Sermon preached on 2 Kings 8:7-29 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 06/28/2020 in Petaluma, CA.
We return in today’s passage to see the action going on in the southern kingdom of Judah where the house of David has been reigning. It has been many chapters since the book of Kings has really dealt with what has been going on in Judah. Ever since the book started talking about the wicked and notorious house of Omri, especially Ahab and Jezebel, its focus has been on Israel and God’s response through Elijah and Elisha to that wicked house. And yet, now here, the author turns our attention briefly back to Judah. In the space of a half of a chapter, we get the sort of typical royal summaries for two kings of Judah. And yet to be clear, while it might seem like the narrator is turning our attention away from Israel for a moment to look again at Judah, that’s barely the case. Rather, what we find here is that the narrator’s short attention back to what’s going on in Judah is to actually show us how the Omri-Ahab-Jezebel evil has become an “infection” that has even spread to Judah in a very serious way. So then, today’s passage will help us see how this evil had begun to infiltrate into Judah and the threat that brought with it.
Let’s begin then first with the important background of verses 7-15 where Hazael is anointed king of Syria as an arm of God’s judgment against his wayward people. The background to this is all the way back to 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was on Mount Sinai. There God explained how he was going to combat the wicked house of Omri and Ahab. It included a three-pronged approach where Elijah would anoint Hazael king of Syria, Jehu king of Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in Israel. Elijah himself only completed the task of anointing Elisha to be the prophet to continue on his work. Finally, after much ministry to a growing remnant of the faithful among Israel, Elisha turns now to finish the work given to his predecessor Elijah. Here, we find him travel to Damascus, the capital of Syria, where he is used by God in Hazael’s rise to the throne in Syria. Next chapter we’ll see him likewise prophetically declare Jehu king of Israel. After much longsuffering on God’s part, God’s judgment on the house of Omri and wayward Israel was finally coming about. Elisha had been used by God to bring about repentance among some in Israel and bring about some spiritual reformation. But now the hand of judgment was going to come upon Omri’s house and Israel via the swords of Hazael and Jehu.
We see here that Hazael especially will be a hand of judgment upon Israel in general. That’s how Elisha prophesies here in verse 12. Hazael’s sword will not only be directed narrowly against the house of Omri. It will especially be directed broadly against Israel as a people. Verse 12 describes how he will set on fire Israelite fortresses and kill Israelite young men and murder defenseless Israelite babies and rip open the wombs of pregnant Israelite women. This is a great evil. This is terrible news. Yet it reflects the judgment of God in his removing of his hand of protection that he had given Israel time and again. God removes his hand of protection which allows for the wicked evils of King Hazael to fall upon Israel. If the Israel people would forsake God, then he would forsake them by not giving them the protection from evil humans that he had given them in the past.
This causes Elisha to weep, verse 14. Before the tears start flowing, he stares down Hazael for a bit in verse 11, since he knows what Hazael is going to do to Elisha’s kinsmen. While Elisha surely wanted Israel as a whole to repent and return to the LORD, he is still understandably grieved that it has come to this. In their rejection of God, so many of them would fall under this terrible sword of Hazael. I remember how the Apostle Paul later in Romans 9 would lament over how many of his Israelite kinsmen according to the flesh were under the judgment of God for their continued rejection of Jesus Christ. Or, we can especially think of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41 because of the judgment that was soon to befall them. Jesus said there that they didn’t know the things that made for peace. But, to clarify, I think many of them did know them in an academic sense. They could surely have explained many of the doctrines and demands of God. But they didn’t truly embrace them in faith and practice, in repentance and truth. And so, they were under the judgment of God for now knowing them as a reality that they’ve embraced.
So then, we find application here to weep over the waywardness of the world. And more specifically, we weep over the waywardness of those who should have known and embraced the truth. How many covenant children have grown up and forsaken the Lord? How many Christian converts later in life abandon and walk away from the truth? How many church denominations that were historically faithful have greatly perverted the faith and practice that God’s Word teaches and demands? How many have gone even farther than that and become full-blown synagogues of Satan, having tolerated for too long the Jezebels in their midst? Let us weep when we see such. Let us yet plead with them to repent and return to Christ while there is yet time. Let us all keep a close watch on our own walk. For judgment is at hand. Eventually the long suffering of God in these final days will come to an end and the Lord will return to usher in the final great and terrible day of judgment. For those in Christ, that day will be to save us from this evil infection of wickedness in our midst. But yet we still righty weep at those who have stubbornly rejected the truth and ultimately find themselves under the terrors of judgment.
