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1 Kings 20-22, 2 Kings 1-2

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

1 Kings Chapter 20

Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, assembled a large allied army against the northern kingdom of Israel. They invaded the land and laid siege to the northern kingdom's capital city, Samaria. The invader's demands were "your silver and your gold are mine; your fairest wives and children also are mine." Ahab, at first, rather than rightly counter-attacking the invaders and annihilating them, agreed to surrender.

Galilee

"Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his army together; thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots; and he went up and besieged Samaria, and fought against it. And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, and said to him, "Thus says Ben-hadad: 'Your silver and your gold are mine; your fairest wives and children also are mine.'"

And the king of Israel answered, "As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have." (1 Kings 20:1-4 RSV)

The Syrian king then increased his demands, upon which Ahab refused.

"The messengers came again, and said, "Thus says Ben-hadad: 'I sent to you, saying, "Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children"; nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants, and lay hands on whatever pleases them, and take it away.'" (1 Kings 20:5-6 RSV)

"So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, "Tell my lord the king, 'All that you first demanded of your servant I will do; but this thing I cannot do.'" And the messengers departed and brought him word again." (1 Kings 20:9 RSV)

When Ben-hadad made more threats, Ahab, who by that point had found his courage, told the Syrians, in effect, to bring it on.

"And the king of Israel answered, "Tell him, 'Let not him that girds on his armor boast himself as he that puts it off.'" (1 Kings 20:11 RSV)

The irony of what Ahab did was that The Lord wasn't helping him when he was acting like a coward, but when he did his duty and defended his kingdom, The Lord gave Israel a guaranteed victory against a much larger army.

"And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, "Thus says The Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day; and you shall know that I am The Lord." (1 Kings 20:13 RSV)

"the Syrians fled and Israel pursued them, but Ben-hadad king of Syria escaped on a horse with horsemen. And the king of Israel went out, and captured the horses and chariots, and killed the Syrians with a great slaughter." (1 Kings 20:20-21 RSV)

The Syrians tried it again, but again The Lord gave the victory to Israel.

"In the spring Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel." (1 Kings 20:26 RSV)

"And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined; and the people of Israel smote of the Syrians a hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day. And the rest fled into the city of Aphek; and the wall fell upon twenty-seven thousand men that were left. Ben-hadad also fled, and entered an inner chamber in the city." (1 Kings 20:29-30 RSV)

Ahab's fatal mistake however was refusing to do what The Lord commanded him to do with Ben-hadad. Ahab not only let him live, Ahab made a peace treaty with him - which would surely have not been honored by Ben-hadad as soon as he had rebuilt his army.

"And Ben-hadad said to him, "The cities which my father took from your father I will restore; and you may establish bazaars for yourself in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria." And Ahab said, "I will let you go on these terms." So he made a covenant with him and let him go." (1 Kings 20:34 RSV)

"Thus says The Lord, 'Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.'" And the king of Israel went to his house resentful and sullen, and came to Samaria." (1 Kings 20:42-43 RSV)

1 Kings Chapter 21

Naboth was the owner of a small family-heritage vineyard in Jezreel, apparently the only property that he owned, unlike King Ahab who was very wealthy and had much property. Nevertheless, Ahab coveted Naboth's land; he wanted to tear out Naboth's vineyard and plant a vegetable garden.

Grapes

"Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money."

But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers." (1 Kings 21:1-3 RSV)

To his credit, King Ahab at least respected property rights and accepted Naboth's refusal to sell. Unfortunately for Naboth, Ahab's wife Jezebel was an evil person who had no respect for anything except her pagan religion, which apparently had no prohibitions against theft and murder. Jezebel arranged for Naboth to be falsely accused and executed.

"And the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who dwelt in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters which she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And the two base fellows came in and sat opposite him; and the base fellows brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city, and stoned him [see also Stoning] to death with stones." (1 Kings 21:11-13 RSV)

The murder of Naboth brought about a death sentence for those responsible (see The Fall of Ahab and Jezebel). The judgment was delivered by Elijah.

"Then the word of The Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. And you shall say to him, 'Thus says The Lord, "Have you killed, and also taken possession?"' And you shall say to him, 'Thus says The Lord: "In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood."' (1 Kings 21:17-19 RSV

"And of Jezebel The Lord also said, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.'" (1 Kings 21:23 RSV)

1 Kings Chapter 22

Micaiah was a prophet at Samaria. King Ahab of Israel (see The Northern Kingdom and Kings of Israel and Judah) proposed to King Jehoshaphat of Judah (see The Southern Kingdom and Israelite Dynasties) to do battle again with Ben-hadad (who Ahab made the peace treaty with, despite The Lord telling him not to). The hundreds of prophets who advised Ahab said to do it, but Jehoshaphat asked Micaiah, who had been thrown in prison, apparently for the "crime" of disagreeing with the king about some matter earlier. Micaiah correctly prophesied that the expedition would result in a disaster because The Lord was going to punish Ahab for the evil that he and Jezebel had been doing. The Lord permitted an evil spirit to lead Ahab to his death.

