Ahaziah was the son of Ahab and Jezebel. He was the 8th king of the Northern Country of Israel. He followed closely in the footsteps of his father and mother and worshipped the god Baal. From his capital in Samaria, he had looked to Baal to heal his sickness that Elijah said would never be cured. When Baal did not help him, he pursued Elijah to get a more favorable prognosis, but Elijah wouldn’t budge. As the king of Israel, Ahaziah sent a company of soldiers to capture Elijah and bring him to Samaria. He hoped to reverse the prophet’s prediction through intimidation and might. That did not work. 2 Kings 1:9-10 tells us what happened, “Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, ‘O man of God, the king says, Come down.’ But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” Constable observes, “To many readers, this story seems like an unnecessarily cruel demonstration of God’s power. However, the issues at stake justified severe action. Ahaziah showed complete contempt for Elijah and the God he represented by sending a band of soldiers to arrest the prophet like an outlaw and drag him before the throne.”

The Bible instructs us to obey those in authority over us, and you might say that Elijah did obey. But he obeyed, to Ahaziah’s dismay. The captain said that the king called Elijah to “come down” from the hill. You might say that Elijah did “come down” as a devouring fire from God. The captain called Elijah a “man” of God. The Hebrew word for man is “Ish.” The Hebrew word for fire is “Esh.” Elijah responded that if he were indeed an “Ish” of God, he would send an “Esh” from God upon the soldiers. Elijah wasn’t normally a man to mess with when he was on a mountain. He had earlier defeated all the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Constable says, “Either the captain did not make this connection or decided to disregard it.” Either way, it did not work out well for him.

When Moses sent the plagues upon Egypt, they each had a particular focus on one of the many gods of Egypt. When Moses called Pharaoh to “let my people go,” Pharaoh asked, “Who is God that I should obey him?” This was the contest that Moses faced with Pharaoh in which God answered that question with mighty destructive miracles on the false gods of Egypt. When Elijah faced the prophets of Baal, it was the same contest. Who was “God” that he should be obeyed? The fire Elijah called down from heaven consumed the sacrifices on Mount Carmel, answering the question. Yahweh is God. Just as the plagues were from the Lord, the fire that consumed the offerings on Mount Carmel was from the Lord, and so too was the fire that consumed these soldiers from the Lord. Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is my God.” After the battle on Mount Carmel, the crowds shouted Elijah’s name. Maybe they were identifying the winner of the contest regarding who had the authority that everyone should obey, the God, the one God, of the whole universe. So as Constable concludes, “Elijah’s repetition of the fact that he was indeed a man of God shows that this was an important issue; God’s reputation was at stake. Was Ahaziah in charge, able to command God’s servants to obey him? Or was God in charge, able to command Ahaziah’s servants to obey Him? By sending fire … from heaven (cf. v. 12) to consume the soldiers of the king, God was reminding Ahaziah that He was Israel’s Ruler and that the king should submit to His sovereignty.”[1]

[1] Constable, Thomas L. 1985. “2 Kings.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:538. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.+