When Josiah was 16 years old, he began to *worship the *Lord. After that, Josiah began to destroy the places where people *worshipped other gods. He did that when he was 20 years old. He destroyed the *altars where people *worshipped *Baal. And Josiah destroyed the images of Asherah (the female god).
Josiah began to repair the *temple when he was 26 years old. Josiah collected money for the *temple. He did it by the same method that Joash had used earlier. The people that used the money during Josiah’s rule were honest. And the work to repair the *temple began at once.
While people were repairing the *temple, Hilkiah, the chief priest, found a book there. It was the book that contained the law. Many people believe that it was the Book of Deuteronomy. Probably Josiah already knew something about God’s laws. But the book had a powerful effect on Josiah. Deuteronomy chapter 28 warns about God’s punishment if people do not obey God’s law. Such passages upset Josiah greatly.
The Bible is God’s message to men and women. Whenever people rediscover the Bible, it has a powerful effect on their lives. It urges them to trust God, and to obey him completely. It warns them that they must not neglect God. It is the most important book in the world.
It may astonish us today that the priests had actually lost the Bible! At that time, people had to write each copy by hand. And not many people could read or write. So there were few copies. And evil kings had ruled *Judah for a long time. During Manasseh’s and Amon’s rules, people *worshipped false gods in the *temple. People had new gods to *worship, so they put the old books away. Many years passed, and people forgot about the old books. But when the work began in the *temple, the chief priest found this book. Immediately, he realised its importance, so he sent it to the king. Other books of the Bible existed at this time too. Perhaps the chief priest discovered those books later. But it was this first book that upset Josiah.
Josiah did not have a complete Bible. He only had a small part. But he realised that it was extremely important. He listened to it. And then he acted because of its message. Today there is a complete Bible in very many languages. And across the world, Christians are working to translate it into the languages that have no Bible. But today, even when people can read it, many people still neglect it. ‘God wants to rescue us. We certainly will not escape if we neglect his message’ (Hebrews 2:3).
When King Josiah heard about the book, he was very sad. He asked his officials to discover what God wanted him to do. Josiah realised that God was very angry with the people in *Judah. They had not obeyed God’s laws. Josiah wanted to do something so that God would not still be angry with them. Josiah wanted to hear what he should do about that. The officials went to talk to Huldah, a female *prophet. It seems that her husband was well-known. He had an important job, perhaps in the *temple as our translation says, or perhaps in the palace. And maybe that is how the officials knew about Huldah.
Huldah told Josiah that God would destroy Jerusalem. And God would punish its people. The people had made him very angry because they had *worshipped *idols. Their evil deeds had become so severe that they could not avoid punishment.
However, Huldah promised Josiah that he would not see that *disaster. It would not happen during his life. That was because he had become humble towards God. Those people that are afraid of God’s anger are least likely to suffer it.
We learn from the Bible how God wants us to behave. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that the Bible is God’s message to us. Like Josiah, we need to read God’s message. We also need to discover what it means. Then we must obey what God tells us to do in it.
Like Josiah, we too live in an age when God’s punishment is certain (2 Peter 3:10-11). God will not allow evil governments to rule this world always. He will end their power. That is certain and nothing can prevent it. (See Revelation chapter 18.) God would not be a fair judge if he did not act to punish *sin.
But although God’s punishment is certain, we do not have to suffer that punishment. Like Josiah, we can be humble in front of God. We can *repent and we can choose to trust God. Jesus himself suffered the punishment on behalf of those people who will trust him. And in the end, the people who trust God will live in his new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
As God promised, Josiah did not see the *disaster. But he did not live a long life. As we shall see in 23:29, Josiah died in an unnecessary battle. At that time, he was foolish. And he did not ask God what he (Josiah) should do.
But Josiah was not foolish when he received Huldah’s message. He was completely loyal to God. Josiah knew that he could not prevent *disaster in *Judah. But he could still do many good things. He could stop the *worship of *idols. He could teach God’s law to the people. He himself could obey God. And he could try to persuade everyone else in *Judah to do the same things.
