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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

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Commentary on 2 Kings

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( 1:1–18 ) Elijah and the Death of Ahaziah

Having fallen through a lattice—it is unclear whether this is a window or a grid on the roof protecting an upper chamber—and suffered permanent injury, the king calls for an oracle (cf. 1 Kings 14 ), though from Baal rather than YHWH. Two qualities of this Syro-Palestinian god are described: he is the patron-god of the Philistine city Ekron (similarly Ashdod's patron seems to have been Dagon, cf. 1 Sam 5 ) and he has a second name, Zebub, meaning ‘fly’. Fly-Baal: is this a title of honour revealing that his oracles were carried out to the sound of humming, or is it a (Jewish) term of abuse, derived from zĕbûl (prince)? In any case, this deity seems to have been particularly appropriate for a case such as Ahaziah's. An oracular consultation does not take place due to Elijah's interference in the name of YHWH. According to the present text, he does so following the explicit order of an ‘angel of the LORD’ (vv. 3–4 ) and three (fifty-strong) army divisions are unable to stop him (vv. 9–16 ). These are additions designed to underline the almost transcendental position of the prophet who cannot be ordered about and must be treated with utmost reverence! (Many biblical stories show that this advice was highly necessary: prophets had no protection, carried no weapons apart from their word, and were often faced with evil and even deadly enemies.) The original version of this story (vv. 2, 5–7, 17 ) is rather short. Ahaziah asks the wrong god, Elijah gives him a reply devoid of hope in the name of the right one. This is thematically similar to 1 Kings 18 : Elijah's action to promote the exclusive worship of YHWH in Israel. Clearly his name (‘My God is YHWH!’) was closely linked to this mission. The king does not yet know the name of the seer of woe. Description of his appearance, however—an ascetic hermit—immediately puts him in the picture. Aside from his mantle (cf. 2 Kings 2:13 ), another recognizable feature of Elijah seems to be that he suddenly appears precisely when he is not expected or wanted, fearlessly saying what was to be said in the name of his God (cf. 1 Kings 18:7; 21:17–20 ). It is almost unnecessary to say that king Ahaziah soon died.

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