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Deeper Commentary

2Ki 1:1 Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab-
We last heard of Moab when David subdued them (2 Sam. 8:2). The Moabite stone states that Israel and Moab were in conflict in the time of Ahab's father Omri. Tired of paying the heavy tax of 2 Kings 3:4, Moab seized the opportunity when Ahab died suddenly and Israel were defeated by Syria at Ramoth Gilead.

2Ki 1:2 Ahaziah fell down through the lattice in his upper room that was in Samaria, and was sick-
Elijah had prophesied that all Ahab's sons would be cut off, and here we see the fulfilment.

Ahaziah means 'Yahweh possesses'. Ahab knew this and liked the idea of it, but did exactly the opposite to this spirit in murdering Naboth for not selling him Yahweh's possession. We can know things on one level and yet act otherwise. Realizing this bids us go the way of total, absolute surrender. Or perhaps he named his son this in repentance for not accepting this principle. 

The record is full of connection with Elijah's healing of the widow's son in 1 Kings 17. There is an "upper room", the child falls sick and dies just as Ahaziah does, both are on a bed in an upper room (Ahaziah went up onto a bed, 2 Kings 1:4), but clearly Ahaziah is unfavourably contrasted with the Gentile widow woman. Because the widow's child "revived" (1 Kings 17:22), whereas Ahaziah did not "recover" (s.w. revived, 2 Kings 1:2). He did not come down from the bed in the upper room, whereas the widow's son did. The intention is to demonstrate the superiority of Yahweh and His prophet Elijah over Baal. This is confirmed by Elijah using fire to destroy Ahaziah's men, whereas Baal was supposed to be the god of fire and rain, in that he was the god of fertility and supposedly could revive the dead. But surely this superiority of Yahweh over Baal had been demonstrated for all time by the triumph on Carmel in 1 Kings 18. But again fire is called down from Yahweh in the same way as Elijah had done in 1 Kings 18. We see how people so easily revert to idolatry, and physical, visible evidence is of little long term value.  


So he sent messengers and said to them, Go, inquire of Baal Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover of this sickness-
The Pharisees accused Jesus of doing miracles by the power of a false god called Beelzebub. Jesus said, “If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out?” (Mt. 12:27). 2 Kings 1:2 clearly tells us that Beelzebub was a false god of the Philistines. Jesus did not say, ‘Now look, 2 Kings 1:2 says Beelzebub was a false god, so your accusation cannot be true’. No, He spoke as if Beelzebub existed, because He was interested in getting His message through to His audience. So in the same way Jesus talked about casting out demons – He did not keep saying, ‘actually, they do not exist’, He just preached the Gospel in the language of the day.

We note they didn't ask for healing. For only Yahweh heals. They consulted some kind of oracle there to see whether he would recover. It seems the damage from the fall had put him in some kind of condition which appeared to them as a "sickness". "Whether I will recover..." is a tacit acceptance that Baal was not a god known for healing, but simply as a foreteller of the future.

2Ki 1:3 But the angel of Yahweh said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and tell them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you go to inquire of Baal Zebub, the god of Ekron?-
Elijah had been rejected from his ministry as the lead prophet of Israel at the time of 1 Kings 19; and he had called Elisha to replace him. But he is here given another chance to serve God as a prophet. Perhaps he repented of his arrogance in considering nobody else to be a true prophet, and so God was willing to use him in some measure again. Or it could be that Elijah persisted in being a prophet, and God was willing to allow him to continue although He had asked him to resign and annoint Elisha. Elijah arrogantly persisted until God forcibly brought fire down upon him and dramatically removed him from his ministry. This reading of things inverts the common idea that Elijah had a wonderful ministry that ended in a blaze of glory and Divine acceptance. The idea that Yahweh was a God only operative in His land, Israel, was widespread. We see it in some of David's Psalms, and in Jonah's vain attempt to flee Yahweh's presence in the land. And yet that wrong idea is 'gone along with' here, in order to make a point to Ahaziah. Just as the language of demons is likewise used in the New Testament, although demons have no real existence.

2Ki 1:4 Now therefore thus says Yahweh, You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die’. Elijah departed-
Perhaps his bedroom was not on the ground floor; :2 could imply he had fallen from his upper room, and now was confined there again.