King Josiah read to the people the book that contained the law. They all promised God that they would obey his laws.
In verses 4-9, the writer uses the word ‘he’ many times. It is not clear from the Hebrew (the original language of this book) whom ‘he’ means there. Maybe it means King Josiah or maybe it means Hilkiah the priest. Or perhaps the king ordered someone else to do those things.
People used various objects to *worship the false god called *Baal. And they were even *worshipping *Baal in the *Lord’s *temple. King Josiah ordered Hilkiah, the other priests and the guards to remove those things. He (the king or maybe Hilkiah) burned them in the Kidron valley and he took the ashes to Bethel. At Bethel, people first *worshipped the *bull’s image that the former king, Jeroboam, had made out of gold. But those ashes would make that place *unclean. So nobody could use it for *worship again. And the priests at the places where people *worshipped on the high hills could not continue to do their work. He removed those priests, who had burned *incense to *Baal, the sun, the moon and the stars.
In the *temple, there had been an image of the female god called Asherah. Josiah burned that image. He scattered its ashes over people’s graves. That act showed that the image of Asherah was *unclean. Nobody could *worship it. There were men who gave their bodies for sex to *worship *Baal. This was a very wicked thing to do. So it was very terrible that these men lived at the *Lord’s *temple. But Josiah would not allow this to continue. He destroyed those men’s homes. He also destroyed the places where women made clothes. People used those clothes when they *worshipped Asherah.
Josiah destroyed the places where people *worshipped on the hills, all the way from Geba to Beersheba. Geba was in the north and Beersheba was in the south. He brought back to Jerusalem all the priests that had been at the high places. He did not allow them to serve at the *altar in Jerusalem. But he allowed them to live with the priests in Jerusalem. And he allowed them to have a share of those priests’ food.
In verses 10-11, we are not sure exactly who ‘he’ was. Maybe the king did those things himself or maybe he ordered someone to do them.
In this passage, King Josiah continued to destroy the *altars of false religions. He began in *Judah, where of course he ruled (verses 10-14). But then he went north of the border into the country which was previously called *Israel (verses 15-20). This was after Assyria had destroyed *Israel. So Assyria probably ruled Bethel and Samaria. But Josiah still went there to destroy the *altars of these religions.
Topheth means the place where people burn something. It was in the valley called Ben Hinnom. That valley is near Jerusalem. King Josiah made Topheth *unclean. Then people could not burn their children there as a *sacrifice to Molech. Molech was the god that the people in Ammon *worshipped. In order to *worship him, people burned their children in the fire. Afterwards, Ben Hinnom became a place to bury dead people (Jeremiah 7:32).
In Jerusalem city, Josiah removed horses from the entrance to the *temple. They pulled *chariots in processions to give honour to the sun. Josiah burned the *chariots. People had kept those near Nathan-Melech’s room. At the palace, Josiah burned down *altars that *Judah’s kings had put on the roof. He also destroyed the *altars in the open yards at the *temple. Manasseh had put them there. But Josiah broke them in pieces. Then he threw the pieces into the valley called Kidron. So nobody would ever use those *altars again.
People had also *worshipped on the high hills that were east from Jerusalem. King Josiah made those places *unclean also. Solomon (an early king) had built *altars there to give honour to the false gods called Astarte, Chemosh and Molech. He had done that to please his wives (1 Kings 11:5-8). Josiah broke the holy stones and he destroyed the images of Asherah. He scattered human bones over the places so that people would not *worship there again.
Then Josiah left the country that he ruled. He went north into the country that had formerly belonged to *Israel. The army from Assyria had forced most of *Israel’s inhabitants to leave their homes. So most of the people who were now living in *Israel were foreigners. Josiah was very bold when he destroyed *altars outside his own country. He knew that those *altars had been the cause of great *sin in *Judah as well as *Israel. He did everything possible to end those wicked religions.
