Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 118

2 Kings 6–10, Psalm 140

Bible text(s)

The Recovery of the Axe Head

1One day the group of prophets that Elisha was in charge of complained to him, “The place where we live is too small! 2Give us permission to go to the Jordan and cut down some trees, so that we can build a place to live.”

“All right,” Elisha answered.

3One of them urged him to go with them; he agreed, 4and they set out together. When they arrived at the Jordan, they began to work. 5As one of them was cutting down a tree, suddenly his iron axe head fell in the water. “What shall I do, sir?” he exclaimed to Elisha. “It was a borrowed axe!”

6“Where did it fall?” Elisha asked.

The man showed him the place, and Elisha cut off a stick, threw it in the water, and made the axe head float. 7“Take it out,” he ordered, and the man bent down and picked it up.

The Syrian Army is Defeated

8The king of Syria was at war with Israel. He consulted his officers and chose a place to set up his camp. 9But Elisha sent word to the king of Israel, warning him not to go near that place, because the Syrians were waiting in ambush there. 10So the king of Israel warned the people who lived in that place, and they were on guard. This happened several times.

11The Syrian king became greatly upset over this; he called in his officers and asked them, “Which one of you is on the side of the king of Israel?”

12One of them answered, “No one is, Your Majesty. The prophet Elisha tells the king of Israel what you say even in the privacy of your own room.”

13“Find out where he is,” the king ordered, “and I will capture him.”

When he was told that Elisha was in Dothan, 14he sent a large force there with horses and chariots. They reached the town at night and surrounded it. 15Early the next morning Elisha's servant got up, went out of the house, and saw the Syrian troops with their horses and chariots surrounding the town. He went back to Elisha and exclaimed, “We are doomed, sir! What shall we do?”

16“Don't be afraid,” Elisha answered. “We have more on our side than they have on theirs.” 17Then he prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD answered his prayer, and Elisha's servant looked up and saw the hillside covered with horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha.

18When the Syrians attacked, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, strike these men blind!” The LORD answered his prayer and struck them blind. 19Then Elisha went to them and said, “You are on the wrong road; this is not the town you are looking for. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are after.” And he led them to Samaria.

20As soon as they had entered the city, Elisha prayed, “Open their eyes, LORD, and let them see.” The LORD answered his prayer; he restored their sight, and they saw that they were inside Samaria.

21When the king of Israel saw the Syrians, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, sir? Shall I kill them?”

22“No,” he answered. “Not even soldiers you had captured in combat would you put to death. Give them something to eat and drink, and let them return to their king.” 23So the king of Israel provided a great feast for them; and after they had eaten and drunk, he sent them back to the king of Syria. From then on the Syrians stopped raiding the land of Israel.

The Siege of Samaria

24Some time later King Benhadad of Syria led his entire army against Israel and laid siege to the city of Samaria. 25As a result of the siege the food shortage in the city was so severe that a donkey's head cost eighty pieces of silver, and 200 grammes of dove's dung cost five pieces of silver.

26The king of Israel was walking by on the city wall when a woman cried out, “Help me, Your Majesty!”

27He replied, “If the LORD won't help you, what help can I provide? Have I got any wheat or wine? 28What's your trouble?”

She answered, “The other day this woman here suggested that we eat my child, and then eat her child the next day. 29So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I told her that we would eat her son, but she had hidden him!”

30Hearing this, the king tore his clothes in dismay, and the people who were close to the wall could see that he was wearing sackcloth under his clothes. 31He exclaimed, “May God strike me dead if Elisha is not beheaded before the day is over!” 32And he sent a messenger to get Elisha.

Meanwhile, Elisha was at home with some elders who were visiting him. Before the king's messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders, “That murderer is sending someone to kill me! Now, when he gets here, shut the door and don't let him come in. The king himself will be just behind him.” 33He had hardly finished saying this, when the king arrived and said, “It's the LORD who has brought this trouble on us! Why should I wait any longer for him to do something?”

1Elisha answered, “Listen to what the LORD says! By this time tomorrow you will be able to buy in Samaria three kilogrammes of the best wheat or six kilogrammes of barley for one piece of silver.”

2The personal attendant of the king said to Elisha, “That can't happen — not even if the LORD himself were to send grain at once!”

“You will see it happen, but you will never eat any of the food,” Elisha replied.

