posted on Oct, 9 2015 @ 05:01 PM
The common image of the relation between prophets and kings is the loner in conflict with authority.
We think of Elijah challenging one king, and John the Baptist challenging another.
But it doesn’t have to be like that, and it wasn’t always like that.
In the early days of the kingship, there was a working relationship which gradually mutated from “prophet’s king” to “king’s prophet”.
In the “prophet’s king” relation, the king was guided by, and sometimes chosen by, a trusted prophet.
In the “king’s prophet” relation, the prophet announced exactly what the king wanted him to announce.
The classic examples are Samuel-and-Saul at one end of the time-scale, and Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah at the other.
Yet after the death of Ahab the relation which had existed between Samuel and Saul was almost re-created in the love-hate relationship between his son
Jehoram and the prophet Elisha.
Their first known encounter came when Jehoram was leading an army against Moab.
There were three kings in this expedition- Jehoram himself, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, and the king of Edom.
Their route was so circuitous that they could not find any water.
Jehoshaphat suggested consulting a prophet of the Lord. When someone mentioned that Elisha was in the vicinity (“he poured water on the hands of
Elijah”), he agreed that the word of the Lord was with Elisha.
But Elisha’s first reaction was that he did not want to help the king of Israel.
“What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother”.
Jehoram’s response was to point out that the Lord had set up the situation which exposed three kings to the power of Moab. (In other words, he
believed in the Lord enough to criticise him, but not enough to obey him.)
Elisha retorted that he would have ignored the king altogether, “were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah”.
Then he allowed himself to seek the power of the Lord, and in that power he told them of the rains that would be coming (2 Kings ch3 vv9-17)
Elisha took a more active part in helping to defend the country against the Syrians.
Every time the king of Syria made plans to push his army to some location in Israel, Elisha knew what those plans were and gave a warning to his own
The Syrian king thought there must be a spy among the servants in his court, but they told him how Elisha knew the very words that he spoke in his
So a Syrian army was sent to Dothan for the purpose of seizing the prophet.
At Elisha’s request, however, the Lord struck them with a kind of blindness, so that Elisha was able to lead them all straight into Samaria.
The king of Israel was as excited as a child at Christmas;
“My father, shall I slay them? Shall I slay them?”
But Elisha told him to feed them well and let them go home (ch6 vv8-23).
The next invasion from Ben-hadad was more dangerous.
He besieged the city of Samaria, which was reduced to famine conditions.
The king of Israel took his responsibility very seriously.
He was so distressed by a particularly tragic example of the effects of starvation, that he tore his clothes, and it was observed that he was wearing
He then made a solemn vow to remove Elisha’s head from his shoulders (as a scapegoat for the Lord’s failure to help them).
His reasoning was “This trouble is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (ch6 vv24-33)
Elisha remained imperturbable.
He promised the king that food would be available in plenty the next day.
Meanwhile the Syrian army vanished overnight. The fact was discovered by a party of lepers who approached their camp looking for food. (They felt they
had nothing to lose, observing philosophically “If they kill us, we shall but die”)
That was how Elisha’s promise was kept.
Another time the king (fast becoming a fan) was eagerly questioning Gehazi, the servant of Elisha;
“Tell me all the great things which Elisha has done”.
So Gehazi told him about the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life, and she and her son chanced to arrive even as he told the story.
She was appealing to the king to help her recover her house and land, so the king appointed an official to look after the case and make sure she got
the assistance she needed (ch8 vv1-6)
In the twelfth year of Jehoram’s reign, Ahaziah became king of Judah.
The new king had close connections with Ahab’s family, through his wife, and through his mother (who was Ahab’s daughter). As a result he
“walked in the way of the house of Ahab”.
This was a serious development.
If the royal courts of both kingdoms were promoting the worship of Baal, then the worship of Yahweh would come under intense pressure.
This potential crisis may have been (though the narrative does not say so) the reason why Elisha finally acted to force a change in the succession.
The official reason was the need “to avenge the blood of the prophets and the blood of all the servants of the Lord”.
So he sent “one of the sons of the prophets” to Ramoth-Gilead, where the army were encamped.
The young man’s instructions were to seek out privately the commander Jehu and anoint him as king over the people of Israel. He was then to make a
very rapid escape.
The mission was accomplished. Jehu accepted the appointment and seized the throne, killing both kings in the process (ch9).
Elisha then disappears from sight, for more than forty years.
Yet during that time, he must have been giving much help and advice in ways which are not recorded.
Why do I think that?
Because as he is approaching his final hour, there is a king grieving at his bedside, and crying “My father, my father! [You are] the chariots of
Israel and its horsemen!” That is, “worth an army to us!”
Elisha may have remembered that these were exactly the same words that he had called out himself when Elijah was taken away.
This king was Joash, grandson of Jehu.
Adding the reigns together, more than sixty years had elapsed since the death of Ahab, so Elisha must have lived to “a good old age”.
There was one more service he could perform.
He told the king to take a bow and arrows.
He helped the king to shoot an arrow out of the window, and declared this to be a sign of “The lord’s arrow of victory over Syria”.
Then he told the king to strike the arrows on the ground.
The king stopped after striking three times, making Elisha cross. It meant that the king would only defeat the Syrians three times, which would fall
short of removing the threat.
Thus Elisha died, and this was probably the last time a prophet of Israel had a king mourning by his deathbed.
The very next reign saw the arrival of Hosea and Amos.
When Amos prophesied against the nation, the priest of Bethel told him that he should not give prophecies at that place, “for it is the king’s
sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom”.
If he wanted to speak against the kingdom of Israel, he should go across to Judah and seek a professional appointment at the rival court.
Evidently the priest could not conceive of any kind of prophet except the “king’s prophet”, employed to support the king and attack his
It is not a coincidence that Amos and Hosea were the first of the “writing prophets”.
If the king and the people will not listen, you can only put your words in writing for later generations to see.
This was the logical progression, and the future of prophecy.
Those in power lose touch with God’s guidance, and we see the results.