Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. When the king was told, “The man of God has come all the way up here,” he said to Hazael, “Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the Lord through him; ask him, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’ ” Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, “Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’ ” Elisha answered, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael was embarrassed. Then the man of God began to weep. “Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael. “Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” he answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.” Hazael said, “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?” “The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram,” answered Elisha. Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, “What did Elisha say to you?” Hazael replied, “He told me that you would certainly recover.” But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king’s face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king. – 2 Kings 8:7-15
This is an interesting passage. Elisha has travelled all the way to Damascus to prophesy for the king of Aram. I thought the Israelites were the enemies of the Arameans. Perhaps the Arameans are beginning to wonder about this God of the Israelites that can open the floodgates of heaven. Elisha also shows great faith in even going to see the king. Most of the kings at this time are killing prophets, including the king of Israel.
The water in this passage comes in the form of tears…samples of our souls. Elisha sheds tears because God has revealed the treachery and murder that will be committed by Hazael; and the bloody reign this will initiate. It seems like the request made by the king of Aram represents an openness to listening to God. Maybe part of Elisha’s soul sickness and weeping is for the loss of this opportunity for the kingdom of Aram and it’s people to follow God.
Hazael seems to get the idea that he could be king from Elisha’s prophecy. This reminds me of a scene from the movie “the Matrix”. Neo goes to see “the Oracle” to find out if he is “the one”. The oracle turns out to be a grandmotherly figure with an apron baking cookies in a kitchen. Here is their conversation:
Oracle: ” I’d ask you to sit down, but, you’re not going to anyway. And don’t worry about the vase.”
Neo: “What vase?”[Neo turns to look for a vase, and as he does, he knocks over a vase of flowers, which shatters on the floor]
Oracle: “That vase.”
Neo: “I’m sorry…”
Oracle: ” I said don’t worry about it. I’ll get one of my kids to fix it.”
Neo: “How did you know?”
Oracle: “Ohh, what’s really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything?”
Would Hazael have murdered the king and started his evil reign as king if he had not heard the prophecy from Elisha? I don’t know, but I admit this does “bake my noodle” a bit. Ultimately, Hazeal probably acted on what was in his heart and Elisha (and God) were just informing him of this. This treads close to the tricky waters of the philosophical argument between predestination and free will. I will not attempt to navigate these waters as I do not find them productive for my journey of seeking after God.
The method Hazael used to carry out the murder of the king also involves water. He took a thick cloth, soaked it in water, then proceeded to use it to smother the king in a way that would have been difficult for even JB Fletcher to detect. I suspect Hazael did not want anyone to suspect he was involved in the king’s death so that he had a smooth and unchallenged path to the throne.
Is there a lesson here? I think Hazael had a real choice and he chose poorly to lead himself and his people away from God rather than toward God. Hazael’ choice will affect him and the people of the kingdom of Aram for years to come. We all face choices as we go through life. We have to choose a line. I think the best way to choose wisely is to seek out God’s wisdom before we choose.
Prayer: God help us to seek your wisdom before we make choices, especially when our choices affect others.