The Syrian Army Leaves

3Four men who were suffering from a dreaded skin disease were outside the gates of Samaria, and they said to one another, “Why should we wait here until we die? 4It's no use going into the city, because we would starve to death in there; but if we stay here, we'll die also. So let's go to the Syrian camp; the worst they can do is kill us, but maybe they will spare our lives.” 5So, as it began to get dark, they went to the Syrian camp, but when they reached it, no one was there. 6The Lord had made the Syrians hear what sounded like the advance of a large army, with horses and chariots, and the Syrians thought that the king of Israel had hired Hittite and Egyptian kings and their armies to attack them. 7So that evening the Syrians had fled for their lives, abandoning their tents, horses, and donkeys, and leaving the camp just as it was.

8When the four men reached the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank what was there, grabbed the silver, gold, and clothing they found, and went off and hid them; then they returned, entered another tent, and did the same thing. 9But then they said to each other, “We shouldn't be doing this! We have good news and we shouldn't keep it to ourselves. If we wait until morning to tell it, we are sure to be punished. Let's go at once and tell the king's officers!” 10So they left the Syrian camp, went back to Samaria and called out to the guards at the gates: “We went to the Syrian camp and didn't see or hear anybody; the horses and donkeys have not been untied, and the tents are just as the Syrians left them.”

11The guards announced the news, and it was reported in the palace. 12It was still night, but the king got out of bed and said to his officials, “I'll tell you what the Syrians are planning! They know about the famine here, so they have left their camp to go and hide in the countryside. They think that we will leave the city to find food, and then they will take us alive and capture the city.”

13One of his officials said, “The people here in the city are doomed anyway, like those that have already died. So let's send some men with five of the horses that are left, so that we can find out what has happened.” 14They chose some men, and the king sent them in two chariots with instructions to go and find out what had happened to the Syrian army. 15The men went as far as the Jordan, and all along the road they saw the clothes and equipment that the Syrians had abandoned as they fled. Then they returned and reported to the king. 16The people of Samaria rushed out and looted the Syrian camp. And, as the LORD had said, three kilogrammes of the best wheat or six kilogrammes of barley were sold for one piece of silver.

17It so happened that the king of Israel had put the city gate under the command of the officer who was his personal attendant. The officer was trampled to death there by the people and died, as Elisha had predicted when the king went to see him. 18Elisha had told the king that by that time the following day three kilogrammes of the best wheat or six kilogrammes of barley would be sold in Samaria for one piece of silver, 19to which the officer had answered, “That can't happen — not even if the LORD himself were to send grain at once!” And Elisha had replied, “You will see it happen, but you will never eat any of the food.” 20And that is just what happened to him — he died, trampled to death by the people at the city gate.

The Woman from Shunem Returns

1Now Elisha had told the woman who lived in Shunem, whose son he had brought back to life, that the LORD was sending a famine on the land, which would last for seven years, and that she should leave with her family and go and live somewhere else. 2She had followed his instructions, and had gone with her family to live in Philistia for the seven years.

3At the end of the seven years, she returned to Israel and went to the king to ask for her house and her land to be restored to her. 4She found the king talking with Gehazi, Elisha's servant; the king wanted to know about Elisha's miracles. 5While Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had brought a dead person back to life, the woman made her appeal to the king. Gehazi said to him, “Your Majesty, here is the woman and here is her son whom Elisha brought back to life!” 6In answer to the king's question, she confirmed Gehazi's story, and so the king called an official and told him to give back to her everything that was hers, including the value of all the crops that her fields had produced during the seven years she had been away.

Elisha and King Benhadad of Syria

7Elisha went to Damascus at a time when King Benhadad of Syria was ill. When the king was told that Elisha was there, 8he said to Hazael, one of his officials, “Take a gift to the prophet, and ask him to consult the LORD to find out whether or not I am going to get well.” 9So Hazael loaded forty camels with all kinds of the finest products of Damascus and went to Elisha. When Hazael met him, he said, “Your servant King Benhadad has sent me to ask you whether or not he will recover from his illness.”

10Elisha answered, “The LORD has revealed to me that he will die; but go to him and tell him that he will recover.” 11Then Elisha stared at him with a horrified look on his face until Hazael became ill at ease. Suddenly Elisha burst into tears. 12“Why are you crying, sir?” Hazael asked.

“Because I know the horrible things you will do against the people of Israel,” Elisha answered. “You will set their fortresses on fire, slaughter their finest young men, batter their children to death, and rip open their pregnant women.”

13“How could I ever be that powerful?” Hazael asked. “I'm a nobody!”