Syria

"And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of The Lord: I saw The Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and The Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before The Lord, saying, 'I will entice him.'

And The Lord said to him, 'By what means?'

And he said, 'I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.'

And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.'

Now therefore behold, The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; The Lord has spoken evil concerning you." (1 Kings 22:19-23 RSV)

Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat entered the battle with their troops. Jehoshaphat was wearing his royal robe, and was therefore a target for every enemy trooper to want to hit, while Ahab disguised himself, wearing only regular clothing. It didn't matter; Ahab was being sent to die in that battle. A "lucky shot" not only hit the disguised king, but hit him between the sections of his body armor. Ahab bled to death in his chariot while the battle raged on, "according to the word of The Lord."

"So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes." And the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

Now the king of Syria had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, "Fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel." And when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, "It is surely the king of Israel." So they turned to fight against him; and Jehoshaphat cried out. And when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.

But a certain man drew his bow at a venture, and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate; therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, "Turn about, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded."(1 Kings 22:29-34 RSV)

"So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and the harlots washed themselves in it, according to the word of The Lord which he had spoken." (1 Kings 22:37-38 RSV)

Jehoshaphat was a relatively good king, "doing what was right in the sight of The Lord," although like nearly all of the rest, he compromised The Lord's Commandments.

"Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. He walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of The Lord; yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel." (1 Kings 22:41-44 RSV)

And the remnant of the male cult prostitutes [see also Sodomites] who remained in the days of his father Asa, he exterminated from the land." (1 Kings 22:46 RSV)

Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold [see The Gold of Ophir]; but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber." (1 Kings 22:48 RSV)

And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father; and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead." (1 Kings 22:50 RSV)

Like his parents Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah "did what was evil in the sight of The Lord" when he succeeded his father as king of Israel.

"Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel. He did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. He served Baal and worshiped him, and provoked The Lord, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done." (1 Kings 22:51-53 RSV)

2 Kings Chapter 1

When Ahaziah was injured in a fall, he sought the counsel of the demonic Baal-zebub (see Baal-zebub and Beelzebub). The Lord sent Elijah with a rebuke for the foolish king.

Ekron

"Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, "Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness."

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 to them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?' Now therefore thus says The Lord, 'You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.'" (2 Kings 1:2-4 RSV)

Like all "I'm right because of my might" despots, Ahaziah tried to strong-arm Elijah. The Lord responded, twice, with fire from heaven to defend His prophet. When a third military commander was sent to Elijah, he did so without the asking-to-get-fried arrogance of the previous two. Elijah went with them and delivered The Lord's message to Ahaziah that he would die for his unfaithfulness. Ahaziah was succeeded by "Jehoram, his brother ... because Ahaziah had no son."

"Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and entreated him, "O man of God, I pray you, let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Lo, fire came down from heaven, and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight."

Then the angel of The Lord said to Elijah, "Go down with him; do not be afraid of him."

So he arose and went down with him to the king, and said to him, "Thus says The Lord, 'Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? - therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.'" So he died according to the word of The Lord which Elijah had spoken.

Jehoram, his brother, became king in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son." (2 Kings 1:13-17 RSV)

2 Kings Chapter 2

It was a time of readiness; Elijah was ready to retire (see the Fact Finder question below) and Elisha was ready to replace him.

Elisha Watching Elijah In A Chariot Of Fire

"Now when The Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, "Tarry here, I pray you; for The Lord has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As The Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today The Lord will take away your master from over you?" And he said, "Yes, I know it; hold your peace." (2 Kings 2:1-3 RSV)

Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven" for a journey to a peaceful place (again, see the Fact Finder question below).

"And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces.

And he took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah [see The Passing of The Mantle] that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is The Lord, the God of Elijah?" And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other; and Elisha went over." (2 Kings 2:11-14 RSV)

Elisha's deadly encounter with a gang of youths has caused some to ask Did Elisha Go Too Far? (which he didn't). Also, their use of the term "baldhead" may have been more than just making fun of Elisha's natural baldness, if Elisha was bald at all. The term "baldhead" was also sometimes used as a general insult, regardless of whether the person was actually bald or not - it referred to someone who was suffering from leprosy or some other serious illness from which hair loss occurred, even if the person being "insulted" was perfectly healthy, as Elisha obviously was (he was a strong farmer when Elijah called him). The insult was particularly despicable because it mocked suffering people.

"He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!"

And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of The Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.

From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and thence he returned to Samaria." (2 Kings 2:23-25 RSV)

Fact Finder: (a) What happens to all people when they die? (b) Centuries after Elijah departed into "heaven," did Jesus Christ say "No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man"? (c) Where did Elijah go when he departed on that "chariot of fire"?
(a) See What Happens When You Die?; also What Happened To Tonto?, Born Again, How and When? and The Raptures
(b) John 3:13; see also Heavens Below, Heavens Above
(c) See Where Did Elijah Go?; also What Happened To Enoch?


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