Elisha is visiting Damascus when Hazel brings a question from Ben-hadad. The answer and the future are enough to make Elisha weep for Israel. Hazel’s cruelty emerges.
I have wondered if Ben-hadad is the name the Syrians call their ruler and it was actually several men we have been dealing with. Gotquestions.org tells me I was right. I wonder if the new king, Hazel, will take on that title. We aren’t told that but we will see his son take that title.
With all the times Ben-hadad faced Israel you would think they would learn something. This Ben-hadad learned that Israel’s God held the answers. He also learned that Elisha was a direct link to that same God. We see Ben-hadad seeking out answers from the One True God instead of looking to his false gods.
I wonder if Ben-hadad went to his own gods first. Did he not like the answer he received? Did he get no answers? It’s impossible for a stone or a stick to speak without God giving them life. God made Moses’ staff turn into a snake, and back again. He made Aaron’s rod bud. And he brought water from a stone twice. These are the only times I recall Him giving ‘life’ to stone or wood. But Jesus said His Father could and would cause the rocks to cry out if the people were silenced from praising Him. NEVER were they said to testify of the truth or hold power for men to consult. Let’s join in the story as the Living God answers.
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Ben-hadad has been coughing uncontrollably for days. He is running a fever now and is fearful for his life. As king, he is afforded the best care possible but that doesn’t guarantee his recovery. Many otherwise healthy men and women succumb to just such illnesses as he is suffering.
Elisha, Israel’s great man of God, has been seen in the city of Damascus. The whole town is talking about it. Word reaches the palace and is brought to Ben-hadad’s ears by his most trusted servant, Hazel.
“The man of God has come here” reports an excited Hazel.
Ben-hadad inhales deeply in his excitement and is seized by a coughing fit. His servants rush to his side to prop him up higher on his pillows in his bed. When he is finally able to speak again he has orders for Hazel.
“Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord through him, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this sickness?’” (verse 8b).
Hazel bows deeply and hurries off to complete this task for his king. He sends servants to gather supplies: food, clothing, spices, rugs, and items of silver and gold. When it is all assembled it is tied on the backs of camels for transport. The offering takes 40 camels to carry it all. Hazel looks at what has been gathered and is pleased. He, many drovers and the camels set off to meet up with Elisha.
Elisha is staying at a home on the edge of town. Hazel is directed there by the people. Everyone seems to know of Elisha’s presence.
Hazel approaches the dwelling and knocks on the door. A servant opens to his knocking.
“I would see the man of God from Israel.”
The servant bows and retreats into the house to summon Elisha. Elisha appears at the door shortly thereafter.
“Man of God, my master, Ben-hadad, bids me to ask you to inquire of the Lord for him.”
Elisha raises his eyebrow at the thought of the king of Syria seeking to inquire of the Lord. “Walk with me first.”
The two men set out from the house and walk to a nearby field. Elisha’s spirit is troubled by Hazel’s arrival. He knows that the Lord is about to reveal something to him and it will be of great importance.
“What is it your master seeks?”
“Your son Ben-hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this sickness?’” (verse 9b).
Elisha waits quietly for a moment before answering. “Go, say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover,’ but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die” (verse 10).
Hazel is confused by Elisha’s answer. “Am I to lie to his king?” “Is something else going to kill the king?” “Is Elisha tricking me?” “How is he to recover and still die?” Hazel considers these possibilities until he notices that Elisha is looking at him so intently he feels his eyes boring right into his soul. He feels the urge to check and see that he is covered completely by his garments. He smooths the front of his robe discretely but Elisha’s stare continues. Hazel doesn’t know what to do. Elisha’s intense stare is making him uncomfortable. Men do not look at one another in this manner. Hazels face begins to redden after a several minutes. And then tears begin to flow down the man of God’s face! This is even more disturbing than the staring.
“Why does my lord weep?” (verse 12a)
“Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women” (verse 12b).
Hazel’s eyes are round as dinner plates and his mouth hangs open in surprise and unbelief at the man of God’s words.
“What is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” Hazel leaves unsaid the fact that these acts would be actions of battle. Hazel is not but a servant of the king. How could he possibly do such things?
Elisha seems to know his thoughts even before he finishes them himself. “The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Syria” (verse 13b).
Hazel, in shock, stumbles his way out of the field. He stops to gather his wits before approaching the drovers with the camels. They have waited patiently until time to deliver the king’s gift to the man of God.
“Just time them here” Hazel instructs.
The men do as instructed. As the drovers are tying the camels servants come from the house and take charge of the gift from the king. Elisha turns in at the house without even acknowledging the gift. Just before shutting the door he turns once again and locks eyes with Hazel.
Hazel holds Elisha’s gaze only for a moment this time before ducking his chin to break eye contact. Hazel and the drovers make their way back to town. The drovers are dismissed before reaching the palace. Hazel goes the rest of the way on his own his mind still reeling from Elisha’s words. He would be king, but how?
