King Ahaziah’s sickness, recorded in 2 Kings 1, provides the backdrop for the prophetic ministry of Elijah that dominated the end of 1 Kings. Elijah was a man with a focused message, proclaiming that Israel should consider and follow the Lord their God alone. When Ahaziah the son of Ahab was injured, he wished to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, instead of the Lord. Accordingly, as Ahaziah’s messengers left Samaria, “The angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Go and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?”’” (2 Kgs 1:3).
Ahaziah was further hardened by the word of the Lord, twice sending military delegations of fifty men to capture the prophet (2 Kgs 1:4-9). On both occasions, Elijah beckoned fire from heaven to destroy the soldiers, confirming that he was in fact “a man of God” (2 Kgs 1:10, 12). When Ahaziah sent a third delegation, they feared for their lives as they approached the hill where Elijah was sitting (2 Kgs 1:13-14). Elijah accompanied these men back to the king’s palace and prophesied Ahaziah’s death even to the king’s face (2 Kgs 1:16).
Following Elijah’s prophecy of Ahaziah’s death, in 2 Kings 2 the author recorded the transition of leading prophet from Elijah to Elisha. A chariot and horses of fire separated Elijah from Elisha, and Elijah was taken into heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kgs 2:11-12). Immediately, Elisha performed miracles that confirmed him as Elijah’s successor. Elisha parted the waters of the Jordan with Elijah’s mantle, cured the water at the spring near Jericho, and cursed the mocking boys from Bethel (2 Kgs 2:13-25).
Like Elijah, Elisha prophesied to Israel’s kings. First Kings 3 records Moab’s rebellion against Israel. Their initial defiance included cessation of tribute, which they previously gave as a nation in subjection to Israel (2 Kgs 3:4-5). Israel’s King Joram responded without delay, mobilizing the Israelite troops and inquiring of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, for support. Together with the king of Edom, Joram and Jehoshaphat set out to attack Moab and enforce Moab’s subjection to Israel. Their first battle was against natural elements: they ran out of water (2 Kgs 3:9-10). When the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha, he prophesied that water would fill up the ditches they had burrowed—something that was “easy in the LORD’s sight” (2 Kgs 3:18)—and that He would hand Moab over to them. In the end God accomplished the latter through the former, causing the Moabites to think that the sunlight on the water (shining red) was actually the blood of a battle between the three kings (2 Kgs 3:21-23). The Moabites came out looking to take the spoils of what they thought was a civil war only to be met by the coalition of the three kings (2 Kgs 3:24-25).
Elijah’s prophetic ministry was remarkable. He performed many miracles and witnessed the Lord’s jealousy for His people. He did not die but was taken (2 Kgs 2:11-12; Heb 11:5). Elijah became a figure of renown even for the post-exilic prophet Malachi. Malachi prophesied the word of the Lord, “Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the LORD comes” (Mal 4:5). The historical record of Elijah in 1 and 2 Kings, together with Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah, serve as cohesive stitches in the storyline of Scripture. According to the New Testament, John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah (Matt 11:10//Mark 1:2//Luke 7:27). John was known as the forerunner of Jesus, the one sent to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. John’s messages resembled Elijah’s in that both confronted their audiences boldly, calling them to repent and turn to God with a singleness of heart. But John’s ministry went beyond that of Elijah. John said that while he baptized with water, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and condemn to eternal punishment any who would reject Him (Matt 3:11-12//Mark 1:7//Luke 3:16-17).