Preface to the Second Book of the Kings, Otherwise Called the Fourth Book of the Kings
In the preface to the First Book of Kings, I have spoken at large concerning both these books, the author, time of writing, etc., etc., to which I must refer my readers, as that preface is common to both.
The Second Book of Kings contains the history of three hundred and eight years, from the rebellion of Moab, A.M. 3108, to the ruin of the kingdom of Judah, A.M. 3416.
The history, on the whole, exhibits little less than a series of crimes, disasters, Divine benefits, and Divine judgments. In the kingdom of Judah we meet with a few kings who feared God, and promoted the interests of pure religion in the land; but the major part were idolaters and profligates of the highest order.
The kingdom of Israel was still more corrupt: all its kings were determined idolaters; profligate, vicious, and cruel tyrants. Elijah and Elisha stood up in the behalf of God and truth in this fallen, idolatrous kingdom, and bore a strong testimony against the corruptions of the princes, and the profligacy of the people: their powerful ministry was confined to the ten tribes; Judah had its own prophets, and those in considerable number.
At length the avenging hand of God fell first upon Israel, and afterwards upon Judah. Israel after many convulsions, torn by domestic and foreign wars, was at length wholly subjugated by the king of Assyria, the people led away into captivity, and the land re-peopled by strangers, A.M. 3287.
The kingdom of Judah continued some time longer, but was at last overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar; Zedekiah, its last king, was taken prisoner; his eyes put out; and the principal part of the people were carried into captivity, which lasted about seventy years. The captivity began under Jehoiakim, A.M. 3402, and ended under Belshazzar, A.M. 2470 or 3472. There was after this a partial restoration of the Jews, but they never more rose to any consequence among the nations; and at last their civil polity was finally dissolved by the Romans, and their temple burnt, a.d. 70; and from that time until now they became fugitives and vagabonds over the face of the earth, universally detested by mankind. But should they not be loved for their fathers' sake? Are they not men and brothers? Will persecution and contempt convert them to Christianity, or to any thing that is good?
Ahaziah, being hurt by a fall, sends messengers to Baal-zebub to inquire whether he shall recover, 2 Kings 1:1, 2 Kings 1:2. They are met by Elijah, who sends them back with the information that he shall surely die, 2 Kings 1:3-8. The king sends a captain and fifty men, to bring Elijah to Samaria, on which fire comes down from heaven, and destroys both him and his men, 2 Kings 1:9, 2 Kings 1:10. Another captain and fifty men are sent, who are likewise destroyed, 2 Kings 1:11, 2 Kings 1:12. A third is sent, who behaves himself humbly, and Elijah is commanded to accompany him; he obeys, comes to the king, reproves his idolatry, and announces his death, 2 Kings 1:13-16. Ahaziah dies and Jehoram reigns in his stead, 2 Kings 1:17, 2 Kings 1:18.
Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.Moab rebelled - The Moabites had been subdued by David, and laid under tribute, 2 Kings 3:4, and 2 Samuel 8:2. After the division of the two kingdoms, the Moabites fell partly under the dominion of Israel, and partly under that of Judah, until the death of Ahab, when they arose and shook off this yoke. Jehoram confederated with the king of Judah and the king of Edom, in order to reduce them. See this war, 2 Kings 3:5.
And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.Fell down through a lattice - Perhaps either through the flat root of his house, or over or through the balustrades with which the roof was surrounded.
Go, inquire of Baal-zebub - Literally, the fly-god, or master of flies. The Septuagint has βααλ μυιαν, Baal the fly. He was the tutelary god of Ekron, and probably was used at first as a kind of telesm, to drive away flies. He became afterwards a very respectable devil, and was supposed to have great power and influence. In the New Testament Beelzebub is a common name for Satan himself, or the prince of devils. See my notes on Matthew 10:25 (note).
But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?
Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.But shalt surely die - The true God tells you this; he in whose hands are both life and death, who can kill and make alive. Baal-zebub can do nothing; God has determined that your master shall die.
And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back?
And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?
