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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ 2-kings-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE SICKNESS AND DEATH OF AHAZIAH
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 1:1. Then Moab rebelled—Since the time of David the Moabites had been tributary to Israel (2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Samuel 23:20) On the death of Ahab and accession of Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51) they revolted and cast off the yoke.
2 Kings 1:2. And Ahaziah fell down, &c.—This accident prevented his attempting to suppress the revolt. Through the lattice—הַשְּׂבָכָה—Either the wooden parapet (or fence) running round the flat roof, and which probably gave way as Ahaziah leaned over it; or a latticed skylight in the roof itself, and which broke under him when he heedlessly stepped upon it. The latter is most probable (and the Rabbins so regard it), for he fell into “his upper chamber.” The “lattice” may have been the roof window of this chamber. Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—בַּעַל זְביב—No other mention in the Old Testament of Baal-zebub. The name means the fly-Baal. Sept. βααλ μυΐαν. The fly-god, regarded by expositors either as the “defender against flies,” and also the “fly-god,” an idol in the form of a fly. Ekron—probably the present Akir, nearest Samaria, of the five northern Philistian cities (Joshua 13:3).
2 Kings 1:3. But the angel of the Lord said—Such consultation of “a god” violated a fundamental law of the theocracy (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7), and deliberately repudiated Jehovah.
2 Kings 1:6. There came a man up to meet us—The messengers did not recognize Elijah’ yet they were so impressed by his words—“his authoritative tone, commanding attitude, and affecting message” (Jameison)—as to return instantly to the king.
2 Kings 1:8. He was a hairy man—Not meaning that he wore long locks and a flowing beard; nor that his whole person was, as Esau’s, hairy; but that he was robed in a coarse hair garment (of sheep or goat skin, or of camel’s hair). Elijah originated this distinctive attire, which became henceforth the mark of the prophets as preachers of repentance. This stern, rough garb was worn not as an act of mere asceticism, but as a symbol of sorrow over the people’s iniquities and the impending judgments of God. A girdle of leather—This אֵזוֹר עוֹר was the ζώνη δερματίνη (Matthew 3:4) of John the Baptist. The leather girdle was symbolic of self-denial and contempt for indugencies; the ordinary girdle of Hebrews being fine linen or more costly materials elegantly embroidered.
2 Kings 1:9. Captain of fifty with his fifty—The army was divided into sections of 1,000, 100, and 50, and each had its own leader (Numbers 31:14; Numbers 31:48; 1 Samuel 8:12). He sat on the top of an hill—probably on Carmel (see 2 Kings 2:25; 1 Kings 18:42). Thou man of God!—This name was used in contemptuous irony, and thus the captains abetted the insolence of the king towards Jehovah, whose prophet Elijah was.
2 Kings 1:10. If I be a man of God, then let fire, &c—Elijah invoked proof of his having Divine authority for his message in the form of a judgment upon them from the God they dared to insult. The destructive fire was both proof and punishment in one.
2 Kings 1:11. Come down quickly—Greater audacity still in this demand—רֵדָה מְהֵרָה as if he were fortified with irresistible authority.
2 Kings 1:13. A captain of the third fifty—The second captain learned no awe from the fate of his predecessor, but showed more obstinacy and daring; but the third, though commissioned by the still wilful and wicked king, came with a changed attitude and tone.
2 Kings 1:15. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king—He knew how Ahaziah would greet him with malice, and that his appearance before the king exposed him to perils, yet he fearlessly obeyed God’s command.
2 Kings 1:17. And Jehoram reigned—This Israel-Jehoram is here said to have commenced his reign in the second year of the Judah-Jehoram; but in chap. 2 Kings 3:1 he is said to have come to the throne in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat. It would therefore appear that Ahaziah reigned as regent during the seventeenth and the larger portion of the eighteenth years of Jehoshaphat, and that Jehoram (or Joram), Ahaziah’s brother, succeeded to the throne in the end of Jehoshaphat’s eighteenth year.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 1:1-18
THE EXPOSURE AND PUNISHMENT OF IDOLATRY
WE have seen that Ahaziah imbibed and adopted the idolatrous principles of his father; and we are now to learn that he also possessed the ferocious and God-defying spirit of his mother. A whole chapter is here devoted to the reign of Ahaziah; not because of its importance, for it was both brief and disastrous, but to expose the utter imbecility of the idolatry in which he trusted, and to show by what terrible judgment the honour of the insulted and forgotten God of Israel would be vindicated. The incidents of this chapter are also full of interest, as they are connected with the last public exercises of Elijah’s prophetic office. The stern, fearless prophet is to the last what he has been from the beginning of his career—the messenger of wrath, the rebuker of iniquity, the prophet of fire. Observe—