At Bethel, Josiah destroyed the *altar that another previous king, Nebat’s son Jeroboam, had made. Josiah burned the place where people *worshipped there. He turned it into dust. He also burned the image of Asherah.
Then Josiah saw the graves where people had buried some priests. Those priests had *worshipped *idols. Josiah removed the bones from the graves and he burned them on the *altar. So the *prophet’s message became true (1 Kings 13:1-2).
People still remembered the story about that *prophet. It was 300 years since that *prophet came to Bethel. Another *prophet had given him an impressive grave near the *altar that he opposed. And that other *prophet’s grave was next to it (1 Kings 13:31). When Josiah saw those graves, he asked about them. And the local inhabitants told him the astonishing story in 1 Kings chapter 13. It would have surprised Josiah to hear about this. Long before Josiah’s birth, God had declared what Josiah would do. And God even mentioned Josiah by name in that ancient *prophecy (1 Kings 13:2).
Of course, when Josiah heard about the *prophecy, he did not destroy the graves of either *prophet. He respected these holy men who, so long before, had spoken God’s message.
Then Josiah destroyed all the places where people *worshipped in Samaria’s towns. Those were the ones that the kings of *Israel had built. Josiah killed all the priests that used those *altars for *worship. Those priests belonged to wicked religions. If Josiah had allowed them to live, they would re-establish their religions. And then the people would continue to follow those religions, which had caused so much trouble.
Long afterwards, Paul explained how such religions cause wicked behaviour. First, people refuse to *worship the real God. Then they start to *worship the images of things that God created. Then people begin to care only about themselves, their emotions and their desires. So, people prefer to carry on behaviour that is very wicked. Their wicked desires control them. And in the end, they love to do every wicked thing (Romans 1:21-31). The religion in *Judah and *Israel had become this most wicked sort of religion. Josiah had to act in a powerful manner to stop it.
But although Josiah killed the priests in verse 20, he did not kill the ones in verse 9. That is because the priests in verse 9 *worshipped the real God. They did not *worship at the correct place, however. They *worshipped on the hills, instead of at the *temple in Jerusalem. Josiah did not allow them to continue to *worship on the hills. But they were from Levi’s *tribe, like the priests in the *temple. And Josiah allowed them to eat the sacred food with the other priests.
Many centuries earlier, when Moses was the *Jews’ leader, they were slaves in Egypt. But God freed them by his great power. The *Passover was a special *festival in which they *celebrated those events. The *Jews cooked a lamb (young sheep) over a fire, without water. Then they ate the meat from it and they ate plants with a bitter taste. They also ate bread without yeast. (Yeast is a substance that makes bread rise.)
The way in which Josiah *celebrated the *Passover was a special one. Very many people came to Jerusalem and they *celebrated the *Passover together. They obeyed the laws of the *festival completely. (Look at Deuteronomy 16:1-8.)
Then came the *festival of bread without yeast (a substance that makes bread rise). That started immediately on the next day after the *Passover. It lasted for seven days. During all that time, the people ate bread without yeast. It reminded them that they had to leave Egypt quickly. They had to leave so quickly that their bread had no time to rise.
Paul explained the meaning of these *festivals in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. ‘God has offered Christ as a *sacrifice for us. So Christ is like the lamb (young sheep) for our *Passover. Let us *celebrate the *festival.’ Paul was explaining that Christians should always behave in a holy way. Even as *Jews should not use yeast during the *Passover, Christians should not carry on any wicked behaviour. (Yeast is the substance that makes bread rise. But Paul used it as a word picture for *sin). Christians should please God at all times, not just during the *Passover. So Christians should give their entire lives to God.
There were some people in *Judah who tried to contact dead people. And there were some people who used magic. God’s law does not allow those practices (Deuteronomy 18:10-11), so Josiah opposed them. He would not allow those people to continue to live in *Judah. Josiah also removed *idols that people kept in their homes. He tried to obey completely the laws in the book that Hilkiah had found. No king before Josiah obeyed the *Lord completely as he did. Nor did anyone that became king after him. Josiah served the *Lord with all his heart, mind and strength. But God was still angry. He only postponed his punishment because of what Josiah had done.
