2 Kings 1
We here find Ahaziah, the genuine son and successor of Ahab, on the
throne of Israel. His reign continued not two years; he died by a fall
in his own house, of which, after the mention of the revolt of Moab
(2 Kings 1:1),
we have here an account.
I. The message which, on that occasion, he sent to the god of Ekron,
2 Kings 1:2.
II. The message he received from the God of Israel,
2 Kings 1:3-8.
III. The destruction of the messengers he sent to seize the prophet,
once and again,
2 Kings 1:9-12.
IV. His compassion to, and compliance with, the third messenger, upon
his submission, and the delivery of the message to the king himself,
2 Kings 1:13-16.
IV. The death of Ahaziah,
2 Kings 1:17,18.
In the story we may observe how great the prophet looks and how little
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1 Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
2 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, enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether
I shall recover of this disease.
3 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 enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?
4 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.
5 And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto
them, Why are ye now turned back?
6 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 enquire of Baal-zebub the
god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on
which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
7 And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came
up to meet you, and told you these words?
8 And they answered him, He was a hairy man, and girt with a
girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah
We have here Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, under God's rebukes
both by his providence and by his prophet, by his rod and by his
I. He is crossed in his affairs. How can those expect to prosper that
do evil in the sight of the Lord, and provoke him to
anger? When he rebelled against God, and revolted from his
allegiance to him, Moab rebelled against Israel, and revolted from the
subjection that had long paid to the kings of Israel,
2 Kings 1:1.
The Edomites that bordered on Judah, and were tributaries to the kings
of Judah, still continued so, as we find in the chapter before
(1 Kings 22:47),
till, in the wicked reign of Joram, they broke that yoke
(2 Kings 8:22)
as the Moabites did now. If men break their covenants with us, and
neglect their duty, we must reflect upon our breach of covenant with
God, and the neglect of our duty to him. Sin weakens and impoverishes
us. We shall hear of the Moabites,
2 Kings 3:5.
II. He is seized with sickness in body, not from any inward cause, but
by a severe accident. He fell down through a lattice, and was
much bruised with the fall; perhaps it threw him into a fever,
2 Kings 1:2.
Whatever we go, there is but a step between us and death. A man's house
is his castle, but not to secure him against the judgments of God. The
cracked lattice is a fatal to the son, when God pleases to make it so,
as the bow drawn at a venture was to the father. Ahaziah would not
attempt to reduce the Moabites, lest he should perish in the field of
battle: but he is not safe, though he tarry at home. Royal palaces do
not always yield firm footing. The snare is laid for the sinner in the
ground where he thinks least of it,
The whole creation, which groans under the man's sin, will at length
sink and break under the weight, like this lattice. He is never safe
that has God for his enemy.
III. In his distress he sends messengers to enquire of the god Ekron
whether he should recover or no,
2 Kings 1:2.
1. His enquiry was very foolish: Shall I recover? Even nature
itself would rather have asked, "What means may I use that I may
recover?" But as one solicitous only to know his fortune, not to know
his duty, his question is only this, Shall I recover? to which a
little time would give an answer. We should be more thoughtful what
will become of us after death than how, or when, or where, we shall
die, and more desirous to be told how we may conduct ourselves well in
our sickness, and get good to our souls by it, than whether we shall
recover from it.
2. His sending to Baal-zebub was very wicked; to make a dead and dumb
idol, perhaps newly erected (for idolaters were fond of new gods), his
oracle, was not less a reproach to his reason than to his religion.
Baal-zebub, which signifies the lord of a fly, was one of their
Baals that perhaps gave his answers either by the power of the demons
or the craft of the priests, with a humming noise, like that of a great
fly, or that had (as they fancied) rid their country of the swarms of
flies wherewith it was infested, or of some pestilential disease
brought among them by flies. Perhaps this dunghill-deity was as famous
then as the oracle of Delphos was, long afterwards, in Greece. In the
New Testament the prince of the devils is called
for the gods of the Gentiles were devils, and this perhaps grew to be
one of the most famous.
IV. Elijah, by direction from God, meets the messengers, and turns them
back with an answer that shall save them the labour of going to Ekron.
Had Ahaziah sent for Elijah, humbled himself, and begged his prayers,
he might have had an answer of peace; but if he send to the god of
Ekron, instead of the God of Israel, this, like Saul's consulting the
witch, shall fill the measure of his iniquity, and bring upon him a
sentence of death. Those that will not enquire of the word of God for
their comfort shall be made to hear it, whether they will or not, to
1. He faithfully reproves his sin
(2 Kings 1:3):
Is it not because there is not (that is, because you think there
is not) a God in Israel (because there is no God, none in
Israel, so it may be read), that you go to enquire of
Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, a despicable town of the Philistines
long since vanquished by Israel? Here,
(1.) The sin was bad enough, giving that honour to the devil which is
due to God alone, which was done as much by their enquiries as by their
sacrifices. Note, It is a very wicked thing, upon any occasion or
pretence whatsoever, to consult with the devil. This wickedness reigned
in the heathen world
and remains too much even in the Christian world, and the devil's
kingdom is supported by it.
