Palace intrigue

some of the evidence of the politics at play that are driving the events you’re writing about.  Consider this as indirect evidence in that it doesn’t expressly refer to any of the events you’re covering, but does all happen in the same time window.

This is from II Kings 8:

Hazael Murders Ben-Hadad

7 Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. When the king was told, “The man of God has come all the way up here,” 8 he said to Hazael, “Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the Lordthrough him; ask him, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

9 Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, “Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

10 Elisha answered, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless,[athe Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.”

Let’s begin by noting that 40 is one of those mystical numbers OT writers use a lot and allow that 40 camel’s worth of stuff is probably more symbolic than factual.  With that aside, there are a couple of things this passage tells us worth noting as generalities about the times and people we’re dealing with.

First, Elisha, like Elijah before him, is pro-Aram.  This may help explain their great antipathy for the Phoenician alliance in the first place.  For reasons I’ll get into in a minute, both of them may have felt the NK had a more natural affinity b/c of a religious connection, with Aram. Whether I’m right about that or not it’s clear here that politically, Elisha is working for greater ties between Aram and the NK.
Second, and to  the point about what drove the two prophets’ great hatred of the Phoenician alliance, the religious affiliations of these nations do not seem to correspond to their political boundaries.  Everywhere and all the time we see kings and commanders consulting the gods and prophets of nearby nations.  We also see them assessing their own strength based on how strong the god next door is, “… we can take them on the plains b/c their god is the god of the high places…” etc.
In that connection, I don’t know if its a coincidence or not that Hazael’s very name reflects a YHWHist tradition.  It suggests to me that he might have been either a YHWHist himself or from a tradition of YHWHists.  Just sayin’.  It’s an intriguing possibility.  And maybe why Elisha is dealing with him in the first place.  And in bringing all this up, I’m thinking about Jehu and what connections he may previously have had with kin or tribesmen who lived over the border but were also believers.  That whole passage intimates that the religious boundaries were not clear cut.
Finally, and this is just one of those asides about all this I enjoy sharing with you when they pop up, but maybe it’s also worth noting that being a man of god in those times does not seem to mean that you’re above some intentional deception when it serves your purpose.  Elisha instructs Hazael to return to Ben Hadad with half the truth in order to further his own purposes.  None of this is part of your tale, but it is an interesting reflection on the moral views of both the people you are writing about and the bias of the Deuteronomists.  Just an interesting observation about Elisha’s moral relativism in the context of all these events we’re dabbling in.
Again, I saw some things in the Jehu plot I want to cover with you but need to do some nosing around first.  Be back to you on that one later.
Steve Abbott

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