Soon after Josiah’s death, the people would start to do the same *sins again. God intended to take the people in *Judah and Jerusalem away from their country. He would do it as a punishment. He had already done that with *Israel.
Jeremiah started his work as a *prophet during Josiah’s rule. Like Huldah (2 Kings 22:15-17), Jeremiah always insisted that God’s punishment against *Judah would definitely happen. Jeremiah would be pleased to see the good laws that Josiah made in *Judah (Jeremiah 22:15-16). But Jeremiah would know that those changes would only have a temporary effect. It was true that Josiah served God with all his heart, *soul and strength. But it seems that the inhabitants of *Judah did not have the same, sincere attitudes (Jeremiah 3:10). Soon after Josiah’s death, they would start their wicked behaviour again. By means of Jeremiah, God says this: ‘Find one honest person, who speaks the truth. If there is even one such person, I will forgive the people in the city.’ (Jeremiah 5:1). Even the best laws cannot change people’s attitudes. Even the best king cannot change the secret desires of people’s hearts.
The story about Josiah ends with his death. He died in battle. He was afraid that perhaps an army from Egypt might attack *Judah. So Josiah went to fight against the king of Egypt. But the king of Egypt urged Josiah not to fight. Egypt’s king said that God had told him to warn Josiah about that. But Josiah would not listen to the message that God gave to Egypt’s king (2 Chronicles 35:20-22). So Josiah started a battle. And in that battle, Josiah died. A *disaster would happen in *Judah. But Josiah did not see it, because he had already died.
The people chose Jehoahaz, Josiah’s youngest son, as king. (Jehoahaz’s grandfather was not Jeremiah the *prophet. Jeremiah the *prophet was from Anathoth. He was not from Libnah. And he was not married – Jeremiah 16:2.) The people thought that Jehoahaz would oppose the king of Egypt. His older brother would not do that. But the Pharaoh (Egypt’s king) Neco *captured Jehoahaz. Neco demanded that the people in *Judah should pay large amounts of tax. Jehoahaz died in Egypt. Ezekiel wrote a sad song about him (Ezekiel 19:1-4)
Then Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim king of *Judah. Eliakim was Josiah’s older son. Pharaoh Neco changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. Perhaps Neco did that to show that he had power over *Judah’s king. So Jehoiakim had to make the people pay those large amounts of tax. He ruled for 11 years and he *sinned against the *Lord.
Jehoiakim was among the worst kings of *Judah. Jeremiah 22:13-14 seems to describe a large, expensive palace that he built. But he dealt with his builders as if they were slaves. He forced them to work without pay. He also killed the *prophet Uriah, who had *prophesied against him (Jeremiah 26:20-23).
Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful king of Babylon. He ruled from 605 to 562 *B.C.. In 605 *B.C. he defeated Pharaoh (Egypt’s king) Neco and his army. That was in the battle at Carchemish. Then Nebuchadnezzar *conquered a large area of land, which included *Judah and Jerusalem. Jehoiakim became his servant. Jehoiakim also had to pay taxes to Nebuchadnezzar. In 601 *B.C. Nebuchadnezzar tried to *capture Egypt, but the army of Egypt stopped him. That encouraged Jehoiakim to *rebel. God allowed an army from Babylon to destroy *Judah. It did that together with armies from other countries.
That happened because of Manasseh’s *sins. God may have forgiven Manasseh’s personal *sins when he *repented. However, the people in his nation did not *repent with him. There had been changes during Josiah’s rule. But after Josiah’s death, the kings and the people became very wicked again. They even chose to do the same wicked things that they had done during Manasseh’s rule. So God would not postpone the punishment any longer. Instead, God punished them.
