“What sort of man was it,” he asked them, “who came toward you and said these things to you?”
“A hairy man,” they replied, “with a leather belt tied around his waist.”
“That’s Elijah … !” he said.
Second Kings tells us about the Prophet Elijah, the Prophet Elisha, a bloody coup, the only Queen to reign in Judah, and the destruction of Israel, Judah, and the Temple.
Here are 7 interesting things about 2 Kings:
1. “Pick up the mantle …” comes from 2 Kings.
Two of the best-known prophets of the Old Testament are Elijah and Elisha. They are both discussed in 2 Kings.
The Prophet Elijah and the Prophet Elisha, who Elijah taught, were walking together and “as they still went on, and talked, … behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
“And Elisha saw it, and he cried, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.’ And he saw him no more ….”
“[Elisha] took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan ….”
Elisha went on to become a great prophet himself.
2. Would a prophet of God tell someone to lie?
The King of Aram told his lieutenant Hazael to “‘… go to meet the man of God. Consult the Lord through him; ask him, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”
“Hazael went to meet Elisha,” [and] said, ‘[The] king … has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”
Elisha answered, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.”
3. Sometimes doing God’s will requires delegation and foot speed.
The prophet Elisha told another prophet to “take this flask of olive oil … and … pour the oil on [Jehu’s] head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” …”
The prophet anointed Jehu, saying “’This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the Lord’s people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. … As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’” Then he opened the door and ran.”
Jehu immediately went on a wide-spread killing spree, killing the kings of Israel and Judah, their soldiers, their family, their friends, and priests.
4. Killing in the name of …
Remember the word of God relayed by the prophet to Jehu, “You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master”? Jehu did:
“In Samaria there were 70 male descendants (mostly children) of Ahab. Jehu wrote the leading men of the city that “’If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.’ …”
“When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them. They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel. When the messenger arrived, he told Jehu, “They have brought the heads of the princes.”
“Then Jehu ordered, “’Put them in two piles at the entrance of the city gate until morning.’”
“The next morning Jehu … stood before all the people and said, “… The Lord has done what he announced through his servant Elijah.”
5. Something you tried to explain.
Jehu slaughtered many, hundreds if not thousands, during his coup.
Afterwards, “The Lord said to Jehu, ‘Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.’”
Jehu and his descendants remained on the throne for around a century.
6. Shooting yourself in the foot (or elsewhere …)?
Jehu’s slaughter of all the leading men around 842 B.C. likely left Israel weak, and Israel became a vassal state to Assyria, which would go on to destroy Israel in 722 B.C.
An obelisk from around 825 B.C. shows Jehu or a representative of Jehu bowing to the king of Assyria:
7. Long Live the Queen!
God had told David that his descendants would stay on the throne forever (though, many view it as a conditional promise, one whose conditions were not met), but Queen Athaliah is an exception to that line and to the concept of male rules over Israel and Judah:
Jehu had killed Ahaziah, the king of Judah. “When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.”
So, Queen Athaliah now ruled Judah.
But Ahaziah’s sister hid Joash, one of Ahaziah’s sons.
“In the seventh year [the priest] Jehoiada sent for the commanders … and the guards and … showed them the king’s son. He commanded them, saying, ‘… Stay close to the king wherever he goes.’ …”
“Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him … and proclaimed him king. … [T]he people clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’”
“When Athaliah heard the noise …, she went to the … temple of the Lord. She looked and there was the king…. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets.”
“Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, ‘Treason! Treason!'”
They “seized her …, and there she was put to death. …”
2 Kings also briefly tells the tale of Israel (the northern kingdom) being destroyed by the Assyrians and the people of Israel being exported and scattered over other lands in 722 B.C., as well as of Judah (the southern kingdom) being destroyed by the Babylonians and the people of Judah being exiled to Babylon over a period of 597-586 B.C., at the end of which the Temple is destroyed by the Babylonians.
The book also briefly describes King Josiah’s High Priest Hilkiah finding a scroll in the Temple (some say it was Deuteronomy) around 640-615 B.C., the king telling Hilkiah to go to the female Prophet Huldah to ask about it, and Josiah’s reforms.
The book ends with what is widely viewed as a later addition to the book, one in which a former king of Judah is released from prison in Babylon. This probably spurred hopes that he or a son of his would return to the Promised Land to sit on the throne again, but, alas, it was not to be.
Sources and Notes
Introduction: 2 Kings 1:7-8 (JPS). See generally The Jewish Study Bible 2d ed. 2014. Oxford: University Press (Tanakh Translation); The HarperCollins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Harold W. Attridge, ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2006); John Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 2nd ed. (Fortress, 2014).
Section 1: 2 Kings 2:11-13.
2: 2 Kings 8:8-10.
3: 2 Kings 9:1-13; 2 Kings 9-10.
4: 2 Kings 10:1-10.
5: 2 Kings 10:30; see generally
6: See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehu; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian_captivity; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Obelisk_of_Shalmaneser_III.
7: Steve Gardner, “7 Interesting Things About the Book of First Kings,” AuthenticTheology.com (August 16, 2018); Steve Gardner, “7 Interesting Things About the Book of Second Samuel,” AuthenticTheology.com (February 24, 2018); 2 Kings 11:1-16. The Temple destruction occurred despite the Prophet Isaiah’s predictions and in accordance with the Prophet Jeremiah’s predictions.
Conclusion: 2 Kings 17; 2 Kings 22; Isaiah 7, 9; 2 Kings 23.
The picture is by Steven G. Johnson (photographer) —- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jehu-Obelisk-cropped.jpg British Museum [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 ) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
All scripture quoted is from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.