I. That idolatry is a pitiable infatuation and a great crime.
1. It is an atrocious insult to the one only true God. By Ahaziah sending to a foreign divinity to seek help and counsel, he transgressed not only the general and chief commandment (Exodus 20:3), but also the special commandment (Leviticus 14:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11), which threatened with extermination those who questioned soothsayers and wizards. It was a public and practical declaration that he esteemed the fly-god of the Philistines above the living God of Israel, and it was a formal degradation and contempt of, and an insult to, Jehovah. Such a crime had not previously been committed by a king, and, if ever, then certainly now, the time was come for the zealous defender of the name of the God of Israel to emerge from his concealment and announce to the bold scoffer the Divine retribution. All idolatry is an insult to the majesty of heaven, and will not be allowed to pass unchallenged or unpunished.
2. It is powerless to help in extremity. Idolatry is purely a human creation, and is, therefore, imperfect and limited. While all goes well, the infatuated worshipper may be amused and satisfied with the delusion; but when trouble comes, then does he discover the vanity and helplessness of the imagination in which he had misplaced his confidence. The man who has forsaken God is without refuge in his distress.
3. It is persisted in, notwithstanding affliction and threatened death. Even the terrible announcement of Divine vengeance was not sufficient to humble the dying man, or to bring him to repentance; it rather embittered and filled him with anger, and even with plans of murder. All this he does while on his death bed, face to face with death, so completely has all reverence for what is sacred abandoned him, and been supplanted by a stubbornness and wilfulness which extend even to madness. Ahab humbled himself when Elijah announced to him the judgment of God (1 Kings 21:27). Even Jeroboam sent, when his son was sick, to the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 14:2); but Ahaziah perseveres in his senseless perversity, and so falls far below both of these. There is no infatuation so hopeless and insensate as the infatuation of idolatry.
II. That the vanity of idolatry is repeatedly exposed.
1. By its own failures. The scene on Mount Carmel, and the public failure there, could not be forgotten. In all ages and under all circumstances idolatry has been a gigantic failure, notwithstanding its bombastic pretensions and colossal and imposing proportions. It fails to meet the deepest needs of man, and retards the development and progress of the race.
2. It is exposed by Divinely commissioned messengers. Its enormities have been confronted and denounced by an Elijah. Such work needed a man divinely endowed with fiery strength and with a fiery tongue. His weighty irresistible personality, and his forcible, energetic speech, made such an impression on the messengers of the king that they did not dare to carry out the orders of their despotic master, but turned back without further action. As always, so here also, when they sought to seize him and make him a prisoner, he was not to be reached: the emissaries came to disgrace. Without fear, courageous and unterrified, he appears before the king himself, as he had done before his father, and announces to the proud and stubborn man his approaching death. Elijah is the representative and instrument of the jealousy of the Divine Judge, the herald of the Divine retributive justice, and on that account the prototype of all the forerunners of the great and terrible day of judgment (vide Lange).
III. That idolatry is punished with terrible vengeance.
1. By personal affliction (2 Kings 1:2). The same hand that guided Ahab’s shaft cracks Ahaziah’s lattice. How infinite variety of plagues hath the just God for obstinate sinners! Whether in the field or in the chamber, He knows to find them out. How fearlessly did Ahaziah walk on his wonted pavement! The Lord hath laid a trap for him whereinto, while he thinks least, he falls irrecoverably. No place is safe for the man that is at variance with God. Affliction has brought many to reflection and prayer who might have gone down to the grave impenitent and unforgiven. Suffering that does not soften, hardens the heart the more.
