II Kings – Chapter 8

A New King for Aram

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Before the famine of the previous chapter, Elisha told the Shunnamite woman (see chapter 4) that it was coming and that her family should relocate. They went and lived in the land of the Philistines for a few years. When they returned, they found squatters living on their land, who wouldn’t move. The Shunnamite woman went to the king so he would force the squatters to vacate.

Gechazi (the leper, still hanging around from the previous chapter) was telling King Yehoram about his adventures with Elisha, including how Elisha revived the dead boy. In walked the Shunnamite woman and Gechazi said, “Speak of the devil! This is the mother of the boy I was just telling you about!” (As usual for these synopses, this is translated in the vernacular, rather than literally.) The king questioned the woman, who corroborated Gechazi’s stories, then the king ordered her property returned to her.

Meanwhile, Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, had become ill and Elisha went to visit him. The king sent his servant Chazael to Elisha with forty camels, laden with gifts. Chazael was to ask Elisha if Ben-Hadad would recover from this illness. Elisha told Chazael, “Tell him yes, but he will indeed die.” (The ambiguity is because Ben-Hadad WOULD die – just not of his illness! This is reflected in a kri/ksiv, in which the text has two meanings. It is read “lech amar lo chayo tichyeh.” The kri is lo spelled lamed-vav – “Go tell him ‘you shall live.’ ” The ksiv is lo spelled lamed-alef – “Go tell ‘you shall not live.’ “) Elisha started crying and Chazael asked why. Elisha replied, “I can see the evil you will wreak on Israel.” “Me?” asked Chazael, “What can I do?” Elisha replied, “G-d has shown me you as king of Aram.”

Chazael returned to Ben-Hadad, who asked what Elisha had said. “He told me you’ll recover,” said Chazael. The next day, Chazael smothered Ben-Hadad in his bed and became king.

In the fifth year of the reign of Ahab’s son Yehoram as king of Israel, Yehoshafat’s son, also named Yehoram, became king of Judah. The kings of Israel were generally a pretty rotten bunch, but the kings of Judah were usually okay. Yehoram of Judah was an exception. He married Ahab’s daughter who was the same kind of influence on him as Jezebel had been on Ahab (i.e., not a good one). Yehoram of Judah reigned for eight years. During that time, Edom, which had been a vassal state, rebelled and appointed a king over themselves. Yehoram of Judah went to fight, but they were unable to re-conquer Edom.

Yehoram of Judah died and was succeeded by his son Achaziah. (This is our second Achaziah; the first was king of Israel before the other Yehoram.) Achaziah’s mother was Atalya, granddaughter of Omri (Ahab’s father). We don’t normally tell you about the mothers of the kings, but Atalya will be important to us in chapter 11. Like his father, Achaziah was an evil king, comparable to the family of Ahab, to whom they were related by marriage.

Achaziah (of Judah) and Yehoram (of Israel) went to war against Chazael, king of Aram. Yehoram was wounded and was sent to recuperate. Achaziah went to visit Yehoram. This sets the stage for what happens in the next chapter.

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