In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 8:1-6 were we learn three aspects of the Greatness of Our God. In this post, we continue the story of Elisha where we explore the Wickedness of the Human Heart in 2 Kings 8:7-15.
“7 Elisha went to Dammesek. Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, was ill; and he was told, ‘The man of God has come here.’ 8 The king said to Haza’el, ‘Take with you a gift, go meet the man of God and consult Adonai through him; ask if I will recover from this illness.’ 9 Haza’el went to meet him, taking with him a gift that included everything good Dammesek had, forty camel-loads. He came, stood before him and said, ‘Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to you; he asks, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’” 10 Elisha answered, ‘Go and say to him, ‘You will surely recover’— even though Adonai has shown me that he will surely die.’ 11 Then the man of God fixed his gaze on him for so long that Haza’el became embarrassed; finally, Elisha began to cry. 12 Haza’el asked, ‘Why is my lord crying?’ He answered, ‘Because I know the disasters you will bring on the people of Isra’el — you will set their fortresses on fire, you will kill their young men with the sword, you will dash their little ones to pieces and rip their pregnant women apart.’ 13 Haza’el said, ‘But what is your servant? Nothing but a dog! How could he do anything of such magnitude?’ Elisha answered, ‘Adonai has shown me that you will be king over Aram.’ 14 Then he left Elisha and returned to his master, who asked him, ‘What did Elisha say to you?’ ‘He told me you would surely recover.’ 15 The next day he took a blanket, dipped it in water and spread it on his face, so that he died; and Haza’el took his place as king.” ~ 2 Kings 8:7-15 (CJB)
When the Lord met with the Prophet Eliyahu on Mount Horev (1 Kings 19:8-18), He gave him a threefold commission: to anoint Haza’el king of Aram (Syria), to anoint Yehu king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha to minister as his successor (1 Kings 19:15-16). Before his ascension to heaven, Eliyahu had fulfilled only one of those commissions, the anointing of Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21), so we assume that he told Elisha to take care of the other two assignments. Yehu would become God’s appointed scourge to rid the land of Ach’av’s evil descendants as well as Ach’av’s false religion.
The Mission of Elisha
It took faith and courage for Elisha to travel to Dammesek. After all, he had often thwarted Aram’s plans for raiding Israel’s border towns (6:9-12), and he had humiliated the Aramian army by leading them into Shamron and sending them home with full stomachs but empty hands (6:14-23). Because of Elisha, the Aramian army fled from Shamron and the Jewish people were able to loot their camp (7:1ff). But Elisha had also healed Na’aman the Aramian of his leprosy (5:1ff), and when Elisha brought the Aramian raiding party to Shamron, he showed them mercy and saved their lives. The fact that Ben-Hadad the Aramian king was very ill and wanted help from the Lord made Elisha’s arrival more significant.
This was a pagan Gentile king seeking the help of a prophet of Adonai, but perhaps the conversion of Na’aman had something to do with it. Even more, Ben-Hadad sent Haza’el, one of his high officials, to meet Elisha and give him expensive gifts. But like his master, Elisha undoubtedly refused to accept the gifts (5:15-16). By calling the king of Aram “your son,” Haza’el was seeking to add more honor to Elisha. Then he asked the key question: would the king of Aram recover from his sickness?
Elisha’s replied that the King will surely recover – even though Adonai has shown me that he will surely die. In other words, the sickness was not terminal, but the king’s life was about to be terminated. As a high officer of the king, Haza’el wanted to give the king good news, so he didn’t convey to him the second part of the message.
Elisha stared at Haza’el, as though reading his mind and heart, and then the prophet broke into weeping. The Lord had shown him some of the violence and bloodshed that Haza’el would perpetrate, brutal acts that were normal practices in ancient warfare. Haza’el’s reply indicated that he recognized his subordinate status in the government and wondered where he would get the authority to do those things. Haza’el would have all the authority he needed because he would become king of Aram. The text doesn’t tell us, but this may have been the point at which Elisha anointed Haza’el with the sacred oil. If so, then Haza’el was the only king of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, to have the anointing of the Lord. He ruled Aram for forty-one years (841-801 CE).
In my next post, we conclude our exploration of the life of Elisha. In this last post in this series, we pick up the story in 2 Kings 13:14-21 to learn of Elisha’s Death.