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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

2 Kings 8

Verses 1-6

The Shunammite Gets Back Her Field

In this history we have a striking picture of the fates of the people of Israel in the future. In Gehazi, the leprous servant of Elisha, we can see a picture of Israel in unbelief. The woman is a picture of the faithful remnant that has been among the nations for a full period, “seven years”.

Elisha received a word from the LORD about the famine. Elisha did not bring the famine, as Elijah had done (1Kgs 17:1). Elijah therefore was the man of judgment, while Elisha announced the famine and showed mercy to the woman by warning her of it. Elisha not only used his power, which was God’s, but also the knowledge he had received from God for future events, in grace for the benefit of others.

As a prophet of grace, Elisha had a place of refuge for a woman. She was happy among her people, but must leave that place at once. That must not have been easy. This was how Israel has been wandering among the nations for two thousand years. The famine is no longer that of a particular place, Samaria (2Kgs 6:24-25; 2Kgs 7:3-4), but of the whole world.

The woman left the country at the word of Elisha. She obediently complied with what had been told her. By leaving the country, she bowed under judgment. Elimelech also left the country because of a famine (Rth 1:1), but he did so without the order of the LORD. He wanted to escape the discipline of God. One time God’s people must resist the enemy, the next time they must go to the enemy (cf. Jer 27:11-17). Each time only the word of the LORD is paramount. It is about obeying.

The woman returned when the famine was over. It is not said that she received a message about it. She will have kept track of the time. She could return after seven years. That was what she did. When she was back in the land, she went to the king. It seems that after her departure her property had fallen to the king. He could therefore give it back. She did have to ask for it, because she left of her own accord. What kind of right could she assert?

The moment she came before the king, the king was in conversation with Gehazi. He asked Gehazi to tell him about the miracles Elisha had performed. Perhaps he was like Ahasuerus who, out of boredom, had someone read to him (Est 6:1), or as Felix who, in search of financial gain, wanted to hear Paul regularly (Acts 24:26). God used both for His plan with His own. To this end, He uses everyday things He controls, in the way only He can. How Gehazi came to the court is not known. The fact is, he was there.

Gehazi seemed to be someone who knew a lot about Elisha’s religion and the things he had done. He told about it, but only as someone who knows about it superficially, while he has no inner share in it. The matters he could tell a lot about are beyond his ken. Thus are the words of God given to the Jews; they have handed them over to us (Rom 3:1-2) without being converted.

There are many people who can explain the gospel without it impacting on themselves. It must be clear to anyone who is working on it or hears that they share in it. It makes no sense, for example, to be concerned with the question of whether people can be saved having never heard of the Lord Jesus, without first dealing with this question for one’s own soul.

It seems coincidental that at this very moment the woman appeared before the king. Of course God governs everything, but from our point of view it seems a coincidence (cf. Rth 2:3). Everything the woman had left is again restored to her. She was maintained abroad, but she was also paid for all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land till her return.

The woman is given back everything, by grace, but also because Gehazi had just told about her dead son who had been raised to life. Thus we have received everything by virtue of the resurrection of the Son Who was dead, but Who has become alive again. So will it be with Israel when it is restored to the land, when the people see that their children are more numerous than they ever thought (Isa 54:1-3). That is because of the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the Son of God, as described in the previous chapter, Isaiah 53.

Verses 7-15

Hazael King of Aram

Elisha stayed in the background, his service being almost over. Yet he still had something to do, namely, to anoint Hazael. He had to do so instead of Elijah to whom the commission was given (1Kgs 19:15). That this had not yet happened is a proof of God’s grace which gives people a longer time to come to conversion. But then came the time of the anointing of Hazael, as the LORD had said to Elijah. Here the rod of God’s discipline was prepared by Him, for His grace was not accepted by His people. For that, Elisha went to Damascus. At that moment the king of Aram, or Syria, was sick.

God used Ben-hadad’s sickness to bring Elisha into contact with Hazael. Ben-hadad wanted to know if he would recover. He saw Elisha as a medium, willing to do a favorable conjuration for money. Maybe he had heard of the healing of Naaman. He sent Hazael, his servant, with a gift to Elisha to ask him about the outcome of his sickness. It was a huge gift. We see that when we compare this gift with the gift Naaman brought (2Kgs 5:5).

In his question Ben-hadad addressed Elisha as a father, by addressing him as “your son”. Elisha had a double answer. On the one hand, he would recover from his sickness, because his sickness was not lethal. On the other hand he would die, but then by the hand of Hazael, his murderer. Healing is a word to Ben-hadad, his death is a word about him.

When Elisha sees it before by his spiritual eyes, he cannot hold back and bursts into tears. He sees the consequences of what Hazael will do. He wept because his service had been in vain, and the people will come to judgment. That is ultimately the experience of every servant of the Lord. The situation has deteriorated despite his service. So it was with the apostles and the reformers and the men of the revival. It is still the case. This does not make service attractive. At the end of service, the judgment remains.

Do we know what will happen to the world, what will cause evil people to suffer, what evil false teachers will cause in Christianity, i.e. the professing church, what spiritual suffering and spiritual death antichrists will cause? What does that do us, does it bring us to weep like Elisha?

Hazael pretended not to know what it was all about. He presented himself as someone unable to do anything like that. But inwardly his plan was brewing. Then Elisha said Hazael would become king. The fact that God had determined that he would become king did not change his responsibility. Just like Jeroboam, who had also been told that he would become king, he took the law into his own hands when that moment came.

When Hazael reported to Ben-hadad, he only told half the story Elisha had told him. He told Ben-hadad that his sickness would not end up in death. Hazael did not tell the other half of the story, but fulfilled this part. He killed his king and became king in his stead.

Verses 16-24

Jehoram King of Judah

There is now a break in the history of the kings of Israel to mention the history of some kings of Judah. This is because these kings were in contact with Israel’s kings. It began with Jehoram, the son of the God-fearing Jehoshaphat, who married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. She had an extraordinarily bad influence on him. She was like her parents and made him walk “in the way of the kings of Israel”, a way that is evil in the sight of the LORD. The details we read in 2 Chronicles 21.

By this marriage, the wickedness of the house of Ahab penetrated into Judah, into David’s lineage. Yet God’s grace was still over Judah. He remained faithful to His word for His servant David (2Sam 7:12-16; 2Sam 21:17). For his sake the LORD did not destroy Judah, even though they deserved to be.

However, God did apply a form of discipline to them. We see it in the revolt of Edom. Whoever departs from God will face all kinds of setbacks. By this God wants to bring back to Him those who depart from Him.

In what seems like an aside, the uprising of Libnah is also mentioned. Libnah is a priest city. It may have revolted because the priests were unwilling or unable to participate in the nation’s prevalent idolatry. That was also a warning voice, a protest, against the deviations, intended to bring about a return to the LORD.

Verses 25-29

Ahaziah King of Judah

Jehoram is succeeded by his son Ahaziah. The time when Ahaziah began to rule is linked to the reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab. This man went totally in the way of the house of Ahab, for his mother was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2Kgs 8:18). Here it says that she was “the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel” (2Kgs 8:26). She walked in the spirit of this wicked man Omri, as did her father Ahab, Omri’s son. This whole godless influence was also strengthened by her mother Jezebel’s demonic upbringing.

In 2Kgs 8:28-29 the Holy Spirit prepares the stage for the events described in 2 Kings 9-10. He led the ways of these wicked people and prepared them to receive judgment.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 8". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.