The problems with the Arameans (2 Kings 13:3-13:7)

“The anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel. He gave them repeatedly into the hand of King Hazael of Aram, and then into the hand of King Ben-hadad son of King Hazael. But King Jehoahaz entreated Yahweh. Yahweh heeded him. Yahweh saw the oppression of Israel. He saw how the king of Aram oppressed them. Therefore Yahweh gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Arameans. The people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly. Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to sin, but walked in them. The sacred poles also remained in Samaria. Thus King Jehoahaz was left with an army of not more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots with ten thousand footmen. The king of Aram had destroyed them. He made them like the dust at threshing.”

If King David had problems with the Philistines along the west coast, these 9th century BCE Israelite kings always seem to be in battle with the Arameans, in the northeast. Yahweh was continually upset with the Israelite kings. This may be partly due to the bias of the biblical author. There is a little confusion here since King Hazael had killed King Ben-hadad to take over the Arameans, why would his son have the same name as the king he killed? The answer might be that they were friends when he was born. King Jehoahaz asked Yahweh to help him in his battle with the Arameans. Yahweh was kind to the Israelites since he saw how they were suffering. He was going to send a savior or liberator, and that would be King Jeroboam II. Even after saving them from the Arameans, the Israelites continued to worship the sacred poles in Samaria. Then King Jehoahaz was left with 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and 10,000 foot soldiers. That does not seem too bad. However, the Arameans destroyed them like the scattered dust.

The loss of territories under King Jehu (2 Kings 10:32-10:33)

“In those days Yahweh began to trim off parts of Israel. King Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel. They lost all the land from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the Manassites, which is by the Wadi Arnon, meaning Gilead and Bashan.”

Although King Jehu had wiped out the Baal worship, there was a disintegration of his kingdom. Yahweh seemed to like King Hazael of the Arameans who was successful in gaining a lot of territory on the east side of the Jordan. Yahweh trimmed off parts of Israel. Thus Israel became a west bank country as the land of the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the Manassites was wiped out. By this time about 3 tribes are now completely wiped out, Simeon, Reuben, and Gad. Benjamin has been integrated into Judah, while Dan is a small territory to the north. Israel now has Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali.

Jehu prepares to usurp power (2 Kings 9:14-9:16)

“Thus Jehu son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi conspired against King Jehoram. King Jehoram with all Israel had been on guard at Ramoth-gilead against King Hazael of Aram. However, King Jehoram had returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that the Arameans had inflicted on him, when he fought against King Hazael of Aram. Jehu said. ‘If this is your wish, then let no one slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.’ Then Jehu mounted his chariot. He went to Jezreel, where King Jehoram was laying ill. King Ahaziah of Judah had come down to visit King Jehoram.”

Jehu conspired to take over the kingship from King Jehoram. The king had been at Ramoth-gilead until he was wounded in a battle with King Hazael of the Arameans. Then King Jehoram went to Jezreel to recuperate from his wounds. Jehu told the people at Ramoth-gilead that no one was to go to Jezreel to tell King Jehoram of what was happening here. Then Jehu mounted his chariot and went to Jezreel, where King Jehoram of Israel and his nephew King Ahaziah of Judah were.

The prophet Elisha goes to Damascus (2 Kings 8:7-8:8)

“Elisha went to Damascus. King Ben-hadad of Aram was sick. When it was told him, ‘the man of God has come here,’ the king said to Hazael. ‘Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God. Inquire of Yahweh through him, whether I shall recover from this sickness?’”

Elisha seems to have good personal relationships with the king of the Arameans, probably King Ben-hadad II. Hazael was one of the top people under King Ben-hadad II.   Actually, you may recall that Elijah had the command to anoint Hazael the king of the Arameans, in 1 Kings, chapter 19, so that he would then inflict punishment on Israel and Judah. Elisha and not Elijah will fulfill this prophecy. Hazael ruled as king of the Arameans from 886-840 BCE.   King Ben-hadad II sent him with a present for Elisha. He wanted to know from Elisha if he was going to recover from his sickness.

The message from Yahweh (1 Kings 19:15-19:18)

“Then Yahweh said to him. ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Arameans. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel. You shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

This is a direct command of Yahweh to Elijah about what he must do. This is not a renewal of the covenant at Mount Horeb, but a direct order of who is to be in charge and who is to be killed. This is not love God and your neighbor. This was to prepare for the righteous remnant. For some reason, Elijah was to anoint Hazael, the King of the Syrians in Damascus. Why would the prophet of Yahweh anoint a non-Hebrew king who battled against Israel and Judah? However, he also was to anoint Jehu as the new king of Israel in opposition to King Ahab. That makes more sense. He also was to anoint a new prophet in his place, Elisha. In another twist, there is the admonition that those who escaped from the deadly attack of Hazael, King Jehu should kill. Those not killed by King Jehu, Elisha should kill. Finally there would be about 7,000 in all Israel, who have not bowed to Baal or kissed this idol god. This message for Elijah from Yahweh will dominate the life of Elijah and Elisha as they attempt to carry out this command of Yahweh.