II Kings – Chapter 1

Lord of the Flies

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

NOTE: It’s going to get a little bit confusing soon if you don’t pay attention, because some names are going to start repeating. Just as many British monarchs had the same name – and the US had two Presidents named John Adams and two named George Bush – there are some kings with duplicated names. We ended the book of I Kings with Achaziah, son of Ahab, king of Israel, but there will also soon be an Achaziah, son of Yehoram, king of Judah. That Yehoram is the son of Yehoshafat (Jehoshaphat), but there will be a king of Israel also named Yehoram before this chapter is through. Later, there will be a second king named Yaravam, also of Israel. So just watch to see whether it’s a king of Judah (which included Benjamin and Levi) or a king of Israel (Ten Tribes) and you’ll do just fine.

So, Ahab died and was succeeded by his son, Achaziah. Achaziah had a fall (Rashi says down the stairs, Radak says through a skylight) and was badly injured. He sent messengers to Baal-Zevuv, the idol of Ekron, to see if he would recover. (You probably know Baal-Zevuv by one or two other names. It’s often Anglicized “Beelzebub” and it literally translates into “Lord of the Flies,” as in the book of the same name.)

An angel came to the prophet Elijah with a message: G-d wasn’t real happy about Achaziah inquiring of an idol, so he would die of his injuries. Elijah told the messengers, who returned to the king with that prophecy. Achaziah heard it and asked, “Who told you that?” They replied, “A hairy man with a leather belt.” “Elijah!” he exclaimed.

Achaziah sent a squad of fifty men to bring Elijah to him, but Elijah called upon a Heavenly fire that consumed them. Achaziah sent another fifty, who were likewise consumed. A third squad of fifty was sent and the captain was none too keen to be consumed by a Heavenly fire, so he called out, “We don’t really want to be doing this; we were ordered to by the king. So could you please not consume us?” This being a reasonable request, the angel instructed Elijah to accompany the troops back to Achaziah, secure in the knowledge that he would be safe.

When he got there, Elijah reiterated the prophecy that Achaziah would die of his injuries. Sure enough, he died. Achaziah had no sons, so he was succeeded by his brother, Yehoram. (The other Yehoram was king of Judah at this time, but we’ll learn more about him in chapter 8.)

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