1Now Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
1Now Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
After the death of Ahab, Moab rebels against Israel. Moab is indebted, but uses the change of power to withdraw from the power of Ahab’s successor. As a result, a large part of the income of the king of Israel is lost (2Kgs 3:44Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and used to pay the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams.). The purpose of mentioning this fact is probably to indicate that God’s discipline is also felt politically and economically. If a king of God’s people turns away from God, it is also at the expense of his power over the enemies of God’s people.
2And Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber which [was] in Samaria, and became ill. So he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this sickness.”
The way Ahaziah follows (1Kgs 22:52-5352He did evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.53So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger, according to all that his father had done.) brings God’s discipline upon him. He falls out of the window and has to keep the bed. The fact that Ahaziah falls down from his upper chamber is opposite the way that Elijah is going, a way that is going higher and higher. In this chapter Elijah sits on a mountain and in the next chapter he is taken up into heaven.
Often the sickbed is the place where a person is given the opportunity to reflect on his way, an opportunity which God likes to use to point people to Himself. With Ahaziah things are different. His sickbed makes it clear on whom he places his hope. He turns to “the god of Ekron”. Ekron is a city of the Philistines.
Ahaziah sends messengers abroad, to the Philistines, to consult one of their gods, Baal-zebub, which means ‘lord of the flies’. He resorts to the demons to ask them how his illness will go. Ahaziah does not even ask whether the idol wants to heal him. He wants to know how he is going to end up. He asks for a prediction of the future. This is in direct contradiction with what God has said in His Word; this behavior is an abomination to Him (Deu 18:10-1210There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,11or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.12For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.).
A lot of people are working today in Ahaziah’s way to satisfy their curiosity about the future. They do not resort to God’s Word, but seek salvation with soothsayers, horoscopes and other occult means. All these occult occupations are extremely dangerous. People who do this surrender to devilish powers.
Ahaziah’s action is an enormous insult to the LORD. Ahaziah completely ignores God. One of the worst things a person can do to another is to ignore him completely. This insult is suffered by God from the side of the leader of His people.
3But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel [that] you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 4Now therefore thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” Then Elijah departed.
The LORD sends both in His indignation and in His faithfulness Elijah to the messengers with a word for Ahaziah. This way Ahaziah gets an answer sooner than he expects. Elijah must tell Ahaziah how the LORD sees his future. The messengers must convey the message. That message is the penetrating question: “Is it because there is no God in Israel …? That is the question that should bring Ahaziah to repentance.
The Lord also wants, through all kinds of events that happen to us, always point out that He is there. He wants us to know that we can go to Him with everything. This also means that we should not set our expectations on people or gods to know how things will go.
Isaiah also once spoke to the people in a way similar to what we hear here of Elijah (Isa 8:19-2219When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? [Should they consult] the dead on behalf of the living?20To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.21They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward.22Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and [they will be] driven away into darkness.). In the days of Isaiah, the people resorted to spiritistic mediums, instead of accepting the signs and messages that God gives. Whoever does not believe in the Word of God seeks advice and help from other sources.
The LORD reproaches the people for this by asking two questions. The answer to these questions is contained in the question: “Should not a people consult their God? [Should they consult] the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isa 8:1919When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? [Should they consult] the dead on behalf of the living?). These are questions that correspond to the question that Ahaziah is asked. Instead of consulting the living God, the dead idols are consulted, but behind those dead idols are evil spirits (1Cor 10:19-2019What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?20[No], but [I say] that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.).
5When the messengers returned to him he said to them, “Why have you returned?” 6They said to him, “A man came up to meet us and said to us, ‘Go, return to the king who sent you and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel [that] you are sending 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.’”‘“ 7He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?” 8They answered him, “[He was] a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
The messengers report on what Elijah has told them. It seems that they are not even aware that they have met Elijah. They talk about “a man”. Ahaziah then asks what he looked like. They can describe that man. From the description, Ahaziah draws the correct conclusion that it is Elijah. He did not forget Elijah.
Elijah’s clothing makes him a unique apparition. His clothes characterize him. He has a service of simplicity and therefore of strength. The clothes he wears carry that message, as it were. He does not walk in soft clothes, like the distinguished people (Mt 11:88But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft [clothing]? Those who wear soft [clothing] are in kings’ palaces!). John the baptist is also characterized by the simplicity of his clothing and the simplicity of his food (Mt 3:44Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.).