2Ki 1:5 The messengers returned to him, and he said to them, Why is it that you have returned?-
The messengers obviously took Elijah very seriously, because they did not proceed to Ekron but instead returned to Amaziah. Such disobedience to the king was not normal. They had been deeply struck by God's word, just as those sent to arrest the Lord Jesus returned saying that no man spoke like Him. Again we see how there is a niggling conscience in man towards the one true God, and it is easily aroused. This is a comfort to us in our mission of witnessing to apparent unbelievers and agnostics.

2Ki 1:6 They said to him, A man came up to meet us and said to us, ‘Go, return to the king who sent you, and tell him, Thus says Yahweh, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you send to inquire of Baal Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die’-
This usage of the "Thus says Yahweh" formula is an improvement upon Elijah's earlier way of speaking; he has never previously said this. In 1 Kings 21:21 Elijah simply announced to Ahab: “Behold I will bring evil upon you...”. We expect this to be prefaced by a “Thus says Yahweh”- but Elijah was so close to God he assumed he was speaking directly from Him. And yet Elijah didn’t then repeat exactly what God had told him to say in 1 Kings 21:19. But now he does much better. Is this a hint at spiritual reformation in him, which was why God continued to use him? Had he previously been too familiar with God? Assuming he knew God’s will and words? But now he repeats verbatim what he was told to say. We too know God’s word. We know the Bible text well. But this can lead to an assumption that we speak for God; that we must be right in all our attitudes and positions we adopt on issues. 

Several times we read that they "returned to the king". Literally, 'Repent the King'. He has been assured that he will die, but there is the hint here that if he repented, even that need not happen. This is how flexible is God's plan of working.

2Ki 1:7 He said to them, What kind of man was he who came up to meet you, and told you these words?-
As with Ahab intuitively guessing what Micaiah's message from Yahweh was going to be, so surely Amaziah guessed who this man was. He has the image of Elijah in his mind as he asks this question. Again we see man's religious conscience; he had a deep fearful premonition that this person would have been Elijah. The call of Christ is to accept that conscience and to totally surrender, moment by moment and day by day in human life.

2Ki 1:8 They answered him, He was a hairy man, and wearing a leather belt around his waist. He said, It is Elijah the Tishbite-
Elijah was characterized by wearing a hairy garment like sackcloth (2 Kings 1:8 RV- "a man with a garment of skin" is a fair translation, and we learn from Zech. 13:4 that a hairy mantle was a sign of a prophet). He had been relieved of his ministry in 1 Kings 19, and told to anoint Elisha to replace him. But he doesn't do that, and only symbolically threw his mantle at Elisha and only had Elisha follow him as his servant, not as his replacement prophet. Clearly he had retrieved his mantle from Elisha and wore it himself, rather than leaving it on Elisha. But despite this stubborn, arrogant disobedience- God still works with him. He calls fire down from Heaven and God does so. He is not told to do this, he presumes God will answer him. And God goes along with him. Because later he was intended to look back and realize with awed shock how patient God had been with him despite his arrogance.

The whole incident on Horeb had been to make Elijah see the supremacy of the still small voice; that it is in humble, quiet service rather than fiery judgment of others that the essence of God and spirituality is to be found. But God had prepared Elijah for this earlier. Elijah had to hide by the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3) for three and a half years (Lk. 4:25,26). In Rev. 11:3,6 we meet another Elijah figure- also clothed in sackcloth, with the power to bring fire down from Heaven, who for three and a half years… prophesies / preaches. The Old Testament Elijah is famed for his hairy mantle, but the latter day Elijah has not a mantle of hair but the sackcloth of penitence and mourning. The image is of a repentant Elijah. I suggest that this figure is representative of the latter day witnesses to God's truth in the last days. Thereby we are connected with Elijah in his sackcloth. We would expect Elijah to have been preaching during his time hidden by Cherith- but there is not a word of this in the record. We are expected to be how Elijah should have been. Could it not be that the Father wishes to show us what He was then trying to teach Elijah- that the essential prophetic witness is through us being as we are, the still small voice of witness through example…?

2Ki 1:9 Then the king sent a captain of fifty with his fifty to him. He went up to him; and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. He said to him, Man of God, the king has said, ‘Come down!’-
There are several connections between Elijah and Carmel; he may well have had a school of the prophets on that mountain. So that may be the locality in view. Perhaps Elijah lived on it endlessly reminiscent of what he thought to be his most glorious moment there. But he is made to show grace and come down from it. The third group of 50 did what the previous two groups of 50 did. They obeyed a command to take Elijah. They were no morally different. But Elijah is commanded to show them grace. 