We do not know how Jehoiakim died. In 2 Chronicles 36:6, we read that Nebuchadnezzar bound him in chains. And Nebuchadnezzar took him to Babylon as a prisoner. Perhaps Jehoiakim died on the way. Ezekiel wrote a sad song about him – Ezekiel 19:5-9. In Jeremiah 22:19, Jeremiah says that Jehoiakim would have a *donkey’s funeral. That meant that Jehoiakim would not have any funeral whatever. The army of Egypt did march out again during King Zedekiah’s rule. However, the army from Babylon defeated them. So then verse 7 was true.
Jehoiachin’s rule was very short. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem. Jehoiachin immediately stopped his resistance to Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar took the gold and silver from the *temple and the royal palace. He took very many people as prisoners. He had taken some prisoners earlier too, in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim’s rule. Those prisoners had included the *prophet Daniel and his 3 friends. (Daniel 1:1-6). But this time, when Jehoiachin was ruling, Nebuchadnezzar took the king and his family as prisoners. Jeremiah had *prophesied that it would happen (Jeremiah 22:24-30). The kings of Babylon would keep Jehoiachin as a prisoner for 37 years (2 Kings 25:27).
Nebuchadnezzar also took many other people to Babylon. He took all the soldiers. He also took the skilled workers. And he took those people that worked with metal. They included the people that made the weapons for war. (Weapons are a soldier’s tools, for example swords and *spears.) In verse 14, we learn that Nebuchadnezzar took 10 000 people as prisoners. That number probably includes the people in verse 16.
Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah. That name means ‘The *Lord is fair.’ Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar wanted to say that *Judah deserved this punishment. In other words, what the *Lord had done by means of Nebuchadnezzar was fair. That change in the name also showed that Nebuchadnezzar had control over Zedekiah.
Zedekiah was Jehoiakim’s brother. And he was also Jehoiachin’s uncle. He was the last king of *Judah. Zedekiah was a weak ruler. Jeremiah warned Zedekiah that he should remain loyal to Babylon’s king. But Zedekiah thought that the new Pharaoh (Egypt’s king) would help him to be free from the control of Babylon’s king. The army from Babylon had left Jerusalem to attack the army from Egypt. Jeremiah warned Zedekiah that Babylon’s army would return. But Zedekiah was too weak to do what Jeremiah advised (Jeremiah chapters 27-28).
Look at Hebrews 2:1-4. In verses 1 and 3, we read this. ‘We should listen carefully to what God says… We cannot escape by any means if we do not give attention to God’s great offer. He offers to rescue us and he offers to make us free.’
The king of Babylon surrounded Jerusalem city with his army. Nobody could go into the city and nobody could go out. That situation lasted for 2 years. At first Babylon’s army had gone away again, because they were afraid of Egypt’s army. But they soon came back.
In the end, there was no food in the city. The soldiers that attacked the city managed to make a hole in the wall. Then they got into the city.
*Judah’s king and his soldiers escaped through a secret passage. However, the army from Babylon *captured the king. His soldiers ran away.
The king received an awful punishment for his *rebellion. He saw the soldiers from Babylon kill his sons. That was the last thing that he saw. Immediately afterwards, the soldiers pulled out his eyes and they took him to Babylon.
Jeremiah had said that people would take Zedekiah to Babylon. He had said that Zedekiah would see the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 34:3). Ezekiel had *prophesied that *Judah’s king would escape through a hole in the wall. Then people would *capture the king and they would take him to Babylon city. Ezekiel had also said that the king would not see Babylon (Ezekiel 12:12-13). Jeremiah told King Zedekiah not to fight against the army from Babylon (Jeremiah 38:14-28). If the king had followed Jeremiah’s advice, then those things would not have happened. The king’s enemies would not have destroyed Jerusalem. But Zedekiah was too afraid to do what Jeremiah had advised.
In the end, God will definitely punish *sin. It is foolish to imagine that anyone can avoid that punishment. Hebrews 10:26-27 warns us about this matter. ‘If we *sin on purpose, no *sacrifice can take away *sins. Then the only thing that we can do is this. We can only wait in fear for the *Judgement.’ However, it is also important to realise that God wants to forgive us. Jesus suffered the punishment for our *sins when he died. But we must invite him into our lives if we want God to forgive us. We must *repent and we must trust him. Otherwise, we will definitely suffer that punishment. We cannot avoid it.