“The LORD has shown me that you will be king of Syria,” Elisha replied.

14Hazael went back to Benhadad, who asked him, “What did Elisha say?”

“He told me that you would certainly get well,” Hazael answered. 15But on the following day Hazael took a blanket, soaked it in water, and smothered the king.

And Hazael succeeded Benhadad as king of Syria.

King Jehoram of Judah

(2 Chr 21.1–20)

16In the fifth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab as king of Israel, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat became king of Judah 17at the age of 32, and he ruled in Jerusalem for eight years. 18His wife was Ahab's daughter, and like the family of Ahab he followed the evil ways of the kings of Israel. He sinned against the LORD, 19but the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah, because he had promised his servant David that his descendants would always continue to rule.

20During Jehoram's reign Edom revolted against Judah and became an independent kingdom. 21So Jehoram set out with all his chariots for Zair, where the Edomite army surrounded them. During the night he and his chariot commanders managed to break out and escape, and his soldiers scattered to their homes. 22Edom has been independent of Judah ever since. During this same period the city of Libnah also revolted.

23Everything else that Jehoram did is recorded in The History of the Kings of Judah. 24Jehoram died and was buried in the royal tombs in David's City, and his son Ahaziah succeeded him as king.

King Ahaziah of Judah

(2 Chr 22.1–6)

25In the twelfth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab as king of Israel, Ahaziah son of Jehoram became king of Judah 26at the age of 22, and he ruled in Jerusalem for one year. His mother was Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab and granddaughter of King Omri of Israel. 27Since Ahaziah was related to King Ahab by marriage, he sinned against the LORD, just as Ahab's family did.

28King Ahaziah joined King Joram of Israel in a war against King Hazael of Syria. The armies clashed at Ramoth in Gilead, and Joram was wounded in battle. 29He returned to the city of Jezreel to recover from his wounds, and Ahaziah went there to visit him.

Jehu is Anointed King of Israel

1Meanwhile the prophet Elisha called one of the young prophets and said to him, “Get ready and go to Ramoth in Gilead. Take this jar of olive oil with you, 2and when you get there look for Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat and grandson of Nimshi. Take him to a private room away from his companions, 3pour this olive oil on his head, and say, ‘The LORD proclaims that he anoints you king of Israel.’ Then leave there as fast as you can.”

4So the young prophet went to Ramoth, 5where he found the army officers in a conference. He said, “Sir, I have a message for you.”

Jehu asked, “Which one of us are you speaking to?”

“To you, sir,” he replied. 6Then the two of them went indoors, and the young prophet poured the olive oil on Jehu's head and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, proclaims: ‘I anoint you king of my people Israel. 7You are to kill your master the king, that son of Ahab, so that I may punish Jezebel for murdering my prophets and my other servants. 8All Ahab's family and descendants are to die; I will get rid of every male in his family, young and old alike. 9I will treat his family as I did the families of King Jeroboam of Israel and of King Baasha of Israel. 10Jezebel will not be buried; her body will be eaten by dogs in the territory of Jezreel.’ ” After saying this, the young prophet left the room and fled.

11Jehu went back to his fellow-officers, who asked him, “Is everything all right? What did that crazy fellow want with you?”

“You know what he wanted,” Jehu answered.

12“No we don't!” they replied. “Tell us what he said!”

“He told me that the LORD proclaims: ‘I anoint you king of Israel.’ ”

13At once Jehu's fellow-officers spread their cloaks at the top of the steps for Jehu to stand on, blew trumpets, and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

King Joram of Israel is Killed

14-15Then Jehu plotted against King Joram, who was in Jezreel, where he had gone to recover from the wounds which he had received in the battle at Ramoth against King Hazael of Syria. So Jehu said to his fellow-officers, “If you are with me, make sure that no one slips out of Ramoth to go and warn the people in Jezreel.” 16Then he got into his chariot and set off for Jezreel. Joram had still not recovered, and King Ahaziah of Judah was there, visiting him.

17A guard on duty in the watchtower at Jezreel saw Jehu and his men approaching. “I see some men riding up!” he called out.

Joram replied, “Send a rider to find out if they are friends or enemies.”

18The messenger rode out to Jehu and said to him, “The king wants to know if you come as a friend.”

“That's none of your business!” Jehu answered. “Fall in behind me.”

The guard on the watchtower reported that the messenger had reached the group but was not returning. 19Another messenger was sent out, who asked Jehu the same question. Again Jehu answered, “That's none of your business! Fall in behind me.”