The squadrons of 50 soldiers were clearly sent to take Elijah by force. Amaziah didn't like the message, and so he wanted to shoot the messenger. We see this so often as the root motive and psychology behind persecution, dislike and slander of Christian preachers. 

2Ki 1:10 Elijah answered to the captain of fifty, If I am a man of God, let fire come down from the sky, and consume you and your fifty! Fire came down from the sky, and consumed him and his fifty-
This incident of calling fire down from Heaven is specifically rebuked by the Lord Jesus as not being of His Spirit (Lk. 9:54,55). And He rebukes His followers for assuming that their natural prejudice against others can be justified by an appeal to Elijah’s example. When Elijah was asked to “come down” from the hill, he responds by saying that fire would come down (2 Kings 1:9,10); he saw himself as the fire / judgment of God. Yet behind that bold façade was a very insecure man; for the Angel had to assure him not to fear, and to go down with the third captain (2 Kings 1:15). Beneath his apparent zeal for Yahweh, Elijah was basically fearful, of himself, of others, even perhaps of God. So often, fear is the basic reason for our failures and misperceptions and harsh judgments. His motives were mixed; he clearly saw the similarity with how he had called fire down to consume the sacrifice on Carmel, in order to convert Israel back to God. But he clearly failed to see the value of those 100 lives he had now taken by doing the same thing in consuming people. The value and meaning of persons was lost on him. All he could think of was fighting apostasy and judging it. Elijah called the fire down in evident allusion to how fire came down from the Lord to destroy Nadab and Abihu and also Sodom (Lev. 10:2; Gen. 19:24). He did the wrong thing from wrong motives and yet he Biblically justified it- for the prophets themselves saw an apostate Israel as being like Sodom (Is. 1:10). Now this is probably how most Christians sin. We rarely harden ourselves and sin in willful defiance. In the heat of the moment the ‘devil’ of our own self-talk persuades us to find a pseudo-spiritual justification for actions which only later we reflect were wrong. The Lord’s wilderness temptations were all about doing justifiable things for wrong motives, based on a self-justifying recollection of Bible passages. And this in essence is how it is with most of our failures. The Lord’s victory and Elijah’s failure should serve to stop us in our tracks in careful and sustained self-examination.

The idea of fire from Heaven is found in the Lord’s teaching in Lk. 12:49-54, where He associates it with division in the brotherhood. And the Lord went on to say that the Pharisees could interpret a cloud arising in the West as a sign that rain was coming, but they could not forgive their brethren, which was what was essential (Lk. 12:54). This just has to be a reference to Elijah, who saw a cloud arising from the West as a sign of rain. The Lord is, it seems, sadly associating Elijah with the Pharisees. And yet... despite all this,  Jesus likens Himself to Elijah. Jesus sent fire on earth as Elijah did (Lk. 12:49). And the context of the Lk. 9:54 reference to Elijah is that the Lord’s time had come that he should be “received up”, and “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51). This is all very much the language of Elijah (2 Kings 2:1). And elsewhere Jesus quotes Elijah’s words “Your son lives” (1 Kings 17:23 = Jn. 4:50-53). What this shows is that the Lord saw what was good in Elijah, and He didn’t separate Himself from someone who didn’t have His Spirit. He simply wanted His followers to learn better from him.

Fire from Heaven is a clear symbol of Divine judgment; we think of Sodom's judgment and the fire that fell on Job's home. Elijah calls fire down from Heaven apparently at will- both on Carmel and in destroying the soldiers sent to take him. God is not recorded as telling him to do this. He is extremely confident that God's judgment must fall, and his faith is rewarded. But he was so far from God in his spirit, as the Lord's allusion to the incident shows. But God patiently doesn't forcibly stop him nor force him out of ministry. He allows us leeway in how we serve Him; as in the parable of the talants, we are given the ability to serve but aren't told specifically how to in practice. And we will make mistakes and be unbalanced in our positions as we work towards maturity. God's patience with us is amazing.