2. By fearful and signal destruction (2 Kings 1:9-12). Fire comes down from heaven and consumes the insolent and idolatrous soldiers. What madness is it for him whose breath is in his nostrils to contend with the Almighty! The conduct of Elijah has been frequently censured. It is forgotten, however, that such censure is, in reality, directed, not against the inferior agent, but against God Himself. The facts were these, and it is important to ponder them well: As Israel’s king, Ahaziah was bound by Israel’s laws; in religion especially, the God of Abraham was the only divinity he should ever have known; to send to Baal-zebub was to this jealous God a great affront; to apprehend His prophet was open rebellion; nay, utter excision was stated, in the plainest language, to be the fate of all idol servers (Deuteronomy 6:14-15). In harmony with this, therefore, our wonder should be, not that so many of the idolaters were slain, but that any one in the guilty land was ever suffered to go free. It was the last warning Elijah was permitted to give to the house of Ahab; and in every way it was rendered memorable. Even then it was not too late for Ahaziah to return; there was mercy wrapped in the dark sentence of doom. It was unheeded; and, stubbornly, fiercely clinging to his wretched idolatry, Ahaziah died! Some live long that they may aggravate their judgment; others die soon, that they may hasten it.
1. It is the crime of idolatry that it ignores God.
2. Idolaters are sufficiently warned, and are therefore without excuse.
3. The wrath of God is directed, not against the idols, but against the idolaters.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 1:1-4. The judgment of idolatry.
1. Revolt (2 Kings 1:1).
2. Affliction (2 Kings 1:2).
3. Warning (2 Kings 1:3).
4. Death (2 Kings 1:4).
2 Kings 1:2-17. The folly of godlessness.
1. In the dark valley in which he must journey, he seizes, not upon the staff and support which could comfort him, but upon a stalk of straw; he makes a work of man’s hands his consolation in life and in death: that is the height of folly.
2. He will hear nothing of death, and hates and persecutes him who reminds him of death: death comes, however; it is inevitable. To avoid every thought of death, and to escape from everything which may remind us of it, is the greatest folly, for we must all depart sometime (Psalms 39:5), and appear before Him who will give to each according to his deeds (Romans 2:6).
3. He sends soldiers against the prophet who announces to him the judgment of God, and thinks that he can thereby set aside the judgment itself. But to attempt to do away with the truth of God, and to accomplish something perforce against the decision of God by means of human power and might, is the greatest folly.—Krummacher.
2 Kings 1:2. By such mischance, besides diseases, men may be taken as a bird with a bolt, while he gazeth at the bow; which made Augustine say that he would not, for the gain of a million worlds, be an Atheist for one half hour, lest, in that time, death should seize him.
—Let us pause for a moment, and read, from the case of Ahaziah, the impressive lesson that all our care, forethought, and caution cannot ward off accident, calamity, and inexorable death. He who escaped the Syrian’s venturous aim was laid low by an accidental fall from the platform of his palace in Samaria. He had probably been leaning against the screen or balustrade common on the tops of Eastern dwellings, when, overbalancing himself, the slender rail or latticework had given way. He fell on the tesselated pavement below, stunned and mangled, and he was carried to a couch from which he was never to rise. Age, character, rank, position, station can afford no exemption from such casualties, and from the last terminating event of all, the universal doom of dust. These royal robes encircled a body perishable as that of the meanest subject of his realm. The hand grasping that ivory sceptre, as well as the brawny arm of the strongest menial in his palace, must moulder to decay. “Trust not in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth. He returneth to his earth. In that very day his thoughts perish.” Poor and rich, the beggar and the prince, the slave and his master, Dives with his purple and gold, and Lazarus with his crumbs and rags, are on a level here. The path of glory and royalty, of greatness and power, leads but to the grave. The lattice on which the strong man leans—the iron balustrade of full health and unbroken energy—may in a moment give way. Sudden accident or fever may, in a few hours, write Ichabod on a giant’s strength. The touch of the old slave in the conqueror’s triumphant car is never more needful than when we are moving through life, charioted in comforts, wreathed with garlands, regaled with music: “Remember thou art mortal.” And when accident or evil does overtake, it is our comfort to know that it is by God’s permission. It is He who puts the arrow on the bowman’s string. It is He who loosens the balustrade in its sockets. It is He who makes the lightning leap from the clouds on its mortal errand. It is He who commissions the coral builders to rear the fatal reef. It is He who guides the roll of that destroying billow that has swept a loved one from the deck into a watery grave. Saddest of all is it when accident or sudden death overtake, without due preparation for the great change. How much nobler, wiser, happier, to anticipate the necessities of that inevitable hour, that whether our summons shall come by the fall from the lattice, or the gradual sinking and wasting of strength, we may be ready, in calm composure, to breathe the saying of the dying patriarch: “I have waited for thy salvation, O God!”—Macduff.
—“Enquire of the God of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.” Augury of the future.
