Good morning! We finish the book of 1 Kings today, but the stories continue seamlessly into the next book, so today’s passage also includes 2 Kings 1-2. The focus is squarely on prophets, with stories of prophets disagreeing, trumping the will of kings, transferring leadership, and misusing their power. Like kings, sometimes prophets too can abuse their power when they are not mindful of doing God’s will rather than their own.
Remarkably, Israel and Judah form a temporary alliance at the start of 1 Kings 22, so that they can attack and take land back from Aram. The kings ask God’s will for the battle through the court prophets of Ahab’s Israel. Though the paid prophets are supportive, outsider prophet Micaiah isn’t among the court attendants. While he’s on his way, there is great pressure on Micaiah to conform to what the other prophets have said, and he does so at first. But then he declares that the prophetic spirit in the others is a lying spirit sent to do God’s will in enticing Ahab to his death in battle. As a result, Micaiah is put on house arrest while they battle, testing whether he was right. Ahab is struck by an archer and dies from the wound after spending the day in his chariot. Lone Micaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled, as was the earlier one of dogs licking up the king’s blood by the pool of Samaria.
Following a few highlights of King Jehoshaphat of Judah’s rule, we hear the unrighteousness of Ahab’s successor Ahaziah. The son of Ahab and Jezebel doesn’t stray far from their example, and as a result he faces what has been cast as God’s judgment in a fall at his palace. We see Elijah’s final demonstration of power over the messengers and forces of Ahaziah when he calls forth fire from heaven multiple times. In my opinion, Elijah misuses his abilities in order to preserve his own peace rather than respond to the needs of his people. Proclaiming God’s judgment on the unrighteous Ahaziah is one thing; roasting the messengers is another.
The famous story of Elijah’s ascension comes in 2 Kings 2, giving us a glimpse into prophetic succession. The school of prophets who followed Elijah includes Elisha, perhaps the most devoted of Elijah’s disciples. When he senses that Elijah will be taken from him, Elisha refuses to be separated from Elijah, following him from town to town despite orders otherwise. Elisha asks for a parting gift of twice the spirit that Elijah had—a precocious request that nevertheless reveals his desire to keep carrying on the prophet’s work. Elijah ascends to heaven on fiery chariots, a sign that gives him a special status in later Hebrew literature. Much speculation develops on when and how Elijah will come back later, and those who have read the gospels know he is one of the two figures present with Jesus at the transfiguration. Elisha picks up Elijah’s mantle where it has fallen, and the power of his mentor falls to him as well—confirmed by his ability to part the waters in just the way Elijah did. Elisha then becomes the leader of the tribe of prophets, performing a miracle of health, and then a fearsome lashing out against teasing children. This final episode in the chapter reads like something out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Here too, we see a prophet misuse his power, sending bears to maul the children who are teasing him. I’m still waiting though, for a prophet to get his divine rebuke in the way that kings do. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Kings 3-7. Thanks for reading!