Finally God sends fire from Heaven to remove Elijah from his ministry, as he was refusing to quit it as asked. The fire that came from Heaven to remove Elijah was therefore some kind of judgment of him, although he was not slain by it and was apparently removed to live in obscurity elsewhere. The chariots of fire that came to remove him were not therefore the blaze of glory in which a glorious ministry ended- but rather the opposite. It was God's judgment upon him, although he was not destroyed by it, but forcibly removed to obscurity. And in that obscurity, he apparently repented- for the transfiguration appearance make it clear that he will be in God's Kingdom. Jonah is very similar to Elijah, and we are left to infer his similar repentance after the narrated events finished.

2Ki 1:11 Again he sent to him another captain of fifty and his fifty. He answered him, Man of God, the king has said, ‘Come down quickly!’-
Elijah sees himself as the fire sent from God; he associates himself directly with God and His judgments. He hadn’t learnt the lesson that God wasn’t in the fire but in the small voice. The captain wanted Elijah to come down from the high hill (cp. Heaven), so Elijah calls fire to come down from Heaven. He sees himself as the fire, as God coming down. He had the wrong attitude and yet God still heard his prayers; God worked with Elijah as Elijah wanted. And so we perceive the subtleties of a man’s relationship with God. Prayer may be answered, and the extent of Elijah’s faith in ‘commanding’ the fire to come down is indeed awesome, but we may even then still be ‘playing God’ in a wrong way. This playing of God, this over certainty that God was behind him, led Elijah into some arrogance. Elijah was being sarcastic in quipping that they had asked him to "come down", but he would call fire to "come down" upon them. But God still worked with him, as with his calling of fire down on Carmel despite again being sarcastic about Baal being in the toilet. God does work with people despite their immaturity. The situations repeat- and so does Elijah's failure. We are tested with situations and we may fail each time.

2Ki 1:12 Elijah answered them, If I am a man of God, let fire come down from the sky, and consume you and your fifty! The fire of God came down from the sky, and consumed him and his fifty-
Elijah like the disciples thought that he was the judge on God’s behalf, and that he was justified in calling down fire, evocative as that was of the way God Himself judges sinners. But Jesus puts it all another way- our focus, if we have His spirit, should be on saving people by getting them to destroy / lose their own fleshly lives through following Him. Jn. 12:25,26 makes the same point- he who loves his life loses / destroys it, but he who picks up the cross and follows Jesus will save it. Our absolute focus must be on the salvation of others through helping them condemn / destroy / lose themselves for the Lord’s sake; and we achieve this by following Jesus in the life of the cross, not by destroying others ourselves. The Lord came to save not destroy; to save the lost / destroyed (Lk. 6:9; 19:10- the same words are used; note how this theme is developed specifically by Luke). But He did this through getting people to destroy their lives. And He begged- and begs- His followers to have His spirit / attitude in all this. And His point was that Elijah didn’t have His Spirit. Note that God worked with Elijah- He heard his prayers. Elijah like the disciples had the “Spirit”, the power that God was willing to let them have; and yet the Spirit of Jesus is more than raw power. And so it could be said of us, that we so often know not what manner of spirit we are of. We may be correctly reflecting the judgment of God, we may have Biblical justification for the hard line we adopt; but this doesn’t mean that we fully have the spirit of Christ. Yet as with Elijah, the fact our prayers are heard, that Scripture appears to back us, can make us blind to such major insufficiencies in our spirituality. We have a choice in how we respond to others’ weakness; there are different levels of response. “If thy brother sin against thee”, the Lord said- we can ultimately take others with us and then treat him as a Gentile or tax collector. But He continues- if our brother sin against us, we should forgive to an unlimited extent. This is the higher level of response to your brother’s weakness. Elijah and the disciples took the first of those options, as many of us do; but in doing so we so easily forget what manner of spirit we are of; for we are to be of the spirit of Christ, not Elijah. And His attitude / spirit was most definitely to save rather than to destroy, to share table fellowship rather than disassociate... The Lord Jesus purposefully inverted the common assumption that the duty of a righteous man was to condemn the sinners. When He said that there is much joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents (Lk. 15:10), the Lord was purposefully inverting the common contemporary Jewish saying that there was much joy in Heaven whenever one sinner is destroyed in judgment. His desire is to seek to save rather than to destroy. And Elijah had not attained to this spirit of Christ when he called fire down from Heaven.

