Elisha Predicts the Seven Year Famine & Hazel, the Nemesis of Israel

That’s the thing with You, when You say something is going to happen, it happens.

Scene of Emaciated People Possibly Suffering from Famine
This article serves as a general background to the evidence for famine in various periods of ancient Egyptian history.

To many people ancient Egypt is not a civilization linked to food shortages.

In antiquity, Egypt was renowned for its agricultural success, so much so that, in later periods, the country was desired by the Romans as a provider of grain.

Agricultural productivity was linked to an effective inundation of the River Nile.

Every year, the combined forces of the Blue Nile originating in East Africa and the White Nile flowing north from central Africa, flooded the river banks of Egypt depositing rich, black mud on the land; farmers encouraged the further spread of the waters by digging irrigation channels and this practice continues today.

Following the lowering of the flood waters, seeds were planted and the ensuing crops eagerly awaited.

However, on the occasions when the Nile flooded either too much or inadequately, crop failure would occur and it seems that there were periods of famine.

We just don’t know how it’s going to happen, but You can do anything (Mk 9:23; Matt 19:26). 

“Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years(2 Kgs 8:1).

So she took her family and lived in the land of the Philistines for seven years and at the end of the seven years she went to the king because she wanted her house and land back. 

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, told the king about Elisha restoring the boy’s life and when the king asked her if it was true she said it was.  The king then appointed a certain officer to restore all that was hers and all the fruit of the land.

This map shows the areas of expansion by the Philstines around the 10th century B.C.

This was the time period when Saul had died and David began to reign in Israel.

The Philistines were clearly superior in strength but the Lord promised that he would be with Israel.

The Philistines expanded eastward toward Jerusalem but were stopped by King David and the armies of Israel.

“And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither.

And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?

So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?

And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.

And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.

And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.

And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.

Hazael King of Syria
King
Hazael of Damascus framed by a lotus flower.
Carved ivory plaque, 8th B.C.

From Arslan Tash, ancient Hadatu, Northern Syria 17.8 x 5.6 cm AO 11488 Louvre, Department des Antiquites Orientales, Paris, France

This Ivory Statuette standing nearly 7 inches tall represents Hazael, ancient King of Aram Damascus (Syria) who fought against Israel.

In the Bible the Lord sent the prophet Elijah to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria in the future.

Many years later the Syrian king Hadadezer became very sick and Hazael suffocated him and seized the throne.

Hazael reigned for about 37 years (842-805 B.C.).

He went to war with Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

Assyrian records indicate wars with Syria, and an inscription by Shalmaneser III mention Hazael and his son Ben-hadad by name:

“I fought with Ben-hadad.

I accomplished his defeat.

Hazael, son of a nobody, seized his throne.”

This ivory statuette came from the palace of Hazael the ancient king of Damascus.

It was discovered in the ruins of Arslan Tash in north Syria (ancient Hadatu) and is important in the study of Biblical archaeology.

Several artifacts from the palace of Hazael are now in the Aleppo Museum in Syria.

So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover.

Jehoram (or Joram) was a king of the northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kgs 8:16, 8:25-28).

He was the son of Ahab and Jezebel, and brother to King Ahaziah.

According to 2 Kgs 8:16, in the fifth year of Joram of Israel, (another) Jehoram became king of Judah, when his father Jehoshaphat was (still) king of Judah, indicating a co-regency.

The author of Kings also speaks of both Jehoram of Israel and Jehoram of Judah in the same passage, which can be confusing.

Like his predecessors, Jehoram worshiped Baal.

With Jehoshaphat of Judah and the King of Edom, Jehoram attacked Mesha, King of Moab.

In the war between Syria and Israel, Elisha befriended Jehoram, revealing to him the plans of the enemy.

Subsequently, when Ben-hadad besieged Samaria, reducing the city almost to starvation, Jehoram sought to kill the prophet.

The latter, however, foretold that a period of plenty was imminent; the siege was soon lifted, the city’s food supplies were replenished, and the old relation between the king and the prophet was restored.

When Hazael, king of the Arameans, revolted in Damascus, as Elisha had predicted (2 Kgs 8:12), Jehoram made an alliance with his nephew Ahaziah, King of Judah.

The two kings set forth to take Ramoth-gilead from Syria.

