Daily Bible Study Tips –

2 Kings

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 20: 2 Kings 15:27-31, 17:1-8, 18:9-12, Map – Captivities
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-15a 
2 Kings 3, Elisha advises King Jehoshaphat and King Jehoram. 
2 Kings 6:8-7:2, Elisha and King Jehoram of Israel. 
2 Kings 7:1-20, Elisha and King Jehoram of Israel. 
2 Kings 9:1-21, Elisha and King Jehu. 
2 Kings 9:22-37, The death of Jehoram and Jezebel. 
2 Kings 15:8-30, Deteriorating political situation in Israel. 
2 Kings 17:1-23, Israel’s sins are enumerated and punished. 
2 Kings 18:1-8, 13-37, The reforms of Hezekiah. 
2 Kings 19:1-19, Isaiah and Hezekiah. 
2 Kings 19:20-37, Isaiah and Hezekiah. 
2 Kings 20, God shows mercy to Hezekiah. 

1 Kings

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Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 20: 2 Kings 15:27-31, 17:1-8, 18:9-12, Map – Captivities (3/27/15)

I’ve listed the names of places in the reading that I found on the map; some of the others may be on the map as well. Notice that the Kingdom of Israel (orange) is divided into “1st Captivity” (15:29-30) and “2nd Captivity” (17:5-6). One cool feature of this map is that it gives some scripture references that take you from a place to a description of an event than happened there, something you don’t see very often.
  • 15:27, Judah, Israel, Samaria
  • 15:29, Assyria, Gilead
  • 17:4, Egypt
  • 17:6, Halah, Habor River, Gozan, Cities ruled by the Medes

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The Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
The map is from the Thomas family Bible, now in a private collection of a family member.


2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-15a 

Did you ever report what another person had said, only to be asked, "What did he mean by that?"  Sometimes it's hard to tell what a speaker meant, especially if what he said was an exclamation.  In vs. 12, the CEV has Elisha shout, "Israel's cavalry and chariots have taken my master away!"  In the English Standard Version, he cries, "My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!"  The Jerusalem Bible has "My father, my father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!"  The KJV is similar to the ESV and Jerusalem.  Now, I have always thought that Elisha meant that Elijah was such a mighty prophet that he protected Israel like an army.  The translators of the CEV think that Elisha is crying out a description of what he sees.  That's an interesting thought that never occurred to me before.  Read more than one translation, and I guarantee you will have new insights, into what the scripture does say as well as into what it might say.


2 Kings 3, Elisha advises King Jehoshaphat and King Jehoram.

Baalism is finally on its way out in the kingdom of Israel, but the golden calves in the shrines at Dan and Bethel--the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat--still remain.  The dynasty founded by Omri is already doomed, and the prophet Elisha (disciple and successor of Elijah) doesn't have any use for his grandson King Joram.  Out of respect for King Jehoshaphat, however, he consents to prophesy. 

Retired UMC Bishop Woodie W. White writes an annual open letter to Martin Luther King, Jr.  This year he wrote, "Your heart would rejoice at the evidence of your leadership and that of others."  He goes on to say that the lack of racist and sexist overtones in the candidacies of Obama and Clinton represent "a fundamental shift in the American ethos.  That doesn't mean that racism and sexism are absent in American life, but now they are antithetical to an American ethos, not a reflection of it.  Both are illegal today, not written into the law!  In this sense, they are considered un-American. ... [Racism] is considered un-Christian." 

As we have seen before, child sacrifice was common among the Canaanites and Philistines.  It was even practiced by a number of kings of Israel and Judah.  But, as we see today, it was considered un-Israelite. 


2 Kings 6:8-7:2, Elisha and King Jehoram of Israel.

Prophets tended to be astute politicians, in addition to their primary calling as religious figures.  Here we see Elisha pulling the wool over the eyes of a Syrian king as well as giving guidance and comfort to King Jehoram of Israel.  Now Samaria, the capital of Israel, is under siege by a later (I think) Syrian king.  Note the sackcloth the king is wearing; sackcloth was a sign of mourning and penance.  He is mourning for the sorry state of his people while they are under siege--cannibalism, eating unclean animals (the ass), and lack of basic necessities like firewood--and probably repenting of any sins he might have committed against God, to whom he attributes the siege as punishment.  Jehoram finally blames Elisha for the seige--maybe because Elisha made him release all the prisoners earlier--and unsuccessfully sends people to bring him back for execution (vs. 31). 

