‘Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters’, 2 Kgs. 2. 21.
The city of Jericho was known in the ancient world as the ‘City of Palm Trees’, Deut. 34. 3, and features prominently in Old Testament history as a place of triumph and tragedy. It was here that Joshua triumphed when he led the children of Israel to a most unusual military victory, Josh. 6, proving that God’s ways are not our ways, Isa. 55. 8. Similarly, it was here that man’s hubris and defiance of God were exhibited during the reign of King Ahab in the tragic events of Hiel the Bethelite, who, in attempting to fortify Jericho, fell foul of Joshua’s curse on the city, Josh. 6. 26, and laid its foundations at the cost of his first-born son, Abiram, and set its gates in place at the cost of his youngest child, Segub, 1 Kgs. 16. 34. Ralbag interprets the placement of this verse as indicating that although Ahab should have understood what happened to Hiel as a warning of what might happen to him, he persisted in his ways. God’s reckoning with Ahab would, however, come later. Having ignored the warning of the faithful prophet Micaiah, 22. 15-27, Ahab disguised himself in battle and was slain by a stray arrow fired by an Aramean soldier, vv. 34-37. Our text moves us on to an incident concerning another faithful servant of God, the prophet Elisha, who with the spirit of Elijah, and in the name of God, performed the second miracle of his ministry where he provided a cure for foul water, 2 Kgs. 2. 19-22. Such was the effectiveness of the cure that even today the spring near Jericho, now known as ‘Elisha’s Spring’ (modern day ‘Ain es-Sultan’), still produces freshwater that makes the whole area agriculturally rich, v. 22. In New Testament times, Jericho became famous for the winter palace built by Herod the Great in its locality. The palace included ornate gardens and palm and balsam groves. Jericho lies about fifteen miles from Jerusalem, and it was during visits to this area that our Lord healed a blind man, Luke 18. 35-43, and called a chief tax-collector named Zacchaeus to repentance, 19. 1-10. The danger of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was graphically set out in the parable of the Good Samaritan, 10. 30, and continues to remind us that not only do we have a duty to love God, v. 27, but also to show love and compassion to anyone in need, irrespective of their background, v. 37. A very apposite message for our society today!