20Once more the guard reported that the messenger had reached the group but was not returning. And he added, “The leader of the group is driving his chariot like a madman, just like Jehu!”

21“Get my chariot ready,” King Joram ordered. It was done, and he and King Ahaziah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the field which had belonged to Naboth. 22“Are you coming in peace?” Joram asked him.

“How can there be peace,” Jehu answered, “when we still have all the witchcraft and idolatry that your mother Jezebel started?”

23“It's treason, Ahaziah!” Joram cried out, as he turned his chariot round and fled. 24Jehu drew his bow, and with all his strength shot an arrow that struck Joram in the back and pierced his heart. Joram fell dead in his chariot, 25and Jehu said to his aide Bidkar, “Get his body and throw it in the field that belonged to Naboth. Remember that when you and I were riding together behind King Joram's father Ahab, the LORD spoke these words against Ahab: 26‘I saw the murder of Naboth and his sons yesterday. And I promise that I will punish you here in this same field.’ So take Joram's body,” Jehu ordered his aide, “and throw it in the field that belonged to Naboth, so as to fulfil the LORD's promise.”

King Ahaziah of Judah is Killed

27King Ahaziah saw what happened, so he fled in his chariot towards the town of Beth Haggan, pursued by Jehu. “Kill him too!” Jehu ordered his men, and they wounded him as he drove his chariot on the road up to Gur, near the town of Ibleam. But he managed to keep going until he reached the city of Megiddo, where he died. 28His officials took his body back to Jerusalem in a chariot and buried him in the royal tombs in David's City.

29Ahaziah had become king of Judah in the eleventh year that Joram son of Ahab was king of Israel.

Queen Jezebel is Killed

30Jehu arrived in Jezreel. Jezebel, having heard what had happened, put on eyeshadow, arranged her hair, and stood looking down at the street from a window in the palace. 31As Jehu came through the gate, she called out, “You Zimri! You assassin! Why are you here?”

32Jehu looked up and shouted, “Who is on my side?” Two or three palace officials looked down at him from a window, 33and Jehu said to them, “Throw her down!” They threw her down, and her blood spattered the wall and the horses. Jehu drove his horses and chariot over her body, 34entered the palace, and had a meal. Only then did he say, “Take that cursed woman and bury her; after all, she is a king's daughter.” 35But the men who went out to bury her found nothing except her skull, and the bones of her hands and feet. 36When they reported this to Jehu, he said, “This is what the LORD said would happen, when he spoke through his servant Elijah: ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel's body in the territory of Jezreel. 37Her remains will be scattered there like dung, so that no one will be able to identify them.’ ”

The Descendants of Ahab are Killed

1There were seventy descendants of King Ahab living in the city of Samaria. Jehu wrote a letter and sent copies to the rulers of the city, to the leading citizens, and to the guardians of Ahab's descendants. The letter read: 2“You are in charge of the king's descendants and you have at your disposal chariots, horses, weapons, and fortified cities. So then, as soon as you receive this letter, 3you are to choose the best qualified of the king's descendants, make him king, and fight to defend him.”

4The rulers of Samaria were terrified. “How can we oppose Jehu,” they said, “when neither King Joram nor King Ahaziah could?” 5So the officer in charge of the palace and the official in charge of the city, together with the leading citizens and the guardians, sent this message to Jehu: “We are your servants and we are ready to do anything you say. But we will not make anyone king; do whatever you think best.”

6Jehu wrote them another letter: “If you are with me, and are ready to follow my orders, bring the heads of King Ahab's descendants to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow.”

The seventy descendants of King Ahab were under the care of the leading citizens of Samaria, who were bringing them up. 7When Jehu's letter was received, the leaders of Samaria killed all seventy of Ahab's descendants, put their heads in baskets, and sent them to Jehu at Jezreel.

8When Jehu was told that the heads of Ahab's descendants had been brought, he ordered them to be piled up in two heaps at the city gate and to be left there until the following morning. 9In the morning, he went out to the gate and said to the people who were there, “I was the one who plotted against King Joram and killed him; you are not responsible for that. But who killed all these? 10This proves that everything that the LORD said about the descendants of Ahab will come true. The LORD has done what he promised through his prophet Elijah.” 11Then Jehu put to death all the other relatives of Ahab living in Jezreel, and all his officers, close friends, and priests; not one of them was left alive.