A month after Babylon’s army had entered Jerusalem, their leader Nebuzaradan burned down the *temple. He also destroyed the palace and the important houses. His soldiers pulled down the city’s walls. They took most people as prisoners to Babylon. They left only the poorest people in *Judah in order to cultivate the land. The soldiers from Babylon broke up everything in the *temple that people had made out of bronze (a brown metal). They took it all to Babylon. They also took all the pots and tools that belonged to the *temple. Jeremiah had warned Zedekiah that the enemy would burn down the city (Jeremiah 38:23).
Nebuzaradan, the leader of the guards, took some priests as prisoners. And he also took some leaders of *Judah’s army. The king killed them all as a punishment. That probably happened at the same time as Zedekiah received his punishment.
These awful events were a terrible shock for the people from *Judah. They had imagined that the *Lord would protect Jerusalem. His *temple was there. So they said that no enemy could ever destroy the city (Jeremiah 7:4). Jeremiah had warned them that they would lose the *Lord’s protection because of their evil deeds (Jeremiah 7:5-11). But they refused to *repent. Instead, they continued their wicked behaviour.
Jesus warned his friends that people would again destroy the *temple (Luke 21:5-6). He even repeated the same words that Jeremiah had used (Mark 11:17 and Jeremiah 7:11). We must not trust in things or places, as a *superstition. Instead, we must trust in Jesus and we must obey his commands.
The Book of Lamentations is a very sad song that someone (perhaps Jeremiah) wrote at this time. It describes the cruel actions of the army from Babylon, and it describes the terrible state of Jerusalem. The situation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem was completely hopeless. But the author of the Book of Lamentations was still able to write about hope (Lamentations 3:21-25). Even in those terrible circumstances, he was trusting God.
The king of Babylon made Gedaliah the ruler of *Judah. Gedaliah was a good man. His father Ahikam had protected Jeremiah from death (Jeremiah 26:24). Gedaliah lived at Mizpah. Those people that had run away from Zedekiah returned. They accepted Gedaliah’s protection. Gedaliah advised them to obey the king of Babylon. Then everything would be all right. (Jeremiah had also given that message to the people.)
However, Ishmael, who was a member of the royal family, opposed Gedaliah. He and 10 other men killed Gedaliah. And they killed those people that were with him. Then Johanan, another officer in *Judah’s army, opposed Ishmael. Ishmael escaped into the country called Ammon.
Afterwards, all the people who were still in *Judah became very afraid. They were worrying what the king of Babylon’s reaction would be. So they all ran away to Egypt. They took Jeremiah with them (Jeremiah 43:6), although he had told them not to go there (Jeremiah chapter 42). In Deuteronomy 28:68, God had warned his people. He would send them back to Egypt if they did not obey his laws.
In Egypt, the people from *Judah thought that they would receive protection. They imagined that the king of Babylon could not attack them there. But actually, the king of Babylon would defeat the king of Egypt soon afterwards (Jeremiah 44:30). Hardly any of this group of people ever returned to *Judah. They suffered greatly in Egypt (Jeremiah 44:27-28).
After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon. Evil-Merodach allowed Jehoiachin to leave prison. Jehoiachin was now 55 years old. He had been in prison for 37 years. Evil-Merodach gave freedom to him. And he gave a higher rank to Jehoiachin than he gave to the other kings there. Jehoiachin did not have to wear a prisoner’s clothes. The king gave food to him regularly.
So this book ends with a message that gives hope. The *Jews’ king became free. That event would remind them about God’s promises to them. David’s family (*Judah’s royal family) would not disappear completely. That family was away from its country as a punishment. But that family would continue to exist. There was the hope that, in the future, the people would be free again. They would be able to return to their own country. God’s promise to David remained true (2 Samuel 7:10-16). And there would again be a king from David’s family: Jesus Christ (Acts 2:29-36).
