Chapter 12


2 Kings

“Where is the God of Elijah?”


2 Kings picks up the history of Israel’s divided kingdom right where 1 Kings ended. It is a sad, sad history of man’s rebellion, sin and idolatry.




After Solomon’s death, after the kingdom of Israel was divided, the northern kingdom of Israel was ruled for 250 years by nineteen different men. All of them were wicked, idolatrous, self-serving men. God sent prophet after prophet to them, calling them to repentance. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and Jonah were all sent with God’s word to the rebel tribes of the northern kingdom. But Israel and her kings followed Baal and the gods of human invention. Walking after the lusts of their own hearts, they walked in obstinate defiance of God’s right to be God, plunging themselves into deeper and deeper moral and spiritual degradation. At last, God gave them up!




Things were only slightly better in Judah. The southern kingdom of Judah survived for 140 years longer than Israel. She had twenty different kings, all from the family of David. Most of their kings were also wicked men. Few walked in the way of David. They wore his name, but knew nothing of his character or his God.


      After a long history hearing and despising the Word of God, Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians (ch. 17). 136 years later, Judah, following the same path of rebellion, idolatry and sin, was taken away in captivity to Babylon. The reason for their woe is recorded in 2 Kings 17:9-19…


"And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger: For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made."


It is disobedience to the revelation of God (the willful, deliberate disobedience of a heart of enmity against God) that brings upon men and women the everlasting wrath and judgment of God (Pro. 1:23-33; 29:1).


God’s Purpose of Grace


Though the Lord God utterly destroyed the northern kingdom and swore that he would destroy Judah as well, he preserved a remnant, even in judgment, through whom Christ would come through the seed of David. He had sworn back in Genesis 49 that he would not destroy Judah until Christ had come. So God refused to cast them off altogether until after the resurrection of Christ. Then, in 70 AD he destroyed the physical seed of Abraham and turned his hand of mercy to the gathering of his elect scattered throughout the world (Rom. 11:1-5, 26-29, 33-36).


The Prophets


Yet, rather than focusing our attention on the wickedness of Israel’s kings, throughout these twenty-five chapters the Holy Spirit tells a story of grace and mercy. It is a story that revolves around the lives and ministries of faithful prophets.


      In addition to Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and Jonah, the history of Israel and Judah described in 2 Kings takes in the ministries Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. It is true, there were in Judah a few good kings, a few who enacted laws for the glory of God and the good of his people, a few kings who tore down the groves, the high places, the altars, and the images of Baal.


      There were a few, like Hezekiah, who did “that which was right in the sight of the Lord.” We do not have to guess what is meant by those words.


"He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not." (2 Kings 18:4-7)


      Many today make much ado about Egypt’s boy king, Tut. But Egypt’s King Tut was only a boy pagan, who followed the wickedness of his fathers. Judah had a boy king by the name of Josiah, who stood head and shoulders above his fathers. "And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." (2 Kings 23:25)


      Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign. When he was eighteen years old, he began to restore the house of God. Hilkiah the priest found the Book of God in the ruins of the temple. He gave it to Shaphan the scribe. Shaphan read the Book to the king. And young King Josiah went to work for the glory of God and the good of his people. He destroyed the idols, executed false prophets, purged the land of homosexuals, put away the wizards and witches, and kept the passover.


      Still, the story of God’s mercy and grace, the story of God’s blessings upon his people always revolves around his prophets, those men of God sent to proclaim his Word to his people.




Elijah was John the Baptist of the Old Testament. As John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, so God’s prophets were always the forerunners of either judgment or of mercy. But in the second chapter of 2 Kings, Elijah is distinctly set before us as picture of that blessed hope in which we live, anxiously awaiting our Lord’s gracious call by which he will soon fetch us home. "And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it" (vv. 11-12).


      Elijah’s translation to heaven is a vivid picture of the believer’s death. As Elijah died not, but was translated to glory, so the believer does not die (John 11:26), but merely drops his earthly clay and rises into heaven. Then, in the last day, when Christ comes again, immediately after the resurrection of those saints whose bodies sleep in the earth, all believers living at the time will be instantaneously translated and caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).




Elisha had faithfully served Elijah from the time the prophet of God had cast his mantle upon him. When the old prophet was about to go home, he asked his faithful servant what he wanted. Look at it. “And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. {10} And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so" (2:9-10).


      Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit was not, as is commonly thought, a request that he might have twice the power and influence as a prophet that Elijah had. That would have been an absurd, selfish, proud, and ungodly request.


      The law of God required that the firstborn son receive a double portion (Deut. 21:17) of his father’s estate. What Elisha requested was that he might be received of God and treated by him as Elijah’s firstborn son. Elijah said, “What you have asked is a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me in my ascension to heaven, you shall have this great boon.” —“And Elisha saw it!


      That is exactly what God gives to all his people. He gives all his elect the double portion of his Firstborn Son, all the heritage of Christ (John 17:5, 22; Isa. 40:1-2, Rom. 8:17). This great inheritance of grace and glory is freely bestowed upon every sinner to whom and in whom God reveals his Son in his saving glory. When a sinner receives this great boon of grace, like Elisha when he saw Elijah taken up, tears off his own clothes, takes up the mantle of Christ’s righteousness, and walks with God forever in the power of his resurrection (Rom. 6). This is exactly what we confess in believer’s baptism (Rom. 6:4-6).


Waters Healed


As Moses healed the bitter waters of Marah by casting in the tree that pictured the cross of Christ, Elisha healed the waters of Jericho by casting in salt (2:16-20). Before this, the land of Jericho was full of death and barren. Once the waters were healed, it was full of life and abounding with fruit.