My son once said that there is a one-word explanation for why outer castle walls don't have windows:  "longbows."  Siege and treachery were about the only ways to defeat a walled city (or castle), and the Bible has several descriptions of the terrible conditions during siege of one city or another.  Note that the king is walking on the wall (vs. 30).  This was before the invention of the longbow.


2 Kings 7:1-20, Elisha and King Jehoram of Israel.

Do you ever read those New Year's Day predictions from all the famous and infamous astrologers?  Or do you listen to stock analysts telling you what to buy and sell, which is pretty much the same thing?  Probably, because that's kind of fun.  Do you ever go back and check whether the predictions turned out right?  Probably not, because that's boring.  It's easy to make predictions.  It's even easy to impress people by making predictions.  The real trick is making accurate  predictions!  This is how you tell whether someone is a prophet:  if short-term, testable predictions come true, a person is a lot more likely to be a prophet than if the short-term predictions are wrong.  Compare vss. 1-2 with vss. 16-20.  The emphasis on the details is important, because it is showing that Elisha's contemporaries--especially the king and his court--had good reason to believe that Elisha was a true prophet.


2 Kings 9:1-21, Elisha and King Jehu.

It always amazes me when somebody gets elected with 51% of the vote and then starts talking about his "mandate."  The voters immediately notice that the new official is going way beyond what anybody had in mind.  Maybe your mandate was to compromise, ever think of that?! 

Remember Naboth's vineyard?  Queen Jezebel had Naboth murdered so that Ahab could have his vineyard.  The prophet Elijah pronounced a doom upon their family, and now it's time for the doom to be carried out.  Elisha, the disciple of Elijah, anoints Jehu, a soldier, as king of Israel in place of King Joram, the son of Ahab.  Jehu leads an uprising.  Joram readies himself for battle.  Ahaziah, king of Judah and a cousin of Joram, takes the field with him.  Notice exactly what the new King Jehu's mandate is:  to wipe out Ahab's family.  This will be important in the study tips that follow.


2 Kings 9:22-37, The death of Jehoram and Jezebel.

It's interesting that Jezebel calls Jehu an assassin.  So what's her point?  Assassination was a fine old tradition in the northern kingdom.  The prophet Elijah's grim prophecy about the house of Ahab is fulfilled when Jehu kills King Jehoram and the Queen Mother Jezebel.  Unfortunately, Jehu gets carried away and kills King Ahaziah of Judah as well and a number of his relatives (in ch. 10), which was no part of his mandate.  Furthermore, he did not get rid of the false shrines at Dan and Bethel.  Jehu's dynasty lasted only four generations after him--a hair over 100 years altogether.  Eventually, the LORD told the prophet Hosea to name his son 'Jezreel,' "because it will not be long before I punish the king of Israel for the murders that his ancestor Jehu committed at Jezreel. I am going to put an end to Jehu's dynasty" (Hosea 1:4). 

The moral of the story that we have seen so far is that families, as well as individuals, reap what they sow.  I've said before that God doesn't actually punish someone for his parents' sins.  Nevertheless, two things do happen.  First, the inevitable consequences of the parents' sins may very well fall upon their children--in our world, a drug lord's family is likely to get caught in the crossfire.  Second, children learn and repeat what they see their parents doing--the drug lord's children go into the drug business.  None of the kings of Israel gave up the family sins of false shrines and assassination.


2 Kings 15:8-30, Deteriorating political situation in Israel.

Hosea's message of redemption fell on deaf ears in the kingdom Israel.  We read a couple of days ago that Hosea preached while Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah reigned in Judah and Jeroboam reigned in Israel.  After Jeroboam, there were actually a whole bunch of kings in Israel during the period from Uzziah to Hezekiah--Zechariah (6 mos.), Shallum (1 mo.), Menahem (10 yrs.), Pekahiah (2 yrs.), Pekah (20 yrs.), and Hoshea (9 yrs.).  Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea all took over by assassination.  They were not interested in returning to God, and they are not mentioned in the book of Hosea.  They were mentioned in The History of the Kings of Israel; however, that book has not survived.  It would no doubt be of great interest to scholars, but it wouldn't change the basic story of rebellion against God, conspiracy, assassination, extortion, looting, mass murder, failed foreign policy, and loss of territory that we see below.