Christians’ hopes depend on the fact that Jesus became alive after death. He said this. ‘Because I live, you will live also’ (John 14:19). The *Jews had the hope that they would return to their own country. Christians have the hope that they will go to heaven. This is not an uncertain hope. God always does the things that he has promised to do (2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Kings 8:56).
altar ~ a table where people offer gifts or *sacrifices to God, or to a false god.
Amorites ~ a group of people who lived in the *Jews’ country. The Amorites were living there in Canaan (*Israel) already before the *Jews lived there.
ancestor ~ a previous member of a family, especially someone who was important during a past century.
angel ~ God’s servant who takes messages from God to people on the earth. Angels live with God in heaven.
anoint ~ to pour oil over a person. This shows that God has chosen that person for a special purpose.
Aramaic ~ a language that politicians used during the time when the kings ruled.
B.C. ~ before Christ. It comes after a number to show a date. That number is the number of years before Christ was born.
Baal ~ a false god.
baptise ~ to put a person down into water or to pour water over a person. It is a ceremony to show that the person wants to be free from *sin. The person is sorry for past *sin and he/she wants to do the right things now. It usually shows also that the person belongs to the Christian church.
blessing ~ when God does good things to people and he protects them; a good thing that God does to people.
bull ~ the male animal that mates with a cow.
burnt offering ~ an animal that people killed. Then they burned the whole animal on an *altar. In that way, they offered the animal to God (or to a false god). It was as if the animal suffered the punishment for their *sins.
capture ~ to seize (arrest) someone and to keep that person as a prisoner; to take something by force and to keep it under your control.
cedar ~ a type of tall tree whose leaves are always green. Its branches spread out widely and its wood has a sweet smell.
celebrate ~ to do something special in order to remember an event or a person. Usually, there is a happy party in order to give honour to that event or person.
chariot ~ a kind of vehicle that soldiers used when they fought. Horses pulled it.
commandment ~ the laws that God gave to *Israel, especially the 10 laws called the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-21).
conquer ~ to take control over a country or a group of people by force.
covenant ~ a special serious agreement between 2 people or groups; but especially the promises that God made to his people in *Judah and *Israel. In God’s main covenant, he promised to protect his people if they obeyed certain laws.
curse ~ a word (or words) that someone says to wish that bad things will happen to another person. The purpose is to punish or to hurt that person.
descendants ~ future members of a family or a nation; people who belong to the same family during later centuries.
disaster ~ an event that makes people suffer very greatly. It may cause great damage and death.
donkey ~ an animal like a horse with short legs and long ears.
faith ~ strong belief that something will happen; trust that God (or someone else) will do what he says.
fellowship offering ~ a special type of *offering for *peace.
festival ~ a special occasion when many people remember a person or an event; when many people *celebrate someone or something together.
figs ~ small sweet fruits, which are full of seeds.
forgiveness ~ when someone forgives.
generation ~ a period of about 20 to 30 years. During this time, children grow up and they have their own children.
grace ~ when God forgives us as a free gift to us; when God is kind to us and he helps us as a free gift.
grapes ~ green or purple soft fruits that people use to make wine.
guilt ~ the blame or unhappy feelings that someone has because he/she has done wrong things.
hire ~ to use someone’s services for a short time, for which the person will receive payment.
Hittites ~ a group of people who lived in the *Jews’ country. The Hittites were living there in Canaan (*Israel) already before the *Jews lived there.
idol ~ the image of a god to whom people give honour.
incense ~ a substance that gives a pleasant smell when people burn it. Some people use it to show honour to God (or to a false god).
Israel ~ the nation of people that are Jacob’s *descendants; the country where those people belong; the northern part of their *kingdom after it divided.
Israelites ~ people that belonged to the nation called *Israel.
Jew ~ a person that belongs to the nation called *Israel (especially the southern part called *Judah). Or a person who follows that nation’s religion.