      The salt Elisha cast into the waters represented much the same thing as the tree at Marah. You will remember that God required Israel, with all their sacrifices, to offer salt. His covenant was called “a covenant of salt” (Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5). This is a picture of the gospel and its power in the lives of God’s elect. It is the power of God unto salvation. Once the salt of covenant grace has been cast into our deadness and barrenness, life springs up in our very souls and the Spirit of God, by the covenant of salt, makes sinners who were dead in trespasses and sins (utterly useless!) fruitful unto God.




In chapter three the Lord performed a mighty miracle for Israel, Judah and Edom, when Moab threatened to destroy them (3:16-20). It was a miracle portraying God’s great work of grace in chosen, redeemed sinners. Ditches were cut through all the land by the Word of God. When God the Holy Spirit does a work of grace in the heart of a sinner, his first work is that of breaking up the fallow ground of his sin hardened heart by the Word of God in conviction of sin (John 16:8-9).


      Wherever a ditch was cut, the water of life filled the ditch without any effort, or even sound, or even feeling on the part of any man. Wherever God the Holy Spirit comes in conviction, he fills the broken heart with life. The ditches were filled with water in direct connection with the morning sacrifice. Grace and life come to sinners by the power of God as the result of, and only as the result of, Christ’s sacrifice.


A Pot of Oil


In chapter four there was a poor prophet’s widow, who was left in debt when her husband died. She had two sons and nothing with which to pay her debts. She was terrified that she and her sons might be taken into bondage by their creditor. The Lord God miraculously met her need by the power of his grace in a way that clearly speaks of his method of grace in saving his elect (4:1-7).


      She had a little oil in her vessel; but the only way she could get what she needed was to first have her little bit of oil completely poured out. God only fills empty vessels. Once she emptied her little vessel, she never lacked again. When we are emptied of self, God the Holy Spirit fills us. He brings to our souls all the fullness of Christ, by whom all our debt has been paid, and all our needs supplied.


New Birth


Throughout the Scriptures, the new birth is portrayed as a resurrection from the dead (John 11; Eph. 2:4-8; Rev. 20:6). In 2 Kings 4 we have a delightful picture of it in the resurrection of the Shunammite’s son. This poor woman ran to the man of God with her dead son (v. 22). (Shall we not run to Christ for mercy for our spiritually dead sons and daughters?) Elijah sent his servant running to meet her (v. 26). The prophet took the dead boy away to his own private room and performed his mighty miracle (vv. 32-37). He prayed for the child, just as the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for his elect. He stretched himself upon the child (mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand) and gave his life (as it were) to the child. That is exactly what our Savior does for us in the new birth. He gives us his life.


Death in the Pot


At Gilgal (4:38-41), when men gathered herbs from the cursed earth, never suspecting that there might be danger in eating them (“For they knew them not.”), they made a huge pot of pottage for the prophets. But there was death in the pot. Elisha cast meal into the pot and there was no longer any harm or death in the pot. Even so, when Christ, the Bread of Life, comes into our poisoned lives that would have brought us eternal death, there is no more curse, no more harm for us.


      In the last verse of chapter four (42-44), Elisha multiplied the loaves for the feeding of a multitude. They ate all they wanted, and plenty was left over. In like manner, God’s free grace in Christ is boundless, ever multiplied, fully satisfying, and there is an infinite abundance of it for sinners.




The story of Naaman’s healing is tremendous and instructive (chp. 5). He was a mighty man of wealth and influence, a captain among Israel’s enemies. He was a leper. But Naaman was a man chosen of God as an object of grace. Because he had purposed to be gracious to him, the Lord God graciously sent a little girl who believed God, who gave him a word of hope. At the appointed time of love, when the Lord would be gracious to him, he crossed Naaman’s path, humbled him, and healed him, both of the leprosy of his body and the leprosy of his soul.


Axe Head


In chapter six the lost axe head, that was made to swim, is a picture of our constant need of grace being supplied to us by the power and goodness of God. Some men were working with a borrowed tool. Through some carelessness, they lost the axe head. Elisha made it swim and returned it to them.


      That grace and power of God’s Spirit by which we serve him is his gift to us, but it is his. When we have, through carelessness and sin, lost our Lord’s manifest presence and strength, let us pray like David, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto e the joy of thy salvation.” And our great Savior will restore to us the joy of his salvation.


      The chariots of fire surrounding God’s servants were there to protect and care for his own (6: 16-17). But Elisha’s servant could not see those chariots until the Lord God opened his eyes. So the Lord God is ever with his elect. His angels constantly minister to those he has chosen to be the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). But the calm assurance of God’s presence is known only as our God opens our eyes and gives us faith to behold him.


      In chapter 7, four lepers came in desperation to the Syrians, with no rights and little hope. There, they found bread and life. Once they had found the bread of life, they brought the good news to Israel; and the starving children of Israel were happy to receive the good news even from leprous men.


      Like those four lepers, poor, perishing sinners flee to Christ in utter desperation. But fleeing to him, they find life and carry the good news to others. Yes, the Lord God graciously uses leprous sinners, sinners saved by his grace, to carry the good news of grace to other poor, perishing sinners.


      Jehu said to Jehonadab, “Is thine heart right with mine heart? And Jehonadab said, It is.” Jehonadab gave Jehu his hand, and Jehu took him up into his chariot saying, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord” (10:15-16). Is your heart right with God? “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Give him your hand, trust your life to him; and he will take you unto himself and show you his zeal for God, the zeal by which he has performed your salvation.


      As Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was commanded of the king saying, “Tell all the great things that Elisha hath done” (8:4) God’s servants are commanded of God to constantly tell eternity bound men and women all the great things Christ has done, to tell it from all the Book of God. 2 Kings, like all the rest of the Book, speaks of all those great things Christ has done for his people and the glory of God.