(2.) The construction which Elijah, in God's name, puts upon it, makes
it much worse: "It is because you think not only that the God of Israel
is not able to tell you, but that there is no God at all in Israel,
else you would not send so far for a divine answer." Note, A practical
and constructive atheism is the cause and malignity of our departures
from God. Surely we think there is no God in Israel when we live
at large, make flesh our arm, and seek a portion in the things of this
2. He plainly reads his doom: Go, tell him he shall surely die,
2 Kings 1:4.
"Since he is so anxious to know his fate, this is it; let him make the
best of it." The certain fearful looking for of judgment and
indignation which this message must needs cause cannot but cut him to
V. The message being delivered to him by his servants, he enquires of
them by whom it was sent to him, and concludes, by their description of
him, that it must be Elijah,
2 Kings 1:7,8.
1. His dress was the same that he had seen him in, in his father's
court. He was clad in a hairy garment, and had a leathern girdle about
him, was plain and homely in his garb. John Baptist, the Elias of the
New Testament, herein resembled him, for his clothes were made of hair
cloth, and he was girt with a leathern girdle,
He that was clothed with the Spirit despised all rich and gay clothing.
2. His message was such as he used to deliver to his father, to whom he
never prophesied good, but evil. Elijah is one of those witnesses that
still torment the inhabitants of the earth,
He that was a thorn in Ahab's eyes will be so in the eyes of his son
while he treads in the steps of his father's wickedness; and he is
ready to cry out, as his father did, Hast thou found me, O my
enemy? Let sinners consider that the word which took hold of
their fathers is still as quick and powerful as ever. See
|Fire Called from Heaven by Elijah.
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9 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
a hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath
said, Come down.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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.
13 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.
14 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.
15 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.
16 And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou
hast sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron,
is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his
word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which
thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
17 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
18 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?
I. The king issues out a warrant for the apprehending of Elijah. If
the God of Ekron had told him he should die, it is probable he would
have taken it quietly; but now that a prophet of the Lord tells him so,
reproving him for his sin and reminding him of the God of Israel, he
cannot bear it. So far is he from making any good improvement of the
warning given him that he is enraged against the prophet; neither his
sickness, nor the thoughts of death, made any good impressions upon
him, nor possessed him with any fear of God. No external alarms will
startle and soften secure sinners, but rather exasperate them. Did the
king think Elijah a prophet, a true prophet? Why then durst he
persecute him? Did he think him a common person? What occasion was
there to send such a force, in order to seize him? Thus a band of men
must take our Lord Jesus.
II. The captain that was sent with his fifty soldiers found Elijah on
the top of a hill (some think Carmel), and commanded him, in the king's
name, to surrender himself,
2 Kings 1:9.
Elijah was now so far from absconding, as formerly, into the close
recesses of a cave, that he makes a bold appearance on the top of a
hill; experience of God's protection makes him more bold. The captain
calls him a man of God, not that he believed him to be so, or
reverenced him a such a one, but because he was commonly called so. Had
he really looked upon him as a prophet, he would not have attempted to
make him his prisoner; and, had he thought him entrusted with the word
of God, he would not have pretended to command him with the word of a
III. Elijah calls for fire from heaven, to consume this haughty daring
sinner, not to secure himself (he could have done that some other way),
nor to avenge himself (for it was not his own cause that he appeared
and acted in), but to prove his mission, and to reveal the wrath of
God from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men. This captain had, in scorn, called him a man of God:
