In verses 7-15, Hazael, a trusted servant of the Syrian kingdom, was sent to make an inquiry regarding the recovery of his king. Elisha told him that Ben-Hadad would surely recover, but that he would really die. The prophet then tearfully related the evil acts Hazael would commit against Israel, and that he would ascend to the throne. Subsequently, Hazael suffocated Ben-Hadad and became king in his place.
This might cause us to wonder: Why did Elisha tell Hazael that he was going to be king? It seems that Elisha had put this idea into his head, and indirectly brought great harm upon Israel as a result of his kingship. If Elisha had said nothing of that sort, perhaps Hazael would have remained a faithful servant of Ben-Hadad, who would not have been so cruel to Israel in the future.
Here we must understand that God’s understanding of everything is complete, and that He is a discerner of the hearts of man. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is ‘deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked’, and asks: ‘Who can know it?’ We may be able to mask our thoughts and intentions from man, but we cannot conceal anything before God.
God knew what kind of a man Hazael was. To be trusted by a king, one would probably have to be capable, and to a certain extent, ambitious in order to grow in rank and authority. That Hazael would be king was inevitable; it was a matter of when and how he would usurp the throne. God allowed Hazael to know his future through Elisha. However, even if Elisha had kept quiet, Hazael would eventually have become king anyway at another time, through other means.
Furthermore, the children of Israel had sinned greatly against God. They lived dissolute lives and worshipped a myriad of idols. God is righteous, and Israel had to be punished for her evil. God therefore utilised Hazael and Syria to execute part of his judgement upon His people, that they might repent, and turn back to walk in His ways again. ‘Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.’(Jeremiah 17:10)
As we delve deeper into the Bible, we will discover that there are sections which we do not fully comprehend. These events might even move us to think in the following ways: Why did God act like this? Must He have been so harsh? Perhaps He could have done this that way instead? These emotions are dangerous. They influence us to assume the position of Judge, when in reality, there is only One deserving of such authority.
Instead, let us accept the fact that as human beings, we are limited in our understanding of His word. Then, let us ask for wisdom from above (James 1:5), and rely on the Holy Spirit to perceive righteousness in His actions.
Even if we are unable to come to a complete understanding, we must stay rooted in the fact that God was, is, and always will be just and fair. His decisions are never flawed. Our perception of His actions are not always so. May God strengthen our faith, and grant us spiritual discernment as we continue to study His word.