2 Kings 17:1-23, Israel’s sins are enumerated and punished.

I'm sure you've heard of "the 10 lost tribes of Israel."  They were lost because they never gave up the idolatrous shrines to God established by the first king, Jeroboam son of Nebat.  They introduced Baalism as a co-state religion, and they never completely gave that up, either.  They adopted even the worst practices of the local religions, including child sacrifice.  They repeatedly refused to listen to the prophets that God sent to them to urge them to repent.  They accepted assassination, rather than selection by God, as the chief criterion for the monarchy.  In short, they were lost because they didn't want to be found.  The end came in 722 B.C., when the Assyrians invaded Israel, besieged the capital city of Samaria, and deported the populace.  Although vs. 23 says that the people of Israel "still live" in Assyria as of the time I and II Kings was written, that is no longer true.  They are gone. 


2 Kings 18:1-8, 13-37, The reforms of Hezekiah.

The writers of the book of Kings gave King Hezekiah the highest possible praise: "Following the example of his ancestor King David, he did what was pleasing to the LORD."  Because he was a faithful follower of the LORD, he prospered.  Then the Assyrian king invaded Judah, captured several cities, and forced Hezekiah to pay tribute money.  Hezekiah tried to make an alliance with Egypt against Assyria, but that didn't work out.  Now Jerusalem is under siege.  Notice that propaganda in wartime is a very old business.  The kings' representatives at a parley want the Assyrians to speak to them privately, in the new language of Aramaic.  The Assyrians insist on shouting, in Hebrew, so that everyone in Jerusalem, listening from the top of the city walls, can understand their threats and be unsettled by their disinformation campaign.

What will good King Hezekiah do now that his faith, as well as his city, is under siege?  Stay tuned.


2 Kings 19:1-19, Isaiah and Hezekiah.

What do you do first when you have a problem?  Personally, I whine.  Then I try to solve the problem myself.  Eventually, I think, "Maybe I should pray about this."  I admire Hezekiah.  He is faced with a much stronger army, led by a guy who claimed that the LORD had sent him and that the LORD is no better than the gods of all the other nations that Assyria has defeated.  What does Hezekiah do first?  He prays!  Next, he consults the prophet Isaiah, who says that the LORD is working on the problem.  Third, Hezekiah prays again.  Hezekiah's prayer reminds me of some of the prayers of Moses.  "O LORD, please show all the foreign nations worshipping good-for-nothing gods that you are the true and living God.  You can do this, in this case, by rescuing me from the Assyrians."  Hezekiah's prayer for rescue comes after years of faithfully following God's will.  What will God do for Hezekiah?  Stay tuned.


2 Kings 19:20-37, Isaiah and Hezekiah.

Did you know that of the 620,000 deaths resulting from the American Civil War, roughly two-thirds resulted from disease?  When the Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem with overwhelming force, King Hezekiah's response was to turn the problem over to God.  Through the prophet Isaiah, the LORD promised to defend His city and his faithful follower Hezekiah.  The siege was unsuccessful.  One night some unspecified disaster--I'm betting disease--struck the Assyrians, and the next morning they withdrew without having shot an arrow.  Hezekiah and his people were saved, just as the prophet said.  The Assyrian emperor, also as predicted by Isaiah, returned to his own country and was killed there.


2 Kings 20, God shows mercy to Hezekiah.

Today's Study Tip comes from your fellow reader, Daryl L.:
Hezekiah has been an icon of mine since I was eight years old (almost 55 years ago).  2 Kings 20:1-11 is repeated in Isaiah 38:1-7.  When I was 8, my mother fell gravely ill, and the best medical advice in the state of Texas was that she would not live more than six months.  My younger brother was 3 years old at the time.  On Christmas Eve my father had all four of us boys kneel with him at her bedside and he read the Isaiah version of Hezekiah's deathbed prayer.  Then he prayed, "Lord, I'm asking for what you gave Hezekiah, fifteen more years, so I'll have some help raising these four boys."  I thought to myself, "Wow! He's asking for what God gave a king of Israel!"  (I was too young to know about Judah--it was all Israel to me then.)  We didn't get the sun going back up the stairs, but in the Fall of the year after my younger brother graduated from high school fifteen years later, she finally went home.  People have often asked me if I believe in prayer and its corollary question, does God take an active role in the affairs of mere mortals?  You can imagine my answer.


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Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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