The prophet Elisha shows an Assyrian general that he will conquer and destroy Israel, but, in doing so, will save Israel from an even worse fate.
“This prophet is weeping. He has told me joyous news, the news that I want to hear. But this prophet is weeping…“

I had no idea at all who Hazael was when I started this. He seems to drop in and out of the story in the Books of Kings, generally destroying things. But, oddly, early on, first Elijah then Elisha are sent to tell him that he will be king of his people. (There’s no mention of whether Elijah delivered the messages.) When Elisha tells him this, he also weeps and tells him what he will do. Much later, once the Judean government pays him off in riches from Jerusalem, he abruptly goes away.

Hazael and Elisha’s brief encounter in the Biblical text is a play in mixed emotions. Elisha has to anoint the person who will subjugate his land. Hazael has to say one thing to his king and do its opposite, and to attack Judah to keep it from even worse destruction at the hands of another enemy. His role reminds us of a statement made about the town of Bến Tre during the Vietnam War: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

Unlike most other Biblical characters, though, there’s archaeological evidence of him, including one text in which he is derided as “the son of Nobody.” That probably just meant that he was a commoner, but the idea of his past and the story of the chalice that I used for this was generated by that information.

Some writers also suggest that, by capturing Judea and putting it under his protection (after the usual massive killing and the like), he kept it from getting overrun by the Assyrians, who would have been even worse.

Reading that part of the Second Book of Kings was fun, in an action-adventure kind of way. There are several movies in there waiting to be made, if anyone wants to follow up on 300.

In a comment to the original posting of the story, Bill Denham noted a resemblance between this story and that of Big John the The Green Mile, and posted a poem in response.


Have you ever seen someone (or an organization or army or government) do something visibly destructive then explain that it was done to prevent something even worse? Did you believe the explanation?

Have you ever had to do so yourself? Did you feel any guilt for the pain that it caused, even though you believed it was for the best? Did the act actually make things better in the long run?

What proof or assurance would you need to accept that you or another party would have to do so in the future?

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