5.79 2 Kings -- Hazael, King of Aram

In the accession of Hazael to the throne of Aram, we see God's direct role in the affairs of foreign kingdoms, at least those that bordered Israel.  Years before, God had sent Elijah to anoint Hazael as successor to Ben-Hadad (1 Kings 19:15), although there is no record of him actually doing so.  When Ben-Hadad was sick, Elisha "happened" to stop by Damascus (this was a distance of over 100 miles from Samaria).  Ben-Hadad sent Hazael with a lavish gift (40 camel-loads!) to Elisha to ask him if he would recover from the sickness.  The NIV points out that this is the reverse of the Israelite king sending to the city of Ekron to inquire of Baal-Zebub (2 Kings 1:2).  Here we have a pagan king entreating a Jewish prophet (2 Kings 8:8).

       

This passage is complicated by difficulties in translation.  Elisha apparently told Hazael to tell Ben-Hadad he would surely recover, even though he would die.  He then began to weep, astonishing Hazael.  Elisha could foresee the violence and suffering that Hazael would wreak upon Israel.  Hazael wondered how this could be.  Elisha responded that he would be the next king of Aram.  Hazael returned to Ben-Hadad, gave him Elisha's message of recovery, and then smothered him the next day!

       

This provokes a number of questions about the relation of God's foreknowledge and human freedom:

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        --  did Elisha's word about Hazael succeeding Ben-Hadad plant that idea in Hazael and incite him to murder the king?
        --  did Elijah actually anoint as king an enemy of Israel, as God declared he should?
        --  if Elisha foresaw the destruction of Israel, why couldn't God have prevented it?  He certainly saved Israel several times from the attacks of Ben-Hadad.