Many biblical stories contain names familiar to us today. This map shows how close Amman, Damascus and Jerusalem are – names in our news almost on a daily basis. A bit of checking in Wikipedia about Damascus shows a name that appears in our Wednesday Bible lesson:
As this new state expanded south, it prevented the Kingdom of Israel from spreading north and the two kingdoms soon clashed as they both sought to dominate trading hegemony in the east. Under Ezron's grandson, Ben-Hadad I (880–841 BC), and his successor Hazael, Damascus annexed Bashan (modern-day Hauran region), and went on the offensive with Israel.The lesson included the meeting between Elisha and Hazael in II Kings 8:7-15. For some undocumented reason, Elisha is in Damascus:
And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither. (2 Kings 8:7 KJV)
The first thought I wrote on my lesson notes had to do with how Elisha was known as “the man of God.” What a reputation preceded him to Damascus! We tend to forget that we have a reputation of our own – does it include a reference to God?
Elisha was well known to Benhadad. Perhaps Benhadad was aware of Naaman’s healing from leprosy, or perhaps he was the Syrian king of II Kings 6 whose troops were blinded. However he knew, he sought help:
And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? (2 Kings 8:8 KJV)
The second name from Wikipedia. Obviously trusted by Benhadad, he was allowed into the king’s sickroom and given a message to ask the man of God. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what our future holds? As we find – not so much!
Hazael did take presents – forty camels loaded with the best Damascus had to offer – and asked the question. He then discovered Elisha knew much more than the answer to that one question:
And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath shewed me that he shall surely die. And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept. (2 Kings 8:10-11 KJV)
I visualized Elisha keeping eye contact with Hazael, letting him know that he could not only see Benhadad well, but he knew what Hazael was going to do. He wept, but not for the assassination:
And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. (2 Kings 8:12 KJV)
That verse brought tears to my eyes, too. Not simply because of the evil Benhadad was going to - and did - to Israel, just as Elisha prophesied, but because that same evil, those same atrocities, are being done today. In the same area, ISIS is slaying young men, children and woman.
We need to remember David’s strong faith in God’s judgment:
Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them. But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. (Psalms 9:5-8 KJV)