THE Bible book of Second Kings takes up 2nd kings chapter 2 verse 1950's fashion where the book of First Kings leaves off. It is an account of 29 kings—12 from the northern kingdom of Israel and 17 from the southern kingdom of Judah. Second Kings also relates activities of the prophets Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah. Though not strictly in chronological order, the record reaches down to the time of the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem. Altogether, Second Kings covers a period of 340 years—from 920 B.C.E. to 580 B.C.E. when the prophet Jeremiah completed the writing of this book.
Of what value is Second Kings to us? What does it teach us about Jehovah and his dealings? What lessons can we draw from the actions of the kings, the prophets, and others mentioned in the book? Let us see what we can learn from Second Kings.
ELISHA SUCCEEDS ELIJAH
(2 Kings 1:1–8:29)
King Ahaziah of Israel suffers a fall in his home and is sick. He receives a notice of death from the prophet Elijah. Ahaziah dies, and his brother Jehoram ascends to the throne. Meanwhile, Jehoshaphat is king over Judah. Elijah is taken up in a windstorm, and his assistant, Elisha, succeeds him as a prophet. During some 60 years of his ministry that follows, Elisha performs many miracles.—See the box “Elisha’s Miracles.”
When a Moabite king rebels against Israel, Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom go out to meet him in battle. They are given victory because of the faithfulness of Jehoshaphat. Later, the king of Syria plans a surprise attack against Israel. However, Elisha foils the plan. The Syrian king is enraged and sends “horses and war chariots and a heavy military force” to capture Elisha. (2 Kings 6:14) Elisha performs two miracles and turns back the Syrians in peace. In time, Syrian King Ben-hadad lays siege against Samaria. This results in a severe famine, but Elisha foretells that the famine will end.
Some time later, Elisha goes to Damascus. King Ben-hadad, now sick, sends Hazael to inquire if he will recover from his sickness. Elisha foretells that the king will die and that Hazael will rule in his place. The very next day, Hazael suffocates the king under a wet “netted cloth” and assumes the kingship. (2 Kings 8:15, footnote) In Judah, Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram becomes king, and he is succeeded by his son Ahaziah.—See the box “Kings of Judah and of Israel.”
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:9—Why did Elisha ask for ‘two parts in Elijah’s spirit’? To carry out the responsibility as a prophet to Israel, Elisha would need the same spirit that Elijah had shown, that of courage and fearlessness. Realizing this, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha was appointed by Elijah as his successor and had been his attendant for six years, so Elisha viewed Elijah as his spiritual father; Elisha was like the firstborn spiritual son of Elijah. (1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:12) Hence, just as the literal firstborn received two parts of his father’s inheritance, Elisha asked for and received two parts of spiritual inheritance from Elijah.
2:11—What were “the heavens” to which “Elijah went ascending in the windstorm”? These were neither the distant parts of the physical universe nor the spiritual place where God and his angelic sons dwell. (Deuteronomy 4:19; Psalm 11:4; Matthew 6:9; 18:10) “The heavens” to which Elijah ascended were the atmospheric heavens. (Psalm 78:26; Matthew 6:26) Racing through earth’s atmosphere, the fiery chariot evidently transferred Elijah to another part of the earth, where he continued living for a time. Years later, in fact, Elijah wrote a letter to Jehoram, the king of Judah.—2 Chronicles 21:1, 12-15.
5:15, 16—Why did Elisha not accept Naaman’s gift? Elisha refused the gift because he recognized that the miracle of healing Naaman was performed by Jehovah’s power, not his own. It would have been unthinkable on his part to profit from his God-appointed office. True worshippers today do not reach out for personal gain from Jehovah’s service. They take to heart Jesus’ admonition: “You received free, give free.”—Matthew 10:8.
5:18, 19—Was Naaman requesting forgiveness for having to participate in a religious act? The Syrian king evidently was old and weak and had to lean upon Naaman for support. When the king bowed down in worship to Rimmon, Naaman did also. For Naaman, though, it was a purely mechanical act, strictly for the purpose of supporting the body of the king and not for rendering worship. Naaman was asking Jehovah to forgive him for performing this civil duty. Believing Naaman, Elisha said to him: “Go in peace.”
Lessons for Us:
1:13, 14. Learning from observation and acting with humility can save lives.
2:2,4,6. Even though Elisha had been Elijah’s attendant for perhaps six years, he insisted on not leaving him. What a fine example of loyalty and friendship!—Proverbs 18:24.
2:23, 24. The main reason for this mocking of Elisha appears to be that a bald man was wearing Elijah’s official garment. The children recognized Elisha as Jehovah’s representative and simply did not want him around. They told him to “go up,” that is, keep going up to Bethel or be taken up as Elijah had been. The children evidently reflected the antagonistic attitude of their parents. How vital that parents teach their children to respect God’s representatives!
3:14,18,24. Jehovah’s word always comes true.
3:22. The reflection of the early morning light created the illusion that the water was blood, perhaps because the soil in the freshly made ditches contained red clay. Jehovah may choose to use natural phenomena to accomplish his purposes.
4:8-11. Recognizing Elisha to be “a holy man of God,” a woman in Shunem extended hospitality to him. Should we not do the same to faithful worshippers of Jehovah?
5:3. The little Israelite girl had faith in God’s ability to perform miracles. She also had the courage to speak about her faith. Do you young ones strive to fortify your faith in God’s promises and muster up courage to share the truth with your teachers and fellow students?
5:9-19. Does not Naaman’s example show that a proud person can learn humility?—1 Peter 5:5.