1. Possible only to God.
2. Leads men to presumption and extravagance.
3. Highly offensive to God.
—Many lessons might be drawn from that darkened chamber where lies the son of Ahab, arrayed in the last robe he will ever need. We mention only one—the folly of men when they forsake the ways of God, to pay homage to idols of any kind, or in hopeless attempt to unveil the future. As to the former, all the Ekrons of earth—whether pride of reason, or personal merit, or the general mercy of God—are only vanity and a snare; there is but one rock of hope, security, and strength, and that rock is Christ. As to the latter—the attempt to unveil the future—we know what Saul made of it in his visit to Endor, and we have seen what Ahaziah made of it in his proposed message to Ekron. The present is ours, the future is God’s; let us be thankful and content. No doubt, at times, in anxious suspense, we should like a glimpse of the issue of certain affairs; but enough for our guidance, sufficient horoscope for all, that the great Bible principle is broadly set down: “He that soweth to the flesh,” &c. There is only one God who can answer the question, whether put by Ahaziah or any one else, “Shall I recover of this disease?” And yet we live still in an age of divination. It were useless, it were false to deny it. Happily, not so much in this country, but in France to some, and in America to a fearful extent, we are told of all manner of ways whereby to communicate with the other world, and, from the revelations received, to regulate in this our conduct, present and future. Spiritualism is pursued as a science, believed as a creed. It has its learned societies, its weekly journals, its priestesses and priests, its thousands of educated and rapt devotees. “I would as soon think of doubting my own existence as call in question the facts of spiritualism,” said a Unitarian minister from America. “Why, through means of it we have brought hundreds of infidels to believe in another world.” We shall not go into the subject at length, but must be permitted to say, that we can never understand why spiritual revelations are made only in the dark, and why the presence of a determined sceptic is always unfavourable to the manifestations. We feel constrained to add, that while we believe, from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, that departed spirits do not forget their earthly history, that very parable assures us there is no possible mode for spirits, either good or bad, to communicate with the world they have left. Dives found it impossible, and hence desired Lazarus to send to his father’s house; Abraham spoke of it as both unprecedented and impossible: “Neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” Just men made perfect have other occupation than to be the tools of the clairvoyant; and lost spirits we may be sure are in no mood for such work. This revival of Pagan superstition would neither deserve mention nor serious refutation, were it not for the hold it is taking of the popular mind, especially in the United States, where we are amazed that a nation, so acute and quick-sighted in most other matters, should be juggled out of the truth of their English Bibles by raps upon tables, or the ridculous presagings of idle girls. Away with your mediums, their bandaged eyes and pencilled messages, hands waving in the air, and all the dark arts of this latest charlatanry, the most wretched and profane of all modern shams. God is His own interpreter; and neither to shrines at Ekron nor Boston, neither to Baal-zebub nor Daniel Home, will He give the power of unlocking the destinies of men.—Howat.
—If a man has once torn himself away from the living God and His word, he does not, as infidelity pretends, become wiser and more enlightened, but only too often he becomes the prey of the most insipid and foolish superstition. How many do not believe in a holy, omniscient, and just God, to whom they must give an account of all they do and leave undone, but, on the contrary, in ghosts, or in the word of a gypsy, and seize upon the most senseless means in need and sickness. It is possible to so lose God that one does not find Him even when face to face with death.—Krummacher.
—In a literal sense, the parallel to Ahaziah’s folly can in vain be sought now in the changed aspects of the church and the world. The heathen oracles are dumb. The prince of darkness, who seems in former ages to have wielded, by means of these incantations, a mysterious power, has now changed his ground. But yet how many in another form have their Ekrons still? There is the Ekron of self-righteousness—the pride of what they themselves have done, grounding their peace and confidences, alike for a living and dying hour, on some miserable fragmentary virtue of their own; their charities and alms-deeds and morallives—the beggar proud of wearing some tinsel on his rags, the bankrupt proud of paying by farthings a debt which is accumulating by pounds and talents. There is the Ekron of proud reason. Men will not trust the simple word of the living God. The Bible doctrines, or, it may be, subordinate facts, do not square with their predilections and prepossessions, their preconceived notions and prejudices, and they send their imperious intellectual messengers to this haughty oracle. Happy are they who, spiritually enlightened, are not curious to know the process of cautery or cure, but who, gazing on the glorious uncurtained beauties of the moral world, before hidden from their view, can tell in the utterance of a simple faith: “This one thing I know, that whereas once I was blind, now I see.”—Macduff.