The same words are used as in 1 Kings 18:38 for how Elijah called down fire to "consume" the sacrifice. Probably Elijah is again on Carmel. He was not fold to do what he did on Carmel, but rather he exercised his initiative. And the same here. This is my angle on the morality of the miracle. The fire came from God and consumed 50 men, all somebody's sons and fathers... and then, another 50. But I suggest God had delegated His power to Elijah, and he chose to use it this way. Elijah confidently states that fire shall come down- the Hebrew is emphatic. Just as he said there would be no rain according to his word. There is no "Thus says the Lord". Rather does he present as so strong in faith that he was confident that what he said would happen. Although he lacked the love which is so necessary.

2Ki 1:13 Again he sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. The third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and begged him and said to him, Man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty your servants, be precious in your sight-
Twice Elijah has said that if he is a "man of God", a prophet, then fire would come down. His ministry as Israel's lead prophet had been removed in 1 Kings 19 because of his arrogant refusal to accept the other faithful in Israel. So it's as if he really wants to demonstrate that he is still a "man of God", a prophet. And the third captain perceives that, and therefore addresses Elijah as "Man of God". But he implies that a true man of God would perceive the value and meaning of the human person, and not slaughter people in such a light hearted manner.

We wonder if this slaying of two groups of 50 contrasts with how Obadiah [whom Elijah had despised as insincere] had saved the lives of two groups of 50 prophets of Yahweh- whom Elijah had discounted as insincere, since he had protested that he was the only prophet of Yahweh. Elijah thought nothing of taking two groups of 50 lives, whereas Obadiah (whom he despised) risked his life to save two groups of 50. Time and again, Elijah is presented poorly. Defence of God's truth trumped, in a word, people. And he is condemned for this attitude, both by the record, and the Lord's interpretation of these events. We must not think that these things don't apply to us- for each of us has a strong tendency towards judgmentalism, seen from toddlers to old ladies facing their grave planks. And some of the greatest 'defenders of the faith' in Christianity have shown no care for people.


2Ki 1:14 Behold, fire came down from the sky, and consumed the two former captains of fifty with their fifties. But now let my life be precious in your sight-
The captain chose his phrase carefully, for these were the very words of Saul to David (1 Sam. 26:21). He is asking Elijah to show the spirit of grace which David showed to Saul; and David showed that spirit because he was but reflecting the extreme preciousness of human life in the sight of God. He uses the same phrase of how the Messianic King would likewise consider the life of others to be precious in his sight (Ps. 72:14). Elijah is apparently unmoved by this appeal to show grace. He only goes down because an Angel tells him to (:15).

2Ki 1:15 The angel of Yahweh said to Elijah, Go down with him. Don’t be afraid of him. He arose, and went down with him to the king-
Despite all the bravado of Elijah against these captains and their soldiers, one simple reason he called down fire was because he was "afraid" of them. The "him" of whom Elijah was afraid was perhaps the young king Ahaziah. 

2Ki 1:16 He said to him, Thus says Yahweh, ‘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 where you have gone up, but shall surely die’-
As noted on :6, Elijah's verbatim repetition of God's words, prefaced with a "Thus says Yahweh", was an improvement on his previous attitudes. Earlier it seems Elijah had preached Yahweh's word to Ahab and Jezebel with no fear of consequences, ready to die. But now he fears Ahaziah (see on :15), even though the man was sick and incapacitated. His repentance about his pride led him to open himself up as a real person, true to himself. His bravery came largely from his pride. Now he had repented of his pride, he is less brave. It is all so very psychologically credible, as we would expect of a Divinely inspired record; and of a man who really did repent and become humble.   

2Ki 1:17 So he died according to the word of Yahweh which Elijah had spoken. Jehoram began to reign in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son-
We note that both Israel and Judah had a king called Jehoram at this time. This was perhaps intentional, because Jehoshaphat's son had married Ahab's daughter. "The accession of the Israelite Jehoram (Ahab’s brother) took place, according to 2 Kings 3:1, in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat. Jehoram of Judah perhaps received the royal title from his father as early as his father’s sixteenth year, when he was about to join Ahab against the Syrians; the same year might then be called either the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat or the second year of Jehoram".

2Ki 1:18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, aren’t they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
This is not necessarily the books of Chronicles which we have in our Bibles.