Sunday, April 22, 2018

Elisha predicts Ben-hadad’s death and Hazael’s kingship




7 And Elisha came to Damascus; and Ben-hadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither.
8 And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
9 So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Ben-hadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
10 And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.
11 And he settled his countenance steadfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.
12 And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.
13 And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.
14 So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover.
15 And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead. (2 Kings 8:7-15)

This is a pretty shocking story. Anyone with any acquaintance with the story of MacBeth can recognize a certain core element here. Did Elisha incite Hazael to assassinate Beh-hadad by telling him he would be king?

If we compare this story with that of David, who was anointed at an early age, we see that, no. Also, merely saying the thing will be so does not say anything about the means by which the event will come about.

There is also something odd in verses 10-11 that requires some examination. Something is going on under the surface here.

10 And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.
11 And he settled his countenance steadfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.

Why the double speak from Elisha? Why does Elisha say Hazael should say one thing—Thou mayest certainly recover”—when the truth is different? Also, why the difference in certainty levels in the statements—“thou mayest certainly recover” versus “he shall surely die?

Also, who’s got a settled countenance and who got ashamed? Was it all Elisha? Or was it Hazael?

I think it was Hazael, because the text says the man of God wept, which distinguishes his actions from the other’s. 

So why would Hazael be ashamed?

I think that Hazael came to Elisha on that mission having already determined to assassinate Ben-hadad and that Elisha’s words about what would happen revealed that Elisha knew from God what Hazael intended. So the answer was, yes Ben-hadad will recover, but he will surely die. Because Hazael was contemplating murder, Elisha’s knowledge made Hazael ashamed.

Further, Elisha tells Hazael that he knows Hazael will do much evil to Israel. (Clearly the Lord had showed Elisha what was coming and it was very painful for Elisha to know about it and know who was going to be responsible for it.) Perhaps Elisha hoped going to Damascus and telling Hazael about it would change things, but it seems to have not helped.

This story shows that God knows all that is in man’s heart and may reveal it to others to share, as a warning and to reveal His power. It also shows us some of the burden a prophet may carry of knowing ahead of time painful things that are going to occur. Elisha had to depend on the Lord for hope.