Day 167 (June 16): The healing of Naaman, Gehazi’s greed, a floating ax, Elisha traps Arameans, Ben-Hadad captures Samaria, lepers visit enemy camp, Israel plunders camp, Shunem woman is proof, Hazael murders Ben-Hadad

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Kings 5-8:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 5:1): I am confused.  Aram was an enemy of Israel, right?  Why would God give the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, victory over Israel.  Is it because Naaman believed in God?

A. Aram and Israel were at war.  The story didn’t say that Naaman had victory over Israel, only that he was given victory by God.  I don’t think the reason for this had anything to do with Naaman’s belief in the God of his enemy Israel, but rather by God’s mercy.  Remember, God did not ordain this war between Israel and Aram.  The evil kings of both of these nations brought it about.  God is, in this case, not necessarily on one side exclusively.

Q. (5:2): Israel must not have been following God at this time because Israel has been pillaged.  Joram is the king of Israel at this time?

A. Yes, Ahab’s son.

Q. (5:7): Why would Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, think that Israel would help heal the commander of his army, after Aram had invaded Israel?

A. He believed it because Naaman told him so.  The whole reason Naaman even comes to Israel was because of his slave girl informing him about Elisha, who had the power, via God, to heal his leprosy.  I suspect your answer is that if that was good enough for Naaman, it was good enough for Ben-Hadad.

Q. (5:15): Why would Elisha not accept the gifts from Naaman?  Because of God’s grace, he does not require gifts?  But, he does like sacrifices, which include gifts.  I probably have this wrong?

A. God’s curing Naaman’s leprosy was a mercy, and did not require a gift.   I suspect it also had to do with the treasures were from Aram, and were probably acquired via pagan ritual.

Q. (5:18,19): So, since Elisha said, “Go in peace” to Naaman’s request of being pardoned when he, with his master King Ben-Hadad, bows to the god Rimmon?  I wouldn’t think God would appreciate this from someone who was just healed of leprosy.

A. Naaman is obligated to bow to Rimmon out of respect for his king; it was a requirement.  But what the text tells us is that Naaman understands who the true God is.

O. (5:20-27): Goes to show you what lies and greed will get you: not ahead like Gehazi thought, but behind with leprosy.

Q. (6:9): So you said that because the kings were not following God, Elisha and other prophets would step in to set them on the right path or give them a glimpse of what God can do if they remain loyal to him.

A. That is the purpose a prophet serves, yes.  In this case, Elisha is keeping Israel out of trouble with Aram.

Q. (6:21-22): Elisha had mercy on the soldiers who came to seize him.  I don’t know why he didn’t do this with the boys who were mocking him in 2 Kings 2:23-24?

A. Well, I don’t have a great answer to that, but part of the answer is the mocking itself: the soldiers were merely under orders to bring in Elisha, but were not disrespecting him.  By tricking the soldiers into basically coming into the capital, he was essentially making them prisoners of war.  Even in ancient society, there were rules about proper ways to treat POWs, and killing them wasn’t acceptable.

Q. (6:25): I read this verse to my husband.  His question is: Why would anyone want a donkey’s head and, especially, dove’s dung?

A. In the midst of a famine, it was apparently all that was left that was edible.  This rather gross imagery is meant to show the extent of the famine.

Q. (6:31): Why is burlap significant?

A. It was a symbol of mourning.  The king was in a state of mourning, but he was unwilling to go all the way and be exclusively dressed in burlap, which was probably a pride thing.  He wanted to mourn the terrible situation, but was unwilling to give up his majestic robes.

Q. (6:31): Is this a “be careful what you wish for” question?

A. It was pretty unwise, yes.

Q. (7:1): Bad flour is punishment for the king for ordering Elisha’s death?

A. Um, not bad flour, cheap flour.  What Elisha means is that the famine will be over, and crops, including flour, will be readily available.

Q. (7:19-20): They couldn’t eat the cheap flour because: A) they were mourning their kings death and had no appetite, B) the soldiers were away plundering so no matter what the price, there was no one to buy it or eat it, C) the people left behind were distracted and had no interest in going to the market, D) it was trampled just like the king, E) none of the above?