The project failed; Jehoram was wounded in the fighting, and he withdrew to Jezreel to recover.

It is likely that his defeat at Ramoth-Gilead was a disaster.

As a result, while Jehoram was recuperating at Jezreel, his general Jehu incited a revolt. Jehu murdered Jehoram by shooting him in the back with an arrow, and had his body thrown into the field of Naboth the Jezreelite, as punishment for his parent’s sin in stealing the former’s land.

With the death of Jehoram, the Omri Dynasty became extinct.

Jehu claimed the throne of Israel as his own.

The author of the Tel Dan Stele (found in 1993-94 during archaeological excavations of the site of Laish) claimed to have slain both Ahaziah and Jehoram.

Hazael is the most likely to have written it.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.

And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Je hoshaphat king of Judah began to reign.

Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.

And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife: and he did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kgs 8:7-18).

“Yet, God wouldn’t destroy Judah for David’s sake.  And Edom revolted from Judah and made a king over themselves.  Joram went to Zair and during the night smote the Edomites. 

Then Libnah revolted at the same time.  And the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kgs 8:23)

Joram died and was buried in the city of David.  In the twelfth year of Joram, his 22 year old son, Ahaziah, began to reign  and he reigned for one year.  His mother was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel. 

Ahaziah and Ahab were evil in the sight of God, and he went with Joram, the son of Ahab, to fight against Syria’s king Hazael in Ramoth-gilead and Joram was wounded.  King Joram returned to Jezreel to be healed and Ahaziah went to see him because he was sick. 

Hazael, the Nemesis of Israel

Hazael’s usurpation of the throne of Damascus is described in 2 Kgs 8:7-15, but the Biblical writers were not only ones who recognized that he had no rightful claim to the throne.

In 1903 German excavators unearthed the Basalt Statue of Shalmaneser III, which contains a short inscription boasting of this Assyrian king’s victories over the kings of Damascus (Syria).

After briefly describing how he had defeated a coalition led by one “Adad-idri” of Damascus (probably Ben-Hadad II), Shalmaneser III recounted how” Hazael the son of a nobody”’ (i.e., a usurper) had taken the throne.

Shalmaneser then claimed to have defeated Hazael in battle, to have pursued him back to Damascus and to have laid waste his orchards. Hazael himself seems to have sought to shake off the label of usurper.

In some texts known as the “booty inscriptions,” Hazael claimed that the god Hadad had given him military victories and the booty that went with them.

If the Tel Dan inscription is from Hazael, as seems probable, he did the same there. Hazael was perhaps suggesting that the god Hadad had endorsed his seizure of the throne.

More significantly, in the Tel Dan inscription he referred to Ben-Hadad, whom he had murdered, as “my father.” This was a bold claim to legitimacy indeed!

Hazael reigned from approximately 842 to 800 b.c. Almost immediately after seizing power he went to war against Joram of Israel, whom he defeated at Ramoth Gilead.

This action, in which Joram was wounded, led to Jehu’s coup in Israel and to the fall of the house of Omri (2 Kgs 9).

From 841to 836 Hazael was involved in wars against Shalmaneser III, as described in the Basalt Statue.

Once the pressure from Assyria in the east had abated, Hazael was free to turn his attention south against Israel (10:32-33), Judah and Philistia (12:17-18). Hazael apparently died near the end of the reign of Jehoahaz of Israel (c. 805-802 B.C.), but he remained Israel’s nemesis to the end (13:22).

Ramoth in Gilead
Ramoth in Gilead was a town in Gilead that was included in the territory of the Israelite tribe of Gad in Transjordan (Josh 20:8).

It was one of the Levitical cities of refuge for the Israelites (Josh 21:38).

The most memorable associated with Ramoth-gilead recorded in the Bible is the battle with Aram (Syria) in which Ahab was killed (1 Kgs 22).

Elijah sent one of the sons of the prophets to Ramoth-gilead to anoint Jehu as king of Israel (2 Kgs 9:1).

The identity of Ramoth-gilead is uncertain.

Two sites are frequently mentioned by scholars: Tall ar-Rumeith and Ar-Ramtha.

Indeed, Hazael nearly succeeded in eliminat­ing Israel entirely as a military power (13:7).