2 Kings 1:3. The word of God is the sole, true, and correct oracle which we are to question and to take counsel of in every circumstance of life, and in all darkness and doubt. This generation, however, seeks light, wisdom, and truth amongst the Philistines, the wise and prudent of this world, who give out that the Word of the Lord is an old and unreliable book which no longer satisfies the existing grade of cultivation. They that will not enquire of the Word of God for their comfort shall be made to hear it, whether they will or no, to their amazement.—Comprehensive Comm.
2 Kings 1:4-8. If the messenger had brought to the king a declaration of the fly-god, he would have accepted it with faith; but he rejected the word of the prophet because it did not conform to his wishes; nay, it even filled him with anger and plans of murder. Men value the falsehood which flatters their inclinations and wishes, higher than the truth which corrects them and demands sacrifices and penitence of them.—Lange.
2 Kings 1:7-12.—With the fall of Ahab a series of new characters appears on the eventful scene. Elijah still remained for a time, but only to make way for successors. In the meeting of the four hundred prophets at Samaria he was not present. In the reign of Ahaziah and of Jehoram he appears but for a moment. There was a letter, the only written prophecy ascribed to him, and the only link which connected him with the history of Judah, addressed to the young prince who reigned with his father Jehoshaphat at Jerusalem. There was a sudden apparition of a strange being, on the heights of Carmel, to the messengers whom Ahaziah had sent to consult an oracle in Philistia. They were passing, probably, along the haunted strand, between the sea and the mountain; they heard the warning voice; they returned to their master. Their description could apply only to one man; it must be the wild prophet of the desert whom he had heard described by his father and grandfather. Troop after troop is sent to arrest the enemy of the royal house, to seize the lion in his den. On the top of Carmel they saw the solitary form. But he was not to be taken by human force; stroke after stroke of celestial fire was to destroy the armed bands. They retired, and he disappeared. It was to this act, some centuries afterwards, not far from the same spot, that the two ardent youths appealed and provoked that Divine rebuke which places the whole career of Elijah in its fitting place, as something in its own nature transitory, precursive, preparatory.—Stanley.
2 Kings 1:8. The faithful prophet. I. Has an unmistakable reputation. II. Is easily identified. III. Has great influence over the minds of others. IV. Is a guarantee of truthfulness in either threatening or promise.
2 Kings 1:9-14. The judgment by fire. I. A token of the indignation of heaven against idolatry. II. An answer to the stubborn daring of a godless king, and the insolence of his troopers. III. May be avoided by prayer and submission.
—We have here not the act of revenge of a prophet who was instigated by personal jealousy, but an act of divine judgment, and a revelation of God’s wrath against all godlessness and wickedness of men “who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” All judgments of God are represented in the Old Testament as a consuming fire (Numbers 11:1; Numbers 16:35; Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalms 21:9; Isaiah 26:11; Ezekiel 15:6-7; Job 20:26). He Himself, even in His retributive justice, is called a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 12:29; Hebrews 10:27). It is therefore perfectly in accordance with the concrete and literal character which the Old Testament economy bears throughout, that this actual fire should be the form of revelation of the divine wrath, so that in many places we can hardly distinguish whether it is intended to be taken literally or figuratively. Just as once the rebellious host of Korah was consumed by fire, and so Moses’ authority as the servant of God was ratified (Numbers 16:35); so the scoffing band of the idolatrous Ahaziah perished, and thereby the second Moses was corroborated as the man of God. As an act of divine judgment this catastrophe is rather a revelation of the highest moral intensity—a testimony to the unchangeable justice and holiness of God. Whoever finds it shocking, must be still more shocked at the prophetic declaration, “God is jealous, and the Lord avengeth; the Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him” (Nahum 1:2-6).—Lange.
2 Kings 1:9-12. Wherein consisted the grievous crime of these captains and their men, who merely executed the command of their master? According to the simple words of the text in the address, man of God. Most interpreters say, the captains had used this designation in a contemptuous or ironical sense. But this is not satisfactory. Two cases are conceivable: either the captains held Elijah to be no true prophet, and then their address, as an insult to the prophetic office in the person of a man whom God had acknowledged by so many miracles as His servant, was a direct insult to the Lord; or they held Elijah to be a true prophet, and then the summons to surrender himself, in order to be led bound to the king, was a direct and still more daring contempt of the prophet as well as of the Lord his God. In either case, therefore, the punishment was just. The captains did not merely what they as servants of the king were bound to do, but shared in the ungodly disposition of their sovereign, and with reckless audacity insulted the Almighty God in the person of the prophet. This wicked opposition to God the Lord is punished, and certainly not by the prophet, but by the Lord Himself, who realizes the word of his servant. Whoever, therefore, on account of this act charges the prophet with cruelty, does not reflect that this charge falls not on the prophets, but much rather on God the Lord.—Kiel.