Let us then turn in our second point to look at what we read here about King Jehoram of Judah. This is verses 16-24. You might notice right away something that can be confusing for us. The King of Israel is also named Jehoram. So, for a time, Israel and Judah both have a King Jehoram. But that fact is only an interesting illustration of something far more fundamental. By this point, the royalty of Israel and Judah had intermarried. To clarify, it was the house of Omri that had married into the house of David. Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram married Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. The result is that the evils of the house of Ahab infected Jehoram’s kingship in Judah. It’s as I said at the start, it’s like an infection that had spread now into Judah. This is in fact what the text emphasizes here. Verse 18 says that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done. Remember that his counterpart and brother-in-law King Jehoram in Israel, actual blood-son of Ahab, has a godlier summary given him in 2 Kings 3. There, King Jehoram of Israel is described as evil because he kept the golden calves of Jeroboam, but is commendably described as better than his father Ahab because he at least put away his father’s Baal pillar. Yet, here, sadly, King Jehoram of Israel, did not walk in the way of his fathers David and Jehoshophat. Why? The text blames his evil wife who was Ahab’s daughter.
Sadly, the account of King Jehoram in the Book of Chronicles tells us even more of his wicked infamy. It included him wickedly killing off all his brothers – presumably to secure his throne from any possible threats, 2 Chronicles 21:4. His introduction of idolatries into Judah even prompted the prophet Elijah to write him a letter of rebuke, 2 Chronicles 21:12. That letter from Elijah includes some of the ways God was going to chasten Jehoram because of his evils. And in today’s passage we also can recognize some of God’s chastening in Judah because of Jehoram’s wickedness.
Specifically, we see verses 20-24 recount two different losses that Judah experienced under King Jehoram. First, Edom revolted. You might recall that Edom previously at that time had been a vassal state of Judah. They didn’t have their own king (1 King 22:47). It basically had been for a while a nation ruled by the Davidic throne in Judah. But now, they revolted. Jehoram’s efforts to try to stop their revolt failed and almost cost him his life. I’m sure losing Edom from the kingdom would have been a financial and strategic loss to the country. Second, we see that they lose the city of Libnah. That city is located on the western seaboard of Judah and had been taken apparently during the initial conquest of Canaan. So, they lose some of the Promised Land that God had allotted to them. Again, this is chastening by God in light of their sin, just like God had promised to David that he would do with any of descendant kings who turned away from him.
Stepping back, recognize how this “infection” entered into Judah. It was through marrying a godless spouse. This is why Scripture calls people of faith to not be unequally yoked. We see that language often in the Old Testament under a prohibition of marrying foreigners. But here we are reminded that the point was not about ethnic or national concerns in such prohibitions. The point was about religious concerns. That’s why a Moabitess like Ruth would have made a better wife than an Israelite like Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. Ahab’s daughter could be an Israelite, but it was still being unequally yoked for a man of God to be married to her. Of course, sadly, we see that I guess they weren’t ultimately unequally yoked. They both turned out to be godless. But we can’t miss that Scripture paints the bad influence in his life as this wife who was wicked Ahab’s daughter.
To be fair, this doesn’t mean that any unequally yoked marriage will necessarily turn out like this. There certainly have been times when the other direction happens – that the spouse who knows the LORD is instrumental in turning their spouse to God. I think of even in King Jehoram’s case that while he had the wicked influence of his wife and father-in-law Ahab, he also had the influence of his godly father Jehoshaphat. He had an example before his eyes of how he could have lived. Sadly, in his case, he chose the way of the wicked and to seat in the seat of scoffers and did not delight in the law of the LORD. But there is an application here to us, not only about what we should be looking for in a spouse, but also for what we should be looking for in role models and influencers in our lives. Most of us will have various people in our lives that we will be tempted to be drawn to and follow their example. But let us look to follow in the ways of our godly forefathers of the faith and now in the ways of the Ahabs and Jezebels that are around us.
So then, let’s turn now in our third and final point to see about King Ahaziah of Judah and his being yoked with King Jehoram of Israel. Sadly, we’ll see especially next time that their being yoked together includes being yoked in judgment. We will see some of that even here in today’s passage.
Notice then again the emphasis on the connection with the house of Omri and Ahab. First, we can again note what the text doesn’t point out for us. King Ahaziah’s name is the same name of another son of Ahab. Remember, King Ahaziah of Israel was the first son of Ahab to succeed him to his throne. He reigned until he fell from the upper chamber of his palace and fatally injured himself and died. That’s when his brother Jehoram became king. So, as a further illustration of the closeness of these two families at that time, King Ahaziah of Judah bears the same name as one of his maternal uncles.
