The gospel in 2 Kings 2 and the bad water of Jericho

The gospel in 2 Kings 2 and the bad water of Jericho

The city of Jericho had a memorable and ungodly history. It was the first city defeated by the Israelites west of the Jordan River in the book of Joshua. After its destruction as part of the Conquest, Joshua ordered that it never be rebuilt (Joshua 6:26). The site lay as a testimony to God’s power for a long time. However, in the time of Ahab, a man named Hiel rebuilt Jericho (1 Kings 16:34). The rebuilding came at the great cost prescribed by Joshua: the death of his eldest and youngest sons. Jericho was a city rebuilt against the command of God, and a city that was part of a kingdom that worshipped Baal and the golden calves. It was not a godly place.

Yet, in 2 Kings 2:19-22, we are told of a problem that came about in the relatively-recently rebuilt city of Jericho. While the city was in a pleasant place, the water was bad. A close reading of the words used indicates more than just “the water tastes a little funny” and more like “the water is causing crop failures and miscarriages”. This is a major problem; if not solved, the city would be unliveable.

The men of the city came to Elisha the prophet for help. This was not because they trusted the true God, or because they served a faithful city; it is likely because they had tried other gods and solutions and nothing had worked. Elisha is the last resort. They really have no right to even ask, but Elisha is kind to them and solves the problem for them. He throws salt into the spring and it heals the water, not just then, but forever.

This is a picture of the gospel. We see pictures of the gospel all through the Old Testament, and in the most unusual places. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The same God acted back then as He does now. The God we love and serve is the same God who helped the men of Jericho.

Look at the similarities between the miracle in these verses and the gospel:

  • The men of Jericho did not deserve God to help them, yet he did. Likewise, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We can only come to God and ask for help. The salvation shown to the people of Jericho and those who trust in Jesus is only due to God’s grace.
  • God saved those who came to him in faith through his representative. In 2 Kings 2, it was Elisha, and for us today, it is Jesus.
  • God saves people using unexpected means. Salt is an odd thing to use to purify water; it usually makes it unusable rather than usable! Similarly, a death is an odd way to secure a victory; it usually means defeat. God loves to save people through ways we cannot expect and would not have thought of ourselves.
  • The salvation given is permanent. Jericho’s water wasn’t healed for a day but forever. Likewise, Jesus’ payment for our sins is once for all, not just the sins we have committed to the point we believed. God is more gracious than we can expect.

Even though there is so much in common between this episode and the gospel, they are not identical. Jesus is so much better. Jesus doesn’t provide only water that helps in this life, he provides living water that helps for eternity. Jesus is not only God’s prophet but God himself.

None of us deserve what Jesus has won for us, any more than the men of Jericho deserved their water to be healed by a God they only came to in desperation. God is kind to us beyond our wildest dreams.