5:20-27. What a price to pay for trying to live a lie! Giving thought to the personal heartache and tragedy that living a double life can bring will help us avoid such a course.
ISRAEL AND JUDAH GO INTO EXILE
(2 Kings 9:1–25:30)
Jehu is anointed king over Israel. He loses no time in carrying out the campaign to strike down the house of Ahab. Jehu skillfully ‘annihilates Baal worship out of Israel.’ (2 Kings 10:28) Upon learning that her son has been killed by Jehu, Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah, ‘rises up to destroy all the offspring of the kingdom of Judah’ and usurps the throne. (2 Kings 11:1) Only Ahaziah’s baby son, Jehoash, is rescued and after six years in hiding is appointed king over Judah. Instructed by Jehoiada the priest, Jehoash continues to do what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.
After Jehu, all the kings who rule Israel do what is bad in Jehovah’s eyes. Elisha dies a natural death in the time of Jehu’s grandson. The fourth Judean king following Jehoash is Ahaz, and he ‘does not do what is right in the eyes of Jehovah.’ (2 Kings 16:1, 2) His son Hezekiah, however, proves to be a king who ‘keeps sticking to Jehovah.’ (2 Kings 17:20; 18:6) In 740 B.C.E., when Hezekiah is king over Judah and Hoshea rules over Israel, Assyrian King Shalmaneser ‘captures Samaria and leads Israel into exile in Assyria.’ (2 Kings 17:6) Subsequently, foreigners are brought into the territory of Israel, and the Samaritan religion is born.
Of the seven kings who follow Hezekiah in Judah, only Josiah takes steps to rid the land of false worship. Finally, in 607 B.C.E., the Babylonians capture Jerusalem and ‘Judah goes into exile from its soil.’—2 Kings 25:21.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
13:20, 21—Does this miracle support the veneration of religious relics? No, it does not. The Bible does not show that the bones of Elisha were ever venerated. It was God’s power that made this miracle possible, as was the case with all the miracles Elisha performed when he was still alive.
15:1-6—Why did Jehovah plague Azariah (Uzziah,15:6, footnote) with leprosy? “As soon as [Uzziah] was strong, his heart became haughty . . . , so that he acted unfaithfully against Jehovah his God and came into the temple of Jehovah to burn incense upon the altar of incense.” When the priests “stood up against Uzziah” and told him to “go out from the sanctuary,” he became enraged against the priests and was struck with leprosy.—2 Chronicles 26:16-20.
18:19-21,25—Had Hezekiah made an alliance with Egypt? No. Rabshakeh’s accusation was false, as was his claim to have come with “authorization from Jehovah.” Faithful King Hezekiah relied solely on Jehovah.
Lessons for Us:
9:7,26. The heavy judgment against the house of Ahab shows that false worship and the shedding of innocent blood are detestable to Jehovah.
9:20. Jehu’s reputation as a furious chariot driver gave evidence of his zeal in carrying out his commission. Are you personally known as a zealous Kingdom proclaimer?—2 Timothy 4:2.
9:36, 37;10:17;13:18, 19,25;14:25;19:20,32-36;20:16, 17;24:13. We can be confident that ‘the word that goes forth from Jehovah’s mouth always has certain success.’—Isaiah 55:10, 11.
10:15. Just as Jehonadab wholeheartedly accepted Jehu’s invitation to get up into the chariot with him, the “great crowd” willingly support Jesus Christ, the modern-day Jehu, and his anointed followers.—Revelation 7:9.
10:30, 31. Though Jehu’s record was not flawless, Jehovah showed appreciation for all that he did. Indeed, ‘God is not unrighteous so as to forget our work.’—Hebrews 6:10.
13:14-19. Since Jehu’s grandson Jehoash did not exert himself but struck the earth with arrows only three times, he had limited success in defeating the Syrians. Jehovah expects us to do his assigned work wholeheartedly and with zeal.
20:2-6. Jehovah is the “Hearer of prayer.”—Psalm 65:2.
24:3, 4. On account of Manasseh’s bloodguilt, Jehovah “did not consent to grant forgiveness” to Judah. God respects the blood of the innocent. We can be confident that Jehovah will avenge innocent blood by destroying those responsible for shedding it.—Psalm 37:9-11; 145:20.
Valuable to Us
The book of Second Kings portrays Jehovah as the Fulfiller of promises. The exile of residents of the two kingdoms, first of Israel and then of Judah, forcefully brings to our attention how the prophetic judgment recorded at Deuteronomy 28:15–29:28 came true. Second Kings describes Elisha as a prophet with great zeal for Jehovah’s name and for true worship. Hezekiah and Josiah are depicted as humble kings who respect God’s Law.
As we reflect on the attitude and actions of the kings, prophets, and others referred to in Second Kings, do we not learn valuable lessons in what to strive for and what to avoid? (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) Yes, “the word of God is alive and exerts power.”—Hebrews 4:12.
[Box/Picture on page 10]
1. The waters of the Jordan are made to divide.—2 Kings 2:14
2. The bad water supply of Jericho is made healthful.—2 Kings 2:19-22
3. Juvenile delinquents are attacked by bears.—2 Kings 2:23, 24
4. Water is supplied to armies.—2 Kings 3:16-26
5. A widow receives edible oil.—2 Kings 4:1-7
6. A barren Shunammite woman conceives a child.—2 Kings 4:8-17
7. A child is raised from the dead.—2 Kings 4:18-37
8. A poisonous stew becomes edible.—2 Kings 4:38-41
9. One hundred men are fed with 20 loaves.—2 Kings 4:42-44
10. Naaman is healed of his leprosy.—2 Kings 5:1-14