So then, verse 26 points out that King Ahaziah of Judah has a mother named Athaliah who is a granddaughter of Omri. Remember Omri was Ahab’s father. Verse 27 says that Ahaziah of Judah also walked in the way of the house of Ahab, doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD. To clarify, it seems the language of walking in the way of Ahab’s house seems to imply things like promoting Baal worship and idolatry. Verse 27 again mentions the family connection with Ahab’s house by calling him a son-in-law to the house of Ahab. Some have thought that meant he also had married a woman from Ahab’s house, though it’s quite possible it’s just using that term in a loose sense to refer to him being connected to the house of Ahab through the intermarriage. The only wife we do know of his for certain was a woman named Zibiah from Beersheba who was surely not of Ahab’s house. But my point is simply here to note that the text again goes out of its way to show the interconnectedness at this point between the house of David and the house of Omri. The Omri-Ahab-Jezebel infection continues to be present in Judah, and it now even has a name on it beyond the names of these two kings. It’s Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter, and she clearly has been the evil influence to both her husband Jehoram and her son Ahaziah.
So then, we see how King Jehoram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah further yoke themselves together in this passage. They go to war together against the Syrians. Notice where the battle is. It’s in Ramoth-gilead. That is traditional Israelite territory and that means they are either defending it against Syrian incursion or possibly trying to retake it from the Syrians. But more importantly, notice the reference to Hazael in verse 29. Judah is teaming up with Israel to help them fight King Hazael of Syria whom God had declared to be his sword of judgment again Israel and the house of Omri.
That should make you weep because we know that Hazael represented death and destruction for Israel. King Jehoram of Israel begins to taste himself the sword of Hazael as he is injured in battle and retreats to Jezreel to heal. And so, this means as Judah joins Israel in battle, that it will mean at least some measure of the same for those Judean soldiers. So, we see here that this infection that has spread from Israel and into Judah includes aspects of the divine judgment. The sword of Hazael will also touch Judah.
And in fact, we’ll see next chapter that the sword of Jehu will also touch Judah. That’s setup for us at the end of our passage today. When King Jehoram of Israel is wounded and retreats to Jezreel, King Ahaziah goes to visit him. We’ll see next chapter, after Elisha anoints Jehu king, that Jehu will come to Jezreel and not only kill Jehoram but also Ahaziah. At that moment, things will go from bad to worse when Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah then seizes the Davidic throne in Judah and tries to kill all remaining heirs to the Davidic throne from David’s house. Eventually, her treasonous self will be put down, but there is great turmoil in the land until them.
What’s my point? On the one hand, we can see the disastrous consequences that can came when Judah welcomed apostasy and unbelief and wickedness into their family and nation. On the other hand, we can see through these judgments of God that he, in spite of such, used these judgments in a refining way to purge the infection from Judah and the house of David. An application that comes from that is that God’s good plans will never fail, despite even our sins. But that doesn’t mean our sinful and/or unwise actions won’t bring serious consequences into our lives. Yet, God can use those even to bring about revival and reformation.
Stepping back then, let me drive this home more clearly by pointing us to God’s great grace in this passage. It’s found in verse 19. In the context of this Omride infection into Judah, we read, “Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah.” Realize what this acknowledges. It acknowledges that such apostasy by Judah, after all God had done for them, deserved for God to destroy them. But God didn’t. Yes, he brought some significant chastening on them. Chastening that actually helped them in the long run. But he didn’t destroy them. That’s grace.
But it’s more than just grace. It’s also God’s faithfulness. What do I mean? Look at how verse 19 goes on. It gives the reason why he didn’t destroy them. It was for David’s sake, because of what he has promised David. God had “promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.” That’s referring back to the Davidic Covenant we find in 2 Samuel 7. There, God promised that from David’s lineage would ultimately come a kingdom that would last forever. There would yet rise a lamp of a king that would reign over a kingdom that would last forever. This promise ultimately looks to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the son of David and the king of an everlasting kingdom.
And so, this Ahab infection into Judah would not ultimately succeed. It wouldn’t succeed in annihilating all the Davidic seed. It would not succeed in completely replacing the Jewish faith with Baal worship. It would not succeed, not only because of God’s grace in general, but because of God’s grace as promised in the Davidic covenant. Not all of David’s descendants were faithful to God. But God would be faithful to his promises. God’s promises and plans can’t – won’t – be thwarted. Not by the enemy. Not even from within, by the weakness and folly and sinfulness of God’s own people. The darkness here tried to destroy the lamp of David, but the light has shone in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
So then, brothers and sisters, let us find peace and comfort in the faithfulness of God. That faithfulness can be summarized in a name – Jesus, our Lord and Savior! But, let us not mock God’s faithfulness by looking to live in unfaithfulness ourselves. Let us learn from this holy heritages recorded in the Scriptures. May it spur us toward a desire for greater fidelity to our Lord in light of how great his faithfulness is! Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.