A. NOTA.  There’s no “they”, the prophecy only refers to the king’s servant who scoffs at Elisha’s promise.  The king does not die in this story, only this man, who is trampled at the gate by the people rushing to get food.  So he lived to see the cheap flour, and the end of the famine, but he was not able to enjoy it because he was trampled to death.

Q. (8:7-15): I guess being a prophet isn’t all fun.  It obviously has its hardships and requires a stomach of steel.  Hazael seemed to be blindsided by the news that he would be the leader of such destruction — which he did call “great things.”  Why would God cause such horror?  Will we learn why?

A. Well, you already know part of the reason: Israel and Aram are at war, and Hazael has just made himself king by killing the previous king.  But, yes, I believe the full reason will become clear.

Day 166 (June 15): Whirlwind takes Elijah to heaven, Elisha gives double spirit of Elijah, Elisha starts miracles right away, Elisha saves widow’s sons, Elisha helps Shunem woman’s son, Elisha feeds thousands with little flour

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Kings 2:1-25

2 Kings 4:1-44

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 2:1-6): How far is it from Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan River?  Could Elijah and Elisha made it to all three places in one day?

A. Don’t forget where they started, at Gilgal, so they didn’t even start in Bethel.  The notes that I have say that this is a total journey of between 25 and 30 miles.  That’s a long way, but not outside the realm of possibility.  My notes also say that we tend to assume, but it doesn’t say, that they walked the entire distance.  They might have had transportation for some portion of the trip.

Q. (2:9-10): Is Elisha being greedy here, asking for a double share of Elijah’s spirit?  Elijah said it would be a difficult thing to get.

A. Apparently God didn’t think so, because He granted the request, as confirmed with the cloak parting the Jordan.

Q. (2:17): Is Elisha showing weakness here by allowing the men to go search for Elijah?  Apparently Elisha was the only one that witnessed Elijah going up in the chariot?

A. I think he just wanted to stop hearing about it, he knew Elijah was gone, but couldn’t convince his companions until they couldn’t find him on their own.  The story implies Elisha was the only one to see Elijah being taken.

Q. (2:24): I would think that a more proper response for this situation would be for Elisha to influence the youth in a positive way without having them killed.  They are youth and kind of expected to make unwise choices, but instruction could set them straight.  But I am not a prophet.

A. The cultural gist of the insult — calling him bald — that the boys/young men use (these aren’t children we’re talking about here!) is that Elisha is diseased and unclean.  That is most likely why he cursed them.  I’m not really clear on why he reacts the way he does either, but, as you said, he is a man of God.

O. (4:8-37): The faith of the woman from Shunem is strong and true!

Q. (4:42-44): This story mirrors Jesus feeding the 5,000 with fish and bread.  The olive oil story (4:1-7) is also used at least one more time.  Is there some message the authors intended for readers today with the repetition of these stories, like “God WILL provide?”

A. While the idea of God’s provision is a major theme of scripture — think of the manna and water in the Exodus — these texts were not written with “modern” audiences in mind at all.  They were written to tell the history of the Jewish people, including the fact that God was indeed faithful, to future generations of Jews.  We are “eavesdropping,” if you will, on that conversation.  One of the ways that this occurs, however, is that the Spirit of God works in the hearts of people today to remind them of things that we can learn by studying books like Kings.  So there can be great benefit to us, even if it wasn’t “for” us.

As to the stories matching with things in the gospels, that is not a coincidence.  One of the things that Jesus taught his followers is that He was, and is, the fulfillment of the Law, associated with Moses, and the Prophets — including Elijah and Elisha, see Matthew 11:13 and Luke 16:16.  So it is no surprise to me that the gospel writers would share with their audience places where they saw Jesus doing things that Moses (trials in the wilderness, Matthew 4), or the Prophets did (like feeding people where there didn’t seem to be enough food, Mark 6).  Part of that is emphasis, but part of it also is that understanding of the NT that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the best of old way, the OT, while establishing the NEW one.