Yep, Syria. Not all is bad with Syria but things do take a turn.
This chapter revolves around the leprosy of Naaman and Elisha healing him, even though he’s Syrian. It seems fairly straightforward. But then a servant of Elisha’s, Gehazi, deceives Naaman. He tells him that Elisha sent him to collect the stuff he had wanted to give to him, when Elisha did no such thing. He would not take anything from Naaman after God healed him.
Then Syria and Samaria are at war, which makes it more strange that Naaman was Syrian and had God’s favor enough for Elisha to heal him, but that was last chapter. The king of Samaria keeps evading the king of Syria, which makes the king of Syria suspicious of spies, but he is assured that it’s because of the “man of God” that is with the Samarians. A group is sent to find Elisha and he intercepts them and leads them into the city of Israel, but he blinds them during the journey and lets them see only when they get there. This interaction prompts them to “not come again on raids into the land of Israel”. But then it’s followed by an invasion instead and that there is a major famine.
The focus of the succeeding story begins to relate how bad this famine was. There was a woman “wailing” on the wall of the city who catches the king’s attention. She is upset because she had made a plan with another woman to eat their children. Her son was first and he was boiled and eaten and when it was the other woman’s turn, she hid her son. Yeah, there are all kinds of problems with this by itself, but not having lived through any kind of famine at all, I’m not going to judge. Also, she’s not the focus of the story. Does she deserve her own story? Probably, but she seems to be used as a device to get things started. So what is the king’s response to this? He tears his clothes and says:
“May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”
I’m not sure what this has to do with Elisha, but the king sends a messenger to him about it. When the messenger gets there, Elisha predicts that this famine will end soon.
The famine doesn’t end with a great crop, like one might expect though. Basically, some lepers decide to go to the Syrian camp figuring their hunger can’t get any worse and if the Syrians kill them, it’s better than slowly starving to death. God intervenes and makes the sound of the lepers coming like that of an invading army and the Syrians at that particular camp flee in terror. Once the lepers have their fill, they share the find with the king who shares with the people.
There had been one man who had doubted that God would end the famine as quickly as Elisha predicted and whose words upset God so much that He told the man he would hear of it but not get to eat. That guy gets trampled by the rush of people finally able to get food.
Here we come back to the woman whose son Elisha had healed back in chapter 4 and quickly goes on to the king of Syria getting sick and sending a messenger to Elisha to ask if he will recover. The response is a bit muddled for me, but this king dies in the next paragraph and is succeeded somehow by the messenger. Not sure how you get from messenger to king and it doesn’t really go into it either. In this exchange, Elisha tells the man that he knows he will become king and of some of the horrible things he would eventually do.
Then they go back and cover some familiar ground within the succession, this time including that Edom and Libnah revolted against Judah during the time of Jehoram. I don’t recall the Edomites being part of Judah or Israel….
When we go from Joram to Ahaziah, the text again includes the mother’s name of the new king. While her name alone may seem insignificant, as I didn’t pick up on it the last time we saw this pattern, it is interesting and a bit of a statement that her name is included now. None of the mother’s names in succession had been mentioned before Kings. Does this denote a difference in the status of the mothers of some of the kings as opposed to the Genesis mothers? Or of women in general? Or is it an afterthought, a part of the record that someone had begun to keep because they had the information?
When the kings of Israel and Judah go up against the king of Syria, the king of Israel is injured and becomes sick.
This chapter opens with a bit of a coup staged by Elisha, presumably under God’s orders. He has a servant anoint one of the commanders as the king of Israel and tells him that he must strike down the current king because of the words of God concerning Ahab and Jezebel.
The coup is carried out in short time and Jehu has killed and usurped the king of Israel, and also killed the king of Judah, not sure why he did that one. Then he goes for Jezebel as had been promised and he has some men who were around her but with him throw her off the building she was in. They leave the body there for a while and there isn’t even enough left to identify her, at which point Jehu recites the prophesy that Elijah had delivered about her on God’s behalf.
Then Jehu really gets to killing people. He sends out letters to have SEVENTY sons of Ahab who were in other towns killed and their heads returned. He sets about killing every descendant in his vicinity and even kills a bunch of Ahaziah’s (king of Judah) relatives. He tops it all off by killing every worshiper of Baal by telling them that he’s going to have a big offering and a big service and that all worshipers are required to be there. He even threatens to kill any of the guards who lets someone escape.
For this, God rewards him by saying that his house will rule until the fourth generation, but he doesn’t follow God “with all his heart” and so instead of dethroning him, God lets Syria chip away at the kingdom.