Judah ~ one of the *tribes in the nation called *Israel; the southern part of that *kingdom after it divided.
judgement ~ when someone makes (or gives) an opinion or decision about someone else’s behaviour. The Judgement means the future time when God will act as the judge of each person.
kingdom ~ a country or nation that a king or queen rules.
Lord ~ the name of God. We use this word to translate two different words in the original language. One word means ‘He is always God.’ The other word means ‘master’.
miracle ~ a wonderful thing that God does by his power. People cannot explain it by means of human knowledge.
mule ~ an animal that is born after a horse mates with a *donkey. It carries heavy loads.
New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible. It tells us about Jesus and his disciples (students).
offering ~ a gift that people offer to God (or to a false god).
olive ~ a bitter green or black fruit.
olive oil ~ oil that people get from *olives.
Passover ~ an annual *festival when people remember how the *Israelites escaped from Egypt.
peace ~ the absence of war; a situation when people and groups are friendly towards each other; when it is quiet; a calm and content attitude.
pine ~ a type of tall tree whose leaves are always green. The leaves are long and narrow, like needles.
planet ~ a large object in outer space which travels round the sun. We see it as a wandering star, which appears in the morning or evening.
presence ~ when somebody is present in a place. God’s presence means the place where God is. People may be aware that God is near.
prophecy ~ a message from God (or from a false god) that someone speaks; what someone says will happen in the future.
prophesy ~ to declare a *prophecy.
prophet ~ a person that gives a *prophecy.
rebel ~ to fight against authority; to oppose authority.
rebellion ~ when people fight against authority or they oppose it.
reject ~ to refuse to accept someone; to decide that one does not want still to be someone’s friend.
repent ~ to feel sorry because of *sin and to stop that wrong behaviour. To decide to do what God wants.
Sabbath ~ the 7th day of the week (Saturday). People did not work on this day.
sacrifice ~ something valuable that someone offers to God (or to a false god); to offer something valuable to God (or to a false god).
secretary ~ a person that makes arrangements for an important person. The secretary writes letters on behalf of that person.
shepherd ~ a person that looks after sheep.
shield ~ something that a soldier carries to protect his body from attack.
sin ~ an action that is wrong or wicked, which is against God’s moral law; something that is against a law in a religion.
sling ~ a long piece of material that people use to throw stones. They make it into a circle so that they can carry the stone in it.
sneeze ~ to send air suddenly and noisily out of one’s nose and mouth. It is a reaction to something in one’s nose; one does not do it on purpose.
soul ~ the part of a person that continues to exist after death; a person’s *spirit; also a person’s mind, emotions and desires.
spear ~ a tool of war which has a long handle with a sharp point on the end. That point is usually metal.
spices ~ substances with a strong taste or smell, which people put in food. People get them from parts of plants.
spirit ~ part of a person, the part that can contact God and that continues to exist after death. The word ‘spirit’ can also mean an *angel that may come from either God or the devil. ‘God’s Spirit’ is the Holy Spirit. (The Holy Spirit is God, even as God the Father and Jesus are God. But there are not three Gods; there is only one God.)
superstition ~ the belief that certain things bring good or bad luck.
Syrian ~ a person from the country called Syria; or anything that has a relationship with Syria.
temple ~ the building that King Solomon built in Jerusalem, and the area that surrounded it. It was the most important place for the *worship of the real God. We also use the word ‘temple’ to mean the house of a false god.
trample ~ to walk on something or somebody in order to cause damage. As a result, one might destroy the thing or one might kill the person.
tribe ~ a group of people that share the same *ancestors, language, and customs.
unclean ~ not acceptable to God (or to a false god); when someone has spoiled something so that it is not acceptable to God (or to a false god).
worship ~ to praise God (or a false god); to give honour to God (or a false god) by *sacrifice, prayer, song or action.
Matthew Henry’s commentary
New Bible commentary (First and revised editions)
Lion Handbook to the Bible
NIV Bible commentary – McGrath
Bible characters and doctrines – E M Blaiklock
© 2009, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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