72 The lord of flies

Tishbe, Gilead, Israel, 8?? BC

2 Kings 1:1-18

  1. Where are Milcah and their raft of children?
  2. How long have Elijah and Milcah been married?
  3. Where is Nathan? Did he go back to Huldah?
  4. Who gets which lines?

How old are

  • Elijah?
  • Parents?
  • Children?

And how old was his son who contradicted him?


Lord of Flies

As Elijah carried a basket of grapes past a utility shed, an angel stopped him. “Tomorrow at 11 a.m., a mile outside Samaria on the road to Ekron, give the king’s runners this message.”

The angel recited his message and walked around the corner of the shed, so Elijah put down the grapes and followed. But when he turned the corner, no angel. Elijah took the message to his family. At first his father only smiled and looked at their mother. She shook her head. “Are you sure it was an angel, Son? You’ve always had such an energetic imagination.”

Sheerah put her arm around her mother, kissed her, and rested her nose in her cheek. “What should he do, Mom? Ask for a wet fleece on a dry night and then a dry fleece during a heavy dew?”

Their father opened both hands out on the table. “This is not the kind of message I like to see my son deliver.”

Sheerah brightened. “Everyone in Tishbe is talking about how the king’s servants found him on the ground with a broken piece of lattice dangling over him from the balcony. They’d love a sneak peek at this.”

Who? slugged him softly in the shoulder: “Hike to Samaria? Not incredible! This boy has two feet, you know!”

Elijah’s father nodded, “Better get a good night’s sleep. Up early and on the road before first light if you’re going to be outside Samaria by 10:30.”

So Elijah leaned against another boulder on another hillside waiting for another royal visit. But no Nathan. Elijah grinned. What would it be now – 18 or 19 years since Nathan waited with him, cracking jokes about that kick-boxing whopper.

Runners jogged along from Samaria, so Elijah stepped out in front of them. “Please give your master this message. ‘Is it because you think there is no God to ask in Israel? So you send to Ekron to ask the Lord of Flies if you will recover? For this you will die in your bed.’”

The runners turned back toward the city, and Elijah stepped down the hill and off toward home. But while he was still in sight of the city, a group of soldiers caught up with him. “Companeeeee, halt!” Fifty soldiers stood in ten rows, five abreast.

Elijah backed off the road up onto the hillside, and the captain approached. “Hello there, man of God! The king says to come down and go with us to the palace.”

“Ha! Man of God, eh? If I’m a man of God, let fire come down from God and burn up you and your men.”

Suddenly everyone down on the road was burning. In about 90 seconds, 50 men plus their captain, bones and all, became 51 piles of fine cinders.

Elijah set off down the road again toward home, but in about half an hour another fifty soldiers jogged up behind him. “Companeeeee, halt!”

Again he backed off the road, but this captain marched straight up the hill and into Elijah’s face. “Listen man of God, it’s the kings order! Come down! Go with us to the palace! Now!”

Elijah’s voice was just as soft as the captain’s was loud. “Thank you, Sir. If, as you say, I’m a man of God, when you rejoin your men on the road, let fire come down from God and burn up you and your men.”

As he strode down the hill, the captain shouted, “Arrest this man!” When he reached the road, another 51 piles of cinders sat in neat rows of 5 with the captain’s pile on the side.

A third fifty caught up with Elijah. Again he stepped away from the road, and again their captain called out, “Companeeeee, halt!” Yet this captain spread out his hands and walked up the hill calling out, “O man of God, please let us live!” What’s more, when he got within soft talking distance he knelt.

“All we want is to introduce you to the king. He fell and hurt himself and wants to know when he will recover.”

At this the angel who had disappeared around the corner of the utility shed walked out from behind a boulder and put his hand on Elijah’s shoulder.

“It’s okay. Go with this man.”

So Elijah joined the captain and his fifty. As they turned back to the palace, the captain asked, “Who was that fellow just now?”[1]

“By the boulder? Oh! Uhm, He’s—ah—I met him back home in Tishbe.”

The captain ushered Elijah into the palace, directly to the foot of King Ahaziah’s bed, and Elijah repeated the angel’s message: “Did you send to Ekron to ask Baal-zebub because you think there is no God to ask in Israel? For this you will die right here in this bed.”

In Tishbe that night, by the railing of the front porch, Elijah told his family what happened, and his mother began to wail. “Elijah! Oh, Elijah! What’s become of my boy? First you kill fifty good men just to prove a point? Then fifty more because he yells in your face? What’s become of my boy?” She sobbed on her husband’s shoulder. “Our boy! Our boy! What’s become of our baby boy?”

Elijah’s face fell and his mouth opened, but Sheerah spoke. “Hang on, Mom. Where was that angel guy? I mean, God could have shoved him out from behind Lijah’s rock when the very first captain showed up.”

She hugged her little brother and laughed, “Anyway, Lij, if I’d been that second captain — the one you told, ‘when you go down, Poof!’ – I would have stayed right up there on the hill right by your side – your new best friend.”

But Elijah had no smile, and neither did Who? “I don’t think it’s funny, Sheerah.”

Elijah’s father put his arms around Elijah’s mother. “I don’t know why the Lord did this terrible thing, Dear, but Sheerah is right. Forget our Elijah here. It is the Lord who’s proving a point. Perhaps the Lord is angry because our king denies God’s presence by sending off to Ekron. As bad as Ahab was, he never tried to say God doesn’t exist. And the Lord will not be ignored.”

Elkjah’s mother wiped her face. “But those soldier boys. How could God do such a thing to those poor boys?”

“I don’t know, Dear. But like Sheerah says, the Lord waited to push that angel out. And I think he waited because He wanted to make a point. ”

Who? also had an opinion. “Okay, Father?. But why did the Lord have to make his point by burning up a hundred good men and two good officers? So, it’s stupid of King Ahaziah to deny the Lord’s existence, and the Lord didn’t ask my advice, but if he did, I would remind Him how Abraham pleaded for Sodom. Okay, so you want to get your point across, Lord? But there’s got to be a better way.”

RE: Burning of the Fifties — when Moses sang his song of praise after Israel crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptians drowned, the Lord asked, “My creatures drown and you are singing?”[1]

[1] Pesikta de- Rav Kahana (ed. S. Buber, p. 189a) — centuries after Elijah or Elisheva

Maybe it’s like our proverb, “Do not gloat at the fall of your enemy (24:17).”

This story in the Bible – 2 Kings 1

2 Kings 1:12 “May fire consume you and your fifty men!”

[1] “Who was that masked man?”

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