—The time was when two zealous disciples would fain have imitated this fiery revenge of Elijah, and were repelled with a check; the very place puts them in mind of the judgment; not far from Samaria was this done by Elijah, and wished to be done by the disciples. So churlish a rejection of a Saviour seemed no less heinous than the endeavour of apprehending a prophet. “Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, as Elias did?” The world yielded but one Elias; that which was zeal in him might be fury in another: the least variation of circumstance may make an example dangerous; presently, therefore, do they hear, “Ye know not of what spirit ye are.” It is the calling that varies the spirit: Elijah was God’s minister for the execution of so severe a judgment; they were but the servants of their own impotent anger; there was fire in their breasts which God never kindled. Far was it from the Saviour of men to second their earthly fire with this heavenly. He came, indeed, to send fire upon earth, but to warm, not to burn; and if to burn, not to persons of men, but their corruptions. How much more safe is it for us to follow the meek prophet of the New Testament, than that fervent prophet of the Old! Let the matter of our prayers be the sweet dews of mercy, not the fires of vengeance.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 1:9. Every servant of the Lord who is really earnest in his office must make up his mind that rude, low, and godless men will scorn him and name him “Man of God” in mockery. Although no fire from heaven falls down to destroy them, yet the Word of the Lord stands firm for all time: “He that despiseth you,” &c. (Luke 10:16); and the Lord will not leave those unpunished who despise Him in His servants, and exercise their art upon the calling of reconciliation (Isaiah 11:10-11).
—Great rulers always find people who will lend themselves as instruments of their perverted will, who execute with exactness and without scruple what “the king says”; but do not trouble themselves at all about what God says.—Lange.
—Behold the true son of Jezebel! The anguish of his disease, the expectation of death, cannot take off his persecution of Elijah; it is against his will that his deathbed is not bloody. Had Ahaziah meant any other than a cruel violence to Elijah, he had sent a peaceable messenger to call him to the court. He had not sent a captain, with a band of soldiers, to fetch him; the instruments which he useth carry revenge in their face. If he had not thought Elijah more than a man, what needed a band of fifty men to apprehend one? and if he did think him such, why would he send to apprehend him by fifty? Surely Ahaziah knew of old how miraculous a prophet was; what power that man had over all their base deities; what commands of the elements, of the heavens! And yet he sends to attack him. It is a strange thing to see how wilfully godless men strive against the stream of their own hearts, hating that which they know good, fighting against that which they know divine. What a gross disagreement is in the message of this Israelitish captain! “Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.” If he were a man of God, how hath he offended? And if he hath justly offended the anointed of God, how is he a man of God? And if he be a man of God, and have not offended, why should he come down to punishment? Here is a kind confession, with a false heart, with bloody hands. The world is full of these windy courtesies, real cruelties. Deadly malice lurks under fair compliments, and, while it flatters, killeth.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 1:10. This was a miracle of Divine judgment, and in perfect keeping with the spirit of the old dispensation. In this respect the new dispensation widely differs from the old (Luke 9:51-56). But it must not be understood that when our Lord rebuked the two disciples, and showed them the difference between the Law and the Gospel as to the spirit of each, He thereby blamed this act of Elijah’s. He blamed the two disciples who dishonoured Elijah by endeavouring to pervert his act into a precedent for a proposal which was altogether dissimilar to that act of Elijah in all the circumstances of the case. Elijah was God’s minister for executing His Divine judgment. The two disciples were but the servants of their own anger.—Wordsworth.
2 Kings 1:12. Ahaziah could not fail by this time to be fully cognisant of these appalling judgments. He might possibly have ventured to put an Atheist construction on the death of the first fifty; that they had been victims of unhappy and untoward accident; that the lightnings, the capricious shafts from the quiver of nature, had by sad mishap fallen on the slopes of Carmel, where his soldiers were. But now that the very same catastrophe had overtaken the second relay, there could surely be little debate that a Higher Hand had put the bow on the string, and made ready the arrows. Blinded indeed must that dying monarch be, if he still refuse to desist from his mad, impotent rage. Alas! how much it takes to humble the proud heart! It is the saddest picture of moral apostasy—the saddest exponent of the enmity of the unregenerate heart—when even the king of terrors brings no terror to the seared conscience and indurated soul; the banner of proud defiance against God and His Christ waved, even when the awful gloom of mortal darkness is closing in all around!—Macduff.