Hazel goes into the chambers of Ben-hadad upon returning to the palace. Before the door was even closed behind him Ben-hadad inquired of the answer.
“What did Elisha say to you?” (verse 14b).
“He told me that you would certainly recover” (verse 14c). This was all the message he felt comfortable delivering. The rest he would keep hidden in his heart.
Ben-hadad sighs deeply producing a coughing fit again but at least this time he had hope. Elisha’s God said he would recover. As soon as his coughing fit is under control he sinks back into his cushions and sleeps.
Ben-hadad’s fever broke during the night. He is still very weak from battling it but it is a sure sign of recovery. Those ministering to him finally breathe a sigh of relief of their own. With his improvement the number of attendants is decreased to one.
Hazel ‘slept’ in his own room this night. He had been about the king’s business all day and he was exhausted. He had assigned the attendants for the king himself. While they are tending the king Hazel is going over the words of Elisha over and over again. He then begins forming his plan and rational. “Elisha’s God said I would be king of Syria. He said that the king would die. He is so weak now that none would be suspicious if he did so now. It would be easy, so long as I can dismiss the attendants.” By the time the king’s fever had broken Hazel had settled on his plan.
Morning dawns and news of the king’s fever spreads through the palace. They knew he wasn’t completely healed yet but he was on the mend. When Hazel heard the news he knew he had to act fast. He went to the kings chambers and relieved the attendant who had stayed with him through the night.
“I am sufficiently rested. It is time you did the same. There is also a meal waiting for you in the kitchen.”
“Thank you very much. The king is still sleeping. He is breathing easier this morning but he still has a long way to go.”
“I will see to his needs.”
The night attendant leaves and it is just Hazel and his king. Hazel quietly bars the door. He does not want to be interrupted or caught while still in process of securing the throne for himself. That is how he is thinking of what he is about to do. “It is not ‘murder’; I am simply ensuring my own future and that of my family.”
Hazel had brought with him a pitcher of warm water. The attendant had thought nothing of it as they had been using cool water to bring the king’s fever down. Hazel pours some of the water into a bowl. He makes sure it isn’t too hot. He takes one of the king’s extra bed linens and dips it into the water. He carefully places it over the sleeping king’s face. The fact that it is warm is comforting to the king and he doesn’t stir at first. He continues to take deep breaths of a sleeper. Hazel keeps the cloth moist and in place so the king continues to breathe the water.
After a few minutes the king’s lungs start to protest and he begins to cough. Hazel holds the cloth taught over the king’s face forcing even more water into his lungs. The king is so weak that his struggle barely poses any problem for Hazel.
The task takes no more than ten minutes before the king stops breathing all together. Once Hazel is certain the king won’t rouse, he cleans up all evidence of what he has done. He changes the linens that became damp during the king’s struggle. He changes the king’s bedclothes that got wet during the process. He finishes by drying the hair of the king’s beard. When all is ready he raises an alarm.
“Come quickly! Something is wrong with the king!” Hazel shouts down the hallway.
Servants come scurrying into the king’s chambers. The lead physician places a mirror under the king’s nose. There is no fog produced, indicating he is not breathing. He also puts his ear to the king’s chest. He hears none of the familiar signs of life.
“He is gone” pronounces the physician.
“What happened?” asks the attendant who had just been released to his chambers.
“He was quiet for such a long time that I decided to get closer and check on him. Upon close inspection I realized his chest was not rising and falling. I tried shaking him awake but that had no effect. I called out for help right after.”
Everyone accepted Hazel’s explanation. They all knew the king was still weak. Hazel assumed to position of king within days of Ben-hadad’s passing. Hazel was his most trusted servant. Who else could possibly fill the king’s role? Hazel was the closest thing to a son that the king had.
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I’m curious if the words of Elisha had the effect of putting the idea into Hazel’s head. Did it start him thinking about the possibilities or did it confirm what he had already settled his mind to do? He certainly didn’t act like he thought he would be a king someday. And if a king, he certainly wouldn’t act as Elisha described.
But we know the truth. God does not lie. God was going to use Hazel to correct His children. Hazel would surely pay for his ‘overzealous’ participation in that correction but Israel had to be brought to a halt. Her sin was too great to continue much longer.
Father God, You use all kinds of people in Your plans. I pray You use me in a positive way instead of a negative one! I also pray that the people You put into my life aren’t ‘Hazel’! A friend who was just waiting for his chance to ‘stab you in the back’ to make themselves greater.
Why did You share so much with Hazel? Was it so that one day he would have an ‘ah ha moment’ and realize he was EXACTLY who and what You said he would be? If so, did it bring him closer to knowing You or further from the truth? I pray my future is NOTHING like his!