"If I be so," says Elijah, "thou shalt pay dearly for making a jest of
it." He valued himself upon his commission (the king has said, Come
down), but Elijah will let him know that the God of Israel is
superior to the king of Israel and has a greater power to enforce his
commands. It was not long since Elijah had fetched fire from heaven, to
consume the sacrifice
(1 Kings 17:38),
in token of God's acceptance of that sacrifice as an atonement for the
sins of the people; but, they having slighted that, now the fire falls,
not on the sacrifice, but on the sinners themselves,
2 Kings 1:10.
1. What an interest the prophets had in heaven; what the Spirit of God
in them demanded the power of God effected. Elijah did but speak, and
it was done. He that formerly had fetched water from heaven now fetches
fire. O the power of prayer! Concerning the work of my hands,
command you me,
2. What an interest heaven had in the prophets! God was always ready to
plead their cause, and avenge the injuries done to them; kings shall
still be rebuked for their sakes, and charged to do his
prophets no harm; one Elijah is more to God than 10,000 captains
and their fifties. Doubtless Elijah did this by a divine impulse, and
yet our Saviour would not allow the disciples to draw it into a
They were now not far from the place where Elias did this act of
justice upon provoking Israelites, and would needs, in like manner,
call for fire upon those provoking Samaritans. "No," says Christ, "by
no means, you know not what manner of spirit you are of," that
(1.) "You do not consider what manner of spirit, as disciples,
you are called to, and how different from that of the Old-Testament
dispensation; it was agreeable enough to that dispensation of terror,
and of the letter, for Elias to call for fire, but the dispensation of
the Spirit and of grace will by no means allow it."
(2.) "You are not aware what manner of spirit you are, upon this
occasion, actuated by, and how different from that of Elias: he did it
in holy zeal, you in passion; he was concerned for God's glory, you for
your own reputation only." God judges men's practices by their
principles, and his judgment is according to truth.
IV. This is repeated a second time; would one think it?
1. Ahaziah sends, a second time, to apprehend Elijah
(2 Kings 1:11),
as if he were resolved not to be baffled by omnipotence itself.
Obstinate sinners must be convinced and conquered, at last, by the fire
of hell, for fire from heaven, it seems, will not subdue them.
2. Another captain is ready with his fifty, who, in his blind rage
against the prophet, and his blind obedience to the king, dares engage
in that service which had been fatal to the last undertakers. This is
as impudent and imperious as the last, and more in haste; not only,
"Come down quietly, and do not struggle," but without taking any
notice of what had been done, he says, "Come down quickly, and
do not trifle, the king's business requires haste; come down, or I will
fetch thee down."
3. Elijah relents not, but calls for another flash of lightning, which
instantly lays this captain and his fifty dead upon the spot. Those
that will sin like others must expect to suffer like them; God is
V. The third captain humbled himself and cast himself upon the mercy of
God and Elijah. It does not appear that Ahaziah ordered him to do so
(his stubborn heart is as hard as ever; so regardless is he of the
terrors of the Lord, so little affected with the manifestations of his
wrath, and withal so prodigal of the lives of his subjects, that he
sends a third with the same provoking message to Elijah), but he took
warning by the fate of his predecessors, who, perhaps, lay dead before
his eyes; and, instead of summoning the prophet down, fell down before
him, and begged for his life and the lives of his soldiers,
acknowledging their own evil deserts and the prophet's power
(2 Kings 1:13,14):
Let my life be precious in thy sight. Note, There is nothing to
be got by contending with God: if we would prevail with him, it must be
by supplication; if we would not fall before God, we must bow before
him; and those are wise for themselves who learn submission from the
fatal consequences of the obstinacy of others.
VI. Elijah does more than grant the request of this third captain. God
is not so severe with those that stand it out against him but he is as
ready to show mercy to those that repent and submit to him; never any
found it in vain to cast themselves upon the mercy of God. This
captain, not only has his life spared, but is permitted to carry his
point: Elijah, being so commanded by the angel, goes down with him
to the king,
2 Kings 1:15.
Thus he shows that he before refused to come, not because he feared the
king or court, but because he would not be imperiously compelled, which
would lessen the honour of his master; he magnifies his office.
He comes boldly to the king, and tells him to his face (let him take it
as he may) what he had before sent to him
(2 Kings 1:16),
that he shall surely and shortly die; he mitigates not the sentence,
either for fear of the king's displeasure or in pity to his misery. The
God of Israel has condemned him, let him send to see whether the god of
Ekron can deliver him. So thunder-struck is Ahaziah with this message,
when it comes from the prophet's own mouth, that neither he nor any of
those about him durst offer him any violence, nor so much as give him
an affront; but out of that den of lions he comes unhurt, like Daniel.
Who can harm those whom God will shelter?
Lastly, The prediction is accomplished in a few days. Ahaziah
(2 Kings 1:17),
and, dying childless, left his kingdom to his brother Jehoram. His
father reigned wickedly twenty-two years, he not two. Sometimes the
wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power; but those who
therefore promise themselves prosperity in impiety may perhaps find
themselves deceived; for (as bishop Hall observes here), "Some sinners
live long, to aggravate their judgment, others die soon, to hasten it;"
but it is certain that evil pursues sinners, and, sooner or later, it
will overtake them; nor will any thing fill the measure sooner than
that complicated iniquity of Ahaziah--honouring the devil's oracles and
hating God's oracles.