2 Kings 1:13-14. What marble or flint is harder than a wicked heart? As if Ahaziah would despitefully spit in the face of heaven, and wrestle a fall with the Almighty, he will needs yet again set a third captain upon so desperate an employment. How hot a service must this commander needs think himself put upon? Who can but pity his straits! There is death before him, death behind him. If he go not, the king’s wrath is the messenger of death: if he go, the prophet’s tongue is the executioner of death. Many a hard task will follow the service of a prince wedded to his passion, divorced from God. Unwillingly, doubtless, and fearfully, doth this captain climb up the hill to scale that impregnable fort; but now, when he comes near to the assault, the battery that he lays to it is his prayers; his surest fight is upon his knees. This was the way to offer violence to the prophet of God, to the God of that prophet, even humble supplications. We must deprecate that evil which we would avoid; if we would force blessings, we must entreat them. There is nothing to be gotten from God by strong hand; anything by suit.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 1:15-17. A memorable deathbed scene. I. A dying monarch faithfully warned. II. The fearless prophet alone in the midst of dangerous enemies—sees no peril in duty. III. A baffled and disappointed king, unsubdued by suffering, dying in silence, in impenitence, in darkness.
—The fifth of February, sixteen hundred and eighty-five, witnessed a sad scene in the palace of Whitehall. The second Charles lay in the last agony, while, amid the courtly circle around his bed, stood sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, and Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells. “The king is really and truly a Catholic,” whispered the Duchess of Portsmouth to the French Ambassador, “and yet his bed-chamber is full of Protestant clergymen.” The fact had been long suspected, and gave additional earnestness to the holy men who desired to prepare the dying monarch for his inevitable and solemn change. “It is time to speak out, sir,” exclaims Sancroft, “for you are about to appear before a Judge who is no respecter of persons.” “Will you not die in the communion of the Church of England?” anxiously asks Ken. The king gave no response. On which the Bishop put forth all his eloquence, till his pathetic exhortation awed and melted the bystanders to such a degree, that some among them believed him to be filled with the same Spirit which in the old time had, by the mouths of Nathan and Elias, called sinful princes to repentance. To complete the parallel, we must notice another incident in the dying scene. “If it costs me my life,” exclaims the Duke of York, afterwards James II., “I will fetch a priest.” With some difficulty he is found. He is smuggled into the royal presence and the chamber of death. “He is welcome,” says Charles. The monarch who refused to listen to Sancroft. and Ken, has an open ear for Father Huddleston. The monarch who was unwilling to die in the Church of England, is perfectly willing to die in the Church of Rome. Apologising to his attendants that he has been “an unconscionable time dying,” he breathes his last, an apostate from the faith inseparable from England’s throne, and for his abandonment of which his own successor died an exile on the charity of a foreign land. Let Ahaziah take the place of Charles II.; let his idolatry be represented in the popery of the British monarch; let the application to the god of Ekron be symbolized in the welcome given the Romish monk; and, last of all, let Elijah by the bedside of the king of Israel, dealing faithfully with the soul departing there, be the type of good Sancroft and Ken by that other couch, using all their entreaties to make the sufferer think of his approaching end—and the parallel is well-nigh complete.—Howat.
2 Kings 1:15-16. A minister of God must not fear to hold up their sins before sinners and scoffers upon their death bed, and to draw their attention to the judgment of God, in order that, if possible, even in the last hour they may come to a knowledge of that which belongs to their peace, for to offer eternal blessedness to the rich and great, instead of calling them to repentance, is the worst trangression of a prophet; to conceal the approach of his end from one who is sick unto death, and to hold all thoughts of it from him, or even to console him with false hopes of recovery, is no genuine love; for no man can be properly prepared for death who does not think of it often and much.—Lange.
2 Kings 1:17. His death, like that of the two companies of fifties, was a judgment from heaven. It would not do to punish these messengers of the king for insolence towards Jehovah and his prophet, and let the king himself go clear. So this impious monarch is made to drag out his last days under a consciousness of being an object of Jehovah’s wrath.—Whedon.