And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.He was a hairy man - That is, he wore a rough garment, either made of camels' hair, as his successor John Baptist's was, or he wore a skin dressed with the hair on. Some think that the meaning is, he had very long hair and a long beard. The ancient prophets all wore rough garments, or upper coats made of the skins of beasts: They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, says the apostle, Hebrews 11:37.
Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.A captain of fifty with his fifty - It is impossible that such a man as Ahaziah, in such circumstances, could have had any friendly designs in sending a captain and fifty soldiers for the prophet; and the manner in which they are treated shows plainly that they went with a hostile intent.
And he spake unto him, Thou man of God - Thou prophet of the Most High.
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.And there came down fire - Some have blamed the prophet for destroying these men, by bringing down fire from heaven upon them. But they do not consider that it was no more possible for Elijah to bring down fire from heaven, than for them to do it. God alone could send the fire; and as he is just and good, he would not have destroyed these men had there not been a sufficient cause to justify the act. It was not to please Elijah, or to gratify any vindictive humor in him, that God thus acted; but to show his own power and justice. No entreaty of Elijah could have induced God to have performed an act that was wrong in itself. Elijah, personally, had no concern in the business. God led him simply to announce on these occasions what he himself had determined to do. If I be a man of God, i.e., as surely as I am a man of God, fire Shall come down from heaven, and Shall consume thee and thy fifty. This is the literal meaning of the original; and by it we see that Elijah's words were only declarative, and not imprecatory.
Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.
And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.
Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.
And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.And the angel of the Lord said - Go down with him - This is an additional proof that Elijah was then acting under particular inspirations: he had neither will nor design of his own. He waited to know the counsel, declare the will, and obey the command, of his God.
And he arose, and went down - He did not even regard his personal safety or his life; he goes without the least hesitation to the king, though he had reason to suppose he would be doubly irritated by his prediction, and the death of one hundred of his men. But with all these consequences he had nothing to do; he was the ambassador of the King eternal, and his honor and life were in the hands of his Master.
And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son.And Jehoram reigned in his stead - The Vulgate, Septuagint, and Syriac say, Jehoram His Brother reigned in his stead, in the second year of Jehoram. There were two Jehorams who were contemporary: the first, the son of Ahab, brother to Ahaziah, and his successor in the kingdom of Israel; the second, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, who succeeded his father in Judah. But there is a difficulty here: "How is it that Jehoram the brother of Ahaziah began to reign in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, seeing that, according to 2 Kings 3:1, he began his reign in the eighteenth year of the reign of Jehoshaphat; and, according to 2 Kings 8:16, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began to reign in the fifth year of Jehoram king of Israel?" Calmet and others answer thus: "Jehoram king of Israel began to reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, which was the second year after this same Jehoshaphat had given the viceroyalty to his son Jehoram; and afterwards Jehoshaphat communicated the royalty to Jehoram his successor, two years before his death, and the fifth year of Jehoram, king of Israel." Dr. Lightfoot takes another method: -
"Observe," says he, "these texts, 1 Kings 22:51 : Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years; and 2 Kings 1:17 : And Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken, and Jehoram reigned in his stead, in the second gear of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; and 2 Kings 3:1 : Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. By these scriptures it is most plain, that both Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, and Ahaziah the son of Ahab, began to reign in the seventeenth of Jehoshaphat; for who sees not in these texts that Jehoshaphat's eighteenth, when Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign, is called the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat? Now Jehoshaphat's reign was not yet expired by eight or nine years, for this was in his seventeenth year, and he reigned twenty-five years, 1 Kings 22:42; nor was Ahab's reign expired by two or three years, for this was in his twentieth year, and he reigned twenty-two years. 1 Kings 16:29. But the reason why both their sons came thus into their thrones in their lifetime, and both in the same year, was because their fathers, Jehoshaphat and Ahab, were both engaged in the war against the Syrians about Ramoth-gilead: and while they were providing for it, and carrying it on, they made their sons viceroys, and set them to reign in their stead, while they were absent or employed upon that expedition."
This is very probable, and seems well supported by the above texts, and would solve all the difficulties with which many have been puzzled and not a few stumbled, had we sufficient evidence for the viceroyalty here mentioned.
Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?