We have here Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, under God’s rebukes both by his providence and by his prophet, by his rod and by his word.
I. He is crossed in his affairs. How can those expect to prosper that do evil in the sight of the Lord, and provoke him to anger? When he rebelled against God, and revolted from his allegiance to him, Moab rebelled against Israel, and revolted from the subjection that had long paid to the kings of Israel, 2 Kgs. 1:1. The Edomites that bordered on Judah, and were tributaries to the kings of Judah, still continued so, as we find in the chapter before (1 Kgs. 22:47), till, in the wicked reign of Joram, they broke that yoke (2 Kgs. 8:22) as the Moabites did now. If men break their covenants with us, and neglect their duty, we must reflect upon our breach of covenant with God, and the neglect of our duty to him. Sin weakens and impoverishes us. We shall hear of the Moabites, 2 Kgs. 3:5.
II. He is seized with sickness in body, not from any inward cause, but by a severe accident. He fell down through a lattice, and was much bruised with the fall; perhaps it threw him into a fever, 2 Kgs. 1:2. Whatever we go, there is but a step between us and death. A man’s house is his castle, but not to secure him against the judgments of God. The cracked lattice is a fatal to the son, when God pleases to make it so, as the bow drawn at a venture was to the father. Ahaziah would not attempt to reduce the Moabites, lest he should perish in the field of battle: but he is not safe, though he tarry at home. Royal palaces do not always yield firm footing. The snare is laid for the sinner in the ground where he thinks least of it, Job 18:9, 10. The whole creation, which groans under the man’s sin, will at length sink and break under the weight, like this lattice. He is never safe that has God for his enemy.
III. In his distress he sends messengers to enquire of the god Ekron whether he should recover or no, 2 Kgs. 1:2. And here, 1. His enquiry was very foolish: Shall I recover? Even nature itself would rather have asked, “What means may I use that I may recover?” But as one solicitous only to know his fortune, not to know his duty, his question is only this, Shall I recover? to which a little time would give an answer. We should be more thoughtful what will become of us after death than how, or when, or where, we shall die, and more desirous to be told how we may conduct ourselves well in our sickness, and get good to our souls by it, than whether we shall recover from it. 2. His sending to Baal-zebub was very wicked; to make a dead and dumb idol, perhaps newly erected (for idolaters were fond of new gods), his oracle, was not less a reproach to his reason than to his religion. Baal-zebub, which signifies the lord of a fly, was one of their Baals that perhaps gave his answers either by the power of the demons or the craft of the priests, with a humming noise, like that of a great fly, or that had (as they fancied) rid their country of the swarms of flies wherewith it was infested, or of some pestilential disease brought among them by flies. Perhaps this dunghill-deity was as famous then as the oracle of Delphos was, long afterwards, in Greece. In the New Testament the prince of the devils is called Beel-zebub (Matt. 12:24), for the gods of the Gentiles were devils, and this perhaps grew to be one of the most famous.
IV. Elijah, by direction from God, meets the messengers, and turns them back with an answer that shall save them the labour of going to Ekron. Had Ahaziah sent for Elijah, humbled himself, and begged his prayers, he might have had an answer of peace; but if he send to the god of Ekron, instead of the God of Israel, this, like Saul’s consulting the witch, shall fill the measure of his iniquity, and bring upon him a sentence of death. Those that will not enquire of the word of God for their comfort shall be made to hear it, whether they will or not, to their amazement.
1. He faithfully reproves his sin (2 Kgs. 1:3): Isa. it not because there is not (that is, because you think there is not) a God in Israel (because there is no God, none in Israel, so it may be read), that you go to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, a despicable town of the Philistines (Zech. 9:7), long since vanquished by Israel? Here, (1.) The sin was bad enough, giving that honour to the devil which is due to God alone, which was done as much by their enquiries as by their sacrifices. Note, It is a very wicked thing, upon any occasion or pretence whatsoever, to consult with the devil. This wickedness reigned in the heathen world (Isa. 47:12, 13) and remains too much even in the Christian world, and the devil’s kingdom is supported by it. (2.) The construction which Elijah, in God’s name, puts upon it, makes it much worse: “It is because you think not only that the God of Israel is not able to tell you, but that there is no God at all in Israel, else you would not send so far for a divine answer.” Note, A practical and constructive atheism is the cause and malignity of our departures from God. Surely we think there is no God in Israel when we live at large, make flesh our arm, and seek a portion in the things of this world.
2. He plainly reads his doom: Go, tell him he shall surely die, 2 Kgs. 1:4. “Since he is so anxious to know his fate, this is it; let him make the best of it.” The certain fearful looking for of judgment and indignation which this message must needs cause cannot but cut him to the heart.
V. The message being delivered to him by his servants, he enquires of them by whom it was sent to him, and concludes, by their description of him, that it must be Elijah, 2 Kgs. 1:7, 8. For, 1. His dress was the same that he had seen him in, in his father’s court. He was clad in a hairy garment, and had a leathern girdle about him, was plain and homely in his garb. John Baptist, the Elias of the New Testament, herein resembled him, for his clothes were made of hair cloth, and he was girt with a leathern girdle, Matt. 3:4. He that was clothed with the Spirit despised all rich and gay clothing. 2. His message was such as he used to deliver to his father, to whom he never prophesied good, but evil. Elijah is one of those witnesses that still torment the inhabitants of the earth, Rev. 11:10. He that was a thorn in Ahab’s eyes will be so in the eyes of his son while he treads in the steps of his father’s wickedness; and he is ready to cry out, as his father did, Hast thou found me, O my enemy? Let sinners consider that the word which took hold of their fathers is still as quick and powerful as ever. See Zech. 1:6; Heb. 4:12.