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coming of the Messiah. So God sent His winds to wreck the ships, and His prophet to forbid their building ; and Jehoshaphat submitted, and refused the offer of Ahaziah of Israel to assist him with practised sailors in another voyage.

LESSON XXV.

ELIJAH CALLING DOWN FIRE.

B.C. 896.—2 Kings i. 1-17; iii. 2, 3.

Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.

And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick ; and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.

But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?

Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.

And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back?

And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.

And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words ?

And they answered him, He was an hairy man,* and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.

Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him : and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. · And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.

* In a hairy garment.

And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight

Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties; therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.

And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him : be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.

And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron; is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word ? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.

So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son.

And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother : for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made.

Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboain the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin ; he departed not therefrom.

COMMENT.—Probably the rebellion of Moab against Israel took place immediately after the death of Ahab, and it might be owing to successes gained in the kingdom of Samaria that the invading host crossed the Jordan so easily to make war on Jerusalem, and perish by the hands of their allies. Ahaziah, the wicked son of Ahab and Jezebel, was in no condition to contend with them. He had been severely hurt by a fall through a lattice, which some think means the ornamental metal network that encloses windows; others the open-work parapet around the flat roof of the house. It was a special command, given in Deuteronomy, that houses should have battlements to prevent falls which would bring blood upon the house.

The Philistine country was famed for witchcraft and sorcery ; and at Ekron, one of the five towns, was the shrine of a god called Baalzebub,“ the Lord of Flies," and as swarms of flies were supposed to come before great storms or other convulsions of nature, the god of flies was thought to have the power of forecasting events. The name remained in abhorrence among the Jews, who ended by regarding this oracle at Ekron as the voice of an evil spirit--as, if

it had any supernatural power, it must been. And thus Beel-zebub, as the name was changed with their language, was used as a devil's name. On the way Ahaziah's embassy to Ekron received their reply, and were turned back, full of awe, with their message': “Is there no God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die."

When the young King heard the message, he asked the description of the speaker, and heard that he was a man clothed in a rough loose garment of camel's hair, girt round with a thong of leather. Then he knew that it was the terrible prophet of the desert, so seldom seen, whom his father had called his enemy, and whom his mother hated. Ahaziah did what his mother had only threatened, his father had never dared to do: he sent to seize the prophet. But God's power had to be made manifest, and the profane man who called him in mockery was burnt up by fire from heaven. Twice did this happen : the third captain humbly entreated where the others had scoffed, and Elijah surrendered himself, but only to come before the King to confirm the sentence of death before spoken, and which, after all, spared Ahaziah the doom of his race. He had no son, and his brother Jehoram began to reign in the second year since Jehoshaphat had associated his son, also called Jehoram, on the throne, so that Israel and Judah each had a king Jehoram. The great warnings of Elijah had had some effect, since Jehoram of Israel was not an adorer of Baal, though he was of the calves.

When our Lord was on earth, not impossibly at the very same place, the Apostles James and John would fain have had Him repeat this miracle on a village that would not admit Him. They said

Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did ? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. (Luke ix. 54-56.) He did not find fault with the prophet who was taught thus to act in the time of judgment upon an evil nation ; but those who were now seeking to revenge a wrong, were led by a spirit that they knew not to be an evil one. Elijah was a messenger of vengeance, but

Son of Man had come to save men's lives.

LESSON XXVI.

ELIJAH TAKEN UP TO HEAVEN.

B.C. 896.—2 Kings ii. 1-14.

And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal."

And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el.

And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to-day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.

And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.

And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to-day? And he answered, Yea, I know it ; hold ye your peace.

And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.

And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off : and they two stood by Jordan.

And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.

* And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing : nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more : and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah ? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither; and Elisha went over.

COMMENT.-There was a sense upon all the prophetic world that the greatest of prophets was to be taken away, and in some wonderful manner. Elijah came forth from the desert where he had dwelt, to Gilgal, where the twelve stones stood in memory of the crossing the Jordan, and thence to Bethel, where was still a school of the prophets, perhaps under Jehoshaphat's protection. There the prophets gave Elisha the warning that every loving pupil receives in his turn,“ Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day?” Elisha answered as one with a heart too full to bear to speak of his loss, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.Elijah entreated, but did not command him to remain behind, and he would not leave him, either because he had some foreboding of the blessing to be won by clinging closely to his master, or because he thought the removal was to be through some cruelty of Jezebel or her son. Again he refused at Jericho, and there, when the master and pupil went forth together, the young prophets went forth to watch them from a distance. By the river side, Elijah rolled his camel's-hair mantle up like a staff, and struck the water with it. There was a way through the rapid river, even as there had been for Israel! There they were on the east of Jordan, where Moses had gone up into the Mount to die; and Elisha, mind. ful perhaps of Joshua, Moses' minister, whose typical name was almost his own (“the Lord the Saviour,” and “God the Saviour"), entreated, as Joshua had done, that a double portion of his master's spirit might come upon him. It was a hard thing, Elijah answered, but it should be “if thou see me when I am taken from thee." Then. while yet the two prophets talked together, there descended a wonderful appearance like a chariot and horses of fire, and Elijah was borne away as on a whirlwind, while Elisha stood crying, as one who scarce knew what he said : “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." Therewith the hairy, coarse mantle was dropped, and Elisha took it up, and returning alone, the same miracle was wrought in his hands as in those of Elijah.

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