Can people also see from our attitude and behavior that we are not part of a world lying “in [the power of] the evil one” (1Jn 5:1919We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in [the power of] the evil one.)? Can they see that within a Christianity where everything is determined by man’s thinking, we do not allow ourselves to be carried away by this thinking? Can God use us to give a clear testimony of Him, that He is there?
9Then [the king] sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’” 10Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. 11So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, “O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’” 12Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. 13So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, “O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight. 14Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.” 15The angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king. 16Then he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘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.’”
Ahaziah no longer has to go to the god of Ekron. He now knows where he stands with his illness. His sickbed will be his deathbed. Instead of accepting this and bowing before God, Ahaziah wants to kill Elijah. He believes in idolatrous superstition that he would break the curse – for that is how he sees Elijah’s announcement – if he eliminates Elijah. He only looks at the instrument and not at God. He sends a captain of fifty with his fifty to Elijah to bring him to him.
The captain finds Elijah, who sits lonely on top of the hill. Elijah sits there in peace and quiet. He is on a hilltop, the right place for a man of God. It speaks symbolically of his separation from a godless environment and of being close to God. The captain speaks to him as “man of God”. In doing so, he acknowledges who Elijah is. However, he does not bow down for him, but orders him to go with him by command of the king to eliminate.
Like the third captain, he could have bowed down and approached Elijah with the respect that suited him toward Elijah as a man of God. However, this is not the case with him. The captain is a guilty man and so are his men. They could all have listened to the message of the man of God and had to resist Ahaziah in his wicked mission.
Elijah’s response to the command of the captain consists of fire that he lets come down from heaven. The two times Elijah lets come down fire from heaven are the last acts of his service among the people. It is characteristic of its entire service, which is a service of judgment. In a way his service on the Carmel was lived without result, because the national revival that seemed to come on the Carmel did not take place. Then there was also fire from heaven. But that fire came down to the innocent sacrifice. Now the fire comes on people of God’s people, but a people who in their leader have completely surrendered themselves to the Baal.
Two of the disciples of the Lord Jesus also once want to let come down fire from heaven. They ask the Lord for permission to do so (Lk 9:5454When His disciples James and John saw [this], they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”). However, it is not a good question. The Lord Jesus forbids them, for His service is not a service of judgment, but of grace (Lk 9:55-56a55But He turned and rebuked them, And they went on to another village.). It is, during His life on earth, not yet the day of revenge, it is not yet the time for the exercise of judgment. That time will come. In the future, men will appear who let fire come out of their mouths to consume their enemies (Rev 11:55And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.).
Apparently Ahaziah doesn’t mind that fifty-one people of his army have been killed by God’s fire. He remains unrepentant. Once again he sends a captain with his fifty. This man acts in the spirit of his predecessor and his king. He also calls Elijah “man of God”, but he also lacks the corresponding reverence due to the man of God. He orders Elijah to come with him even more strongly than his predecessor. In the words “come down quickly” it is said that he sees Elijah as a troublesome, opposing child. That ‘child’ has already said ‘no’ once, but he shouldn’t dare to do it again with him.
The man has not let himself been warned by the judgment of his predecessor. The same judgment strikes him. As the captain has ordered more strongly, the description of the judgment is also stronger. Now there is not only talk of “fire came down from heaven” (verse 1010Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.), but of “the fire of God came down from heaven” (verse 1212Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.).
Ahaziah remains unrepentant even after the death of the second captain with his fifty. He sends a third captain with his fifty. This man shows a different mind. We see him bowing down before Elijah on his knees out of due respect for the man of God. He acknowledges the justice of judgment over his two predecessors. He realizes that only grace can save him and his fifties and appeals to that. Elijah receives a word from the LORD to go with this captain and not let the fire come down on him and his fifty.
When Elijah comes to Ahaziah, he has nothing else to say to him on behalf of the LORD but what Ahaziah already knew by what Elijah said to the messengers. God does not change His thoughts about a man if that man does not change his thoughts about Him.
17So Ahaziah died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. 18Now 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?
With Ahaziah, after all that has happened, there is no sign of repentance. He dies in his sins. Ahaziah dies “according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken”. It testifies of the truth that God does not change His word. It also bears witness to the faithfulness of Elijah who spoke this word and no other word. This is also an important indication for us: we only must speak God’s Word.
Because Ahaziah has no son, his brother Jehoram becomes king in his place.