The Relatives of King Ahaziah are Killed

12Jehu left Jezreel to go to Samaria. On the way, at a place called “Shepherds' Camp”, 13he met some relatives of the late King Ahaziah of Judah and asked them, “Who are you?”

“Ahaziah's relatives,” they answered. “We are going to Jezreel to pay our respects to the children of Queen Jezebel and to the rest of the royal family.” 14Jehu ordered his men, “Take them alive!” They seized them, and he put them to death near a pit there. There were 42 people in all, and not one of them was left alive.

All Remaining Relatives of Ahab are Killed

15Jehu started out again, and on his way he was met by Jonadab son of Rechab. Jehu greeted him and said, “You and I think alike. Will you support me?”

“I will,” Jonadab answered.

“Give me your hand, then,” Jehu replied. They clasped hands, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot, 16saying, “Come with me and see for yourself how devoted I am to the LORD.” And they rode on together to Samaria. 17When they arrived there, Jehu killed all of Ahab's relatives, not sparing even one. This is what the LORD had told Elijah would happen.

The Worshippers of Baal are Killed

18Jehu called the people of Samaria together and said, “King Ahab served the god Baal a little, but I will serve him much more. 19Call together all the prophets of Baal, all his worshippers, and all his priests. No one is excused; I am going to offer a great sacrifice to Baal, and whoever is not present will be put to death.” (This was a trick on the part of Jehu by which he meant to kill all the worshippers of Baal.) 20Then Jehu ordered, “Proclaim a day of worship in honour of Baal!” The proclamation was made, 21and Jehu sent word throughout all the land of Israel. All who worshipped Baal came; not one of them failed to come. They all went into the temple of Baal, filling it from one end to the other. 22Then Jehu ordered the priest in charge of the sacred robes to bring the robes out and give them to the worshippers. 23After that, Jehu himself went into the temple with Jonadab son of Rechab and said to the people there, “Make sure that only worshippers of Baal are present and that no worshipper of the LORD has come in.” 24Then he and Jonadab went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to Baal. He had stationed eighty men outside the temple and had instructed them: “You are to kill all these people; anyone who lets one of them escape will pay for it with his life!”

25As soon as Jehu had presented the offerings, he said to the guards and officers, “Go in and kill them all; don't let anyone escape!” They went in with drawn swords, killed them all, and dragged the bodies outside. Then they went on into the inner sanctuary of the temple, 26brought out the sacred pillar that was there, and burnt it. 27So they destroyed the sacred pillar and the temple, and turned the temple into a latrine — which it still is today.

28That was how Jehu wiped out the worship of Baal in Israel. 29But he imitated the sin of King Jeroboam, who led Israel into the sin of worshipping the gold bull calves he set up in Bethel and in Dan. 30The LORD said to Jehu, “You have done to Ahab's descendants everything I wanted you to do. So I promise you that your descendants, down to the fourth generation, will be kings of Israel.” 31But Jehu did not obey with all his heart the law of the LORD, the God of Israel; instead, he followed the example of Jeroboam, who led Israel into sin.

The Death of Jehu

32At that time the LORD began to reduce the size of Israel's territory. King Hazael of Syria conquered all the Israelite territory 33east of the Jordan, as far south as the town of Aroer on the River Arnon — this included the territories of Gilead and Bashan, where the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and East Manasseh lived.

34Everything else that Jehu did, including his brave deeds, is recorded in The History of the Kings of Israel. 35He died and was buried in Samaria, and his son Jehoahaz succeeded him as king. 36Jehu had ruled in Samaria as king of Israel for 28 years.

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A Prayer for Protection

1Save me, LORD, from evildoers;

keep me safe from violent people.

2They are always plotting evil,

always stirring up quarrels.

3Their tongues are like deadly snakes;

their words are like a cobra's poison.

4Protect me, LORD, from the power of the wicked;

keep me safe from violent people

who plot my downfall.

5The proud have set a trap for me;

they have laid their snares

and along the path they have set traps to catch me.

6I say to the LORD, “You are my God.”

Hear my cry for help, LORD!

7My Sovereign LORD, my strong defender,

you have protected me in battle.

8LORD, don't give the wicked what they want;

don't let their plots succeed.

9Don't let my enemies be victorious;

make their threats against me fall back on them.

10May red-hot coals fall on them;

may they be thrown into a pit and never get out.

11May those who accuse others falsely not succeed;

may evil overtake violent people and destroy them.

12LORD, I know that you defend the cause of the poor

and the rights of the needy.

13The righteous will praise you indeed;

they will live in your presence.

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